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United overcome Bridge in FA Cup

FC United booked a fourth qualifying round trip to Northwich Victoria after dumping Stalybridge Celtic out of the FA Cup on their own patch on Tuesday night in front of 1,923 supporters.

Jerome Wright’s first half rocket was enough to decide the replay as the Reds overcame the odds to beat their Blue Square Conference North neighbours 1-0 with a sterling performance.

United took the lead on 35 minutes and, unlike on Sunday where they let slip a 3-1 advantage, Karl Marginson’s side saw the job through to the end with dogged determination despite losing captain David Chadwick through injury.

There were several anxious moments as Celtic desperately tried to find an equaliser but if anything it was FC United who came closest to scoring the game’s elusive second goal with Ben Deegan and Carlos Roca both being denied late on.

The Reds could have taken the lead inside 30 seconds after Deegan played in Wright whose shot was saved by Celtic ’keeper Paul Phillips. The game’s fast pace continued, with both sides looking to attack and it looked like the home side would take break the deadlock on 19 minutes when Joe O’Neill was left all on his own in the box but Sam Ashton pulled off a superb save.

Soon afterwards, a scramble in the Celtic box from a free-kick won and taken by Roca resulted in a scuffed shot by Adam Tong being cleared off the line by John Hardiker. The second time the big defender had to come to Celtic’s rescue in the tie - he did so in similar fashion on Sunday at Gigg Lane.

The warning signs were there and United took a deserved lead on 35 minutes. A Wright free-kick was punched away by Phillips but Phil Marsh was first to gather the loose ball and laid it back out to Wright for a second go. The winger composed himself before looking up and hitting a long-range, swerving shot that left Phillips rooted to the spot and the ball flying into the top left corner.

With their tails up, the Reds were bossing the majority of possession but were hit with a major setback when captain David Chadwick had to go off injured. Rob Nugent was a like-for-like replacement but the United centre-back had to get with the pace of the game immediately as Celtic were looking quick on the break.

Despite the hosts huffing and puffing, United held firm. There was a slight scare five minutes before the interval when a mix up between Tong and Ashton almost let in Stalybridge but thankfully the chance came to nothing.

The second half started as the first ended, with a good chance for the home side but a FC defender was on the line to clear the ball. Former Stalybridge forward Roca was causing many of the problems for the home team and he almost scored with a couple of superb runs that ended with shots just wide and saved.

Whilst Bridge were enjoying the lion’s share of the ball and FC were happy to play on the break, the hosts weren’t really creating too many clear chances. That said, the Reds goal did lead a charmed life when Simon Garner managed to hack the ball from the line on two occasions.

Adam Carden had a good chance to score when he created a chance for himself but fired over when he should really have hit the target. At the other end Ashton was called into play with a couple of smart saves from shots that resulted from mistakes in the FC defence. In fact it looked like the best way that the home side could get back into the game was from chances created from mistakes.

United were conceding free-kicks in dangerous areas and Graeme Law floated one into the box. Hardiker was on the end of it but Ashton was equal to it - acrobatically tipping the ball over the bar.

As the game was approaching the final whistle, the home side pressed and pressed and there was a loud groan from the travelling Red army as five minutes of injury time was announced. FC United had to did in deep and despite the odd lapse they where standing firm.

There was still time for one last dangerous effort from Stalybridge deep into time added on. The Reds hacked the ball away but it fell to Michael Carr who rifled in a thunderous drive from the edge of the box. However, Ashton pulled off another great save to preserve United’s priceless lead.

The relief was clear for all to see at the final whistle and despite an ugly on field mĂȘlée at the death it was FC United who overcame the odds and advance into the fourth qualifying round for the first time in the club’s history.

Report by Steven Wood

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First Posted ~ 11:39 Thu 15 Oct 2009
News ID ~ 2473
Last Updated ~ 14:09 Mon 21 May 2018