With the biggest game of the season looming just five days ahead, Manager Paul Hughes took the opportunity to give debuts to recent signings Tom Derry and Amos Nasha while defender Marcus Johnson-Schuster got the nod for a first United start.
It was to be the host Reds who started the quickest and were rewarded for their possession in the eleventh minute when they opened the scoring. Former United man Mahlondo Martin won the ball on the right and advanced into the United box, his low shot was pushed aside by Jack Smith only for the ball to run to Lonit Talla who despite initially stumbling, managed to scramble it into the net.
Five minutes later the Reds could have had another as former United men Toby Little and Nicholas Bignall combined with the latter receiving the ball inside the United area to the left, his shot only finding the outside netting of Smith’s goal.
Just a minute later United went close to pulling level. Jack Williams fought hard to retain possession despite being pushed and pulled, he managed to thread the ball to Jordan Norville-Williams who quickly sent Tom Derry through on goal, the returning striker beat the dive of home stopper Tyler Tobin only for his effort to go narrowly wide of the far post.
Another chance at the midway point in the half for the hosts saw Elliott Poley advance from his right-back position and shoot from distance with the shot going just wide of the target and five minutes later Tobin was on hand to pluck a Scott Donnelly free-kick out of the air to maintain his sides lead.
In the 38th minute Martin went close for the Reds after good approach work from Mark Goodman and within a minute, United were level. Derry did well to hold the ball up on the right flank before squaring to Omar Rowe who clipped the ball into the path of top scorer Francis Amartey and he did what he does best, took a touch and fired past Tobin into the far corner.
Two minutes later Rowe and Amartey almost accidentally combined to put United ahead when Rowe’s shot took a deflection of Amartey only to roll wide of the target and the two sides went in level at the break.
A half time change for United saw Rowe, who is still returning to full fitness after injury, replaced by Karl Cunningham in the United midfield.
It was just before the hour when the next serious opening came and it was again for the hosts when Martin sent Bignall away on the right side, the strikers effort from 20 yards going just wide of the United goal and then five minutes later United almost “fluked one” when a Norville-Williams cross from the left side was waved away by Tobin only for the ball to bounce over off the top of the crossbar.
Twenty minutes remained when the hosts went close to a second as Martin saw his shot from 18 yards glance wide of the outside of a United post. Five minutes later Amartey collected the ball in the middle of the park and advanced towards goal, despite being dragged back by the already cautioned Mark McLeod he charged on before finding Derry who saw his first time shot blocked and gathered by Tobin with a recent rule change meaning referee Higgs no longer had the option of returning to caution McLeod for the initial deliberate shirt pull which would have meant a red card.
Five minutes were left on the clock and with United now in the ascendancy substitute Jamie Hanlon won the ball inside the Reds half and found Amartey inside the right corner of the hosts area, his shot took a deflection off the outstretched boot of Ryan Haugh and just evaded the slide of Derry with Tobin gathering.
Two minutes later, and with the game looking to go to penalties there came a winner for the home side. Martin collected the ball on the left side before chipping it neatly to the far post where Callum Bunting was on hand to head beyond Smith and send United crashing out of the Buildbase FA Trophy at the first attempt.
Report by Kevin Watts.
United Man of the Match: Adel Gafaiti.