At a venue which was traditionally a happy hunting ground for Hayes FC, United travelled up to Haig Avenue to face play-off chasing Southport as we looked to put some disappointing home results behind us and boost our chances of escaping the bottom four.
There was just one change from the sixteen who faced Lincoln on Tuesday, with Tom Collins starting in place of the injured Aiden O’Brien, while the ever-dependable Tom Cadmore racked up his 200th United appearance. It would be a match which United controlled for long periods, but had to wait until the clock had ticked into the game’s final minute to secure a much needed and well deserved victory.
United started brightly and could well have been ahead inside the first thirty seconds, Tom Collins surprising the Southport defence as he cut in along the left from the byline. United then carved out a decent move down the other wing in the second minute, with Daniel Wishart setting up Piero Mingoia, and his effort went into the side netting when an inch or so the other way might have found the top corner. A cross from Wishart on six minutes was headed clear as United forced the first of many corners. Southport did remind us that two teams were on the pitch on ten minutes, as Tony Gray put in shot that was deflected to safety.
The visiting side’s bright start was rewarded on fourteen minutes. Mingoia’s surge through the midfield saw him pass to an advanced Yassin Moutaouakil, but as he went to collect the return pass, the little Italian was clipped by Southport skipper Simon Grand. Linesman Woodward’s waving flag confirmed to referee Scott Duncan the award of a penalty and Jamie Hand sent Tony McMillan the wrong way to put United a goal up (pictured left).
Southport tried to find a way back into the game, but met a United defence in a solid and stingy mood. Andy Owens’ low hard shot was comfortably gathered by Steve Arnold, and five minutes later the same player had another effort. His initial shot was blocked by Tom Cadmore, and his second effort was blocked by legs of Arnold for his only serious save of the first half.
Better finishing on 26 minutes might have seen Jamie Hand double his tally for the afternoon. Arnold’s quick release sent Mingoia away down the left again, his excellent cross to other side of the field found Hand, but his first time volley was rather tame, the United skipper perhaps not realising that he had a bit more time and space than he thought.
When Shaun Whalley tried to break through on the half hour, he found Cadmore displaying the solid form which has made him such a favourite with the United fans over the last four and a half years. Another quick delivery by Arnold found Collins, who in turn found Luke Williams, but his speculative chip never really had enough power on it to trouble McMillan. Mingoia continued to have the beating of home defence, and his shot from the edge of the box on 37 minutes wasn’t that far away. Williams then shot wide a minute later after Moutaouakil had crossed after a run down the right wing.
United turned round at the break well on top but with just that slender single goal margin to show for their efforts. We set about trying to add to it straight away. Four minutes into the second half, Hand and Mingoia combined well from a short corner, but Dwane Lee’s close range effort was gathered by McMillan via the post.
Inevitably Southport did get a break, and mirroring United’s opener fourteen minutes into the first half, it came from the penalty spot at exactly the same point of the second period. Tony Gray, the only player who really caused problems to the United defence, turned in the box and fell over Pelé ’s trailing leg, before converting the spot kick himself to bring the Sandgrounders level.
This woke up the rest of team-mates and indeed the home fans who had been made to sound very quiet by just two dozen or so travelling United supporters, Gray again firing over the bar with Southport’s next chance before Grand’s effort from a free-kick soon after was comfortably held by Arnold.
The pace didn’t slip as the game entered the final quarter hour. Collins’ turn brought another United corner, but at the other end Southport looked for another penalty, Whalley taking too easy a tumble after a challenge by Mingoia, but surprisingly, no yellow card was issued for the dive. Gray again volleyed high and wide with six minutes to go.
With the game entering into the final minute and with news coming through that most of the other clubs in the dogfight had gained positive results, one point suddenly became the three United needed and deserved. Steve Akrigg dithered as he considered knocking the ball back to keeper McMillan, but substitute Julian Owusu determinedly robbed him, before advancing into the Southport box to slide the ball accurately under McMillan into the far corner, and racing off to celebrate with the United fans who rushed down the terraces to greet him, and soon being quickly joined by several delighted blue-shirted team mates.
After a run of homes games which didn’t produce the points we’d hoped for, it was a relieved and happy manager who spoke to hyufc.com after the match. “We knew it was a big game, we didn’t want to lose touch with the teams around us who we’re looking to catch, and we were very positive today. The first half was a great performance, we were very brave on the ball, showed a lot of quality and if anything should have come in two or three goals up. But we didn’t and we had to dig in. I thought their penalty was a bit dubious and brought them back into the game. They then had a twenty minute spell which you’d expect from a top five team playing at home, but we performed well. Over the last couple of weeks football’s been a bit unkind to us – we played well but took nothing from the games we’d identified as winnable and didn’t get the points we needed, but today was a big three points. I’m pleased for the players. They showed a great attitude today, a lot of quality, and we’re now looking forward to next Saturday”.
Nas added “We passed the ball well and caused them a lot of problems. We’ve got good pace up front, and players in midfield who can see little pockets of space and create chances. If the opposition give us time on the ball we can punish anyone. But we need to work on taking those chances. We’ve lost Michael Thalassitis back to Stevenage and that’s given Tom Collins and Daniel Wishart the chance to get the goals. They’ve had to be patient, Tom and Julian have been in and out of the side, and they know that if they’re playing up front it’s their job to score or create goals. Aiden O’Brien wasn’t available today, but he should come back into the squad next week.”
On Man-of-the-Match Piero Mingoia, the boss commented “People might look at him and think he’s only little, but he’s a pocket dynamo with energy and a great football brain. Technically he’s excellent and you can see why Watford have got him on contract”.
Looking ahead to the remaining five games Bashir said “We’re just looking forward to next Saturday now and we’ll regroup after today. We’ve been taking each game as it comes. We were disappointed with the last two games where we’ve not got the points we deserved which would have helped push us out of trouble, but we’ll carry on and try to win every game between now and the end of the season”.
Report by Lee Hermitage.
Photo's courtesy of and © Julia Urwin (Southport FC)
United Man of the Match: Piero Mingoia.