FC United slipped to second from bottom of the Vanarama National League North after narrowly losing 2-1 at home to second place Stockport County on Saturday afternoon.
The high-flying Hatters fought back from 1-0 down to snatch all three points with two minutes to go in front of 2,987 supporters.
England C team striker Kurt Willoughby gave the Reds an early lead but County equalised on the stroke of halftime before sealing victory at the death. With fellow strugglers Ashton United and Hereford both winning, the defeat leaves FC United second from bottom and six points away from safety.
Willoughby broke the deadlock on 10 minutes, curling the ball home after beating two defenders on the left hand side of the box. It was the perfect start but the Reds were unable to find an all-important second goal in an entertaining, end-to-end encounter.
Frank Mulhearn equalised seconds before the interval with a clever chip and Jamie Stott scored what felt like an almost inevitable winner for County in the 88th minute, hooking home from close range. It was a cruel blow for the Reds but they acquitted themselves well against a strong team. Unfortunately though, good performances don’t always earn much needed points.
Stockport were the stronger team overall with 66% possession, accumulating 23 shots compared to FC United’s 11. However, only five of the visitors’ shots were on target compared to four from the Reds and the game could have gone either way.
United’s best chances to score the elusive second goal came just moments before and after the halftime interval. Mike Donohue was involved on each occasions. Three minutes before the break, he was played through the middle by Jack Banister. With a defender giving chase, Donohue cut back inside before firing a shot goalwards. However, goalkeeper Ben Hinchliffe got just enough on it to stop the ball reaching its intended target before the danger was cleared by defender Sam Minihan.
Moments later, Mulhearn reacted first to a loose ball down at the other end after Lloyd Allinson had produced a fantastic reflect save from Ash Palmer’s header. The United shot-stopper had done well to push the ball away to the right handside of the box but as he and his defence were regrouping Mulhearn audaciously chipped the ball into the far corner for the equaliser.
It was a fair score going into the break but United will still have been disappointed that they couldn’t keep the lead. Twice they nearly regained it just minutes into the second half. The Reds were now attacking a packed St Mary’s Road End and good pressure led to two corners in quick succession. Donohue whipped the first one in from the left and Chorley loanee Dale Whitman was unlucky to see his powerful header clawed off the line by Hinchliffe. Moments later, Donohue swung in a corner from the right and Crewe Alexandra loanee Billy Sass-Davies headed agonisingly over the bar.
It was FC United’s last real clear-cut chance of the game as Stockport began to take control of the game. Allinson was being kept on his toes, although not really called upon as County kept creating chances but missing the target. Mulhern headed over a Sam Walker corner and many of the travelling 800 County supporters thought Darren Stephenson had won the match with 10 minutes to go but he fired into the right side-netting from close range.
However, County did eventually find the winner. The Reds were under the cosh and trying desperately to hold on. A corner was headed clear but the clearance was pumped back into the box and the quickest player to react was Stott as he hooked a volley beyond Allinson from six yards out.
Website man of the match: Zehn Mohammed. Really tough to pick out a standout performer in a good team performance but Accrington Stanley’s loanee centre-back Zehn Mohammed made some vital challenges and blocks which kept United in the game. The 21-year-old looks like he has a very bright future ahead of him.
Report by Matthew Haley