Armstrong’s late goal seals a valuable point

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

NCEL Premier Division

Long Eaton United 1

Winterton Rangers 1

Long Eaton United gained a much-needed point from their NCEL Premier game against Winterton Rangers on Saturday courtesy of a Michael Armstrong goal deep into injury-time.

Prior to Armstrong’s late leveller United had a player sent off for the third successive league game when Gary Breach was dismissed following his second yellow card with six minutes remaining.

Winterton, who had only failed to score once all season were pinned back during much of the first-half and it was United who were displaying the more controlled football, though the vital touch in the critical areas was still missing.

Matt Weightman had United’s only chance of the first-half after he eluded his marker and struck his shot straight at the visiting ‘keeper.

However, after attempting to work off an injury Weightman signalled to the United bench that he was unable to continue and was replaced by Kelvin Mushambi after 25 minutes.

The remainder of the half effectively resulted in both sides cancelling each other out whenever danger threatened and Isaac Marshall, Dean Whiley, Michael Armstrong and Chris Murdock were all on top of their game in United’s back line.

The second period began in much the same vein but having performed well during the first period United’s defence were caught by a Winterton break ten minutes into the second-half after possession was conceded in midfield.

With numbers committed in forward positions the ball was fed in from the right and Paul Cross was able to stretch and divert the ball beyond the despairing dive of ‘keeper Ross Whalin.

With goals becoming a rare commodity for United in recent weeks the task to regain parity was always going to be difficult but they worked hard to get back into the game and their commitment displayed an admirable quality.

Midway through the half Jacob Webster replaced Will Mellors-Blair and following some positional adjustment Armstrong was given a more forward role on the right side of midfield

After 80 minutes United had fair claims for a penalty declined after Zakk Hilton appeared to be bundled over in the area and a later Josh Hooley effort was palmed just past the post by the visiting ‘keeper.

At the other end, following a Winterton free-kick, Whalin was forced to make a timely save and shortly afterwards he produced an even better one-handed effort from close range that would have put the game beyond the home team.

United’s chances of recovery seemed even bleaker when Breach was dismissed late in the contest for a second bookable offence but with the game already deep into injury time their recent ill-luck turned.

Jimmy Hunter, who had perhaps his best game for United, was adjudged to have been impeded during a clumsy challenge and United were awarded a free-kick themselves five yards outside the area.

After some debate, Armstrong strode up to fire a mis-hit shot that wrong footed the Winterton defence and crept inside the post, much to the delight of his relieved team-mates.

Though the goal was not a classic strike, it gave United a point that their overall performance certainly deserved.

But the headaches for joint managers Craig Weston and Mick Galloway are set to continue as, with further suspensions pending, their numbers will be further depleted as they begin a crucial three match run of games against sides around them close to the foot of the NCEL Premier Division.

That begins with a trip to bottom-of-the-table Maltby Main on Saturday, kick-off 3pm.

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