Sunday, May 06, 2012

Heartbreak for FC United

 Source: MEN

 FC United face a fifth season in Evo-Stik Premier after suffering play-off final heartbreak for the second year running.

The Rebels' dreams of rubbing shoulders with neighbours Altrincham, Droylsden and Stalybridge Celtic in Blue Square Bet North next term were dashed as they fell to a goal two minutes from the end of extra-time in a nailbiting promotion decider at Bradford Park Avenue.

A predictably tight encounter at the Horsfall Stadium appeared to be heading for a penalty shoot-out when Bradford sub Tom Greaves poked in a Matty James cross from point-blank range to wreck FC's bid for a fourth promotion in seven seasons - one which would have left them just two hops away from a place in League Two.

It was very much a case of deja vu for Karl Marginson's men, who lost by the same score in last season's play-off final at Colwyn Bay,

But Marginson offered no excuses for either the result or FC's below-par performance, saying: "It wasn't a great game, as is so often the case on occasions such as this, but fair play to Bradford, I thought they deserved to beat us on the day.

"The conditions weren't ideal as the pitch was very bumpy, but it was the same for both teams and Bradford coped better than we did.

"It will be difficult to pick the players up after this, but they're a great set of lads and I know they'll bounce back.

"I told them beforehand that I'm proud of their efforts this season. One defeat isn't going to change that even though we're all obviously bitterly disappointed to have once again fallen at the final hurdle."

FC suffered a major blow before kick-off when their ever-present keeper James Spencer was forced to pull out with a hand injury, forcing Marginson to give a debut to pre-deadline signing Jon Worsnop.

The Rebels had an early scare after Bradford's Richard Marshall had outfoxed Kyle Jacobs only to shoot narrowly wide.

Avenue dangerman Nick Boshell was next to threaten but fired a yard over after cutting inside onto his right foot.

Boshell was again off target when Worsnop's misdirected punch fell to him on the edge of the box.

Despite being driven on by Jake Cottrell, FC were struggling to find their rhythm, with star striker Mike Norton too often cutting a lone figure up front.

United had to wait until eight minutes before the break for their first effort on target but Bradford keeper John Lamb was equal to Adam Jones's header.

FC found themselves pushed back early in the second-half as Bradford continued to look the likelier to break the deadlock.

Marginson responded with a double substitution, replacing wide-men Carlos Roca and Stephen Johnson wth Nicky Platt and Astley Mulholland, but Bradford continued to hold the upper hand and FC's Lee Neville had to make a desperate clearance to ensure the 90 minutes ended goalless.

Norton had the ball in the net four minutes into extra-time, but the ref had already blown for a push.

Worsnop then saved bravely at Ross Daly's feet, while, 60 seconds later, Rebels sub Nicky Platt fluffed what proved to be their best opening when he contrived to fire over from no more than six yards out following fine work by Norton.

Penalties loomed after Greaves had spurned a golden opportunity for Bradford with just three minutes left, scooping over when it seemed he must score.

But there was still time for him to break FC's hearts with his dramatic late winner sending the home fans into raptures and leaving the visitors to mull over another wasted promotion chance.

Tony Glennon