FC United are through to the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League play-off final against Bradford Park Avenue next weekend after beating Chorley 2-0 at Victory Park on Saturday afternoon thanks to superb second half goals from Michael Norton and Astley Mulholland in front of 2,754 supporters.
Despite the Magpies finishing three places above United, the Reds produced a strong performance, defending excellently. All of the first-choice back four were available with Adam Jones returning from injury and the team worked hard to push the ball forward at every opportunity and overall they were the better footballing side on the day.
The Reds went into the game with restored confidence, having ended the season on a high with an emphatic 4-1 win over relegated Northwich Victoria. The visiting United fans were certainly behind the side, providing the majority of the pre-match atmosphere.
Allegiances were set aside prior to kick off, as the whole of Victory Park united in a minute’s applause out of respect for former FC United ball-boy, Ben Obiora, who tragically died last week.
United were quick off the blocks as Stephen Johnson skipped past Tom Ince and was quickly surrounded by two Chorley players and brought down for a free kick, which was headed clear.
Chris Denham then provided a threat as he beat the offside trap and broke forward, looking likely to test James Spencer. Greg Stones covered well to take the ball, as a nervy few minutes ensued for United who struggled to clear a threatening Chorley build-up. This culminated in a free kick for the home side which Spencer rose to punch clear, and although the ball crossed the line, any celebrations were cut short as the referee had already blown for a foul on the keeper.
Carlos Roca and Mike Norton then linked up, with the former forcing Russ Saunders down to save at his right post. The United striker then saw a further effort go just wide after latching onto a long throw from Stones. United were now working the ball forward and being able to play football, with Matthew Wolfenden running onto Norton’s flick, forcing a good block from captain Andy Teague inside the area, and Lee Neville and Johnson working well down the left to test Saunders once more.
With the swirling wind certainly playing a part in the fixture, Jake Cottrell went for a high looping shot, which was on target for the top right corner, but the keeper managed to judge the flight of the ball well to claim under pressure from Norton.
As half-time neared, Roca displayed fantastic control, picking up a long ball out of defence and playing in Norton whose shot wasn’t enough to test Saunders.
The Reds had the better of the first half, but as the second began, the home side’s physical strength saw them start the brighter. Ciaron Kilheeny had the Chorley fans on their feet and cheering in anticipation of a shot that looked almost certain to put them ahead, however the cross bar stood between the Magpies and an opener and United hurriedly cleared.
United soon regained control, and set their stall out to play in a style that was enjoyable to watch. The goal when it came was a beauty. Norton showed excellent strength upfront, threading across the box and through the defence before lifting a perfectly judged left-foot shot beyond Saunders into the top corner.
FC’s attacking potential continued to show, however, it was the Magpies who next had the ball in the net. The ball came out wide and was played into the path of Steve Foster, who subtlety used his forearm to help it onto his right foot to drill past Spencer. Luckily, there was no injustice, as the referee’s assistant did well to spot the handball, and the goal was disallowed.
Marginson’s side then had to remain resolute in the passage of play that followed, as clearly feeling aggrieved by the officials’ decision, Chorley pumped the ball forward in the hope of finding a way through. During this period in particular, Adam Jones’ return proved vital, as he was instrumental in heading the long balls downfield away from danger on numerous occasions.
With a quarter of an hour remaining, Roca was replaced by Astley Mulholland, the former having played his part in the encounter, providing much threat down the wings.
It was the substitute who doubled United’s advantage on 79 minutes. The winger picked the ball up on the left and tricked his way along the dead ball line, before cutting inside the defender and finishing from a tight angle, sending the United faithful, and the visiting bench, into raptures.
As the home supporters began to file out, FC saw out a fine footballing performance in all areas of the pitch, and earned themselves a place in the final at Bradford Park Avenue.
Having now proved capable of beating higher-placed sides in their last two games, the Reds must surely go into the final full of confidence. After being given a lifeline into the play-offs, they will be grasping the opportunity of a second shot at promotion, with both hands (or feet), and will be looking to avenge the disappointment of last year’s final defeat at Colwyn Bay.
Website Man of the Match: Michael Norton – hardly possible to single out an individual from fantastic all-round team performance, however, in a one-off game, the scoreline is all that counts at the final whistle and Norton’s work rate and strength as the lone striker was second-to-none.
Report by Victoria Fullen.
|News ID ~ 4214 || First Posted ~ 11:21 Mon 30 Apr 2012 || Last Updated ~ 11:21 Mon 30 Apr 2012|
|Football Club United of Manchester, Hope Mill, 113 Pollard Street, Ancoats, Manchester M4 7JA|
|FC United Office Email - firstname.lastname@example.org|
|FC United Office Fax - 0161 273 7598
||Club Information Line - 0844 745 1958|
|FC United Office Phone - 0161 273 8950
||Free Text Message Service - 07786 200 353|
|Copyright (c) 2005-2013 FC United of Manchester (except fixtures, tables and images used by kind permission of their respective rights holders). All rights reserved.