By Marc Higginson
Radcliffe Boro 0 FC United 2
UniBond League Division One North
IF ever there was a one-sided contest that flattered the eventual winners, this was it.
With a more ruthless streak in front of goal and a touch of luck, lowly Radcliffe Borough would have put six or seven past their visitors.
Boro hit the bar, had an effort cleared off the line and saw FC United goalkeeper Sam Ashton produced five saves from the top drawer.
But it is goals that count and FC United kept alive their slim hopes of automatic promotion with a fortunate victory.
Both teams rested key players ahead of tonight's Presidents Cup final meeting, but it was Boro who were sharpest out of the blocks when skipper Simon Kelly headed wide.
However, the Rebels hit back and scored two goals within four minutes to leave Peter Coyne's men reeling.
First, Nick Robinson found some room on the edge of the area before rifling into the bottom corner to put FC United into the lead.
The lead was doubled on 18 minutes when influential midfielder Chris Baguley capitalised on some slack marking to spin and fire home his 13th goal of the season.
Boro then proceeded to absolutely batter their visitors for the remainder of the half, with strikers Steve Howson and Griff Jones guilty of some shocking misses.
The normally reliable Howson blazed over from four yards on 31 minutes, before seeing an outstanding header from Gary Sampson's corner cleared off the line.
Sampson was having a good game down the left, and it was his cross that Griff Jones headed onto the bar.
Jamie Rother had a shot tipped over by Phil Priestley, before Boro contrived to miss three more golden chances from the same move.
Griff Jones brought a fine double save from Ashton in the box, before watching in disbelief as Neil Chappell totally missed his kick and the chance to reduce the arrears.
United pepped up in the second half with the introduction of strikers Stuart Rudd and Rory Patterson from the bench, and Rudd brought a good save from Priestley when he broke through on 52 minutes.
The missed chances seemed to be taking their toll on the confidence of Jones who, although impressive in his build-up play, was guilty of another couple of poor misses. Patterson almost capitalised on a poor back-pass from substitute Craig Dawson to score, before Ashton capped a stunning performance with another outstanding save.
Ben Manning caught Neil Chappell's deep cross right on the volley, only to see Ashton turn it away for a corner.
4:18pm Wednesday 16th April 2008