Despair then joy for United in mixed week

Long Eaton's Blaine Hancock (third from left) goes close with a free-kick against Winterton Rangers on Saturday.
Long Eaton's Blaine Hancock (third from left) goes close with a free-kick against Winterton Rangers on Saturday.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

NCEL Premier Division

Winterton Rangers 3

Long Eaton United 1

LONG Eaton made it nine games without a win as Winterton Rangers in turn won their tenth home match in a row on Saturday.

Despite the contrasting records of the two sides, United put up a spirited performance but defensive blunders gifted the home side all three points in an otherwise more positive display from Mick Galloway’s team.

The game began with United competing well enough, though seemingly aware of their own frailties, and early pressure from the home side ensured that the central defensive duo of Kial Thurman and Isaac Marshall were kept busy by the Winterton front men.

Andy Rhodes was active in his left-back berth and tried to get forward as often as he was able in an effort to utilise the pace of Will Mellors-Blair ahead of him, and Blaine Hancock and Jacob Webster were also involved in plenty of midfield duals with their opposite numbers.

The home side saw a couple of early efforts pass wide of United ‘keeper Scott Webb’s upright and Hancock and Mellors-Blair tried their luck from distance in the opening 15 minutes.

Although working hard, Matt Weightman and Shaun Rickford were both being closely marshalled by their markers.

After 16 minutes, and with United’s confidence appearing to blossom, they fell behind in unfortunate circumstances when a cross from Scott Bibby was misjudged by Webb, sailing beyond his outstretched reach and into the net.

The goal was an unexpected boost for the home side and it enabled them to strengthen their grip on the contest.

Thurman, Marshall and Michael Armstrong were continuing to work defensive overtime but they were unable to prevent Winterton’s second goal five minutes before the break when Andy Walkden converted the simplest of headed chances.

Only moments earlier, a Rickford header had just sailed past the Winterton goal.

Shortly before the interval Jimmy Hunter ended a good run with a deft strike that just edged past the post and a Hancock free-kick was fired narrowly over the bar from a good position.

In the second-half, United gradually began to work their way back into the game but the home side still demonstrated some neat touches that maintained their potential threat.

With the game almost an hour old, Mellors-Blair was finally able to escape the attention of his Winterton marker and produce a well-struck cross from the left that Weightman accepted gratefully to head his side back into the game, recording his third strike in his last six league starts and United’s first in four games.

For a brief period, United were in the ascendancy, and although it seemed that the home side were capable of increasing the tempo if required, there were clear concerns in the Winterton camp that they were relinquishing their hold on the game.

Substitute Josh Hooley threaded a ball through to Rickford that fell tantalisingly short of the striker’s run and United’s other substitute Duane Barton almost got a telling touch during a goal-mouth scramble.

But United’s hopes of salvaging an unexpected point were dashed after 77 minutes when a swift counter from the home side saw a low effort parried by Webb back into the path of the onrushing Jake Stannard, who guided his shot into the goal with some aplomb to seal the points.

The defeat only served to emphasise the importance of the three upcoming home matches at Grange Park.

United: Webb, Armstrong, Thurman (Warman 85), Marshall, Rhodes, Hunter Webster, Hancock, Mellors-Blair (Barton 70), Weightman (Hooley 70). Rickford

l United finally recorded their first win in ten games with a 2-0 success at home to Liversedge on Tuesday night.

Goals in each half from Danny Chambers on 33 minutes and Shaun Rickford on 80 were enough to overcome the visitors and lift Long Eaton up to 16th in the table.

This Saturday United host Pickering Town (3pm) before Brighouse Town arrive next Tuesday night (7.45pm)