Just when the excitement of the FA Cup peters out with the start of the competition proper, up pops the FA Trophy, the competition open for teams who play in steps 1 to 4 of the Non League pyramid. With the carrot of a game at Wembley at the end, it is not like the FA Cup where it is almost guaranteed that your Chelsea, Manchester United or Portsmouth will be enjoying a day out in London in May. In the past ten seasons seventeen different teams have competed for the Trophy including clubs from below the Conference National such as Canvey Island (twice), Hucknall Town, Burscough and Hednesford Town. In fact the last two winners of the Trophy, Barrow and Ebbsfleet United did so against teams who were themselves promoted to the Football League in the same season (Stevenage and Torquay United) proving that dogs do have their day in the sun.
Graham Yapp from the excellent Modus Hopper Random blog takes up the story from the edge of the Lancashire Moors as Northern League Division One club Mossley host Cheshire’s Nantwich Town from the league above.
Mossley have some history in this competition. reaching the final in 1980 when they beat Altrincham, Blyth Spartans and Boston United (all much bigger sides) before they lost 2-1 to Dagenham (before they found Redbridge down the back of the sofa). They had already enjoyed a good run in the FA Cup this season, bowing out eventually last Saturday to Blue Square Bet Premier League Darlington.
Nantwich, nicknamed The Dabbers for their love of Sherbet came into the tie on the back of some goalscoring form. Two weeks ago they shared a twelve goal draw away to Mickleover Sports, before scoring six again the following week as they beat Prescot Cables in the previous round of the Trophy.
Nantwich Town won 3-2 at Mossley to secure their place in the next round of the FA Trophy, but the home side are unlucky not to have the chance of a replay. The decisive goal came on 74 minutes. Nantwich striker and my man-of-the-match Michael Lennon, already with a goal and an assist to his name, held up the ball in the area and backheeled the ball perfectly for Rodney Jack‘s run. The ex-Torquay and Crewe veteran smacked it past Peter Collinge in the home goal.
The result of this very entertaining game was in doubt until the final whistle. Mossley took 20 minutes to find their rhythm but it was no surprise when they took the lead. Sam Hare touched in a cross from the right, where full-back Aaron Chalmers and winger Steve Settle were largely unopposed for much of the first half. However, Lennon equalised before the break with a deflected shot.
Nantwich started the second half strongly, and Lennon played Glynn Blackhurst through for a cool finish and the lead after 52 minutes. Mossley have been put out of three cup competitions in two weeks and to their great credit their heads stayed up. Nantwich keeper Ben Chapman was much busier than his opposite number. Centre-back Andy Watson found space for a looping headed equaliser after a short corner ten minutes later. Even after Jack’s goal, Mossley poured forward without ever finding a telling final ball.
In the final seconds, Mossley had a great case for a penalty as Settle’s run was ended by a push. The contact from the defender continued long after the ball had gone out of playing distance. After the whistle, a home fan saw me making notes and said, “Put down $*@!#ing Lucky!” and I am happy to grant his wish. I would not go so far as to say that Mossley should have won, but a draw would have been a fair result. They have also got some excuses in early – they go into their next match with five regulars suspended or unavailable.
Meanwhile on the other side of Manchester, well north Manchester actually, one of our regular Non League experts Andy Hudson from the blog Gannin Away was watching one of the teams of the moment, FC United of Manchester taking on the Welsh in the form of Colwyn Bay.
The chant began at 14:51: “bring on United, bring on United”. By the time FC United of Manchester and Colwyn Bay emerged from the Gigg Lane tunnel for this FA Trophy second qualifying round match, the chant had reverberated around the main stand of the ground that FC lease from landlords Bury until nearly all of the 1,259 in attendance were on their feet screaming together.
Despite an early scare for the home side in the opening two minutes, twice clearing off their line and then watching helplessly on as a right wing corner was headed off their bar, it was FC who took the lead. Nicky Platt picked the ball up in midfield and a sumptuous drive to the left wing was collected by dangerman Jerome Wright. A deep cross to the back post was met by the onrushing Chris Ovington who calmly volleyed the ball home. Colwyn Bay struggled to get back into the first half with numerous misplaced passes and FC in control.
Wright and Ovington tormented their markers on each wing and Wright, latching onto a fine Mark Ayres pass, failed to take advantage of space in the box on the half hour mark, slicing a shot off target. It didn’t take long for Wright to make amends. With six minutes of the half remaining, a jink left, followed by a sharp turn right brought space between the defenders on the left of the box and a great curling shot flashed past Chris Sanna into the far corner of the Colwyn Bay goal. FC were playing like a team high on confidence and unbeaten in their previous five games.
That confidence was replaced by luck in the second half. Spurred on by a half-time team talk and then the long throws of their player manager Dave Challinor, the ex-Tranmere player and ex-world record holder for having the world’s longest recorded throw, Colwyn Bay rocked the home side with a battering supply of balls into the box.
Daniel Grannon pulled one goal back in the 65th minute, the only player to move in a packed penalty area planting a header past Sam Ashton. FC found a willing physical outlet in David Chadwick, their captain recently returning from injury and taking a forward role, but struggled to create many clear-cut chances. As the minutes ticked over the away team played with a 4 man giant forward line but found their luck desert them as every second ball in the box dropped for a red shirted defender. FC will be hoping their luck continues in their next match – an away game at Rochdale in the first round of the FA Cup.