It really was a Good Friday wasn’t it? United getting an important win against playoff challengers Morecambe, Paul Mullin getting another two goals, and results elsewhere going more or less our way.
Mark Bonner named an unchanged starting XI from the team that beat Carlisle, as is to be expected. We’re lucky in that Mitov excepted, we don’t really have any injuries to the first choice team, and that we’ve managed to get all our tricky midweek fixtures (bar one) out of the way.
To the game: as usual United were dominant in the first half, Wes Hoolahan and Hiram Boatng putting in the kind of midfield performance that would be crowed about all weekend if it happened in the Prem. We also had Kyle Knoyle back on his absolute best form, and showing why he is one of the best players in the League. It was Knoyle who created United’s first goal, a pinpoint cross onto the head of Joe Ironside, who’s point blank header stung the palms of the keeper before falling for Paul Mullin to grab a poachers finish in front of the Paul Mullin Stand.
Moments later Mullin & Wessi teamed up to cross to Liam O’Neil on the far post, his header being cleared off the line despite U’s protests. Another stellar first half performance, but again with only a narrow lead to show for it.
In the second half came perhaps the turning point in the game, a beautiful long pass from Boateng should have landed nicely just in front of Mullin, but defender Liam Gibson had other ideas, climbing all over Mullin’s back having made no attempts to play the ball whatsoever. The referee brandished a red card, which in all honesty was probably a little harsh – Mullin was running away from goal and another defender was covering, but the fact Gibson only had eyes for Mullin probably swayed the refs decision.
The sending off galvanised Morecambe – who, despite United’s dominance in the fist half didn’t look like a particularly bad side. Even with a man down they continued to attack the U’s and made things difficult for us. It looked like that hard work had paid off when Greg Taylor tripped Aaron Wildig in the box, but cometh the hour, cometh the man and not for the first time this season, Callum Burton kept the penalty out.
It was United’s turn to try from the spot shortly after, as Wes Hoolahan sent Shilow Tracey into the box, if Morecambe’s penalty was soft, ours was softer still but the referee thought Ryan Cooney made enough contact with Tracey to warrant a pen. Paul Mullin stepped up and calmly despatched the resulting spot kick to further the U’s lead.
As good as we’ve been this season, there’s still times when we’ve looked a little unconvincing, and Morecambe ensured yet another nervy ending when a corner was whipped in, and whilst Burton made a great save from the header, he couldn’t stop the close range finish that gave Morecambe a way back into the game. We really like to make things hard for ourselves don’t we? Luckily United held out during the six minutes of injury time to record three massive points.
Things are looking pretty good at the moment, and whilst we’ve got an even tougher challenge against Tranmere on Monday, they’re not in great form at the moment and three points in Liverpool should have the U’s in pole position for promotion.
It’s not like us here at UTAS to moan and be negative, but we’d definitely like to see us kill games off earlier. We play a very patient brand of football, which while it’s pleasing on the eye and gets results, isn’t very good for the heart rate. But we’re not complaining, Mark has done brilliantly with this team, and we trust him in what he’s doing. Every win brings us closer to promotion, and with other teams around us dropping points on Saturday it’s well and truly in our hands. Beat Tranmere tomorrow and you can almost touch it.
Man of the Match: Any other season Kyle Knoyle would be an absolute shoo-in for player of the season. Dangerous in attack, strong in defence he’s easily the best right back in this League and possibly the League above. Whilst we’d love to see him stay another season or two, you could honestly see him stepping up to the Championship in the summer. He gets the nod closely ahead of Hiram Boateng.
Soundtrack of the Match: Nine Inch Nails – Closer
United: Burton, Knoyle, Okedina, Taylor, Iredale, Digby, Boateng, O’Neil (Tracey), Hoolahan (Dunk), Mullin (Hannant), Ironside