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FC United secure play-off final trip to Hednesford - full

FC United secure play-off final trip to Hednesford - full

FC United are through to the Evo-Stik Premier Division play-off final for the third consecutive season, this time at Hednesford Town, after beating Witton Albion 3-1 at Gigg Lane on Tuesday night with goals from Matthew Wolfenden, Astley Mulholland and a Dean Stott penalty.

Karl Marginson’s side will travel to second placed Hednesford for a three o’clock kick-off this Saturday afternoon after the Pitmen squeezed past AFC Fylde 3-1 on penalties after a dramatic 3-3 draw.

The Reds were in fine form and raced into a 2-0 half-time lead in front of 2,492 noisy supporters with a long-distance strike by Wolfenden on nine minutes and a well taken one-on-one effort by Mulholland 10 minutes before the break.

The visitors pulled one back from the spot early in the second half through Joshua Hancock and for a while it looked as if there may be a tense finale to follow but United calmed the nerves and sealed victory with a penalty kick of our own with 15 minutes to go.

The only disappointment on an otherwise great night for the club was a bad leg injury for teenage centre-back Lewis Lacy who had to be stretchered off midway through the first half. Thankfully, Lacy didn’t suffer any broken or fractured bones as had first been feared but he will definitely miss the play-off final.

Witton won the coin toss before kick-off and decided to make the Reds attack towards the FC United faithful in the Manchester Road End first, rather than allowing us our seemingly preferred option of leaving that to the second half.

It’s a tactic that has served opposition teams well previously but it arguably backfired in this match as Albion goalkeeper Matthew Cooper failed to settle in front of the boisterous home supporters and it was a mistake by Cooper that led to the opening goal. A poor clearance by Cooper fell to Wolfenden around 40 yards from goal. The United midfielder controlled the ball and fired an audacious shot into the bottom corner of the net for 1-0.

The goal sparked Albion into life. The impressive Hancock found himself through on goal but United ‘keeper Jon Worsnop was equal to the shot. Matthew Wood also had a good run into the box, his ball finding Oliver James but his shot was deflected wide.

Wolfenden and Mulholland were very bright in the opening half hour but after the injury to Lacy, following a hefty challenge from Steve Foster, Margy decided to considerably reshuffle his pack. Greg Daniels was introduced to support Michael Norton up-front, Wolfenden moved to the right of midfield, Mulholland to the left, Jerome Wright to left-back and Lee Neville at centre-back.

Thankfully, the readjusted line-up didn’t put United out of their stride and the lead was doubled on 35 minutes. Oliver Banks played in Mulholland who narrowly beat the offside trap and clinically finished past Cooper for 2-0.

The second half started with Witton in the ascendancy. On 49 minutes there was a big penalty shout as a shot from Foster seemed to strike the hand of Stott as he attempted to block the shot. The loud appeals were waved away but just three minutes later, Albion did win a penalty when a ball over the top found Tuck who tangled with Worsnop.

The referee pointed to the spot for a penalty that Albion boss Brian Pritchard admitted afterwards was soft but with the handball appeals still ringing in the officials’ ears, perhaps the away side had bought some luck. Hancock kept his cool in front of the MRE to send Worsnop the wrong way to pull a goal back.

Just six minutes later, the lead was almost extended when a poor back pass played in Michael Norton but Cooper was quick off his line to smother. At this point Witton were seeing the lion’s share of possession but weren’t really making Worsnop work whilst at the other end Oliver Banks thought he had scored but placed his shot just wide.

The game was won with just over 15 minutes to go. A long ball found Norton bearing down on goal, Cooper seemed to trip him as the striker tried to go past and the official had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Stott took the penalty and calmly placed it into the bottom corner of the net to send the home fans wild.

That goal seemed to knock the spirit out of Albion and FC United managed to see out the last 15 minutes well.

It was a great game of football, with both teams going for the victory, both sets of fans made for a great atmosphere and the event was a great spectacle for the Northern Premier League.

Report by Steven Wood

Website man of the match - Dave Birch. In truth; the award could easily be split amongst the whole team who dominated the first half and did well to see off a more dominant Albion in the second. However, Birch takes the award because he went about his game quietly but effectively, happy to play the easy ball to see up other players.

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First Posted ~ 21:42 Tue 7 May 2013
News ID ~ 4896
Last Updated ~ 20:40 Wed 8 May 2013