A Hayes & Yeading United side depleted by pre-season injuries to Leon Solomon, Steve Perkins and Peter Collins plus a carried over suspension for Will Hendry succumbed by a single goal to Ryman Champions Chelmsford in this season opener at Church Road.
With key injuries, Garry Haylock was forced to start two teenagers in the shape of reserve teamers Bobby Hughes and Dan Mehmet against one of the league favourites in Chelmsford City. In the pouring rain it was to be United who carved out the first chance of the afternoon when Staforde Palmer knicked the ball from a hesitant Ian Cousins and found Mehmet on the edge of the area, his shot was charged down by Steve Ward and Scott Fitzgerald's follow up was just wide of Danny Gay's goal.
Ward was then forced to out jump Fitzgerald as Palmer centred a Gay clearance that he had charged down and Gay had to have good hands to gather a skidding Steven Gregory free-kick at the foot of his post. The visitors began to make inroads into the United defence and on 18 minutes looked to have taken the lead when Brayley shifted the ball left to his strike partner Jon Keeling who duly shot past Preddie but could only watch as his shot went wide off the upright.
The experienced side that Jeff King has built at the Essex club were now really taking control of proceedings. Keeling raced past Danny Allen-Page on the left at fizzed the ball across the six yard box without a touch and minutes later Kevin James broke down the same wing, his deep cross was well met by Ricky Holmes but Preddie was on hand to palm his effort out and Cadmore cleared. Just sixty seconds later a strike that was to prove decisive came from the visitors. Holmes broke on the right and fed the ball inside to Ollie Berquez, with speed of thought he played it into the path of Brayley who fired home despite a desperate hand from Preddie that could not stop the net bulging.
City were now looking for a second, James and Holmes again combined but the latter saw his effort well blocked by emergency centre-half Mulley. With only a few minutes to go before the break a weak Nevin Saroya clearance fell straight to James who delicately lofted it over the United skipper into the run of Berquez but Preddie held his first time volley.
With the half-time cuppa almost upon us United finally began to push City back, Fitzgerald saw a shot from just inside the area blocked but sadly Marwa blasted the rebound high over the bar before a Hughes run at the heart of the City defence saw him lay the ball to Fitzgerald but his shot was held by Gay at the foot of his goalpost.
The return from the break saw a substitution apiece, United's seeing an 18 year old switch as Esmond James replaced Mehmet which allowed Mulley to move back to midfield with Allen-Page moving across into the centre. It could almost have been an inspirational change from Mr Haylock as just three minutes had been played when Hughes again ran at the defence before finding James but his shot was cleared away a couple of yards from goal by the well placed City skipper Andy Duncan.
Ten minutes had passed when United created possibly their best chance of the game, Fitzgerald held the ball up before finding his partner Palmer, sadly the ball fell to his weaker left foot and his shot went across goal and wide. Less than a minute later United were indebted to Cadmore, Brayley beat the offside trap and shrugged off the chasing Allen-Page before rounding Preddie and sliding the ball towards the net only to be denied by the sliding clearance of Cadmore right on the goal line.
Just after the hour mark Saroya saw a free-kick deflect off the wall and head for the top corner only to be clawed out by Gay at full stretch. The resultant corner also found the United skipper but his far post header was off target. With ten minutes to go United again needed a goal line clearance to keep in the game, this time a combination of Allen-Page and Saroya cleared after James had slid the ball past Preddie after being released by Brayley.
As time began to erode United had two half chances, Cadmore saw a header from Allen-Page's cross fielded by Gay and substitute Josh Scott found Fitzgerald but his angled drive only rippled the side netting without troubling the City stopper.
Report by Kevin Watts. Photos by Ray Peploe.
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Website United Man of the Match: Tom Cadmore