Full time report as United lose out to The Pirates
The U's were knocked off the top of the table as The Pirates beat them 1-0 this afternoon. A John Joe O'Toole penalty gave the Gas all three points as United stuttered.
United welcomed back Dave Kitson after suspension and shuffled skipper Jake Wight to left back in place of the suspended Tom Newey. Johnny Mullins therefore made a welcome return after an ankle injury to partner Michael Raynes at the heart of the defence in a 4-4-2 shape.
Rovers have a youthful look to them at the moment with the enthusiasm that comes with it and the opening 20 minutes were fast and furious. Tom Lockyer had the first shot of the day comfortably saved by the excellent Ryan Clarke but United had one or two dangerous crosses flash in front of the visitors' experienced keeper Steve Mildenhall at the other end.
On 26 the first proper chance came to John Joe O' Toole as on-loan Chris Beardsley ghosted into the United area and cut the ball back. O' Toole, in bags of space, inexplicably missed his kick and saw the ball roll harmlessly to the relieved Clarke.
United needed a spark and on 32 Ryan Williams knocked the ball behind the defence and would have been in a foot race with a covering defender had he not been baulked as he tried to sprint forward. It looked an obvious foul but nothing was given but it got everyone fired up and added spice to the game. Soon after, United had their best chance of the half as Sean Rigg burst past his man on the left wing and crossed accurately for Constable, only for the striker to mistime his header and send it well wide of the mark.
Mullins was similarly off target on 40 minutes as he thumped a header wide from David Hunt's well-flighted free kick but United had started to build a head of steam as the half closed and continued in that fashion after the break as Rigg tested Mildenhall with a low effort on 47 which the keeper shovelled round the post for a corner.
Clarke then made an even better stop to keep a bouncing shot from O' Toole out on 56 as the game began to open up nicely. The Yellow Army, right behind their team all afternoon, raised the levels another notch to try and push their team forward. Williams had run hard at the Rovers defence for an hour but made way for Alfie Potter as United began to turn up the heat.
Wright, who has never scored for The U's, tried his luck from distance on the hour and then on 68 came the clearest chance of them all. Hunt reached the by-line from a well-weighted Mullins pass and crossed perfectly for Constable six yards out. The whole ground held its breath ready to celebrate his 100th goal for the club but with the goal at his mercy he headed over the top.
Constable held his head in his hands and on 70 it was Wright doing the same as Eliot Richards ran from half way and was brought down by the United captain. Ref Mark Brown pointed to the spot without hesitation and O' Toole sent Clarke the wrong way to make it 1-0.
The goal may have come against the run of play but Rovers grew from it and Clarke had to make another save to keep it at 1-0 as tempers started to flare in front of him and challenges began to fly in. United went to just three at the back to try and claw the goal back but the ball into the box was always a foot too far or the run went unnoticed. They tried, they really did, but they just could not engineer another clear sight at Mildenhall's goal.
Even worse news came as Potter, given a hero's welcome on his return, was stretchered off after a tackle by Tom Lockyer in the closing minutes left him writhing in agony. From the resulting free kick sub Scott Davies whipped in a wicked ball which Kitson met powerfully only for Mildenhall to somehow parry. On other days those fly in, but today it just compounded a frustrating afternoon for the Yellows.
They remain firmly in the chase and injury time for the Potter injury saw a siege in the Rovers area but no breakthrough.
The U's now take a break from league action for an FA Cup match at home to Gateshead.
Report by Chris Williams, Pictures Steve Daniels, Stats by OPTA
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