Tom Craddock smashed four goals to help United to a well deserved 5-0 win over Accrington this afternoon. Craddock's goals, including a hat-trick inside the first 36 minutes, gave the U's all three points as they dominated proceedings, with a fifth goal from Alfie Potter capping an impressive team performance.
There were inevitable changes to the team, Andy Whing coming in for a first start of the season at right back, allowing Johnny Mullins to move to his more familiar centre-half slot alongside the recalled Michael Raynes and Tony Capaldi. Lee Cox returned in midfield at the expense of Adam Chapman while Alfie Potter came in on the wing.
United started very well and were ahead in the 13th minute as Craddock cracked home his first of the afternoon. Having dominated possession, and noticeably winning most of the 50:50 challenges, the U’s needed to make that count and did so as strike duo Constable and Craddock combined. Constable shielded the ball after Raynes had headed upwards and onwards, Craddock came to support, and his low shot seemed to go through visiting keeper Ian Dunbavin to make it 1-0.
It could so easily have been 2-0 on 19 as Potter weaved through the right channel and stood the ball up to the far post over the hesitant Accrington back four. Constable struck his volley well enough but Dunbavin somehow saw enough of the venomous volley past a covering defender to beat the ball away.
The keeper was in inspired form and on 22 was down well to his right to push another well-struck shot from the dangerous Sean Rigg away from danger.
United looked dangerous every time they went forward while Accrington looked very shaky in defence. On 24 minutes United were 2-0 up as Craddock scored his second. Mullins won a header, Forster-Caskey played an intelligent ball over the defence which Dean Winnard didn’t get enough on to guide back to the keeper. When Dunbavin hesitated as a result, Craddock was onto the ball in a flash. The keeper retreated, defenders tried to get back and cover, but Craddock carried the ball into the box then drove the ball between the keeper and the near post to double the lead.
Short of confidence? Somebody had clearly not told the players because Potter would have made it 3-0 before we reached the half hour, Dunbavin saving well once more, and Rigg’s goal-bound blast on 34 was deflected for a corner as United dominated.
Having talked about the attack it’s worth pointing out that Cox was having a stormer in midfield, making a challenge on 35 having tracked his man back 30 yards, and that foundation was allowing the excellent Forster-Caskey to play some great passes forward. On 36 minutes the on-loan Brighton midfielder was in space once more and sent Capaldi sprinting clear down the left. His cut back set up Constable for a shot which Dunbavin somehow saved again, but Craddock was first to the ball and lashed into the roof of the net to register the first hat-trick by a United player since Jack Midson at Torquay on 3rd January 2011.
Accrington had barely had a shot at Ryan Clarke’s goal, but on 38 minutes Lee Molyneux strike the outside of the left-hand post to warn the U’s that the game wasn't over by half time. Not quite at any rate.
It might have been different in the first couple of minutes of the second half as Padraig Amond got inside half-time sub Luke O’Brien and forced Clarke into a good save, and in truth the visitors did improve, with Rommy Boco chipping the ball over the bar with their most dangerous effort.
But that aside it was only Dunbavin's heorics preventing a rout. The keeper saved well from Rigg and the brilliant Potter, but was powerless on 71 as Craddock scored his fourth. Again it was his partner who paved the way as Constable powered past the last man and then selflessly squared the ball for Craddock who picked his spot from 12 yards and blasted past the helpless Dunbavin once more. Stat-lovers should note it was the first four-goal haul for a U's player since John Durnin against Luton Town on 14th November 1992.
Incredibly Craddock then had another effort cleared off the line as Stanley all but waved the white flag. It was time for the party pieces and on 76 it was 5-0 with a quite stunning goal. Peter Leven, on as a sub, does what he wants most of the time and having played a one-two with Constable chipped a magnificent ball across the box for Potter to score the goal he deserved so much, slamming the ball past Dunbavin from five yards out.
A great goal to end a great afternoon's work.
Report by Chris Williams. Pictures by Steve Daniels. Stats by PA Sports
Fifty/50 winning number 251694 Wins £1,101