Photography: Laura Bailey
FX Union made it 3 wins in the last 3 games thanks to a last gasp winner at Shortlanesend this Sunday. With confidence high after recent victories against Porthleven, Union started on the front foot, with Pete Wilcock making the first of many attacking forays down the right flank, and Daniel Wilcox testing the keeper with a spectacular attempt from the touch-line.
Shortlanesend offered little by way of response, mostly attempting to probe the Union defence with aerial balls from deep. Recent defensive drills in training paid dividends however, with Joe Crisp dominating the back line with another imposing performance. It was from one such ball that Shortlanesend snatched the lead, however, when Marcus Knevett surged out of the back line to intercept a through ball only to see it ricochet back to the opposing striker. The ever dangerous Gavin Perraton laid the ball into the gap in the defensive line that Knevett had vacated, and his midfield counterpart Fred Tallis surged through on goal. Though keeper Chris Cox got hands to the shot, it somehow managed to sneak over the line, though not before Harry Baker had made a valiant attempt at a goal-line clearance.
FX Union continued to show a character that had been lacking last season, and immediately set about finding the equaliser. Their task was made harder on the 25 minute mark though, when midfielder Rob Stephenson was dismissed for dissent. It proved to be just one of numerous decisions in the match where the officials chose to rule with a hand so heavy that it bordered on despotism, and the incident certainly seemed to serve to set them against the University team for the rest of the game.
Even with ten men, however, Union exerted a good degree of control on the game and looked to be happy to see the half out and regroup at the interval. Shortlanesend only threatened once more in the remainder of the half, with Donovan Hodgkin failing to convert a diagonal ball at the back post when he had the goal at his mercy.
FX Union started the second half with intent, and found the equaliser through man of the match Peter Wilcock. After an impressive cameo from the bench the previous week, Wilcock took made the most of his first start of the season with a fine display down the right wing. Ghosting in across the defensive line on the 60 minute mark, Wilcock collected a defence splitting pass from George Barrell and rode a challenge as he ran across the face of goal. With the keeper desperately scrambling to keep up with the whippet Wilcock, the winger continued to breeze across the face of goal before tapping home with his left foot in a way that Jesus Navas would do well to take notes from.
With the wind in their sails, FX Union searched for a winner, and for the second half it looked as though it was the hosts who were playing with ten men, not the visitors. Only once did Chris Cox have his hands stung, as he flew to his right to parry a fierce strike from range. The pressure steadily grew on the Shortlanesend goal as the match reached its closing stages, with midfield dynamo Reuben Walker becoming increasingly influential. First, he forced a save from the keeper at the near post with a shot from the edge of the box, before wreaking havoc one of his trademark runs through the defence. The Welsh wizard danced past 4 defenders before the ball finally fell into the path of the on-rushing Wilcock, whose drive from 10 yards was parried behind the keeper.
With 86 minutes on the clock however, Shortlanesend struck what looked to be a hammer blow. With FX Union committing men forward to attack another corner, the ball was launched clear to Perraton who after shrugging off the nearest defender fired an outstanding 30 yard half-volley that arrowed into the bottom corner. Though there would be no shame in losing a match to such an impressive strike, especially after playing the game for so long with a player less, Union refused to be cowed and renewed their assault on the Shortlanesend goal from the kick-off. Their second goal finally came as the match moved in to injury time, with player/manager McIvor pouncing on a moment of indecision between two defenders and surging between them and into the box. His ball across the face of goal found the irrepressible Wilcock who fired into the net to level the score.
Union sensed victory could be theirs if they could only fashion one more opening, the and chance came in the 95th minute when McIvor hooked on a throw-in from Wilcock to fellow substitute Chris Aoun. Collecting the ball in the right side of the penalty area, Aoun jinked inside the first defender before a mistimed challenge from Shortlanesend captain Gavin Counter sent him tumbling. With just seconds left on the clock, Daniel Wilcox stepped up to strike home the penalty that won the game – a richly deserved goal after an outstanding display as lone striker.
Scenes of jubilation followed the full-time whistle. Men hugged, no-one cried, but a noticeable air of growing belief radiated from the squad. Here was a marker thrown down, and the first real statement of the squad’s desire and ability to bring home trophies this season. Next week sees FX Union host last year’s league winners Troon in the County Cup, the only side to defeat them so far this season. Following today’s display, Union will certainly feel ready.