United ended the year with another excellent win this afternoon, winning 3-0 at Kingsmeadow. First half goals from flying wingers Sean Rigg and Alfie Potter and a gifted killer goal from Tom Craddock after the break made it five wins and four draws from nine games to end 2012, with only a late red card for James Constable to take the gloss off another polished performance.
Playing in an unfamiliar yellow-white-white combination United showed just one change to the side that won at Boxing Day, Luke O’Brien replacing the injured Liam Davis at left back. They were soon into their stride and Potter had already dragged the first shot of the game wide of the left hand post before another flowing move ended with Potter’s cross volleyed narrowly wide by Rigg. Potter then tested veteran keeper Neil Sullivan into a flying save to his left after eleven minutes and with a succession of corners to follow it was the U’s on top in the opening exchanges.
The groundstaff deserve enormous credit for the game being played at all after constant rain in the days leading up to it but aided by volunteers they had produced a decent playing surface and United sensibly looked to make the best us of it by getting the ball wide to the unstoppable Potter and Rigg when possible with Leven spreading play and Cox getting into the spirit of things by mopping up the middle of the park.
The home side rallied after that shaky start with centre forward Paul McCallum sending two free kicks wide and a shot from open play into the same stand behind the goal (now seated rather than the terrace which once ran that length of the ground). Constable and Potter responded with similarly wayward efforts at Sullivan’s goal, before United deservedly took the lead on 32 minutes.
Having worked the ball swiftly forward Potter seized on to Craddock’s knock down and span towards the left side of the box. He then showed great maturity to wait for the right back to finally come towards him then slipped the ball through for the flying Rigg. He timed his run to perfection and finished powerfully past Sullivan to make it 1-0.
The two wide men didn’t take long to switch roles and make it 2-0. Five minutes later the superb Rigg cut back on to his right foot and swung in a deep cross. Potter, not famous for towering headers, bravely rose to challenge Sullivan and beat the keeper to get the ball over the line. It never reached the back of the net but ref Collins had no doubt that the ball had cross the line to double United’s advantage. Flick through the Gallery at the top of the page to see just how far over the line it was.
A last minute shot from Jack Midson went wide of Clarke’s goal, but other than that United had kept the Dons pretty much at arms-length in an outstanding first 45 minutes.
They knew that their hosts would come at them at the start of the second half and it took an unbelievable clearance from Leven on the line to slice a Yussuff effort over the bar as the home side pressed in the first ten minutes. Yussuff flashed a header wide on 55 and Will Antwi repeated that on the hour mark with their last real chance of getting back into the game. Moments later the same player made a mess of a defensive header and nodded the ball perfectly to the feet of Craddock on the edge of the Wimbledon area, Wrong player to do that to, as Craddock demonstrated by simply turning round and drilling the ball past the despairing Sullivan like Andy Murray fizzing a forehand winner down the line at the alternative Wimbledon. Game set and match.
The one blot on another very impressive performance came on 70 minutes when Constable challenged for a high ball with the unfortunate Antwi just minutes after the two had chased a long ball and Antwi had eased Constable into the advertising hoarding. This time Antwi hit the deck and Mr Collins reached straight for his red card to send United's in-form striker off. It would be wrong to second guess the referee's decision, which was based on a stray arm from Constable and will make interesting viewing on the Yellow Player highlights.
Having worked so hard to get the game on most home fans were chanting for it to be abandoned when the rain started to pour down with ten minutes to go, but like United's defence it held firm to the end.
Another very professional performance and another three points safely gathered in. United have ended 2012 in fine form and will now welcome local rivals Cheltenham Town to the Kassam Stadium on New Year's Day. Book your seat, see you there...
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher, stats by PA Sports