Fit-again midfielder Elliott Bennett plays his second 90 minutes in Norwich City’s 2-2 Premier League development draw at Manchester United
- Credit: Matthew Usher
Norwich City's stirring late fightback at Old Trafford on Thursday night salvaged a point to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for next season's elite tier of the Premier Under-21 Development League.
Carlton Morris and Reece Hall-Johnson struck in the final ten minutes for the visitors, who had Ray Grant sent off for a second bookable offence in a frenetic finale against the Red Devils, after James Weir's second half brace appeared to have put the hosts in command. Elliott Bennett again played 90 minutes as an over-age outfield player for Jerry Gill's squad as he stepped up his fitness comeback from a long term knee injury with David Fox making a late cameo against his boyhood club.
City complete their inaugural development campaign against Wolves next week knowing a victory would secure a top half finish ahead of a proposed split to a two league format from next season. United dominated the first period without really testing Remi Matthews. The highly-rated James Wilson was particularly wasteful after intelligent link up play with Andreas Pereira in the opening exchanges.
Louis Rowley failed to cash in on Joe Rothwell's perfect pass before City survived a handball shout when Pereira's free kick caused a degree of panic in the visitors' defence. Rothwell mis-kicked from Saidy Janko's set-up play with Gill's side at full stretch to remain on level terms prior to the break.
Wilson's injury exit seven minutes after the interval left United without a recognised striker on the pitch which forced Warren Joyce to push Pereira up front and it was the makeshift forward who brought a smart stop from Matthews on the hour mark.
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United's pressure finally told in the 70th minute when Rothwell's clever back heel triggered a flowing move involving Guillermo Varela and Janko to pick out Pereira who drilled a deflected shot at Matthews which saw Rowley and Weir react quickest to bundle home the rebound. United doubled their advantage when the predatory Weir powered a right-footed shot past Matthews from Varela's teasing cross.
City's young side set up a tense finish when Rowley was adjudged to have handled inside his own box and Morris coolly outwitted Joel Castro Pereira from the penalty spot.
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Grant was harshly punished for apparent simulation five minutes from the end to reduce Gill's side to 10 players but with United sitting increasingly deeper the Canaries cashed in when Hall-Johnson's long range hit deceived Pereira after persistent work from Morris in the build-up. United captain Reece James' speculative cross almost embarrassed Matthews before it drifted wide but the visitors held out to make it only one defeat in their last five matches at this level.
• Manchester United U21s: J Pereira, Varela, McNair, Ekangamene, James, Janko, Pearson, Rothwell, A Pereira, Rowley, Wilson (Weir 62). Subs (not used): Gollini, Rudge, Harrop, McConnell.
• Goals: Weir (70, 76)
• Norwich City U21s: Matthews, McNeil, McFadden, Awuah, Efete, Bennett, Norman, Grant, Byrne-Hewitt (Cole 78), Hall-Johnson, Morris (Fox 90). Subs (not used): Killip, Ashley-Seal.
• Goals: Morris (80), Hall-Johnson (90)