Rushall Olympic became the first side this season to stifle FC United of Manchester’s potent strike force as a superb defensive display from the visitors ensured a thoroughly deserved share of the spoils in front of a 2,445 partisan crowd at Gigg Lane, Bury
The visitors enjoyed the relative luxury of naming a largely unchanged line-up as Luke Edwards returned to the starting eleven at the expense of Chris Morris.
With the large vocal home support providing an intimidating atmosphere to welcome little Rushall Olympic, the visitors made a positive opening when as early as the 6th minute a telling low ball from the left by-line from Matt Lewis was well gathered by ‘keeper James Spencer with Marcus Jackson ready to pounce.
Two minutes later and United responded as Adam Jones headed firmly into the arms of Rushall custodian Chris Gemmell
after the ball was lofted in from deep on the flank by Kyle Jacobs.
Jacobs again provide the outlet for the hosts in the 13th minute as a through ball sent Matt Wolfenden darting into the right hand side of the penalty area, before pulling a low centre back from the by-line that Gemmell claimed solidly.
On 17 minutes a foul challenge on the edge of the box by Lucan Spittle on Wolfenden put the visitors in a potentially difficult position, but the resulting free-kick from Jake Cottrell was safely repelled by the defensive wall.
With United still on the offensive a minute later Rushall breathed a huge sigh of relief as the extremely tricky Carlos Roca evaded several defensive challenges as he cut inside from the left flank into a central position and unleashed a venomous 25 yards strike that cannoned off the intersection of the left hand upright and the crossbar with Gemmell left static.
As the midway point of the first half passed the Manchester team were progressively gaining the upper hand. However, as the rain began to fall on 34 minutes the Pics were on the offensive through Luke Edwards through the left channel who centred from the by-line, but Jackson had already overran the desired position and the opportunity evaporated.
The Red Rebels were quickly back in control four minutes later when Wolfenden turned dangerously in the right side of the box and rifled in pacey effort towards the bottom far corner, only to see the Rushall custodian push the ball away for a corner.
In the very next phase of play the hosts again went close as Cottrell fired marginally wide of the right hand post from 25 yards out.
Three minutes prior to the interval and only a superbly well timed challenge from last man Mitchell Tolley
stopped the ever dangerous Wolfenden firmly in his tracks as the forward threatened to run clear through on goal after latching on to a useful flick on from midfield.
With the last action of the half the Manchester side remained in the ascendancy as a rising 25 yard drive from Jones was safely gathered by the Olympic custodian.
: FC United of Manchester 0-0 Rushall Olympic
Thirteen minutes following the restart and it was the hosts who were back on the offensive as Nicky Platt was picked out in the penalty area as the ball was pulled back from the left by-line by Roca and his resulting snap shot was superbly saved by the legs of Gemmell.
There were anxious moments in the Olympic camp in the 69th minute as a deep centre from United substitute Steve Torpey saw the slippery ball drop from the grasp of Gemmell and bounced to the ground. Thankfully the stopper was quickest to react to gather up the loose ball.
Two minutes later as a powerful 30 yard strike from Jacobs deflected off Rushall substitute Danny Bragoli, Gemmell was aware to the danger and did well to make a telling claim low down.
It took the visitors until the 73rd minute to register arguably their first shot on goal as Richard Blythe curled the ball wide of the top right corner from 25 yards out.
Six minutes later and the Red Rebels again applied telling pressure to Olympic’s back line as they worked the ball into the box towards Michael Norton whose first time drive was diverted for a flag kick by James Skedgel.
As play continued within Rushall territory and the visitors still unable to clear their lines, they were thankful for Christian Dacres being in the right place at the right time as Wolfenden’s venomous strike was cleared off the line by the Pics midfielder.
With the game moving into the final ten minutes Wolfenden again proved himself to be Manchester’s main attacking outlet as the front runner curled an effort just shy of the top left corner from the edge of the box.
On 87 minutes a 35 yard howitzer from United left back Lee Neville fizzed well wide of the left hand upright. However, it was the visitors who almost had the final say in the first minute of injury time as a 3-man break saw Blythe feed Morris, who cut inside but could only fire wide of the right hand post from 25 yards out.
: FC United of Manchester 0-0 Rushall Olympic
1. Chris Gemmell
2. Lucan Spittle
3. James Skedgel
4. Mitchell Tolley
5. Sean Platt
6. Grant Beckett ©
7. Christian Dacres
8. Richard Blythe
9. Matt Lewis
10. Luke Edwards
11. Marcus Jackson
12. Nick Amos
14. Louis Keenan
15. Danny Bragoli (Jackson 65)
16. Chris Morris (Lewis 81)
17. Ahmed Obeng
FC United of Manchester
1. James Spencer
2. Kyle Jacobs ©
3. Lee Neville
4. Jake Cottrell
5. Adam Jones
6. Dean Stott
7. Carlos Roca
8. Nicky Platt
9. Michael Norton
10. Matt Wolfenden
11. Richard Battersby
12. Steve Torpey (Platt 60)
14. Ben Deegan (Wolfenden 83)
15. David Chadwick
16. Daniel Grimshaw
17. Michael Carr (Battersby 83)