Friday, November 05, 2010

United spring upset at Spotland

Source: The FA

By Wally Downes - Friday, 05 November, 2010

League One club Rochdale knocked out in First Round Proper.
Rochdale 2-3 FC United Of Manchester
The FA Cup sponsored by E.ON
First Round Proper
7.45pm, Friday 5 November 2010
Spotland, Rochdale
Winning clubs receive £18,000 from The FA's prize fund
Live on ESPN
Click here for fixtures

FC United’s part-timers put in the greatest 90-minute shift of their lives on Friday night to beat Rochdale 3-2 in The FA Cup First Round Proper.

After defying the 95 positions that separate them in the football pyramid to take a 2-0 lead, it appeared a replay was destined after a commendable Rochdale fight back left the tie level with 14 seconds to go.

Michael Naughton, a non-League journey man, defied his age and tired legs to chase down a hopeless ball down field before an error from Rochdale keeper Josh Lillis left him with an empty net and the ball at his feet just two yards from goal.

The fairytale was complete when Naughton prodded home, sparking wild celebrations from the United fans that had sung themselves hoarse for almost two hours.

It had appeared the dream was over when Rochdale fought their way back into the tie after being stunned by the underdogs.

Rochdale could have taken the lead and quietened the visiting fans as early as the first minute. Jason Kennedy broke from the centre circle, ran through the FC defence and rounded the 'keeper but was unable to convert the early chance.

The League One side were also denied a penalty in the second minute when confusion in the penalty box lead to Rochdale centre of excellence graduate Karl Munroe’s hand connecting with the ball. It seemed like Davis was going to succumb to Goliath without much of a fight.

As the first half wore on, however, United’s players, many of whom had been busy at their day jobs just hours earlier, began to get a footing in the game. Carlos Rocha had a decent effort saved by Lillis and Jerome Wright had a quick thinking volley saved in a similar fashion by the 23-year-old.

United’s fans were rewarded for their relentless singing in the 42nd minute when Nicky Platt gave them the lead. Wright broke from the midfield and a slipped Platt in with a deft pass. The former Liverpool and Burnley youngster was played onside by left-back Joe Widdowson and the professional groundsman showed enough composure to lift the ball over the advancing keeper.

The second half could not have started better for the Northern Premier side. Ben Deegen jinxed down the left wing, teasing full-back Scott Wiseman before finding goalscorer Platt. With his back to goal, Platt was clever enough to tee the ball up to fellow centre midfielder Jake Cotterill who was poised 25-yeards from the Rochdale goal, his right-footed strike flew into the top corner to end a move that was worthy of Old Trafford.

Rochdale dragged themselves back into the tie on 53-minutes. Munroe, who had been so assured in the United defence in the first half, was penalised for a foul 30-yards out. Brian Barry-Murphy whipped in an inviting cross and Anthony Elding got across his marker to meet the ball at the front post and head his side back into the game.

Chris O’Grady very nearly equalised for the home side on 71 minutes. The striker broke down the left side and opened his body up to bend a curling shot towards goal. Sam Ashton in the United goal was beaten but Richard Battersby made it back to the goal line to clear the danger.

Keith Hill’s men did draw level in the 78th minute and again it was the right-foot of Barry-Murphy that created the goal. This time a corner from the right-hand side was met by a powerful Craig Dawson header that beat the keeper at the back post.

The ever-vocal United fans were preparing to take the tie back to their rented accommodation home at Bury’s Gigg Lane before Naughton’s persistence paid off allowing FC United to continue their dream.

The FA Cup has seen some wonderful upsets in its time but when you consider that FC United are just five years old, this has to be considered one of the greatest.