Injuries, suspensions and a place of safety gave manager Garry Haylock the chance to blood some of the Clubs promising youngsters in a game that saw a first ever double for United as we followed up the 4-1 victory in Cambridgeshire with a 3-1 scoreline at Church Road.
An early chance apiece gave both keepers a chance to warm their hands on a blustery afternoon while Ram Marwa having received a flick from Staforde Palmer was wide from 20 yards. The visitors had the ball in the net as early as the 16th minute, Charlie Mapes being dispossessed by Charlie Sheringham and setting up Michael Gash who netted only to be ruled offside.
The lead was only five minutes away though for the Lillywhites. The ball was fired quickly upfield to Gash who slipped a perfect pass into the run of Sheringham who coolly beat Alessio De Angelis in the United goal, finding the net much like his famous father Teddy has done for the past two decades.
United were behind for just three minutes although it could have been worse as the move that led to the equaliser commenced with an excellent De Angelis save at the other end. Gash was sent away with a ball from halfway and his dipping volley looked destined for the net until a full length dive by the United stopper saw him fingertip the ball away. Having regained possession, United swept upfield and Marwa was found in the area, his initial effort was blocked by keeper Shane Herbert, the loose ball fell to Palmer and his shot was swept past Herbert by Marwa who remained on his backside from the earlier attempt.
The final 15 minutes of the half saw Palmer shoot wide on the turn for United while Kyle Matthews was well positioned on the post to clear a sliced attempt at a clearance from Toby Little, stopping an embarrassing own goal in the process. As the half came to its end, De Angelis held a header from Gash and at the other end Knight was first to a James Mulley centre but his header failed to trouble Herbert.
Now playing with a wind advantage, United almost went ahead just 15 seconds into the second half when Mulley intercepted a pass in the centre circle and found Palmer who saw Herbert push away his effort at full stretch to his left. United continued to press forwards for the goal that would edge them in front and it almost came on 51 minutes when skipper Nevin Saroya met a Mapes corner only to see his header pushed out at point blank range by Herbert. This chance for United was closely followed by one at the other end when Sheringham met a Joe Bruce cross but could not hit the target from 6 yards out.
Five minutes later Herbert was however beaten again. Matthews swept the ball out from the back, finding Palmer down the left flank. The striker in turn played the ball into the centre where both Knight and Ledgister were waiting, while it appeared Ledgister was better placed, Knight took control of the ball before turning and curling a perfect shot into the bottom corner of the City net.
Manager Garry Haylock then decided to blood the first of three debutants from the bench in the shape of under 18s midfielder Dan Mehmet and indeed the move that led to goal number 3 involved the youngster who advanced the ball to the edge of the City area before a short pass to Palmer who in turn touched the ball to Ledgister who fired under the dive of Herbert for his fourth of his loan spell.
With a two goal lead and United in the ascendancy, two more debutants arrived on the pitch for United in the shape of young Brazilian Joao Da Silva and under 18 striker Jake Lovell. With the changes just made, Palmer raced towards the City goal and found Mehmet who saw his lobbed effort clear both Herbert and the crossbar.
Five minutes from time the two young substitutes each had a chance to extend the lead, Mulley crossed from the right side with Da Silva's back heel blocked out to Lovell who also saw a defender block his follow up. City then had a good chance to give United a worrying final few minutes when Sheringham cut inside Toby Little but he failed to trouble De Angelis as his shot went tamely wide of the upright.
With the game in stoppage time both keepers did well to stop the scoreline changing. Stephen Smith's free-kick was met by Sheringham but De Angelis produced a diving catch and at the other end Da Silva and Mehmet combined to set Knight free but Herbert did well to block with his legs.
Report by Kevin Watts. Photos by Ray Peploe.
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