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FC United of Manchester prove too strong for Witton Albion in one-sided Premier Division encounter
MUCH has been made of Witton Albion’s decision to stand by, for now at least, striker Shaun Tuck following his release from prison last month.
Yet even in his absence – manager Brian Pritchard decided against picking him despite the front man’s match-winning cameo at the weekend – he remains conspicuous.
FC United of Manchester made sure of that, both on and off the field.
Their players completed a warm-up before the match in yellow T-shirts adorned with a message that read: ‘Kick racism out of football’.
A banner placed directly opposite the dugouts proclaimed, in white script on a black background: ‘Manchester, we are all immigrants.’
The 27-year-old admitted in July he had written malicious messages on a social networking website following the murder in London of British soldier Lee Rigby.
He was punished with a three-month jail term, serving half.
In a written statement issued the day before the game, he denied he is racist.
Tuck’s absence from an attack that did not manage a shot on goal for an hour felt secondary in comparison.
The Rebels sent a message with their football too, although the audience is a bigger one than just Albion.
This was a contest that was over even before Oliver James’ deserved dismissal before the break for a crude, mis-timed tackle on FC United midfielder Ollie Banks.
By then Witton, bright initially, trailed by two goals.
Banks breathed a sigh of relief when his penalty, struck with power to goalkeeper Matt Cooper’s right, crept in off a post after the custodian had touched the ball with both hands.
Its award, after Ben Harrison had tangled with Tom Greaves, had felt soft.
The goal galvanised Karl Marginson’s men who, prompted by Banks from deep, have added a cutting edge to their play in this season’s early stages.
Jerome Wright, sent into a shooting space by Lee Neville, fired narrowly over soon afterwards.
A second goal arrived on 32 minutes.
Banks swept a pass to the right for Matthew Wolfenden, afforded too much time to cross by substitute Ryan Grocott.
Greaves darted between defenders to meet it, lifting a cute finish over Cooper.
It was simply too easy.
Pritchard gambled at the interval, sending on Neville Thompson to support lone striker Kyle Wilson.
When Chris Worsley was harshly sent off following a sliding challenge on Albion defender Marc Joseph that referee Peter Gooch judged to be dangerous, that risk might have paid an unexpected dividend.
For the first time, and if only fleetingly, FC United’s play appeared uncertain.
That doubt disappeared though when Cooper, stooping low to stop Dean Stott’s drive, allowed the ball to squirm from his grasp and over the goal-line.
Hancock’s shot over on 68 minutes, the visitors’ first attempt at goal, then conjured a chance for Danny Andrews only for the wide man to guide his finish off target.
There was light relief when goalkeeper James Spencer blasted a clearance against substitute Anthony Sheehan’s back, watching helplessly as the rebounded ball flew past him to gift Witton a goal.
It is unlikely to have provided comfort to a team that has now lost four of its first six matches.
That full back Anthony Gardner left the field on a stretcher after suffering a serious ankle injury only added further woe to a miserable night.
Witton Star Man: Neville Thompson. Difficult, if not impossible, for the front man to have a transformative impact when joining a game in which his team trailed 2-0 against opponents with an extra man. But the signs, and they can only be that from two substitute cameos, are promising as to what he can bring to Albion’s attack.
FC United (4-2-3-1) Spencer (GK), Brownhill, Raglan, Pearson, Neville, Stott, Banks (Daniels 38), Wolfenden (Mulholland 65), Worsley, Wright, Greaves (Giggs 71) Subs not used Norton, Coo Goals Banks 12 (penalty), Greaves 32, Stott 60 Sent off Worsley (foul)
Witton (4-5-1) Cooper (GK), Gardner, Harrison, Joseph, Moyo (Grocott 17, Thompson 46), Andrews, James, Powell, Platt (Sheehan 60), Hancock, Wilson Subs not used Dawson, Purcell Goal Sheehan 80 Booked Powell, Harrison (both fouls) Sent off James (foul)
Referee Peter Gooch (Warrington)
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