United squandered a two goal lead at Old Trafford to leave qualification for the semi-finals of the Under-21 Premier League dependent on the result of the final game at Reading in a week’s time.
After a largely uneventful first half, in which the Reds struggled to carve out clear-cut chances against a well-organised Norwich defence despite dominating possession, the second half proved to be full of incident and United looked set to record a crucial victory before succumbing to Hall-Johnson’s last minute goal.
James Wilson, who as usual had looked United’s best chance to break the deadlock, limped off early in the second half to leave the Reds without a recognised forward. It seemed to remove their best chance of breaking down stubborn and physical opponents but, in the event, Wilson’s replacement James Weir stepped up to grab a brace that seemed to leave his side in a good position to secure a win and an almost certain place in the last four. Both United goals came from attacks on the right, the first involving a series of misfired efforts before Rowley headed towards goal, presenting Weir with an easy tap-in. His second came when he arrived at the near post to slot home Varela’s excellent cross.
With ten minutes left, it seemed unlikely that Norwich, who’d struggled to trouble the United defence until that point, would get back into the game, but they threw numbers forward and won a penalty when Rowley handballed in the area. Morris made no mistake from the spot but, with Grant receiving his marching orders for a second yellow five minutes from time, it seemed it wouldn’t be enough to drag his side back in the game. The Canaries mounted a final attack, however, and from it Hall-Johnson’s shot was deflected past Joel Pereira to secure an unlikely point.
It was a disappointing end to a game that United had dominated and leaves the Reds in all likelihood needing a win at Reading in order to progress to the knockout stages.