|Venue||Livingston Road, Accrington, BB5 5BX, Crown Ground|
|Competition||NWC Football League Challenge Cup|
|2 (0)||-||1 (0)|
| ||Torpey 90|
|1. Rossi Baxter|
2. Matt Holdsworth
3. Jason Heffernan
4. Kieron Roberts
5. Gary Rishton
6. Russell Clarke
7. Gary Williams
8. Scott Gizon (capt)
9. Ian Simpson
10. Steve Cunningham, 11. Paul Forsyth
12. Paul Walker (for 10, 87 mins)
14. Chris Clarke (for 8, 12 mins)
15. Richard Close
|1 Barrie George|
2 Tony Cullen
3 Kevin Elvin
4 Ryan Gilligan
5 David Chadwick (capt)
6 Billy McCartney
7 Joshua Howard
8 Simon Carden
9 Adie Orr
10 Steve Torpey
11 Rory Patterson
12 Jonathan Mitten (for 11)
15 Darren Lyons (for 2)
|Remembrance Sunday saw FC United continuing their journey in this first season with a NWCL League Challenge Cup 2nd round tie. Colne FC were the hosts but their normal home was not deemed a suitable venue for the travelling masses so Accrington Stanley’s Interlink Stadium was ’borrowed’ for the day. The first chill winds of winter seemed to have arrived since the last match so many ’big coats’ were in evidence as the crowds began to arrive. As is growing customary on these occasions we waited for the latecomers to gain entrance before the match commenced, very nearly 20 minutes after the advertised kick off time this time.|
The United side showed 3 changes from the disappointing showing against Eccleshall. In came Ryan Gilligan, new signing Josh Howard and the fit again Steve Torpey. Those making way were Mark Rawlinson, Darren Lyons and Joz Mitten. Colne also made changes as their squad has seen a few tweaks in recent weeks with a handful of players moving out and another few coming in to replace them. Perhaps the most notable new Colne arrival being the ex-Altrincham winger Gary Williams who was making his debut.
This was the type of game that was in mind when the clichÃ© ’game of two halves’ was penned. Colne started very brightly and had much the better of the first 45 minutes whereas United had the better of the majority of the final 45 minutes. Colne manager Nigel Coates must have wondered how they had failed to score as the teams came of at half time. Barrie George had been by far the busier ’keeper but had been equal to all efforts sent his way.
Williams and Forsyth were lively and presented plenty of problems for the FC United backline. As early as the 3rd minute and Williams ran inside from his starting position on the right flank before sliding a through ball for Forsyth but he scuffed his shot somewhat making the save routine for George. Williams also saw a right-footed volley deflected behind in the early stages.
The Colne game-plan was thrown away after less than a quarter of an hour as the club captain, Scott Gizen, was substituted after injury. The injury resulted from a 50:50 challenge that saw Tony Cullen arriving fractionally late and catching Gizen a painful blow. The Colne number 8 resumed after treatment but was clearly feeling the full effect of the challenge and had no choice but to make way for a substitute. Cullen would have to walk the disciplinary tightrope for at least 80 minutes as referee Taylor cautioned him for the challenge.
Cullen very nearly broke the deadlock soon after but at the wrong end. A harmless looking low cross came in from the right side and either Cullen or George could have dealt with it comfortably; unfortunately a misunderstanding saw Cullen turn the ball back to George when the United keeper had already advanced as if to collect without Cullen’s assistance. The gentle pass back went beyond the startled George and looked to be goal bound. By some element of good fortune the ball struck squarely off of the foot of the post and was scrambled away as Barrie George regained his position.
On 23 minutes and United mounted their first meaningful attack. A throw-in near halfway on the right side was taken long by Cullen to Patterson who crossed early for Orr who stole in at the near post. Adie volleyed first time but couldn’t get the shot on target as it went harmlessly behind to the right of the post.
Just after half an hour played and Williams again threatened the United goal. A quick break down the left saw the speedy winger cut inside onto his right foot. The shot was strong and certainly on target but George was equal to it. Moments later and George did well to catch a Cunningham freekick cleanly with a couple of attackers lurking, waiting for any loose ball.
On 36 minutes George and Williams again were involved in a memorable exchange. I’m not sure how to characterise this moment, it was either the miss of the match (possibly season) or it was the save of the match (or season). The move originated on the Colne left side through Forsyth. The Colne 11 did well to get in behind the United cover and he seemed to have done everything right as he selflessly squared to Williams in a central position no more than 5 yards from goal. With the goal gaping he looked certain to score but his shot was less than well struck and Barrie George somehow scrambled back across from his near post to the middle of the goal in time to stop the ball from crossing the line. To be perfectly fair it may well turn out to be both the finest save and the worst miss of the season. In retrospect I’m going to give Barrie credit for not giving it up when for all of the world he must have thought, as did the whole ground, that Williams would score.
On 28 minutes and another stunning George save kept the game scoreless and again Williams was the victim. This chance came about after a series of Colne corners. The final one was not cleared and there ensued a mass scramble in the United area. Williams ended up firing a volley goalwards from close range and George pulled off another superb close range, quick reaction save. As things turned out Williams would, eventually, have the last laugh in his personal battle with George.
