A tremendous strike from Jerome Wright in the seventh minute of added time saved FC from an ignominious home defeat at the hands of a workmanlike but hardly inspiring Whitby. The last-kick rocket however was not the only one fired at Gigg Lane last night. Manager Karl Marginson, in his programme notes, had already blasted some of his players for their performance at Kendal the previous Saturday, saying
"Some of them didn’t do their jobs and were waiting for their team-mates to do the work for them, and that is frankly not good enough for FC United." He further added "Certain players appear to be in a comfort zone and I’m not having it" and emphasised that in the absence of a major improvement he "as the boss, will have to take a look at the personnel."
In the light of Karl’s comments many of those in attendance felt that the scene was set for an improved performance. Changes had been made, with terrace favourites Carlos Roca and Jerome Wright relegated to the bench along with stalwart Rob Nugent. The teams came out and as they lined up opposite each other out came kitman George Hayden, making his last Gigg Lane appearance before taking up a post overseas. He received a long and loud ovation, in recognition for all his tremendous efforts since joining the club at its formation. George, you will be sorely missed.
The game opened tentatively, with passes frequently going astray on both sides. After six minutes Ben Deegan flicked his header wide from FC’s first corner, then shortly after another header from Deegan was met by Simon Carden but his tame shot was easily fielded by keeper Campbell. Play continued to be scrappy, then after 25 minutes there was a brief moment of excitement as FC found the net, only for the linesman’s flag to deny a goal. Some ten minutes later Deegan put Adam Carden away down the right, but there was no-one near goal to capitalise on Adam’s cross.
At the other end Whitby’s Ged Dalton put skipper Anthony Hackworth through only for him to put his effort wide. Whitby then gained a dubious free kick when both Dave Chadwick and his opponent went down in a tangle. Adam Tong protested at the award and was promptly booked.
Just on half time Phil Marsh was subjected to a crunching tackle on the halfway line for which the offender deservedly saw yellow, as the half simply petered out.
Hopes of a second half improvement were dashed when the half opened as scrappily as the first had done, the first incident of note being when, from an up and under from Simon Garner, the ball hit Ben Deegan, with the rebound falling kindly for the keeper. Little was being seen of Whitby as an attacking force, with FC setting the pace but with little conviction. Deegan and Phil Marsh were working hard but with scant reward, and the tireless Tunji Moses seemed to be everywhere as he strove to get things going.
The crowd were becoming irate following a succession of controversial decisions from the linesman below the Main Stand, but were heartened as Carlos Roca and Jerome Wright entered the fray on 62 minutes, replacing Danny Warrender and Danny Williams. The somewhat turgid nature of the game however continued.
Finally in a game that seemed "to have 0-0 written all over it" there came a goal, but unfortunately it fell to the visitors. A speculative effort from outside the box by no. 10 Jimmy Beadle seemed to take a deflection on it’s way past Sam Ashton and FC were a goal behind. Was this to be another "Alamo" type situation as with Boston at home and Bradford away, with FC throwing caution to the winds ? To a degree yes, but frankly without the purpose shown in those games. FC were doing all the attacking, with their opponents content to soak up the pressure. The crowd were becoming frustrated by both FC’s inability to breach a stout defence, and what was seen as timewasting tactics from the opposition.
Despite having introduced two flying wingers, balls were not reaching them and it looked as if maybe a set-piece would be the only way FC would score. Then on 82 minutes there was a quite extraordinary incident involving a highly controversial booking for Ben Deegan, who had attempted to hook the ball over his shoulder, only for the ball to strike an onrushing defender in the face. To Ben’s astonishment he was shown a yellow card. Whilst this was going on the two teams had gathered facing each other on the halfway and there was a bit of posturing, with the odd push and shove. The referee clearly took a very dim view and refused to restart the game until he had held a discussion lasting several minutes with both of his linesmen, followed by a talk with the two skippers. No cards were issued however, but the stoppage had served to increase what would already have been a lengthy period of added time.
FC continued to press and at last the ball was getting through to the pacy Jerome who was threatening to engineer something. Repeatedly however the ball was hooked away and attacks would have to begin all over again. Finally, in the last few seconds of added time, Adam Tong found his way to the byline and won a corner. This was lofted in by Simon Garner but was cleared as far as Jerome standing at the corner of the area. To the delight of the FC faithful, Jerome took one touch and hit a real screamer which flew past the keeper before he could so much as blink. Whitby were distraught and just had time to kick off before the ref signalled the end of the game.
Relief all round then, but plenty for Karl to think about as he prepares for the F.A. Cup trip to Sheffield.