United open the season with a draw and a defeat

Long Eaton's Gary Breach (left) takes on an Arnold player during Saturday's clash.
Long Eaton's Gary Breach (left) takes on an Arnold player during Saturday's clash.
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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Northern Counties East

Premier Division

Arnold Town 1

Long Eaton Utd 1

LONG Eaton United took just three minutes to open their goal tally for the 2011/12 season at Arnold on Saturday, but were ultimately pegged back by a late equaliser to take a share of the points.

On balance, it was no less than the home side deserved as throughout the tie they had created the more clear-cut opportunities.

Only woeful finishing and some steadfast goalkeeping from Ross Whalin kept the scores level at the end of 90 minutes.

Whalin had returned to United during the summer after spending last season at Hucknall Town and Saturday’s game was his 212th for the club.

New signing Will Mellors-Blair made his debut in midfield and Paul Gamble dropped into the left-back position following the retirement of long-time United favourite Paul McGinty.

Another new signing, Theo Ganderson was given a place on the bench alongside emerging teenagers Blaine Hancock, Elliott King and Jake Webster.

United started the game with some conviction and both Nathan Parker and Gamble had early efforts that exposed a seemingly unsure Arnold back line.

Only moments later, in the fourth minute, Parker found Shaun Rickford and United’s centre forward used his strength to retain possession and deftly edged the ball past Martin Kearney in the Arnold goal.

Within a minute Mellors-Blair cut in from the left and fired his shot just wide and as the game developed a Gamble free-kick in a good area cleared the bar.

As Arnold settled to their task after the early uncertainty they created a brace of clear chances but poor finishing resulted in Whalin not having to produce a save.

The United ‘keeper was called into action midway through the half when Mitchell Slawson eluded his markers to fire in a low shot that produced a great stop from the big frame of United’s number one.

Michael Armstrong was causing problems for the home side with some neat touches and Rickford lifted an awkward ball over the bar after 35 minutes but the first period closed with Arnold in the ascendancy as both Micky Allsop and Dean Whiley worked hard to stem the flow from midfield.

After the break, United had an early chance through Rickford but Whalin was certainly the busier of the two ‘keepers for long periods of the second-half.

Ganderson was brought off the bench with 20 minutes remaining and he livened up United’s attacking options somewhat, going close with a powerful effort within minutes of his introduction.

Late on both Webster and Hancock joined the fray and the former made room for himself to fire wide with five minutes remaining.

Arnold’s equaliser came after 87 minutes as United lost possession in midfield. Joe Wood took advantage of the lapse and fired a looping shot goalwards. Despite getting a hand to the ball, Whalin was unable to keep it out of the net and prevent the home side from drawing level.

The closing stages saw both sides trying to edge ahead but the game fizzled out with Armstrong cutting in from the left and being stopped in his tracks by a crunching, though legitimate, challenge from an Arnold defender.

l United hosted their first home game of the season against Armthorpe Welfare on Tuesday night but despite leading at half-time fell to a 3-1 defeat.

Will Mellors-Blair had put Long Eaton in front in the 17th minute.

But second-half strikes from James Walker (56), Richard Smith (78) and Henry Sibenge (90) condemned United to defeat for the first time this campaign.

This weekend United host Hall Road Rangers in the second of six consecutive home games, with Barton Town Old Boys next to visit on Tuesday night, kick-off 7.45pm.