Fleetwood 0 Manchester United 2

Pictured is Steve McNulty and Will Keane
Pictured is Steve McNulty and Will Keane
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Fleetwood Town 0 Manchester United XI 2

IT took a spectacular long-range effort on the hour and a late second goal to win this closely contested friendly at Highbury as Town went toe-to-toe with their Old Trafford visitors last night.

A United side made up of bright young prospects was captained by a famous face in midfielder Darron Gibson, who has chalked up almost 60 appearances for the United first team and earned 16 Republic of Ireland caps.

Gibson apart, it may not have been a night for star spotting, but that didn’t stop the Cod Army turning out to see their own top-flight stars of non-league as 1,665 passed through the Highbury turnstiles. Town started the brighter as skipper Steve McNulty showed his authority against a youthful but technically able United side.

Davide Petrucci did break for the visitors in the opening minutes but Scott Davies in the home goal stood firm.

Keith Briggs took Fleetwood forward as they forced a series of corners. However, the midfielder could only fire a free header straight at keeper Sam Johnstone.

Briggs then supplied George Donnelly but again Johnstone intervened to deny the England C striker.

United had an opportunity on 20 minutes but midfielder Paul Pogba blasted over from 25 yards.

Town’s three front men then combined to craft an opening. Danny Rowe linked with Donnelly to supply Andy Mangan but the former Wrexham man could only flick the ball past the far post.

United were struggling to break down a resolute Town defence in which Shaun Beeley showed a tidy turn of pace and cleared accurately out of defence.

Davies was also dealing with any threats to his goal, claiming a cross from the right in a busy penalty area and then Pogba’s shot from range.

Petrucci fared no better, Davies saving his low shot to the right.

Pogba then gave away a free-kick near the touchline 20 yards from his own goal. Rowe curled the ball into the danger area but Mangan fired wide.

As the first half entered its final minutes, both sides continued to create chances.

Pogba and Petrucci’s efforts were matched at the other end by Mangan and Rowe, who carved a notable chance with a darting run and shot from the left.

Rowe continued to look dangerous after the restart but two minutes in his shot took a heavy defection and landed in the arms of the alert Johnstone.

Donnelly nearly capitalised on a Gibson mistake but the Ireland international recovered.

Each side continued to probe for the opening goal as Daniel Drinkwater’s searching cross was put behind by Beeley.

Drinkwater then floated the ball out to Norwood, who volleyed high and wide from 25 yards.

Substitute John Cofie turned and shot from just outside the box but his effort sailed over the bar.

The breakthrough came just before the hour, when midfielder Pogba turned and shot from a central position 35 yards out. The ball looped over Davies and into the top corner, giving the keeper no chance.

Drinkwater tested the Fleetwood goal but substitute keeper Danzelle St Louis Hamilton pulled off a fine save to keep the ball out of the top left corner.

The home side searched for an equaliser as Peter Till sliced wide from 20 yards and fellow substitute Paul Linwood went close from a corner.

United doubled their lead with moments remaining, when St Louis Hamilton charged out to challenge Drinkwater at the edge of the 18-yard area.

The United man rounded the keeper and fired goalwards. The unfortunate Linwood attempted a last-gasp clearance only to see the ball glance in off his head.

Sean Clancy, Magno Vieira, Matty Hughes and Liam Wynn were all late substitutions and contributed well for Town in the closing stages.

Town’s busy pre-season continues at home to Huddersfield Town tomorrow night.