That victory a week ago Tuesday night has taken all the steam out of the football season for me. It’s not all wrapped up, but I can’t pretend to have much invested in the final few weeks. Chelsea are going to win the Premier League and Liverpool aren’t. That makes twenty-five years now, but Brendon Rodgers still believes he’s the man to bring an end to that twenty-five year doubt, without having the nous to understand for a second that, if he gets another chance next season, he’s going to be trying to break a twenty-six year drought.
That’s exactly equal to Manchester United’s drought from 1967 – 1993, and guarantees the fulfilment of a dream I’ve long held, and that I was seriously afraid, a year ago, of being denied, that Liverpool had to go at least twenty-seven years. That won’t be known until this time next year, but if the Universe really does intend to turn against me as it so often does, I know the scores will at least be equal.
And I do have a cause in the Cup Final, after expecting to have to boycott it this year: Arsenal v Liverpool? It’s not possible for both of them to lose. But I’ll be cheering on Aston Villa, not only out of principle, but because an Arsenal win takes away United’s record of FA Cup wins, currently shared. And I hate Arsene Wenger anyway.
But this is the year FC United got out of the Northern Premier League after so many attempts. But there’s one more team will go up with us into Conference-North-with-another-new-name next season, and last night the play-off semi-finals were held. The Ashton derby ended all-square, but Curzon Ashton won on penalties, but the big shock was in the other game. Workington had been going great guns towards the end of the season, whilst Ilkeston were starting to fall away, but the Derbyshire side scored the only goal up in Cumbria to go through to Saturday’s final: Curzon, as the highest placed finisher, have home advantage.
So who joins us? One last issue of interest, and then it will be over for the summer.
It bloody nearly is! After going behind to Stamford, FC United finally shook off the nervous nellies of the past three games and came through to win by a comfy 3-1. It could have been enough. If Ilkeston, so recently very strong, had taken even as much as a point off Workington, it would have eliminated their prospects, but a 3-0 win keeps them in with the sniff of a chance. On the other hand, Ashton United’s 2-0 defeat at Whitby Town knocks them out of contention at last. So it’s still two points separating the top two, but Workington have only one game left, next Saturday, at home to FC United. It could be a tense title-decider… but FC have one game more to play. On Tuesday night. At home to 14th place Stourbridge. And I’m working…
Not on the evidence of tonight. This is what you call a serious wobble. Had FC won away at free-falling Skelmersdale, and Ashton and Workington lost, we would be even now be in the Conference North. But for the first time since November, FC lost, and their two rivals were heartened by wins, and now it looks a lot tighter than it should have been. Workington have cut the gap to two points, with two to play, Ashton have moved to five in arrear with three to play, like us. We still need five points, just from the last nine now. It won’t get decided on Saturday so I won’t be going, especially since I did my right foot today so can barely walk on it. Oh shit.
This was nearly a perfect day. I didn’t see this coming but both Ilkeston and Ashton United lost today, by the solitary goal, away from home. But FC United failed to take full advantage, recording their second successive draw (this time goalless) at Witton Albion. Even with Workington winning today, a single goal for FC would have meant that a win on Tuesday night, at the free-falling Skelmersdale United, would have been enough to win the League! Overall, the position is little changed: FC are still five points clear, but now of Workington (three to play, maximum 9 points possible). Ilkeston drop to third, six points adrift (two to play, 6 points possible, all but mathematically out of it) and Ashton to fourth, eight points behind (four to play, 12 points possible). Five points from the last four games are all FC need. It could still all go down on Tuesday, if Ashton lose again at Ramsbottom and Workington are beaten at home by Trafford. But the odds are that there will be something left to settle next Saturday, at ‘home’ (Stalybridge Celtic’s Bower Fold) to Stamford. I’m not working next Saturday…
Last year, I watched my first actual FC United game of the season on Easter Monday as well, at home (Gigg Lane) to Ashton United. This year, it was at home (the Tameside Stadium) to the other Ashton side, Curzon, our gracious hosts for the back half of this season. It was a gorgeous day, the gate was over 3,000, but the game was crap. We did not show the form that’s made us top of the League. Despite taking the lead just before half-time, it ended 1-1 and Curzon could and should have won it. Workington managed an identical result but Ashton United and Ilkeston both secured single goal victories. So the lead is down to 5 points (plus two games in hand) over Ilkeston and 7 over Ashton and Workington, with a game in hand over the latter. Ashton are still the biggest threat. We started the day needing three wins and a draw: this was the draw.
