Published: 3rd May 2022
Hamilton Accies were the visitors to Gussie Park for the Young Terrors’ penultimate home game of the 2021/22 CAS Under-18s Elite League season.
The last meeting between the sides saw United come out on the wrong side of a 2-1 defeat at New Douglas Park, defender Jacob Comerford on target before conceding less than 60 seconds later.
2006-born Josh Swain and Reece Kerrigan were rewarded with starts as Under 18s Head Coach Ryan Moon opted for a 4-4-2 system, Lewis O'Donnell and Miller Thomson the duo in midfield behind a short-statured strike partnership of Kerrigan and Stuart Heenan.
Due to the lack of physicality up top, the Young Terrors struggled with chance creation from the off. Kerrigan and Heenan found themselves dominated by the three-man defence of the visitors, and therefore the few chances United managed to fashion in the first half came from the energy of Thomson and O'Donnell in the middle as they strode forward to collect second balls.
Hamilton looked to the wider areas to get themselves up the pitch, with direct passes to Ryan One in particular proving difficult for Keir Bertie to deal with. Luckily for the left-back, his opponent strayed offside in dangerous situations on numerous occasions.
Tall winger One was left unmarked in the area on four minutes and met Adam McGowan's set-piece delivery but sent a powerful header well over the bar when he perhaps should've worked the keeper, an early let-off for United.
O'Donnell looked to dribble out of trouble just outside his own box but was caught out by Gabriel Forsyth, the loose ball dropping to Ben Black who cut inside Jacob Comerford and let fly. The ball looked to be finding the far corner but Arron Donald threw himself in front of the shot to deny the striker.
United's first effort on goal came after 12 minutes when a trademark mazy run from Thomson culminated in the 17-year-old testing Cameron May with a low strike from 25 yards.
Against the run of play, the Young Terrors opened the scoring with 16 minutes on the clock, and in spectacular fashion. Swain looked to dart across the box but was upended by the simultaneous challenge of two Accies defenders. O'Donnell stepped up from 22 yards and curled a stunning free-kick over the wall which kissed the bar and nestled into top corner to continue his red-hot scoring streak, the midfielder on target three times in his last four matches.
Hamilton responded soon after, attacking outlet One overpowering Bertie to reach the line and find his trialist teammate with a cut-back whose shot was held low by Jamie McCabe.
The pace of Christopher McGinn fashioned the next chance as he charged 30 yards down the left and played the ball inside to McGowan in space 30 yards out, his speculative effort spilled by McCabe and eventually scrambled to safety by Bertie.
United keeper McCabe almost handed the away side an equaliser after 24 minutes when his scuffed kick-out fell straight to Black outside the area. The 16-year-old managed to redeem himself well though as he produced a strong one-handed save to deny his opposite number.
Hamilton continued to threaten as United failed to gain control of the match due to a combination of poor decision-making and a lack of attacking impetus. McGinn evaded the challenge of at least three tangerine tackles and danced into the box but failed to pick out one of the multiple options in the middle and sent a wayward shot well wide of the target in yet another first-half chance for Accies.
There was still time for McCabe to be called into action once more before the break, this time Thomson caught on the ball by Lewis Latona and he teed up Forsyth to his right. The fierce strike met the feet of the stopper and was thundered clear by Comerford on the line.
Thomson's midfield running finally saw the Young Terrors carve out an opportunity after 48 minutes as he skipped beyond the challenge of Forsyth and squared to O'Donnell who had his first-time effort saved comfortably by May.
Quick thinking from O'Donnell then saw him find Layton Bisland wide on the right from a free-kick and his cross was met by Swain at the back-stick but the winger failed to divert it on target.
The 57th minute heralded the introduction of Craig Moore and top goalscorer Rory MacLeod from the bench who arrived to the match late after having medicals at Hampden ahead of their trip to Israel with the Scotland U17s for the European Championships.
Substitute Mark McCaffrey pounced after a stramash in the area, forcing McCabe into an acrobatic save as his shot from an acute angle looked to be heading for the roof of the net.
The right side proved fruitful for Moon's side again as Bisland strode beyond Liam Morgan and delivered towards Liam Trotter who saw his well-struck attempt blocked at the last second, O'Donnell then latching onto the clearance and half-volleying over the crossbar from range.
With four minutes to play the Lanarkshire outfit would notch a deserved equaliser. A soft foul by O'Donnell gave McGowan the chance to bend a teasing right-footed cross into the corridor of uncertainty and an unfortunate United defender bundled the ball into his own net. The goal was initially ruled out for offside, but after consulting his assistant, the referee overturned the decision as the hosts were made to settle for a point despite leading for 70 minutes.