After a long season United have taken their fight for survival to the final day. Despite looking dead and buried a few months ago, a remarkable turnaround in form recently, coupled with some impressive performances means a win for the U’s on Sunday could ensure League One football next year. @vinylperez runs his eyes over the last two games.
Lets start on Saturday then. United travelled to Accrington, themselves deep in the relegation mire. A win would keep United in the hunt for survival, whilst a draw would make things very difficult indeed. Accrington needed points too, anything but a win all but ending their hopes of playing in the division next season.
United were by far the better side on the day. L Bennett & Brophy terrorising the right wing, R Bennett & Morrisson imperious in defence. Accy had a few shots, but Dimi Mitov dealt with everything with relative ease. Just before half time a corner was floated over to Morrison to head down where Dunk, yards from goal was there to smash home for his second of the season. Accrington’s players had stopped, anticipating the ref blowing for a foul but the whistle never came, and United went into the break a goal ahead.
Just after the hour mark Jack Lankester made way for George Thomas, given another chance to show what he can do after an injury-hit spell at United. His class has always been clear, and it showed as he raced clear from a defence splitting Knibbs pass and calmly slotted under the oncoming goalkeeper. 2-0 United and the fans began to believe.
A nervy ending was on the cards as an Accy attacker fell over Morro’s leg (after a clean tackle) in the box and the ref awarded a penalty which was dispatched by Pressley. Stress levels went even higher during the seven minutes of injury time as a goalmouth scramble threatened to go in and rob United of two important points.
Overall, a good performance, and one that could be built on Wednesday night in front of 1500 travelling U’s fans?
Not quite. From the start United never really got going against a robust Burton side. A decent-ish early spell soon came to an end after Burton made an early change, and United’s players struggled on a slippery pitch, Brophy and L Bennett in particular not being able to adapt to the conditions. Smith and Lankester failed to convert chances, and no-one else looked like they were enjoying themselves out there.
Just before the half hour mark came the goal we all feared, a helpful deflection ensuring Mark Helm’s long range shot went out of reach of Mitov and into the back of the net.
The second half United came out much stronger, and fought hard to try and rescue the game, but couldn’t break through Burton’s defence. In the presence of former U Dion Dublin, United resorted to long ball tactics, lumping it up towards Ironside who did nothing but give away foul after foul all night (much like he’s done all season). If this is the last we see of Big Joe in a U’s shirt then it’s a sorry ending, but lets not forget those great moments he gave us, Newcastle, Ipswich, countless goals in the Promotion season and more.
There was no way forward for United, Burton content to timewaste. Whilst the team fought and fought, it was a flat performance and no-one really came out of it with much credit. They tried, but failed to have a workable Plan C when it was clear that Plan B (lump it up to Ironside) wasn’t working.
So it’s all to do on Sunday then. We need to win, realistically, and you could argue that if we don’t beat a dreadful Forest Green we don’t deserve to stay up anyway. We also need MK Dons (away at Burton) and Morecambe (away at Exeter) to both not win. It’s a big ask, but it’s not impossible, even though it is out of our hands now.
I don’t know how Sunday will pan out, and will be watching through my fingers from my Main Stand seat. It’s going to be nervy as hell, almost as bad as those last ten minutes against Gateshead at Wembley, but for 90+ minutes. What I do know is that there’ll be 7,000 United fans there, our biggest home crowd for many years, and those United fans are amongst the best in the country. Whatever happens we need to be behind the team from the first kick to the last, it all comes down to this: One game. One Cup Final.
Men of the Matches: A tough one to pick as we really struggled against Burton. We’ll probably give it to Harrison Dunk, for his second important goal this season.
Soundtrack of the Matches:
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