United made it through to the second round of the FA Cup with a 2-0 win at Barnet this afternoon. James Constable's bullet-like second half header and Sean Rigg's 80th minute drive gave United a win that they fully deserved at Underhill.
With top scorer Tom Craddock ruled out through injury Jon-Paul Pittman came in alongside Constable up front and the pair linked well in just the second minute as Pittman headed down and Constable’s shot flicked off a defender for the first corner of the match. Andy Whing’s 8th minute cross then bounced off the bar as United pressed, and a flowing 18th minute move gave Whing the chance to cross a low ball in which was only just nicked away as Pittman stormed in at the far post.
A minute later and United should have been in front as Potter got underneath a shot from 10 yards after more good approach play from the hard-working Constable. At that stage their hosts had struggled to build a move, with former Fulham striker Collins John isolated up front and superbly marshalled by United captain Jake Wright.
Barnet had just one shot in the first half comfortable saved by Ryan Clarke from Olly Lee, while United saw Constable guide a 30th minute header just wide from a long free-kick by Leven and Pittman plant two more efforts over the bar after 33 and 34 minutes.
Constable’s snapshot on the turn after a good pass from Michael Raynes, in for Johnny Mullins at the back, whistled a yard wide after 39 minutes, and the first half had been played predominantly at the top of the slope, Barnet’s end of the pitch. The U’s could easily have snatched the lead right on the whistle as Sean Rigg’s shot hit the bar once more, but hopes were high as they started the second period playing down the hill.
It was a similar story once again as play resumed with Barnet on the back foot and United in control with Adam Chapman and Peter Leven running the show from midfield. On 55 it took some frantic defending to stop Raynes and Rigg inside the area and smuggle the ball away for a corner, but it was a short respite for home side as United took the lead from that set-piece. Leven swung the ball in, United’s movement was too much, and Constable was completely unmarked to power home his header from ten yards out.
It was a deserved goal and a Chapman free kick and a right footed drive from Rigg went close in the next few minutes as United looked to make the game safe. The problem with the FA Cup is that eams tend to forget when they are beaten, and Barnet decided that with nothing to lose they might as well throw men forward for the last 20 minutes. Edgar Davids is not a bad man to have on the bench and the former Holland star was given a chance to show what a good player he still is, to try and drag his team back into the game. It didn't quite happen and United continued rarely looked flustered against a Bees side lacking a sting.
Rigg could have killed the game off with 15 minutes to go, stabbing two further efforts at goal from six yards out without getting the ball beyond Sam Cowler in the Barnet goal, but on 80 minutes he was given the freedom of the left side of the Barnet area after Constable had superbly controlled a high ball and sprayed a pass into the winger's run. Rigg was calmness personified as he drilled a low shot across Cowler and into the bottom right corner to make it 2-0 and secure United's progress.
Few people would complain that they deserved it on the day, having dominated possession and chances. United will be number 31 in the draw tomorrow , to be made on ITV at the end of the Braintree Town v Tranmere Rovers tie. Looking forward to it...
Report by Chris Williams. Pictures by Darrell Fisher. Stats by PA Sports
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