Manager Phil Babb made one change from the side beaten 4-2 away at Havant & Waterlooville last week, with Gary MacDonald coming in for the suspended Dylan Kearney. There was a change to the usual formation, with a 4-1-4-1 formation being employed with MacDonald sitting behind the midfield quartet at a very blustery ProKit UK Stadium.
On the bench were no fewer than four new signings, including strikers Tom Derry and Nicholas Bignall, along with midfielders Charlie Mitchell and Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe, who both made their first team debuts in the Middlesex Charity Cup against Harrow, giving plenty of late options if needed.
Bishop’s Stortford started strongly, and nearly profited from a free-kick on the edge of the box in the 10th minute. However, Sheldon Sellears could only curl it in to the gloves of Calum Kitscha from around 20 yards. A series of corners followed for Bishop’s Stortford, as they benefitted from a strong following wind, but solid defending from the United rearguard kept the United goal intact.
United’s first real chance came in the 26th minute, when a good throughball from Lewis Ferrell found Rhys Murrell-Williamson in space - he took on his defender down the left, before unleashing a left foot shot that narrowly missed the target, hitting the side netting instead. This led to a spell of pressure from Hayes & Yeading United, culminating in another good chance. Defender Greg Morgan was scythed down in his own half clearing the ball, but with the referee playing a good advantage, Rhys Murrell-Williamson ran the full length of the pitch to force a last ditch stop by the Stortford back line in the six yard box.
Immediately play moved to the United box, where only an acrobatic save from England C ‘keeper Calum Kitscha kept the goal intact – The shot coming from James Walker, who turned in the box, fired goalwards, only for Kitscha to save well.
The game nearly turned in United’s favour just before half-time, when a clumsy tackle on Elliot Benyon saw referee Neil Hair award a penalty. With all recent penalty kicks being taken by now-departed Pat Cox, Benyon himself strode up to take the resultant spot-kick. Dillon Phillips, on loan from Charlton, guessed correctly in the Stortford goal, saving a weak penalty down to his right hand side. The half was to finish scoreless.
With no changes to personel at half-time, United were now attacking with the wind, and five minutes in to the half, a good strike from distance from the hard working Wes Daly just whistled past the Stortford post, as United looked to press on.
However, just two minutes later, a killer ‘1-2' was inflicted on United as a long hopeful throughball was missed by the United defence, with Simmonds heading on to the advancing Walker, who’s pass split the defence, leaving the impressive Sellears to slot the ball past the exposed Kitscha.
The lead was to be doubled just a minute later, when Walker was again involved, just managing to cross the ball from the bye-line, finding former-United man Frankie Merrifield completely unmarked, who headed the ball back across goal to make it 2-0.
Manager Phil Babb then moved immediately to change formation, with midfielder Lewis Ferrell being replaced by former-Aldershot Town striker Tom Derry. This was quickly followed by a second substitution with Mason Spence leaving the game to be replaced by another Conference debutant, Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe. A more traditional 4-4-2 was now employed in an attempt to get back into the game.
It was these substitutions that were going to prove a master stroke as the game moved towards the last 20 minutes. Ogedi-Uzokwe, playing on the right wing, started to cause problems, and after a good run crossed the ball to Wes Daly who let fly from 25 yards, with the ball just going over the bar.
Pressure continued to rise, and it was Ogedi-Uzokwe again who was the instigator of many of the problems for the Stortford defence. Another mazy run ended with the winger being fouled on the edge of the box. It was set for the left foot of Gary MacDonald to try and replicate his strike against Chelmsford a few weeks before, but on this occasion he could not find the net; instead finding the keeper making a simple save.
On 74 minutes a superb flick on from Derry found Ogedi-Uzokwe clear of the Stortford defence, and showing pace and precision he drilled the ball past Phillips to put United on the board and back in the hunt.
However, the best was still to come, and in the second minute of injury time, a great ball in to the box by MacDonald was only half-cleared by the Stortford defence, and Derry hit an unstoppable shot from 18 yards, high in to the goalkeeper’s left hand side to cement a deserved point, and send the 30 odd United fans – who had been supporting the team in great voice for the whole game – home happy to have come back from a two-goal deficit.
Report by Andy Corbett.
United Man of the Match: Tom Derry.