Adam Tong scored a late equaliser for FC United against Retford on Saturday afternoon as the Reds finally picked up their first point of the new UniBond Premier Division season.
Following an under-par first half performance against Bradford, Margy, on his return to the touchline, would surely be hoping for a much improved display in Lincolnshire as a rearranged formation saw the returning Phil Marsh lining up alongside Ben Deegan.
Less than ten minutes into play, prayers looked to have been answered for that all important lead when Deegan put the ball over the line. A great ball through into the box from Adam Carden was picked up by Deegan who took no mistake in putting his shot through the Retford keeper. However, the officials ruled that Simon Carden had interfered with play when the ball was passed to Deegan, and the goal was controversially ruled offside.
Minutes later, Deegan was once more in with a chance when he received the ball in the six-yard box from a long throw by Adam Tong. The tall striker rose for a free header on goal which he put over the bar.
Retford were by no means unable to offer a reply going forward, as a free kick on the left was claimed by a good jump from Sam Ashton and minutes later a low ball was sent across the face of goal, leaving the Reds relieved that no one had been in a position to convert for the home side.
Rob Nugent then temporarily got his striking boots on as he picked up a ball from Carlos Roca in the area, turned and hit his shot on the volley into the arms of the keeper.
The Reds went in at the break having put on a much more balanced display of football than at the same stage on Monday night; however the side still lacked the inspiration to take the lead, going in at 0-0.
Ashton was put to the test in the opening minutes of the second half as Neil Harvey, who had looked to be a threat all game, went one on one with the United keeper who produced an excellent reaction save.
Less than a minute later, Harvey produced a good run to find himself through on goal in virtually the same position. FC’s number one pulled of another great save, closing down the number 10 to deny Retford for the second time in as many minutes.
Unfortunately for the Reds, Retford were third time lucky, this time in the form of Chris Bettney who rounded Ashton in the FC goal and slotted the ball to his right 52 minutes into the game.
Five minutes later, Tong brought United back into the game, bringing the scores level on 57 minutes. Roca played the ball into the box and the big central defender leapt up to head the ball home for his second goal of the season so far.
Spurred on by the equaliser, FC began to gather pace in search of a second and the momentum was clearly with United.
On 68 minutes, Mick Godber was replaced by Daryll Thomas, Godber having featured in his 100th game for Retford.
FC United had more chances to take the lead as the half wore on and even had a penalty claim. Roca made a strong run down the right into the box and was tripped inside the area, for a seemingly blatant penalty. The linesman initially flagged for a spot-kick to FC; however the ref waved away any penalty shouts.
In arguably the best move of the half, Phil Marsh came close to goal in a build up that saw Roca and Jerome Wright making good use of width. In an impressive game for the right-winger, Roca did well to slalom through the midfield and play a decent ball across to Wright on the left. Wright came inside and Marsh picked up the ball to shoot on the edge of area. The ball looked to be going in at the top corner, if not for the hands of James Lindley who managed to tip the ball around the angle of bar and post
With two minutes of normal time remaining, Ben Morris and Danny Williams replaced Phil Marsh and Simon Garner, to fill the left-back and forward positions respectively in the dying stages.
As the final whistle blew, relief must surely have been the primary reaction of players, management and fans of FC United as the Reds finally got off the mark, with a point on the board. Let’s hope for one better against Marine on Wednesday night.
Report by Victoria Fullen.