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FC United claim play-off spot with win at Matlock

FC United guaranteed themselves a place in the Evo-Stik Premier Division play-offs for the first time in their history with a 2-1 win at Matlock on Easter Saturday with goals from Matthew Wolfenden and Jerome Wright.

With Sam Ashton suspended and Grant Shenton attending his brother’s wedding, the pre-game rumours of striker Ben Deegan playing in goal were proven to be true as he lined up in the No 1 shirt. It was clear early on that Matlock were targeting him with a number of crosses into his box.

Deegan did well to block a shot from lethal scorer Ross Hannah on two minutes and a minute later, Hannah had the ball in the net for what would have been his 50th goal of the season. However, Hannah had punched the ball over the line and the official correctly cautioned the Matlock striker.

It was a cagey opening from FC United but as the half wore on, the Reds came into the game with Scott McManus having a goalbound shot deflected over the bar on 15 minutes. Down at the other end, McManus had to be at his defensive best to thwart Hannah twice when the striker looked to be through on goal.

The Reds had a succession of corners and from one came close to taking the lead, captain Mike Norton seeing his header well saved by Buxton in the home goal.

On 37 minutes, the away side took the lead when a Jake Cottrell run and shot from 25 yards was parried by goalkeeper Nick Buxton into the path of Wolfenden to fire the rebound into the far corner.

The Reds were enjoying much of the possession but were struggling to find their way through the resolute home defence whilst Deegan was being superbly protected by the United back four and so it was no surprise that the score line stayed that way at half-time.

The second half started ominously for FC United as Matlock drew level inside the first minute, when skipper James Lukic put a free header past Deegan from a free-kick.

This signalled a short passage of play where the home looked at their most dangerous, Ryan Mallon heading over and Hannah lobbing Deegan but thankfully also the crossbar.

FC United were always looking dangerous on the counterattack and so it proved on 52 minutes when a mistake in the home defence allowed Wright to run on goal. The United winger was coolness personified as he swept forward with the ball before stroking it into the net giving Buxton no chance and sending the fans behind the goal into raptures.

Matlock came close to equalising just five minutes later with a shot from substitute James Knowles but Deegan did well to parry the ball round the post.

With that slight warning heeded, FC United then shut up shop in a professional manner and controlled the game for large spells of the remaining half an hour with good passages of possession and a lot of hard work to harry Matlock in the hot spring sunshine.

Credit must be given to the FC defence who protected Deegan superbly as well as Richard Battersby in the centre of the pitch who had his best game in a FC shirt.

So onwards to the play-offs, three points at home to Kendal will confirm second place and who would have predicted that on 2nd January when FC United were next to bottom of the league?

Report by Steven Wood

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First Posted ~ 19:25 Sun 24 Apr 2011
News ID ~ 3554
Last Updated ~ 19:25 Sun 24 Apr 2011