Finlay Sinclair-Smith scored an 89th minute winner to send FC United through to the first round proper of the Emirates FA Cup for the third time in the club’s history with a 2-1 victory over a resolute Guiseley AFC.
The stylish Reds triumphed in an exhilarating game of football that deserved more than the covid-compliant capacity crowd of 600 socially distanced supporters at Broadhurst Park.
Neil Reynolds’ side got the perfect start when Charlie Ennis put them 1-0 up from the penalty spot inside 10 minutes. However, the West Yorkshire visitors from the division above were never going to roll over and equalised 10 minutes before halftime through Jonathan Wafula.
FC United were on top for most of the first half but Guiseley, buoyed by the equaliser, became increasingly dangerous as the match wore on. However, despite pressing, the visitors rarely troubled the always impressive FC United goalkeeper Dan Lavercombe.
Just when it looked like a penalty shootout would be needed to separate to two sides, Sinclair-Smith collected an excellent cross-field ball by Michael Fowler. Sinclair-Smith took a touch before firing home the winner via a deflection from a hapless defender to send the FC United faithful – watching in Broadhurst Park and around the world – into raptures.
Every credit must go to Guiseley for the part they played in an enthralling and hard fought match. A genuine footballing side who could easily have come out on top.
The visitors were not alone in nearly denying the Reds an unforgettable victory. Torrential rain poured down during the first half and a nervousness swept through the ground due to concerns about the possibility of the match being abandoned.
Thankfully, FC United’s fantastic supporters raised more than £15,000 over the summer for the #NoDrainNoGame campaign so that expert groundsmen Graham Byrne and Jimmy Deadman could oversee the fixing of the drains and relaying of the pitch. It proved to be worth every penny today.
Regardless of the damp and slippery conditions, United started like a sprinter out of the blocks. Aaron Morris was in exceptional form. Nine minutes gone, the rightback made a tackle in his own half, quickly got to his feet and made a 60-yard run into the box via playing a one-two with Regan Linney, and was promptly taken out by Guiseley captain Hamza Bencherif. The referee checked with his assistant and pointed to the spot.
After having a penalty saved last Saturday, Ennis could have been forgiven for letting someone else take on the spot-kick duties. Not a chance. The FC United midfielder stepped up to the plate and smashed home the opener for 1-0.
However, the Reds were pegged back 25 minutes later when a backpass by Luke Griffiths was held up in the drenched pitch leaving the quick-thinking Wafula to equalise with a composed finish into the far corner.
Into the second half and The Lions were going in for the kill. Chris Doyle was magnificent at the back and just before the hour mark he made a superb sliding clearance to deny the Vanarama National League North side.
Moments later, there was an unsightly melee inside the FC United goal as passions spilled over. The FA Cup isn’t what it used to be? Try telling that to everyone in Broadhurst Park. Doyle and Wafula were both fairly cautioned for their role in the incident.
The game became increasingly cagey as the clock ticked towards 90 minutes but Guiseley seemed to have a slight advantage in terms of possession. However, they failed to make it count and then United hit them on the break for a priceless victory.
Final score – FC United 2-1 Guiseley AFC. The first round proper draw takes place at live on BBC Two at 7pm on Monday when clubs such as Sunderland, Bolton Wanderers and Portsmouth enter the competition.
Website man of the match: 14 heroes took to the pitch and wrote more FA Cup history for FC United today but Aaron Morris takes this week’s award for a pulsating first half performance in attack and defence.
Report by Matthew Haley