SAM YOUNG returned to the fold to fire four second-half goals and preserve United's 100 per cent start, as an injury-ravaged Frolesworth survived a scare against struggling Niffy Rangers at Horsewell Lane. Young, who was stripped of the captain's armband following his controversial dismissal against Wigston United, responded in the desired manner as the Rabbits fought back from a goal down at half-time to clinch all three points for only the second time in the club's six-year history.
The Division Two league leaders were trailing after just four minutes on a ground where they have only won twice, after Chris Moran broke free on the left before slamming home the opener for the hosts. United had to be thankful to goalkeeper Luke Evans for a superb save to keep the deficit to just one goal, but they were left cursing their luck when firstly Jack Frake and then Chris Capell missed gilt-edged chances before Cam Rhind saw his volley rattle the underside of the crossbar.
But it took just six minutes after the restart for Jordan Halford's side to restore parity, as Young stepped up to dispatch a superb 25-yard free-kick and haul the visitors level. Joshua van Allen came off the bench to register his first competitive strike for the Rabbits with a delicate finish on 64 minutes, but Ricky Borowski levelled things up from the penalty spot soon after. Young then converted from the spot himself after Dom Ivens was upended 13 minutes from time but remarkably, the hosts fought back for a second time after Moran capitalised on a mistake from Andy Morris to threaten United's 100 per cent start.
But with just four minutes remaining, talisman Young completed his hat-trick by rounding the goalkeeper to slide into an empty net and spark jubilant scenes on the touchline before his second spot kick in the final minute ensured the Rabbits remained top of the table with maximum points.
Interim boss Jordan Halford returned from London to a squad plagued by injury, as no fewer than nine first-team regulars were missing for the trip to Wigson. Luke Evans returned in between the sticks with a crisis in defence, which saw Harry Shervington named as the only survivor from the 9-0 demolition of Wigston United in the Billy Walton Cup last week. Andy Morris moved alongside him at centre-half, while Miles Splevings resorted to right-back and Danny Knott returned at the expense of Mark Baker on the left.
Ben Hallam was named alongside Capell in the holding role, while Ivens was handed the armband on the left alongside Young and Rhind behind 16-year-old lone-striker Jack Frake, who made his first start after a series of cameo appearances from off the bench. But with wholesale changes for the table-toppers, it was perhaps no surprise that they fell behind after barely four minutes when the United defence were caught napping and Moran raced through to convert in spite of Shervington's last ditch attempt to thwart him.
United have been slow to the boil in spite of having notched 12 successive wins; conceding the first goal for the fourth time this season at Horsewell Lane but on this occasion the Rabbits rather whimpered and were fortunate to remain only a goal down after Evans got down quickly to his right to parry a goal-bound free-kick. The visitors were let off the hook for the second time soon after, too, as the hosts missed a free header from inside the six-yard box to double their advantage.
It seemed to awake United though and they should have been level when Young moved to the byeline and pulled one back across goal, but youngster Frake couldn't arrange his feet quick enough to register his third goal of the campaign. Captain Ivens flickered two efforts narrowly past the post, but after Capell powered his diving header the wrong side of the upright when it looked easier to score it looked as though it was proving to be one of those days for Halford's charges.
Remarkably, United had previously only won once in a staggering 41 attempts when they had been losing at half-time - a 3-2 victory against GT in the Premier League last season - so it would have been of stark trepidation to the manager when Rhind saw his excellent volley thump the underside of the crossbar to ensure United would have to complete a turnaround seldom seen in the club's short history.
But this was a time for calm heads with 45 minutes still remaining and after a rallying cry and slight shuffle of the pack, it took United just six minutes to haul themselves level predictably through Young. The club's top goalscorer was stripped of the captain's armband and served a two-game suspension for his controversial dismissal against Wigston United and also found himself on the bench last week, but with his punishment having been served he announced his return by sending a sumptuous free-kick over the wall and into the bottom corner to make it 1-1.
With reinforcements in short supply, Halford turned to van Allen in place of youngster Frake as Young moved into attack and his introduction reaped maximum reward as he turned the game on its head four minutes after coming on when his pace enabled him to latch onto Ivens' through ball and delicately chip his first competitive goal for the Rabbits with the Niffy keeper sprawling at his feet. You would have been forgiven for thinking that the points were definitely heading back to Kimcote Road with the visitors now nudging themselves in front, but they illustrated a frailty similar to that which saw United slump to relegation from the top-flight in the last campaign when Morris' clumsy challenge resulted in the second penalty of the afternoon and it was duly dispatched by Borowski to level things up in the 71st minute.
The drama wasn't finished yet though, as United were awarded a penalty of their own when Ivens burst through six minutes later and was hauled down leaving Young to step up and fire United in front for the second time in the contest. But this time the lead would last less than 60 seconds as in a bizarre turn of events, Morris failed to heed the warning of his goalkeeper Evans and instead opted to attempt to clear himself but when he was caught in possession on the edge of his own box, Moran was left to tap into an empty net with Evans out of his goal.
This was undoubtedly the most stern test of the season for Frolesworth, but with time elapsing both sides went in search of the goal that would undoubtedly clinch the victory and to Halford's delight, Young once again came up trumps when he surged into the area and rounded the goalkeeper before sliding into the far corner from the most acute angle with just four minutes left on the clock. And after having twice thrown away the lead, United would ultimately hang on as van Allen was clattered in the area in the dying seconds to leave the home side with 10-men and provide Young with the chance to rifle home his 19th goal of the campaign and ensure the Rabbits opened up a five point gap at the top of the third tier.
United travel to Thringstone to face Charnwood Division One outfit Whitwick Three Crowns in the third round of the FA Intermediate Cup next Sunday, with Halford hoping his side is buoyed by the return of Baker, Barnes Gladman, Max Jones, Callum Wills and skipper Mark James as the Rabbits seek to extend their winning run to 14 games in succession and reach the last eight of the competition for only the second time in their history.