FC United secured a place in the next round of the FA Cup in the brilliant late summer sunshine at Sheffield’s BT Local Business Stadium.
The Reds scored three times with only one reply to overcome the oldest club in the world, in the first qualifying round of the world’s oldest cup competition.
A Ben Deegan opener followed by a brace from Carlos Roca all before half time were enough to send United through, despite a battling second half display by Sheffield.
In a break from league action, FC followers hoping for a good start to a much desired cup-run weren’t to be disappointed.
United started the game strongly, looking eager to take an early lead. Captain Dave Chadwick had a chance to put the Reds in front in the opening stages, sending a free header on goal just wide of Tom Cross’ left hand post.
Sheffield’s first notable attempt came from Gavin Smith, as a burst through from his right full-back position left him on course for goal; however his low effort was easily collected by Sam Ashton.
As the half wore on, FC began to gain increasing control on the game, producing several chances, including one from Carlos Roca, who narrowly failed to latch onto a ball across the face of goal from Adam Carden.
With United threatening, a lead was surely to be expected before half time. Deegan broke the deadlock 32 minutes in, drilling a low ball through a crowded 12 yard box and into the back of the net, with the suspicion of a slight deflection.
The Reds pushed on with growing confidence and with less than five minutes of the half remaining were awarded a penalty.
A burst through from Carlos Roca left him one on one with the Sheffield keeper who did well to block the initial shot on goal. The ball squirted back out into open play and was well collected by the onrushing Adam Carden, who was tripped during his run into the area. Roca stepped up to the mark and slotted a well taken penalty into the bottom right hand corner to double United’s lead.
It could be argued that the result had been settled as both teams went in at the break, as the on-form Roca added to his own goal tally and that of FC a minute into added time at the end of the half.
Sheffield centre-half Paul Smith missed his opportunity to clear for Sheffield, leaving the ball to the FC number 11 who made no mistake in making a run into the box, showing excellent technique, to lob the oncoming keeper on the stroke of half time.
Sam Ashton was tested early into the second half when Sheffield’s Smith unleashed a powerful shot on the edge of the United area. Ashton produced a good reaction and was able to get down to his bottom right hand corner to push the ball around the post.
Sheffield looked determined in their bid to come back into the game and frequently tested the FC defence. On 67 minutes, Ashton was put to the ultimate test when the home side were awarded a penalty, albeit very controversially.
A tussle in United’s penalty area ensued between Adam Tong and right-back, Smith, who had caused hindrance for FC throughout the game. Though it was unclear who had committed the first offence, the officials awarded a penalty to the UniBond South side. Despite much speculation surrounding the decision, Jordan Eagers took full advantage and converted the spot-kick.
On course for a hat trick, the goal-hungry Roca had several opportunities to score his third and put the game beyond any doubt. A corner in from Jerome Wright was headed down by Chadwick and picked up on the line by Roca who unfortunately was unable to put the ball beyond Cross.
A well placed ball was played out to Jerome Wright who made a good run down the left and came inside. The United winger sent the ball through the keeper who had come off his line to close Wright down, and Deegan charged in to put the ball into the open net; however the FC striker was denied by Smith on the Sheffield goal-line.
The Reds continued to create until the full-time whistle blew, despite Sheffield being relentless in their search for a way back in.
All concerned will now surely be eagerly anticipating the draw for the next round, having overcome the first hurdle in this season’s FA Cup journey.