Magpies steal late point at Biggleswade United
This game was the start of a run of three against the league’s perennial strugglers (Harefield United and Bedford to come) for Cristian Colás’ men and perhaps the passion and desire demonstrated by the visitors to rescue the match was a reflection of their current plight demanding that they battle for each and every point.
By contrast, United’s situation is delightfully mundane as the season approaches its climax, with the club comfortably on course to record its highest ever league placing having more than eased the fears of relegation that existed after a fairly dire opening third to the year.
As far as Saturday goes it was ultimately a lack of game management which proved costly as when you go two goals up in the second half, the result should take care of itself and it provides Colás food for thought ahead of making the necessary improvements for next season.
The hosts began positively and on the front foot and created their first opportunity as a lofted pass in behind gave athletic full back James Cooper the chance to strike, but he volleyed wide of the mark.
That effort would prove to be one of few shots in the first half as The Magpies sat deep forcing United into launching direct balls into Cookman, which were consistently proving ineffective.
The away side gradually grew into the game and had their first shot when Jamie Eames fired over from range. Efforts on goal were limited for a while after that as both teams wrestled for control of proceedings.
Approaching the half hour mark, injury saw Matt Cooper depart and Jake O’Neill come on to replace Charlie Joy on the right flank, with the in-form winger taking his place now on the left hand side. That did little to alter the pattern of the game as a lack of intricacy in the final third continued to prove problematic for both sides.
It was The Magpies who came closest to breaking the deadlock when a well constructed move culminated in Charncey Dash turning the ball goalwards, only to have Liam Sweeney intervene with superb block to deny him.
Moments later they were almost presented the opening goal when the ever-present Nyasha Sagwete completed a rather rash back pass that gave the alert Eames a clear route to goal, but his shot was tame and lacked conviction as it floated into the grateful hands of United keeper Adam Counihan.
Squandering those two opportunities would prove costly soon after as Joy opened the scoring for the home side. Appeals for a push on Cookman in the area were dismissed by the referee before the United frontman proceeded to execute a bicycle kick, which broke favourably for Joy who poked the ball home from close range.
The second period began with a sense of urgency that wasn’t in the game prior to that as the visitors desperately seeked a way back into the match. However, this forced United to raise their intensity and were in the ascendancy when Cookman’s shot on the stretch was held by Magpies keeper Craig Clarke.
The hosts wouldn’t be denied for much longer as Sagwete demonstrated his ability as a ball-playing defender with a couple of composed, measured touches in the area prior to hammering his shot into the roof of the net.
Looking slightly deflated following that goal, a comeback was difficult for even the most dedicated of Colney fans to foresee. They came close to halving the deficit when Charlie Ward headed wide from a corner and they were well and truly back in the game when Eames drilled past Counihan after being picked out with a pass from deep.
The dejection caused by United’s second goal had evaporated in one swift moment and The Magpies were rejuvenated by that strike from Eames. There was still a lack of creativity in their ranks as they set about finding an equaliser with Dash’s free kick the only chance of note for a while. In fact it was the home side who almost found another through Joy as he turned Cookman’s near-post cross wide from an acute angle.
They didn’t enjoy much more success going forward as the rest of match was mostly spent containing their opponents. Joe Longworth had his side’s best chance when he scuffed his shot after being found just inside the area with a cut-back. Dash then saw his shot on the turn easily collected by Counihan as United’s inability to retain possession meant the pressure was unrelenting- even if they remained defensively secure.
Adam Sartini then entered the fray as Cookman made the customary laboured walk off the field to waste some time in the closing stages. There was still enough time for The Magpies to restore parity and they did just that with 93 minutes on the clock. Costain met a cross from the left hand side, glancing his header into the far corner past the despairing Counihan as the visitors clinched a dramatic last minute equaliser that could be a major factor in their hunt for survival.