May 5 2008 by Our Correspondent
Liverpool Daily Post
SKELMERSDALE missed out on promotion in heart-breaking fashion in front of a 3,258 crowd at Gigg Lane despite taking an early lead in their UniBond Division One North play-off final.
The scoreline of 4-1 gives the impression there was a huge gulf between the sides, but when Skem were competing with 11 men they more than matched their rivals.
Georgie Donnelly was brought down in the 10th minute following a surging run and from 25 yards out Sean McConville planted his free-kick into the top right-hand corner of the net.
FC United of Manchester began their comeback just before half-time when Jerome Wright’s header was goalward bound, but Michael White instinctively raised his arm to divert the ball off target.
The referee had no alternative but to send him off and Nicky Platt duly dispatched the spot-kick to level the game.
In the 48th minute Anthony Murt rounded the keeper but was forced into shooting from an acute angle. The shot was cleared for a corner which was taken short to McConville – he in turn dribbled the ball across the 18-yard box before unleashing a shot which had to be cleared off the line.
Against the run of play at that particular stage FC United scored their second goal when Dave Chadwick headed home Jamie Baguley’s free-kick at the far post.
In the 61st minute FC United were awarded a penalty when Michael Duffy was judged to have handled the ball. It was a harsh decision. Duffy had blocked the initial danger with his thigh as he was falling to the ground only to see the ball fall to his arm as he tried to redeem himself.
Platt’s spot-kick thundered off the crossbar, but just as it looked as though Skem were off the hook, the referee awarded another penalty for an off-the-ball incident.
This time Rory Patterson took the kick and although Ryan McMahon managed to take the sting out of the shot, the momentum managed to carry the ball over the line.
Kevin Leadbetter took to the field as United went for a ‘nothing to lose’ all-out attack. He managed all of four minutes before he was controversially sent off for foul and abusive language, and with Skem forced to see out the game with just nine men, they didn’t stand a chance of staging a revival.
Substitute Chris Baguley completed the scoring in the 79th minute with a low drive into the bottom right hand corner of the net.
SKEM: McMahon, Foster, Turner, Akrigg, White, Holland (Leadbetter 64) Birchall (O’Donnell 77) Duffy, Murt (Wilson 77) Donnelly, McConville. ATT: 3,258.