Tuesday 25 February 2014
Sunderland were denied the chance to go top of the Barclays Under-21 Premier League table on Monday as Jesse Lingard scored the only goal in a narrow victory for Manchester United at the AJ Bell Stadium, in Salford.
United were without a number of regular starters in their squad after an illness spread through the camp in the week. Nevertheless the home side carved out the better chances in the first half. Davide Petrucci forced a save out of Joel Dixon before Lingard's near-post header was cleared off the line by John Egan.
Lingard scored the only goal after 40 minutes when he intercepted a Sunderland pass, beat a defender and shot past goalkeeper Joel Dixon from 20 yards.
After half-time Petrucci came close to doubling United's lead, his shot from Joe Rothwell's cut-back coming back off a post from six yards before his follow-up was kept out by Dixon. The visitors' woodwork was struck again in the final 10 minutes when substitute James Wilson's free-kick hit the crossbar.
Three points for Sunderland would have moved Kevin Ball's side top of the table on goal difference but despite throwing men forward, they were unable to score for the first time this season. The win for United moved them up to seventh, six points behind leaders Fulham who have played a match extra.
West Ham United Under-21s manager Nick Haycock was delighted at his side's win at Reading at the Camrose that lifted them to fourth in the table.
The visiting side took the lead two minutes before half-time through Elliot Lee's volley before Blair Turgott sealed the victory in the closing stages, his composed finish from Matthias Fanimo's cross rounding off a swift counter-attack.
"We thoroughly deserved the win," Haycock said. "The shape, the energy, the desire and the commitment was what I know they're capable of. We said at half-time at 1-0 up, 'How are you going to lose the game?' which might sound a backward way of saying it, but it makes them realise that defending deep might cost us, not organising for set-pieces might have cost us and lapses in concentration."
On Lee's superb strike to open the scoring, Haycock said: "Elliot's goal was outstanding. I said to Elliot tonight that I wanted him to look like a No 9, running in behind, getting to the back post and getting across the front post.
"What I hope won't go unnoticed was his work-rate. Pressing from the front, he set us off, he set the tempo for the team, he scored and also contributed to the second goal as well."
The victory was West Ham's second in a row and leaves them four points adrift of Fulham, while Reading missed an opportunity to move closer to the top half of the table ahead of the division's split this summer.
Monday 24 February
Manchester United (Lingard) 1-0 Sunderland
Reading 0-2 West Ham (Lee, Turgott)
Kick-offs 7pm GMT unless stated
Tuesday 25 February
Norwich City v Everton, Carrow Road.
Thursday 27 February
Liverpool v Wolverhampton Wanderers, Anfield.
Friday 28 February
Stoke City v Fulham, 2pm, Clayton Wood.
Southampton v Tottenham Hotspur, 7.30pm, Staplewood Training Ground.