The FA Trophy continued this weekend with Durham City entertaining FC United of Manchester at New Ferens Park, after a brush with serious financial difficulties which threatened the very future of the club. FC United of Manchester, meanwhile, are still celebrating the planning permission granted for their new ground. Andy Hudson was there to see it.
Durham City 1 FC United of Manchester 1.
Saturday 5 November 2011.
FA Trophy Second Qualifying Round.
New Ferens Park.
Fireworks greeted the final whistle of this FA Trophy clash and, as a spirited Durham City side came from behind to level the match against a pedestrian FC United, they weren’t the only things to be explosive during this bonfire afternoon in the north-east.
Durham City are only now getting back on an almost secure footing after their rapid rise to the upper echelons of the Evostik Premier League ended hastily with the news that their third generation artificial turf pitch was unsuitable for the Blue Square North, despite the same surface being suitable for a Champions League Final in Moscow. Financial backing was withdrawn and after a tortuous relegation season, where almost every game saw the team line up with local youngsters almost exclusively on the receiving end of a thrashing (they won two games all season, including an away win against FCUM), and a consolidation year last season in the Evostik North, the club are at last looking upwards, albeit only by one league this time.
FC United went into this game buoyed by news that Manchester City Council had approved of their plans to build their eagerly awaited, and desperately required, new home at Moston. The visitors can thank their goalkeeper, James Spencer, for still being in the competition. After a difficult start to life at the club, Spencer has shown recently that he is a fantastic shot-stopper, and this was evident throughout the tussle with Durham. The hosts were unlucky not to go in at half-time with the lead as Spencer saved well from Ross Wilkinson’s header and then smartly denied David Dowson in a one-on-one encounter.
FC had chances of their own but rarely tested James Winter in the City goal who, aside from FC’s opener, was largely untroubled. Durham were proving a tougher draw than FC’s opponents on this day last year: Rochdale. That opener came as referee Tony Peart was about to blow the half-time whistle. A Carlos Roca free-kick was played into the box from deep on the right side of the pitch. Lee Neville challenged with Winter and the ‘keeper failed to gather the ball, instead watching in horror as it dropped at the feet of Mike Norton who had the simplest of tasks in dispatching the ball into the open goal.
City came out for the second half and immediately pressed forward. Two minutes in and they had their equaliser. Dowson gathered the ball on the right hand side and his cross-cum-shot, from outside the area, sailed over the head of Spencer, slicing into the far top corner of the goal with the scorer’s surprised reaction certainly placing the emphasis on ‘cross’. With the FC fans in full voice, for once their team failed to match the quality of the support as they often looked to lump long balls forward, especially after the introduction of Ben Deegan during the second half. They could have, and should have, been behind on the hour but for a trio of spectacular Spencer saves in a short period of time.
With ten minutes remaining, Dickie Ord and the rest of the City bench celebrated what they thought was the winner. Steven Thompson, who had earlier crashed a free-kick off the FC post, launched another set-piece into the FC box and Wilkinson stabbed it home from an offside position. With both teams pushing forward in an attempt to win the game and avoid a Wednesday replay, a clinching goal was just out of reach for both sides and Peart signalled the end of an entertaining game as FC fans lit fireworks outside of the ground.
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