For the fourth home game this season United were the better side and still failed to win, this time falling behind to a freak own goal before the skipper salvaged a point five minutes from time.
Manager Garry Haylock made a couple of personnel changes and more importantly a formation change at Church Road this afternoon, but again that first win eludes us.
The game started evenly, Will Hendry had an early effort that Jonty Venter easily dealt with and for the Dragons a break from his own half by Ben Wells saw the midfielder draw Nevin Saroya to him before slipping in Ben Wright but with just Delroy Preddie to beat the striker shot into the side netting.
On 20 minutes a free-kick just outside the visitors box saw Tom Cadmore drive the ball through the wall but Venter palmed the ball away and it was hacked clear. Only eight minutes of the half remained when another free-kick, this time taken by Steven Gregory was flicked on by Hendry to Steve Perkins but his header dropped just over the bar.
United continued to make the chances as the half drew to a close, and 18 year old debutant Toby Little was involved twice as we could have opened the scoring. Good work from Staforde Palmer saw him send Little through but his angled drive was saved by Venter's legs and in stoppage time the youngster fired the ball across the face of goal only for a defenders toe to take the ball from the sliding Palmer.
The second half almost started with a bang for United when after just 11 seconds, Gregory found Palmer on the edge of the 'Stoke area and the strikers turn and shot looked destined for the net only to be denied by a fine Venter diving save. Then as seems to keep happening disaster struck at the other end when the visitors were awarded a soft free-kick. Matt Warner fired the ball to the near post and as Michael Charles and Peter Collins dived for the ball it cleared both only to fly into the net off Collins' heel.
Robbie Watkins for 'Stoke and Simon Martin for United both got their heads to crosses but failed to trouble either keeper before our own Mr Preddie decided he would try his own version of football hiri-kiri by trying to dribble the ball out towards the wing. When caught in possession he then responded by felling his opponent and earned himself a caution that could have been a dismissal had play not been near the corner flag.
Just over the hour mark a forceful drive by Hendry from his own half saw him set up Palmer but once more Venter was on hand to keep his side ahead. United were almost caught napping a few minutes later when having committed a foul they stopped whereas the referee did not leaving Warner to race clear but he shot across Preddie and wide.
United, despite being behind, still looked the far better side (how many times am I going to say that? - ed). A Hendry free-kick was pushed around the post by Venter and minutes later a thumping Collins cross flew off the shin of Bristow and wide of goal, just the way our luck is going. The resultant Gregory corner was met by Perkins and despite finally beating Venter it hit the post and bounced away to safety.
Charles sprung the offside trap for Stoke, running onto a long ball only to be denied by Preddie who rushed from his goal to kick clear. Then finally with five minutes to play United got the break they so richly deserved, a Gregory corner was headed down by Perkins and with his back to goal Saroya attempted an overhead kick that both keeper and defender appeared to leave as the ball nestled just inside the upright.
In stoppage time United nearly got that breakthrough victory only to be denied once more by Venter, a quickly taken free-kick by Palmer sent substitute James Mulley through only for the keeper to steal the ball from his toe as he tried to round him.
Report by Kevin Watts. Photos by Ray Peploe.