Keating 58, 72
Boreham Wood 2
A CALAMITOUS second half for United gifted Boreham Wood three points on a tough night at Plainmoor and there is no question the visitors deserved their victory.
United never got going in the first period and were fortunate to be level at the break, but two quick goals from dismal defending allowed Angelo Balanta and Bruno Andrade the space to inflict huge damage.
Ruairi Keating restored some hope and then a penalty save from Ryan Clarke was a massive reprieve for United. Keating scored again to equalise on 72 minutes but Boreham Wood were back in front through Shaun Jeffers from the next attack, and Bradley Sach sealed a gloomy defeat in the dying seconds.
United boss Kevin Nicholson made just one change from the side beaten at Gateshead on Saturday, bringing in Keating for Jamie Reid, who suffered a nasty hand injury in the North-East. New signing Andy Haworth was included on the bench.
Boreham Wood entered the game with confidence high following their 4-1 demolition of Solihull Moors on the weekend, with manager Luke Garrard opting to withdraw veteran striker Paul Benson for the fresh legs of Jeffers.
A slow start to the game threatened catch United when Boreham Wood broke sharply down the left flank and a low cross from Andrade required an excellent clearance on the retreat from Sean McGinty.
At the other end, Luke Young and Damon Lathrope were probing in the midfield area but without any real penetration. Keating did get in behind on 12 minutes but the angle was too tight for a meaningful effort on goal.
The game trundled on to 19 minutes with little action and then one defence-splitting pass released Jeffers, who cut inside McGinty and sent a low effort toward the bottom corner, only to be thwarted by a superb save from Ryan Clarke.
The rebound squirmed agonisingly into the path of Andrade and he looked certain to score, but was denied a truly incredible second block from Clarke, somehow smothering the ball from point-blank range.
United gradually began to assert some authority in attacking areas, as strong work in midfield from Yan Klukowski created space for Ryan Higgins to steer a lovely pass down the line for Young and his low cross required good defending at the near post from Boreham Wood.
Credit to the visitors, however, as the general pattern of play remained in their favour and United had to get a bit tighter to stop growing control Boreham Wood had on the game. The half ended with more pressure on United’s goal a need for something different from the Gulls.
There was a special moment at half-time and by far the loudest cheer of the night, when young Jack Howlett from United’s youth system stepped forward for the crossbar challenge and pinged a delicious left-foot chip into the woodwork – well played.
Within seconds of the restart, United showed renewed intent, as a monster throw from Higgins found Jon-Paul Pittman for a lay-off to Jake Gosling, who forced Grant Smith into his first real save.
Successive corners from Young then caused havoc in the Boreham Wood box and it suddenly felt like a different game. A sweeping move down the right channel maintained the pressure and Keating was inches away from meeting a sublime dinked cross on the run by Pittman.
Disaster followed, as a painfully sloppy pass across defence presented the ball to Balanta for a clear run on goal and he enjoyed the freedom of Plainmoor before sliding a neat finish past the exposed Clarke.
If possible, the second was goal was even harder to watch. A simple lump forward found Andrade in the right channel and there was no sign of a tackle as he strolled past three defenders and slotted a low shot inside the near post.
Reid was instantly introduced for Damon Lathrope and he had an immediate impact, passing the ball inside for Pittman to stand up a delightful cross for Keating, who expertly headed back across the sprawling Smith for a well-worked goal.
A sizzling break from United’s next saw Gosling feed the ball inside to Young for a lung-bursting run through but just as he pulled the trigger, Ryan Johnson recovered to produce a super goal-saving challenge for his team.
James Gray for Pittman on 64 minutes signalled further intent to change things from the bench but there was nothing any of the forwards could do about weak defending, with yet another simple ball over the top creating havoc.
Myles Anderson pulled his man to the ground and the penalty was awarded by the assistant furiously waving his flag. Jeffers stepped forward but found Clarke simply unbeatable, as United’s custodian produced a fantastic penalty save to keep United in the game.
It looked like proving a massive save when United gave the visitors a taste of their own medicine with a lofted ball over the top and Keating showed terrific strength to hold off his man, and then lash a dramatic equaliser past Smith.
The Plainmoor natives had barely stopped celebrating when United fell behind again and a routine cross from the left picked out Jeffers for a looping header over the stranded Clarke.
Rory Fallon for Sam Chaney was the last roll of the dice and he glanced a header narrowly wide with his first touch following a whipped cross from Young. The Gulls were now tossing balls into the box and when a soft clearance fell to Young he was only just off target with a skidding drive from 20 yards.
The final nail arrived deep into injury time when a clearance from the Boreham Wood midfield sadly found the United defence once again absent, allowing Sach to waltz past Clarke and complete a very poor night.
We move on to Guiseley and the Yellow Army deserve a big performance from their team.
United (4-3-1-2): 1 Ryan Clarke; 23 Ryan Higgins, 14 Myles Anderson, 5 Sean McGinty, 7 Sam Chaney (16 Rory Fallon 82); 8 Luke Young (capt), 4 Damon Lathrope (19 Jamie Reid 57), 18 Yan Klukowski; 11 Jake Gosling; 9 Jon-Paul Pittman (17 James Gray 63), 10 Ruairi Keating. Substitutes (not used): 20 Neal Osborn (GK), 22 Andy Haworth.
Booked: Anderson 66
Boreham Wood (3-5-2): 1 Grant Smith; 4 Mark Ricketts, 17 Jamie Turley, 12 Ryan Johnson (3 Danny Woodards 75); 2 Kane Smith, 10 Kieran Murtagh, 8 Tom Champion, 7 Ricky Shakes, 11 Bruno Andrade (9 Paul Benson 65); 10 Angelo Balanta, 15 Shaun Jeffers (16 Bradley Sach 85). Substitutes (not used): 13 Erbil Bozkurt (GK), 20 Frank Keita.
Booked: Grant Smith 79
Referee: Gary Parsons
Attendance: 1,864 (24 away)