United frustrated as Blues nab draw

BETHNAL GREEN UNITED were held to a frustrating goalless draw by rivals Barking on Saturday, writes JONATHAN CLEGG. The Greens recovered from a shaky opening 10 minutes and bossed the remainder of an entertaining encounter, but were unable to press home t

BETHNAL GREEN UNITED were held to a frustrating goalless draw by rivals Barking on Saturday, writes JONATHAN CLEGG.

The Greens recovered from a shaky opening 10 minutes and bossed the remainder of an entertaining encounter, but were unable to press home their superiority as Barking held out.

The clash marked the second of five scheduled meetings between the Essex Senior rivals this season - with two cup fixtures due to take place next month - but United were unable to replicate the comfortable win they had achieved in their first encounter.

On that occasion, Marlon Campbell's clinical hat-trick had inspired a 4-0 triumph, but the Bethnal Green striker was unable to match those feats in the second meeting and an 87th-minute effort that shaved the outside of the post was as close as he or United came to a winner.

The stalemate represented a frustrating outcome for Bethnal Green boss Justin Gardner, though he was impressed by the Blues newfound resolve.

He said: "Barking are much improved since we beat them and I told the players that this would be our hardest match of the season so far because Barking are the only team who know how we play.

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"They obviously learned from their mistakes in the first match and they stopped our best players from playing.

"They came to get a point, which is what they did and despite the fact that we were the better team for the most part, they probably deserved it."

Barking could even have taken all three points had they converted two early chances.

Jared Small's rasping shot was tipped over by United goalkeeper Ashley King, who also denied Danny Mackin.

The early flurry was Barking's only spell of genuine pressure and United soon took hold of the match, with Anton Stephenson heading at the keeper and seeing a long-range effort tipped over.

Danny Sabroche and Marvin Abegunde were also denied as Bethnal Green struggled to create clear-cut chances after the break and Gardner turned to promising teenager Akil Bakari, promoted from the club's under-18 side, in a bid to break the deadlock.

The 17-year-old almost enjoyed a fairytale debut when sent clear by Sabroche, only for a last-ditch tackle to snuff out the chance, while Campbell's late effort grazed the post.

Bethnal Green United travel to London Colney in the first round of the FA Vase on Saturday (3pm).