Kings triumphant in spirited clash
THE United Eagles fans sang loud and proud, but there was no drowning out the roar of the mighty Tweed Valley Kings at Lex Bell Oval on Wednesday.
With brilliant moments reminiscent of vintage Kings football, Craig Madden's men showed their true colours to hold off a late and spirited comeback and triumph 3-2 in their opening relegation-promotion clash.
However, should they have put away their chances, there is no denying the Kings could have bagged another half-dozen and really stamped their authority on the double header ahead of the return clash at Reg Dalton Oval next Wednesday.
“A win's a win,” Madden said.
“But we should have just about reached double figures.”
The Kings dominated the opening exchanges, hounding the Eagles' 18-yard area, and it was only a short time until a crack appeared.
When United took a long throw it was intercepted at the back and toed on to captain Luke Craig, whose powerful header found striker Armi Ghooti on the fly.
Ghooti split the defenders and found himself one-on-one with the keeper, taking his time and showing great composure to slot it in the back of the net.
The combination of Jim Cartwright and Ben Blair down the left-hand side was causing the Eagles all sorts of trouble, and the return of Aaron Hodges to the centre of defence definitely steadied the ship.
However, as has often been the case this year, final touches across the park let the team down.
Ghooti could have had his double twice before the break, and Chris Edwards could have bagged one too.
But it was not to be and they entered the sheds up just 1-0.
“We just couldn't put the ball in the back of the net again,” Madden said.
“We played well in patches, but the intensity dropped off a bit and we allowed them back into the game.”
United started better in second term, but the Kings refused to be dethroned and within five minutes a bit of Kenta Shimizu magic drew a free kick on the edge of the area.
Ghooti belted the set shot and forced a scrambling save from the keeper, but this time defender Paul Jackson was on hand to bury the spoils.
Within moments they had their third, when young Jim Cartwright's cross-shot from two metres inside the goal line, five metres outside the area, lobbed the flailing keeper.
Shimizu could have made it four not once, not twice, maybe four times, but the attacking midfielder simply could not buy a goal.
They paid the price midway through the second half when United caught the Kings down the right-hand side and buried their first real opportunity of the game.
Then, when a player was brought down on the edge of the area, they had their second courtesy of a quality free-kick that a diving Nathan Wilson just could not get to quick enough.
The Kings had only themselves to blame for the pressure they were under, but with their backs against the wall they showed the strength of character that had been missing for much of the year and hung on for the win.