Youthful Long Eaton earn honourable draw

Long Eaton's Matt Weightman takes control against Parkgate on Saturday.
Long Eaton's Matt Weightman takes control against Parkgate on Saturday.

LONG Eaton United fielded their youngest ever line-up against high-scoring Parkgate on Saturday - and proceeded to claim a point.

NCEL Premier Division

Long Eaton United 0

Parkgate 0

LONG Eaton United fielded their youngest ever line-up against high-scoring Parkgate on Saturday - and proceeded to claim a point.

United have been through a radical transaction during the last six months, from a side predominantly comprising of senior players to one of such youth that the team that lined up on Saturday was the youngest in the club’s 56-year old history.

As manager Mick Galloway considered his current options after the recent departures of skipper Dean Whiley to Stamford and Nathan Parker to Borrowash, his selection problems were further compounded due to Chris Murdock and Shaun Rickford, his two remaining senior players, both being unavailable to face Parkgate.

On the evidence of the team’s performance, against a visiting side that had scored in all but one of their NCEL games this season, he need not have worried unduly as his young charges gave a great account of themselves and produced some mature individual performances that augurs well for the future if they remain at Grange Park as the seasons unfold.

It was clear from the outset that United were intent on playing a passing style that helped them retain possession and despite their best efforts breaking down on occasions they kept to their strategy and re-grouped as needed.

As early pressure from the visitors began to mount, Isaac Marshall, Michael Armstrong and Kial Thurman, who was making only his second first team start, began to set the tone for the rest of the afternoon with towering performances that continually thwarted the goal threat posed by a normally prolific Parkgate.

United’s ‘keeper Scott Webb also began to add a valuable contribution to affairs with some early interventions and pulled off an exceptional one-handed save from a powerfully struck 20-yard effort from Parkgate’s Danny Barlow after 20 minutes.

Josh Hooley and Matt Weightman each had half chances for United that went close and Jacob Webster and Blaine Hancock were getting through a great deal of work in midfield.

When he was able to break free from the close attention of his dual markers, Will Mellors-Blair too was able to cause some anxiety for the visitors and he cleverly opened up United’s best move of the first period, which almost resulted in a breakthrough.

After the break, United again displayed a defensive confidence that inspired the belief that they were capable of holding back a formidable opponent, with Andy Rhodes at left-back emerging more and more as the game progressed, and there were times during the half when they were able to put the visitors themselves on the back foot.

Jimmy Hunter began to find a little more freedom, linking up well with Mellors-Blair and Hancock, and United’s disciplined performance only continued to non-plus the more experienced Parkgate outfit, who often produced some very neat football at times.

A Brian Cusworth header drifted wide of Webb’s goal and Armstrong and Thurman both made timely interceptions as the game entered the latter stages and United forced a string of late corners in an effort to snatch an unexpected victory.

At the final whistle, United were doubtless satisfied with their point and it was evident that those watching were clearly content with the style of their display under the guidance of a manager who is adamant about his intentions.

United’s captain on the day was seventeen year-old Michael Armstrong, making him not only the youngest player to ever lead a Long Eaton United side, but possibly the youngest to have ever captain any team in the Northern Counties East League.

United: Webb, Armstrong (C), Thurman, Marshall, Rhodes, Hunter Webster, Hancock, Mellors-Blair, Hooley (Jarvis) Weightman

On Saturday, Long Eaton United travel to face another difficult challenge at Tadcaster Albion as they attempt to record their first victory of the year.