Aldershot Town 0
A GAME that could have easily ended up with a 3-3 draw somehow remained goalless but a point against the National League leaders must represent another step forward for Gary Owers’ men.
The first half was full of chances for both sides and fantastic to watch for a Yellow Army, enthused by the football on display. United took control after the break and will feel this was the period when the points could have been won, but still a solid outcome against the league leaders.
United boss Gary Owers enjoyed the luxury of naming an unchanged side for the third game in the row, with Alex Davey continuing in the heart of defence and Sean McGinty assuming captaincy duties in the absence of skipper Josh Gowling.
Aldershot manager Gary Waddock only named four substitutes, as his battle-weary troops emerged from Tuesday’s ten-man heroics at Bromley, when they secured a 2-0 triumph to move top of the National League.
The intensity of a side battling to establish momentum was typified in the opening minute by Damon Lathrope, throwing his body on the line to charge down a 20-yard strike from Frenchman, Fabien Robert.
A difficult start for United continued when a clipped ball over the top released Matt McClure in the right channel, and he forced his way past goalkeeper Vincent Dorel rushing off his line. Thankfully, Sean McGinty and Alex Davey were also in attendance, bustling the ball to safety with Dorel scrambling back to his goal.
Gradually, however, the Gulls began to settle and a wonderful cross-field pass from Luke Young found Liam Davis on the left-wing, and he instantly whipped in a ball for Ruairi Keating to head a few inches over the bar.
Josh McQuoid then sent a stinger narrowly wide after decent build-up play from Michee Efete and Jamie Reid, while Jake Gallagher responded at the over end with a fierce drive just a fraction too high.
United were finding their rhythm and a quick free-kick from Young found McQuoid for a low drive that thundered off the inside of the near post and away for brief safety. Liam Davis swiftly picked up the loose ball, danced past his man and fizzed a sweet low drive just past the same post.
It was turning into a super game of football and Aldershot displayed their attacking prowess with a delightful exchange of passes to carve through the United defence, but Dorel stood up to the challenge by brilliantly repelling the half-volley from McClure.
The expansive play of Davis was a real feature for United and he was rampaging forward again on 39 minutes, cutting inside for a right-foot drive that went marginally wide.
McClure was arguably an even bigger threat for the visitors and he again went very close with a glancing header from a routine set-piece that saw United guilty of a rare lapse in defensive concentration.
The tempo showed no sign of slowing in the second period and a terrific period of controlled possession from United led to a free-kick 20 yards from goal. Young lined up his options and flashed a fine effort narrowly wide.
If anything, Aldershot had lost a bit of their zip and Reid almost took advantage with a weaving run and cross that only just eluded the run of McQuoid. The man on loan from Luton then went on a dazzling surge and his final shot was deflected wide.
Waddock responded to the pressure by introducing Emmanuel Oyeleke for Jake Gallagher on the hour but the Gulls were relentless, next piling forward with a pass wide from Reid to Davis, who stood up a dinked cross to the back-post and McQuoid will feel he should have hit the target.
There was real tenacity and verve in United’s work and they entered the final 15 minutes as the stronger looking unit, and this was against the top team in the division. It was a performance just missing the crucial goal.
United had to survive a big scare when the Shots won a free-kick on the edge of the area was bravely charged down by a wall of Yellow. Owers decided the time was right for a change, bringing on Guy Gnabouyou for McQuoid, who had put in an impressive shift for the team.
The reality, however, was Aldershot applying pressure in the closing stages and the Gulls breathed a sigh of relief when a dinked cross picked out Jim Kellermann for a volley arrowed inches over.
The chances had dried up but, while no goals were scored, an entertaining afternoon and there is an intensity about United that brings hope for a happy Christmas and New Year.
United (3-4-1-2): 30 Vincent Dorel; 2 Michee Efete, 21 Alex Davey, 5 Sean McGinty (capt); 16 Jazzi Barnum-Bobb, 8 Luke Young, 4 Damon Lathrope, 3 Liam Davis; 13 Josh McQuoid (22 Guy Gnabouyou 83); 10 Ruairi Keating, 19 Jamie Reid Substitutes (not used): 1 Ryan Clarke (GK), 23 Ryan Higgins, 27 Jennison Myrie-Williams, 39 Rhys Murphy.
Aldershot Town (4-3-3): 34 Lewis Ward; 3 Cheye Alexander, 5 Will Evans, 21 George Fowler, 22 Callum Reynolds (capt); 26 Fabien Robert, 16 Jake Gallagher (8 Emmanuel Oyeleke 62), 17 Jim Kellermann; 10 Matt McClure, 11 Bernard Mensah, 18 James Rowe. Substitutes (not used): 1 Jake Cole (GK), 15 Kodi Lyons-Foster, 27 Bobby-Joe Taylor.
Referee: Adrian Quelch
Attendance: 1,851 (299 away).