Goals in each half send United into next round

Long Eaton United's Will Mellors-Blair (far left) slides in to fire his side in front at Arnold Town on Saturday.
Long Eaton United's Will Mellors-Blair (far left) slides in to fire his side in front at Arnold Town on Saturday.

Long Eaton United kept their first clean sheet of the season as they progressed to the next round of the FA Vase at the expense of Arnold Town on Saturday.

FA Vase First Round

Arnold Town 0

Long Eaton United 2

Long Eaton United kept their first clean sheet of the season as they progressed to the next round of the FA Vase at the expense of Arnold Town on Saturday.

The 2-0 win at the Eagle Valley ground owed much to a sterling defensive display in which Dean Whiley, Gary Breach and ‘keeper Ross Whalin were outstanding.

On the opening day of the season the two teams met in an NCEL league game at the same venue and the encounter ended in a 1-1 draw.

However, United entered the tie on Saturday on the back of four successive league defeats.

From the outset both teams tried hard to assert their authority on the contest but more often than not moves broke down and the final product, particularly on the part of the home side, was lacking.

United’s best early effort came after ten minutes when Zakk Hilton cut in from the left to fire in a strong shot that was parried by Martin Kearney in the Arnold goal and cleared to safety by a defender.

In a five minute spell soon afterwards Arnold’s Josh Garner had a couple of wayward attempts on goal and Whalin produced a good save when under pressure.

After the home side had spurned three corners in quick succession United got the breakthrough midway through the half.

Hilton again found space to put in a troublesome cross from the left and the frantic Arnold rearguard were unable to clear their lines effectively.

A deft header from Breach found Will Mellors-Blair and the United man struck his shot past Kearney a split second before an Arnold defender was able to close him down.

Moments later Kelvin Mushambi eluded two defenders to create an opening for himself but this time Kearney was alert to the opportunity and was able to block the shot.

Arnold continued to push forward but mainly found themselves thwarted by the combined efforts of Whiley, Isaac Marshall and Chris Murdock.

When they were able to produce a worthwhile threat on goal they found Whalin in commanding, and somewhat entertaining, form.

Despite winning further corners during the half, supplemented by more poor finishing, the home side were unable to convert their pressure into anything significant and the interval came with United still holding the advantage.

After the break Arnold began to produce their best football of the game and they clearly exerted some strong pressure on United but, as in the first period, United defended admirably, much to the frustration of the home support.

After 69 minutes Mellors-Blair was replaced by Josh Hooley and within 60 seconds United’s substitute had helped to make the game safe by getting on the end of a Murdock cross and head past the advancing Kearney, recording his first senior goal for the club in the process.

The goal appeared to rally the home side once more and a frenetic goalmouth melee was eventually cleared to safety by United’s over-worked defence, and Whalin produced the save of the game following a close range header from Martin Carruthers with ten minutes remaining.

As the game drew to a conclusion Shaun Rickford almost got his name on the scoresheet, which would have only added to Arnold’s misery, but the victory was much deserved and the inability of the home side to convert their own chances was of little concern to the United contingent.

Monday’s draw saw United paired at home with Cambridgeshire side St Ives Town, the match taking place at Grange Park on Saturday, November 19.

United: Whalin, Murdock, Whiley (c), Marshall, Armstrong (Webster 45), Hilton, Breach, Hunter, Mushambi, Mellors-Blair (Hooley 69), Rickford

l Long Eaton host second-placed Bridlington Town in the league at Grange Park on Saturday (29th), kick off 3pm.