FC United are up to fourth in the Evo-Stik Premier division after leaving it late to win a five goal thriller against Frickley Athletic at Bower Fold on Tuesday evening.
Tom Greaves got a well-deserved winner three minutes from the end as the Reds fought back from 1-0 down to win a controversial match, which saw goals from Craig Lindfield and James Knowles, before Lindfield was sent off in stoppage time.
United came out on the front foot against a team they’d never lost to at home and were seeking revenge for a 4-1 defeat earlier this season in the reverse fixture. The Reds were pushing forward from the off with youth team graduate Frank van Gils showing why he’s been given the opportunity in the first team.
Karl Marginson’s side went close a couple of times with balls across the box just evading the on-coming man and it was against the run of play when the visitors took the lead after 20 minutes.
Jerome Wright was barged off the ball too easily and Frickley broke into the box. Lewis Lacy blocked the initial shot but goalkeeper Nick Culkin, drafted in late to replace the injured Dave Carnell, was caught off balance as Max Leonard slotted home the rebound.
Not put off by this, United kept to their game-plan and, rather than going all out for a goal, kept possession and built pressure on the visiting defence. At times, it looked as though it might be one of those frustrating evenings as United went agonisingly close several times.
The FC United faithful and several players were incensed when they were convinced a Frickley defender used his arm to deny van Gils his first league goal for the club. The diminutive midfielder saw his close range header tipped off the goal-line and over the bar. Referee Alan Bennett bemused most present by awarding a corner.
Against the run of play, the visitors broke away and hit the post, a let off for United but a warning that the West Yorkshire club could be a real threat on the counter.
With one minute to go before the break, the hard work finally paid off as Lindfield wrapped his foot around a cross from substitute Joe Fox just inside the box and placed the equaliser into the back of the net. The relief of getting the breakthrough was clear as Lindfield slid on his knees across the turf towards the main stand in celebration of his first goal for the club.
As the second half unfolded, the threat of things getting out of control on the pitch grew as players began to get frustrated with some of Mr Bennett’s more curious decisions. Some ’meaty’ looking challenges went unpunished whilst other, more innocuous looking challenges resulted in the referee blowing his whistle.
The Reds kept going in pursuit of the breakthrough goal and it came 13 minutes from the end. Knowles crashed a superb diving header in off the bar from a Lindfield corner and, at that time, it looked like he had sealed the three points for the jubilant Reds.
Moments later, Greaves got through on the right hand side of the box and the option to pull the ball back to substitute Matthew Kay to seal victory. However, Greaves elected to shoot from a tight angle and saw his effort trickle across the goal line and wide.
But a mazy run from Reece Thompson saw the Frickley midfielder weave his way through the United defence before slotting the ball under Culkin to make it 2-2 just five minutes from time.
Obviously overjoyed with what was a really well-taken individual effort, Thompson followed Lindfield’s lead from the first half and celebrated in front of the main stand, although this celebration didn’t quite get the same reception from the United faithful.
When players goad the home fans, there’s always the danger they might end up with egg on their face should the score change again and so it proved. Just two minutes later, Greaves turned his man to latch onto a ball lofted into the box by captain Dean Stott and the striker slotted home the winner between goalkeeper Ben Simpson’s legs.
Tempers began to fray as FC United shut up shop and frustrate Frickley. In stoppage time, Macauley Parkinson injured himself by overstretching whilst attempting a two footed lunging block near the touchline. The West Yorkshire winger came closer to connecting with the dugouts than the ball.
A melee ensued and whilst Bennett allowed Parkinson to leave the pitch unpunished, Lindfield was dismissed for getting involved in some unnecessary pushing and shoving with some desperately disappointed Frickley players.
The Red card took the shine off the victory slightly but the victory still tasted sweet and the three points were very gratefully received. It was a good battling performance from United, who now sit in fourth in the league 13 points off the top, with three games in hand and they do so without having really hit their best form so far this season.
Website man of the match: Tom Greaves - went close with a couple of great opportunities but didn’t let missed chances get to him and was there when needed to seal the game late on.
Report by Craig Phillips