Last-gasp goal denies United a valuable point

Long Eaton's Will Mellors-Blair (right) competes with Retford's Rob Austin during Saturday's clash.

Long Eaton's Will Mellors-Blair (right) competes with Retford's Rob Austin during Saturday's clash.

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

NCEL Premier Division

Retford United 2

Long Eaton United 1

LONG Eaton produced one of their best performances of the season at league leaders Retford on Saturday but an injury-time winner denied them a much-deserved point.

Indeed, their hosts considered themselves fortunate to have got back into the game at all after being behind at half-time, let alone eventually take all three points.

In an encounter that saw United create more chances and produce the more fluent football, Retford’s unsettled start to the game resulted in a early penalty award for their visitors and their late, late winning goal had spectators from both camps questioning the amount of added time in a fairly uneventful second-half in terms of stoppages.

Despite their lofty position, Retford began the game with a degree of hesitancy and there were times during the early exchanges that United’s midfield out-thought their more highly-placed opponents, with Paul Gamble, Jacob Webster and Josh Hooley each contributing with some clever touches.

The pace too of Will Mellors-Blair and Matt Weightman gave the home side some anxious moments and during an early raid Weightman was clumsily bundled over and there was little dispute from the home contingent when the referee awarded an early penalty.

Unfortunately for United, Gamble’s well-struck spot-kick easily eluded Jason Fisher in the Retford goal but struck an upright and bounced to safety.

Efforts from Mellors-Blair, Hooley and Weightman soon followed but failed to make their mark and when Retford did produce a meaningful move forward they were effectively marshalled by the combined efforts of Dean Whiley, Isaac Marshall, Michael Armstrong and Chris Murdock.

Late in the half a rare lapse almost let in the home side but Armstrong was able to rescue United’s ‘keeper Scott Webb and clear the lines.

Nonetheless, United continued to grow in confidence and as the interval approached the visitors’ all-round first-half display was duly rewarded.

Following a few moments of pressure from Retford, United broke quickly down the right and Hooley provided a telling ball into the path of Weightman and the eager striker was in the right place to fire the ball home and give his side a deserved lead half-time lead.

After the break, Retford worked hard to assert their authority on the game but after a brief period which saw them in the ascendancy, United were soon displaying an effective passing style that continued to enable them to break quickly.

Further attempts from Hooley and Murdock kept the Retford defence on their toes but for all their efforts, a second United goal failed to materialise and the home side began to scent a way back into the game.

Midway through the second-half, following an uncharacteristic lapse in light of the overall performance, the ball was conceded cheaply in midfield and the home side took full advantage, with Warren Hetfield punishing the error with a close range effort that drew the scores level.

United refused to sit back and there were moments when they almost restored the advantage, but as the game wore on it was Retford who asserted the greater pressure during the closing stages, resulting in defender Chris Baugh finding space in a congested area to nod the ball past Webb from very close range in the dying seconds of the game.

It had been an uplifting performance from United and one which lifted some of the gloom of recent weeks.

United: Webb, Armstrong, Whiley (c), Marshall, Murdock, Mellors-Blair, Hooley 64, Webster, Gamble (Rickford 70), Sibet, (Hancock 89), Weightman (Buick 89)

On Saturday United entertain Nostell Miners Welfare at Grange Park, a team against whom they shared four goals in the reverse fixture earlier in the season.