In the last few minutes of the half United had a couple of good attacking moments. A Cullen run down the right saw him well played in after a one-two with Orr. The ball was turned in to Patterson who finished with aplomb but only after the whistle had signalled another offside decision. Minutes later and a poor, over hit Colne corner was tidied up by Kev Elvin. He fed the ball to Steve Torpey who carried forward from his own half but this 2 on 2 break was squandered as the United number 10 shot wildly.
The very calm and seemingly reliable Colne goalkeeper very nearly presented an embarrassing opener to Steve Torpey early in the second half. A freekick had been awarded to Colne some 10 yards inside their own half. The left back and stand in captain, Jason Heffernan, looked set to take it but he was waved away by Baxter who advanced from his goal to take it himself. He badly missed his kick and saw the ball directed straight to Torpey 10 yards inside the United half in a central position. With Baxter sprinting back to attempt to regain his position Torpey carried the ball forwards for a few seconds, just across halfway. With Baxter still a long way out of goal Torpey shot with his trusty left foot. The effort was hit well enough but went wide of the right post to the huge relief of Rossi Baxter and the disappointment of the travelling contingent manning the packed terrace behind the goal.
On 53 minutes George again saved well from Williams after a slip from the excellent Chadwick. Less than 5 minutes later and an excellent ball from Elvin played in Torpey who cut back onto his right foot before crossing. Simon Carden met the cross well, probably too well. The volley was neatly struck but was directed straight into Baxter’s midriff, any mishit would have probably tested the keeper but this well struck shot was comfortably gathered by Baxter.
Baxter was far more involved in the second half but just as Barrie George had all of the answers in the first half so it appeared for the Colne keeper in the second. He even dealt with a deep Patterson cross with just one hand initially. He could not hold it but reacted just quickly enough to smother the loose ball before Adie Orr could pounce.
A Gilligan shot was powerfully struck but was deflected over the bar. The ball looped up off of the defender and Baxter, for once was looking flat-footed, but the deflection carried the ball over the bar and out of danger. The resulting corner was sent in by Torpey and was well met by McCartney but the central defender could not keep his header down.
Orr forced a very good save from Baxter as he moved in on goal in the inside right channel. The shot from Orr was strong, low and powerful and across the keeper. Baxter had to gather the shot or risk any rebound being pounced upon by supporting united attackers. Somehow, at full stretch, Baxter did manage to gather, initially with one hand again before pulling the ball into the safety of both hands.
With 10 minutes remaining Patterson made way for Joz Mitten. A strangely subdued performance from Rory who never really seemed to ’click’ on the day. He did, however, have a little bit more to offer in the dying moments even from the bench.
On 82 minutes Baxter was less than fully convincing in saving a Torpey freekick. The kick was taken from quite an acute angle and Torpey hit it with power and in swing. I think Baxter may have thought he had a little more time than he actually did as he had to throw his hands up in great haste.
The first goal arrived on 86 minutes and was very well taken by Gizen’s replacement, Chris Clarke. He received the ball in space on the Colne left and was not closed quickly enough, from a United point of view. With great composure he moved the ball onto his right side and curled his shot just beyond Barrie George’s despairing dive and just inside of the right hand post from just outside of the left corner of the area. 1-0.
Mitten saw a volley well gathered by Baxter within a minute of the restart but again the excellent Colne stopper did enough. Karl Marginson threw caution to the wind by withdrawing Tony Cullen and introducing Darren Lyons hoping that a quality cross or freekick might be instrumental in unlocking the Colne defence.
In the 90th minute Torpey was fouled in a central position about 25 yards from goal. There was a little delay as the referee sorted out the defensive wall and whilst Torpey and Lyons discussed ’the plan.’ Torpey clearly had the last word and the best plan, as it happens, as he strode up and drove the ball low and just inside the left hand post with Baxter, at last, beaten. Another Torpey special to add to an already impressive list. 1-1.
As extra time was looming and the possibility of a replay seemed very likely up popped Gary Williams to break FC United hearts. Heffernan hit a long clearance/pass that looked likely to be dealt with by McCartney but Williams has prodigious pace and nipped in behind the big United 6. McCartney tried to make up the yard lost as he had turned but there was to be no catching Williams. As the number 7 got to the edge of the area he struck with his right foot. The shot was powerful enough to get past George even though the United number 1 had got a hand to the effort. 2-1.
Having come back once United were not for lying down now at 2-1 behind, despite there only being a minute or so of stoppage time to play. United won a throw-in on their right flank near to halfway. As you might expect United were keen to take this throw quickly, you also might expect that Colne were less than keen to allow United to do so. They, in fact, were at least as keen to delay it as United were to hasten its taking. This would seem to be akin to the immovable object meeting the irresistible force. A bit of handbags as players and officials from both sides engaged in a full and frank exchange of views. Rory saw fit to join in and his actions were construed as violent conduct by the referee so he was shown the red card and will miss a few games for his trouble. The match resumed with the FC United throw-in, finally, but no miracle was forthcoming and the score remained at 2-1.
United showed good character coming back after conceding such a late goal and will have been heartened by competing in all areas with one of the strongest teams in the North West Counties League Division One. Another major positive was a nice debut performance from Josh Howard. He was a little quiet in the first half but grew in confidence as the game wore on. He showed some excellent touches and has good speed; I look forward to seeing more from him in the future. Barrie George was probably United’s man of the match after making some stunning saves in a very busy first half. I know that he will probably dwell on the final goal but he certainly need not feel any shame for that.
Another positive, clichÃ© time again, United can now concentrate on the league!