For the second time this season our match against Hartley Wintney was a game of two halves with United again recovering from a half-time deficit to avoid defeat only this time around victory evaded Paul Hughes’ side and United had to settle for a draw that with results elsewhere sees us finish second and we move on into the play-offs.
The gaffer was forced into a single change with Jack Connors coming into the starting line-up for the injured Omar Rowe while skipper Liam McDevitt was fit again and took a place on the United bench.
Sadly for United it took the hosts just 62 seconds to rock us on our heels and take the lead which stemmed from a poorly played United corner that found it’s way to Josh Webb on the edge of the Hartley area, his precision long ball up to Lucias Vine saw the striker cut in from the left to plant a fierce low drive past Ravan Constable into the far corner.
On 15 minutes the Row could have doubled their advantage when a deep Webb corner picked out former United man Sam Argent but his header crashed back off the United crossbar with the loose ball being played away from the danger area.
Minutes later United’s best attacking move thus far in the match saw Francis Amartey send Moses Emmanuel away towards goal, as he entered the box he tried to return the ball to his strike partner but a sliding Richard Jones Jr managed to intercept the pass and deflect the ball back to his own ‘keeper Luke Williams.
Soon after another loose United pass was picked off easily by Kyen Nicholas but his 20 yard effort whistled past the post, this was quickly followed by another attack from the hosts as Vine appeared to trip his marked on the the of the United box, with the whistle somehow staying silent he continued and fed the ball to Adam Allen who blazed over from 12 yards.
As the break approached United started to see more of the ball, Emmanuel played Amos Nasha into the box on the right, he moved past Williams dive but as he tried to pull the ball back to Emmanuel a well placed Matt Drage in the centre cleared the danger.
Two minutes later United went close again as a deep Nasha corner was met by Ben Frempah beyond the far post but his header could only find the side netting and then with a couple of minutes left before the interval the Row double their advantage. The ball was chipped over the United defence from the right to Nicholas who took a touch before volleying the ball past Constable from 15 yards.
With other scores at the break seeing United dropping to third place, Manager Paul Hughes made a double change that saw Liam McDevitt replace Keano Robinson at the heart of the defence and the more attack minded Kadell Daniel replaced Jack Connors in midfield.
United were instantly on the offensive and with just three minutes played Daniel sent Emmanuel away on the right, he pulled the ball back nicely to Amartey who saw his shot well blocked by Shane Hollamby while Nasha could only find the side netting with the follow-up.
The 55th minute did see United reduce the arrears however, Amartey outstripped Aaron Goode on the left flank before pulling the ball back from the bye-line for Emmanuel to smash home his club record equalling 39th of the season.
Soon after though the hosts nearly regained their two goal advantage when Argent played the ball left to Nicholas inside the area, this time the striker was not quite as accurate thankfully as his effort flew across the face of goal and wide.
Moving just past the hour mark Emmanuel again broke through, Williams did well to deny him and when the loose ball fell to Daniel he seemed to delay his shot too long which allowed Williams to recover and again block the ball away as his defence scramble it clear.
The equaliser arrived just three minutes later however, Jalloh was dragged down inches outside the area and while most possibly expected Sanmi Odelusi to fire in the free-kick it was Daniel who took it with his left foot and fired low between Williams and the upright for United’s 100th league goal of the campaign.
Despite pulling level the better chances thereafter fell to the hosts. Vine fired a snapshot inches wide from the edge of the box and with ten minutes left to play Webb was given too much space to advance unhindered, his 20 yard drive being well pushed over by Constable to keep United level.
With just three minutes remaining the woodwork kept United level as Drage tried his luck with a quick free-kick from 30+ yards, the ball clearing Constable before coming back off the United crossbar and with little incident in the six added minutes it was points shared and United now move on to the lottery of the play-offs despite scoring the most goals and conceding the least over the 42 games.
Report by Kevin Watts.
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