Plenty of Character but Still Pointless
United's struggle for Premier Division survival continues.
United made the longest trip of their NCEL season when they travelled to Pickering on Easter Monday to fulfil another awkward fixture in what has been a difficult campaign for the young side from Grange Park.
Having battled manfully against the NCEL’s current in-form side they conceded after fifty-nine minutes and as they pushed forward in search of an equaliser they were caught short in the final minute when the home side added a second, wrapping up the game to record a 2-nil success.
Jimmy Hunter and Matt Weightman were available for the Bank Holiday clash but Kial Thurman was missing from the starting line-up after suffering a dislocation to a toe in the Good Friday meeting at Thackley. Shay Wiggins, who had scored seven goals for United’s second string in his last five outings was named as one of the substitutes for the first time. Elliot King and Taylor Gardner were also on the bench.
During a contest in which United defender Michael Armstrong became the youngest player in the club’s history to register fifty first team starts, Pickering enjoyed control for most of the first period but were unable to find the clinical edge that would give them an advantage at the interval.
United did have one fortunate escape when a Carl Stewart effort struck the post with 'keeper Scott Webb beaten following a swift break on the left. United’s best chance fell to Jacob Webster on the stroke of half-time but the midfielder was unable to divert his close range effort home.
In the second half, United were again under pressure for long periods and just at the point when they seemed to be breaking free from the shackles imposed on them by some clever movement from the home side they allowed a cross from the right to elude their attentions and Tom Fenwick had the easy task of giving his side the lead close to the hour mark.
The goal inspired United to produce their best phase of the game but despite their willingness to press forward in numbers there were few clear cut opportunities created. King replaced the injured Josh Hooley and Wiggins took over from Matt Weightman and there were moments when both substitutes unsettled the Pickering back four as United pressed for a leveller.
Unfortunately, in the closing moments, Pickering’s leading scorer Stewart benefited from United’s efforts to retrieve a vital point and scored his teams second goal with some ease.
Long Eaton United: Webb, Armstrong, Marshall, Warman, Jones, Webster, Hooley (King 64), Hunter. Weightman (Wiggins 75), Rickford (Gardner 87), Mellors-Blair
As the situation at the bottom of the NCEL Premier Division becomes more fraught, the simple equation is such that if Maltby Main, whose form now has an impressive momentum at the critical time, secure six points from their remaining three games, Lincoln Moorlands find the strength to take four points from their last three matches and United suffer the unthinkable and lose their final two fixtures, they will be in the bottom two at season’s end.
Lincoln Moorlands run-in did look particularly difficult a week ago but the recent capitulation of Staveley (since their FA Vase exit) has resulted in a more uneasy look to their closing fixtures. And who could predict the outcome of a game between one side that had just lost 9-0 and another who were trailing 6-0 when their most recent fixture was abandoned.
Doubtless a case of who wants it most….