IT WAS on a cold November night at Mossley that FC United manager Karl Marginson promised the fans that his side would gain a third successive promotion – and six months later he was proved right.
The reds may have lost 2-0 on that bitter winter’s eve and they looked dead and buried in the mid-table obscurity of the UniBond League First Division North with the season barely halfway through.
Many called the gaffer’s credibility into question following his brash, and seemingly impossible, statement. But after masterminding his side’s play-off final win over Skelmersdale United on Saturday, Margy could bask in the glow of a remarkable achievement with all doubters wearing faces redder than his own sunburnt Ancoats boat.
It was a terrible season with injuries, postponements and outright bad luck plaguing United at every turn. But things certainly evened themselves out as FC were gifted three penalties on Saturday and ended the game with two players more than poor Skem.
Early nerves gave way to apparent disaster as the visitors took the lead when Sean McConville bent in a free kick that Denis Irwin would have been proud of.
FC pressed before the game’s turning point came when Jerome Wright’s header was saved on the line by Skem captain Michael White.
Unfortunately, Mr White wasn’t the keeper and the referee had no hesitation in introducing the big centre half to the Mr Red hiding in his top pocket.
A hushed crowd were not disappointed as Nicky Platt stepped up to coolly make it 1-1 from the spot.
Early in the second half, FC were in front after Jamie Baguley floated in a free kick which was successfully met by the considerable bonce of skipper Dave Chadwick.
And the drama was far from over. Following a good chance for Skem, United won their second penalty, which was again awarded for handball. Platt only managed to rattle the crossbar with his spot kick. However, Simon Carden was shoved as he went for the rebound and, remarkably, the referee awarded another penalty.
This time Rory Patterson took it. His effort appeared to have been saved but a freakish spin that Shane Warne would do well to emulate saw the ball curl over the line for 3-1.
The game was over as a contest minutes later as Skem substitute Kevin Leadbetter got a touch of the Mascherano’s and was dismissed for insulting the referee.
FC’s substitute Chris Baguley rounded things off with a 25-yard drive into the bottom corner with 15 minutes to go.
The crowd celebrated long into the night and now the club begin their plan of attack for life in the UniBond Premier Division next season – a feat that seemed so improbable that night on the frozen hills of Mossley.