Bad start to the year continues for United

Long Eaton's Nathan Parker (right) shadows a Scarborough opponent during Saturday's clash.
Long Eaton's Nathan Parker (right) shadows a Scarborough opponent during Saturday's clash.
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Monday, January 2, 2012

NCEL Premier Division

Staveley MW 4

Long Eaton United 0

Long Eaton United suffered their second heavy defeat in five days when they were overwhelmed by high-flying Scarborough Athletic at Grange Park on Saturday.

It was the fourth consecutive fixture in which United had failed to score, and one of their heaviest defeats at Grange Park for over four years.

Changes to United’s starting line-up following the 4-0 defeat at Staveley at the beginning of the week saw the return of Chris Murdock at left-back and Michael Martin to the centre of midfield.

Matt Weightman was also back in the starting line-up to partner striker Shaun Rickford, who had scored a hat-trick against Scarborough earlier in the season, and Scott Webb took over goalkeeping duties from Harry Daykin.

Scarborough themselves arrived at Grange Park after three successive league defeats which had seriously dented their title aspirations and were doubtless keen to resurrect their challenge.

In difficult windy conditions, and in contrast to what was to follow, United started the game fairly brightly and Weightman had an early opportunity to put his team ahead but was unable to provide a sound contact after the ball fell to him in a congested penalty area.

The visitors soon got their own passing game flowing and Webb produced an excellent save to keep out a dipping shot from Boro’s former Notts County man Tony Hackworth, but with the game only seven minutes old the same player opened the scoring after a corner was not cleared effectively enough and Hackworth rifled the ball home on the half-volley.

United responded well and Will Mellors-Blair and Rickford both tested Boro’s ‘keeper Kev Martin with decently-struck efforts, and there were encouraging signs during most of the remainder of the first-half that United may keep the game competitive.

However, deep into first-half injury-time, Adam Lee raced onto a through ball and was able to out-run his marker and round Webb with the last kick of the half and secure a two-goal cushion at the interval.

Things went from bad to worse for United during the first minute of the second period when Lee was again on hand to fire a shot across Webb and give his side a seemingly unassailable 3-0 lead.

With the visitors almost completely controlling the game, Nathan Parker had a rare United effort blocked and Josh Hooley replaced Mellors-Blair after 65 minutes and was able to get a shot on goal that was deflected away by a defender within a minute of joining the contest.

With a degree of inevitability, the fourth and possibly the best goal of the game arrived on 77 minutes when a slick Scarborough move resulted in a cross from the left by Paddy Miller being clinically headed past Webb by Ryan Blott.

Only two minutes later the lively Blott added his second when he coolly controlled the ball on his chest and volleyed his strike home to register his side’s fifth goal on a depressing afternoon for United.

Both sides went through the motions during the closing stages but it was clear that the visitors had thoroughly deserved their victory, which further served to highlight United’s current shortcomings at this level.

United: Webb, Armstrong, Whiley (c), Marshall, Murdock, Mellors-Blair (Hooley 64), Martin, Parker, Hunter (Hancock 89), Weightman (Webster 89), Rickford

In view of United’s current form, this Saturday’s trip to leaders Retford United could not come at a worse time for the club and joint managers Craig Weston and Mick Galloway will have their work cut out to revive their flagging season.