Saturday, 14 May 2011

On Top of the Hill - – Colwyn Bay v FC United, Evo Stick Premier Division Playoff Final

This was written with the intention of it appearing elsewhere, but as it never did, it's making a belated appearance on here.

In the years I spent watching Manchester United home, away and abroad I never thought I’d be looking forward to a trip to Wales, let alone Colwyn Bay. But I’d never considered the thought that I’d be giving up grounds such as the San Siro to go to grounds such as Llanelian Road, either, so there I was on Monday morning bounding out of bed and headed for a train to the Welsh town.

Although the journey itself was less than easy. I was travelling from Preston, which required changing at Warrington and meeting the train from Manchester headed down to the Bay. Only the points somewhere north of Warrington had failed meaning we were crawling into Warrington with the Manchester train still scheduled to get in before us. Plans were being made to kill an hour in Warrington until we pulled up alongside another train just before the two lines merged. A quick phone call and a wave through the window confirmed it was the train I was meant to be meeting and, thankfully, we set off first and pulled into Warrington before it.

The rest of the journey was a lot more pleasant with a lot of expectant FCers enjoying the scenery and the glorious sunshine. The mood was good and that continued in the pub before the match and in the streets around the ground. Eventually the 2,000 people with tickets drifted inside with a few hundred people without plotting up on the overlooking hill. Eventually 3pm rolled around and the biggest game of FC United’s existence was off and running.

There was a strange feeling around once inside the ground, though, mainly amongst the FC supporters. The atmosphere, whilst still loud and continuous, felt a bit nervous and more flat than usual. The match itself didn’t help as it was a scrappy affair which had ‘one goal win’ written all over it from the start. Sam Ashton sliced an attempted clearance early on with a Colwyn Bay player closing him down and David Chadwick almost headed the ball into his own goal instead of directing it straight back to Sam. Thankfully, for us, the ball went past the post.

FC had their own chances, Roca having the best of them, failing to connect properly with a Wolfenden cross, but just couldn’t apply that finishing touch. When moving the ball around on the deck and attacking down the right wing, United looked dangerous. However, the final ball and other long balls towards Deegan were invariably dealt with comfortably by the two imposing Colwyn Bay centre-halves. As the game went on, you began to get the feeling whoever scored first would just nick it.

On 69 minutes, Colwyn Bay broke forward with a ball over the top of the defence. Jon Newby calmly put the ball past Sam Ashton into the goal leaving people with a resigned feeling of “that’s that.” Aside from one shot into the side netting, I struggle to recall any real chance being created. Colwyn Bay went close to adding a second on a couple of occasions but the game ended 1-0 and Bay were promoted to the Conference North. There’s no complaints on my behalf, they deserved to go up and I feel it would have been too early for FC United as a club anyway. I just hope we’re not looking back in ten years’ time thinking “that was our moment.”

The pub was a bit more subdued after the match, as was our part of the train home. However, people were not too disheartened as there’s much more to this club than the football. Hopefully before too long we will have our own ground built whilst continuing to build greater links with Manchester’s communities. As long as we carry on as we are, we’ll still be upbeat about the club regardless of results like today’s.