Under normal circumstances this is a fixture United would have expected to win after Monday's result however with the majority of the side having played in a cup final victory just 24 hours earlier it was a superb effort from all concerned to bring home a point from Devon with a third consecutive clean sheet in four days, this time with debutant Michael Edegbe between the sticks having signed on emergency dual registration from neighbours Southall.
The starting XI also included under 18s attacking midfielder Hikram Olaiya who had only made his debut in the Cup Final the previous day and also saw a United return for Steve Ngunga who had been out on dual registration himself since making a couple of appearances early in the season for United.
Despite the strains of two games in 24 hours and a long road trip to Devon, United started brightly with Taylor Miles’ early effort being held by Lewis Williams in the Tiverton goal and on 12 minutes the hosts Dylan Jones led us on a merry dance before he was dispossessed as he was about to try his luck at goal.
Jean-Baptiste Fischer fired over for United and Edward James did the same for the hosts as play continued to swing from end to end and just before we reached the half hour mark Adam Liddle broke away into the Tiverton half of the field, Joe Belsten chased him down and tackled him mid-stride, the loose ball ran to Jamie Hanlon, his shot was saved by Lewis and although the loose ball ran to Steve Ngunga he was adjudged to be offside.
Shortly after United won the ball with a tackle on Louis Morison that the hosts were claiming a free-kick from, although play was waved on and Liddle found Miles but his shot was under-hit and Williams gathered easily.
Ten minutes remained when the hosts had their first effort on target as Matt Britton sliced his attempt from a free-kick and Michael Edegbe saved comfortably although a minute later more danger followed when Morison whipped in a free-kick that Josh Jones met only for his header to go inches wide of the upright.
In the 38th minute United went even closer when Reece Cole played in a free-kick that was met by Fischer who beat Williams only for his header to go over off the hosts crossbar.
Just sixty seconds later Morison sent Niall Thompson through, Edegbe rushed out to block his effort and when the rebound went to Dylan Jones, Edegbe was again in the way, saving to keep the game goalless.
Edegbe in the action again soon after as he raced out of his box to initiate a diving header clearance as Josh Jones’ long ball almost saw Thompson through on goal and the half closed with no goals on the scoreboard.
The home side really should have taken the lead in the 51st minute, from a free-kick into the United area, Jamie Richards’ header came back off the crossbar only for Edward James to head over the vacant United goal much to the home fans disbelief.
On the hour mark Ngunga showed his pace by outstripping the Tiverton defence, his effort went past Williams but was cleared off the line by James, no doubt reducing his blushes after his earlier miss at the other end.
Ten minutes later Dylan Jones worked space on the flank before finding River Allen in the United box, the substitute turning past two defenders before seeing his goalbound shot well saved by Edegbe in the United goal.
Soon after a chance at the other end for United’s Jerry Wiltshire saw the defender meet a Cole free-kick but unlike the previous night, his header this time was too high.
Now into the final ten minutes and how United continued to play at pace is any bodies guess but it’s also a testament to the players fitness levels this late in the campaign and effectively a third game in four days.
Richards again headed wide for the hosts before a great save from Williams seven minutes from time kept the home side from falling behind. The woodwork again came to Tiverton’s rescue a couple of minutes later when Moses Emmanuel burst through, rode a tackle from Josh Jones and beat Williams only for his effort to clip the upright and go wide.
With the game closing out scoreless it was a point apiece as both sides have one game left to play before taking a well earned break for the summer recess.
Also a massive thank you to the handful of United faithful who made the trip to Devon on a Thursday evening in April for a game that was originally scheduled for October 8th last year!
Report by Kevin Watts.
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