by Peter Scherer
Mickleover’s hopes of escaping the danger zone in the NPL were dashed with a 2-0 defeat at FC United.
Sports made three changes from the winning side against Atherton, with Arlo Doherty debuting in goal, Pablo Mills in for Phil Watt and Andy Dales back in for Joe Bateman.
Starting line-up: 1-Arlo Doherty 2-Jake Bennett 3-Jordan Gough 4-James Butler 15-Pablo Mills 6-Kemy Agustien 7-Andy Dales 8-Mason Warren 9-Dempsey Arlott-John 10-Stuart Beavon 11-Dexter Walters. Subs: Roger Lee, Ben Radcliffe, Phil Watt, Jahvan Davidson-Miller, George Milner.
It was blue sky but a biting wind as Mickleover took the kick off.
It started fairly positively for Mickleover, with a corner taken by Agustien after only three minutes. Warren was able to get a shot in, but it was straight into keeper Lavercombe’s hands.
The hosts came straight back with a left foot shot from Hayes, which was blocked by Mills.
Warren was then almost on the end of a good through ball, before a tackle and another corner, with Walters and Beavon being unmarked in the box.
Gough started to push forward down the left, but back in defence Dales cut out a dangerous ball after a long FC United build up, ending with a corner.
As the corner came in it was too long for Ennis to connect on the far post.
But after nine minutes Waddecar almost gave the hosts the lead, after Linney put the ball through for the striker to hit the post with Doherty beaten.
Hayes was then fouled, before an Ennis cross gave Baker a header, deflected out by the Mickleover defence for another corner.
The pressure was building from the FC United attack, but Walters got a break after 14 minutes, but his shot was weak.
Beavon then forced his way through the defence, found Walters whose progress was thwarted by Smith’s tackle.
There was another half chance for Beavon after 16 minutes, but Baker intercepted.
Three minutes later Agustien placed a perfect ball at Arlott-John’s feet but was deemed to be just offside, before Linney responded for the hosts, with an effort well saved by Doherty.
FC were ahead on chances but the Mickleover defence held firm. Holmes put a telling cross into the box to find Waddecar, but his 21st minute effort failed to trouble Doherty.
Only a minute later Waddecar’s left foot shot was just over after another Holmes cross.
Dales then managed to connect with an Agustien corner after 24 minutes, but his shot was wide.
Hayes found himself in a good position, but held on to long and was tackled, while Linney did connect with an effort nearer the back of the stand than the back of the net.
Mills tried his luck with a long shot, but Lavercombe had it covered despite it dipping in the strong wind.
Sports were lucky to hold on when there was confusion in the defence. A poor clearance from Doherty was intercepted by Holmes and Waddecar’s final shot was again just over.
Mickleover’s attacks were on the decline and were too regularly caught offside, but pressure was building from the hosts.
Butler came up for a 40th minute corner but his effort was cleared by Lavercombe, but then Mickleover had their best chance of the match. Mills had cleared the danger from an FC attack and sent Arlott-John one on one with the keeper.
Lavercombe was at full stretch to keep out the strikers shot and it remained 0-0.
After Hayes had another shot well over the bar, it looked as if the sides would be going in level at half time, until Doherty mishandled the ball after a free kick from Holmes in the final seconds. Morris managed to poke the ball home and the whistle went 0-1.
The second half started with a corner for the hosts, but Warren then put in a nice cross into the box, but it beat everyone.
Doherty then had to come to the rescue after a Mills miskick had almost let Hayes in after 50 minutes.
But Mickleover were pressing for the equaliser, just after Arlott-John had a shot just wide, Beavon was close to collecting a Bennett cross but was ruled offside.
Arlott-John’s pace continued to keep the FC defence on its toes, and he sent Dales on a run after 53 minutes, until a strong tackle stopped him.
But Doherty looked vulnerable again a minute later when Waddecar shot and the young keeper saved initially, before dropping the ball again, but this time he recovered.
There were problems for the hosts keeper too, when he came to collect a long ball and flattened Arlott-John. He received a yellow card, but it could have been a red.
Walters and Arlott-John kept the attacks going and Butler had another shot over the bar in the 59th minute from a Warren free kick.
As the home supporters looked for a second goal to seal the win, Mickleover continued to push forward, with another run from Arlott-John putting Walters through until Lavercombe collected.
Hayes’ 67th minute shot was then deflected by Mills and cleared and Linney managed to get a shot in, but the angle was too tight.
After long and cautious build up Warren had another shot just off target, but Arlott-John was in space and unmarked.
Mickleover made their for change when Milner came on for Walters, before Sports went close with an Agustien free kick, after Dales and Bennett had combined, before Bennett was felled.
Warren shot again with the unmarked Arlott-John unseen and from the resultant corner, Butler’s header lacked power.
FC sub Duckworth forced Doherty into another save, but time was running out and after 80 minutes it was effectively all over, after Waddecar collected on the volley and Hayes hit home number two for FC, 0-2.
Davidson came on for Arlott-John for the last few minutes and in injury time Warren was red carded for a high tackle.
It was hard fought game and Mickleover held their own for much of it, but they still had to return home pointless and heading desperately close to the wrong end of the table.