Well hello one and all. It’s been a long time coming since the end of last season and the club has gone through a huge transformation from top to bottom. At the top, the outgoing chairman has been replaced by existing board member Peter Reynolds. Manager Terry Anderson has had a mini clear out of players and drafted in some top quality replacements in Craig Reid, Mitch Pigeon, Lewis Rankin, Aron Wint, Kyle Barnett to name but a few. The pre-season has gone ok with some good tests against some good opposition allowing Terry Anderson to whittle down the many trialists who have attempted to catch his eye.
With his squad now chosen the time has now come to put all the training and tactics into practice and what a game we have for the opener. United start their campaign off at their new home with an FA Cup first Qualifying round against local rivals Rugby Town FC. RTFC are sure to prove a stiff stern test for United in their first game of the season and I have always thought that the best time to play one of your rivals is in the early stages before they start to settle themselves in.
The referee gets the game underway and starts with a good tempo. Both teams seem to be sussing each other out until RTFC win a free kick in a dangerous position after a push in the back from United’s captain Chris Cox in the 7th minute that gladly hits the wall and cleared to safety. The first clear cut chance though falls to United in the 9th minute when after a long punt up field by the keeper Richard Morris, Craig Reid reads the flight of the ball well before lobbing the ball over the on rushing RTFC keeper Niall Cooper but then seeing it go just wide of the post.
The early exchanges are evenly shared and the 12th minute sees a breakthrough when RTFC win a free kick wide out on the left that’s taken by the No8 Liam Holt. His deep cross is knocked down into the six yard box where the No9 David Kolodynski is there to stab the ball in from close range for the opening goal of the game.
UNITED 0 RTFC 1
The game resumes and it’s not long before the referee is called into disciplinary action after a scything tackle by the RTFC No6 Josh Thornton on United’s Aaron Wint in the 14th minute. A melee ensued but gladly just a bit of pushing and once it had all calmed down the referee showed RTFC’s Josh Thornton a straight red card and then United’s Jamie Coleman a yellow card for his part in the proceedings.
The next 10 minutes sees very little created by way of clear cut opportunities until United’s Lewis Rankin from the edge of the area sees his curling shot hit the base of the post and out to safety in the 24th minute. United are now having a bit of a purple patch and are pressing forward trying to get back into the game. From a Lewis Rankin corner in the 26th minute, Mitch Piggon sends his shot just wide of the target. Then the same combination sees another chance go begging as Mitch Piggon failed to connect for what would have been a simple tap in in the 33rd minute.
RTFC are dealing with being a man down admirably and are making it very hard for United to break through. They are holding their shape well and if a situation looks like arising they are not worried about giving away the odd free kick here and there. The 35th minute sees one tackle too many on United’s Aaron Wint as the No7 James Dance (captain) earns himself a yellow card for his troubles.
The next chance falls to United’s Craig Reid in the 41st minute when he turns and shoots just wide from just outside the box. Then a few minutes later in the 43rd, RTFC create a great chance to extend their lead when the influential No11 Harry Holloway is put through and brings out a great save from United’s keeper Richard Morris. That turned out to be the last action of the half as the referee blew up for half time.
UNITED 0 RTFC 1
The second half gets under way with neither side making any half time changes. It’s United who waste no time in going on the attack right from the start. They work the ball forward in the 46th minute as Craig Reid jinks his way past his marker before seeing his shot brilliantly saved by the RTFC keeper Niall Cooper.
RTFC are also keen to put the game to bed and look to catch United on the break when possible. The 48th minute sees them break down the right only to see them thwarted by the intervention of United’s Lewis Hudson though the referee deemed it illegally and shows Lewis a yellow card for his actions. The resulting free kick is cleared by Tommy Glasscoe. RTFC continue to press forward belying their numerical disadvantage and win a free kick in a promising position on the left hand side of the box in the 55th minute. The kick is taken by the No8 Liam Holt and his pin point cross finds the head of the RTFC No9 David Kolodynski as he powers the ball into the back of the net to double his and his teams tally.
UNITED 0 RTFC 2
That is a devastating blow to United’s plight as they now have a bit of a mountain to climb. United try to respond soon after when good build up play sees Chris Cox’s shot fantastically saved by the keeper Niall Cooper in the 59th minute. More RTFC pressure sees United’s Kyle Barnett get a yellow card for his lunging tackle in the 61st minute. Soon after both teams make their first changes of the afternoon with RTFC taking off No7 James Dance and sending on No14 Ben Ashby and United take off Kyle Barnett and send on Ryan Quinn in the 62nd minute.
The next 6 minutes sees United miss two further good chances with Aaron Wint blazing high over the bar in the 66th and Chris Cox heading wide of the target in the 68th minute.
More changes soon follow for United when they take off Aaron Wint and send on Geoff Woodward in the 73rd minute.
The game is now creeping into the final 15 minutes and RTFC are still standing firm and looking in good shape for the victory ATM. They break forward again with pace and The RTFC No9 David Kolodnyski is looking for his hat trick as keeper Richard Morris denies him with a great save and the same player then hits the post with the rebound in the 75th minute.
RTFC make their next change in the 76th minute when they take off No10 Rubin Wiggins Thomas and send on No12 Josh Ruff.
Time is now running out for United as the game moves into the last 10 minutes. The RTFC’s No8 Liam Holt booked for his tackle on Lewis Hudson in the 82nd minute. At the same time both teams make their final changes with RTFC taking off No9 David Kolodynski to a round of applause from the visiting fans for his efforts and sending on the No15 Chad Birch. United take off Brad Jones and send on Robert Prinzel.
United are not giving up till the end and their persistence finally pays off after some good approach play that sees Craig Reid play the ball into Chris Cox who in turn steers the ball over the line to give United a slim chance of salvaging something from the game in 84th minute.
The remainder of the game sees United to continue to press for the equaliser but today was not to be their day as RTFC manfully held on to take the spoils and progress into the next round as the referee blows up for full time.
UNITED 1 RTFC 2
In summing up this game it was by no means a classic. Both teams started brightly but it was Town who got the early breakthrough just after United should have scored. Town’s plight was made even harder when they were reduced to 10 men in the 14th minute. To be fair to Town, they applied themselves admirably as they stood resolute for the remainder of the game and even managed to score another goal. United had plenty of the ball but failed to penetrate enough to create the goal scoring chances required. When they did get through their man of the match keeper Niall Cooper was on hand to make a string of great saves to keep his team in the lead.
United continued to battle away and finally got back into the game with 6 minutes left on the clock but it proved too little too late for a comeback of any kind.
To Town’s credit they galvanised really well when going down to 10 men and many would agree that you couldn’t tell that they were one short so well played to them for their endeavour.
Players worthy of a mention for United today would have to be Lewis Hudson who tried to run with the ball at every opportunity, Tommy Glasscoe worked hard as usual covering plenty of ground but for me today, United’s man of the match goes to Chris Cox. Chris as always never gives up the cause and proved that again today. After being pushed more forward he started to make inroads in the Town’s defence and was also on hand to grab a consolation goal to so well played Chris Cox.
Match Stats (United) (RTFC)
On target (4) (3)
Off target (10) (5)
Corners (6) (2)
Free kicks (10) (17)
Yellow cards (3) (2)
Red cards (0) (1)
Offside (1) (0)