Tonight’s fixture saw Hayes and Yeading United face a difficult away trip to Croydon Athletic in the 1st qualifying round of the F.A. Youth Cup. A trip that proved to be insurmountable, as United were eventually beaten 4-2 after extra time by their hosts.
In a match that was plagued with mistakes, indecision from the players and some questionable officiating, Croydon saw off United with two gift wrapped goals in the second half of extra time.
The visiting side raced out of the blocks in the first half of normal time forcing a decent save out of Croydon keeper Reece Oscar in the very first minute, when Hasib Saeed’s curling effort was beaten away. Seconds later Dom McAuley was allowed to carry the ball forwards from defence but could only strike the ball over the bar.
In contrast to last week, United keeper Matt Faley was forced to make his first save in the 3rd minute of the game, when Croydon striker Harrison Carnegie was allowed a strike on goal. Michael Bryan was out to continue his form from last week when he used his pace to beat the marker but his low fizzed in cross avoided the touch it needed to put the visitors ahead.
A game that promised so much was then dulled with errors after 15 minutes when United keeper Faley came to meet a long ball but completely missed everything allowing Carnegie to slide the ball to Navid Zandi, but his shot was blocked by the backtracking United defenders to save the keepers' blushes. The resulting corner was again missed by Faley, but this time he was saved by Daniel Mehmet who cleared the ball off the line at the far post.
Two minutes later, it was the backlines turn to make the mistake as they twice failed to clear the ball but Dan Moody failed to take advantage as he blasted his effort high and wide.
Although the United backline was looking untrustworthy, manager Simon East must have been enthusiastic about his team’s chances as they continued to press forward and create openings, the best of which saw Bryan meet a perfect cross from McAuley to force another save out of Oscar in the 23rd minute.
Just one minute later, disaster struck as Croydon capitalised on another defensive error to take the lead. This time it was centre back Aga Brianidt who failed to clear, and had the ball stolen from him by Tomiwa Oni who smashed the ball into the bottom corner. A goal that came against the run of play, but nevertheless, United found themselves trailing.
United had a big shout for a penalty turned down by referee Mr Adebayo just two minutes later when Esmond James was pulled down in the box by the neck, the referee penalising James for backing in.
United’s best chance of the 1st half came in the 39th minute when James forced a fantastic double save from Oscar. He received the ball inside the box, and his original effort was to close to the keeper and beaten away, but, he was first onto the rebound this time looking to lob the out of position keeper, but somehow, much to the visitors despise, he managed to get back and tip the ball over for a corner and save a certain goal.
Three minutes later Saeed’s whipped in cross just missed the boot of James, and Mehmet saw a curling effort bend around the wrong side of the post. Bryan also had his tame effort saved after playing a neat 1-2 with Mehmet.
After a string of late challenges, and off the ball misdemeanours, the referee finally brought out his cards in the 33rd minute to caution Athletics’ Joe Kelly for a late tackle on Mehmet. Minutes later, the home side were lucky not to be reduced to ten men as Carnegie clearly punched McAuley in the ribs. Violent conduct that was seen by everyone in the ground, except the officials!
The Manager's harsh words at half time clearly had no affect on his players as Croydon doubled their lead straight after half time. Carnegie ’s low cross was missed by three United defenders, and Moody was presented with an empty net.
United were quick to respond however, and pulled the deficit back to one goal a minute later when Mehmet’s well placed effort beat Oscar, and slotted into the bottom corner.
The visitors finally got back on terms in the 53rd minute when Oscar, who had played so well beforehand, seemingly caught, and then dropped a corner giving James the opportunity to slide the ball over the line. 2-2.
The equalising goal looked to inspire the visitors, who followed up with possibly their best period of play, as the pounded the Croydon goal. James was first to try, but his effort was again well saved by Oscar. Bryan blazed his effort just over the bar in the 56th minute, and a clever dummy by James gave Mehmet the space he needed to get a shot off, but his effort struck the bar and dropped the wrong side of the goal line.
Despite their best efforts, United just couldn’t get the ball in the back of the net, and they were nearly punished for it when another defensive error gifted a chance to Carnegie but he couldn’t find the target.
The best of the late chances came to James in the 70th minute, after he latched onto a through ball from Saeed, drove into the box only for his shot to be blocked by Oscar who stood up well at the near post.
United were then dealt a major blow when five minutes from time James was forced to retire with cramp.
United were forced to make changes at full time as fatigue began to set in when the game was still there for the taking. Oliver Fayed and James Walters came on to replace Mehmet and Bryan, but neither sub had any impact on the game in extra time.
After United had looked the better team at the end of normal time, they were poor in extra time and virtually gifted the tie to Croydon, who had chance after chance, and probably should have won the game more decisively when Oni and Carnegie missed the target in the first five minutes of extra time.
The game was all but settled in the 1st minute of the second period of extra time, when a long ball straight from the kick off should have been easily dealt with by Faley, whose indecision cost the whole team, as he again missed the ball allowing Moody to slide the ball in. The home sides elaborate celebration proved they knew they had been gifted a goal after having to soak up the pressure for most of the game.
3-2 down, and with minutes remaining, United were forced to chase the game leaving space and unmarked players all over the pitch. This eventually gifted the home side another goal to seal the tie when Billy Rutherford found himself unmarked at the far post to tap in Oni’s low cross.
After a dismal final 30 minutes tonight, United found themselves defeated for the 1st time this season and out of the F.A. Youth Cup. Things will need to be corrected, and confidence restored when United host Chesham United in the league next week.
Report by Rob Stevens