United scored a superb victory over League leaders Lewes at Church Road this afternoon as goals either side of the break from James Mulley and Liam Collins were enough to hold off the Rooks after Josh Scott saw red for a needless retaliation which will now see him miss the Christmas programme.
A rain sodden Church Road pitch stood up remarkably well to the elements and the game itself took a good twenty minutes to get going as both sides appeared to be sizing each other up without making any inroads going forwards.
The middle of the first period did see an action packed five minute spell as first Leon Legge rose highest to meet an Andy Drury free-kick only to see his header go over off the top of the crossbar and then less than a minute later Drury again put the ball into the danger area, this time from a free-kick, and the same player headed inches wide of Delroy Preddie's upright.
United were not unsettled by these chances and soon moved to the other end and created a couple of openings of their own. James Mulley launched a long throw into the Rooks area, Steve Robinson could only head the ball vertically but was then sharp enough to clear as Kieran Knight moved onto the dropping ball. Once more a second opening came within sixty seconds, Toby Little played a ball into the area from halfway, Steve Perkins flicked on to Knight who saw his effort blocked at close range by Steve Williams in the visitors goal.
Another lull in proceedings soon arrived and with the game in stoppage time a goalless first half seemed inevitable until Liam Collins worked space for a cross on the left flank, his cross was chested down by Knight for Mulley to strike a left foot volley that Williams could only help into the Rooks net.
Unusually it was United who got out of the blocks first in the second period and could have extended their lead after just 46 seconds when Charlie Mapes lofted a neat pass through to Ram Marwa who was only denied by a fine Williams save that went away for a corner kick. Respite for the Rooks was short lived though, the corner was back healed at the near post to Collins on the edge of the area and he in turn placed a low drive past Williams into the bottom corner of the Lewes net.
Lewes are not top of the league for nothing and they should have done better just minutes later as a free-kick into the United area found Legge just six yards from goal but all he could manage was a weak header into Preddie's arms. The Rooks still continued to try to find a way back into the game, Legge again failed to hit the target when meeting a free-kick before they were given a massive boost as United found themselves playing with ten men. Having already won a free-kick in a sideline race, Josh Scott proceeded to slide into Tom Davis leaving referee Mr Field to produce a straight red card for retaliation.
The visitors were buoyed by this advantage and just ten minutes later reduced the arrears. Drury went down under Perkins challenge and with his scream being heard at the Dripping Pan Mr Field pointed to the spot. Paul Booth duly stepped up and beat Preddie low into the corner of the net.
Despite the man advantage and the tag of league leaders, The Rooks attack was well repelled by United's makeshift back line, the closest shave being a minute from time when a Booth drive from 18 yards was acrobatically turned over the bar by Preddie. In fact during the six minutes of stoppage time it was United who created the best chance, Hendry and substitute Staforde Palmer combined on the edge of the Rooks area before Hendry saw his effort palmed away by Williams.
Report by Kevin Watts. Photos by Ray Peploe.