IT’S been a season of transition for FC UNITED, both on and off the field. Andy Walsh, the driving force behind the club’s formation 12 years ago, stood down as general manager last summer, leading to a reshuffle in the boardroom.
And with there being a tighter grip on the club’s purse strings, manager Karl Marginson has had to put his faith in youth. One of those youngsters is midfielder Nathan Lowe, who like striker Jason Gilchirst, arrived on trial with the Reds last summer after being released by Burnley.
They immediately impressed, with Lowe scoring a superb goal in a pre-season friendly with Mossley while Gilchrist hit a hat-trick, and the pair have gone on to become regulars during FC’s 2nd season in the National League North.
After scoring on his home debut in August, a 2-0 win over Stockport County, Lowe demonstrated his development with the Reds by scoring a brilliant brace in the 3-2 away win against Gloucester City at the end of last month, including this strike below for the winner. FC then beat promotion-chasing Kidderminster 1-0 before Lowe, who turns 21 next Friday (March 24), produced another moment of magic to settle Saturday’s home match against Tamworth.
Marginson later admitted the game had been “turgid” until deep into stoppage time, when the ball dropped for Lowe just outside the centre circle. There seemed little on. However, the midfielder took a touch before unleashing a powerful, dipping strike from over 35 yards which rocketed just inside the post. Lowe charged towards the dug-out, jumping on top of Marginson before his team-mates followed suit.
As the FC boss put it, there was “92 minutes of forgettable stuff and then one unforgettable moment”. The club then announced on Monday morning that, before firing the Reds to that 1-0 victory, Lowe had signed a contract to the end of next season.
“It was a great way for him to celebrate signing his contract,” said Marginson. “He’s one of those players that you can build a team around. It was an absolutely superb strike. I’m dead pleased for him and for the lads as well. We’ve got a great group and they’re showing with results like Saturday and the week before – 3 wins on the bounce and 2 clean sheets to boot – that we’re heading in the right direction.”
This season may have been about building for the future but in Lowe it seems FC have unearthed a talismanic midfielder to lead them into a new era. And what’s more, he’s not alone. The Reds’ youth ranks are beginning to bear fruit with several youngsters coming of age this term. They could be forming a new spine to the team too.
— Laurie Hanna (@LaurieHanna) February 27, 2017
Zac Corbett returned to the side against Gloucester and has gone on to help FC claim 3 straight wins for the first time since December, as well as their first back-to-back clean sheets in the league since that win over Stockport in August. The centre-half was named man of the match on Saturday, while Sam Baird and right-back Jake Williams have also impressed in defence this term, with Lowe and Kieran Glynn having shone in midfield and Gilchrist scoring 13 goals up front.
Midfielder Harry Winter left for Stockport last week while veteran keeper Adriano Basso this week joined League Two Hartlepool, but defender Cedric Krou has rejoined the Reds and although forward Tomi Adeloye was recently let go by lowly Altrincham, he’s signed with FC after impressing in their reserves. With Lowe becoming the 4th young player to sign till the end of next season – after Glynn, Gilchrist and the currently-injured Mike Jones – FC look set to take another step forward next season.
While this term the Reds have been happy to consolidate, an improvement on last season’s 13th-placed finish is on the cards as they are currently 12th in the table, 2 points ahead of CURZON ASHTON after their 3-1 defeat at Stockport last Saturday.
FC are away to Alfreton this Saturday while the Nash host Nuneaton. The local rivals will then go head to head on Monday at Curzon’s Tameside Stadium (7.45pm kick-off).
FC United could even boost their trophy cabinet too having reached the Frank Hannah Manchester Premier Cup final for the first time. They face league rivals STALYBRIDGE CELTIC in the final and it has now been confirmed that the match will take place at Oldham Athletic on Thursday, May 4 (7.45pm kick-off).
Tickets can be bought at Stalybridge Celtic or by clicking here for the Manchester FA website. Advance tickets cost: £8 adults; £5 OAPs, 16-21 & Students; £1 Under-16s. On the night: £10 adults; £7 OAPs, 16-21 & Students; £3 Under-16s.