Saturday April 28th, 3pm
Evo-Stik Premier Division Play Off Semi-Final
After forty-two gruelling league games it is somewhat odd that the fate of an entire season can come down to just 90 minutes of football.
Everyone knows the rules when the season kicks off, and indeed twelve months ago we were the victorious club in the First Division North Play-Offs, but this season it wasn’t to be.
FC United of Manchester, who scrapped into the play-offs via Northwich Victoria’s unsuccessful Wembley appeal hearing having finished sixth in the league, were on the day the better side, but with a stroke of luck and maybe a favourable decision or two from the match officials who knows how today’s game would have finished.
In a goal-free first half, both sides jumped out of the traps in a frantic opening. Chris Denham had the first opportunity of the match on 3 minutes, but instead of testing the keeper he tried to square the ball to Steve Foster, but the cross was cut out and the chance was gone.
Jamie Vermiglio picked up one of two yellow cards for the hosts after just six minutes, and this resulting in the influential midfielder having to play cautiously for the remaining 84 minutes.
FC United’s first sight of goal came on 16 minutes, but the effort failed to test Russell Saunders.
As the game started to settle done the visitors, who had pace all across the pitch, closed the Magpies down and denied them any space to play and indeed the visitors ‘bossed’ the midfield for most of the game, with the service Foster and Kilheeney received being limited.
Kilheeney, who had a mostly quiet day up front, was tripped on the right flank, yet the no card was waived at the culprit, and later Foster was clattered off the ball and had a bloodied lip, but again no card. However later in the game an innocuous coming together of players on the turn resulted in a yellow for Tom Ince!
United almost took the lead when a shot was deflected off Mike Norton’s head but flew inches wide of the upright, then at the other end seconds later Foster was very unlucky to lose his footing in the six yard box. A perfectly flighted dink over the defence from Ince sailed almost perfectly to Foster, but as he adjusted his position to strike the ball he stumbled in front of goal and the ball went agonisingly over his head when he was clear to score into an empty goal.
With the interval approaching the visitors had two half-chance, but Andy Teague blocked the first and the second, a volley, flew wildly high.
Just two minutes after the break Kilheeney rattled the woodwork with a rasping shot from 12 yards as the Magpies looked to re-establish themselves in this game, but United continued to control the middle of the pitch and with it the match.
On sixty-three minutes Mike Norton struck the opener with a perfectly executed chip over Saunders in the far top corner after turned the defence 15 yards out.
Garry Flitcroft responded to going a goal down by introducing John Cunliffe at the expense of his brother Steve, and the former MLS star’s guile gave the Magpies a way forward.
Ince swung a free-kick in, but it flew over the angle, then Cunliffe turned and released Andy Russell on the edge of the box with a peach of a ball, the big centre back then crossed to Foster and the home crowd erupted with delight at the thought of an equaliser, only to see the goal disallowed by the officials who spotted an infringement.
As the Magpies search for an equaliser there was a massive shout for a penalty as a FC United defender mistook Foster for a ladder then shoved the striker to the ground. Anywhere else on the pitch, or indeed if the other way round this would have been a foul, but for some inexplicable reason it wasn’t given and United went straight down the other end and the game was over as a contest as Astley Mulholland netted the second goal.
The Magpies pushed forward looking for a way back into the game, while United looked to catch us on the break, but the score didn’t change and it was the Pilling Lane end that was cheering at the final whistle.
Starting XI: Russell Saunders, Mark Ross, Adam Roscoe, Andy Teague, Andy Russell, Jamie Vermiglio, Chris Denham, Steve Flitcroft, Ciaran Kilheeney, Steve Foster, Tom Ince
Subs: John Cunliffe (Flitcroft, 68), Tom Williams, Ally Brown, Matt Walwyn (Denham, 80), Jordan Bowen
Goals: Mike Norton (63) Astley Mulholland (79)
Chorleyfc.com Man of the Match: Tom Ince, always looking for a way forward