Friday, February 02, 2007

Safe Hands Award Is Little Comfort After Heavy Defeat


Colne 0
FC United 4

THE aftermath of Saturday's game saw a presentation take place.

Colne goalkeeper Mark Crossley was handed the North West Counties League Safe Hands award for December.

Three clean sheets from seven handed him his second such prize of the season.

But that will have been of little comfort to him after this display.

The former Burnley stopper conceded three second half goals, condemning them to their joint heaviest home defeat in almost six years.

Along with a similar home reverse to Trafford back in April, it was also the heaviest home loss under Nigel Coates' management.

And it was a 15 minute spell at the start of the second half that was the major factor in all that.

Having been booked in the first half, Ben Howarth went into a challenge with Rory Patterson.

But he survived being given his marching orders by the referee, who inexplicably picked out the wrong man – booking Jason Heffernan instead.

Within minutes, a gut-wrenching error by Howarth, who might not have even been on the pitch at that point, saw him robbed of possession by Patterson, who subsequently bore down on goal and slotted the ball home.

Howarth was visibly angry with himself, but it got worse for Colne five minutes later.

Heffernan innocuously brought down Rhodri Giggs, and the referee was left with no choice but to send him off for a second caution.

All that contributed to virtually killing off this D-Zine Challenge Cup tie as a contest, after Colne had made a bright start to the second period.

After going in at the break trailing, they were denied what looked a clear penalty when Liam Garbutt had his legs taken from behind him.

But within 10 minutes of that incident, any hopes they had of a comeback were dead in the water.

And all that despite Colne coming out of the blocks the quicker of the two sides.

Anthony Murt may have put the home side ahead just three minutes in only to be denied by Sam Ashton, and when the same player crossed for James Blackburn, Ashton produced another wonderful save to tip the header wide.

The first hint of FC United's class came midway through the half, as a neat move involving Shaun Roscoe and Giggs ended with Patterson forcing a fine low save from Crossley.

But within minutes they were in front, as Giggs held the ball up before laying it back for Rob Nugent to slam home from the edge of the area.

At the other end, Kieron Roberts sent a header just over, before Steve Cunningham's fierce corner had to be flicked to safety by Ashton.

And they were almost level when Garbutt's lungbursting run and cross evaded Blackburn, only for Murt to shoot wide on the stretch.

The high tempo start to the second half could have yielded an equaliser, but once it went 2-0, you feared the worst.

United cashed in on their extra man advantage following Heffernan's dismissal, and produced a fine goal eight minutes from time.

Ashton's long goal kick sent Roscoe clear on the right, and he crossed for the prolific Stuart Rudd to tap home.

Substitute Jamie Phoenix somehow managed to shoot straight at Crossley when in a similar position to Rudd, but Colne's misery was complete three minutes from the end.

A neat move ended with fellow substitute Dave Brown taking the ball down on his knee, before turning and firing past Crossley.

The end result was harsh on Colne, but nonetheless, it brought to an end their hopes of silverware for another season.

Colne: Crossley, Walker (Whittaker 77), Heffernan, Roberts, Howarth, Wright, Cunningham, Gizon, Murt, Blackburn (Cruz, 71), Garbutt (Cockett 84).