The first of two rounds of games for the Easter weekend, the other being Easter Monday, when I intend to be at the Tameside Stadium to see FC United take on our hosts and play-off candidates Curzon Ashton. FC, Ilkeston and Ashton all secured 2-0 wins (United keeper Dave Carnell’s 23rd clean sheet of the season) and Workington 1-0. No change to the set-up at the top, just one fewer game to play. And every win increases our chances that this is the year.
Despite the bonus of an early goal (Tom Greaves, 7 minutes), it was Twitch City half the night until FC United were revealed to be 3-0 up and victory secured (it ended 4-0). Though I’d stopped considering Skelmersdale United as realistic challengers a couple of weeks ago, tonight’s victory officially rules them out of contention to overtake us. Considering that they were seven points clear at the top of the table on 22 November 2014, the 27 point swing since then is incredible. The result means a seven point lead and games in hand over Ilkeston and Workington, and nine points lead over Ashton United, whose 93 maximum points is the line we’re set on crossing. Twelve points wanted from seven games, with Easter Saturday and Easter Monday next. It’s looking good, but until we hit 94 points…
A cracking night for FC United last night, and they weren’t even playing. All three rivals were in action, with Ashton United drawing 1-1 away to Blyth Spartans and Ilkeston going down 2-0 away to Workington Town. This put Workington level on 74 points with Ilkeston, with Ashton United two points behind. But the main point is that FC United, who play tonight at Whitby Town (lovely place to visit), now have games in hand again over all three – one over Ashton, two over Workington and three over Ilkeston. Five wins and a draw from the remaining eight games secures the title: here’s to victory over Whitby being the morale-boosting start of those!
A waterlogged pitch at the Tameside Stadium did for FC United’s game today, with the visit of Stourbridge postponed until Tuesday 21 April. The weather also did for Ashton United at home, so this gave the other two challengers a chance to cut into FC’s lead. It looked good at half-time, with Ilkeston’s game being goalless, and Workington 1-0 down at home to Buxton, but I’ve been fooled too many times already by juicy half-times scores. Indeed, Ilkeston went on to a 2-0 win to cut the gap to us to only 4 points, but FC are back to having two games in hand over the Derbyshire outfit. Buxton, however, did us proud, scoring again to take all the points in a 2-1 win. Overall, no change, except that five wins from the remaining eight games will now eliminate Workington. No midweek game again for FC United, but Ashton and Ilkeston both play away on Tuesday night, so expect the next update then. Edited to add: Though the fixture isn’t on the Northern Premier League web-site, FC United are actually playing on Wednesday night, at Whitby Town (lovely place to visit but perhaps not on a midweek evening), so expect a plethora of updates across the next ten days.
Bit of a setback today, FC United only able to draw 1-1 away to Stamford, but not too damaging a result as second place Ilkeston could only draw as well, maintaining that seven point gap and with a game in hand still. Ashton United and Workington were the day’s big winners, both recording 2-0 wins at home, putting them both level with points on Ilkeston, and on the same number of games as FC. Skelmersdale lost again, and between the collapse of their mid-season form and the number of games they’ve played, they are no longer credible challengers. Barring a turnaround that Roy of the Rovers would reject as implausible. Thus, with eight games left and a seven point lead over all three challengers, FC United of Manchester need six wins to secure the Northern Premier League Premier Division title. No midweek games featuring any of the Top 4: tune in next Saturday.