PROMOTION could be sneaking up on FC United quicker than the club's supporters realise.
The Rebels opened up a 24-point gap at the top of the Moore and Co Solicitors Second Division with a low-key victory in front of 1,767 fans at Boundary Park last night.
Skipper Dave Chadwick scored the only goal on 56 minutes, using his knee to improvise a lob over the Oldham goalkeeper and two defenders when the ball fell to him at a corner.
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But until the fixture backlog caused by a harsh winter starts to clear, there can be no plans for the expected celebration.
Some clubs face a hectic final six weeks to the season; Nelson - in the best position to catch FC if they win their seven games in hand - have to cram in 15 games. Only when they and fellow chasers start to work through those games will the picture become clear.
But the re-structuring of the non-league pyramid could also have a hastening effect. Depending on what happens in that shake-up, the Second Division could see three or four teams go up rather than the two stipulated at the start of the season.
FC United manager Karl Marginson admitted at the club's general meeting on Tuesday night that he has already given a thought to next season. Should his team clinch promotion, he aims to keep the same nucleus of players with just a tweak or two.
And he also hinted that he does not expect the same huge turnover of players that AFC Wimbledon experienced after starting up in 2002 and then gaining two promotions in three seasons.
At the start of the season, Dons fans were warning their FC counterparts not to get too attached to individual players, as they would soon be replaced. Marginson disagrees.
"Some people have said that no one will recognise the team in three or four years and that is possible, but at least six or seven of our current players could play as high as Conference North level," he said.
"Oldham Town beat Alsager, who are top of the First Division, in the cup a couple of weeks ago, and last weekend they beat Salford City, also well up there.
"Other than Cammell Laird, who are an exceptional side, it's pretty much of a muchness from the top of the Second Division to the top of the First."
Cammell Laird raced to the Second Division title last season, losing just three matches, and will secure promotion again if they win all of their remaining games. FC are on course to emulate their tally of 87 points last season.