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 Reserves: United 1 Bolton 0 
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 Reserves: United 1 Bolton 0
Reserves: United 1 Bolton 0

Skipper David Gray struck the only goal of a hard-fought game against Bolton Wanderers to put United top of the Barclays Premier Reserve League (north).

The Scottish full-back turned in a close-range finish on the stroke of half-time after the visitors failed to clear a corner kick, sealing a victory which puts Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side two points clear of Liverpool, who have a game in hand.

Ben Foster, making his first appearance for the Reserves this season, was called into routine action on a handful of occasions in the second half but was largely untroubled thanks to strong work by Ritchie De Laet and Oliver Gill in the centre of defence.

United and Bolton's second strings had already met three times this season prior to Thursday's clash. That familiarity, allied to teeming rain, made for a war of attrition on a freezing evening at Moss Lane.

A strong start from the Reds yielded a near miss for Gabriel Obertan, but Bolton's Sam Sheridan contrived to fluff his lines with time and space inside the United area. Later the Bolton midfielder drew a smart stop from Foster, by which point the injured Corry Evans had been replaced by Febian Brandy.

Mame Biram Diouf, scorer of a debut treble for the Reserves at Sunderland last week, was given fewer opportunities in front of goal, but was given more chance to showcase his link-play abilities. The Senegalese striker had one effort deflected wide before the break, before Cameron Stewart curled an effort agonisingly against the inside of the Bolton post.

United's pressure did reap a deserved opener on the brink of half-time, however, when skipper Gray was on hand to turn in Obertan's cross deep inside a packed penalty area.

The visitors survived a strong penalty shout within 20 seconds of the restart as Brandy was seemingly hauled down without censure, but soon embarked on a spell of pressure, with influential midfielder Aaron Mooy twice only just off target with powerful efforts.

Diouf fired just over the bar after a superb pass from Fabio, before Bolton again served notice of their largely dormant threat when Ricardo Vaz Te brought a superb low stop from Foster. The England international's opposite number, Rob Lainton, did well to parry Brandy's swerving effort, and heroic defending from Chris Stokes blocked Diouf's follow-up with the goal gaping.

Only Gray was able to find a route past Lainton, and that solitary strike was enough to edge a hard-fought victory for the Reds, who now top the Barclays Premier Reserve League (north), and are well in the hunt to bag a first league title for four seasons.

United: Foster; Gray, De Laet, Gill, Fabio; Stewart (Norwood, 46), C Evans (Brandy, 16 (Dudgeon, 83)), James, Hewson, Obertan; Diouf.
Subs not used: Zieler, Moffatt.

26 stUTCp 2008
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