FC United were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Buxton on Tuesday night with Matthew Wolfenden’s first half goal being cancelled out via a Liam Hardy penalty, after Andy Pearson was dismissed.
The Reds took the lead in the 34th minute at Bower Fold and looked to be on course for all three points until 13 minutes from the end when Pearson pulled back Hardy in the box to earn a red card and throw the visitor’s a lifeline. Hardy picked himself up and made no mistake from the spot and, after that, United did well to hold on for a draw considering we were a player down.
In a fairly open game, there were good chances at both ends and either side could have nicked the victory but, all things considered, the two teams will have to be happy coming with away with a share of the spoils.
After a five minute spell of good pressure, Wolfenden broke the deadlock with a simple tap in after Buxton had failed to clear a corner. Winger Craig Lindfield’s corber was dealt with initially at the near post but an inventive backwards header from Lee Neville fell nicely for FC United centre-back James Knowles. The former Bradford Park Avenue man turned three defenders on the post and slammed the ball across the six yard area where the unmarked Wolfenden was waiting to pounce for 1-0.
Wolfenden had looked certain to break the deadlock moments earlier. The diminutive forward forced goalkeeper Arron Jameson into a good point reflex save when he directed a thunderous header goalwards from a dangerous Lindfield cross from the right. Buxton weren’t to be let off again as it was from the resulting corner that Wolfenden got his goal.
Buxton had chances in the first half too but, other than an early scare when Dave Carnell fumbled a free-kick and fullback Stuart Ludlam lofted the rebound onto the roof of the net, FC United had looked fairly comfortable.
Into the second half and United could have been two or three goals up within five minutes. Jerome Wright raced away from the visiting defence before seeing his low drive tipped around the post by Jameson, although no corner was given. Moments later, Lindfield had a close range header saved from a Wright cross.
Buxton remained a constant threat throughout and it always looked like a game where United would need two goals to be sure of the victory. On the hour mark, some good football down the left saw the ball worked out to Jonathan Williams in acres of space on the right. The winger should have scored but his tame effort from the edge of the box was easily saved by Carnell.
Down at the other end, the ever lively Greg Daniels created two chances for himself in quick succession. On both occasions the youngster caused uncertainty in the Buxton defence with mazy runs before twice seeing his shots deflected over the bar by a Bucks player. The first resulted in a goalkick, much to everyone’s bemusement, and the second gained a corner, which produced the second loudest cheer of the night from the FC United faithful, albeit in a rather sarcastic manner.
The Reds couldn’t find the two goal cushion that they craved and needed to kill the match off and they would soon be left to rue missed chances. The warning signs were there with 15 minutes to go when Wright had to head a towering Ash Palmer header off the line from a corner to protect the lead.
Two minutes later, Buxton hit United on the break. As a Reds attack was snuffed out, a good long ball down field to Hardy left Pearson with a lot of ground to make up. As Hardy entered the box to go one-on-one with Carnell, Pearson decided to give the Buxton forward a tug on the arm, which sent him crashing to the deck. Only Pearson will know why he did it. The result was a double-handicap for FC United – a man down and an equaliser conceded.
For a few scary moments, it looked as if the 10 men of United would capitulate. However, as Buxton pushed up in search of a winner, they began to leave gaps at the back. A bit more composure from substitute Astley Mulholland could easily have delivered a match winning cross for Tom Greaves but it was not meant to be.
All in all, not a bad point for United, considering we had key personnel missing and certainly weren’t firing on all cylinders. However, even at this stage of the season, the Reds know they need to be turning even matches into three points if they are to finish as champions come April.
Website man of the match: Matthew Wolfenden. Scored the goal and could have had another two. Always seems to make space for himself in dangerous positions. Daniels and Lindfield also looked dangerous whilst Carnell, Knowles and Wright performed well at the back.
Report by Matthew Haley.