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United beaten in play-off final at Colwyn Bay - full report

One counter-attacking second half goal by John Newby was enough for Colwyn Bay to clinch the Evo-Stik Premier Division play-off final, ending FC United’s hopes of promotion to the Conference North, for this season at least.

There were chances for both sides during the Bank Holiday Monday contest but the Seagulls struck with 21 minutes to go to shade a narrow 1-0 victory in front of a sell-out crowd of 2,000 in Llanelian Road, whilst a few hundred more supporters watched from the hill overlooking the ground.

The Reds had the lion’s share of the possession and endeavoured to play good football but Karl Marginson’s side failed to convert their hard work into a vital goal and almost inevitably they were made to pay the price.

It was a game that looked like it could go either way throughout whilst following a set pattern of play. United pressed forward for large spells whereas Bay were content to sit back, defend doggedly and hit their Mancunian visitors on the break with regular long balls launched forward to put the United back-line under pressure.

United dominated the opening stages of both halves as they looked to catch Colwyn cold, just as they had done to Bradford Park Avenue in the play-off semi-final on Thursday night.

In reflection, it was during these two 15 minute spells that United could and should have got what would have been a priceless a goal. They didn’t though. And with the pressure being soaked up, Bay began to grow in confidence, exploiting gaps in the Reds’ defence before snatching the goal which takes them to the Conference North.

Carlos Roca, in for the suspended Jerome Wright, was the main threat for United and the tricky winger had three good opportunities to score with the best one coming inside the first three minutes. Despite being in the right place at the right time, he failed to connect properly with a low Matthew Wolfenden cross from the right wing, instead deflecting the ball goalwards where it was easily collected by goalkeeper Chris Sanna.

United were playing some good pass and move football which was causing problems for their Welsh hosts but they couldn’t apply the finishing touch. Matthew Tierney had a long range effort blocked after a good passage of play and seconds later, Ben Deegan teed up Roca on the edge of the box, who curled a dipping shot to the back post which Sanna was again equal to.

Down at the other end, the only real scares for United were of their own making. Sam Ashton sliced a back pass in the first two minutes with Newby bearing down on him but fortunately Kyle Jacobs was on hand to clear to safety. Ten minutes later, David Chadwick headed wide of his own post when Ashton was expecting the centre-half to guide the ball to him.

The second stage of the first half became a cagey affair as it was clear neither side wanted to concede and Colwyn Bay were keen to clear the ball to safety rather than to take a chance by playing it out from the back.

Play gradually opened up more in the second half. A corner from Anthony Sheehan was headed over by captain Damien Allen as the Seagulls gave the first real indication of their aerial threat. Unperturbed, the Reds moved up a gear and produced probably their best attacking football of the game.

Roca was still proving to be a handful for the Colwyn Bay defence and although one of his dangerous crosses was beaten away it fell to Nicky Platt who unleashed a 25 yard drive. Sanna was wrong footed but just managed to unconvincingly parry the ball across his goal line.

Unfortunately for United, no-one in a Red shirt could poke the loose ball over the line and it was instead cleared away to safety.

If that was United’s best chance of the day, they had to wait only moments for their second best. Lee Neville won a free-kick on the hour mark which Platt curled into the box. Chadwick steamed in with a thunderous header but agonisingly Sanna tipped the ball over the bar.

It was a spell of relentless pressure from United as they seemed to sense it was a now or never, do or die situation. A great run through the middle by Roca saw him feed the ball forward to Wolfenden who teed up himself on the edge of the box to smash a powerful volley goalwards. However, Sanna was positioned well to make the save.

As the Reds continued to plough forward they were leaving gaps at the back and there was an early warning sign of what was about to come. There was a suspicion of off-side as Newby was released down the right wing but with no flag raised he had all the time in the world to pick his spot as he went one-one-one with Ashton. Fortunately on this occasion he blazed over the bar.

But the former Bury striker didn’t make the same mistake two minutes later. In an almost identical set of events, he escaped down the right, composed himself by taking a few extra touches before rolling the ball calmly into the far corner. The Seagulls had done it.

Moments later it could have been two. Chadwick and Scott McManus, who had both put in commanding performances, now seemed to be left to defend on their own as fullbacks Jacobs and Neville tried to support the Reds attack.

Seagulls substitute Alex Titchener showed great feet to turn McManus inside out and his lofted shot to the back post landed on the roof of the net when maybe he should have done better.

United huffed and puffed for the last 20 minutes but to no avail. Roca blazed a good opportunity high and wide before Deegan hit the outside of the post. In the dying seconds, Chadwick just couldn’t do enough to guide headers from two corners between the posts and moments later the referee blew the final whistle to bring a disappointing end to what has been a fantastic season for FC United.

All that was left was for the Seagulls to celebrate and for the FC United faithful, players and staff to show their appreciation for each other with warm applause and chants of We Love You, Margentina and Keep The Red Flag Flying High.

Congratulations to Colwyn Bay and well done to FC United for taking us to the second round of the FA Cup and to within a whisker of the Conference North during an epic season.

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First Posted ~ 19:00 Tue 3 May 2011
News ID ~ 3568
Last Updated ~ 19:00 Tue 3 May 2011