United were well beaten at Burton this afternoon as the Brewers proved too potent. Two goals apiece from Calvin Zola and Jaques Maghoma sank the U’s
There was one enforced change to the line-up with Luke Forster-Caskey ruled out with a virus and Daniel Boateng coming in to form a new-look three man defence to the right of Michael Raynes and Jake Wright. That move meant that Damian Batt and Tony Capaldi were asked to supply the width outside Adam Chapman and Simon Heslop, while Alfie Potter, Deane Smalley and Sean Rigg provided a three man front line.
It was one of the back three who had the first chance of the game, Raynes nodding a ninth minute corner from Chapman over the bar when well placed, while Wright made a superb block on 13 to deny Maghoma at the other end as the brewers threatened for the first time.
There was a let-off on 16 minutes as Damien McRory rattled the bar with a well struck volley from 20 yards after the wall had blocked a free kick, but no such luck on 25 as United fell below to a genuine goal of the season contender. Zola had his back to goal as he controlled a long ball on his chest, but twisted his body and as the ball fell struck a magnificent dipping volley up and over Clarke from 25 yards out. An exceptional goal and whether you had three centre halves or ten there would have been no stopping it.
United came back well and started to see more of the ball. Potter planted a shot just wide on 31 minutes, Heslop had a drive blocked a minute later and the influential Chapman started to spray his passes around and push his team forward. However right on half-time United were 2-0 down as the runner up for goal of the season flew into their net. United should have cleared their lines before the ball reached Maghoma 20 yards from goal, but once it reached his right boot there was no stopping it as he smashed a first time effort into the top right corner, giving Clarke no chance at all.
Something needed to change and a half time double substitution almost paid off within seconds as subs JP Pittman and Tom Craddock teamed up instantly for Craddock to shoot and a fortunate flick off a defender take the ball just over the top. The same combination two minutes later saw Craddock ping a similar effort only inches wide at the near post while Pittman’s fierce 55th minute shot from 20 yards was going into the top of the net until home keeper Stuart Tomlinson arched back to fingertip the ball over the bar.
United had dominated the first 20 minutes of the second half but not found a way back into the game, and were made to pay with two goals in quick succession to kill the game off.
On 65 Maghoma scored his second to make it 3-0. Wright stopped Zola by conceding a foul on the edge of the box and Maghoma curled the ball unerringly into the left corner of the net. A minute later and it was 4-0 as a left wing cross was instantly controlled by the unmarked Zola who took the ball down and picked his spot to slam the ball past Clarke and make it 4-0.
United were beaten and slipping to a third league defeat in a row. To their credit they did keep going and Pittman curled a left footed effort just win on 77 before Raynes glanced a header wide of the mark a minute later. By then though they were seeking only a consolation.
Clarke, Batt, Raynes, Wright, Capaldi, Chapman, Heslop, Boateng (Pittman h/t), Potter, Smalley, Rigg Craddock h/t)
Brown, Worley, Marsh, Cox, O’Brien
Report by Chris Williams. Pictures by Darrell Fisher. Stats by PA Sports