|Venue||Gigg Lane, Bury, BL9 9HR, Gigg Lane|
|2 (1)||-||1 (0)|
| ||Redshaw 52|
|1 James Spencer|
2 Kyle Jacobs (capt)
3 Lee Neville
4 Jake Cottrell
5 Adam Jones
6 Greg Stones
7 Carlos Roca
8 Nick Platt
9 Mike Norton
10 Dean Stott
11 Astley Mulholland
12 James Holden (for 4, 81 mins)
16 Michael Carr (for 8, 81 mins)
17 Matthew Wolfenden (for 11, 81 mins)
|1 S Coburn|
2 M Lees
3 R Brown
4 A Danylyk
5 R Williams
6 A Flynn
7 S Richman
8 S Densmore (capt)
9 J Redshaw
10 D Reeves
11 N Clee
14 M Twiss (for 9, 68 mins)
15 J Lawrie (for 11, 74 mins)
16 D Whatmore (for 5, 90 mins)
|A screamer from Carlos Roca and a late Michael Norton header saw FC United through to the first round proper of the FA Carlsberg Trophy for the first time ever with a 2-1 win over Altrincham in a pulsating derby cup clash at Gigg Lane on Sunday afternoon.|
Roca curled a beauty into the top corner from 25-yards out in first half stoppage time but a Jack Redshaw header levelled the scores seven minutes into the second half before Norton pounced on an Astley Mulholland cross 13 minutes before the end to send the vast majority of the 1,945 supporters in attendance into raptures.
It was a great day for the Reds as Karl Marginson’s side added their Conference North neighbours to the growing list of scalps they have claimed from higher up the football league pyramid in cup competitions, Rochdale and Barrow being the most notable previous teams.
United were made to work for their victory and at times they were under the cosh against the Robins, particularly in the first half. However, both teams endeavoured to play good football and enjoyed long spells of possession with FC United showing that they were more than good enough to compete with their visitors, without having to resort to playing hopeful long balls.
Altrincham worked hard but they seemed to lack a bit of cutting edge and when coming up against 14 battling performances by FC United it meant the visitors were unable to find a way past the Reds’ defence for a second time. In the end it was a well deserved, although quite tense, victory.
United survived an early scare in the opening minute when some last ditch defending was required to hack away a dangerous ball into the box but as the match wore on, it was the home side who seemed to settle into their rhythm more quickly. The first real attempt on goal saw Norton head a Roca cross wide on 15 minutes and the striker then blazed a good chance over the bar six minutes later following a good ball by Lee Neville.
It took Altrincham until the 26th minute to have another chance with Adam Flynn smashing a 20-yard effort into the Manchester Road End after Kyle Jacobs had headed clear from a corner. By this point the Robins were enjoying their best phase of the match with Redshaw and Nicky Clee both looking particularly threatening. Clee blazed a free-kick over the bar 10 minutes before the break from just outside the box and three minutes later, Shaun Densmore hit the outside of the post following another clearance by the Reds.
United were still very much in the match though and Roca picked out Norton again but this time goalkeeper Stuart Coburn was equal to the striker’s header. With 45 minutes on the clock, Norton scampered after a loose cross-field ball which was rolling out for a throw-in and played it back to Roca. The winger took a touch and looked up before curling an audacious long range effort into the top right corner beyond the despairing dive of Coburn. It was a truly remarkable goal and goes on the seemingly never ending list of sensational strikes FC United have scored this season.
Altrincham didn’t take long to get back into the tie after the break though and perhaps worryingly, FC United conceded from a set-piece once again. Clee combined with Redshaw once again with the latter having a completely free header inside the six yard box to convert his team-mate’s corner.
Thankfully, the goal spurred FC United back into action and for the next 25 minutes the Reds were like a steam train hurtling towards their destination. Mulholland was enjoying running at the visiting defence and won two free-kicks in quick succession when they couldn’t handle his pace and trickry. Both free-kicks which were taken by Roca and Norton will be disappointed he didn’t steer his header from the first one into the net, instead the ball looped up and bounced beyond the back post whilst remaining in play.
A marauding Jacobs then saw his cross-cum-shot hit the far post after playing a lovely one-two with Mulholland on the right and then moments later it was Mulholland who released Roca on the right before surging into the box to steer a glancing header towards goal but not into the back of the net, as it fell short and wide of the target.
Finally, FC United’s pressure paid dividends in the 77 minute. Mulholland raced away on the right wing once again and this time he evaded the Altrincham defence to cross for Norton. The striker connected with a header which looped up and hung in the air for what felt like an eternity before coming back down to earth and nestling in the far corner. FC United had done it again.
It was then backs against the walls stuff for the Reds. Three substitutes, Michael Carr, Jimmy Holden and Matthew Wolfenden were introduced as Margy obviously decided to throw on some fresh legs to help see out the victory. And they were needed as United were pinned back in their own half for much of the last 10 minutes with Wolfenden and Holden given the job of chasing after clearances from their team-mates.
The drama didn’t end with Norton’s winner. Far from it. The Robins had four corners in quick succession in the dying minutes as they threw everything but the kitchen sink at United’s goal. From the second of these corners, former Manchester United youth team player Michael Twiss saw his header deflected onto the crossbar. But that proved to be as close as Altrincham came to spoiling FC United’s party.
Website man of the match: Carlos Roca. Ran the show for FC United and scored a goal that would have looked special at any level of football.
Report by Matthew Haley