Rounding up the weekend’s action, where Everton’s Jack Rodwell came out on top against a slew of Manchester United prospects at Wembley in the FA Cup Semi Final.
Rodwell started the match as a substitute, but in red, Sir Alex Ferguson made some surprising selections for such a big clash. For the first time in their United careers, twins Rafael and Fábio Da Silva started at full-back together, whilst the strikeforce was made up of Daniel Welbeck and Federico Macheda, the latter rewarded for fine recent form with a first senior start at England’s largest stadium. A tame and at times turgid affair on a poorish quality pitch didn’t allow for anyone to make much of an impact, let along the kids, but Welbeck was part of the game’s key talking point, when early in the second half he cut inside from the left and was tripped by Phil Jagielka. No penalty was given, sending Ferguson into a fit of apopleptic rage on the touchline.
Rodwell was introduced with twenty minutes to go, whilst Fábio made way for Evra midway through the second half and Berbatov came on for Macheda at the start of extra time. The game went to penalties, with none of the prospects taking a kick, but heroics from Tim Howard ensured Everton’s first FA Cup Final appearance in 14 years.
In the Premier League, Nathan Delfouneso continued his recent run of occasional minutes in the Aston Villa first team, getting twenty minutes at the end of Aston Villa’s 1-1 draw with West Ham. Unfortunately for him and his team, they continued their recent woeful run of form by dropping two points five minutes from time courtesy of a Diego Tristan goal.
At Championship level, Barry Bannan only got five minutes towards the end of a poor performance by Derby, losing 1-0 at Crystal Palace. Derby’s season has petered out into nothingness and Bannan, when back to match fitness, should finish the season looking to progress his game further. League Two saw far more action from prospects, but unfortunate end results for all three.
Henri Lansbury was on the pitch for all but a few minutes of Scunthorpe’s 0-1 loss at home to the MK Dons. He left the game in stoppage time injured with a twisted ankle, and will be desperate to return to fitness as soon as possible, with the Iron still two points out of a playoff spot, but have two games in hand. At the other end of the table, Jordan Spence and Leyton Orient saw a good recent run of form abruptly ended at home to Northampton in a 3-1 loss, whilst Jonathan Obika and Yeovil are still nervously looking over their shoulders at the drop after a 3-2 reverse to Hartlepool. Obika provided an assist for an early Gavin Tomlin goal, but the Glovers lost, leaving them with a four-point cushion but teams below them having games in hand.
In academy football, Tottenham, with Dean Parrett and John Bostock amongst their ranks, suffered their first home defeat in a year when a Declan Rudd-inspired Norwich City claimed a 1-0 win. Elsewhere Arsenal and Manchester City rested key names ahead of their FA Youth Cup Semi Final this coming midweek, and Man Utd and Chelsea played younger and backup players. Good news for Chelsea fans, however, came with the news that Gael Kakuta is recovering well from his broken ankle and is progressing well, aiming to be back for the pre-season fun in July.