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Third place FCUM secure home play-off against Witton

FC United signed off the Evo-Stik Premier Division season in style with a 3-0 victory over Frickley Athletic at Gigg Lane on Saturday afternoon and now we will face Witton Albion at the same ground on Tuesday night in the play-off semi-final.

First-half goals by Tom Greaves and Matthew Walwyn set the Reds on their way before Michael Norton wrapped things up with 20 minutes to go.

The atmosphere around Gigg Lane was unlike that of closing days of recent seasons and was somewhat relaxed as the Reds had already qualified for the play-offs and were all but guaranteed a third place finish coming into the game.

Marginson again chose to call upon the resources of his full squad and assess the many options for the semi-final for which the United manager is sure to have a selection headache.

United’s link-up play in the opening stages was looking promising and Matthew Walwyn put a shot just wide early on, before Greg Daniels appeared to be pulled down inside the area. Despite ardent penalty claims, a decision was not given and a couple of minutes later it looked like Frickley were about to threaten down the opposite end of the park. Jimmy Gaichem ran through one-on-one with Worsnop and although the striker looked to be offside, the flag stayed down and the impressive Lewis Lacey came back to put in a superb saving tackle.

Ten minutes in and Astley Mulholland, looking lively on the left, brought down a United goal kick well and burst forward, being given plenty of room to come into the area and pull the ball back to Daniels who found Tom Greaves. The United centre-forward hit first time on his left foot from close range, sending the ball beyond Jamie Green to put the Reds ahead.

The visitors looked dangerous from set pieces and just short of the 20 minute mark Luke Jeffs sent a strong free kick from the right into a crowded area which required good defensive work from FC to clear.

Greaves could have doubled his tally midway through the half as Walwyn’s ball from the right found the striker in plenty of space inside the Frickley area. With no one around him, Greaves took his time before unleashing a powerful shot which left the crossbar shaking.

United were pressuring and several players were contributing to the side’s attacking ventures, one of whom was full back Jerome Wright who ran onto a Matthew Tierney ball before being obstructed by the referee in an amusing encounter.

Again from a set piece, Frickley tested. A corner came in and Worsnop initially punched the ball but only as far Jeffs who played it back in for the United keeper to parry once more.

The game had hit a bit of a lull, but on 39 minutes, Walwyn livened up the action with a second United goal. Wright had made the run down the left and began an excellent move with a header forward to Mulholland. The winger pulled it back to Walwyn who controlled it to the edge of the area before looking up and striking a precision shot into the top right corner with his left foot, giving the keeper no chance and Marginson something further to consider.

FC’s management made a couple of changes in quick succession only a few minutes after the break, opting to give Norton and Matthew Wolfenden almost a full half, replacing Greaves and Daniels respectively; both of whom had done their play-off chances no harm.

Ollie Banks was also introduced to the encounter with around half an hour to go, coming on in place of Rodriguez.

It was Gavin Allott, second half substitute for Frickley, who looked the most likely threat for his side since coming into the game. Allott went one-on-one with the United keeper who had come off his line. Worsnop made the block before coolly continuing with play outside his area.

On 71 minutes Norton wrapped up a solid victory, latching onto a great cross from Tierney and rising to place a close range downward header beyond the flailing keeper.

The visitors weren’t about to give up and Jon Worsnop was made to work on occasion to maintain his fourth consecutive clean sheet. Luke Hinsley went through on goal and Worsnop did well to push the ball around his left post with an outstretched palm.

Frickley’s keeper was also called into action in the latter stages of the game. Mulholland found Wolfenden who hit low first time and a good block from Green prevented the United substitute from checking in on the score sheet.

The Reds played the game out well and a win was never really in doubt for United in a match which served as good preparation for Tuesday night’s play-off semi final. The questions now will centre on Marginson’s selection for the starting XI given the multitude of options available.

Report by Victoria Fullen

Website Man of the Match: Matthew Tierney – a fantastic presence in the centre of the park.

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First Posted ~ 18:07 Sat 4 May 2013
News ID ~ 4888
Last Updated ~ 01:12 Mon 6 May 2013