8. Quinn (capt)
12. Sweeney (for 9, 78 min)
14. Warburton (for 6, 87 min)
15. Hope (for 11, 56 min)
|1 Phil Priestly
2 Mark Rawlinson
3 Steven Spencer
4 Simon Carden
5 David Chadwick (capt)
6 Robert Nugent
7 Adie Orr
8 Tony Coyne
9 Jonathan Mitten
10 Steve Torpey
11 Rory Patterson
12 Ryan Gilligan (for 8)
14 Scott Holt (for 9)
15 Matt Haley
|Has it really only been one week since the last match, the time really has dragged by waiting for this one to come around. As will become commonplace this season our hosts were forced to play this match at a venue other than their normal home, the Barton Stadium. The new Victoria Stadium at Northwich was lined up for this one, Northwich Victoria�€trade;s new home looking very tidy indeed and a worthy home for this top of the table clash. Both Winsford and FC United came into the match with 100% records, something had to give, and both teams were hoping to inflict first defeats on strong rivals for promotion.
Karl Marginson made a few changes from the line-up that so comprehensively defeated Eccleshall one week ago. Both fullbacks unavailable, Kev Elvin unable to get time off of work and Gareth Ormes also missing this one. Mark Rawlinson dropped back from midfield to take up duties as right back with Steve Spencer also dropping back from midfield to play at left back. These changes allowed Simon Cardon and Adie Orr into the starting eleven. The other change saw Barrie George making way for Phil Priestley to make his first league start in goal.
The late afternoon showers gave way to sunshine as kick-off time approached. The majority of the visiting support were congregated in the Danebank terrace, which runs along the length of the pitch, and were again in fine voice. They saw a first half in which both sides cancelled one another out in the most part. There were chances but they were few and far between with the home side probably carving out the better openings but the visitors came closest to taking the lead, in the half, when the ball was deflected, courtesy of a defenders touch, onto the home crossbar on 38 minutes. The ball bounced down off of the underside of the bar and seemed likely to be despatched into the net at any moment but was ultimately cleared away from danger.
The home side�€trade;s best moment came on 12 minutes when a quick break down the right flank ended with a teasing cross delivered to the far post where it was headed over the bar from 6 yards out.
FC United of Manchester did not play with their normal flair during the first period. Many heavy first touches resulting in slide tackles for second touches, this probably exacerbated by the very quick and slick pitch. The ball really did zip along on the immaculate surface but too often passes were misplaced. The hosts harried and hustled at every opportunity and contested every ball as if it might be the last they�€trade;d see all season.
FC United were getting little change from the Winsford defence which had not been breached, before tonight�€trade;s encounter, in their previous two league matches. Jos Mitten was winning a lot of the high balls but his knockdowns and flick-ons were being mopped up very effectively before Patterson, Torpey or Orr could pounce. When the Reds did break through, Michael Langley, in the home goal, was equal to all efforts sent his way.
The visitors kicked off the second half and looked to have discovered a little more fluidity as they attacked early on in the half. Torpey did well to win a corner but the cross was well marshalled by the Winsford back line. On 51 minutes Winsford launched their first attack of the second half and promptly broke the deadlock. The initial threat was repelled but a speculative cross was delivered into the danger area from near to halfway and on the home left. Mark Quinn, the Winsford captain, stole in beyond the FCUoM markers and skilfully met the cross some 10 yards out and in line with the right hand post. His run was perfectly timed and his right foot, side-footed volley was immaculately placed low and just inside of the post, giving Priestley no chance whatsoever. 1-0.
The league leaders very nearly fashioned an equaliser within 2 minutes as Jos Mitten saw his flicked header, from a Steve Spencer free kick, well saved by Langley down to his left. Another FCUoM attack soon after very nearly saw Rory Patterson released beyond the back line but this time the Mitten flick was just too near to the home keeper who quickly advanced from his line to gather under pressure from Mr. Mystery. Langley collided with Patterson and needed treatment before resuming.
As the Reds eagerly sought an equaliser a few gaps were appearing in the rearguard and this was very nearly exploited by Winsford just before the hour. The ball was weakly cleared from the FCUoM area and fell to Hughes who controlled before miss-hitting a volleyed shot from 22 yards. The ball seemed to take an age to get to the goal but somehow Priestley was either unsighted or badly off balance because he failed to make up ground across his goal as the ball spun off of the left hand post and then across the goal mouth beyond the right hand post. A Winsford attacker reacted calmly and pulled an inviting low cross back towards the penalty spot where it was hammered goalwards and somehow deflected over the bar by the previously embarrassed Priestley. A miraculous save and a great let off. Soon after and Priestley was again busy, this time reacting well to keep out a flicked shot from 15 yards out.
