Monday, April 10, 2006

MEN: Rebels at the door

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FC UNITED are ready to throw a promotion party if they beat Chadderton at Gigg Lane on Wednesday after leaving it late to beat Norton United 3-1 and place one hand firmly on the Moore and Co Solicitors League second division title.

Substitute Joz Mitten was the rebels’ hero, first laying on Steve Torpey’s 80th-minute winner and then forcing an own-goal clincher four minutes later.

Josh Howard had earlier given FC United a 26th-minute lead when he fired in their 100th league goal, but Mike Grice’s 70th-minute equaliser had briefly silenced the large contingent of travelling fans in a crowd of 1,284 at Port Vale’s Vale Park.

The win means Karl Marginson’s men could now clinch promotion and even possibly be crowned champions if they overcome Chadderton and other results go their way.

Anything less and they might have to wait until a week on Wednesday.
Promotion would be a remarkable ending to the first chapter of a story that began less than 12 months ago, when a group of disaffected Manchester United supporters got together to discuss forming their own club with takeover by Malcolm Glazer looming over Old Trafford.

After dashing into existence, FC have become a non-league phenomenon, twice topping crowds of 4,000 and having a home average of 2,890 which is better than six Football League clubs, including landlords Bury.

The Moore and Co Construction League’s second division title cannot be won tonight, as chasing Nelson – with eight games in hand – could still overhaul FC if they win all remaining 12 games. But victory would ensure a top two finish and a place in the first division next season at the first attempt, as Nelson and Flixton, the only two sides who could top the 81 points total FC will reach with a win, have to play each other.

One problem could be the weather. Yesterday’s heavy rain has put the Gigg Lane pitch under strain for a game that was originally scheduled for November and has twice been postponed. An inspection was planned for 10 o’clock this morning.

But Marginson, who played professionally for Macclesfield and Rotherham, says that if his team clinch promotion and the title in the club’s inaugural season, it will go down as the best day of his football career: “A lot of people will be saying that we have more money than anyone else, and we have this player or that player, but in my first full season as a manager, to get together a group of lads who had never played together before and gel them into a successful side feels like a great achievement.”

If FC fail to win tonight, they could clinch promotion and the title over the Easter period, when their only fixture is a friendly at UniBond Division One side Clitheroe on Saturday, as both Nelson and Flixton have games on both Saturday and Easter Monday.