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FC United out in four goal FA Cup thriller

FC United’s fantastic FA Cup run came to end with a crushing 4-0 defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion in the second round replay in front of a record crowd of 6,731.

When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea. Unfortunately, it is The Seagulls who follow Portsmouth into the Third Round of the competition as two goals in each half gave the League One leaders victory.

Gus Poyet selected a far stronger team than in the first match 11 days previosly. His side had the better of the opening passage of play but FC looked purposeful when breaking from deep. Mike Norton, scorer of the winner in the First Round at Spotland, was particularly industrious at centre-forward and Carlos Roca was a constant menace throughout.

Despite the pair’s best efforts, Brighton took the lead through Francisco Sandanza mid-way through the first half, his finish the culmination of some smart build-up play from the impressive Elliott Bennett.

Behind in a cup tie for the first time in two months, FC responded with the courage and conviction that has characterised their cup run so far. In weather that froze, the Reds didn’t.

The hosts were beginning to connect with some blows and, even if Brighton weren’t exactly on the ropes, they knew they were in a fight, especially when Chris Ovington came close on 39 minutes. But then came the sucker punch, Inigo Calderon heading another well-designed cross from Bennett beyond Sam Ashton in first half injury time.

The players emerged for the second half with the Manchester Road End bouncing like the dancefloor at The Ritz. Play was scrappy with neither side showing the fluency they’re capable of, although Bennett and Nicky Platt showed some subtle touches in midfield.

Subtlety was missing from Inigo Calderon’s penalty area challenge on Ben Deegan in the 68th minute and FC were awarded a spot-kick and a lifeline to get back into the match. With FC United having missed their last five penalties, E.ON Player of the FA Cup First Round Jake Cottrell was hoping for the joy of six. He stepped up. And hit the post. Cruel is football.

It got crueller on 85 minutes when Brighton’s outstanding Bennett made it three. Matthew Sparrow added a fourth four minutes later. Brighton were much-improved from the first leg and 4-0 was a fair reflection of their superiority on the night and the 113 places that separate the sides in the league pyramid.

But success is a journey, not a destination, and while FC United were not destined to make the Third Round, what a journey it’s been. A club that did not exist six years ago were 90 minutes away from the Third Round of the FA Cup. A club that did not exist six years ago were 90 minutes away from the Third Round of the FA Cup. Repetition does not dull that achievement and nor should a 4-0 defeat detract from what has been an incredible journey. The worst trip we’ve ever been on? No chance.

In the week The Courteeners headline the MEN Arena, FC United fans hoped another Mancunian collective would do their city proud in front of thousands of fans. They didn’t disappoint. For FCUM, the good times are calling. Cross our hearts and hope to fly.

Report by Martin Hall

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First Posted ~ 17:37 Thu 9 Dec 2010
News ID ~ 3289
Last Updated ~ 17:37 Thu 9 Dec 2010