Rushall Olympic: 1. Chris Gemmell, 2. Mitchell Tolley (Beckett 46), 3. Jonny Haynes, 4. Lucan Spittle ©, 5. Decio Gomes, 6. Nick Amos, 7. Alex Melbourne, 8. Martyn Naylor, 9. Matt Lewis (Bannister 70), 10. Luke Bottomer (Obeng 85), 11. Alex Forde. Subs: 12. Craig Bannister, 14. Ahmed Obeng, 15. Kyle Brady, 16. Grant Beckett, 17. Louis Keenan.
FC United of Manchester: 1. James Spencer, 2. Kyle Jacobs © (Platt 80), 19. Richard Battersby (Mulholland 60), 4. Jake Cottrell, 5. Adam Jones, 6. Greg Stones, 7. Lee Neville, 8. Matt Wolfenden, 9. Mike Norton, 10. Dean Stott, 11. Stephen Johnson (Warrender 86). Subs: 12. Nick Platt, 14. Carlos Roca, 15. Danny Warrender, 16. Astley Mulholland, 17. Andy Farrimond.
Referee: Mr. C. Husband.
Rushall Olympic moved back up to eighth position in the Evo-Stik League Premier Division standings following an excellent hard fought single goal victory at against promotion play-off chasing FC United of Manchester in front of a large attendance at Dales Lane.
The hosts made four changes to the starting line-up that had recorded a goalless draw in midweek against Worksop Town as the suspended James Skedgel and Christian Dacres were replaced by Lucan Spittle and Nick Amos, while Grant Beckett and Craig Bannister made way for Martyn Naylor and Alex Forde.
The kick-off was delayed for 15 minutes due to congestion at the turnstiles as a bumper crowd packed into Dales Lane. However, when proceedings eventually got under way an early mistake after just three minutes by returning skipper Spittle almost proved costly but thankfully Matt Wolfenden lost possession after being set free into space just outside the home box.
Three minutes later United striker Mike Norton burst dangerously into the left side of the box, before cutting inside and shooting towards the near post. ‘Keeper Chris Gemmell did extremely well to get quickly down to turn the ball around the upright for a corner.
The tenth minute of the contest proved to be the defining one when a weighty back pass from Reds defender Greg Stones put pressure on his ‘keeper James Spencer. As ALEX MELBOURNE anticipated the scent of an error the wide man darted into the penalty area to make an interception before taking the ball beyond the stopper and slotting into an empty net from 8 yards.
Conceding the goal clearly shocked the visitors and within seven minutes Olympic were again on the offensive buoyed with confidence as Matt Lewis set the impressive Luke Bottomer away through the right channel, who got beyond his marker and whipped the ball into the box. As Lewis made the running to receive the centre he was shepherded towards the right by-line and could only shoot tamely into the waiting arms of Spencer.
As play moved to the other end Manchester threatened when Norton was found in space just inside the Pics penalty area and sent a pacey drive wide of the left hand upright.
Rushall were once more in the ascendancy in the 21st minute when a smart one-two between Bottomer and Lewis saw the former unleash a superb drive that ‘keeper Spencer spectacularly parried away in mid-air to concede a flag kick.
Three minutes later a killer free-kick played in by Naylor from the left channel caused palpitations in the United box as the ball was eventually flicked dangerously shy of the right hand post for a corner.
Nine minutes prior to the interval and another telling free-kick from Naylor some 40 yards out was floated deep into the penalty area where Pics skipper Spittle just failed to connect with a header at the far post as the ball curled away for a goal kick.
In the 38th the Red Rebels had their hosts well and truly on the back foot as Jake Cottrell out muscled Forde before unleashing a low drive that Gemmell looked to have held, only to spill the take and stand up well to push a the follow up shot out for a corner. As the ball was played back in from the left Adam Jones was presented with a free header that had to be cleared off the line by a Rushall defender as it probed toward the bottom left corner.
Six minutes later and as good ball was delivered in deep from the left side, to pick out Norton who struck a low drive that Gemmell managed to let loose from his grasp, allowing the forward a second bite of the cherry but sent the follow-up effort wastefully over the bar for a goal kick.
Half-Time: Rushall Olympic 1-0 FC United of Manchester
Following a good opening half for the hosts they were forced into a substitution at the commencement of the second period as the injured Mitchell Tolley was replaced by Beckett.
Within five minutes of the restart it was Manchester who threatened first as Johnson found his way into the right side of the box, but Decio Gomes made a timely interception for the Pics as a powerful drive was deflected over for a corner.
A great tackle by Amos set Olympic away on the breakaway and as Lewis was found within the left side of the box the front runner got beyond the last man, but his initial shot was relatively weak and the follow up was comfortably saved by Spencer.
There was extreme danger for Rushall in the 63rd minute as the Reds got behind the home rearguard and as Wolfenden headed goalwards Gemmell tipped the ball on to the crossbar at full stretch. However, as Wolfenden picked up the rebound and sent the ball wide of the target an off-side flag had already been raised as Norton rifled into the net from the right side on the box.
Five minutes later and the hosts responded as Bottomer went to ground under an apparent barge from a defender within the confines of the United penalty area, resulting in a vocal penalty appeal that was waived away. However, as play continued the home custodian was forced into a super save to repel Johnson’s low snap shot from the right side of the box.
A potential turning point in the contest arrived with just fifteen minutes remaining as Olympic’s penchant for ending games with less than their starting number again raised its ugly head, leaving the Dales Lane outfit feeling increasingly victimised by match officials for an unwarranted growing reputation. With FCUM’s Norton in possession Naylor appeared to have accomplished an undoubtedly hard challenge but successfully won the ball. However, the follow through did catch his opponent and as both sets of players became embroiled in a scuffle the overreaction of the visiting contingent clearly swayed Mr. Husband and showed Naylor the red card, much to the incredulity of the Rushall party.
Despite their numerical advantage the visitors largely failed to make their advantage tell, save for six minutes prior to the end when Astley Mulholland pulled the ball back from the right by-line into the patch of Norton who blazed waywardly over the bar.
In the second minute of injury the Pics were left feeling somewhat hard done by when United substitute Danny Warrender dished out a similar looking challenge on Amos that had seen Rushall’s Naylor walk. Unfortunately inconsistency proved to be prevalent with a mere caution handed out.
Full-Time: Rushall Olympic 1-0 FC United of Manchester
Pictures by LAWRENCE FOWLER
Pictures by ALAN STOKES