FC United of Manchester FC United of Manchester FC United of Manchester

FC United of ManchesterSmaller TextLarger Text

FC United earn FA Cup replay with Brighton - full report

Sam Ashton saved an injury time penalty to keep FC United’s FA Cup dream alive with a 1-1 draw at League One leaders Brighton & Hove Albion meaning the sides will replay during the week commencing Monday 6th December at Gigg Lane.

The Reds gained a shock lead five minutes before half-time through Nicky Platt and they were just seven minutes away from pulling off one of the greatest FA Cup upsets ever before Fran Sandaza bundled home an equaliser to set up a frantic finish.

The result was even more incredible given the fact that FC United played with 10 men for 26 minutes after Scott McManus was sent off for violent conduct. Hearts were in mouths right at the death as Karl Munroe conceded a 96th minute penalty but Ashton became FC United’s latest FA Cup hero with a fantastic save and it was clear to see United’s travelling army of supporters were once again feeling on top of the world.

Saturday’s encounter at the Withdean Stadium was the biggest to date in FC United’s short history as the youngest and lowest ranked team remaining in the FA Cup came up against the highest placed side in the competition at this stage.

United were buoyed prior to kick off by the news that Ben Deegan and Kyle Jacobs had been given the go ahead to line up in the starting XI after coming through late fitness tests.

The game got off to a lively start and Ashton was called into action early on as Glenn Murray produced the first shot of the game for the home side within the first two minutes.

FC United’s first real attack came just short of five minutes as Deegan carried the ball forward and picked out Mike Norton who battled in the six yard box, under pressure from two defenders. Half-hearted penalty claims were made as the United striker appeared to go down inside the area, but Brighton managed to clear and break forward and the Reds were forced to deal with constant Albion pressure as the home side looked for a way through with the intention of taking the lead early on in the tie.

This could easily have happened was it not for Ashton who produced an excellent save to deny a point-blank header from Ashley Barnes. The Brighton no. 9 was picked out at Ashton’s left post and the strong header goalwards looked to be on course for the back of the net, however the United keeper stepped up to the plate to make a top-class stop.

As the half progressed, the gulf in the rankings of the two sides – 112 league places - began to show increasingly, with Brighton enjoying long spells of possession and United largely having to sit deep to soak up the Albion pressure.

Ashton again was on hand to prevent the hosts from gaining the advantage as Liam Bridcutt unleashed a strong shot from the edge of the area which the keeper did well to parry to safety. United were then able to break down the right and Carlos Roca skilfully pulled the ball away from two defenders and found Norton in the area. The forward laid the ball off to Platt who hit it first time, firing across the keeper into the bottom left corner, stunning Albion and giving the Reds the lead against the run of play.

With Platt being responsible for breaking the deadlock at a similar point in the first round against Rochdale, the supporters and players could be forgiven for immediately thinking back to that epic encounter at Spotland and wondering whether another huge upset was on the cards.

FC began the second half fairly brightly as Jerome Wright, playing in the left-back role, carried the ball down to the dead-ball line and did well to cross. Platt almost had the opportunity to go for United’s second, however Peter Brezovan got to the ball just ahead of the midfielder.

Brighton then had a very good chance to level courtesy of a free-kick conceded by Deegan 25 yards from goal. Cristian Baz drove the set piece low through the wall and United were left relieved as the ball sailed narrowly past the left post.

As the hour mark approached, Albion threatened the FC goal on several occasions, including Baz’s close range header over the cross bar. 20 minutes into the half, FC’s captain Jacobs was forced to hand over the armband to Jimmy Holden who came on in a like-for-like swap to replace the right-back who had struggled in his first game back from an injury picked up two weeks ago at Northwich.

Just minutes later, the United back-line was dealt a further blow when McManus was dismissed from the field of play. The officials deemed the centre-half to have used his elbow to strike Brighton substitute Gary Hart during an off-the-ball clash.

Down to ten men, the Reds opted to bring on Martin Parker to complete the remainder of the game in the centre of defence. This was at the expense of Deegan who was substituted, leaving United with just one up front.

Lone striker Norton continued to hassle the Brighton back line at every opportunity and with a quarter of an hour to go, the Reds centre forward did well to hold onto the ball under pressure and go for goal from outside the area. The shot was deflected wide for a corner. Roca sent the ball and United nearly stole another goal but Munroe’s powerful header was just held by Brezovan.

Despite spirited attempts to take the game to Brighton, the home side looked intent on making the extra man advantage count and unfortunately with seven minutes to go, United could hold on no longer as Albion equalised. The ball came in from the left and assistant manager Mauricio Taricco’s header goalwards was put beyond Ashton by Sandaza.

Tense moments ensued as FC sat deep for the majority of the final stages to prevent a late Brighton winner. Munroe kept the Reds in the game as the board was held up for six minutes of additional time, heading Barnes’ close range effort off the line and over the bar.

The centre half was then responsible for conceding a penalty in the final minute of injury time, after bringing down Sandaza with a robust shoulder charge. Elliott Bennett stepped up and FC United prepared themselves for some heartache as Brighton looked almost certain to snatch a late victory. However, Ashton capped off a stunning performance by producing a fantastic save to divert the ball to his right.

United then hung on until the final whistle and the scenes behind the goal for several minutes after summed up the immense pride in the team who have undoubtedly pulled off an incredible achievement in earning a place in the third round draw after a strong, spirited performance at the home of the highest ranked team in the second round.

The Reds now have a week and a half to prepare for what is sure to be an unforgettable occasion as the two sides battle it out in the replay at Gigg Lane to compete for a dream place in the third round of the FA Cup.

Report by Victoria Fullen

Home Email Facebook Reddit

First Posted ~ 18:01 Sun 28 Nov 2010
News ID ~ 3256
Last Updated ~ 18:01 Sun 28 Nov 2010