By Marc Higginson
Radcliffe Boro 1 FC United 1,
Unibond League Division One North
EVEN the most pessimistic of scriptwriters would struggle to chronicle the hard luck stories down at Radcliffe Borough this season.
Once again Radcliffe were the better team and, once again, Boro were left with a point when it was three they deserved.
A quick glance at the UniBond table shows that Peter Coyne's men are marooned at the bottom without a single league victory all season.
What it doesn't show is that three of their seven draws have come against teams in the top five -- leaders Curzon Ashton, second-placed Bradford Park Avenue and breakaway club FC United of Manchester.
If ever there was a sign that a team can more than hold their own in this division - that statistic proves it.
However, draws are no good and the hard luck tales will continue without a bit more quality and a touch more ruthlessness.
Boro looked odds on for that elusive first win when Craig Dawson put his side ahead, but FC United refused to throw in the towel and got their reward when Chris Baguley curled home a 25-yard free-kick on 85 minutes.
"We just couldn't get the second goal to give ourselves breathing space," said Boro director of football Coyne.
"But credit to FC United. They showed their quality from the free-kick. We are just gutted we didn't get the three points."
It was Boro's big day, with 1,290 packing into Stainton Park for the inaugural competitive fixture between the two sides - and Glyn Barker almost gave his side the lead when he broke through, but shot over, after just 90 seconds.
The home side were inspired by the large crowd, and Steve Howson, Gary Sampson and Michael Murray all tested Reds keeper Sam Ashton with efforts before Dawson's opener on 41 minutes.
Central defender Dawson, who is being courted by Premiership giants Manchester City and Blackburn Rovers, rose highest to power home Sampson's corner and send his side into the break a goal in front.
Boro made most of the running in the first half, but sat back and invited pressure in the second as Chris Baguley became more and more influential with some dangerous runs from midfield.
Simon Carden brought a fine save from keeper Sean Lake after Boro's defence was split open, before the impressive Matty Taylor made a crucial tackle at the other end by stopping Barker in his tracks.
The equaliser came with just five minutes left on the clock when Baguley was brought down on the edge of the area. The inspirational midfielder dusted himself down and curled a super free-kick around the wall and into the bottom corner.
Boro were devastated, but it could have been much worse on 90 minutes when the visitors had a goal disallowed.
Visibly lifted after restoring parity, FC United were the only side capable of a winner and they thought they had it when James Holden tapped home after Lake could only parry another shot from Baguley.
But the linesman raised his flag and Boro were able to keep a semblance of Christmas cheer from a game they once again impressed in.
Boro: Lake, Murray, Sampson, Kelly, Flynn, Dawson, Jones, Forrest (Chappell), Howson, Barker, Waine. Not used: Manning, Smith.