New Look United Show Promise 

Steve Brown

After a long hot Summer of tough training sessions, endless tactical and positional discussions and hard fought practice matches, the 2019 Season kicked off for Doncaster United with an opening fixture against a Regent side who also appeared to have been on a recruiting drive, fielding several new players to the 55s League.

Legends line up was McCulloch in goal, defensive 4 of Gough, Attwood, McLoughlin & Whan, midfield of Stock, Harrison, Boyte & Gulec, and Brown & Singh up front. The bench consisted of Coard and City reinforcements Stafrace, Sims, Moore and Emery. Shaw, deciding to rest his weary legs took on the duties of calling the shots from the sidelines and after a rousing team talk, United trotted out full of optimism.

The early play saw Regent posing a few threats to the United defence who coped admirably with McLoughlin in particular, putting his body on the line and then against the run of play Singh won a throw in deep on the right hand side. A neat interchange of play between Harrison & Boyte gave Stock the chance to float a ball into the box, where Brown evaded his marker to flick a dainty back header beyond the reach of the Regent keeper for a shock early lead.

Unfortunately, the lead lasted only for a couple of minutes as Regent forced a corner and the subsequent cross was met with a powerful header from the penalty spot which soared high into the net. This was the start of a purple patch for Regent who took control of midfield and set wave after wave of attacks on the United goal. Some heroics from McCulloch saw him tip one shot onto a post and punch a fierce long ranger away for a throw in. But eventually the pressure told and as the defence stopped to watch a long ball go over the bye line a Regent player managed to reach it and cut the ball into the six yard area where again the attacker was first to react to give Regent a 2-1 advantage.

Worse was to come when United turned the ball over in midfield and a rasping long range shot was unleashed. McCulloch gamely got his hands to it but it was too powerful for him and it flew into the net to make it 3-1.

Both teams then made changes, with Regent replacing 5 people at once and this gave United an opportunity to settle down and gain some possession. Sims and Moore were finding space on both flanks and the deficit should have been reduced when Brown sprang free of the defence, hared (or tortoised) his way in on goal and then finished off by putting his shot straight into the keeper’s arms. However, half-time arrived with United 2 goals down but confident that there would be opportunities to claw our way back into the game in the second half.

Further changes were made with Stafrace and Emery coming on and Gulec being pushed into the forward line and the second half started with United starting to take more control and finding more time on the ball. There was an early scare when Whan went to ground to clear a ball in the box and he was fortunate not to be penalised for his moment of madness. United were starting to create more opportunities in the attacking third and it looked like Regent legs were beginning to tire. The next goal would be vital as to how this game would end.

Again, Regent brought on a host of subs at once and these fresh legs provided them with some forward momentum, but solid efforts from Gough, Coard and Stafrace in particular managing to take out two Regent players on one (illegal) slide tackle. United looked like keeping Regent at bay and then the moment of truth, as Attwood raced in to clear a loose ball by attempting to put it onto the Eastern only for the ball to pinball a couple of times off him and a Regent player who then found himself clear and he simply passed it into the middle for his teammate to make the score 4-1.

Undaunted, United refused to give up and the attacking moves continued with Emery finding space in the middle of the park and lots of good movement around him creating opportunities to advance on both flanks.

The best move of the game came when Gough collected the ball at left back and found Sims who in turn played a nice 1-2 with Moore and then sent Emery free on the inside left channel. Emery took the ball up to the edge of the penalty area and then squared to Brown who took a steadying touch and then guided his shot past the keeper and inside the far post to give United a sniff of a comeback with just over 10 minutes left and making the score 4-2.

Regent were clearly tired and disorganised and this allowed more forward pressure from United and another flowing move saw Harrison on the left hand edge of the box with three United attackers in the middle. His cutback found Sims whose shot unfortunately sailed high over the bar. Yet again United drove forward and this time Boyte found Harrison on the right hand side and he was unceremoniously dumped just outside the box as he beat the last man. He got up and dusted himself down to take the free kick but unfortunately just missed the target.

It was a brave finish by United, but the end result was a 4-2 defeat by a Regent team who will more than likely be challenging at the top of the table this year.

MMM Memorable moment of match – The flowing team move that led to the second goal closely followed by Ray Stafrace doing a 2 for 1 special slide tackle.
MMM Muppet moment goes to Graham Attwood whose attempted Row Z clearance backfired and resulted in Regent’s 4th goal.
BMW BoP John McCulloch  in goal who continued his good pre-season form and belied his years to keep us in the game in the first half with a string of quality saves.