The Marginson and Power management team decided to ring the changes around the hour mark with Gilligan and Holt introduced, replacing Coyne and Mitten. Scott Holt went wide right with Adie Orr replacing Mitten up front. Ryan Gilligan was a like-for-like replacement for Tony Coyne in central midfield. These changes signalled a 20 minute spell of FC United domination punctuated by some dangerous Winsford breaks.
A good break down the United right progressed in field as Scott Holt cut in from the flank. He saw Steve Torpey�€trade;s run down the inside left channel and the United left winger would have been bearing down on goal if the square pass from Holt had been perfect but it was marginally over hit so Torpey had to turn back out to collect just in off of the left flank. Torpey still worked the ball back over but Patterson shot quite tamely at Langley who gathered comfortably.
The equaliser finally arrived, on 72 minutes, and a fine goal it was too. Again the dangerous Torpey moved into a good position just outside of the box, left of centre. He was faced by a defender and did not look to be in a position to do anything other than turn to pass back or sideways to a team-mate but he had other ideas as he turned inside before firing a powerful drive with the outside of his left foot with very little backlift. The ball left his foot and arrowed goalwards, never rising more than a yard off of the floor, before nestling into the net. Langley just got his fingertips to the shot, but could not keep it out, as he dived to his left. 1-1.
Just 2 minutes after regaining parity some suicidal defending nearly surrendered the lead immediately but again Priestley was outstanding as he blocked a goal bound effort as he faced up to a Winsford attacker in a one-on-one situation. Then on 75 minutes the visitors took the lead with one of the best moves of the night. The increasingly influential Gilligan picked out a stunning pass for the advancing Steve Spencer. Gilligan�€trade;s pass was exquisite, beautifully weighted inside of the fullback, allowing Spencer to gallop into the Winsford area on the left. Just as it looked as though he had to pull the trigger himself the left back selflessly slid a cross inside into the 6 yard box for Adie Orr who, under pressure from the covering defender, managed to bundle the ball over the line to the delight of the travelling brigades of visiting supporters. 1-2.
The lead only lasted for 2 minutes as Winsford exploited a misunderstanding between Priestley and his defence to get back on terms. As Wellstead picked up the ball, left of goal, he still had plenty to do but, credit to him, he kept his nerve, cut inside and calmly slotted the ball into the bottom right corner of Priestley�€trade;s net. 2-2.
FC United of Manchester looked the more likely to get a third goal but it never came. Langley was again called upon to make a good save from Torpey, on this occasion Steve had cut inside onto his right foot before firing goalwards but Langley scrambled the ball away for a corner kick on the United right. As the cross came in both Chadwick and Nugent rose together but saw their combined efforts only managing to send the ball just beyond the far post with the keeper looking beaten. So much for two heads being better than one!
Despite numerous, quite lengthy, stoppages during the second period the referee, Mr. Sim, decided that two minutes of stoppage time would be sufficient at the end of the match. During this abbreviated period of injury time Simon Cardon managed to drag a shot wide of target and Torpey was very well thwarted, in the area, with a perfectly timed tackle just as he looked to be in with a chance to inflict further damage to Winsford�€trade;s perfect record.
All in all, I believe that a draw was just about a fair result. Neither team deserved to lose and neither did quite enough to deserve to win. So, both keep their unbeaten records intact and both remain at the right end of the table after this match. Winsford now know what it�€trade;s like to concede a goal (or two!) and FC United of Manchester know that there are other sides in this league that can go toe to toe with them. I�€trade;m sure both teams and managers will use the lessons learned tonight to good effect and I fully expect both of these teams to be �€�in the mix�€trade; at the end of the campaign.
The Winsford match sponsors, the Leighton Hospital Prostate Cancer Support Group, awarded their man of the match plaudits to the Winsford captain, Mark Quinn. The FC United star man, in my humble opinion, was Steve Torpey. A super goal scored and an all around contribution to the team effort with some good work helping out his defence at times too. Honourable mention must go to Ryan Gilligan who really did catch the eye in his relatively brief appearance off of the bench. He could be near to pushing his way into the starting eleven, I would imagine. Also congratulations to Adie Orr who continues his record of having scored in every FCUoM competitive fixture.