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United crash out of League Cup

FC United fell at the first hurdle of the UniBond Challenge Cup, after a 109th minute David Whittaker winner was enough for Alsager Town to progress to the Second Round at the Reds’ expense.

Those expecting an early night were forced to think twice as 90 minutes wasn’t enough to separate United from the side applying their trade in the UniBond South.

With plenty of fixtures this season causing an early mini injury crisis, the Challenge Cup provided the ideal opportunity for manager Karl Marginson to give a competitive run out to other members of his squad. Liam George (ex-Hyde United) and Kane Handley (former Burnley) were handed debuts whilst Chris Baguley impressed during his first start for the club.

Alsager enjoyed the best of the opening exchanges and the Reds experienced an early scare when an Alsager free kick was whipped in from the left by Andy Parkinson and leaping above everyone was Chris Budrys but he failed to take advantage on the free header in heading the ball wide.

FC United struggled to attack up the hill in the opening period of the first half at Radcliffe Borough’s Inn2gether stadium and in complete contrast Alsager seemed to be enjoying kicking down the hill.

Parkinson tried his look from the edge of the 18-yard box; only for a great save from Sam Ashton prevent the reds conceding an early goal. Ashton was called into action again just a minute later. This time a cross from the right from Peter Heler found the head of David Whittaker. Ashton did his reputation no harm, this time with a spectacular one handed save to deny Whittaker.

Debutant Henley could have made a quick name for himself amongst the Reds’ faithful. When on 22 minutes the striker ran on to a Simon Carden through ball that ripped through the whole of the Alsager defence, unfortunately for Henley the ball got caught up in his feet just as the keeper came out to intersect.

Five minutes later Henley had an opportunity again. Dave Swarbrick broke down the left and cut into the box. Swarbrick’s low cross found the feet of Henley, however, his shot was straight at the Alsager keeper Matt Conkie.

The best chance of the game came after 36 minutes for Alsager. David Whittaker was through on goal and chipped the on rushing Ashton in what looked certain a goal, only for some terrific last ditch defending from Liam Foster, volleying the ball over the bar, prevented the ball from crossing the line.

In the second half, FC United now had the slope in their favour kicking down to the Alsager goal. The Reds nearly capitalised on this advantage when after just two minutes into the half Foster played an accurate long pass that Baguley ran onto, but the former Oldham Athletic teenager’s powerful shot was unlucky to only find the side netting.

Both sides were looking increasingly flat as the second half progressed until Karl Marginson decided to introduce Jerome Wright. Wright was as sharp as ever and gave the Alsager defence something to think about.

His solo run in the 75th minute nearly produced what would have been one of the goals of the season. Wright beat three Alsager men and then cut inside on his weaker right foot to fire from 25-yards a strike that forced an acrobatic save from Conkie, who was arguably man-of-the-match. Wright again nearly won the game for the Reds deep into injury time when his 30-yard strike looked in all the way, only to sail marginally over the Alsager bar.

So onto extra-time and it was FC United who were looking the more dangerous as Rob Nugent began to take up a centre forward’s role to as a tired looking team began to pump more and more long balls into the box. The best chance fell to Hargreaves after he’d held off three defenders in the box midway through the first period but his shot was tipped wide of the Alsager goal.

Alsager had been on the back foot for long periods but their never say die attitude kept them in the game and Whittaker popped up with the winner 109 minutes into the game. Budrys was allowed far too much room on the left wing, his shot was initially saved by Ashton but the ball broke to Whittaker in the box who made no mistake and booked Alsager a spot in the next round.

Despite the unfortunate defeat there was plenty positives for boss Karl Marginson to take out of the game; the Reds’ fitness held firm throughout the 120 minutes and the current injuries and suspensions of some regular first teamers gave the opportunity for the boss to take a closer look at other players on the fringes of the first team.

John Hill

FC United
1. S Ashton
2. L Foster
3. S Roscoe
4. C Baguley (cautioned 114)
5. D Brown (capt) (cautioned 13)
6. R Nugent (cautioned 41)
7. L George
8. S Carden (cautioned 118)
9. K Handley
10. A Hargreaves
11. D Swarbrick
12. M Taylor (for 3 63)
14. J Wright (for 11 69) (cautioned 92)
15. K Harrop

Alsager Town FC
1. M Conkie
2. C Rowley
3. D Stokes
4. C Reeves
5. M Walsh (capt) (cautioned 90(+4))
6. K Espley (cautioned 71)
7. P Heler
8. N Edward (cautioned 114)
9. C Budrys
10. D Whittaker
11. A Parkinson
12. S Eldershaw (for 9 120(+3))
14. S Millington (for 6 120(+2))
15. J McCarthy (for 11 82)

Scorer: Whittaker 109

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First Posted ~ 15:31 Thu 6 Sep 2007
News ID ~ 1155
Last Updated ~ 17:14 Fri 11 Oct 2013