Chesterfield booked their place in the second round of the FA Cup with a comfortable 4-1 victory against non-league FC United of Manchester.
Any hopes of a cup upset at the impressive new Broadhurst Park were killed off after just twelve minutes as goals from Gboly Ariyibi and Lee Novak gave the Spireites a commanding lead.
Strikes from Rai Simons and former FC United man Ollie Banks made it 4-0 in the second half. And despite Luke Ashworth’s stoppage time consolation for the hosts, the outcome never looked in doubt and Chesterfield will now face Walsall in the next round of football’s oldest competition.
The FA Cup first round is always a high point in the season. For the non-league clubs that have won through the qualifying stages, dreams of battling it out with the bigger names can come true. And for the sides in League 1 and 2, the prospect of facing opposition out of the ordinary can be an exciting one as well!
So when my team Chesterfield were drawn to face National North side FC United of Manchester at their brand new stadium, I was delighted.
Broadhurst Park was opened in May this year and it is the first place that FC United, a club formed by Manchester United fans unhappy with the Glazer takeover, can truly call their own.
Having previously played at Bury’s Gigg Lane since their formation in 2005, the new £6.5 million ground had been unveiled in a friendly against Portuguese giants Benfica on the anniversary of the 1968 European Cup final, and was a venue that had been on my radar for some time – this cup tie providing the ideal opportunity for a visit!
Of course, the flip side of drawing non-league opposition is the potential humiliation of an upset. Notts County, Barnsley and Bristol Rovers had already discovered this the hard way as Salford City, Altrincham and Chesham United dumped them out of the cup over the weekend. And FC United already had pedigree as underdogs, having knocked out Rochdale in their previous first round appearance back in 2010, so it was clear to all that the 1997 semi finalists had to be at their best to get through.
This Monday evening fixture was the 40th and final first round tie and left the two sides in the unusual position of knowing who they would meet at the next stage before their first round game had even begun. As it turned out, a home tie against League 1 leaders Walsall awaited the winners – neither a glamorous, nor easy task!
The rescheduling of the fixture had caused much controversy among the home fans, who were strongly against the decision – some boycotting the first half altogether while the majority inside the stadium made their protests heard either through song or the numerous banners dotted around this impressive non-league venue.
But the decision to remain outside may have proved a wise one for the home fans, as Chesterfield made a dominant start to proceedings and virtually killed off the tie before it could get going.
It took just seven minutes for the League 1 club to open the scoring and deal a major blow to hopes of a shock. Experienced striker Sylvan Ebanks-Blake did excellently to beat defender Chris Lynch before his deflected cross landed at the feet of Ariyibi, who made no mistake from close range to find the net on his FA Cup debut.
The visitors’ total dominance of the early stages continued and five minutes later their perfect start got even better. On-loan forward Novak met Dan Jones’ cross and directed it home with a classy finish, beating goalkeeper David Carnell with a clever flick off the outside of his boot.
Chants of ‘easy’ briefly came from the away supporters behind the goal and at this point it looked as if the Spireites might run away with the game. But the fan-owned hosts began to grow into the contest and show why they were in the first round – Tom Greaves and Sam Sheridan providing goalkeeper Tommy Lee with his first work of the evening.
But it was Chesterfield who continued to have the best chances. A mazy run from captain Sam Morsy saw him charge into the box and lift the ball just inches wide of the target, before Ebanks-Blake fired over shortly after from a tight angle.
It wasn’t over yet though and FC United started the second period stronger, forcing a couple of corners, knowing one goal would change the whole momentum of the contest. There was even a heart-in-mouth moment for the travelling supporters when debutant defender Richard Wood came dangerously close to heading the ball into his own net.
But a double substitution by Spireites boss and former FA Cup winner Dean Saunders made a big impact, the incoming Simons and Banks both ultimately getting themselves on the scoresheet.
Twelve minutes after joining the action, Bermudan international Simons put an end to any hopes of an FC United comeback by lifting the ball over the onrushing Carnell to score only his second ever Chesterfield goal.
With victory secure, the Spireites continued searching for more goals as the experienced defensive duo of Wood and Ian Evatt squashed any potential FC United attack before it could get going.
In the final few moments Banks, one of two former FC United players along with Charlie Raglan, made it 4-0. The midfielder’s long range effort didn’t look particularly threatening, but an awkward bounce beat Carnell despite the stopper appearing to have it comfortably covered.
The loudest cheer of the evening came in stoppage time however, when the noisy FC United supporters were finally given something other than their views on BT and the FA to shout about – defender Luke Ashworth finding the net with a header to give the non-league side a consolation goal.
But a consolation was all it was and Chesterfield advanced with a professional performance on a very enjoyable evening, reaching the second round of the FA Cup for the third consecutive year. The Spireites can now look forward to hosting league 1 leaders Walsall at the start of December, a side that they have already beaten once this season.
FC United of Manchester (1)
Line-up: Carnell, Brownhill, Lynch, Ashworth, Wright, Stott, Fallon (Daniels ’46), Thurston, Sheridan (Byrne ’80), Lindfield (Patterson ’46), Greaves
Unused subs: Wolfenden, Brown, Bayunu, Madeley
Scorers: Ashworth ’90
Line-up: Lee, Jones, Evatt, Wood, Talbot, Morsy (Raglan ’72), Herd (Banks ’55), O’Shea, Ariyibi, Novak, Ebanks-Blake (Simons ’56)
Unused subs: Cairns, Hird, O’Neil, Dieseruvwe
Scorers: Ariyibi ‘7, Novalk ’12, Simons ’68, Banks ’87
Date: 9th November 2015
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All the best lad, to you and your club; a fair summing up. Difficult times at Broadhurst Park at the moment with seemingly every player out of form. Still, keep the red flag fling.