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Deegan saves penalty as Norton downs Victoria - FC up to 3rd

FC United moved up to third place in the Evo-Stik Premier Division via a 1-0 victory over Northwich Victoria with Mike Norton scoring a late winner after striker Ben Deegan had saved a penalty following the sending off of goalkeeper Sam Ashton.

Following a fairly uneventful first half, the game exploded into life just after the hour mark when Ashton was sent off for elbowing David Fitzpatrick after the United shot-stopper had collected the ball.

With no substitute keeper on the bench, Deegan was brought on to go in goal as the majority of the 2,250 crowd held its breath fearing the worse. But they needn’t have worried as Deegan pulled off a fine save from Wayne Riley to keep the scores level and to give FC United the kick-start they needed.

A little over ten minutes later, captain Norton beat the off-side trap to race clear and slam the ball into the back of the net to put the ten men of United 1-0 up.

The Reds then had to hang on as the Vics used the extra man to plough forward. With five minutes to go there was a game of pinball in United’s six yard box. Nathan Woolfe’s long range effort struck the bar before Deegan saved the rebound from Riley and the stand-in keeper led the sighs of relief as Mike Clarke smashed the second rebound back onto the bar and out for a dead ball.

That was as close as the Vics would come and so Karl Marginson’s side weathered the storm to take another priceless three points by the slimmest of margins.

FC United got off to a bright start against the Vics as Norton had a chance inside the first minute, doing well to tee the ball up for himself and turn under pressure inside the area but the striker was unable to get a shot away.

The visitors’ Tony Evans also went for goal early on, receiving a great cross from the left and hitting his shot wide across Ashton’s goal.

United continued to attack in the opening stages as Carlos Roca, using the flat playing surface to his advantage, played an excellent through-ball to Simon Carden. However, the veteran midfield was unable to test the keeper.

With a quarter of an hour on the clock, Nicky Platt’s curling effort from 25 yards had James Spencer at full-stretch and the United midfielder was unlucky to see his shot just wide.

Minutes later, a good interchange down the left saw Jerome Wright back heel to Lee Neville who squared the ball for Carden to have an attempt on goal which was blocked just inside the area.

The Reds threatened from a corner in the latter stages of the half as Jerome Wright sent the ball in for David Chadwick, Norton and Scott McManus all to have efforts blocked as the Vics’ defence worked hard to keep United at bay.

As the break approached, Wright’s storming effort from the edge of the area forced the ‘keeper to stretch into a fingertips save to deny the Reds and the teams went in all square at the break with Northwich proving capable of dealing with United’s attacking efforts..

Roca had a chance to get the scoring underway early in the second half as a ball forward was well controlled by Platt and squared to Norton who helped it on to the United winger who struck across goal but failed to hit the target.

As United searched for that all-important opener, a dramatic turn of events was to develop. In what looked like a routine catch, Ashton was adjudged to have elbowed Fitzpatrick and was dismissed from the field of play for violent conduct, leaving Deegan to come off the bench and try his hands at goalkeeping for the remaining half an hour of the game.

Deegan’s first duty was to face the Vics’ penalty and hearts were in mouths as Riley stepped up, clearly hopeful of giving his side the advantage. It was at this point that Deegan claimed his place as the latest in a long line of FC United heroes as the centre forward exchanged goal scoring for shot stopping, getting down to his right to divert the spot-kick out for a corner, sending the United fans into raptures.

As Northwich threatened the United back-line, Deegan did well, adjusting to the change of position to block attempts on goal from the Vics. On 77 minutes, Deegan went from saviour to provider when his goal-kick to his normal strike partner Norton saw the centre-forward run into the box and hit the ball beyond Spencer to give United the lead.

As the final minutes were played out, the Reds led a charmed life as the crossbar and Deegan and then the crossbar again saved FC United within seconds of each other.

Despite very tense final moments, FC United were able to hold out through a lengthy period of added time and reach the final whistle with a win in the bag.

Although a straight red card for Ashton is an obvious blow in the run-in towards the play-offs, nothing can be taken away from an extremely spirited United performance, in which the Reds overcame the ten-man disadvantage and loss of the ‘keeper and were able to get a very valuable three points on the board.

The Reds now face Frickley on Wednesday where they will look to continue their unbeaten 15 game run and close the six point gap on second placed Colwyn Bay by playing one of their two games in hand.

Report by Victoria Fullen

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First Posted ~ 21:17 Mon 11 Apr 2011
News ID ~ 3528
Last Updated ~ 21:17 Mon 11 Apr 2011