Hayes & Yeading failed to score for the first time in 2010 as basement boys Grays Athletic held United to a goalless scoreline on a dry bumpy pitch at the New Recreation Ground.
Having just a few days previously defeated leaders Oxford at the Kassam, many thought that three points was a certainty at Grays, as we all know though, things are never that straightforward.
Garry Haylock made two changes to his starting line-up as Danny Allen-Page and Dale Binns came in for Ed Harris and the suspended Esmond James. First chance was to fall to United as a deep Binns corner picked out midweek hero Steve Basham but he could not direct his header at the target.
United had a great chance to take the lead on 19 minutes when a clearance was charged down, the ball span in the air and landed nicely to the feet of Ram Marwa who appeared to delay his shot and this gave Grays keeper Glyn Garner just enough time to smother his effort.
Minutes later Grays skipper Harlee Dean played a perfect ball down the left flank to the impressive Alex Rhodes who moved into the box only to be beaten by a bump in the pitch that saw his attempted cross dribble into Clark Masters grasp.
Chances, albeit few and far between, were being created at either end. A Binns cross was only partially cleared, Justin Cochrane nodded it down into the path of Adam Green who was off target from 25 yards.
Several openings came the way of the home side in the final quarter hour of the half. Duran Reynolds' free-kick was blocked by the United wall and when the ball came back to the Grays man his chip into the centre was volleyed over by Marc Clarey. Just after the half hour mark a sweeping move down the left involving Rhodes and Jamie Guy saw the latter pick out Wayne Gray at the far post but his header went just wide of Masters' upright.
Guy then tried an overhead effort that was straight at Masters, the United keeper also grabbing a Dean header before the break. United's contribution to the chances during this spell by the home side saw Marc Canham move onto a Basham lay off but his shot from 20 yards was off target.
Garry Haylock made two changes at the interval as Basham and Cochrane were withdrawn in favour of Toby Little and a Blue Square Premier debut for 17 year old youth team skipper Nathan Webb.
And it was Webb who held off two defenders on 53 minutes before sending Craig Watkins down the right side of the Grays area. The striker's cross was met by an incoming Marwa but his header went over the bar without troubling Garner.
Minutes later United were grateful to Adam Green for a last ditch touch as Rhodes sent Richard Graham into the United area and his cross needed a touch from the United left back to take it away from the incoming Gray. Garner then twice denied Binns within as many minutes before another Grays break on the left saw Rhodes pick out Guy at the near post but he could only turn the low centre wide of the United goal.
Masters needed to be at his best twenty minutes from time when a quick break saw Graham feed Guy who hit an instant volley having seen Masters off his line, the United keeper diving full stretch to his left to push the ball away to Tom Cadmore who completed the clearance.
Five minutes later Watkins and Webb caused chaos in the Grays box when the two combined to find Binns, his first effort was blocked out by Garner and follow-ups by both Marwa and Little saw bodies being thrown in the way before the ball was finally hacked clear.
Ten minutes later Masters was again required when Gray was clear on goal, the United stopper saving at point blank range and as the loose ball ran to Dean a last ditch Canham challenge was enough to take the ball away from the danger area.
The final minutes saw a penalty appeal at both ends, a tackle on Guy inside the United area saw cries from the home fans and then seconds later at the other end it was the red army's turn to cry foul as Little was dragged to the floor by the scruff of the neck, both appeals being turned away by referee Ms Fearn and the game ended in a rather tame stalemate.
Report by Kevin Watts.
Photos by Tim Fuell.
United Man of the Match: Marc Canham.