Given a terrific start by Henry Cowans first goal for the
club, the Bucks couldn’t find the answers to thequestions posed by FCUM's G-Force of Greaves and Gilchrist, and they fell to a first ever competitive defeat by the Red
With both Jonathan Royle and Ross White serving suspension
for recent dismissals, Rob Edwards restored Jordan Lussey to midfield and put
Ryan Wilson in at left-back to replace Bob Harris, who played on a short-term
deal in the FA Cup defeat at Hereford. He also gave a starting berth to Max
Leonard, recently arrived from Curzon Ashton, dropping Anthony Dwyer to the
Leonard was into the action early and almost made a dream
start. The Bucks won a corner in the first minute, and Wilson’s kick from the right
fell Leonard’s way, but he was unable to convert. It mattered little; no more
than a minute later the away side were ahead. An incisive move involving
Leonard once more saw play spread to the left, then switched back to Cowans; he
advanced before letting loose with a fierce low from 25 yards shot that seemed
to catch Lloyd Allinson, in the home goal, off-guard. Cowans’ shot bounced just
in front of him and although Allinson got a hand to it he could only help the
effort up into his net, inside the right post.
Having given themselves a platform, the Bucks were keen to
add to it, however FCUM gave notice that they weren’t going to simply roll over
and take it. Tom Greaves, doubling as both centre-forward and
caretaker-manager, was setting the tone for his side, leading the line, and a
dangerous free-kick headed over Singh’s crossbar suggested one route the home
side might use to get back into the contest.
The Bucks forced a number of corner-kicks but couldn’t take
advantage, and on 18 minutes the scores should have been levelled. Greaves
found room on the right of the penalty area from a Kieran Glynn pass, and had a
clear sight of goal; however, as Singh narrowed his angles Greaves could only
find the side netting with his low, angled effort. The home fans were singing
Greaves name, spurring their team on, and teenage centre-half Sam Baird fired
them up further when he put in a terrific sliding challenge to halt Jordan
Murphy’s run in the right-hand channel. FCUM were starting to find room in which
to play a little more, and fellow academy graduate Michael Jones was growing into
the game in midfield. It was his pass that got Gilchrist in behind the Bucks’
defence on the right on 28 minutes, and the resulting cross into the six-yard
box was swept home at full pace by Greaves at the far post, Shane Sutton stretching
but unable to reach the ball before the no.9.
That was a blow for Edwards’ side, but the warning signs had
been present. Gilchrist and Greaves were proving a handful, working in tandem,
and just after the half-hour a foul on ones gave Gilchrist a free-kick
opportunity, one he lifted over the defensive wall but also the bar. The Bucks
got their own chance to strike at goal on 35 minutes; however, having looked as
though he was going to lift the ball in for a crowd of players at the far post,
Cowans instead went direct, putting his 30-yard shot over the angle of post and
bar to Allinson’s left.
Ryan Wilson was pushing forward, looking to be a supply line
to the forwards, and his cross, intended for Dinanga, instead almost found Jordan
Murphy, but ran too far in front of him. Greaves and Gilchrist kept testing the
Bucks’ back four, in which Connor Johnson was again showing a maturity beyond
his years, willing to play football but not shy of a physical battle. The half
ended with both sides looking fairly even, Max Leonard looking to get on the
ball whenever possible for the Bucks but with Marcus Dinanga appearing a little
out of sorts.
HALF TIME: FC United of Manchester 1 AFC Telford United 1
The Bucks started the second half in decent fashion, with
Elliot Newby, who’d had less influence than he would have hoped, switching both
left and right in the hope of finding room in which to work. Home defender
Matty Hughes lost a boot trying to halt Wilson, but on 54 minutes it was the
Bucks who lost their foothold in the game, with Gilchrist taking advantage.
