By Marc Higginson
Radcliffe Boro 3 FC United 1
Manchester Cup semi-final
THEY might be bottom of the league, but Radcliffe Borough have no such worries in the other competitions after another sensational cup performance booked another final date before the end of the season.
Just ten days after earning a place in the final of the Presidents Cup against FC United, Boro struck an early blow on the Rebel Reds by turning the form book upside down and storming into the final of the Manchester Cup against the same opponents.
Missing seven players, Peter Coyne's men came from behind to secure a deserved victory, and make a mockery of their league position - Steve Howson and Michael Oates (2) scoring the goals.
Boro have won only four out of 30 games in UniBond Division One North, but they get the results their performances merit in the cups and have won 13 and drawn one from 18 cup games this season.
It is a bit of a conundrum for Coyne and his management team, but you won't find the Boro director of football turning down the chance of two cup finals.
"It's fantastic to be in two cup finals, and we were always confident about winning this game given our cup form this season," said Coyne.
"I cannot put my finger on why we win in the cup, but struggle in the league. Our performances in the league have been good, and the only thing missing is the results.
"We haven't won anything yet, but it would be nice to pick up a trophy. However, we are striving to get off the bottom of the league first and foremost."
Boro should have been ahead on 21 minutes after both Howson and Oates hit the bar. Oates fed Howson, who saw his lob from 25 yards come back off the bar before watching in disbelief as Oates' powerful follow-up also hit the woodwork.
To rub salt into the home side's wounds, the visitors went into the lead on 32 minutes when Chris Baguley curled a stunning effort into the back of the net from 25 yards.
Undeterred, Boro came fighting back in the second half, and were level on 49 minutes when Howson hammered home his 27th goal of the season after Tony Whealing's free-kick had been fumbled.
FC United were restricted to long-range efforts, and it was no surprise when Boro went into the lead on 61 minutes.
Whealing delivered an inch perfect cross into the box to leave Oates with the simplest of tap-ins for his eighth goal of the season.
Oates then sent the Boro supporters into dreamland nine minutes later when he spun his marker and slotted home with aplomb to seal the tie.
There was still time for Phil Priestley to make a fine double save from Stuart Rudd and Chris Baguley, but Boro held on for a deserved victory.
RADCLIFFE: Priestley, Sampson, Whealing, Kelly, Flynn, C. Dawson, Forrest, Connell, Waine, Howson, Oates. Subs not used: Manning.
Wednesday 19th March 2008