United and Accrington will have to do it all over again after an incredible FA Cup game this afternoon. Having led through a Jon-Paul Pittman goal the U's saw both their goalscorer and defender Andy Whing stretchered off, were pegged back and then fell behind, and then saw James Constable slot home a late goal to seemingly set up a replay at the Kassam Stadium. However, in the second minute of time added on United were behind to a Lee Molyneux free kick, setting up an unbelievable finale as Michael Raynes headed home to make it 3-3 and set up a replay a week on Wednesday.
Playing in their blue away kit United had the first effort of the game as Sean Rigg flew down the left wing and crossed and Constable drove in a firm shot which was held at head height by home keeper Paul Rachubka.
Rigg, switched to the left wing to allow Pittman to return up front, had the running of right back Dean Winnard in those opening stages but United were indebted to the excellent Michael Raynes in the eighth minute as the defender flicked a Padraig Amond chip off the line as the striker had Accrington’s first effort.
Ryan Clarke then made two smart saves as the game opened up before Pittman made it 1-0 with a peach of a goal. The striker looked second best as he chased a Tony Capaldi ball down the line with defender Aristote Nsiala, but nicked the ball and sprinted away to reach the goal line. Showing great technique at pace Pittman cut back to take the keeper and a covering defender out of the equation, then fired into the net for his second goal in successive matches.
An away goal always livens up any cup tie and the home side came back strongly. United needed two excellent pieces of defending from the ever diligent Whing to halt Accrington’s efforts to find a quick equaliser before Craig Lindfield made it 1-1 after 25 minutes. Rommy Boco created the chance with a little run in from the left and a cross which was completely mis-hit by Amond. Sadly for the U’s it ran straight to Lindfield who really couldn’t miss.
It was good honest stuff from both sides but either side of half time the gloss was taken off the match with two serious looking injuries. Right on half time Pittman, United’s most potent threat until that point, fell awkwardly as he challenged and was immediately in distress. He departed on a stretcher, clearly in pain, and we can but hope that the injury is not as bad as it first appeared.
The same applies to Whing who stretched for the ball on the edge of the Accrington box in the first minute of the second half and was once again in clear pain immediately. He left the pitch on a stretcher as well, leaving United having used their third sub by the 46th minute, having already brought on Damian Batt at half time for Cox, with Whing supposed to play the holding role in midfield.
With those injuries, and on a day when their former team mate Mitchell Cole passed away at 27 (marked by black armbands on the pitch and applause and songs from the terraces) United could have felt sorry for themselves but instead they raised their game and saw Constable’s 56th minute shot well saved by Rachubka and Capaldi’s two efforts from the corner smuggled away from right on the line.
The game became very end-to-end and stretched, and on 75 it was only Rachubka's finger tips that kept his side in the cup as he somehow reached a powerful Rigg shot that was headed for the top-left corner of the net.
That save looked as though it might prove prove crucial as ten minutes from time the home side went ahead with a stunning goal. Former Premier League striker Beattie had been well marshalled by Raynes and Wright but in the 80th minute showed his class with a great goal. Batt's defensive header wasn't particularly well directed, but was a long way from goal as Beattie latched on to it and thrashed in a dipping effort with the outside of his boot from 25 yards. Clarke was beaten for once and the ball touched the inside of the far post before rolling into the net to make it 2-1.
United needed real character, and with five minute left showed plenty of that as Potter sprinted through the middle and then slipped a well weighted pass to his left for Constable. The striker drove forward and then blasted his shot past man of the match Rachubka for a well-earned replay
Surely we were heading for a replay? Well yes, but things were about to take one more dramatic turn.
In the 92nd minute Davis raised a boot and was punished for a high foot with a free kick on the edge of the box. Molyneux curled home and seemingly sent his side through.
But United were not finished and in the 94th minute threw everyone forward. Leven floated in a cross, Raynes rose, and the ball was in the net to make it 3-3.
A wonderful game of football, and we don't mind another 90 minutes of that sort of action. Look out for ball number 58 to see what awaits the victors.
Report by Chris Williams, Pictures by Darrell Fisher, Stats by PA Sports
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