United go into the final regular season game in five days safe in the knowledge that victory at Hartley Wintney will see Paul Hughes’ side finish in either 1st or 2nd position depending on the result at Taunton after today’s excellent 2-0 victory over play-off chasing Chesham United.
With skipper Liam McDevitt injured and Jordan Ngalo recalled by Aldershot, the gaffer brought in replacements in the shape of Keano Robinson and Hassan Jalloh while Sanmi Odelusi took the armband for the visit of The Generals.
The home side couldn’t have got off to a better start when with just five minutes played a long punt forwards from Ravan Constable, that looked to be harmless, saw Chesham ‘keeper Sam Beasant take a touch just outside the box and as he bent down to pick the ball up Moses Emmanuel nipped in to take the ball from his fingertips before walking it into the empty net to give United an early lead, much to the annoyance of the visitors who believed Beasant had the ball under his control.
In the 12th minute Hassan Jalloh fed the ball to Emmanuel in the Chesham area, and when the United striker was bundled over from behind, after a pause for thought, referee Anekwe pointed to the spot. Emmanuel took the kick himself but despite sending Beasant the wrong way his kick struck the post and went away to safety.
Just six minutes later Emmanuel again appeared to be upended in the area but this time United’s appeals were waved away emphatically by the referee.
On 22 minutes a rare effort towards goal from the visitors saw Jaden Thompson-Brissett tey his luck with a free-kick from 25 yards but his effort was well wide of the target although the same player went closer with a shot from just outside the box a few minutes later as this one was just too high to trouble Constable.
Within a minute a nice passing move from United saw Omar Rowe and Jalloh exchange passes on the left with Jalloh playing the ball inside to Amos Nasha but his shot flew across the face of goal and out for a throw-in.
The next five minutes saw a chance go begging apiece, firstly for United Cole Brown picked out the run of Francis Amartey who outpaced Lewis Rolfe only for Beasant to block his effort away. At the other end a dangerous Rolfe cross from the left dropped between Francis Jno-Baptiste and Malachy McGovern in the six yard box and while they delayed, Keano Robinson nicked the ball away and the danger was cleared.
Five minutes before the break United doubled the lead with one of the slickest passing moves of the season. Rowe won the ball ball in the centre circle and fed Emmanuel who in turn played Rowe through and as he outpaced the defence he spotted that Emmanuel had continued his run and slid the ball into his path and United’s top scorer slotted home his 38th of the campaign.
United were quickly in the ascendancy again after the break, Emmanuel played Amartey through on for Beasant to spread himself and deflect the shot wide off his inner thigh. Soon after Sanmi Odelusi played Amartey in on the left side, the striker getting to the bye-line only for his cross-cum-shot to be touched against the post by Beasant before he gathered the loose ball as Emmanuel slid in.
With a quarter of the game remaining the visitors were given a boost when, having received an extremely harsh caution in the first half, Brown pulled back former United man Shaquille Hippolyte-Patrick and the referee had no hesitation in showing a second yellow followed by the regulatory red card for the United man.
It was not until 76 minutes that the Generals started to get any sight of the United goal with Zak Joseph playing the ball to Bradley Clayton on the edge of the box, his first time effort being handled comfortably by Constable and in similar fashion with just eight minutes left the roles were reversed as Clayton turned provider for Joseph but again Constable made the save look easy.
Five minutes later it became 10 v 10 as Amartey raced toward the Chesham box only to be hauled down by Steve Brown with the referee again making an instant decision to dismiss the visitors skipper for what he deemed a professional foul, denying a goalscoring opportunity. The free-kick by Robinson however cannoned into the Chesham wall and was soon cleared.
Stoppage time saw Constable make his first and only “real” save of the match as Joseph was sent through by Clayton, the United stopper doing well to push away his shot and when the ball ran free to Hippolyte-Patrick he was denied a strike at goal by a superbly timed tackle from substitute Jack Williams. An instantaneous breakaway followed which saw Amartey through once more, Beasant saved with an outstretched boot before Rowe fired the loose ball over the top leaving United to close out the game for a massive three points and a fourth consecutive clean sheet.
We now have one regular season game left with the title still possible with a Farnborough win at Taunton and a United win at Hartley Wintney on the last day due to United’s superior goal difference.
Report by Kevin Watts.
Photos by Stacio Fernandes ©.
Photo bottom left shows Dave Stringer presenting the Supporters' Player of the Year trophy to Francis Amartey.
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