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Man Utd Game 1 2009

On a clear early summer's morning at the Theatre of Dreams, 27 players emerged from the famous tunnel eager to play on the pitch where their idols had secured the championship title only four days earlier. Helping them ‘live their dream’, were two of United’s most decorated left backs: former Scotland international Arthur Albiston and former Republic of Ireland star Denis Irwin.

Wednesday 20th May
Man United Home vs Man United Away
Game 1
Old Trafford
KO: 11.00am
Legends: Arthur Albiston and Denis Irwin
Referees Rob Zemmel, Adam Cohen, Steve Jones and Stuart Delmonte

The game began at a high tempo with both teams keen to keep the defences tight as well as looking to push forward. The first piece of definitive action saw Home striker Jonathan Cohen make a clean break through the Away defence, but just as it looked as though he would test the Away team goalkeeper’s abilities, Away right back Tom Cummins dispossessed him. This would not be the last time these two players would clash at a vital stage of the game.

Also making an impact in the opening exchange was Home midfielder Glen Percival, whose neat touches allowed for the Home side to play at an elevated speed. Drama ensued in the 9th minute when Home winger Jay Eaton managed to elude playing legend Dennis Irwin, by crossing the ball past him and into the area. The Away keeper was only able to punch the ball out and into the path of the Home midfielder Marcus Gross, who was then felled by an under pressure Away defender, and shouts of a penalty fell to deaf ears.

This early and constant pressure may have lulled the Home side into a false sense of security however, as it was the Away side who took the lead in the 10th minute. A good passing move by striker Heneghan to Dave Wolf on the wing, allowed midfielder Niki Watkinson to get into space and meet the ball with conviction and slot it into the back of the net.

However the Home side were not to be perturbed by this, and to their credit hit straight back. It was Jonathan Cohen’s looped ball that deflected into the path of Home midfielder Glen Percival, who then headed it straight past the keeper to the sound of jubilant celebrations from the Home support.

And it was the clever and tenacious Glen Percivel who provided the inspiration as the Home side burst into the lead. His smart ball to Marcus Gross attracted a sliding foul from Away defender Tong - and on this occasion the referee had no choice but to award a spot kick. It was left midfielder Jonathan Charnock who took the penalty, coolly converting the ball to make the score 2-1 to the Home team.

The Home side continued to dominate; notably with some fantastic build up in the 26th minute where after some good play from Gross led to Jonathan Cohen’s viciously dipping shot striking off the post. The woodwork was struck again not long after; this time it was Percival’s explosive 25 yard effort that hit the underside of the crossbar.

The 30th minute provided a surprise equaliser from the Away side. A long ball from former Republic of Ireland international Denis Irwin eluded the Home defence and passed the ball across to left midfielder Watkinson, who slotted his second goal of the game past the Home keeper Daniel Gross. With both sides now sensing the chance to go in at half time with a precious lead, Home captain Brian Donne played a one-two with Percivel and then floated the ball over to Cohen whose flick over the onrushing goalkeeper landed just wide of the net.

The next big chance fell to Home centre back Dave Buglass who, following Marcus Gross’s corner and the ball bouncing around the penalty box, half-volleyed the ball over the bar. But it was left to the Away team to have the final chance of the half, when Centre forward Heneghan collected Cummin’s pass, however only fired the ball over the bar as the goalkeeper rushed out.  This symbolised an even finish to what was a pulsating first half.    

Half Time: Man United Home 2 - 2 Man United Away

Fresh from a half time rest and motivational team talk from respective legends, the players emerged for the second half no doubt wondering if they would be able to recreate the drama of a energetic first period. It started in a lively fashion with a good run by substitute Chris Melling, culminating in a looping shot going just over the bar. The end to end nature of the game continued, this time the Away right back Tom Cummins (now having switched into midfield) bringing the ball forward from the half way line and breezing past Albiston, however was dispossessed just in time by Home captain Brian Donne.

However the contest was lit up by the events in the 59th minute. It was Home defender Chris Melling, who had already been heavily involved earlier in the half, who fired home a left-footed shot into the top corner of the net. This fantastic goal was subsequently a goal of the season contender, and a great way to for the Home side to take the lead once more.

However the Away side would not lie down, especially not their impressive midfielder Tom Cummins. In the 65th minute he broke forward again from the half way line, and after a deftly controlled drive, fired a half-volley just wide of the post. Then in a pattern not dissimilar to the first half, the Home side began to up the tempo and take over the exchanges. Good play from Jonathan Charnock on the left culminated in an astonishing cross over the keeper, however striker Phil Chambers just couldn’t force the ball over the line.

On 71 minutes the game was lit up by a great dribble by the imposing figure of Home midfielder Marcus Gross, with the ball ending up bouncing out of play. Inevitably the pace began to slow in the closing stages, allowing goalscorer Melling to once again break through for the Home side. He then squared for Chambers again whose shot was saved by the Away keeper. As the legs of both sides got tired, the spaces on the pitch got bigger and on 80 minutes, Niki Watkinson for the Away Team broke clean through, but just as he looked as if he was going to complete his hat-trick, Home keeper Gross came out to collect. 

There was just three minutes of time remaining when the definitive piece of action occurred, and it was Dennis Irwin who was the instigator. His cross found Tom Cummins, who drove up into the box and then managed to scramble the ball off the keepers outstretched hand and over the line to equalise at 3-3.

While this was a deserved reward for Cummins’ performance, the Home Teams motivation meant they went straight on the counter attack. Great play by substitute David Cleasby found midfielder Gross whose shot seemed to be goal bound, before a small deflection took the ball over the bar.

But there was still time for some genuine drama as Home Keeper Daniel Gross looked to kick start another attack, however tried to take the ball around Away centre forward Heneghan.  Despite coming up with the ball the striker could not provide a memorable end to the game as he failed to find a way past Home captain Donne on the line.

So it finished a richly entertaining 3-3 draw, which on reflection stood correct as neither side’s efforts deserved to be for a losing cause.

Full Time: Man United Home 3-3 Man United Away

Home Team: Gross, Eaton, Albiston, Buglass, D O'Donnell, Percival, Donne, Charnock, Chambers, Gross, Forbes, Cleasby, Capozzi, Melling, N O’Donnell, Cohen

Away Team: Cummins,  Irwin, B Thorpe, Tong, Safadi, D Thorpe, Watkinson, Courtenay, Lyle, Heneghan, Harrington, Wolf

Mascots: Oliver Donne, Oscar Cohen, Matthew Thorpe, Alexander Courtenay

Man of the Match (Home) – Marcus Gross
Man of the Match (Away) – Tom Cummins
Moment of the Match -  Chris Melling