A James Constable goal on his return to the team was not enough to earn United a win tonight against Burton as the Brewers hit back to earn a 1-1 draw thanks to a Jacques Maghoma equaliser in the second half. Constable's 50th minute header looked to be giving United a fifth win in six games until Maghoma scored with Burton's only shot on target all evening to ruin the night for United's debutant goalkeeper Max Crocombe.
Perhaps understandably United dropped a little deeper than usual in the opening stages to try and nurse 19-year-old Crocombe into his first senior game. The New Zealand under 20 goalie grew in confidence after a couple of nervous early kicks, encouraged with every touch by an appreciative home crowd at his back.
In front of him the two sides started with an exchange of shots. Damian Batt drilled a 20 yard effort wide in the eight minute with Lee Bell replying with a free kick two minutes later which flew a long way over the top. With a gusting wind and a bobbly pitch it was difficult for either side to build any rhythm in the first half hour although both stuck to their guns and tried to keep passing the ball. Easily the best move came after 33 minutes as United racked up probably 20 passes in and around the Burton box. Chpman, who had been the instigator on much of the move then played a superb pass for the darting run of Batt who got in behind the Brewers’ back line but saw his stabbed effort brilliantly pushed away by keeper Stuart Tomlinson from eight yards out.
Raynes headed Leven’s corner over after that, before a sharp turn from Tom Craddock after a surging run from Sean Rigg down the left ended with the striker’s shot flicking off defender Ian Sharps and flashing just wide of the far post.
Craddock and James Constable, reunited up front for the first time in 2013, were linking well and making good runs and United were starting to have the better of things in the later stages of the first half.
The game desperately needed a goal to bring it to life and on 50 minutes it came from a predictable source, if an unexpected provider. Peter Leven had been taking the set pieces but limped off at half time to be replaced by Tony Capaldi, a straight replacement in a midfield role. Five minutes into the second half it was Capaldi who swung in the corner from the right and Constable who twisted to head powerfully home from eight yards with an unstoppable header. He draws level with John Aldridge and Peter Foley in United’s list of all time scorers, with only Tony Jones and Graham Atkinson ahead of him.
United had earned their lead and an hour into the game Burton had committed the cardinal sin of not finding out whether the young goalkeeper in front of them was any good. He is, obviously, but it took them 71 minutes to test him. Unfortunately for the U’s their first shot on target was also the equaliser. A long ball from the Burton right from bell isolated Batt at the far post where Billy Kee nodded down. Jacques Maghoma had time to twist and strike cleanly, giving Crocombe no chance from 12 yards as the ball found the bottom left corner.
United came back at their visitors and Craddock planted a 76th minute shot over the bar as he leaned back to far when meeting a Batt cross. They then pressed Burton ever deeper in search of a win but just couldn't find the final ball to give the front men a clear sight of goal.
A point against play-off hopefuls but it could, perhaps should, have been more...
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Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels, stats by PA Sports