United Youngsters Accepting the Challenge
United kept their second successive clean sheet after confidently disposing of lowly Selby Town at Grange Park on Saturday to run out comfortable 2-nil winners and record a league double over their visitors for the first time.
Fielding their youngest starting line-up for many years, which included eight players under the age of twenty-one, United also had seventeen year-old goal-keeper Harry Daykin making his first team debut in the absence of the suspended Ross Whalin.
The Joint Management duo of Craig Weston and Mick Galloway have continued to introduce a number of players who have developed through the club’s youth ranks and due to injuries, suspensions and availability issues the group of United youngsters more than held their own against the visitors to Grange Park and contributed to an attacking performance that deserved even greater reward than the margin that separated the two sides at the end of ninety minutes.
Nathan Parker returned to the centre of midfield after recovering from an injury that had sidelined him for almost three months and Ethan Winfield retained his place in the side at left back.
In early September United had taken all three points against Selby via a last minute winner during a 2-1 victory in Yorkshire, which was the last occasion United had scored more than once in an NCEL game.
Selby had their ‘keeper Jody Barford to thank for keeping the score down during the first half as attempts from Matt Weightman, Nathan Parker, Josh Hooley and Winfield were all foiled by the visiting stalwart. Zakk Hilton, who appears to be growing in confidence with each game, was utilising his pace to great effect down United’s left and caused the visitors some anxious moments throughout the first period.
As the game drew close to the interval, the much needed breakthrough still eluded United, despite their dominance, and it seemed that their perpetual problem of finding the killer touch was again going to hamper their progress.
Thankfully, three minutes before the break, their good approach play was finally rewarded. A precise cross by Michael Armstrong from right resulted in a powerful header from Weightman being well saved by Barford. However there was little the visiting ‘keeper could do to prevent Weighman himself following up as the ball broke loose to edge the ball over the line and give United a fully merited interval lead.
The second period saw United continue with their absolute control of the game and Selby were rarely able to break the stranglehold that United had on proceedings. When the Yorkshire side were able to manufacture a foray into United territory, skipper Dean Whiley marshalled his young charges with commendable authority during an afternoon in which he didn’t put a foot wrong.
Parker and Hooley each went agonisingly close to increasing United’s advantage but they were again foiled by some great ‘keeping and Weightman almost added a second goal shortly before United were awarded a penalty at the fifty-seventh minute mark following an infringement during a phase of continued pressure. The resultant spot-kick was coolly struck home by Armstrong, who recorded his fifth goal of the season and effectively ended the contest.
With the luxury of a two goal lead, United still refused to ease up on their attacking style and further opportunities were created. Somehow though, the visitors were able to thwart their efforts via some frantic defending and the excellent individual performance of their goalkeeper.
Late in the game substitute Shaun Rickford, who was returning after suspension, cracked a fierce shot from distance that was just tipped over the Selby bar and Daykin made an excellent save in United’s goal to keep out the visitor’s best chance of the afternoon.
The young ‘keepers last minute stop rounded of a good all-round performance from United and helped his team gather their seventh point from their last three league games, during which they have only conceded one goal. The victory was also United’s first league success at Grange Park for seven matches.
Long Eaton United: Daykin, Armstrong, Whiley (c), Marshall, Winfield (Webster 73), Mellors-Blair (Thurman 77), Hooley, Parker (Rickford 68), Hunter, Hilton, Weightman