The FC United of Manchester travelling army added a new stop to their increasing list of grounds visited in this first season. Hyde United�€trade;s Ewen Fields ground was the 15th different FCUoM venue in the league this season. New Mills AFC negotiated with Hyde to host this match after the disappointing attendance when United visited in the Division Two Trophy match held at Macclesfield in December. Apparently Hyde�€trade;s officials had to gain approval from Manchester United before giving the go ahead for the match as big United�€trade;s reserves play their home matches at Ewen Fields. Seemingly there were no objections coming from Old Trafford.
Great credit must go to the New Mills hierarchy who kept admission prices at the low end of the range experienced by the Red army this season. Only six pounds for adult admission and a match programme at only one pound made this one of the best value day�€trade;s football in some time. Hopefully the income generated from an attendance of nearly 2,000 will help the New Mills finances for several months to come.
The shirts looked the same for the Millers but the faces were certainly different. Only Danny Jackson started this match and either of the 2 previous meetings between the sides. New manager Tony Hancock has brought in many, many new players; Hancock�€trade;s appointment has coincided with an upturn in results for the second best supported club in the division.
As for the visitors, Margy only made one change to the starting eleven with Joz Mitten getting the nod ahead of Phil Power. Joz has been itching to get involved since his delayed suspension was finally spent but the form of the side made it easy for Margy to overlook him. I�€trade;m sure Joz took to the pitch feeling that he had a point to prove. Chris Simms replaced Mitten on the bench with Daz Lyons and Simon Carden completing the match day squad.
The teams swapped ends after the coin toss so United kicked off into quite a stiff wind attacking the Lumn Road/swimming pool end of the ground. New Mills had the best of the early exchanges but they created little by way of chances. They enjoyed better possession and territorial advantage but never looked like converting this into a goal.
Lee Morris seemed to be very well placed to exploit some space on the New Mills right flank but he delivered a cross that soared on the wind beyond the far post and out of play. Just a few minutes later and the Millers�€trade; right-back got up the flank into a similar position but Jamie Horrock�€trade;s low cross was comfortably cut out and cleared.
On 18 minutes United mounted an attack that culminated in a routine save by Boyle from Torpey. The build up involved a neat ball from Spencer to Swarbrick. The right-winger fired in an early cross that went beyond Joz Mitten but Torpey collected out on the left flank before cutting inside onto his less favoured right foot and offering an easy catch to the New Mills goalkeeper.
In the 22nd minute, and much against the run of play, United took the lead through the returning Mitten. Patterson would be credited with an assist as his low cross picked out Joz near to the penalty spot. Joz was closely marked by Melvin Morrison and had his back to goal but his first touch teed the ball up onto his left foot and the swivel and shot was faultless. Boyle dived but in vain as the ball bulged the net near the bottom right corner. 0-1.
Five minutes after United took the lead referee Mr. Lawrence recorded the first name in his notebook after showing a yellow card to Rory Patterson. Rory was clearly frustrated from the earliest moments of this match as Mr. Lawrence gave a few decisions against him. As another decision went against Patterson so he gave vent to his frustration. Whilst this frustration is understandable he would do well to keep his own counsel rather than sound off to match officials who are never going to change their decisions once taken. As a result of this outburst Patterson would need to survive the remaining 65 minutes knowing that a single poorly timed tackle could see him leaving the match early.
Just before the half hour one of the New Mills new faces, Vinny Braine previously of Cheadle Town, won a freekick in a dangerous position as David Chadwick brought him down. Martin McDonald took the kick from around 25 yards out in a central position and sent the ball narrowly off target near the top right corner of Phil Melville�€trade;s goal.
In the 38th minute, with United now starting to threaten New Mills with some frequency, Dave Swarbrick took a corner kick from the United left; the kick went deep beyond the far post where Rob Nugent headed goalwards. This initial header was half cleared to just outside of the penalty area where Dave Brown was lurking. Brown, perhaps with Rory�€trade;s wonder strike against Leek in mind, decided to hit the ball first time but unlike Rory�€trade;s effort this one went high over the bar and over the back of the stand behind the goal too.
It looked to be only a matter of time before United�€trade;s pressure was translated into another goal and in the 42nd minute so it proved. Another United corner, this time on the right side taken by Steve Torpey, was converted by Patterson. Rory rose well at the near post to flick the ball into the net via the inside of the left hand post despite a defender being posted on the line. 0-2.
