FC United’s turbulent week, which witnessed the emotional departure of player-manager Tom Greaves, ended on a happier note with an injury time equaliser to draw 2-2 against Bradford Park Avenue on Sunday afternoon at Broadhurst Park.
The West Yorkshire visitors were two-nil up just before the hour mark thanks to captain Shane Killock and a Joel Senior own goal after a calamitous defensive mix up. However, the Reds fought back to take a share of the spoils with hardworking Brodie Litchfield scoring United’s first and Kurt Willoughby getting the equaliser from the penalty spot.
Avenue started the match brightly, playing some attractive football, that earned them three corners in the first 10 minutes with winger Ben McKenna enjoying plenty of success down the right flank. Loanee keeper Billy Crellin was called upon several times to keep the scores level. 21 minutes into the match Bradford put a low crossed ball from the left, which somehow found its way through a plethora of players where Killock was arriving at the far post for a short range tap in. A soft goal to concede meaning the Reds had to come from behind again.
FC United tried in vain for an equaliser with some good build up play but often the final ball was lacking any conviction. The visitors hit the post on 41 minutes with a lovely 25 yard effort from Conor Branson, the rebound shot going wide for a goal-kick.
During the halftime break, Greaves took to the pitch to address both sets of fans – with added significance as Bradford are his local club where he spend many years. Warm applause filled the air as FC United’s all-time leading goalscorer thanked the fans and reminisced about his time at the club.
The away side started the second half as they did the first, gaining another corner inside two minutes of the restart. Moments later, a Bradford free-kick was scrambled away for a corner, FC United were under pressure once again, but they managed to survive this time.
The relief was short lived. On 55 minutes, Senior sold Crellin short with a back-pass which allowed striker Jake Beesley to prod the ball round the keeper. The covering Senior tried to make amends but then sliced the ball into his own net to give Avenue a two-nil lead and FC United had a mountain to climb.
Willoughby, who had been demanding the ball all afternoon, ran at the defence and shot from outside the area, the ball rebounded off the base of the post and the supporting Lichfield hit his shot into the ground which bounced up and over keeper Steven Drench to make it 1-2. Just the lift that the team and the crowd needed.
The game became more open as United fought for the equaliser. Bradford took advantage of some more shabby defending only to see the effort hit the side netting. The 1,814 people in attendance really turned up the volume in a period which saw Willoughby and sub Jack Bannister have shots just wide of the goal and new loan signing from Fleetwood Town, Mike Donohue linked up well with his colleagues.
As the board went up announcing three minutes added time, Willoughby turned sharply in the box, a move that drew a foul, and resulted in a penalty. The young striker got up off the ground to plant the ball powerfully into the bottom right corner much to the delight and relief of players and fans alike. The referee blew for full time shortly after with honours even.
FC United are at home next Saturday 8th September to Southport, hoping to gain some momentum in what has been a difficult season thus far.
Website man of the match: Billy Crellin seems to grow in confidence with each game and made some important stops at various times to keep the Reds in the match.
Report by Neil Lees