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FC United punish Northwich Victoria's defensive errors to run out convincing winners
FC UNITED of Manchester’s players did what they could on the pitch to keep alive their club’s hopes of playing in next week’s promotion play-offs.
If they take part then it will be because their opponents’ appeal to be reinstated, to be heard by the FA on Tuesday, has failed.
The Rebels were emphatic winners.
For Northwich, whose supporters protested against how the club has been run in recent years, it was an afternoon – for football reasons – to forget.
If Vics owner Jim Rushe can not convince the game’s governing body that the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League is wrong to kick out the club for breaking finance rules, then it will be their last at this level for a while.
In that context it is conceivable that previously high standards – not least in defence – should slip against hosts in no mood to show mercy.
FC United need the points, plus an unlikely favour from Worksop at Hednesford, to make safe their place in the table’s top five.
Instead a stalemate in Staffordshire leaves Karl Marginson’s men, fluid when they needed to be and clinical with it, putting on hold their holidays, for now at least.
Former Northwich winger Carlos Roca might have scored as soon as the second minute, but his angled effort scraped the far post.
The home team led on 24 minutes when Jake Cottrell, with the freedom of Bury to pick his spot, thumped a rising shot past goalkeeper Ben Hinchliffe after Kyle Jacobs’ raid had taken him to the touchline.
Ryan Wade’s swerved cross clipped the crossbar at the other end, but Vics were soporific as an attacking force.
Stephen Johnson, making the most of charitable defending, blasted a second goal for FC United 10 minutes after the first had arrived, this time after Vics’ backline was slow to reach a loose ball.
If the defending was sloppy for before the break, then slapstick was to follow.
The visitors failed to clear a corner soon after the restart and, after Hinchliffe had blocked an initial effort, Dominic Collins diverted Matthew Wolfenden’s prodded effort over the line via an upright.
Top scorer Michael Norton skidded a header off target from Roca’s centre, while at the other end substitute Michael Clarke should have done better than to send Nathan Woolfe’s cross skywards.
Vics’ woes worsened on the hour.
Roca glided past Graeme Law before feeding Norton, whose shot crashed against the bar before an alert Wolfenden pounced on the rebound to score.
They cruised to the finish, blotting their copybook in stoppage time when Clarke applied the finishing touch to Wade’s cross after Tony Evans flicked on.
It was a rare moment of cheer for Vics’ travelling supporters, uniting them briefly after a minority had chosen not to play a part in a protest by the contingent’s majority.
Northwich finish the season second behind champions Chester, the reward for which is usually home advantage in the play-offs.
Whether that prize will be theirs is soon to be determined.
FC United (4-5-1) Spencer (GK), Jacobs, Stott, Stones, Neville, Roca, Wolfenden, Cottrell (Grimshaw 87), Platt (Battersby 78), Johnson (Cheetham 73), Norton
Subs not used Worsnop (GK), Mulholland
Goal Cottrell 24, Johnson 34, Collins 49 (own goal), Wolfenden 61
Booked Battersby (foul)
Vics (4-3-3) Hinchliffe (GK), Law, Kearney, Collins, Fitzpatrick, Armstrong, Field (Evans 57), Roddy (Clarke 57), Wade, Budrys (Johnson 57), Woolfe
Subs not used Smyth, Abbott
Goal Clarke 45 (+2)
Booked Armstrong (foul)
Referee Ian Hussin (Liverpool)