Nas Bashir’s side showed great mental fortitude to recover from Saturday’s performance and long journey to Wrexham.
This performance is just what Nas Bashir needed, a win, a clean sheet and a confident performance from his side.
Going into the game Hayes and Yeading received a massive boast with the return to the team of Steve Arnold in place of Carl Pentney and it was the Arnold’s presence that seemed to instil confidence to the team and particularly the defence. Sam Argent was returned to the starting line-up, whilst Dan Spence made his first start since returning from injury. In midfield Mark Bentley also returned to the starting line-up after injury, swapping his place on the bench with James Mulley. Up front Julian Owusu started, trading his place on the bench with Tom Collins
This was a game that did not have lots of goalmouth action and although at times Bashir’s men allowed their hosts plenty of possession they very rarely were allowed a clear sight of Arnold’s goal. On the break however it always seemed as if United had something to unlock the hosts defence with Luke Williams looking particularly threatening.
The game started in this vein with United happy to give up possession but not concede chances as Phil Walsh and Tom Cadmore looked dominant in the heart of the defence, and it was United who created the first chance of the game on the quarter hour mark. Michael Thalassitis found space on the left and his low dangerous cross just eluded Bentley and Owusu as they looked to turn the ball home.
17 minutes in came one of the game’s key moments as the hosts carved out their best chance of the game. Scott Murray, who was the Bath’s best and most influential player, found space on the right hand side of the box and his inch perfect cross found Sean Canham who from six yards out headed powerfully goalwards only for Arnold to make a fantastic, instinctive reaction save to push the ball out at point blank range.
Arnold, having repelled Bath’s only real attempt on goal, turned creator in the 38th minute when his long punt up-field spilt home defence and as the ball bounced, Thalassitis ran onto it and beat keeper Jason Matthews to the ball as his looping header found the back off the net from 12 yards out.
United continued on the front foot and in the 41st minute Pelé had a long range effort that was just over as Hayes and Yeading comfortably saw the half out.
United started the second half the way they finished the first, on the front foot. Luke Williams once again escaped his marker and his low 49th minute cross needed just a touch as it flew across the face of the goal in a repeat of the chance he created in the first half. Three minutes later it was again Williams causing problems for the hosts, this time his dangerous cross from the left found Thalassitis but he headed over when well placed.
A series of substitutions punctured any flow the game had and although, as in the first half, Bath had plenty of possession Arnold did not have much to do in goal, in fact with the pressure mounting Arnold looked commanding in goal dealing with any crosses that came his way.
Despite the game being controlled by Bath’s Murray, who drove his team forward and seemed to be at the centre of every Bath attack, United stayed comfortable as Spence coped well and was assisted by Mark Bentley and later Toby Ajala in trying to stop Murray.
Despite conceding a lot of possession, it was the visitors who created a massive chance to seal the game in the 68th minute. Following a Bath corner, outstanding substitute Ajala won the ball in midfield and his pass put Owusu clean through with just Matthews to beat. Williams raced up to support him but Matthews forced Owusu to shoot. The Romans keeper making an excellent save to deny United a second goal.
A minute later Ajala nearly poached a goal for himself when his near post snap shot produced another fine low save from Matthews. Matthews was again called on three minutes later, this time to make a more routine save from a long range Tom Cadmore free kick.
With the hosts throwing everything but the kitchen sink forwards, Arnold was called upon to make his only real save of the half when he helped a Chris Shephard overhead kick over his crossbar with 14 minutes remaining.
After all the last minute and injury time heartache’s for Nas and his side this season it would have been no surprise if United looked nervous going into stoppage time, if they were it certainly didn’t show. Pelé and Jamie Hand controlled the midfield, and the speed of Williams and Collins on the wings stretched the hosts defensively. It was therefore perhaps no surprise that another gilt edged chance fell to United, when Owusu was put clean through again and from angle he bent the ball just wide of the right post.
Apart from missing two gilt edged second half chances, this result is just what Nas Bashir would have ordered as his side showed control defensively and proved they were able, and mentally strong enough, to see out a
1-0 win in a massive six pointer.
Report by Nick Griffith.
United Man of the Match: Steve Arnold.