Just two years after a shock merger between local rivals, Hayes & Yeading United found themselves on the brink of the Football Conference’s National Division, the Blue Square Premier, standing in the way was a play off final against Middlesex rivals Hampton & Richmond Borough.
Have a great summer and see you all next season.
Manager Garry Haylock made one solitary change from the side that beat Eastleigh in the semi-final with Will Hendry returning to the side in place of Staforde Palmer who dropped to the bench. Hampton meanwhile were to field no fewer than four former Church Roaders in their starting line-up.
With a near capacity crowd of just over 3,000 squeezed in at the Beveree, It was United who got the perfect start with a goal after just seven minutes. Dale Binns racing to the bye-line before firing low and hard to the far post which presented semi-final hero Scott Fitzgerald with a close range tap in.
With the advantage of the wind, United were to go on to dominate the chances of the first half with Delroy Preddie barely troubled. Binns again found freedom on the left before playing the ball backwards to Fitzgerald, the striker unleashing an angled shot from 25 yards that beat Matt Lovett in the Beavers goal only to hit the crossbar and go over the top.
Ram Marwa then had a shot deflected wide by the outstretched boot of Dean Wells before the Beavers only real sight of goal in the half saw Francis Quarm cut inside the area only to hit his own team-mate with his shot that then went wide.
More chances came United’s way without the scorer being troubled, Marwa’s cross was deflected towards goal only for Lovett to gather at the second attempt before the closing minutes saw two more good United chances go begging. Another Marwa effort had been blocked for a corner, Hendry’s kick was met by Steven Gregory but his glancing header went wide of the far post. Lastly, a Hendry free-kick was met by the unchallenged Steve Perkins but he also failed to trouble Lovett.
The second half was to start poorly for United as two former Hayes FC men carved out two almost identical openings, the second levelling the tie. Two minutes after the re-start the impressive Ian Hodges flicked on the Shaun McAuley on the right, he advanced into the area before seeing his shot deflected over the top by Perkins. Just two minutes later the exact same combo saw McAuley fire low to Preddie’s near post, despite getting a hand to the ball Preddie I am sure will have been frustrated to see it creep over the line.
The tie then settled into a steady rhythm once more and chance were few and far between, the next coming just after the hour mark when Gary MacDonald played Fitzgerald through, he held off Wells’ challenge only for his effort to be tipped wide by Lovett. A quickly taken corner saw Hendry try his luck from a tight angle but Lovett dealt with it comfortably.
Just after the three quarter mark in the game disaster struck for United and more especially for keeper Preddie who had been the star of the semi-final victory. Having foiled a Beaver attack, Preddie had the ball in his hands, he however did not notice the predatory Hodges lurking behind him and when he set the ball to the ground to clear the striker nicked it from him and proceeded to roll it into an empty net.
Far from United’s heads dropping, we were straight back on the attack and albeit somewhat fortunately were back level within three minutes. Gregory hitting a deep cross from the left that Lovett misjudged and the ball sneaked just inside the post at the top corner of the Beavers net.
Two minutes later former Wycombe man Gregory was to become the hero of Church Road as he burst through two tackles before firing straight through Lovett to give United the lead that would ultimately see national division football at Church Road in 2009/10.
United did suffer a few scary moments between going ahead and the 90th minute however. Barrie Matthews fed McAuley on the right of the area but his driven cross come shot was well dealt with by Preddie. In the last minutes a mass scramble in the area saw a vital interception from Binns followed by two further blocks as the United goal stayed intact.
The only incident that remains to be reported on is the dismissal of Beavers keeper Lovett. United cleared a stoppage time corner to Fitzgerald wide on the left, his breakaway was brought to a crashing halt by Lovett who had been caught up field and referee Powell produced the mandatory red card. Skipper Dean Wells took over in goal but so little time remained that he had nothing to do, and United were promoted to the Blue Square Premier at just the second attempt since merger.
All that remains is for me to sign off by offering congratulations to Garry, his coaching staff and the players for what has been a most memorable season, now the real work starts guys!!
Report by Kevin Watts. Photos by Ray Peploe.
Match Highlights available at www.fcvideo.co.uk
Website United Man of the Match: Steven Gregory.
Additional Photos courtesy of Andy Nunn: Click Here.