Alfie Potter's tenth goal of the season gave United a 1-0 win at Dagenham this afternoon. Potter's thumping shot in the first half earned his side all three points against a Daggers side looking to secure their future at this level next season.
There was a nod to the future with the inclusion of Max Crocombe in goal, while Luke O’Brien, Josh Parker and Deane Smalley also returned to the starting eleven. Crocombe, playing his first game since helping the New Zealand under 20 side qualify for this summer’s World Cup, looked very assured in his handling and kicking but neither goalkeeper had a shot to deal with in the opening 15 minutes as the game opened cautiously.
A Liam Davis free kick from 25 yards on 18 forced home keeper Jordan Seabright into the first save of the afternoon albeit a comfortable one as the shot skimmed into his arms in the centre of the goal, before Crocombe patted won a Luke Howell effort from similar range on 23. Jake Reed might have opened the scoring on the half hour when he found space inside the area but could only drag his shot wide of the left hand post, but the best chance came to Andy Whing on 37 when he met an inswinging corner from Liam Davis and headed powerfully down only for the ball to somehow deflect six inches the wrong side of the post.
United had been on top in the opening half but just needed a goal to cap it off, and on 40 it came courtesy of Potter’s right boot. Smalley, excellent throughout, held the ball well and teed up Davis on the left. His high cross to the far post should have been dealt with by one of the centre halves who only had Potter to deal with. Ever willing, Potter made a nuisance of himself and forced an error and when the ball dropped he had no hesitation in smashing the ball powerfully past Seabright from ten yards out to make it 1-0 at the break.
Dagenham have a cushion, even if it is a thin cushion, between them and the relegation places but needed a win to make things more comfortable. They rallied after the break and sent in a series of crosses and dead balls which Crocombe and the defence had to deal with in the first ten minutes of the second half. However they should have been 2-0 down and in trouble after 64 minutes as yet another probing pass from the inventive Scott Davies gave Potter the chance to cross. Sean Rigg, on as a sub, somehow failed to convert at the far post with the goal unguarded and the nearest Dagenham defender in Redbridge.
Dagenham had to come at the U's and that left space for the Yellows to exploit. Rather than go hell for leather for a second goal United took the more sensible option of running the clock down to secure the three points. Sub Mo Sharif blazed a late chance over the top but in truth Dagenham had seldom had a sight at goal with Wright and Duberry an impenetrable wall at the back for the U's.
Perhaps in the story of the season this win will come too late to have any great significance but The U's played well and a win is a win. An assured performance from Crocombe, an away win and a clean sheet are all good signs as eyes start to turn to next season.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher, stats by PA Sport