In a game played in the pouring rain at Church Road, it was a late Scott Fitzgerald strike that earned all three points for United after a Will Hendry screamer had pulled the game level following Danny Webb's 80th minute opener for the Hawks.
Despite the pouring rain and an ice cold wind, it was a very competitive game at Church Road this afternoon with chances at a premium. Manager Garry Haylock introduced new left-back Ronnie Bull into his starting line-up which also saw a start for Steve Perkins in place of the injured Steven Gregory.
United were quickly into their stride and with the wind in their faces created a good opening in just the second minute. Danny Allen-Page played the ball forwards to Ram Marwa who advanced into the Hawks area before crossing to Josh Scott who saw his effort blocked by the sliding Jay Smith who unfortunately for the visitors limped out of the game to be replaced by Jay Gasson.
Ten minutes later a speedy break out from defence by the Hawks saw Matt Gray play the ball in from the right and when Will Hendry slipped it presented a shooting chance to former Bognor striker Luke Nightingale but Delroy Preddie was equal to it on the slippery surface.
On the half hour mark referee Mr Foley caused an angry reaction from the Hawks players and fans alike when a quick break away, with Marwa laying injured in the United area and therefore playing everybody onside, was halted for treatment. It would appear to have been the correct decision though as Marwa returned with his head heavily bandaged.
Minutes later a ball over the Hawks midfield was controlled well by Kieran Knight who played it wide to Scott but his volley dipped over Kevin Scriven's crossbar. As the half came to a close the visitors twice went close to breaking the deadlock. Nightingale sent Gray through but his shot was blocked wide by a Matt Ruby tackle. The resultant corner produced another chance for Gray but this time his far post shot was well blocked by skipper Tom Cadmore. Gray again had a run at the United defence just a minute before the break, Ruby managed to hold him up but could not stop him getting a shot away that Preddie did very well to keep out.
In the second half it was United's turn to have the wind advantage and just five minutes in Scott beat his marker and crossed to Hendry but his shot on the turn from ten yards out was well defended by the sliding Gasson. The Hawks had a chance minutes later when a long Scriven kick found its way to Gray but his volley was too high to cause Preddie any grief.
Just after the hour mark a quick Hendry corner found Perkins lurking on the edge of the area, his shot went across the keeper but well wide of the far post. The final 15 minutes was to actually see more goalmouth action than the previous 75. Firstly it was Cadmore who went close when he slid in to meet a free-kick at the far post and his shot went over off the top of the crossbar, this was closely followed at the other end by a chase from Paul Brooker that he won only to be denied by the legs of Preddie who had raced from his area to challenge.
Just a minute later poor marking in the United defence proved costly, Ian Simpemba met a corner from the Hawks right that was touched over Preddie's hands by Danny Webb who had found himself unmarked just inches in front of the keeper. Thankfully for United the mental strength showed its head once more and five minutes later the game was again level as Hendry chested down a clearance before curling a beautiful shot from 25 yards into the far top corner of Scriven's net.
was to also be the driving force behind the late United winner, a run at the Hawks defence saw him play the ball neatly into the run of Esmond James who moved into the area before picking out Fitzgerald in the middle and the striker did the rest, beating Scriven with a low shot into the bottom corner.
Report by Kevin Watts. Photos by Ray Peploe.
Match Highlights available at www.fcvideo.co.uk
Website United Man of the Match: Will Hendry.