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Garner gains last gasp draw - full report

A sensational last gasp free-kick from Simon Garner grabbed a 2-2 draw for FC United at Hednesford Town on Saturday afternoon but with a bit of luck, the Reds could have come away with more valuable points for their promotion push.

Garner’s goal, which was literally the second to last kick of the game, ended the match on a high but United will feel that they played well enough to just shade a victory and they may well have done if it wasn’t for a controversial penalty awarded to the home team.

The men from Manchester had to come from behind twice. Matt Lewis broke the deadlock just before the half hour mark and it took United till until the 65th minute to equalise through Adam Carden. Ross Dyer converted a spot-kick 10 minutes later to restore The Pitmen’s lead but Garner curled home a stunning equaliser in the fourth minute of stoppage time to secure a priceless point.

It was the home side who started the most brightly and Sam Ashton had to be alert in the first few minutes to punch a corner kick off his goal-line as Hednesford’s strikers and centre-backs tried to use their towering presence to overpower the Reds.

Down at the other end, the United faithful got their first glimpse of debutant Phil Marsh in a red shirt. Adam Carden took on three defenders down the right wing and lofted a teasing cross to the back post. Marsh was slightly off balance but connected with a decent volley but Stuart Brock saved comfortably in the Pitmen’s goal.

The first real chance fell to Lewis midway through the first half. A ball was pumped down the left wing by Tom Marshall and the game stopped play for a split-second as everyone seemed to be expecting an off-side flag. However, no flag was raised and Lewis reacted the quickest but with no-one up in support he tried his luck with a shot from the edge of the box and blazed it over the bar. A real let-off for United.

Lewis was not as charitable five minutes later. The Reds failed to clear a free-kick driven low and hard into the box by Sam Hall. Danny Warrender and Adam Carden tried to link up to get it clear but Carden lost possession out on the right wing. Hednesford worked the ball back into the box and Mark Briggs tried his luck but Garner made a good stretching block to deny the midfielder.

However, the ball looped up into the air and out to United’s left wing. The usually assertive Jerome Wright seemed to completely misjudge the danger of the situation as he failed to even challenge right-back Anthony Maguire who steamed in to send a superb header to the far post and it was Lewis who slotted the ball back across goal and into the net from close range.

Into the second half and it Hednesford who again began more brightly. With a bit more composure they could have doubled their lead. Dyer and Lewis had shots blocked as a game of pinball developed in the United box and the Reds were relieved when Ross Draper finally ballooned his effort high over the bar.

That finally seemed to kick the men from Manchester into life. Under pressure from Carlos Roca, Maguire was caught in possession deep into his own half, the ball bounced across goal and Adam Carden shook of the attentions of Marshall to nip in and slot the ball home from seven yards out.

United were now in the ascendency and just seconds after the goal they were claiming for a penalty. Adam Carden was leading the charge and he latched onto the ball on the right-wing after slick link up play between Jamie Baguley and Marsh. Carden weaved his way in and out before being felled right on the edge of the box. Some shouted for a penalty, others expected a free-kick but the referee awarded nothing, much to the displeasure of the travelling support.

The Reds were starting to control the game and Hednesford seemed to have been rocked by the pace and trickery on the United players, knowing all too well that they couldn’t afford an seventh defeat in eight UniBond Premier Division game.

However, out of the blue the Pitmen got back into the lead. Lewis, who had looked a handful in the opening 45 minutes, went to ground in a rare second half foray into the United penalty area. The referee waved play-on but blew seconds later as his assistant nearest the incident appeared to believe Warrender had brought Lewis down.

United were infuriated by the decision and Warrender protested his innocence. But after the referee had restored order, Dyer smashed home the spot-kick, high into the top left corner - sending the home side into raptures with just 15 minutes to go.

United had it all to do again. But as always, Karl Marginson’s side didn’t give up without a fight. David Chadwick had been brought on minutes early to replace Rob Nugent at the back but with United going behind, he took up the role as an extra centre forward. Carl Lomax was also introduced for the excellent Baguley and the Reds ploughed forward.

Roca and Adam Carden were causing havoc for Hednesford down the wings and the home side resorted to time wasting tactics and a spot of gamesmanship to try to see out the victory. The Reds won four corners in two minutes as the major of the travelling support tried to will the ball into the goal in front of them.

Chadwick came closest as he headed one effort just over the bar and Roca was guilty of snatching at his chances when a calmer approach was needed - sending one effort just over and the other cannoning back off the top of stand.

However, United were not done and despite some poor finishing it was Roca’s trickery that gained the Reds a free-kick on the right wing. Roca had played a one-two with Adam Carden before going on jinking run which caused captain Draper to impeded him.

It was possibly a soft free-kick but deep into injury-time United were not going to argue. Garner lined the ball up from the tightest of angles and somehow got the ball up and over the keeper before curling it into the far corner. A truly magnificent strike which sent the travelling Red army into a frenzy.

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First Posted ~ 13:25 Tue 24 Mar 2009
News ID ~ 2141
Last Updated ~ 12:25 Mon 21 May 2018