So, you wait 8 months for a match against Chadderton FC and then 2 come along together. Just 7 days after clinching promotion with a comfortable victory at home to Chadderton the return, away, fixture arrived on the horizon. Originally scheduled to be played in March this fixture was another casualty of the weather then. The Chadderton officials moved the match from Ashton, the venue that had been selected for the postponed March encounter, to Boundary Park.
The decision to move to the Oldham Athletic ground was fully vindicated as nearly two and half thousand spectators arrived in a celebratory mood. United had been left with no league fixture on the previous Saturday so the FC United bandwagon rolled into Clitheroe to play a friendly match with the Unibond side. Whilst the on pitch matters provided a challenge for the players and entertainment for the spectators most people�€trade;s minds were on 2 matches taking place elsewhere. Flixton were up in Barrow whilst Nelson were at Oldham Town. Both sides needed to win those matches to maintain the slimmest of hopes of depriving United of the league title. When word came through that Holker Old Boys had held Flixton to a goalless draw and that Oldham Town had scored 2 late goals to beat Nelson the celebrations started, in earnest, in Clitheroe.
So, FC United of Manchester took to the pitch at Boundary Park as champions of the Moore & Co. Construction Solicitors North West Counties League Division Two. Karl Marginson took the opportunity to shuffle his pack for this encounter. Only 2 of the 11 that started the previous match were in the starting line-up for this game. A couple of the young prospects were handed league debuts, Warren Collier at right-back and Mike O�€trade;Neill in midfield. We also saw the continuation of an experiment that had first seen the light of day at Woodley and was then continued at Clitheroe with Joz Mitten, despite wearing the 9 shirt, trying his hand at central defending.
The rest of the line-up was familiar enough with recalls for Barrie George, Will Ahern, Adie Orr & Chris Simms. The night also saw rare starts for Darren Lyons and Leon Mike. The bench was formidable with Josh Howard and Phil Power ready to supplement the attack if needed and club captain David Chadwick, now recovered from his tight hamstring, available to fortify the defence. In contrast to Margy�€trade;s changed line-up Chadderton manager Paul Buckley only made 3 changes to his starting eleven.
The home side took an early lead through Glyn Billington. Chadderton�€trade;s number 8 converted a freekick that had been conceded by Billy McCartney a couple of yards outside of the United penalty area. Billington hit a strong right-footed drive that nestled in the bottom right corner of the net with Barrie George powerless to keep it out. There then followed one of the most disturbing incidents of the entire season, for me, as Billington ripped off his shirt revealing a truly laughably captioned tee-shirt underneath. The lazer blue colour was not at all easy on the eye but the caption on it about this being �€�our city�€trade; always make me laugh. Billington correctly was cautioned by Mr. Lamb, the official reason would be �€�ungentlemanly conduct�€trade; or �€�unsporting behaviour�€trade; or some such but might as well have been �€�promotion of myths and untruths.�€trade; 1-0.
United looked for an early reply but saw their good possession floundering as a result of inaccurate final passes. O�€trade;Neill and Orr both tried to play in Chris Simms and on both occasions the passes were errant allowing intervention from the home side. Just after the quarter-hour mark Darren Lyons took a freekick from left of centre around 25 yards from goal. The shot was firm and accurate but Dolloway did well to collect after the ball bounced in front of him. A few minutes later and neat interplay between Mike and Orr saw the ball played onto Ahern but his shot was blocked at close range.
Chadderton then looked to extend their lead as Ian Hulme cut in from the right flank before hitting a strong left foot shot that George parried low to his left. On the half-hour mark Ahern missed the best United chance to date as he headed a Lyons corner over from only a couple of yards out. To be completely fair to Will he was stretching to get his head to the ball in and could not quite get up high enough to direct the header on target.
Just after the half-hour another Lyons delivery looked likely to unlock the stubborn Chadderton defence but Leon Mike had questionably been flagged offside before seeing his diving header from about 8 yards out missing wide left. Within 5 minutes of half-time Lyons was involved in the United equaliser. The goal resulted from a classic quick counter-attack with Ahern feeding Orr before Orr expertly flicked a headed pass on to Lyons. United�€trade;s player-coach struck a right-footed drive from 25 yards that thudded against the crossbar with Dolloway beaten. The shot, having struck the underside of the bar, bounced up perfectly into Adie Orr�€trade;s path but his attempted finish from 12 yards out was well blocked by the home goalkeeper who will have then been more than disappointed as Mike O�€trade;Neill followed up with a simple side-footed finish from the rebound. A great moment for the debutant as he became the 20th different United player to score this season. 1-1.
