United’s FA Cup run is over at the first hurdle

Long Eaton's Will Mellors-Blair (right) hassles a Huntingdon player in Saturday's cup tie.
Long Eaton's Will Mellors-Blair (right) hassles a Huntingdon player in Saturday's cup tie.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

FA Cup Preliminary Round

Long Eaton United 0

Huntingdon Town 4

LONG Eaton United fell at the first time of asking in the FA Cup on Saturday as United Counties League side Huntingdon Town enjoyed a comfortable victory.

Following a spirited midweek display against Barton Town, there were expectations of progress in the FA Cup but what unfolded was 90 minutes that came close to total humiliation and a defeat far greater that anyone could have imagined in one of Long Eaton United’s poorest performances for some time.

Nathan Parker, Paul Gamble, Martin Bowles and Chris Murdock were all unavailable for United, resulting in a re-shaped side that included Gary Breach and Jake Webster taking on the wide defensive roles vacated by Murdock and Gamble.

The low key start to the game was indicative of what was to follow and as both teams appeared to be assessing their opponents it was Huntingdon who seemed to grow in confidence as the early minutes ticked by.

Reward came their way midway through the half when a ball that was not effectively cleared, after the visitors had rapped the bar, fell to Declan Rogers. The striker took his opportunity with some efficiency to give his side the lead.

Shortly afterwards a Will Mellors-Blair run ended with an angled shot firing past the post and a few minutes later a close range Shaun Rickford header was safely gathered by the ‘keeper.

Apart from another late scare that produced a save from United’s Ross Whalin, the first-half ended with the visitors in the ascendancy. United were still in first gear.

After the break United’s low-key performance continued, with Huntingdon sensing their hosts really were experiencing a more difficult afternoon than bad day at the office.

Three minutes into the new half, Town’s Joe Jordan increased his team’s lead after racing away from his marker to score.

Within eight minutes the same player had wrong-footed Whalin from the edge of the box, following some neat approach play by his team-mates, creating a three-goal cushion only ten minutes into the second period.

As the gravity of the situation hit home, United’s frantic efforts to produce something constructive did bring some reward when, for once, they played the ball along the ground down the right hand side.

As Michael Armstrong advanced he was bundled over in the box but, as if to compound the day, Rickford’s tamely struck spot-kick was saved by Dave Beeny in the Huntingdon goal.

The visitors struck again with five minutes remaining when Rogers got his second of the game via a clinical strike from 18 yards and United were consigned to their worst Grange Park defeat in the FA Cup for 23 years..

United: Whalin, Breach, Whiley, Allsop (Carder 76), Webster, Mellors-Blair, Mushambi, Martin, Armstrong, Rickford, Ganderson (King 72)

l After Saturday’s disastrous FA Cup defeat United boosted their confidence with a sterling fightback against Handsworth in the NCEL League Cup.

Trailing 2-0 after 70 minutes, United fought their way back to lead through goals from Michael Martin (2) and Paul Gamble before the visitors equalised with minutes remaining.

Extra-time belonged to United and substitute Shaun Rickford scored the decisive goal three minutes before the second interval.

On Saturday, United meet Retford United in an NCEL fixture at Grange Park, before a trip to face Scarborough Athletic on Bank Holiday Monday. Both games kick-off at 3pm.