United snatch vital victory - full report
Rory Patterson hit a late winner to blow the UniBond Division One North title race wide open as FC United recorded a priceless 3-2 victory in a tense game against championship rivals Curzon Ashton on Wednesday night at Gigg Lane.
Patterson struck twice and captain David Chadwick got the other as the Reds sent out a message to the rest of the league that they have got what it takes to be champions for the third consecutive season.
With a victory vital for both teams, plenty of goals were sure to be on the cards and the 1,879 strong crowd weren’t to be disappointed with five goals coming in a thrilling encounter. With Curzon hungry for their first victory over FC United, it was no surprise that the visitors got off to a lively start and with FC United old boy Rhodri Giggs and the league’s leading goal scorer, Michael Norton, leading the attack, they always looked dangerous. The first five minutes saw The Nash force Reds keeper Aaron Grundy to make an excellent save from a threatening Giggs shot, as well as hitting the woodwork three times in quick succession.
It was ten minutes in before the Reds launched their first real attack. A ball played through to Patterson was enough to put him through on goal if it wasn’t for him colliding with the Curzon keeper, David Carnell in the penalty area. The Irish goal machine went down under the challenge and United appealed for a penalty. However, the referee waved away the appeals and there was a lengthy stoppage as Carnell received treatment for an injury sustained in the collision.
The game resumed and Curzon were back on the attack, hitting the post once again with a shot from Giggs on his first return to Gigg Lane since leaving United last summer. The ball was played down the other end and a jinking run on the edge of the area from Patterson left him with plenty of options; instead he chose to shoot and the ball was easily collected by the limping Carnell.
As the half wore on, the Reds began to liven up and create chances, arguably the best opportunity coming on 40 minutes when Patterson should have buried a sitter to put the home side one in front. The ball was played in from Jerome Wright to Stuart Rudd who back-heeled it to Patterson, clear on goal. Patterson missed the ball and it went out for a goal kick.
In the dying minutes of the first half, United built up some steam with Simon Carden winning a free kick following a lively burst through from midfield. Patterson decided to go for goal from distance; a shot which the keeper was only able to parry away. Just seconds later, the home side had another penalty claim when Wright was brought down after latching onto a great ball through from Rudd.
Another great chance on goal for United came when Liam Foster, linking up with Jamie Baguley on the right wing, played in an excellent ball to both Patterson and Rudd. The ball was cleared from danger by Curzon’s captain, David Birch and United appealed unsuccessfully for handball.
With United really turning up the heat and having two great chances towards the end of the first half, a goal was sure to come. Wright was allowed to carry the ball down the centre of the park two minutes into stoppage time before guiding it through to Carden on the edge of the box. Carden nonchalantly back heeled it first time through to Patterson who was over lapping on the right and the Reds stop scorer made no mistake slotting it into the far corner in front of the Manchester Road End to give United a 1-0 lead at the break.
As the players came onto the pitch to battle it out in the second half, both teams made half-time substitutions. Curzon’s keeper was substituted for Nick Allen who went to right back, whilst usual right back and Curzon skipper David Birch dropped back into goal following the keeper’s first half injury. Meanwhile, it wasn’t just the visitors who had ailments to contend with. A virus meant that Jamie Baguley was unable to play the second half and he was replaced by Adam Carden.
Any words of wisdom Margy might have had for his players during the half-time team talk were shattered by an equalising goal from the Tamesiders inside the first minute of the second period caught United napping. Giggs was found on the right wing in acres of space and he delivered a great near post cross and before the United defence had time to wake up, Norton had headed the ball into the back of the net to level the match at 1-1.
It was well and truly game on as both teams went in search of the lead once again. It was clear that although Giggs was a favourite throughout his time at FC United, there was no question of his allegiances now as he blatantly fouled Wright wide on the left wing on 55 minutes. The resulting free kick was taken a third of the way inside Curzon’s half by Nicky Platt. The ball was headed out of the area only to be hooked back in by Rob Nugent and flicked over the top accidentally by a defender to Patterson. The Man with No Name had the stand-in keeper diving at his feet, so he deftly squared the ball to Chadwick with a chip and the United captain put the ball in the back of the net with a diving header.
If United were beginning to think that they had the three points in the bag they were to be proved wrong as Curzon struck back once again, this time with a touch of controversy. A long ball was launched forward and Norton and Nugent hit the deck as they both try to gain possession. The loose ball came across goal and Foster looked certain to collect it until he received a slight push in the back from Giggs. The referee decided it wasn’t enough to warrant a free-kick and the Welshman was able to slot the ball past Grundy from close range to level the scores again on 69 minutes.
Remaining determined and showing true United spirit, the Reds were attacking once again and less than five minutes after Curzon’s equaliser, Patterson latched onto a long, speculative ball launched by Grundy. The striker tussled his way through the defence and hit the ball past the keeper on the half-volley for what would turn out to be a sensational winner.
This time United had to sit tight and shut up shop but Curzon were determined to make this difficult for them. The game became increasingly tense as the 90 minutes came to a close and referee, P Dunn, indicated that a further three minutes would be played.
Hearts were in mouths as FC conceded a free kick on the edge of the area deep into added time. A tense United team dropped back to defend as the free kick was taken by Giggs, who would probably have revelled in getting an injury time equaliser against his old club. However, his effort was well held by Grundy and United hung on in the dying minutes to claim a well-fought and, all in all well deserved, 3-2 victory over Curzon Ashton, taking the maximum of six points off them this season.
Report by Victoria Fullen.
David Chadwick (capt)
Nick Robinson (for 2, 75)
Adam Carden (for 7, 46)
Scorers: R Patterson, 45, 73 D Chadwick, 55
D Birch (capt)
Chris Ball (for 8, 79)
Chris Curley (for 10, 65)
Nick Allen (for 1, 46)
Scorers: Norton 46, Giggs 59.
07-03-2008 at 13:54