The Gulls picked up a point on the road against promotion-chasing Aldershot on a hot afternoon in Hampshire.
United were certainly under the cosh in the first half. If Aldershot had been a little more clinical, then they could have been 2-0 up going into the break. Instead it was United that took the lead in the 33rd minute thanks to a clinical strike from Ruairi Keating. Aldershot hit back in the second half thanks to a free-kick scored by Kundai Benyu.
Player-manager Kevin Nicholson made two changes to the side that lost 1-0 to Chester at Plainmoor. Jordan Lee and Sam Chaney came in to the starting eleven. Dan Sparkes succumbed to an injury sustained late in the week which meant only four players making the bench with players Ben Gerring and Charlie Duke still out on loan.
Aldershot started brightly, and they were using their pace to good effect. They were getting about United, slipping the odd tackle, and stretching United at the back.
The Shots were often having a spare man just on the edge of the box when attacking from a corner. In the 4th minute Jake Gallagher collected the ball from that very spot and fired a shot on goal. Luckily it was straight at Moore. It was an afternoon where Moore was largely kept busy, but not stretched apart from at one point in the second half..
United should have taken the lead in the 8th minute. Luke Young delivered a searching ball into the box and Keating was able to send the ball back across goal. Aman Verma was there, but his touch and concentration let him down. He was free inside the box but let the chance slip him by.
Aldershot had the ball in the net in the 18th minute but it was ruled out for offside. Ex-Gull Scott Rendell applied the finish from close range but the assistant referee raised his flag.
The players took a break in the 21st minute. It was a beautiful day to play football but a taxing one too. Kellermann for Aldershot went down and while he received treatment, water was thrown onto the pitch to keep the players hydrated.
Aldershot were looking to get behind United at every opportunity. Their front three of Rendell, Kanu, and Benyu were a formidable force, especially Kanu and Benyu who tested Rowe-Turner and Lee.
United opened the scoring in the 33rd minute, and what a finish it was! United were starting to come into the game a little more by this point, and Keating was there to capitalize as the ball dropped to him in the box. There were shouts of handball against an Aldershot player moments before Keating found the top corner. Credit has to go to the referee for playing advantage.
Aldershot were straight back at it when play resumed. This time Bernard Mensah was troubling United. He had two chances in quick succession, the first when the ball dropped to him on the edge of the box, and the second when he attempted a side-volley inside the box as he waited at the far post.
In the 40th minute United had their second decent opportunity. Chaney laid the ball off to Verma on the edge of the box. His shot may have taken a touch from a defender before Aldershot’s goalkeeper Jake Cole, but he kept it out with his shoulder anyway.
The second half was much more even. United had a few more decent opportunities, but Aldershot were the more consistently dangerous.
It helped that the Shots were a little wayward in their passing too. United were able to relieve some of the pressure and take the sting out of their opponents.
In the 49th minute Luke Young was closing down inside Aldershot’s penalty box, and he was convinced that he was fouled. Unfortunately the referee disagreed with him.
Sam Chaney was forced off with an injury in the 64th minute and was replaced by Brett Williams.
United were starting to sit a little too deep and allowing Aldershot the time and space to get at them. This was evident when Idris Kanu went on a fantastic run in the 71st minute. Luke Young attempted to take him down on the halfway line and was booked for the foul.
The one clear chance Aldershot did manage was superbly saved by Brendan Moore. Substitute Matt McClure rose highest in the 73rd minute and sent a header back across goal and towards the far corner. Moore dived to his right and somehow kept the ball out,
It was looking like United would close the game out and withstand the pressure but Aldershot found a way through in the 76th minute. Kundai Benyu spotted a little too much room at the near post while lining up a free-kick. He managed to get the ball up and over and equalize for Aldershot.
In the 77th minute Will Hancox made his League debut for the club. We'll be talking to him about that early in the week. Congratulations Will!
United’s best chance of the closing moments fell to Williams. Aldershot were short at the back, and Williams was able to push the ball forward and run on goal. Unfortunately, his second touch put too much on the ball and Cole was able to get to it. In doing so he injured himself and had to be take from the field on a stretcher. Having used all of their substitutions Aldershot had to rely on Scott Rendell between the sticks.
United had one opportunity to test him before the final whistle. Luke Young had been forced off the pitch with cramp, and so the free-kick was left to Jamie Reid. When some might have chosen to drill one towards goal and hope for the best, he opted to cross the ball to the far post and the ball went safe.
United are still in the fight, and there will be more drama to come in our remaining four fixtures.