Another fine performance saw United come away from Woodside Park with all three points against high flying Bishop's Stortford as Garry Haylock's side outplayed the hosts, especially in the second period.
The first half was to be an immediately forgettable affair as the dark clouds rolled in and the rain began to drive it was difficult for either side to let the football flow which led to minimal goalmouth incident. The opening 20 minutes in fact saw just two half chances created, the Blues striker Greg Pearson found space on the edge of the United box in the opening five minutes but his shot was wildly high. At the opposite end Charlie Mapes and Will Hendry worked an opening on the right but Will's whipped in cross was well held at the post by Joe Welch as Kieran Knight arrived.
United went agonisingly close as the half hit it's midway point when Mapes latched onto a Josh Scott pass 25 yards from goal only for his effort to curl inches wide of the upright. We then had to wait until the final minute before another opening arrived, Loui Fazakerley intercepted a Hendry pass on halfway before racing forwards only to fire wide of Preddie's goal from 25 yards.
United came out in the second period with a real passion and could indeed have been three up in the first ten minutes. Mapes and Toby Little combined on the left and as the ball was fed in to Scott, the strikers shot was just inches too high. Just three minutes later the best opening of the game saw Little race down the left side before cutting a perfect ball to the unmarked Scott at the far post but he managed to head over from 5 yards out. The same combo paired up again on 55 minutes but once more the usually clinical striker failed to hit the target.
United continued to push for the games opening goal as Knight won possession on the Blues byeline and found Ram Marwa who in turn set up Hendry but Welch was equal to his skidding drive. As the hour mark passed the home side finally began to put some forward moves together, Roy Essandoh broke on the right and found Alex Martin on the edge of the area but he failed to test Preddie in the United goal.
Preddie was required just a minute later though, a careless challenge 20 yards from goal giving Pearson a chance to strike from the free-kick. He duly struck the ball under the jumping wall only to be denied by an excellent save in slippery conditions from Preddie whose handling was superb all afternoon.
Finally with 18 minutes remaining the deadlock was broken. James Mulley, who had been on the field just four minutes, collected a Knight pass before beating two tackles to slip the ball perfectly through to Scott who clipped his effort past Welch and in off the far post to give United a deserved lead.
Having gone a goal ahead against a side in the top five and had to re-arrange a stretched back line due to Danny Allen-Page's injury it was no surprise that Bishops were to spend a large proportion of the remaining minutes in the ascendancy. Pearson saw another free-kick well held by Preddie and the same player should maybe have done better when he failed to keep his header down from a Fazakerley cross.
real chance came with ten minutes still remaining as Fazakerley danced through three challenges and despite being forced wide still tried his luck with a drive from an acute angle that Preddie tipped away to safety.
Report by Kevin Watts. Photos by Ray Peploe.