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4 Fixture Focus: Crunch Time For FC United

In FC United’s history of almost 14 years, they have had 4 promotions to get them into the National League North.

Although, this could all change this season after only winning 6 matches throughout the length of the season. With only one of those wins coming at home against local rivals Curzon Ashton, which saw the Reds come away with 3 points in a comfortable 2-0 win.

Five wins of United’s this season have come away from home after going against the odds by beating potential playoff contenders Bradford Park Avenue, Altrincham, Kidderminster Harriers and Blyth Spartans. However, with time running out Reynolds will be hoping to scrape out as many points as possible over the coming months in order to secure their position.

After a season that has seen United have 3 managers at the club, they have failed to stay out of the relegation places on a regular basis and the last few weeks results have conspired to find them set adrift from the safety of 19th place with teams above them also having games in hand.

This could potentially see the Reds set an unwanted milestone as they have never suffered relegation in their short history. The next four matches will prove crucial to FC United’s season-long battle. The men in red will be going into every one of their remaining matches as if it is a cup final, in order to secure themselves a place in the National League North next season and, with the reds 6 points from safety with 13 matches left of the 2018/19 season, it is all to play for!

Altrincham

This Saturday sees the red rebels play against local rivals Altrincham at Broadhurst Park. FC United’s first win of the season came at Moss Lane on August 14th, in a 2-1 win that saw United secure all three points after Kurt Willoughby scored the winner in the 80th minute with a wonderful curling effort.

The Robins currently sit in 7th place however with only 2 wins out of 5 in the calendar year, this weekend’s match is set up to be an absolute cracker with both teams fighting for the points at either end of the table.

Guiseley

The Reds face back to back home matches over the next couple of weeks as Guiseley AFC are the next team to visit Broadhurst Park after Altrincham. The reverse fixture saw The Lions take all three points at Nethermoor Park after a comfortable 3-0 win against FC United.

Guiseley sits just 6 points above United and have only one win in 2019 which came against fellow Yorkshiremen Bradford Park Avenue. With both teams being around the relegation places and both having a bad form, this match sets up to be a real six-pointer as the two teams will have to go out fighting for all three points in order to avoid the dreaded drop.

Southport

The first away match FC United face in this run of four fixtures will take place at Haig Avenue, as the reds take a trip to the seaside to play former league club Southport FC. The sandgrounders currently sit 13th in the league and will be looking to take all three points from the red rebels, after the points were shared in the reverse fixture at Broadhurst park in the less than enthralling 1-1 draw.

Liam Watson former Stalybridge Celtic manager will be hoping that former red rebel Jason Gilchrist will be able to remind his old club of his goal-scoring prowess, while the Moston Outfit will be aiming to keep him and his striking partners at bay.

Hereford

The final match the team from Broadhurst Park will play over these next four fixtures will be current Southern Premier League Champions Hereford FC. November saw the Red Rebels travel the 284-mile round trip twice in both the league and the FA Trophy. In the league fixture, it was the men in red who came out on top after a 3-1 win against The Bulls in their 4th away win of the season.

Two weeks later saw the same scoreline however for the other team as Hereford knocked United out of the FA Trophy in the Third Qualifying Round. Hereford are currently sat in 16th place, 7 points ahead of the drop zone. The Whites will be hoping to secure more points in the upcoming months in hope, of securing themselves a place for a second season in the National League North.

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If FC United Can Sort Out This One Problem, They Should Avoid The Drop – Agreed?

In FC United’s short history of almost fourteen years, they have had four promotions bringing them up to the National League North. However, after a long season struggling at this level, the reds may be seeing relegation for the first time ever. Although, they may be able to avoid the drop if they sort out this one problem…their discipline.

United’s discipline record is one of the worst within the National League North seeing them pick up a shocking 50 yellow cards and 7 reds. Having played 32 games so far throughout the 2018/19 season, the card to game ratio for the reds is 1.78 cards per game which has cost them points and their place in the FA Cup as well.

October 6th saw The Red Rebel’s play Witton Albion, from the Evo-Stik, in the FA Cup. On paper, this was a game that should’ve seen the United qualify into the Fourth Qualifying Round. However, like many times this season, their disciplinary record let them down after having 3 red cards. Kurt Willoughby, Harry Winter and Elliot Simoes were all sent off in the match that saw the underdogs Witton beat United 2-1. A week later Darlington were visitors to Broadhurst Park which once again saw further two red cards for the men in red, which cost them 3 points in the league with another 2-1 defeat.

The Christmas period saw FC continue their poor disciplinary record which cost them more points, that could potentially see them avoid their first ever relegation. Michael Pott’s put the reds ahead of a Spennymoor Town side, currently in the playoff places, however, a two-footed challenge saw a straight red for striker Tom Peers after 25 minutes which put FC out of control of the match. This was a similar story on New Years Day away at top of the table Chorley. The first half looked to set up for an exciting match as the reds were equal to their opposition. Five minutes after the second half kicked off saw Michael Donohue given his marching orders after picking up a red for his second bookable offence.

