United went through in the FA Cup thanks to a Deane Smalley penalty deep into extra time after a second tough game against Gateshead. Scoreless after 90 minutes, sub Smalley planted his penalty calmly home to secure United's progress and send them on to face Wrexham in the second round on Monday.
With regular centre halves Johnny Mullins and Michael Raynes both picking up knocks in the draw at Fleetwood on Saturday, United gave David Lynn and Matt Bevans debuts as full backs, and moved David Hunt and Tom Newey into the centre of defence. Scott Davies, restored to midfield in place of the ineligible Asa Hall, had United’s first effort with an 11th minute shot that went closer to the water jump on the athletics track around the pitch than the goal, but on a pitch sprinkled with snow and slippery underfoot it was hard for either side to build up a head/heed of steam up in the first half.
Gateshead sent in a succession of corners to test the aerial prowess of the four-full-back back line, with James Curtis heading straight at Ryan Clarke with the best of them after 19 minutes, but other than a brave block from Bevans to stop Josh Walker on 36 minutes the game was played in the middle third of the pitch rather than in the penalty boxes.
United started the second half much stronger and after Ryan Williams had seen a shot deflected for a corner Rose’s well-flighted kick was headed goalwards by Dave Kitson and cleared off the line at the far post by the alert Jamie Chandler.
At the other end Davies brought down Chandler right on the edge of the box to concede a dangerous free kick which the wall beat away but the new-look back line was typically resolute when called upon. Davies added to the injury problems by limping off with what looked a groin problem to be replaced by the fit-again Smalley for the final 20 minutes, and with Smalley, Kitson, Constable and Williams as a front four United started to press for a winner in normal time.
They were grateful when Clarke beat away an 80th-minute rising effort from Larkin as the game opened up, with the prospect of extra-time looming, but after 90 minutes high on commitment but low on chances the drama was to follow in extra time.
Walker had two efforts drift across the face of goal and wide inside the first five minutes of the first half of extra time, Williams forced home keeper Adam Bartlett into a save to his left and when Larkin did get the ball into the United net he was ruled offside. There was one more worrying injury to the influential Rose, replaced by another youngster in Sam Long in central midfield in that half, but it was hard to see where either team was going to get the energy to find a winner.
Ty Marsh, always energetic, replaced Kitson for the final 15 minutes, giving United five of their Development Squad to finish the game and a midfield all aged under 20. Marwood, who scored a screamer right at the start of this saga at the Kassam Stadium, smashed another spectacular effort against the left-hand post with six minutes left and then with four minutes left United stepped up to go through.
Bevans, who had defended strongly all night, got the ball into the box once more. Williams brought it down and as he did so Curtis lunged in with an ill-advised challenge which caught the winger's ankle. Ref Paul Tierney had no doubt and Smalley stepped up, kept his nerve and United were through to face Wrexham on Monday night.
Great credit to the patched-up side and the youngsters who overcame a brave challenge from a strong Gateshead side.
See you again on Monday...
Report by Chris Williams, images by Action Images, Stats by OPTA
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