County Done Up By The Nines
The Hatters bowed out of the FA Cup Third Qualifying Round at Broadhurst Park, after failing to break down an FC United side reduced to nine men before half-time.
And, to add numerical insult to injury, it was the hosts’ number nine, Tom Greaves, whose goal, following the second of their red cards, settled this replay – which they had earned courtesy of a three-goal, second-half comeback at Edgeley Park three days previously.
County took to the field showing three enforced changes from the starting line-up for that original tie. Scott Duxbury (ankle) and Jason Oswell (hamstring) were both ruled out due to injuries sustained on Saturday, while Matty Warburton could not play because of a subsequent neck problem. Their places were taken by Bohan Dixon, Connor Hampson and returning captain Harry Winter, as part of a 4-1-4-1 formation.
The opening stages witnessed little in the way of clear-cut chances – with Greaves going closest for the ‘Red Rebels’ with a shot from outside the box that flew narrowly wide of County’s left upright after 14 minutes.
But 10 minutes later, events took a more dramatic turn when Matty Hughes, acting as captain in the absence of the suspended Scott Kay, was shown a straight red card for tripping Dixon, when the lone County striker was through on goal following a delightful defence-splitting pass by Winter.
And five minutes ahead of the interval, the Moston-based side found itself another player down. Mike Connor, who had been booked earlier after fouling Gary Stopforth, received his second yellow card – and, consequently, his marching orders – for a challenge on Jimmy Ball.
Home goalkeeper Lloyd Allinson was then called into action for the first time, as he deflected behind a close-range effort from Ball. And the Hatters – rather as they had done in the previous tie (albeit, on that occasion, because of a superior scoreline rather than head-count) – came off for the break in the apparent ascendancy.
HALF-TIME: FC United 0, County 0.
Just, however, as FC United began to turn the tables after half-time at Edgeley Park, so too did the nine men in M40.
Within a couple of minutes following the resumption, Steve Irwin struck the County crossbar with an in-swinging free kick from the left – before Mike Jones, one of two substitutes introduced for the second half, forced Ben Hinchliffe to parry behind a well-struck shot from distance on the right. And as the Hatters attempted to clear the resulting corner, Greaves stabbed home to give the hosts the lead.
Having gone ahead, the Red Rebels still had to hold out for over 40 minutes, as much of the rest of the game proceeded to take place in their half. County piled forward time after time – earning no fewer than 14 corners in the process, and forcing, through Hampson and Sam Walker in particular, a series of low shots that Allinson did well to block or parry behind.
In the closing stages, Adam Thomas fired narrowly shy of the bar, and Dan Cowan’s pile-driver was tipped over by Allinson – but, ultimately, the Hatters could find no way through and were denied a trip to Telford United in the Fourth Qualifying Round.
FULL-TIME: FC United 1 (Greaves, 48), County 0.
Team: Hinchliffe, Cowan, Hampson, Ball, Smalley (Brazel, 73), O’Halloran, Thomas, Winter (Capt.) (McKenna, 63), Dixon, Stopforth, S Walker.
Unused Subs: Downing, Ormson, West, Whitty, Czubik.
Attendance: 1,688 (441 representing The Twelfth Man).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.