FC United gained three priceless pointless at Hucknall Town on Saturday afternoon but it involved a tense finale as the Reds let a three goal lead slip to 3-2 with Sam Ashton also saving a penalty.
Jake Cottrell scored in between a brace from Phil Marsh as United cruised into a 3-0 first half lead in Nottinghamshire. However, the Reds still conspired to make things difficult for themselves and will be relieved to come away with three precious points to help get their UniBond Premier Division campaign back on track.
Proceedings began with a minute’s silence out of respect for Peter Maude, the former UniBond League board member who passed away this week.
Despite a lack of United goals in last week’s defeat to Buxton, the Reds were quick off the mark at Watnall Road, scoring on eight minutes. The ball was headed across the Hucknall box, picked up by Marsh who then turned and shot, sending the ball into the net off the far post.
Minutes later, the home side posed a slight threat when Ashton’s punch out from a shot on goal was picked up by Hucknall. There was a scramble in the box as United tried to clear, however Adrian Hawes eventually headed the ball over the bar from close range.
Early into the half, Adam Carden was booked for dissent in his first start since returning from suspension, pursuing an earlier issue surrounding a tussle with the Hucknall captain.
FC United looked to have no reservations in going for goal, producing several shots on target. A long Adam Tong throw down the line to Adam Carden was crossed into Cottrell whose shot was parried into the path of the onrushing Simon Carden who headed over the bar.
At the opposite end of the park, Nick Swirad made an excellent challenge on Antwon Bonnick who was bearing down on goal in the box. The challenge was to be the first of many for the centre half who continues to impress since being called up to the first team.
Ashton also produced a good save to deny Tyeisse Nightingale. The number 9 outran the United defence and unleashed a shot which Ashton tipped over the bar.
The Reds increased their lead on 27 minutes when Cottrell scored his much deserved first goal for the club. Jerome Wright looped a quick free-kick over to Simon Carden who shielded it well for Cottrell to drill a shot hard and low into the back of the net leaving the keeper routed to the spot.
United pressed on and had more chances to add to the score line. A well placed Ben Deegan cross was met by Marsh whose glancing header was put wide when he should have done better.
As the four minutes of added time beckoned at the end of the first half, Marsh added his second and United’s third. The ball was headed out to Wright who made a good run down the left. His shot on goal from a tight angle was weakly parried by Daniel Haystead across the face of his own goal. Marsh charged in for the follow-up at the far post and made no mistake in blasting the ball into the goal.
The added time ended prematurely as Hucknall’s Hawes had to be stretchered off the pitch.
Marsh looked to be on course for his hat-trick in the second half as an excellent effort from a free-kick looked certain to be going in at the top corner. Haystead however did well to get his hands to it and put it out for a corner.
Wright then went for goal himself, finding himself in space out on the left and hitting his shot off the far post.
Following the substitution of Tunji Moses for Si Garner, Adam Carden made a tricky run through the middle and the keeper could only palm away his shot from the edge of the area.
The Reds looked to be extremely comfortable and odds-on to extend their lead. However, with 23 minutes remaining a lull in the United defence was to blame for Hucknall’s first goal. A ball over the top broke the offside trap and caught the defence napping leaving Bonnick to make no mistake when one-on-one with Ashton.
Hucknall looked set to be closing the gap further when they were awarded a penalty. Nick Swirad was unable to deal with a tricky bounce and came across Bonnick’s path obstructing the striker in the box. Laurie Wilson, Hucknall’s captain, stepped up and fired a shot down the middle and Ashton pulled off a fantastic two handed save to deflect the well struck spot kick over the bar injuring his back in the process.
United made substitutions either side of the penalty, Joseph Yoffe came on in place of the struggling Cottrell and after a hardworking performance, Deegan was replaced by Jamie Mack.
The Reds looked to be suffering from the loss of Moses and Cottrell in the midfield and as a result of this and a further lapse in concentration in the United back line, Hucknall were able to add a second. Nightingale sprang the offside trap, ran through the centre of the defence unchallenged and found himself one-on-one with Ashton who had little chance as the striker pulled off a good finish.
In the final stages, United had to hold onto the lead as Hucknall pushed forward for the equaliser. The Reds were forced into vital last-ditch defending to keep Hucknall at bay in the dying minutes and come away with all three points.
Report by Victoria Fullen.