FC United’s disciplinary record is evidently a recurring problem throughout their fourth season playing in the National League North, and Neil Reynolds will be hoping that they are able to improve this over the next few crucial months – which will decide which league the reds will be playing their football in next season.

Can Bradshaw Make it 4 Unbeaten With The Revolutionised Curzon Ashton Against Chester

After a shaky start to his tenure, Mark Bradshaw has Curzon Ashton flying, winning three games in 2019 already.

There is no denying that Chester this weekend will be their toughest game, their three wins coming over floundering York, and Ashton United and Nuneaton, who look like the most probable candidates for the drop. I imagine that there will be a few nerves as the team head to Wales (yes, really, the Deva Stadium is in Wales by about half an inch).

Chester are flying high in the playoffs, 11 points and 11 league places ahead of the Nash currently. However, their form not being in quite the same rich vein as it was at the start of the season could give Curzon and their fans a bit of optimism about the chances of grabbing something out of this game.

I was initially not happy with the news that Curzon’s long-standing manager John Flanagan had left the club, and I think a lot of people felt the same. Added to this I was concerned about the initial results. However, Bradshaw’s men are now in flying form. He has not been afraid to get rid of players during the transfer window and has made clever signings from lower leagues and academies.

A change is as good as a rest, so goes the saying, and the team have got some fight back. Before Curzon had a bit of a habit of scoring early, and then conceding, leading to picking up draws on games they should have been winning and losing games they should have pinched a point from. This had left Curzon in serious risk of Northern Premier League football next season, but while the defence still needs work, Curzon are playing better and looking dominant in games again.

They have gone from looking like likely candidates for the drop to looking certain to stay up, and they could now be confident now of them finishing solidly mid-table.

Obviously this is against easier opposition than they will face this weekend, however, they can head here off the back of hitting a confidence boosting 4 goals past Nuneaton last weekend and be cautiously optimistic about taking something from this game. If they do that is a major stepping stone to well and truly turning their season around.

Ramsbottom Eye Up Potential Cupset as Part of an Incredible FA Trophy Run

If ever a conversation crops up when discussing football clubs in and around the Greater Manchester area, the automatic assumption is ‘so your talking about Manchester United and City then aren’t you’.

By five o’clock tomorrow night, people could well be discussing another ‘United’. The biggest hint in deciding which club I’m talking about is this:  They’re located on The Lancashire/Greater Manchester border and play their home matches by The River Irwell.

On Saturday Evo-Stik West division side Ramsbottom United will play their biggest cup game in their history against Weymouth in The FA Trophy second round. Having never got this far in this Non-League competition, Rammy are certainly not in it to make up the numbers.

Having already played eight games which have seen them have to contend with a few replays along the way, while at the same time juggling a promotion battle in their own domestic league, it’s been a busy yet exciting time for those connected with the club.

Officials from Ramsbottom have been promoting the tie all week in preparation for the game on local Radio. Club manager Chris Willcock was in good spirits ahead of Weymouth visit to The Harry Williams Riverside Stadium.

‘Our League form has been going well alongside this game and we can’t wait for Saturday to come We try to emphasise on winning every game. Full credit to the players as they’ve always done the job on the second occasions we’ve played having not won at the first attempt’.

‘The players have to juggle so many things in their lives in which involves work commitments and family lives. The way Weymouth have been operating is completely different to ours over the past 10 years. But at present, we are very much on the up and we don’t want this run to end’.

Having seen season-high attendances over the Christmas period in a thrilling 2-1 victory over Radcliffe on Boxing Day, Ramsbottom fans are clearly enjoying the football that has been played since Willcock took over in October.

Gate numbers are crucial in Non-League and recent attendances can only be good financially for the club. Club secretary Tony Cunningham plays a major part in running the club alongside Chairman Harry Williams and stated that Rammy’s game against Weymouth is certainly their biggest ever cup fixture, and one of the most important at any point since the club was formed in 1966.

The attendances obviously crucial for a Non-League Club but there are not the only thing on the clubs mind at present. The fact that due the club are only a handful of games off a Wembley final in The FA Trophy says something for their efforts in the competition.

Cunningham was thrilled for the clubs current progress. ‘For a club like Rammy to be in the last 32 is tremendous, we’re one of the minnows in the competition that’s for sure. Saturday will be our ninth game in the competition which is almost a quarter of a season’. With Wembley, do Rammy have a chance of making it? ‘There is a chance but of course, but we know it’s a very hard ask’.

Ramsbottom take on a Weymouth side going great guns in their own league, currently lying second in the Evo-Stik Premier South division. But with the beauty of cup football, just anything can happen, as results in all knockout competitions show.

‘Look at some of the FA Cup games last weekend’ said Cunningham. ‘Barnet beating Sheffield United and Newport beating Leicester, they are complete one-offs. Hopefully, if we can get some good support for our lads tomorrow, then you just never know’.

