United scored a first home win of 2008 courtesy of second half strikes from Will Hendry and Josh Scott, after the latter had earlier misfired from the spot.
In a rare occurrence, manager Garry Haylock was able to field the same starting XI that had ravaged Cambridge City at the weekend, the only change to the squad being the return to the bench of Toby Little.
The visiting Saints, whose form of late had seen them earn four points from trips to Eastleigh and Dorchester, had a good deal of early possession without threatening the United goal. The first chance in fact fell to United as Hendry picked up the ball in the centre and ran at the visitors defence before firing a shot that keeper Nick Eyre gathered up safely.
Minutes later skipper Nevin Saroya was caught in possession by Lee Clarke who took the ball to the bye-line before crossing to Simon Martin who saw his shot deflected wide. Soon after a break by Martin on the left saw the striker, on loan from United, pick out Paul Hakim but his weak effort was easily dealt with by Alessio De Angelis in the United goal.
With the United midfield being outplayed, Hakim picked up a loose pass and found Dean Cracknell who fired just wide of the United goal. The home side finally began to find their feet on the half hour mark, Kieran Knight received the ball on the right and threaded a neat ball to Scott who fired across Eyre but wide of the far post.
United’s best move of the half came seven minutes from the break, James Mulley moved forwards on the right before swapping passes with Scott who chipped a superb ball into Mulley’s run but his effort just failed to hit the target.
Another spell of pressure from the visitors saw Marcel McKie pick up a stray Steve Perkins pass before unleashing a shot on the run that De Angelis comfortably grasped. This was closely followed by a Scott Cousins free-kick that was met by an unmarked Hasim Deen with Perkins doing well to get his head to the effort before it could cause alarm to De Angelis.
Stoppage time saw United go even closer, Mulley and Scott again teamed up on the right and when Scott’s cross was spilled by Eyre former Saint Ram Marwa arrived only to see his effort come back off the upright with Eyre pushing the loose ball wide of his goal.
United were presented with a golden chance to start the second period with a bang when Cracknell tripped Hendry inside the area giving referee Collins no option but to point to the spot. The normally reliable Scott stepped up but could only manage to rustle the trees behind the goal as he skied his kick over the bar.
Buoyed by the let off the visitors marched straight down the other end where Martin hit a snapshot on the turn that just cleared the crossbar and Hakim saw an angled shot go just wide of the far post minutes later.
United finally opened the scoring on 56 minutes, Knight flicked on a long ball that saw Hendry break between two defenders before firing home a volley that appeared to go through Eyre’s hands before hitting the back of the net. Within two minutes the advantage was doubled, Liam Collins controlled a pinpoint pass on the left flank before finding Scott who cut into the area and fired home an angled shot that beat Eyre at his near post.
Sadly United appeared to relax a little too soon and just three minutes after stretching their lead, the visitors pulled a goal back. McKie found space on the left side before crossing to the near post where De Angelis kept out Martin’s effort only for the ball to run free to the far post where Clarke forced it home.
The home side settled quickly from conceding and went close to re-extending their lead when Hendry whipped a free-kick past the wall only to be denied by an excellent tip over from Eyre. With the last fifteen minutes already upon us, it was United who nearly scored again as Scott broke away from his own half after a Saints corner had been cleared, the striker entering the box but firing wide of the target.
The last real action came with ten minutes remaining when Mulley and Marwa combined on the edge of the Saints area but Mulley’s shot was well held by Eyre.
Report by Kevin Watts.