United’s final fixture of 2015 had ended in scandal, abandoned vs Newshot after an opponent tried to headbutt the referee late on. New Year, same opponent (minus a now infamous attacker) as their first fixture of 2016 was played under the glare of the WoSAFL match secretary who assumed refereeing duties at a chilly Glasgow Green.
Evan, Fraser and Scott returned to the starting XI. Laurie from United’s Sunday Team filled in at right-back for the second week running as Gerry was given a more attacking role on the right hand side to compensate for late call offs. The latter was involved in the game’s first incident of note as he warmed the keepers hands from distance. China hadn’t long seen a speculative effort sail wide when Gerry found himself with time and space 25 yards out. His right footed effort was sweetly struck and looked destined for the net but the Newshot keeper managed to scramble across and palm it away.
The flow of the game depended on the battle for loose balls. Newshot went close with a couple efforts in a very even first half. Fraser did well to save from close range and tipped another looping effort over the bar as United rode their luck at times from set pieces. After half an hour United thought they had opened the scoring but had their goal disallowed in uncertain circumstances.
Put through by David's pass, Harry raced one-on-one with the goalkeeper. United’s top goalscorer this season saw his effort saved but Marc was on hand to slot home the rebound ... only be whistled offside. It looked very unlikely he was. United were made to rue their luck shortly before the interval. If their disallowed goal caught in the throat, Newshot’s opener was a real sickener. Running in behind United’s defence, Newshot’s attacker shot from a tight angle and Bobby’s efforts to clear were in vain as the ball trickled over the line after agonizingly bouncing off the inside of Fraser’s post.
The second half followed a similar pattern to the first with momentum hinged on midfield battles. United’s deficit was doubled when Kwaby’s pocket was picked ten minutes after the restart. As the United captain emerged from defence with the ball the Newshot attacker got a toe in to direct it to a teammate then dispatched the ball beyond Fraser after having the presence of mind to look for the quick return. Another "doh!" moment followed soon after when Laurie was caught out, and Fraser was again to pick the ball out his net after being left exposed once more with twenty minutes remaining.
Stricken by a lack of substitutes, United laboured but their application was laudable as they kept chipping away. Harry shot straight the keeper from the edge of the box and Gerry sliced Laurie’s cutback over the bar under pressure on the edge of the Newshot penalty area with just over quarter of an hour to go. Laurie soon found himself in a glorious position in the Newshot six yard box moments later. Released by China's wonderfully weighted incisive pass, his first touch evaded him at the vital moment and his shot found the side netting only in a move indicative of United’s day: Almost.
Fresh legs proved decisive when United’s defence was outrun on a Newshot counter attack. The substitute showed United’s defence a clean pair of heels and was awarded their fourth goal only after the referee double checked his angled finish did indeed go through a hole in the net.
Four goals may have flattered their opponents but United’s resolve was admirable. With the contest now over and only pride at stake, China and Scott both tested the goalkeeper and Bobby saw a fierce drive blocked. Their efforts were eventually rewarded with a late consolation as they scored the best goal of the game with five minutes left.
Evan’s well timed tackle on the edge of his own box started the attack which finished with Harry volleying home Marc’s inviting cross with his instep from 6 yards out. His eighth of the season, a goal was the least the Ghanaian deserved after working hard leading the line up front on his own.
United’s 2014/15 Player of the Year’s work rate was further proven in a move that epitomised their day arguably even better than Laurie’s earlier chance, when he was quickest to spot an opportunity develop in the dying seconds of the game. Harry's lung-bursting sprint first to reach China’s long pass, then keep it in play as he advanced down the wing, brought gasps from frozen supporters on the sidelines. Gerry, equally ever the willing runner, had eaten up the ground to offer support but Harry could only find the goalkeeper as he collapsed in a heap trying to square the ball to him across the six yard box.
1-4 it finished. A game of fine margins. Though largely culpable for goals conceded, United's endeavour may have earned them a point at least on another day.
United: Fraser, Evan, Kwaby, Bobby, Laurie, China, Scott, Marc, David, Gerry, Harry