FC United’s FA Cup with Budweiser adventure is over for another season as the Reds were beaten 2-0 at home to Conference side Hereford United this afternoon but they can definitely hold their heads up high.
A contentious penalty decision saw the visitors take the lead, a second debatable decision saw Jerome Wright sent off late on and finally United were dealt the blow of conceding a second goal in the last ten minutes to give the away team the win in a game where the Reds will feel they deserved more.
Karl Marginson’s side came onto the field knowing they had to be at their best and take the game to the opposition from the off and that’s exactly what they did getting the ball down and attacking right from the first whistle.
Even in the early stages of the game United looked like they could actually pull off the upset with the returning Matthew Wolfenden and the left side link up of Lee Neville and Jerome Wright looking the most dangerous outlets for the men in red.
The visiting side began the game looking to soak up the pressure of the early onslaught they were obviously expecting, but it was indeed the visiting side who had the first real opportunity as Ryan Bowman’s effort from outside the box was tipped over by United stopper James Spencer.
Other than this effort and the consistent closing down the away team were implementing the game was very much United’s and they kept coming forward with the ball looking to get the breakthrough, the best effort of the first half being a Jerome Wright effort which was easily dealt with by Hereford’s ‘keeper James Bittner.
After half an hour, many in attendance felt United were dealt an unjustified blow as referee Ross Joyce decided to play on for a good five seconds or so following a Nicky Platt challenge in the box, before deciding Platt’s tackle was an illegal one and as such, the away side were awarded a penalty.
Ryan Bowman stepped up and put the ball down to Spencer’s left, just far enough away from the United stoppers hands to give the visitors a lead which if the truth be told was against the run of play during the first half.
A goal down, attacking the Manchester Road End where many felt hard done by with regards to the penalty decision you got the feeling as the two teams returned for the second half that United would throw everything including the kitchen sink at this in an effort to get a result that the exceptional support craved.
Not long into the second half and Wright signalled United’s intent as he broke through the middle of the park and shot towards goal. The winger’s effort never really troubled Bittner but it was a signal of things to come.
The second half mostly followed the same pattern as the first with United looking the livelier of the two teams, enjoying good possession but not quite showing the killer instinct needed in the final third.
Playing as the lone front man, Mike Norton was like a man possessed as the Reds fought back, throwing himself into every challenge he could, closing balls down and causing a real nuisance to the visiting defence.
Norton may have felt he should have equalised for United when a good move on the left flank between Neville and Wright saw a ball crossed to the edge of the six yard box, where Norton nodded the ball down agonisingly just inches wide of the post missing a great opportunity that he’d made for himself.
The support was as vocal as ever during the afternoon, cheering United on at every opportunity and with every corner the Reds won - a wall of noise was felt from behind the goal. United looked dangerous from set-pieces all afternoon but it was from a corner that yet another dubious looking decision changed the momentum of the game once more.
A ball into the box fell down near the penalty spot and a desperate scramble saw the ball cleared. However, a Hereford player was obviously struck by a boot during the scramble as he was left lying on the floor.
At this point, the physio was called for and referee Joyce called over Wright, made a signal of some kind of kick and showed the bemused United winger the red card and in one instant all but killed off the Reds’ chances of grabbing anything from a tie that they’d had the better of.
To make matters worse, just seconds later, United - still reeling from the harsh looking dismissal of Wright - were caught on the counter attack by Ryan Bowman who fired past Spencer and put the visiting side into the first round draw tomorrow afternoon.
United weren’t finished there though and kept going looking to get a goal that you had to say their play had deserved. Substitute Chris Amadi came close, after bamboozling the defence with his quick feet inside the box, a scuffed effort almost found its way over Bittner but the ball was cleared.
The visiting defence also cleared an Adam Jones header off the line to deny the defender in the final minutes of the game.
In the dying minutes, the 2,212 crowd showed that the red flag will always fly high and a show of support through singing, flag waving and scarf shaking was a sight to behold in the stadium so much so that as the final whistle went Hereford ‘keeper Bittner (who had been subject to banter from the fans during the game) simply turned and saluted the fans behind him showing just how special this thing of ours is.
So the FA Cup run is over for another year, and sadly there won’t be any heroics like there were two years ago at Rochdale and Brighton. But FC United now have to concentrate on the league, where they have lost a little ground through inactivity due to their cup commitments and they couldn’t ask for a tougher return as they travel to league leaders North Ferriby on Tuesday evening.
Report by Craig Phillips.