Saturday, July 23, 2005

Dons 1 FCUM 0

Source: The Big Tissue

The Dons won the Supporters Direct Cup today thanks to a goal from trialist Ricci Crace in a lively tussle with FC United. These northern teams are never easy but I don't think anyone expected a side playing in their second ever game to be as competitive as FCUM were today.

These are strange and uncertain times in the nation's capital, nothing is as it was and everybody is viewed through the light of harsh new experience. Thus today for the first time ever I was able to look at someone in a Man Utd top and not instinctively think "stupid twat."

Yes, this was indeed a momentous day. Hours before kick off the Meadow was buzzing in a very unpreseasonal way: the queue to get in was longer than those at the bars and you couldn't move for camera crews and photographer. You could tell it was a big day because our chairman had tucked his shirt in all the way round.

Once inside the travelling support filled out the Athletics End, which was a perfect venue for them to unleash all that pent up exuberance that had been building up during years of being told to sit down and shut up at Old Trafford. (In other words - they out sang us.)

First half.

This was a full-blooded contest, packed with late challenge, verbals, squarings up and generalised brawls that registered high on the handbags scale. If it had been a league game ref Steven Cook's innocent little boy's hand would still be throbbing from the blur of having to write down all the bookings.

Those that had caught the coach down from Manchester must have been proper chuffed with the steely determination to win shown by the team in red today. FCUM had come here looking to win and manager Margison didn't make an unforced substitution until the 75th minute. Rather than two teams still feeling their way and getting accustomed to their new colleagues, the first half resembled two well organised and disciplined sides who were cancelling each other.

Anderson had sent out a pretty strong team packed with mostly first teamers though it quickly became apparent that, Oops, he'd neglected to put in any creative players. The trialist wingbacks Wojciechowski and Sargent didn't venture forward much while a midfield trio of York, Moore and Woolner didn't produce much for the strikers to work with.

FCUM had the first real chance when Adie Orr snuck in unmarked at the near post from a corner. The former Man City striker would've become the first ever FCUM scorer if it hadn't been for a really excellent reaction save from our new number one Andy Little.

At the other end Smeltz nearly scored with an audacious hook over his shoulder from well outside the area. With the keeper stranded the ball just curled wide of the top corner. (That's our Shane - he don't do much but when he does it's special.)

The best chance came when a United defender's slip let in Richard Butler but he shot wide of the far post with his left foot. At the other end Orr and Hayley both failed to find the target when they were clear of the defence.

Amazing Crace.

If anything the visitors had edged the first half. Without Farr and Ursell there had been distinct lack of creativity and an absence of any kind of crossing. The situation was rectified at half time with the DA bringing on Gray and on trial strikers Ricci Crace and Ammo Kouman.

Eyebrows were raised when Anderson released both Douglas and Forrester despite them scoring three goals between them and kept the two players that had least impressed supporters in friendlies at the beginning of the week. His choices made a lot more sense after today's showing.

While the burly United defenders had few problems dealing with our first half attacks these two nippy little attackers were much more awkward for them to deal with.

On the hour we made the breakthrough. Crace broke clear down the right and finished with a cool chip over the keeper.

Barry Dazzler.

The Dons would've made it 2-0 minutes later if it hadn't been for a breathtaking save from their keeper Barry George, leaping at full stretch to pluck a firm Sobihy header out of the top corner of the net.

George pulled off another fantastic point blank save from Butler later but the stupid idiot linesman on the far side had already decided it was offside (as he would repeatedly and ever more ludicrously throughout the second half.)

The Aftermath.

The post match presentations were enlivened when chairman Kris had to interrupt his speech to take a call on his mobile from Kingstonian chairman Jimmy Cochrane - hello … bit busy now …. on the pitch for the presentation …. yep, won 1-0 thanks. (Was this some kind of sly marketing for Tuesday's match?)

On today's showing it would be hard to disagree with Kris that FCUM should have their league won by Christmas. OK they still haven't scored a goal but it's not for want of trying. Great teams are built from the defence out and they look to have that sorted - it took them 2 ½ hours to concede their first goal. When you think about where we were at this stage it's pretty startling. Who needs Ferguson when you've got Margison?

We may have won but today was their triumph.

Dons: Little; Howard, ButlerS (CooperM), Sobihy; Wojciechowski (Judge), Moore (Kouman), York, Woolner, Sargent (Gray); ButlerR (McDowall), Smeltz (Crace.)