US tour starts with a win
United opened their American tour with a win tonight as they beat the Seacoast United Mariners 2-1 at the Thornton Academy. Deane Smalley was the man of the moment once again as he netted his third goal in three games with a calmly taken penalty in the first half, while Sean Rigg will be pleased to have opened his account with a neatly taken volley in the second half.
At the Thornton Academy Stadium, in front of a crowd of around 600, United dominated most of the game against a young American side, who grabbed a late consolation, but the U's fully deserved another encouraging win.
Chris Wilder's side began with Ryan Clarke in goal and a back four of Damian Batt, Michael Raynes, Jake Wright and Tony Capaldi. The midfield trio of Lee Cox, Simon Heslop and Jake Forster-Caskey looked fluid and composed on the ball, with the solid looking Cox doing the holding job to allow the other two to get further forward. Forster-Caskey had first half appeals for a penalty waved away while Heslop saw an effort hit the woodwork as United carved out chances.
Sean Rigg was again impressive with some direct running up front alongside James Constable but it was Smalley who grabbed the opener on 40 minutes when Forster-Caskey was again upended and this time earned his side a spot-kick. Smalley could hardly have been more nonchalant, side-footing the ball into the right hand corner of the net like a striker playing with tons of confidence and never even contemplating the possibility of missing.
United continued to look easy on the eye in the second half with the excellent Forster-Caskey having two efforts saved and Rigg planting two efforts narrowly wide, but the hosts upped their game and forced Ryan Clarke to make two decent saves from Eddie Jones.
Subs Courtney Harris, Tom Craddock and Ryan Tafazoli all came on as United looked at their options, but you could hardly fault any of the players involved who capped off a good night when Rigg looped home a fine volley from Batt's right wing cross on 83 minutes to make it 2-0.
The Mariners had been perfect hosts on and off the pitch with the game played in great spirits and the home side got their reward on 87 as Nick George made it 2-1 with a low drive that left Clarke with no chance at all.
A clean sheet would have been good, but this was another great work out for the U's who now take on the Seacoast United Phantoms on Friday night in their next match.
United: Clarke, Batt, Raynes, Wright, Capaldi (Tafazoli), Cox (Harris), Heslop, Forster-Caskey, Rigg, Constable, Smalley (Craddock)