Jordan Fagbola’s ball infield was turned ‘around the corner’ with a deft touch
and turn from Jones, playing Gilchrist in on the edge of the box. Johnson tried
to get across to him, however as the defender dived in to tackle him Gilchrist
turned back inside onto his right foot, buying himself time and space. He waited
for a second and then placed a shot clinically past Singh’s left-hand and into
the bottom corner.
Could the Bucks respond? They almost did so immediately. A cross-field
ball from the left was taken down by Murphy on the edge of the box, and he
looked to be in, only to see his effort blocked. The loose ball ran straight to
Dinanga, but with the goal at his mercy he placed a left-footed effort wide of Allinson’s
right-hand post. He and his team-mates knew it was a gilt-edged chance.
Still the Bucks kept searching, however the service to
Dinanga and Leonard wasn’t of its usual quality. Wilson put a left-wing cross
too close to Allinson, and Newby was not prospering against some robust
defending, though Kieran Glynn did earn a booking for a foul on the Bucks’
winger. On 63 minutes Murphy had claims for a penalty dismissed by referee Tankard,
Fagbola seeming to impede him just inside the area, although the appeals weren’t
Gilchrist went close to a second goal on 66 minutes,
stretching but just unable to reach Greaves’ left-wing cross after he got in
behind Sutton. Whilst the Bucks were trying to get back into the game, they
seemed to lack real incisiveness in their play, too often foundering on the
barrier presented by the FCUM back line. With less than a quarter of the game
remaining, their urgency to get back into the game was to cost them dearly.
On 72 minutes, FCUM cleared a ball up to half-way, where
substitute Steve Irwin beat an onrushing Johnson to flick a header on into the
Bucks’ half. Gilchrist, who had played the ball on, read the play and ran into
the space left by Johnson; with Singh on the edge of his box, the FCUM no.10
looked up and struck a first-time shot out of Jaz Singh’s reach, over the
keeper and in. It put the game beyond reach for the Bucks too, with the home
fans in raptures at the striker’s effort.
For all that they had decent spells in possession, the Bucks
simply hadn’t tested Allinson enough in the home goal, and that stayed the
pattern in the remaining 20 minutes or so. Edwards gambled, taking off Simpson
and Murphy for Dwyer and Matthew Barnes-Homer, but the chances just wouldn’t
come. Barnes-Homer crossed too close to Allinson, whilst former Buck Connor McCarthy,
on as a substitute for Gilchrist, could have made it four, but couldn’t pull
the trigger with the Bucks again caught high, chasing the game.
Newby, who had endured a fruitless afternoon, caused some
concern when he went down under a challenge and didn’t move for a few seconds,
later revealing that he’d struck the back of his head on the floor when
falling. Back into the game, he and FCUM full-back Joel Senior had a set-to in
one of the game’s niggly moments, whilst Leonard, who’d kept going to no avail,
also cut a frustrated figure. At the final whistle the home fans celebrated a
win which had lifted their side out of the relegation zone and will have
strengthened caretaker-manager Tom Greaves’ claims to become the next, and
indeed only second ever manager of FCUM.
For the Bucks, it was a game they’ll want to quickly consign
to the history books. They’d been unable to raise their game sufficiently when
FCUM laid down the challenge, and whilst not a disastrous showing it will
provide much for them to work on.
FULL TIME: FC United of Manchester 3 AFC Telford United 1
Bucks: Singh, Simpson (Dwyer 80), Wilson, Johnson, Sutton (c),
Cowans, Murphy (Barnes-Homer 80), Lussey, Dinanga, Leonard, Newby.
Unused subs: Hayden, Martinez, McGrory.
Scorer: Cowans (3).
FCUM: Allinson, Senior, Fagbola, Kay (c), Hughes, Baird,
Glynn (Irwin 68), Jones (Palmer 84), Greaves, Gilchrist (McCarthy 82), Logan.
Unused subs: Corbett, Lindfield.
Scorers: Greaves (28), Gilchrist (54), (72).
Referee: Anthony Tankard.
Assistants: Drew Dutton, Lee Hible.