Hayes & Yeading’s first game under the stewardship of new Manager Ritchie Hanlon saw United bring home three points in a hard fought encounter away at newly promoted Didcot Town despite having to play a third of the game with ten men after the harsh dismissal of defender Tarik Moore-Azille.
Surprisingly for United, only two debutants were to feature on the opening day, defender Ben Shroll and matchwinner Sam Ashton, the striker netting the only goal of an encounter that saw nine cards shown despite hardly seeing a bad tackle in the whole game.
With rain pouring all morning it was a massive credit to the playing surface at Loop Meadow that the game took place and even when the second half started with a deluge, with a couple of games in the division abandoned, the pitch showed no sign of surface water at all.
United started on the front foot and with just four minutes played Cole Brown and Omar Rowe exchanged passes with the former firing an angled shot across the Didcot goal but wide of the far post.
Ten minutes later a slide-rule throughball from Hassan Jalloh sent skipper Amos Nasha away through the middle, the midfielder being denied by the outstretched boot of Didcot ‘keeper Leigh Bedwell.
A brace of chances came the way of the home side around the twenty minute mark. Firstly Adam Smith picked out Joe Green but his shot on the stretch flew wide of the target and soon after an indirect free-kick in the box after Jacob Adams was alleged to have picked up a back pass, that was actually a won tackle, saw the ball rolled to Smith but both his initial shot and the follow-up were well blocked by the disciplined United defence.
24 minutes had elapsed and United struck a blow that was ultimately to prove decisive. Brown and Jalloh combined well on the right side, the wing-back’s low centre being turned home at the far post for a debut goal by Sam Ashton much to the delight of the fantastic amount of United fans in attendance.
Minutes later United could have had a penalty when Brown and Ashton exchanged passes, Brown’s shot was blocked by Bedwell and as Brown looked to fire in the loose ball he appeared to be caught only for the referee to award a free-kick the other way.
Jalloh and Brown continued to run the home defence ragged and just past the half hour mark Brown crossed towards Ashton in the centre but his centre was intercepted at the last minute by the toe of Josh Grant who put the ball out for a corner kick.
In the 37th minute Jenson Wright for Didcot made inroads into the United half before firing goalwards from 25 yards but far too high to worry Adams and seconds later play had switched ends as Jack Williams fired the ball over the home defence to Adam Liddle who raced into the box only for his cross-cum-shot to be deflected away once more by the toe of Grant.
United almost cracked the home defence in first half additional time as Williams collected from Jalloh on the left, his centre being met by a flying Rowe who saw his header superbly saved at the foot of the post by Bedwell and the half closed out with United one goal to the good.
An early chance for the hosts just as the rain returned saw Smith collect inside the United area, turning his marker quickly and getting a shot away that Adams did really well to save at the foot of the upright. Within a matter of seconds United were on the attack looking for a second as Liddle collected the ball and raced through all and sundry however his final attempt to chip the ball over the on-coming Bedwell resulted in the ‘keeper catching his effort.
Just before the hour mark the impressive Bedwell was a little fortunate as he appeared to let a Liddle drive from a tight angle squeeze through his legs only to grab the ball on the goal-line and shortly after United were reduced to ten men when a seemingly innocuous foul by Tarik Moore-Azille saw referee Ouchene show the umpteenth card of the game and sadly for the United man it was his second with the obligatory red following.
Four minutes after as the rain got even heavier the hosts went as close as they had all afternoon when Patrick Osborne fired in a twenty yard free kick that evaded Adams and cannoned back of the United crossbar before being scrambled to safety.
Adams showed fine form five minutes later though when Wright sent Osborne on goal, the United stopper superbly blocked his effort away to safety and soon after this United substitute Steve Ngunga showed great pace to outstrip the Didcot defence although his final effort was easily saved by Bedwell.
The hosts last real chance was created on 76 minutes when Osborne fed the ball to Wright who hit a well struck skiddy effort from 20 yards that Adams did well in the conditions to push aside. Two minutes later another mazy run from Ngunga saw the young wide man fire the ball across low from the right with the ball just evading the sliding Liddle who was a hare’s breath from touching it home from a few yards out.
The only other chance of note came in the fifth minute of what was to be nearly eleven added minutes (the board said six), Rowe sent substitute Jamie Hanlon away on the left, he cut inside his marker and hit an angled shot that was destined for the far corner only for the excellent Bedwell to get his fingertips to the ball to divert it wide of the far post but United held firm despite the numerical disadvantage to claim an opening day three point maximum on the road.
Report by Kevin Watts.
United Man of the Match: Omar Rowe.
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