Full time report as United exit the JPT
United went out of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy after a dramatic penalty shoot-out after a 3-3 draw with Southend this evening. United twice came from behind to force penalties, with Ty Marsh scoring on his home debut and Tom Craddock and Sean Rigg also on the scoresheet. Having come through two cup shoot outs already this season the U's couldn't come through a third as Elliot Benyon's decisive penalty sent Southend through.
It was the visitors who settled the quicker and it took just six minutes to take the lead against a strangely subdued United. A simple free kick from half way inside the United half from Kevan Hurst picked out Barry Corr at the far post. His downwards header was precise and the ball was in the back of the net near the right hand post with no defender able to do much about it.
The home crowd may have been down on numbers but they raised their voices, knowing that their side needed them if the dream of a Wembley final was not to die two rounds shy of the arch. That was exactly what the team needed and they swiftly started to grow into the game. Tony Capaldi, playing in an unfamiliar central midfield role alongside Simon Heslop, started to calm a few nerves down and get the front four of Potter, Craddock, Marsh and Rigg going and on 14 minutes United were back in the game
It started with a twisting run from Potter on the right which tied left back Chris Barker in knots. Potter crossed for Craddock to head at goal from six yards out. Keeper Paul Smith had designs of his own and somehow parried the ball away, but Marsh was unmarked four yards out to nod gleefully into the vacant net and make it 1-1 with his first senior goal.
The goal lifted any nerves and the next ten minutes were all United, with a clever curling effort from Rigg going close to giving them an 18th minute lead. Two incisive passes from the ever inventive Tom Craddock almost gave Marsh further chances before United took the lead after 31 minutes.
It was the direct result of a magnificent long ball from Simon Heslop from the back of the centre circle in his own half. It bisected the Southend defence for the alert Craddock to get in behind. Smith had come a long way from his goal and Craddock lifted a deft shot over his head and into the net off of the far post. Southend protested that the ball bounced away from the line but from my vantage point almost directly in line it looked well over, as assistant Daniel Cook agreed by pointing his flag towards the centre spot to indicate a goal. 2-1.
With Marsh full of running and Rigg inspirational United were dominating. Brown saved well from a well struck Rigg effort on 36 before an intricate move started by Marsh’s excellent close control, continued by Potter and then a Capaldi pass led to Marsh’s well struck right-footed shot being clawed away by Smith on 41 minutes. Another goal before half time might have made the game safe, but instead Southend came back at the U's and by the hour mark were in front
Clarke made a good save from a low Gavin Tomlin effort on 44 but had otherwise been able to enjoy a first-hand view of an excellent 45 minutes in front of him. However on 54 minutes he was given very little chance as Luke O’Brien tried to guide a header back to him from a deep cross from Southend’s left. O’Brien sold Clarke short and Sean Clohessy took full advantage to storm through and slam his shot into the net to make it 2-2.
It could have been worse a minute later as Tomlin thumped a header off the bar when unmarked six yards out in the middle of the goal, but on 59 the Shrimpers were back in the lead as Tomlin fed Corr to smash a fierce effort past Clarke from the edge of the box to make it 3-2 to the visitors.
Behind again, United had half an hour to work their way back into the game and they started to show more urgency straight away. Clohessy almost put through his own net after 63 minutes, Josh Parker came on for the understandably tiring Marsh (who should be very pleased with his contribution), and Craddock guided another dangerous Rigg cross just over the top on 72 as the Yellows gave it everything. Potter had a shot saved at the foot of his near post by Smith, and the last ten minutes saw Harry Worley deployed as an emergency striker to try and find a late equaliser.
That meant the inevitable gaps at the back as the U's gambled with their fans urging them on and they lay siege to the goal in front of the East Stand and with two minutes left they got their reward. Parker's wicked cross earned his side a corner on the left. It was swung in and Rigg stooped at the near post to guide the ball home and spark great scenes of celebration.
With penalties in mind there was then the unprecedented sight of Paul Sturrock replacing his keeper for Daniel Bentley in the final minute, much to Smith's evident disgust and the home crowd's delight. It proved the decisive moment...
Tomlin scored to make it 1-0
Rigg confidently made it 1-1
Clohessy scored 2-1
Hurst fired through Clarke for 3-2
Potter saw his shot saved, still 4-3
Benyon scored. 5-3 and game over
A tough way to go out but United had battled hard and shown real guts in 90 minutes.
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Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels, stats by PA Sports