A six-goal thriller at the home of Stalybridge Celtic saw Chasetown FC on the wrong end of a 4-2 defeat to FC United of Manchester.
The action was non-stop throughout the 90 minutes with the Scholars taking the lead from a rare penalty success but the fans’ club fought back after being reduced to ten men and took control during a very lively second half despite both sides enjoying a flurry of chances.
Chasetown were on the attack right from the kick-off with new loan signing Steve Abbott right in the thick of things along with Danny Smith and Dean Perrow, but it was the home side who had the first chance of the game when skipper Mike Norton fired wide in the fourth minute.
Dave Egan’s cross was headed out by David Chadwick for a corner which saw United keeper Sam Ashton smother Gary Hay’s header, and both sides began to display fine attacking football against the backdrop of possibly the most vocal fans in non-league football.
Matt Wolfenden looked dangerous on the right for United with some rapid and decisive runs at the defence while Jake Cottrell went close with a low 25-yard shot which sliced wide. Another Wolfenden run saw him power his shot over Ryan Price’s crossbar and the Reds were beginning to take control of proceedings as the half progressed.
Egan headed a Mark Branch corner narrowly over the bar on 24 minutes before Jimmy Turner denied Wolfenden a shooting chance from close range after a good cross from Richard Battersby. On 40 minutes a Price clearance went only as far as Matt Tierney who set up Norton for a shot on the right, his right-footed cannonball grazing the woodwork on its way over.
Perrow then dived for a header for the Scholars but a professional foul by Battersby saw the home side reduced to ten men and Chasetown awarded a penalty. The Scholars’ usual dreadful luck from the spot had thankfully not travelled with them to Stalybridge and Perrow fired straight down the middle to open the scoring.
Seconds later the scores were level as United charged forward and Cottrell poked the ball beyond Price from a corner for an explosive end to a lively first half.
Mark Branch’s inswinging free kick was gathered by Ashton as the second half began as both teams resumed in attacking style with the play becoming more physical, Smith and Jerome Wright picking up bookings for an off the ball incident on 57 minutes.
Wolfenden forced Price into a fine double save just past the hour as the Reds began to build up the pressure once again and on 66 minutes skipper Norton cut inside from the left and coolly slotted the ball into the corner past Price to put FC United ahead.
The Scholars fought to regroup with Perrow sending a right-footed shot straight at Ashton and Egan again going close with a header following a corner, but on 76 minutes the hosts made it three in superb style. Lee Neville produced a fine solo run through the centre and turned brilliantly under pressure from Chris Slater and Richard Teesdale to square the ball to Norton who had little trouble firing his second goal beyond Price.
United were well in control now with chance after chance barrelling in, but against the run of play with six minutes to go Chasetown pulled one back when substitute Ben Jevons was set up well by Teesdale to head home at the far post.
Any glimmer of hope the Scholars may have had was extinguished four minutes later, however, as Neville crossed to Norton and the skipper set up Wolfenden who capped his evening by blasting his side’s fourth past Price.
Norton could have made it five a matter of seconds later but fired his shot over the bar, but it mattered not for the home side as they took the spoils to a huge roar from the Manchester faithful.
Chasetown travel to North Wales to take on Colwyn Bay this Saturday (February 19), 3pm kick-off.
FC United: Ashton, Battersby, Neville, Tierney, Chadwick, McManus, Wolfenden, Holden, Norton (c), Wright, Cottrell. Subs: Roca, Devenney, Carden (Tierney 89), Platt, Deegan (Norton 93).
Chasetown: Price, Turner, M Branch, Slater, Davies, Teesdale (c), Smith, Egan, Hay, Perrow, Abbott. Subs: Cohen, Ryan (Hay 81), Bridgewater, Stephens (Smith 72), Jevons (Abbott 62).