Mike Ryan took a very quick freekick from nearly 30 yards out a couple of minutes later. Happily Phil Melville was alert to the danger and tipped the shot over his crossbar near to the top left corner. Good quick thinking from Ryan but big Phil was equal to it.
New Mills manager Tony Hancock decided to take himself off at halftime with Rob Jordan coming on to partner Braine up front. United, now with the benefit of the wind at their backs, continued to pressurise New Mills in the early part of the second half. Dave Swarbrick latched onto a terrific cross field pass from Steve Spencer but somehow his low, driven cross fizzed through the 6 yard box without a touch and went out of play on the far side for a New Mills throw-in.
Swarbrick was again involved a minute or two later. This time the youngster cut inside, his run took him along the edge of the area but he lost possession before the loose ball fell to Will Ahern who attempted a cute lob but the ball lobbed all the way over the bar. Soon after and Torpey went on a similar run, this time from left to right, across the pitch just outside of the area. Joz Mitten saw an opportunity and �€�nicked�€trade; the ball from his team-mate but his final shot was too weak to trouble Boyle.
With less than an hour gone Rory went into a challenge near the left touchline just inside the United half. I am certain that Rory went to win the ball but he was marginally late and caught his opponent who tumbled to the ground as though seriously hurt. Mr. Lawrence reached to his pocket after only a moment�€trade;s hesitation and showed both his yellow and red cards to United�€trade;s number 11. Rory slowly walked across the pitch to the changing rooms. He was clearly disappointed and probably full of regret but after picking up an entirely avoidable yellow card earlier on there was always a risk that this would be the outcome.
United, now down to 10 men, left just Joz Mitten upfront. Another good chance was created as Will Ahern challenged Boyle for a looping high cross from Torpey that dropped inside the New Mills area. Somehow Will got up above the goalkeeper and his header fell well for Swarbrick who was supporting on the right. Swarbrick aimed to stroke the ball goalwards first time from a tight angle but the covering defenders got back just in time to block the shot.
Margy used all 3 of his substitutes leading up to the final 10 minutes as Torpey, Mitten and Swarbrick all went off, one at a time, to be replaced by Carden, Simms and Lyons. The fresh legs helped United to keep some pressure on the New Mills defence and the leaders might easily have added a third goal as they fashioned opportunities as the home side began to tire in the closing stages.
Boyle left the safety of his penalty area in the 82nd minute but then failed to effectively clear his lines. His attempted ball upfield was well controlled by Ahern who was quick to fire a lofted effort at goal. Boyle was still well out of position but his alert defensive colleagues again intervened to save his blushes. The defender�€trade;s block/clearance fell invitingly for Simon Carden who ran onto it just outside of the area but the prolific goalscorer could only blast the ball over the crossbar.
With just over 5 minutes to go Melville again was called to action to again tip a Mike Ryan freekick over the bar. Ryan fell very dramatically a minute later under challenge from Nugent, United�€trade;s number 2 fell victim the referee�€trade;s yellow card as a result.
The final chance fell to Darren Lyons who was sent through on the right side. Lyons showed good pace to keep just ahead of the tracking defender but his final shot, from just outside of the area, was dragged marginally wide of the left hand post with Boyle again beaten.
The final whistle announced that another 3 points were won and United moved 24 points clear at the top of the table. Nothing certain yet but surely we will all be able to look back upon this week as one of the most significant in this first season as 9 points were won in 8 days.
My vote for man of the match would go to Steve Spencer. He does all that is expected of a holding central midfield player and he does it very well. Much of the work done in this vital area is not eye-catching, not spectacular but it is essential to offer the platform from which the attacking players can work their magic. I don�€trade;t think that it is a coincidence that United have only conceded 1 (fluky) goal in the 3 games since Spencer�€trade;s return to the starting line-up.
Plaudits also to Joz Mitten who worked well up front and scored a very good goal. As a centre-forward Joz is expected to score goals, today he did. He also offers a lot more in the way that he holds the ball up and brings other players into the game. Somehow we usually seem to look a better balanced side when he�€trade;s playing. Honourable mentions for Rob Nugent and Will Ahern again. Both are young lads but they rarely disappoint.