Norwich City U21s 2 Manchester United U21s 0
JASON DAWSON ©Jason Dawson
Kyle Lafferty provided a spectacular reminder of his ability to Norwich City boss Alex Neil this evening, helping the club’s under-21s beat Manchester United 2-0.
Second-half goals from Lafferty and Jamar Loza were enough for the young Canaries to end a six-game losing streak and to move off the foot of the Barclays U21 Premier League table.
The big news for the Canaries ahead of kick-off was the presence of Lafferty, Graham Dorrans and Steven Whittaker in the starting line-up, with all three finding first-team chances limited recently.
All eyes were particularly on Lafferty after his goal-scoring success propelled Northern Ireland to qualification for next summer’s European Championships.
The 28-year-old former Rangers striker had little chance to impress in a turgid first half in freezing conditions at Carrow Road though.
Playing as a lone front-man, Lafferty spent much of his time chasing the ball as the United youngsters retained possession well.
Some scrappy moments from both Dorrans and Whittaker were less than encouraging as the Canaries struggled to get a foothold – and they could have gone behind if Declan Rudd had not been alert.
The keeper dived to his left to keep out a powerful low shot from Josh Harrop in the 34th minute and then, from the resulting corner, spread himself to block a bouncing shot from centre-back Axel Tuanzebe.
The half then finished in aggressive fashion, with an innocuous swipe from Nick Powell towards City full-back Reece Hall-Johnson prompting an angry response from Conor McGrandles.
Matters were calmed before Harrop was booked for slamming into a tackle on Cameron King, leaving the Canaries attacker limping, as the half finished with the score still at 0-0, in front of over 5,000 spectators.
The moment City supporters had hoped for arrived soon after the break though, as Lafferty grabbed the goal he needed, in brilliant style.
It came after Dorrans – booked early in the half for arguing with the referee after a clear foul – curled a wonderful pass into the striker’s path from the centre circle.
Lafferty did the rest, stretching a long left leg out to reach a bouncing ball and smash his shot over goalkeeper Sam Johnstone and into the top-right corner in the 57th minute.
The goal-scorer was withdrawn in the 69th minute, in what looked to be a precaution, after twisting awkwardly. The striker got to his feet holding his groin but was moving freely before being replaced by trialist Arinse Uade.
The former Arsenal player, currently at Ilkeston Town, went to left-back as he looked to impress the City coaches – including Neil’s assistant manager Frankie McAvoy, who was alongside Dmitri Halejko in the home dugout.
Loza was denied by the feet of Johnstone in the 69th minute but then put the Canaries in control six minutes later, with another good finish.
The Jamaica international seized on loose play by the United defence and fired low into the bottom-right corner with his left foot, to wrap up the win.
Norwich U21s: Norwich City U21s: Rudd; Whittaker, Crowe, Efete, Hall-Johnson (C – Middleton 81); McGrandles, Dorrans; Eaton-Collins (Lewis 88), King, Loza; Lafferty (Uade 69). Unused subs: Killip (GK), Grant.
Man Utd U21s: Johnstone; Varela, Tuanzebe, Borthwick-Jackson, Riley; Redmond, Goss; Weir, Powell (Rashford 69), Harrop; Fletcher (Willock 69). Unused subs: O’Hara (GK), Rathbone, Willock.
Referee: Mr J Barreiro