Thursday, March 02, 2006

FC United rent out Robins' nest


MOSS LANE witnessed its largest crowd of the season on Saturday - but there was barely an Alty fan in sight.

While the Robins enjoyed a well-deserved weekend off, thousands of disaffected Manchester United supporters descended on the ground to show their support for the self-styled fans' club, FC United of Manchester.

They numbered 3159 in total, forming not only the biggest crowd of the current campaign but the biggest in more than four years, since 3302 watched Alty take on Darlington in the FA Cup Second Round on December 8 2001.

Although many observers doubted FC United's ability to sustain initial interest in the club, crowds have actually grown steadily over the course of the season and their average home attendance now stands at 3,001.

But while the club enjoyed a successful day at Moss Lane, general manager Andy Walsh says he still cannot believe the amount of support they continue to attract.

"It went very well and we are very grateful to Altrincham for the help they gave us from Graham Heathcote down to the stewards and the service staff," he told SAM Sport.

"We've been staggered by the level of support this season. We thought we would maybe get 1,000 people here at the start but we are averaging over 3,000 now.

"It just shows what is available to people who can't afford to watch Premiership football but also those who don't want to give their money to Malcolm Glazer."

The deal to play at Moss Lane was strictly a one-game arrangement, organised after a beer festival at FC United's current home Gigg Lane clashed with their fixture against Holker Old Boys.

Rumours abound about the club's prospects of finding a permanent home but Walsh claims they will continue to take things one step at a time.

He said: "It's very early days yet. We are going to go into negotiations with Bury over the next few weeks about extended our groundshare to next season but Moss Lane is certainly another option.

"It's in the Trafford area, it's got good transport links and people are familiar with the ground both through watching Manchester United's reserves and through watching Altrincham themselves."

The game itself may not have been a classic but FC United triumphed 4-1, extending their lead at the top of the North West Counties Division Two table to 17 points in the process.

Josh Howard opened the scoring just before the interval and although Holker equalised through Dave Swarbrick, there was a clear gap in class between the sides and goals from Chris Simms, man of the match Rory Patterson and William Aherne eventually sealed the win.

For Alty, the game represented a chance to bring in much-needed funds on a non-matchday and director Grahame Rowley praised everyone at the club for helping to ensure the day went smoothly.

"I have to thank all the fans and helpers who made sure Saturday went smoothly," he said.

"We always try and do our best to accommodate other clubs, it's about being part of the community, so it would be good if we could arrange for FC United to come down and play a preseason friendly this summer."