There may well have been over 3,000 spectators present at the Racecourse to witness Hayes & Yeading United’s 200th competitive fixture, but it was only the fifteen supporters tucked away in the visiting supporters’ seating who were smiling at the end of the game, as a bizarre match that totalled 105 minutes and saw United clinch a vital 2-0 win in the battle for Blue Square Bet Premier survival, (……and gave this correspondent his first winning match report at the fourth time of asking !).
The completion of Jamie Hand’s suspension saw him return to the side as the manager opted for a 4-5-1 formation with Elliott Buchanan as the lone forward. After an early scare which saw Lee Harrison save from close range and Lee Brown clear off the line, United were gifted the lead as early as the seventh minute. Chris Blackburn’s backpass was terribly under hit, and the alert Bradley Pritchard was onto it in a flash, rounding ‘keeper Chris Maxwell before laying the ball back to Hand, whose simple close range tap-in opened the scoring.
Immediately from the restart Mathias Pogba surged down the Wrexham left, but his shot was well wide of Harrison’s post. The home side then forced a string of corners, with Pogba again being the main threat, but the United defence held firm. Steve Masterton’s free-kick from the edge of the box was held by Maxwell as we reached the mid-way point of the first half.
Having weathered the storm, United were unbelievably two goals to the good on the half hour mark. There seemed no real danger as the ball was laid forward to Buchanan, but the Wrexham defence could have been statues as he nodded the ball into the path of Pritchard. Even then there seemed to be no real power in his shot but it squirmed out of Maxwell’s reach to trickle into the corner, and give the midfielder his third goal in five matches and more importantly his twelfth of the season.
With seven minutes to go to the break there was a real worry for United fans. With no apparent challenge, Lee Brown went down in his own area, and a stretcher was called for. A lengthy delay ensued as the left back’s leg was splinted and he was carefully lifted onto the waiting trolley. Three minutes later, the home side appeared to have been thrown a lifeline. Wrexham skipper Dean Keates, who seemed to have some trouble staying on his feet throughout the match, went over far too easily after being clipped by Lewis Ferrell. However, justice may well have been done as Andy Mangan’s spot kick rebounded to safety off the base of the post with Harrison already stranded on the deck in the other direction. Just as with last season’s visit to the Racecourse, everything seemed to be going United’s way.
As the handful of visiting supporters began to notice that United were still playing with ten men, there was some stunned disbelief as the seemingly injured Brown appeared from the tunnel to rejoin the action. Seven minutes of stoppage time were signalled, and during this period Buchanan spurned a couple of chances which would have wrapped the game up by half-time. Mark Creighton’s attempted clearance rebounded off Peter Holmes, but Maxwell was able to get fingertips to Buchanan’s effort. Soon after he was in space again and should have done better but his tame shot went well wide, and didn’t threaten to nudge him back in front of Pritchard in their personal battle for the prize of United’s top scorer. Incredibly, there was a further stoppage as Lee Harrison needed treatment for a moment or two, before a half that had been five seconds short of fifty-four minutes long came to a close.
It was inconceivable that the second half would provide as much drama as the first, and it didn’t as United turned in a solid display that greatly pleased the manager. Jay Harris did feed Mangan down the Wrexham left four minutes after the restart, but his effort was skewed well wide. Adam Bygrave and Tom Cadmore (equalling James Mulley’s appearance record of 150 United matches in this fixture) mopped up anything and everything at the back as the frustrated home side’s efforts became more haphazard.
There was an unusual substitution midway through the second half. Referee Mark Heywood signalled across that he was unable to continue, so fourth official Mr Plane flew out of his allocated berth to take his place. Happy to sit back and lock the opposition out, United’s chances were scarce in the second half, but Sam Rents forced a save from Maxwell as the game entered the final quarter hour. Holmes then had an effort blocked after Masterton had found him in space. Spaces were opening up in the stands too, with many home fans giving this one up with a full ten minutes and more left on the clock.
The biggest remaining scare for the travelling United contingent came from another unexpected source, as one of the linesmen pulled up with a muscle strain as we moved into injury time, but thankfully he was able to soldier on through the additional six minutes, as United cruised to a 2-0 victory that pulls us back out of the bottom four with Church Road’s final three league fixtures on the horizon.
Talking to hyufc.net after the game, the manager summed up the important win. “It wasn’t a great performance, but the players have shown today that they can dig in and defend. A clean sheet like that when we’re constantly under pressure, having to win balls and track players has been missing all season – we’ve conceded terrible goals because someone’s switched off or made a mistake, but today that didn’t happen. Lee’s had a few saves to make but nothing spectacular, we‘ve worked ever so hard, and sometimes this season we’ve done that and not got our reward, but today we did.”
Reflecting on how we punished the home side for their defensive errors, the gaffer continued “I always felt that the way they played could suit us and we could get something from it. We’ve put pressure on them in the right areas, and in fairness we had two or three other chances that we haven’t taken. We worked hard and we were disciplined. Too many times this year we haven’t been, but today’s clean sheet was great reward for that”.
Garry also revealed the bizarre circumstances which saw the seemingly injured Lee Brown return to action. “He got a knock on the outside of his leg, it seems he lost all feeling in the nerve which runs down to the foot and couldn’t move it at all. The doctor was insistent that he had to be checked out fully. I had Ben Wright checking to keep me updated. The feeling was coming back, so we left it, but it coincided with a long period of home pressure.”
On our solid second half display, Haylock added “Wrexham ran out of ideas. They have a certain set way of playing, but when that didn’t work for them they didn’t have a Plan B. In the last ten or fifteen minutes they had the ball in the middle third but really didn’t do anything with it, because we had everyone back behind the ball and were disciplined.”
Asked on the improvement in results since the turn of February he responded “Things have dropped for us, and over the course of a season, that’s what happens. Look at some of the games earlier on in the season where we’ve played magnificently but we’ve lost them. It happened last year where we had a run where we didn’t play particularly well but we got some wins – the concern has been that the results have come a bit later than they did last year, and so we’re still in trouble. We’ve got the three home games which we’ll look to go and win, and if we do that I’m pretty confident we’ll be safe. But we’ve got to be positive and if we carry on doing that, we’ll be OK”.
Report by Lee Hermitage.
United Man of the Match:
The whole team for the most solid display of the season.