Dan Cockerline and Michael Fowler headed FC United to their first league win of the season as they beat Stafford Rangers 2-1 in front of another socially distanced crowd of around 600 supporters at Broadhurst Park on Saturday afternoon.
The dominant Reds fought back from 1-0 down to maintain their unbeaten start to the season, take a well deserved victory and move up to 13th in the Pitching In Northern Premier League table.
After three draws, it was important that FC United secured a victory at the fourth attempt. They didn’t disappoint but they did it the hard way as it was the visitors who broke the deadlock against the run of play.
On 27 minutes Muhammad Sebheh-Njie turned home a Joe Kenton cross from the byline into the roof of the net. It turned out to be Stafford’s one and only shot on target all afternoon.
United nearly equalised instantly but Rangers goalkeeper Lewis King made a fantastic midair save to deny a well placed header from Chris Doyle after he connected with a Michael Donohue cross from the right.
On 35 minutes the Reds were thrown a lifeline when Charlie Ennis was tripped in the box and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Ennis picked himself up to take the penalty but his low and hard effort down the middle of the goal was saved by the feet of King.
Thankfully for FC United, it would not affect the outcome of the game. Neil Reynolds’ side were back on level terms five minutes before halftime when Cockerline headed home a deflected cross by Finlay Sinclair-Smith for 1-1.
The Reds dominated the second half and were well worth their victory but they were made to work hard for it. Striker Michael Fowler was introduced for Ennis on the hour mark and it proved to be the turning point in the game.
Fowler was looking lively and he hit the side netting with his first chance but he was on target moments later when he bagged the winner. Good build up play between Cockerline, Regan Linney and Adam Dodd saw Dodd whip in a ball from the left wing to the back post in front of the St Mary’s Road End where the Fleetwood Town loanee headed home to make it 2-1.
Once the Reds were ahead, the result never looked in doubt. Dan Lavercombe was untroubled in the United goal as Reynold’s side demonstrated exceptional ball retention. The hosts had 67 per cent possession and gave Stafford no opportunities to get back into the game.
United could have added to their lead two minutes after Fowler scored the winner when Cockerline held the ball up well before teeing up rightback Aaron Morris who fired into the side netting. It didn’t matter as the Reds saw out the final 10 minutes comfortably.
Website man of the match: Adam Dodd. Exceptional performance at leftback, always composed on the ball and produced the cross for the winner.
Report by Matthew Haley