An Adrian Pătulea goal four minutes after half time was enough to light up a disappointing match and turn it into a memorable victory for Hayes & Yeading United.
The team which Garry Haylock picked was the same starting line up as that which beat Cambridge United so impressively on the previous Tuesday with the only change being Charlie Wassmer returning from injury to replace Ahmed Deen who was on international duty with Sierra Leone.
And Haylock’s side started brightly without getting near goal, although Andy Yiadom thought he was tripped in the penalty area early on by his marker Kevin Austin only for referee Mr Stockbridge to signal clearly that it was no penalty.
It took Darlington 20 minutes to build their first meaningful attack and when they did, they almost scored. Aaron Brown swung over a dangerous corner to the far post and Austin headed the ball back in front of goal where Danny Hone half volleyed the ball towards goal, only for Tom Cadmore to get a vital header clear.
The home side were buoyed by that chance but it took them quite some time to get another meaningful shot on goal, this time, Gary Smith latched onto Jefferson Louis’s square pass and fired just wide from 20 yards.
But United finished the half strongly. First, Jamie Hand won the ball with a header in midfield and found Michael Malcolm. His lay off was in the path of Bradley Pritchard but his shot just missed the right hand post. Then, Yiadom was once again looking for a penalty when he fell under Ian Miller’s challenge but instead of waiting for Mr Stockbridge’s signal (which didn’t come), he got up and laid the ball off for Peter Holmes whose shot from an acute angle fizzed right across the face of goal and wide.
United’s players came out early to prepare for the second half and they certainly seemed sharper as play got underway. Within a minute, Malcolm was running at the Darlington defence and his pass found Yiadom. The former Watford winger cut inside and shot but Russell found it easy to deal with.
Soon afterwards, the crucial goal came. Lewis Ferrell’s long pass from defence was controlled well by Pritchard and he slid the ball through to Pătulea The on loan forward showed good strength to ride Hone’s block tackle and then great poise to round Russell and turn the ball into the empty net from a tight angle.
Darlington seemed shell shocked for a while, but when they got into their stride, they caused United’s defence some problems. Straight after Holmes’s pass found Lee Brown whose long shot hit the stanchion holding up the goal net, Darlington’s substitute Tommy Wright forced Josh Lennie into a smart save, diving to his right to keep out a shot from just inside the area. Then Paul Arnison crossed for Wright who showed great agility to tip the ball wide. From the resulting corner, there was quite a scramble, in which both Pritchard and Adam Bygrave blocked the ball on the line, denying Louis’s header and Wright’s close range shot respectively.
United rallied and for quite some time, Darlington were unable to pressurise the goal again. When they did, Lennie was again in determined mood to keep a clean sheet and a double save from Louis and then Senior underlined this.
And from then on, the hosts were restricted to wayward long shots, aside for one last chance on 80 minutes, when Arnison’s long ball was headed back across goal by Louis and Lennie was brave to dive at Wright’s feet to gather the ball, picking up an injury in the process. However, both he and his team mates were comfortably able to see out time and celebrate an important victory to lift United three places in the league table.
Report by Nick Bell.
Photos by Ray Peploe.
United Man of the Match: Jamie Hand.