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.
Woo-hoo! A nervously narrow margins game but FC United beat promotion rivals Workington Town 1-0 tonight, and if that wasn’t enough, second place Ilkeston dropped two more points in a 3-3 draw at Stourbridge that could have been even better for the Red Rebels, seeing that at one point Ilkeston were 3-1 down and reduced to ten men. The outcome is that FC have now stretched their lead to seven points over Ilkeston at the top of the table, with Ashton United and Workington both nine points in arrear. Games in hand are no longer such a factor: FC have one in hand on Ilkeston and three on Skelmersdale who, barring any sudden reversals in form (ours and theirs), can be considered out of it. What this means is that seven wins and a draw in the remaining nine games will be enough. Looking good. Looking very good.
By a trick of the fixture list, the top 5 teams were all playing away today, and it was a bit of a mixed bag for results. Most important result, of course, was FC United away at Halesowen Town. Worryingly, this first came up in the Score Centre as 0-0, but a couple of minutes later there was an update to another 1-0 win for the Red Rebels. Ashton United, leading at half-time, shipped an equaliser and lost their grip on second place to the ever-dangerous Ilkeston Town, who won 2-1 at Marine, all the goals coming after half-time. Skelmersdale United, leading at half-time, had to make do with a share of the points, and dropped below Workington Town – FC’s visitors on Tuesday night – after the latter produced a win courtesy of a first-half goal. FC’s lead at the top now extends to five points, with only two points separating the chasing four, and FC still have a game in hand over Ilkeston and Ashton, and four in hand over Skem. Nine more games to go: is this the year?
Ooh, tight, tight. The top three were all in action tonight, with FC United entertaining third place Ilkeston with the chance to really establish clear red water between us and them. Instead it finished 2-2, as did second place Ashton United’s home game with Frickley. So, one point each, one game more, the top three unchanged. FC move an additional point clear of Workington Town (who also visit us this month) but lose the game in hand, and additional point clear of Skelmersdale United, cutting the games in hand in that quarter down to four.
Incidentally, Curzon Ashton’s 3-0 win on Monday night take them to 64 points in sixth, enough to seriously threaten a play-off place but, barring unexpected reversals, probably not a run at the title, FC having the advantage of seven points AND a game in hand over one of their co-hosts for this season.
Next update: Saturday