Zakk’s winner secures yet more away-day joy

Long Eaton's goalscorer Zakk Hilton (right) comes under pressure at Maltby Main on Saturday.
Long Eaton's goalscorer Zakk Hilton (right) comes under pressure at Maltby Main on Saturday.

ZAKK Hilton’s first goal for Long Eaton United gave them a valuable three points at Maltby Main on Saturday.

NCEL Premier Division

Maltby Main 0

Long Eaton United 1

ZAKK Hilton’s first goal for Long Eaton United gave them a valuable three points at Maltby Main on Saturday.

After four successive home fixtures in both league and cup, United had some respite from the spectre of Grange Park and gained the same result they achieved in their last away fixture.

Despite the basement status of the opposition, United faced an uphill task against a side four places below them, due primarily to a host of suspensions and injuries that resulted in six members of the first team squad being unavailable.

United started the game brightly enough with both Josh Hooley and Hilton prominent, but a couple of chances for Maltby were thwarted by ‘keeper Ross Whalin in the opening five minutes and in essence, set the tone for the majority of the game.

Nonetheless, it was United who gained the crucial early advantage after only ten minutes when Hilton was released into space on the right and the young midfielder fired in a low shot that was deflected past the home ‘keeper off the heel of a retreating defender.

Far from enhancing United’s control of the game the goal only served to spur the home side forward.

But they were kept at bay by some resolute defending from United’s rearguard, in which Dean Whiley and Isaac Marshall were again prominent, and some exceptional goalkeeping from Whalin.

Significantly though, Maltby also continued to waste a number of gilt-edged opportunities that came their way.

After the interval, the home side came to the fore even more as United struggled to find the creative zest that would alleviate the pressure on their own defence.

However, the rearguard action only served to illustrate their resolve and the defensive performances from a number of United players were fairly impressive in the context of the struggle being played out, with Whalin the overall match saver.

Between the home side’s growing number of opportunities, Matt Weightman edged the ball to Hooley and the United man fired his effort narrowly wide.

During a flurry of bookings for players from both sides, in what was a fairly even-tempered game, United’s goal was under siege for long periods during the second-half and there were times, late in the contest, that United found it difficult to get into their opponents’ half.

A number of free-kicks were conceded in dangerous areas but the combined efforts of Michael Armstrong, Michael Martin, Marshall and Whiley were able to cope effectively with all the home side threw at them and when they were able to strike an effort on target Whalin was the saviour.

At the close, United had clearly earned the three points on offer and had displayed the necessary level of character to see them through, though the overall performance only served to highlight further the dearth of strike options available to the team management.

In contrast to United’s form at Grange Park, the victory was their fourth league success on the road, where they have secured 14 of their 18 league points this season.

It was also their third clean sheet in their last three away games.

On Saturday, Selby Town visit Long Eaton with the Yorkshire side’s own struggles give United another opportunity to get their home form back on track.

United will be buoyed by the return of leading scorer Shaun Rickford following his recent suspension.

United: Whalin, Armstrong, Whiley (c), Marshall, Murdock, Mellors-Blair (Webster 67), Hooley, Breach, Hunter, Hilton, Weightman (Mushambi 27)