Karl Marginson wielded the axe after Wednesday�€trade;s poor performance in defeat versus Flixton. The starting eleven for the visit of Leek CSOB saw 6 changes from the team that had succumbed in such a disappointing fashion 3 days earlier.
Phil Melville came in to make his debut �€�betwixt sticks.�€trade; Phil has excelled in both of the friendly matches in which he has appeared and it�€trade;s only fair that he be given a chance to establish his place. Barrie has been virtually ever present this campaign apart from the Winsford away match where Phil Priestley made his one and only appearance. The 19-year old would be the last to admit it, I�€trade;m sure, but he might well benefit from a spell looking on from the touchline. Phil Priestley is very experienced and Barrie will certainly find aspects of his senior�€trade;s game that he could use to improve his own performances when he gets back in the side.
Tony Cullen came in to make another start at left-back with Gareth Ormes making way. Ormes was uncharacteristically shaky on Wednesday night; it�€trade;s no great surprise that things haven�€trade;t been plain sailing for our South African Denis Irwin. He was, after all, out for nearly 4 months with injury until very recently. He�€trade;ll bounce back soon enough.
Chris Simms was relegated to a place amongst the substitutes with Steve Spencer reclaiming �€�his�€trade; number 4 shirt. Spencer came from the bench on Wednesday night and looked back to his best in his 35 minute return from nearly 2 months absence with a strained hamstring.
Dave Brown came back to resume partnership with David Chadwick with Billy McCartney losing out. Many thought Brown was unfortunate to lose his place when Chaddy returned from his toe injury at Chorley but McCartney has made very few mistakes. Margy is somewhat spoiled for choice at centre-back with Chaddy, Billy Mc, Browny and Nuge all very comfortable there; the boss decided he wanted to change it, so be it.
Josh Howard was given time off to rest and recuperate after his recent bout with flu-like symptoms. The impressive first appearance, from the bench, for ex-Holker Old Boy Dave Swarbrick on Wednesday secured him a start in this match. Despite wearing the number 9 shirt Swarbrick slotted into Howard�€trade;s usual right-wing berth.
The other �€�casualty�€trade; from the Flixton match was Adie Orr who was replaced by the imperious Phil Power. This may have been a case of Margy wanting his assistant in the thick of the action to relay instructions from the frontline as much as a desire to have an experienced campaigner with proven ability to hold the ball up amongst his attackers. Adie has many qualities as a striker but he does not have the sheer physical presence of Power.
Further changes amongst the substitutes as Joz Mitten returned for his first time selected in nearly 2 months. Joz might have been set for return sooner but his recent 7 day suspension was subject to some administrative delay as the Manchester FA moved premises and therefore the suspension was not activated until after the FA arrived at their new offices. Darren Lyons also got the nod for his first involvement since Blackpool.
The Bury pitch has benefited greatly from the relatively dry weather of late and from the strong winds in the last day or two. The combination of those 2 factors has finally dried the pitch thoroughly. I�€trade;m sure all of the United players were pleased to see a flat and firm pitch rather than the soggy one that they�€trade;ve had to perform on since the end of last year.
The home team started in fine form and only briefly in the second half did they reduce the high tempo performance. By then the match was over as a contest, in fact, it could be argued that the game was over as a contest inside the first 10 minutes. Rory Patterson had a penalty shout in the first minute that referee Goodwin-Davey waved away but United were not to be denied for long. Patterson held the ball well before laying off to Torpey on the left. Torpey easily made space on the outside of his marker before pushing across a low ball that went beyond the reach of Swarbrick who was making up ground at the far post. Happily Phil Power was coming in behind the new boy and tapped home from very close range in only the 4th minute. 1-0.
Power and Swarbrick then combined on the right. Swarbrick had a good sight of goal but James Hall in the Leek goal made a spectacular save at his near post. The save resulted in a corner kick on the United right and this resulted in United scoring again. This goal was the 100th competitive goal in the season, so far, and was routinely converted by Rory Patterson. Torpey hit a deep corner kick beyond the far post that Rob Nugent headed back to goal. Nugent did well to trouble Hall from a very tight angle and the �€�keeper could only palm the ball away. The ball looped up towards the right side of the 6 yard area and Patterson headed it home with little difficulty from only 4 or 5 yards out. 2-0.
Leek CSOB offered a little glimpse of their attacking potential as a corner from the right was fired in by Fox. Nick Hambleton got up well at the far post but he could only direct his header over the bar from 6 yards out. Tony Cullen brought down Colin Fletcher but Fox struck the freekick off target from 25 yards out.
On 19 minutes United scored again. Will Ahern was at the heart of this move with great work, initially, on halfway. The 19 year old midfielder played the ball into Power who held it up before laying it off again to Ahern. Will was being shadowed by his opposite number, Mark McDonald, but the Leek number 8 went to ground after seemingly getting the better of Ahern. Mr. Goodwin-Davey was happy for play to continue so Will played a low cross inside. It seemed as though Leek were going to clear the danger but the ball went loose and Patterson�€trade;s predatory instincts took over. Mr. Mystery had little problem in swivelling before hitting a left footed shot into the bottom right corner of the net. Patterson�€trade;s 2 goals up to this point had come from a total distance of approximately 8 yards out but he was saving something a bit special, a bit distant, for his hat-trick goal. 3-0.
