Norwich City Under-21s hold Manchester United to a draw in front of nearly 10,000 fans at Carrow Road
- Credit: Matthew Usher
Another bumper crowd at Carrow Road was treated to an entertaining evening, as Norwich City side held Manchester United's youngsters to a 1-1 Premier Under-21 League draw.
Having lost 3-0 in Manchester at the start of the campaign, City led midway through the first half of the return fixture on Friday night, thanks to Adel Gafaiti's strong header.
But a wonderful drive from United midfielder Josh Harrop soon after the interval earned the visitors the draw they probably deserved after a competitive outing.
Almost 10,000 fans took up the offer of free entry to the game at Carrow Road, following bumper attendances at home to Tottenham and Liverpool. The crowd was bigger than the one United's first team played in front of at Yeovil for last weekend's FA Cup third-round tie.
The visitors named a strong side that included Will Keane – whose twin brother recently joined Premier League Burnley on a permanent deal – and Nick Powell, who has spent time on loan at Wigan and Leicester.
In fact, Powell's outing may have explained the presence of numerous scouts – and Ipswich Town manager Mick McCarthy alongside his assistant Terry Connor. Powell certainly had his moments as United kept the ball and enjoyed by far the better territory in the opening exchanges. But Norwich always looked dangerous on the counter, driven on regularly by high-energy midfield performances from Cameron McGeehan and Ray Grant.
And Grant had a big hand in City's opener on 26 minutes, as his inswinging free-kick from the Norwich right found Gafaiti and the centre-back powered his downward header past a hapless Ben Amos. Grant's deliveries were a constant threat.
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Jamar Loza, leading the line on his own, should have made it two as Cameron Norman broke well and Reece Hall-Johnson fizzed in a superb centre as a result – but the striker could not make a full connection from six yards out. Come the second half, United made City pay – Harrop letting fly with a fantastic drive that pinged in off Remi Matthews' upright.
The game always carried an edge. McGeehan found himself in the book for a late block on Powell. The favour was later returned by an industrial challenge from Liam Grimshaw, as the City man looked to break free.
Loza put in a big effort all night and sent a stinging effort from a wide angle whistling over Amos' bar, while Sam Kelly looked like restoring City's lead – only for Saidy Janko to throw his body in the way with Amos' goal at the Canaries' mercy.
City's captain Conor McGrandles played the full 90 minutes and produced an efficient midfield display for City's Under-21 stand-in boss Paul Wilkinson. But in the end United should have left with their league double.
James Weir did well to set Keane clear in injury time, and his turn of pace created a great chance – only for the striker to clip the ball over keeper and bar. With that, both sides had to settle for a point from their battle.
City's players wore black armbands for last night's game in tribute to Brian Smith, who died last week at the age of 79. The academy schoolboy scout worked with the Canaries for more than 20 years.
• City (4-1-4-1): Matthews; Hall-Johnson (Byrne-Hewitt 89), McFadden, Gafaiti, Efete; Grant (Cantwell 81); Norman (Ramsay 81), McGeehan, McGrandles (C), Kelly; Loza. Subs (not used): Oxborough, Eaton-Collins. Booked: McGeehan. Goal: Gafaiti 26.
• United (3-4-2-1): Amos; Grimshaw, Vermijl (C), Love; Janko, Pereira (Evans 67), Harrop, Weir; Lingard (Fletcher 78), Powell; Keane. Subs (not used): O'Hara, Willock. Booked: Grimshaw. Goal: Harrop 52.
• Referee: Ian Fissenden; Attendance: 9,662
• Follow Michael Bailey on Twitter @michaeljbailey