In an anticipated fixture against FC United’s highest ever opposition, Jerome Wright provided a late consolation to set the final score at 2-1.
Against an XI from former Premier League outfit, Blackburn Rovers, made up of largely reserve team players, the game was an excellent opportunity for the Reds and although no current first team players were in the Rovers side, the high standing of the opponents attracted a crowd of 721 to Bower Fold, for the only home friendly of this pre-season.
Despite the obvious gulf between the two clubs, FC United came into the game full of confidence, having knocked six past Bishop Auckland at the weekend. As expected, Wednesday’s line-up consisted of the first team, with a hint of experimentation as players were tried out in different positions, thanks to the ‘rolling subs’ nature of a friendly fixture.
FC United started positively, holding the ball well in the initial couple of minutes, however they weren’t to stay in possession long, as the defence was tested against a Blackburn corner early on.
Carlos Roca provided some inspiration in the wide positions, alternating between wings. On one such occasion, a burst of trickery saw the attacker brought down and as Roca converted the free kick, Adam Jones hung back on the edge of the area and managed to hook a boot around the ball for an effort that went wide.
Blackburn’s experience showed as their forward players found themselves able to cut through United to get into good positions inside the FC half. Micah Evans was a case in point, going one on one with James Spencer and the United keeper did well to get down to block the shot on goal with his body.
The Reds were in need of getting their passing together in order to make more progress going forward.
Scott Cheetham opted to throw a long range effort into the mix, testing Matty Urwin down to his left.
Having proved a threat all half, Osaymen Osawe picked up a good ball out on the left in space, cut in well and curled a low fierce drive to the far post evading Spencer’s best efforts to keep it from hitting the back of the net.
Hugo Fernandez then had the FC players in the box scrambling to clear as he collected the loose ball from Paul Jones’ initial block. As Spencer went to ground in an attempt to get both hands on the ball, Fernandez skirted across the edge of the six yard box to look for the gap left by the keeper, only to skew his final shot horribly off target.
In the opposite area, Mike Norton tussled to free himself from the attentions of Jack O’Connell before the defender appeared to push Norton in the back and the referee waved away any appeals.
A good spell ensued for FC, as Roca’s cross from the right forced Raheem Hanley to clear urgently behind at the far post and Adam Jones also headed wide from close range.
Stephen Johnson then helped the Reds recover well from a Blackburn attack, running the left line and winning a corner. This was after Osawe had gone for his second, bringing the ball to the edge of the area and stunning the post.
Half time gave the FC United youth team the opportunity to show off their silverware of two cups and the league trophy, after a magnificent 2011-12 season for the youngest end of United’s team set-up.
Rovers attacked from the whistle in the second half, as Osawe seized upon a slip by Adam Jones to feed a through ball to substitute Will Beesley, and although nothing came of the attack, it was indicative of United being on the back foot.
The visitors were able to double their lead ten minutes into the second half as following a good build up, Jordan Slew, who made an appearance for Blackburn’s first team last season, weaved into the box and put the ball beyond Spencer.
Seven changes ensued for United, including Chris Amadi and Chris Curley who provided some spark, linking up well and almost latching a good ball through to Norton.
Cottrell tested the Blackburn keeper from afar as FC began to pick up their attack with ten minutes to go, and as Rovers conceded a free kick, David Birch managed to hit the shot on target through the Blackburn wall and the ball was deflected behind. The resulting corner came out to the edge of the area and Wright cut in and shot to beat the keeper at the near post.
Unfortunately, there was little time remaining for United to threaten again and Rovers saw the game out to take the victory.
In spite of the result, the encounter was certainly excellent preparation for the new season, which is now just over two weeks away. Again, it was also a chance for Karl Marginson and his team to assess their options ahead of the new campaign, with many of the first team being given their chance to impress and the stern tests continue with Saturday’s trip to Macclesfield.
Report by Victoria Fullen.