Tom Greaves rifled home his 15th goal of the season as FC United beat Chorley 1-0 to progress to the third round of the FA Trophy for the first ever time where we will host AFC Fylde or AFC Telford.
The Reds are through to the last 16 of the national non-league competition after Greaves’ 52nd minute goal decided the replay at the Tameside Stadium on Tuesday night, following a dramatic 3-3 draw at Victory Park on Saturday.
Tuesday’s match overcame two pitch inspections and a first half blizzard before Karl Marginson’s side weathered the storm to beat the much fancied Magpies of the Conference North in front of 1,393 noisy supporters.
After the weekend’s six goal thriller, ’keepers David Carnell and Sam Ashton had to be at their best to keep the score down and both sides rattled the woodwork but FC United got the all-important goal to advance to round three.
We are now scheduled to host last season’s Conference North champions Telford or last season’s Evo-Stik Premier Division play-off winners Fylde on Saturday 24 January. However, the tie between the two sides has been postponed twice in the last four days, so we will have to wait to see the outcome of the rearranged fixture next Tuesday. Telford currently sit bottom of the Conference Premier, whilst Fylde are five points clear at the top of the Conference North.
Both FC United and Chorley continued where they left off on Saturday with more fast-paced attacking football signalling both teams were intent on finding a way to get in front in the evenly matched encounter as soon as possible. There were some glorious chances to do exactly that at either end in the first half but it took until seven minutes into the second half for the Reds to break the deadlock with what proved to be the winning goal.
Jerome Wright was a threat all night and provided two guilt-edge chances in the first half which Greaves and Matthew Wolfenden were unfortunate not to finish. It was no surprise then that Wright would eventually create the breakthrough. The United leftback played a one-two with Wolfenden from a throw-in before passing a simple but accurate ball into the feet of Greaves on the edge of the area. The Reds’ top-scorer rolled past his man into space before unleashing an unstoppable left-footed strike into the top left corner. It was another fantastic goal from Greaves’ high calibre collection and made to look so easy.
Chorley can count themselves unlucky that they didn’t manage to get on the score-sheet, especially in the last 15 minutes when they bombarded United’s goal and hit the woodwork. However, it was FC United’s night and every single player dug in deep to successfully defend the lead.
Manager Karl Marginson made three changes to Saturday’s side with Chris Lynch, Dave Birch and Tom Brown making way for Lewis Lacy, Dean Stott and Greg Daniels. Lacy and Stott put in commanding performances to help protect Carnell’s goal and Daniels’ tireless workrate benefitted United’s game plan in the second half.
After a couple of half chances for both sides in the first 15 minutes, Chorley should have taken the lead when the ball was pulled back for Dale Whitham. The Magpies midfielder fired low and hard from 12 yards out towards the bottom corner but somehow Carnell got down in time to tip the ball around the post. It was the sign of things to come.
The game went through a scrappy spell for 15 minutes as snow and sleet swirled around the Tameside Stadium making the playing conditions extremely difficult on an already muddy surface. As the clouds cleared, it was FC United who emerged as the more threatening side.
Little over 10 minutes before the break, Wright burst into life on the left wing, taking on his man before squaring for the unmarked Wolfenden on the edge of the box who fired a dangerous shot goalwards. Chorley skipper Andy Teague managed to make an important block to deflect the ball just over the crossbar.
With 43 minutes on the clock, Wright was once again enjoying running at the visiting defence. He skipped past his marker with ease after good link up play with Callum Byrne and whipped a dangerous cross to the back post. Greaves came flying in with an acrobatic volley but could only send his ambitious attempt high and wide.
The FC United striker wouldn’t have long to wait for another attempt on the Chorley goal. Seven minutes into the second half he received the ball with his back to goal, created space for himself and fired home the winner.
The Reds soon had a couple of chances to double the lead with Lacy heading over the bar from a Lindfield corner. Moments later, Lindfield hit the bar with an audacious attempt at goal from a free-kick right by the corner flag.
With around 17 minutes to go, the siege began as Chorley threw everyone forward in an attempt to stay in the competition. Centre-back Teague became an extra centre forward as the relentless Magpies began to pin the Reds back into their own half.
Some poor defending allowed former FC United favourite Jake Cottrell through but he blazed his chance over the bar. Moments later, Chorley got even closer as Carnell parried a close range header away and Josh Hine smacked the rebound onto the post. United were well and truly under the cosh but, importantly, they were dealing with it. Just.
Bodies were thrown in the way of Chorley attacks time and time again, which resulted in two half-hearted penalty appeals for the visitors. The referee showed no interest. Meanwhile, numerous clearances were hacked away for Greaves, Daniels and Lindfield to chase down.
Lindfield in particular showed great skill and composure in holding the ball up and keeping possession to frustrate his opponents. And he nearly provided the winner by doing exactly that. After drawing the desperate defenders to him, the winger cleverly played in the onrushing Daniels who went through one-on-one with Ashton. Daniels could have found the winner with two minutes to go but he elected to try a cheeky chip and lofted the ball well over the bar.
Fortunately, it would not matter but United had to endure five minutes of stoppage time as the visitors continued to press. In the last action of the match, Carnell superbly denied substitute Adam Roscoe from equalising with a header at the death.
Report by Matthew Haley
Website man of the match: David Carnell. Probably the toughest decision of the season so far. The players did themselves proud with a real backs against the wall effort but Carnell just shades it for another heroic cleansheet.