The Meaning Of Proper Football – A Non-League Take on Life As a Fan

While labelling myself as a fan of Curzon Ashton, I have a complete obsession with groundhopping, and not enough funds to even consider trying to tick off the 92, so traipsing around non-league grounds, and indeed non-league football has become something of an obsession. And frankly, those that only go and watch their Premier League team are missing out.

Whether its the dizzying heights of the National League or the hungover scratched together teams, there is a charm to non-league that you just won’t find in the professional leagues.

No one in the history of Premier League football has ever turned to their companion and say “that number nine collects my bins, no really he does,” as I once overheard at a game. Nor has there ever been an announcement asking if the crowd has someone holding a referees licence in it, as I have seen happen twice at the same ground. Finally, my favourite ever was a South West London based team tweeting that their game was cancelled as they had no keeper, as their only goalie “Dave” had been kicked out by his wife “again.”

Getting to the grounds is often an adventure, and you find them, tucked away down terraced streets, or strangely, at Swinton FC, through the carpark of a funeral parlour, and Hyde in the carpark of a leisure centre. The excitement about the thought of a trip to Stalybridge Celtic, and the respective train station having a nigh on famous pub inside it, only to then realise Bower Fold is absolutely nowhere near the train station at all, and all of Stalybridge appears to be an enormous hill.

And when you get to the ground themselves you are in for a treat, bars that are more like real pubs at Guiseley AFC and Farsley Celtic, the odd characteristics like Salford’s sloping pitch, the bathroom facilities basically in sheds. And often a mishmash of stands built decades apart that has a charm that the higher leagues with concrete bowls of the edge of towns will never have.

The football is fast and physical, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a boring game. I saw two South Shields players sent off for entirely unrelated incidents in the space of 2 minutes, and when you get to the lower and Sunday leagues you are guaranteed more goals than you could imagine. I met someone once who played in a Greater Manchester league who claimed there was a team in their league with a goal difference of over -100, and they weren’t even bottom.

It’s also affordable, you can go and watch Maine Road FC, get in get a programme, a pie and a pint for little over a tenner. And the ground is full of characters with stories to tell, people at Stockport County with their tales of glory days, people at West Didsbury and Chorlton with their dogs.

Some of the clubs have incredible stories such as Rushden & Diamonds, rising from the flames following expulsion from missing a FA deadline, or Dulwich Hamlets dogged determination to continue despite the best efforts of their awful landlords.

Several of the clubs are staffed exclusively on match days by volunteers, with a real passion for their club and local area. Which, when standing at a freezing Hurst Cross watching Ashton United v Curzon Ashton on new years day I had an inordinate amount of respect for. There is a sign in the bar at FC United saying “Consider yourself part of the family.” And perhaps therein lies the very heart of non league for me; it’s accessible, the player hitting in three goals isn’t going to be driving home in a car that is worth more than the average Manchester House, the manager isn’t full time, you’ll see the same members of the crowd in the exact same spot week in week out and game after game, it doesn’t cost as much as a minibreak to Prague to take your family and while you’ll probably not be watching the next Jamie Vardy or Stuart Pearce, who both rose from the non league ranks rather than through academies, get yourself down to watch your local team, you’ll likely love it.

Curzon Ashton Need to be Going For This Type Of Player In January

The transfer window always gets a lot of coverage for the big clubs, the world and their dog will know the latest big money moves in the Premiership, and with big clubs like Sunderland now in the lower leagues, there is attention there too.

However, it’s just as important for National League and non-league clubs. With football at this level hard to clamber out of, a bit of nouse in the transfer market is totally essential to success, and indeed, survival at this level.

Curzon Ashton have been very reliant of late on two types of players, and the same is true for a lot of teams at this level.

Type one is young players who are either on loan or released from other academies, we have a huge number at the moment from Oldham Athletic and some very young players on loan from Stoke.

Type two are players who have been playing at National League North and Northern Premier level for forever and a day.

Both of these have their advantages, young players tend to have plenty of pace, and those at the academies of bigger clubs will have had a huge amount of exceptional coaching, likely from their early teens. And those with plenty of experience in this level will understand how physical a game this can be at times, know the eccentricities of football at this level, Salford’s sloping pitch, huge crowds at FC United, and so on. Together it all sounds like a pretty good combination. However there is one sort of player Curzon doesn’t really have, and I’ll give you two words… Jon Parkin

I’m not suggesting Curzon sign Parkin, but that sort of player who has done the rounds in the less glamorous echelons of professional English Football (Parkin has played at the likes of Scunthorpe, Doncaster, Newport and so on) can be a huge asset. If you go and watch York City, you’ll notice Parkin looks like a member of the crowd’s dad has come on to play, however more importantly, touch, accuracy and vision is usually a step above most players at that level. They can also act as a leader for the younger players finding their feet in the game.

Players like this are hard to come by, you’re either retired or you’re not generally. But if you can grab one, they can be a huge asset to any team and if I was handling transfers and scouting at the Nash that is the sort of player I would be looking out for.

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