FC United of Manchester notched up a third successive league win in a thrilling 1-2 away victory against Northern Premier League leaders Buxton FC on Saturday afternoon, during a game played in front of 1,309 supporters.
Two second half goals from Curtis Jones and Joe Duckworth were enough to give the visitors all three points, as the two sides played out a riveting contest at Buxton's Silverland Stadium. FC United had gone a goal behind in the first half of the match, but battled back against quality opposition, during an afternoon blighted by testing weather conditions as thick fog and cold temperatures persisted during the match.
The away win can be regarded as a notable highlight in FC United's season, given the excellent recent form of the home side. Buxton have emerged as clear favourites for this year's NPL Premier title, having lost only two league games prior to Saturday's fixture. The Bucks have also enjoyed a fine run in this season's FA Cup, with their participation only coming to an end earlier this month following a narrow 0-1 loss in the second round against League One side Morecambe Town.
True to form, the afternoon had started brightest for the home side who were quick to look for the game's opening goals. They soon forced a series of excellent saves from away team keeper Dan Lavercombe, through chances for attacking midfielder Tom Elliott, and former FC United player Jason Gilchrist.
During the week, FC United boss Neil Reynolds had spoken of his desire to see his side go out and try to win the game, and the Reds seemed determined to set out their desire for a win early on as well. In the twelfth minute FC thought they had taken the lead in the game, as a high cross went soaring over a packed penalty area, evading the heads of the home defence, before bouncing off the far post and into the Buxton goal. However the celebrations were brief, with the referee quickly ruling the goal out, judging that there had been a push on home keeper Theo Richardson in the lead up play.
When the opening goal did occur, it came to the home team, with the impressive Dom Tear rising high in the middle of the box, to meet a well placed cross from the left hand side with his head. The striker, currently on loan to the club from Halifax Town, finally managing to find a way past a helpless Lavercombe and forcing the ball into the United goal.
To their credit, FC United certainly had the bit between their teeth, and fought for a route back into the game during the remainder of the half, going close to levelling things up before the break through Luke Griffiths, who somehow managed send his shot wide of an open goal from a short distance out. This was followed by an effort from defender Jonathan Smith, who was unlucky to send a headed attempt bouncing off the bar after jumping well to meet the ball in the penalty area.
After the restart, both teams enjoyed good periods of play, but with FC United perhaps looking the more likely of the two sides to take the lead. Following a good chance for Michael Donohue, who broke at pace into the penalty area only to send his shot narrowly over the bar, United at last had an equaliser on the 56th minute. Defender Curtis Jones drilled the ball home from close range, converting from a low free kick in from Altrincham loanee Andy White on the right hand edge of the penalty area.
Following that the away side went in search of a winner, and on the 80th minute, their excellent team performance against an increasingly tired-looking Buxton side resulted in a winning goal. This time, substitute Joe Duckworth latched onto a through ball from Charlie Ennis, to find himself in a one-on-one with Bucks' keeper Richardson. The Reds' recent signing looked calm under pressure, feinted with his right foot, before calmly side-footing the ball with his left foot into the Buxton net. The winning goal was wildly celebrated by the travelling support who had been in brilliant form during the entire afternoon.
Despite some tired legs, the home side continued to search for a way back into the game, but their chances were ably dealt with by a resiliant Lavercombe. Late on in the game, at the other end of the pitch, United went close to making it 1-3 as Ennis again set up Duckworth in the Buxton penalty area for another one-on-one with Theo Richardson, this time the United forward found his opponent in better form, with the Buck's keeper parrying the shot away from goal.
Man of the Match: Dan Lavercombe
Another impressive performance from the FC United goalkeeper. A series of saves at the start of the game gave the away side confidence early on, while his resilience and composure at the end of the match ensured that the Reds left Buxton with all three league points.