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With promotion dreams hanging on the result of just one, decisive game, and both teams raring to go, four goals from FC United following an early lead from Skelmersdale were more than enough to put Margy’s men into the UniBond Premier Division to complete their third successive promotion.

With nerves running high and the pressure well and truly on in front of 3,258 supporters, Skem settled the better of the two teams despite the fact that Simon Carden could have put the Reds ahead in the first minute of the game.

The ball broke to the United number eight well inside the visitors’ half and Carden had the opportunity to slot the ball home, unfortunately, Red nerves weren’t to be settled early as the midfielder’s shot was put wide of the right post.

The first goal of the game came from the opposition just inside the ten minute mark when Sean McConville converted a 25 yard free kick after being brought down by Nicky Platt. The Skem number 11 left Sam Ashton rooted to the spot, placing his free kick into the top left corner, giving Skelmersdale the early advantage.

The next chance of the game came for the home side when the ball was played into the box and collected by Rory Patterson. ’The man with no name’ was able to bring the ball down inside the opposition’s area and turn for a shot on goal; only for his effort to be deflected wide.

The Reds seemingly undeterred by Skelmersdale’s lead, continued to have their share of chances, including a great attempt on goal from Rob Nugent. A corner was swung in from the left by Jerome Wright and the FC central defender rose high above the defence and headed the ball onto the bar for it to go agonisingly over.

The chances however, weren’t only to come from FC with Skem pushing forward at every opportunity. One such chance came for the visitors when he ball fell for Skelmersdale following an error from the pressured United defence, forcing Sam Ashton to close down the Skem forward, saving the Reds from conceding a second goal.

With the FC faithful in full voice and the Reds upping the tempo in response, that all important equaliser was sure to be on the cards. The United crowd weren’t to be disappointed as Nicky Platt slotted the ball into the MRE goal from the penalty spot on 41 minutes to level the scores at 1-1.

United’s golden opportunity came when Liam Foster played the ball into the area, onto the head of Jerome Wright. Wright’s header on goal was saved by Skem’s captain, Michael White on the line. Unfortunately for the Lancashire team, White’s save was made via his hand, resulting in a straight red card, leaving Skem one man down and the scores evenly poised at half time.

Despite being down to ten men, it was Skem that applied the early pressure at the start of the second half with two successive corners leaving the United defence under siege.

However, Adam Carden was able to relieve the pressure for the Reds when he broke from his own corner flag and carried the ball down the right wing, deep into Skem territory. Carden’s run was brought to an unceremonious end when Skelmersdale’s Steven Akrigg scythed him down on the touchline, earning the number four a yellow card for his trouble.

The resultant free kick was floated in by Jamie Baguley to be met at the far post by the head of David Chadwick and United took the lead, sending the FC crowd into raptures of delight. The relief around the stadium was tangible as the Reds began to impose their style of fluent football
However, it wasn’t all going to be plain sailing as Skem’s top scorer George Donnelly was put through into the United box one-on-one with Sam Ashton, forcing the FC number one to make an excellent two handed stop and, in the process, denying the visitors an equaliser.

FC responded quickly with positive play led by United’s in-form left winger, Jerome Wright. The former Maine Road man broke magnificently down the left and despite the close attentions of the Skem right back, Wright surged to the by-line and into the box to score from a tight angle. The goal however was ruled out as the ref blew for a foul on Jerome Wright in the development of the move.

After positive interlinking play and United continuing to look threatening, the Reds were awarded their second penalty of the game following another handball in the box from a Skelmersdale defender. Platt once again stepped up, however the midfielder was unable to add to his penalty tally and instead hit the bar, leaving Skem relieved.

Unfortunately for the visitors, their relief was to be very short lived as United were immediately awarded a third penalty. There was some confusion as to the referee’s decision but the main blame seemed to be directed at a defender holding Simon Carden in the box.

Patterson this time stepped up to the mark, putting United 3-1 up on 63 minutes. The Irishman’s spot kick was initially saved by Ryan McMahon in the Skem goal but the ball curled round and over the line, giving the Reds a two goal advantage and Mr Mystery a total of 41 goals for the season.

With confidence increasing, FC United upped the tempo once more and looked on course to extend their lead further. Positive play through the midfield resulted in Simon Carden hassling the Skem defence on the far touch line, winning a free kick for his efforts.

In the events that followed, Skelmersdale once again suffered at the hands of a red card when substitute Kevin Leadbetter was dismissed from play for conceding the free kick and for abusive language towards the referee afterwards.

With victory looking increasingly likely, Patterson was replaced by Chris Baguley on 74 minutes. The impact of his introduction was almost immediate as clever footwork through the midfield saw the Skem defence back off, leaving Baguley free to exploit the space and fire into the bottom left hand corner of Ryan McMahon’s net from 25 yards out.

Man-of-the-match, Chadwick was then to be replaced by up and coming reserve team captain, Adam Turner, stepping into the boots of his first team counterpart for the dying stages of the game.

With five minutes added time to play and promotion looking well and truly in the bag, FC began to relax a stretch a tiring, depleted Skelmersdale, creating further chances to increase their lead.

However, the score remained a mirror of Manchester United’s earlier in the afternoon and the scenes of jubilation on both pitch and terrace at the final whistle were a sight to behold. FC United march onwards and upwards once again after what has been a tough, but extremely well fought season.

Report by Victoria Fullen.

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First Posted ~ 10:53 Mon 5 May 2008
News ID ~ 1653
Last Updated ~ 12:34 Mon 21 May 2018