Huddersfield Town played out an entertaining 3-3 draw with Manchester United’s Under-23s in the Terriers’ second and final pre-season game of the summer.
After United’s youngsters raced into an early two-goal lead through Mark Helm and Anthony Elanga, Town rallied and turned the game around courtesy of goals from Alex Pritchard, Juninho Bacuna and Josh Koroma before Hannibal Mejbri’s late equaliser for the visitors at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Four days on from kicking off pre-season with victory over Bradford City, Town were back in familiar surroundings with Manchester United’s Under-23s side the visitors to the John Smith’s Stadium.
Off the back of a win in that opening game of his tenure, Carlos Corberán named a starting XI that featured three changes from the one that played from the start in midweek; Romoney Crichlow, Aaron Rowe and Ben Jackson were given the opportunity to get minutes from the start after impressing from the bench on Wednesday.
Having avoided an early taste of the Autumn weather sweeping across the UK over the last week in that game, Saturday’s encounter got underway in damp and drizzly conditions in HD1.
That drizzle quickly turned into teeming rain under dark West Yorkshire skies but the weather certainly didn’t dampen Town’s early spirits who would have been ahead inside the first five minutes, after Danny Ward had found the target with a volley on the spin, only for a fine diving save from United ‘keeper Jacob Carney to keep it out.
The visitors’ 19-year-old shot-stopper was in action again moments later, this time high to his left to tip Aaron Rowe’s driven effort behind before Ward again went close from the resulting corner, nodding over.
Despite the Terriers having the best of the early opportunities, it was United’s youngsters who took the lead after Town ‘keeper Ben Hamer was caught in possession, with Mark Helm’s pressing rewarded with the game’s opener on 16 minutes.
The lead was quickly doubled, with the Reds finding the net for the second time in three minutes courtesy of Anthony Elanga.
Di’Shon Bernard found the run of the winger in a central area who took the ball out of his feet before finding the corner with a low finish on the run.
Carlos Corberán’s Terriers were swift in a response to the game’s second, however, pulling one back almost instantly after Town’s captain for the day, Alex Pritchard, found the net with a superb free-kick.
Carney in the United goal had been equal to everything on target so far, but Pritchard’s curling effort from the left side of the area’s edge beat the young ‘keeper and found the near top corner.
It was another set-piece that nearly had Town level soon after. A well-worked free-kick from the other side of the area saw Harry Toffolo hit one on his left that cannoned back off the bar as the Terriers chased an equaliser ahead of the interval.
United weren’t staying quiet at the other end, however, and created a good opportunity to extend their advantage. Hannibal Mejbri smartly picked out the run of James Garner on the edge of the box who miscued his strike well wide of the target.
An action-packed first half continued in the minutes that followed with Josh Koroma causing the young Reds’ defence problems.
After seeing his own poked effort denied by Carney, the young winger was well found down the right by an incisive pass down the line from Aaron Rowe, before squaring it for Juninho Bacuna who met the ball and found the empty net to level the scores on 34 minutes.
Once an entertaining first half was brought to a close by the referee, the second 45 got going in the same fashion, with Town nearly completing the comeback inside the half’s opening 60 seconds.
Having scored in the first half, Pritchard attempted to turn provider as his corner from the left found the head of Romoney Crichlow who glanced just wide of the far post after leaping well to meet the ball.
The Terriers did get the third shortly before the hour and in some style through Koroma. Having set up Town’s leveller, the winger found the top corner with a powerful strike to complete the comeback and give Carlos Corberán’s side the lead for the first time in the game.
The chances continued to come and United made the most of their next big opportunity on 74 minutes to level the game at 3-3.
Mejbri found space in a central area on the edge of the penalty area and once the ball was cut back to him, the 17-year-old forward fired a powerful drive into the bottom corner to get United back on terms as the game entered its closing stages.
United substitute Arnau Puigmal had the best chance of the final minutes, drilling a free-kick from around 25 yards out into the wall, with the final whistle bringing the encounter, and with it Town’s pre-season, to a close at the John Smith’s Stadium shortly after.
Next up for Town is the first competitive game of the 2020/21 season as Rochdale are the visitors to the John Smith’s Stadium for a Carabao Cup First Round tie on Saturday 5 September 2020; 3pm kick-off.
HUDDERSFIELD TOWN (4-3-3)
Ben Hamer (Jacob Chapman, 71’); Harry Toffolo (Ben Jackson, 66’), Romoney Crichlow, Richard Stearman (Mustapha Olagunju, 78’), Demeaco Duhaney; Josh Austerfield, Ben Jackson (Brahima Diarra, 24’) (Jaden Brown, 46’), Alex Pritchard (c) (Brahima Diarra, 66’); Juninho Bacuna, (Jaheim Headley, 66’), Danny Ward (Micah Obiero, 56’), Josh Koroma (Patrick Jones, 66’)
Giosue Bellagambi; Ilounga Pata
MANCHESTER UNITED UNDER-23s (4-2-3-1)
Jacob Carney; Recce Devine (Lukasz Bejger, 77’), Di’Shon Bernard, Teden Mengi (c), Ethan Laird; Dylan Levitt, James Garner; Anthony Elanga, Ethan Galbraith, Mark Helm (Arnau Puigmal, 56’); Hannibal Mejbri
Dermot Mee, Onderj Mastny; Harvey Neville, Max Taylor, William Fish, Charlie McCann, Max Haygarth, Connor Stanley, Luca Ercaloni