Steve Torpey registered his first goal in nearly 2 months a couple of minutes later. Patterson and Power combined before Power picked a nice square pass inside to Torpey at the edge of the Leek area. Torpey took the ball well and advanced a stride or two before sliding his shot into the bottom left corner. 4-0.
Just after the half-hour and Power might have registered his second. Torpey played him through but the assistant manager looked to have delayed just a bit too long before finally shooting. The shot was blocked but he rebound fell to Swarbrick who in turn saw his shot blocked by Phil Power! To be fair to Power he was about to get up from the floor when Swarbrick�€trade;s effort hit him. At the other end United had been untroubled but Leek CSOB were about to capitalise on some indecision and subsequent good fortune to score a consolation goal.
Phil Melville was called to action as a loose ball came towards the edge of his area. Melville aimed his right boot at the bouncing ball and let fly, unfortunately he hadn�€trade;t allowed for the close proximity of David Chadwick. The powerful �€�clearance�€trade; hit Chaddy full in the face, United�€trade;s captain was no more than 3 or 4 yards from Melville, the ball caromed from Chaddy�€trade;s face back toward Melville�€trade;s goal. The United �€�keeper and Leek�€trade;s Bradbury reacted at the same time but �€�big�€trade; Phil had to turn before giving chase. He might have won the race but a slight tangle saw Melville tumble to the ground leaving the way clear for Bradbury to tap home into the empty net. 4-1.
Chaddy received treatment and eventually did resume battle but whilst he was being ministered to by United�€trade;s physio Phil Power re-established United�€trade;s 4 goal lead. Swarbrick picked out a super pass, a chipped through ball that was exquisitely weighted to intersect with Power�€trade;s well-timed run. Power looked as though he might have used his arm to steer the ball perfectly into his path but the officials deemed all to be ok. Power finished with aplomb from 10 yards. 5-1.
During the halftime interval we were entertained by a sponsored penalty kick competition with some lucky juniors from the supporters�€trade; group taking pot-shots versus Barrie George, not 19-year old Barrie George but his dad, the other, slightly older (and rounder) Barrie George! Paul was the eventual winner after a sudden-death shootout where Danny couldn�€trade;t quite hold his nerves at bay and had to settle for second place.
Meanwhile, under the main stand, the decision was taken that Chaddy would sit out the second half. Chris Simms came on to replace him. Rob Nugent moved across to partner Dave Brown, now captain, in the centre of the back four with the versatile Steve Spencer stepping back into the right back slot.
With 35 minutes remaining Joz Mitten was introduced from the bench with Will Ahern making way. Joz went up front with Power whilst Rory Patterson moved into an unfamiliar central midfield position. Joz nearly scored within a minute after a quick turn and shot from a Torpey cross. The effort was blocked. Mitten was involved again a minute or two later as the 6th goal was scored. Mitten received a nice pass in from Patterson which he cleverly laid off for Dave Swarbrick who was running in. Swarbrick carried the ball forward beyond the covering defender before shooting right-footed across Hall. The low shot struck the inside of the post before nestling into the back of the net. 6-1.
Lyons came on for Power on the hour which necessitated another personnel shift. This time Swarbrick moved up front with Joz while Daz took up the right wing duties. For the next 20 minutes the game went into a bit of a lull. Leek also made some substitutions in this period and they managed to subdue the previously rampant United attack. Although they had a good spell with few chances being conceded they did not really cause any danger at the other end. Phil Melville really had very little to do as the back four in front of him insulated him from any threats from the Leek side.
On 83 minutes we saw the goal of the game, maybe the goal of the season. Patterson scored it and he will probably never strike a ball more sweetly than this pile driver. It resulted from Swarbrick corner kick on the United left. It was taken low to the near post where it was partly cleared but only to Dave Brown. Dave had his back to goal and simply rolled the ball back to Rory. The Irishman took a couple of strides before blasting an unstoppable drive into the net from very nearly 30 yards out. The power in the shot was breathtaking; it was one of those �€�blink and you�€trade;ve missed it�€trade; moments. I�€trade;m already looking forward to seeing this one again from the perspective of Channel M�€trade;s camera and I might well skip straight to this one when I get my �€�End of Season DVD,�€trade; too. 7-1.
Still time for one more goal to round things off. Torpey played another low ball into Mitten�€trade;s feet. Joz laid the ball back out to Daz Lyons who set himself before firing a right-footed drive off of the foot of the left post. Chris Simms was perfectly placed to direct the rebound back towards goal from 8 yards and again there was nothing that Hall could do to keep it out. 8-1.
A thoroughly convincing performance was required after the disappointing defeat in midweek and the 15 men representing FC United of Manchester did not disappoint. The man of the match had to be Patterson, his hat-trick was only part of the story as his overall contribution was top drawer. He really looked at home in central midfield too, seemingly adding versatility to his virtuosity.
The other outstanding performances, for me, came from:-
- Swarbrick �€“ Josh Howard will soon realise that the number 7 shirt is not necessarily going to be his without a fight and on this form Swarbrick merits serious consideration for that wide right role.
- Power �€“ he�€trade;s still a classy player. He knows where the goal is and he can pick the right pass at the right time more often than most. I bet he was some player when he was younger!
- Spencer �€“ an unsung player. He does so much of his work without the ball and therefore probably does not receive the plaudits he deserves. His solidity allowed Carden the freedom to attack in the mid-season and I would expect Spencer�€trade;s return to the team to coincide with a slightly easier time for the back-line as he breaks up so much in front of them. He was non-stop action in this match and must have covered as much ground as anyone.