Having regained parity United nearly snatched a lead in first-half stoppage time after Ryan Bailey brought Mike O�€trade;Neill down outside of the area. Lyons again took aim and this time saw his strike clipping the top of the bar from a position 25 yards from goal and left of centre.
The game leapt straight back into life as Chadderton restored their lead just over a minute into the second period. Chadderton capitalised on some slack defending which George exposed when the ball was played out to Paul Ashton running in on the left. The Chadderton number 11�€trade;s shot was not the most convincing but all that he cared about was the end result which was the ball crossing the line. 2-1.
Again United countered with plenty of possession but were struggling to break through. Leon Mike held the ball at the edge of the Chadderton area, threatened to lay the ball off to an overlapping runner before letting loose with a powerful drive that arrowed just over the top left corner of goal. The big man was playing well up front and will probably never come closer to breaking his scoring duck.
On 50 minutes United �€�scored�€trade; only to see the tap in from Chris Simms ruled out by another upraised linesman�€trade;s flag. The chance resulted after another neat movement with Lyons, Mike and Orr involved before Orr�€trade;s final square ball across the goalmouth was turned in by Simms. Chadderton went to the other end from the resulting freekick and might have gone further ahead but Carl Taylor wasted a glorious chance as he could only find the side-netting from very close range after an inviting cross from Hulme on the left. At the other end, on 58 minutes, Adie Orr saw a rasping drive strike a defender, who knew little of it, before then clipping the post.
The final result of the match was decided, to all intents and purposes, in a few seconds around the hour mark as Ricky Wilde dallied before attempting to clear his lines. His clearance was charged down by Orr who chased the loose ball forward into the area with Wilde desperately trying to get back goal side. In his desperation, and just as Orr was about to shoot, Wilde wrapped his arm around Adie�€trade;s shoulder and hooked him back. The referee, Mr. Lamb immediately whistled and pointed to the penalty spot. He then took Wilde to one side and with 2,000 FC United fans bellowing �€�Off, off, off�€trade; he brandished his red card. My initial reaction was that the sending off was harsh. My more considered view is that Lamb was correct in showing a red card. Wilde was clearly the last man and was guilty of denying a clear goal-scoring opportunity or �€�DOGSO�€trade; as the men in black like to call it. To be fair to the Chadderton number 4 he did not prolong his protest beyond the initial brief exchange with the referee and made his way to the tunnel. Lyons spotted the ball and converted from 12 yards into the bottom left corner. 2-2.
A couple of minutes after getting back on terms Margy threw on the cavalry with all 3 substitutes coming on. Collier, O�€trade;Neill and Mike were the unlucky ones making way as Howard, Chaddy and Power came on. United immediately changed formation to 3 centrebacks as Chadderton had sacrificed a forward when they went down to 10 men. It took 7 more minutes before the lead was gained and a very nice goal it was when it came.
Power had the ball out on the right flank but was well marshalled by the Chadderton defence. Power slipped the ball back to Lyons who carried it inside before laying it off to Orr further inside. Adie started forward before exchanging a quick one-two with Power, who had now ventured back inside in support. Orr received the return pass well inside the area but calmly carried it forward for another stride or two before beating the �€�keeper with a side-footed shot into the bottom right of goal. 2-3.
United had further good possession but could not increase their lead in the final 20 minutes of the match. Simms dragged a shot wide of the left post after Howard and Power had created an opening. Howard then set up Power for a shot from an acute angle that also was just off target. The best chance was from another Lyons corner that seemed to pick out Chadwick in a great position only 6 yards from goal. Chaddy got a good head to the cross but it flew wide of the right hand post.
The club captain was on hand at the other end though to redeem himself as a vital interception in the 90th minute broke up a promising Chadderton attack down the right. There looked to be at least one extra man over on the Chadderton left but happily the cross never made it beyond Chadwick.
My man of the match for this game would probably be Adie Orr. He finally got the goal that his performance deserved to take his season�€trade;s tally to 18. That represents a decent return from the youngster who has been played in wide positions at times this season. Close behind Orr, for me, was Daz Lyons. The veteran was involved in the build ups to the first and third goals and scored the second himself. He also delivered several inviting free-kicks and corners that might easily have led to other goals.