United were almost knocked out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle this afternoon having been held to a 2-2 draw at Church Road by Kent Leaguers Herne Bay, who fully deserved their replay and indeed hit the bar within the final ten minutes.
Manager Garry Haylock was without the services of loanee's Steven Gregory and Tom Cadmore while Will Hendry and Kevin Davies were suspended. The manager also chose to rest 18 year old Toby Little and striker Simon Martin as he re-jigged his starting line-up that included a debut for former Amersham Town centre-back Calum Scrivens.
The visitors were the first to have an effort on goal when skipper Roy Guiver met a Rhys Lawson cross from the left wing only to be denied by the diving Delroy Preddie. United then began a sustained spell of pressure that led to the lead being taken. A James Edgerley corner was flicked on by a defender and Steve Perkins should have done better at the far post, heading wide of the gaping goal. Danny Allen-Page then chipped the ball over the last defender to Kieran Knight but his first time volley as too high and with no respite coming Herne Bay's way it was just three minutes until the goal arrived. Peter Collins and Edgerley combined on the left with the latter feeding Staforde Palmer, the young striker took a touch before coolly finishing into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
United continued to dominate after going ahead, Perkins saw a free-kick go just wide of the upright and Peter Collins fed Palmer on the edge of the area, the striker turning Guiver and firing goalwards only to be denied by keeper Jack Delo who was well positioned. On the half hour mark, an totally against the run of play, the Kent side should have equalised. Aaron Firth finding Dave Soutan in the box, the striker barging his way through before blasting over from 6 yards with just Preddie to beat.
United were soon back in charge as the break approached, Knight was well wide when well placed to meet an Edgerley cross and skipper Nevin Saroya saw a curled free-kick tipped over by Delo.
The home side had a chance to extend their lead within a minute of the restart but Peter Collins headed wide at the far post and just a couple of minutes later the tie was level. A ball down the right channel saw Edgerley stand still and allow Nathan Eastwood to stroll past him and cross to where Lawson rose to head past Preddie.
United should have been back ahead just a couple of minutes later but for a poor decision by referee Field. Palmer ran at the Bay defence and despite being fouled the ball found its way to James Mulley who only had the keeper to beat only to hear Mr Field's whistle call the play back for a free-kick to United. Although this kick came to nothing, within sixty seconds another had. Edgerley taking the kick on the left with Saroya rising highest to head over the on-coming Delo into the Herne Bay net (pictured left).
The visitors almost struck back immediately, a Lawson cross from the left was headed out by Peter Collins to Eastwood, his drive was palmed up in the air by Preddie and thankfully a defender was on hand to clear before Lawson could get to the ball. United continued to create but not take their chances, Knight was wide from a fired cross and Delo did well to push a Mulley drive over the bar before dreadful marking at the back saw the visitors draw level. An Eastwood corner from the right found Guiver at the far post, one of three unmarked Herne Bay players, and he rose highest to head past Preddie.
Chances to win the game came and went for United, Knight shot wide, Peter Collins drove over and Liam Collins was inches wide from 25 yards before the visitors almost nicked the tie nine minutes from time. Lawson beat Scrivens on the left, his cut-back from the bye-line being met by substitute Ben Brown who despite beating Preddie all ends up saw the ball come back off the crossbar, bounce on the line and be gathered by the United stopper.
With very little happening in the last ten minutes it's all off to Kent on Wednesday to see if United can complete the job, or be one of this seasons shock departures from the countries premier competition.
Report by Kevin Watts.
Photos by Ray Peploe.