It was a cold, crisp afternoon at the Armitage Centre as it played host to a pulsating second round cup tie between Manchester and Dundee. As current holders of the trophy, Manchester entered the tournament, having received a bye in the last round, looking to emulate last season’s success.
Before the game, Manchester had been in fine form, having won three of their five league games, including an away victory at much-fancied Leeds. However, they came up against a stubborn Dundee side that is enjoying plenty of domestic achievement. Dundee travelled south sitting in 2nd place of the Scottish University Premier League having also made it to the last eight of the Scottish National Cup. The stage was set for a classic cup encounter and the sides didn’t disappoint.
It was a cagey start to the game as the respective defences held strong. Both teams struggled to maintain possession and create any meaningful chances. The deadlock was broken after ten minutes, as Dundee’s Andrew Crone carried the ball on a mazy dribble and his deft pass to the right of the shooting circle was turned in from close range by Ian Macaulay. Manchester responded well to going a goal down, beginning to pass the ball quicker and more effectively. This good play soon came to fruition as Kav Jabbel smartly converted an excellent through pass from Sion Tuckle to put the home side level.
Dundee’s possession was restricted by the tenacious work of Manchester, however their ability to break away with speed was a constant threat in the first half, the skill of the attacking trio of Crone, Macaulay and Paul Martin proving particularly effective. With twenty minutes on the clock, Martin executed a delicate turn on the half way line, leaving two defenders in his wake. He bore down on goal and his ferocious strike forced a superb save. The game was really beginning to liven up, with chances going begging at either end.
As the half drew to a close, another dribble from Martin spelt trouble for Manchester, but his misplaced pass allowed for a chance at the other end. Manchester’s Jacob Plummer worked resiliently to escape the attention of the Dundee defence, before playing a great pass to Dutoy, who controlled expertly before coolly slotting past the helpless keeper from close range. The umpire then called time on the first half, with Manchester holding a narrow 2-1 advantage.
The half time team talk of coach Johnny Bell appeared to work wonders, Manchester emerging for the second half with renewed vigour and desire. Just three minutes in they came close to extending their lead. As Phil Dutoy’s snapshot was saved by the Dundee keeper, Jabbel slotted in the rebound, only for the umpire to controversially rule the goal out. With ten minutes of the second half gone, Manchester deservedly established a two goal cushion. Kieron Mulholland forced another short corner, which he converted comfortably into the bottom right of the goal to make it 3-1.
Dundee appeared a spent force in the second half, as they struggled to cope with Manchester’s attacking play. Macaulay and Martin continued to show their ability, but they were restricted to only one clear cut opportunity, which Macaulay skewed wide of the target. Manchester on the other hand were growing in confidence as the stretched Dundee defence began to concede more chances.
With twenty minutes of the second half gone, the Dundee keeper was forced into action again to save a fine effort from Plummer that looked destined for the top corner. Sloppy errors began to show through in Dundee’s game, and a misplaced pass amongst the defence led to another opportunity. The Manchester attack forced a double save from the Dundee keeper, Dutoy crashing a third attempt against the crossbar from a narrow angle. As the game wore on, Manchester rounded off their victory with a late fourth goal.
More good dribbling from Jabbel forced yet another short corner, which was set up for Mulholland to fire in his second of the match. The team had demonstrated its character in what had been a tough encounter. They will no doubt look forward to building on this success throughout the rest of this season.
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