AFC Telford 1 FC United of Manchester 3 - Report and pictures
Lowly FC United of Manchester scored twice in the second period to condemn AFC Telford United to one of their worst home defeats of the campaign and dent their hopes of pulling clear of the chasing play-off pack.
It was a routine one on paper, but as Gavin Cowan's charges found out football isn't played on the white stuff.
On the green stuff the Bucks began brighter, but the visitors who are scrapping for National League North survival took the game to Telford.
New signing Dominic McHale swept a cross home after 35 minutes, before skipper Kurt Willoughby lashed home early in the second period.
Telford rarely threatened in response, as the visitors looked the more likely to extend their lead.
Ellis Deeney scored a 93rd minute penalty, but it was no more than a consolation.
This was a stumbling block in the race for the play-offs, but the Bucks will be hoping they can shimmy around that block and go again soon.
Cowan chose to stick with the side that had dismantled Darlington in a devastating first half on Tuesday evening.
They faced an FC United of Manchester side who were woefully out of form, with just one win in the last ten.
And it was unfamiliar for the Bucks to be at home in the daylight, having not played a home Saturday game since they lost to Kidderminster on January 19.
On the balance of just form it was easy to see who the favourite were going into this one.
Darryl Knights flicked an early Ryan Barnett cross wide, but the visitors showed they had sharpness on the break too.
New signing McHale set Jack Banister free on the left side of the box, with his low and dangerous cross cleared by Ross White.
There hasn't many games at the New Bucks Head this season where the Bucks haven't begun with the lions share of possession.
This game was one of those, as they looked potent and threatening every time they advanced forward early on.
Another Barnett cross found its way to Brendon Daniels whose shot went over via a deflection, with Shane Sutton having a header saved from the resulting corner.
Barnett then again was in the thick of the action, lashing over after Daniel Udoh's low cross had evaded strike partner Amari Morgan-Smith.
His performance on Tuesday evening had drawn praise from his parent club boss Sam Ricketts, and you could see why.
He is in red hot form at the moment, and everything Telford did in the opening stages went through the on loan winger.
But for their poor form and league position, the Manchester visitors looked no mugs in attack.
McHale, signed from Ashton United in the week, tested Joseof Bursik with a wicked cross from the right.
He then took a cross field ball down beautifully, before laying it off to captain Kurt Willoughby who lashed inches wide of the Bucks upright.
For all the Bucks early pressure the best chance of the opening half hour fell the way of the visitors.
After bouncing the ball around the area, Willoughby fired inches wide from 18 yards.
It was a warning sign, and a sign that Cowan's men may not have it all their own way like they did in mid week.
That proved, as after Morgan-Smith had tested the palms of Andrew Fisher, the visitors' debutante fired his side into an unlikely lead.
Banister toyed with Theo Streete on the left, before pulling back a low cross for McHale to sweep past Bursik.
It was almost an immediate response, however Knights could only head a Barnett cross wide of the mark.
The Bucks looked rattled and if anyone was going to score before half time, it was going to be a second for the Manchester side.
But for the woodwork they would have got that goal.
Willoughby hung up a cross that left Bursik in no mans land, but somehow from less than two yards, Banister's header came back off the bar.
It came back down and almost hit the stranded keeper and rolled in, but Theo Streete mopped up the danger to keep it to one.
If that wasn't a warning to Buck their ideas up, the last action of the half was.
A routine pass from Sutton to James McQuilkin was mis-controlled by the midfielder and allowed Michael Donahue a free run at the goal.
He dodged the slide of White and looked to be making it two, but somehow Bursik got something on it to send it wide.
The last 10 minutes of the half were uncharacteristic by the Bucks standards, and something that would have left chief Cowan with plenty to say in the dressing room.
The Bucks started fast with a few dangerous moves down the right, before a ball fell to Streete who fired high into the David Hutchinson stand.
The Bucks fans were not happy, and they were even less happy when the visitors went and doubled their lead ten minutes into the half.
A goal kick was headed back into the Bucks half and Banister broke.
Sutton snuffed the danger out in the area, but the ball only found its way to Willoughby, who twisted and checked back before lashing past the helpless Bursik.
Less than ten minutes later and it was three and it was all so easy.
The winger found space on the left and crossed for former Buck Peers, who took his time and curled the ball beyond the Bursik.
The fans were stunned. Not only had they not seen their side go 3-0 down at home this season, they had not seen them go 3-0 down to a side who are struggling to stay in the division.
Cowan threw on Marcus Dinanga and Andre Brown from the bench and went three up top in a bid to salvage something.
But the visitors were still looking more likely. If a fan with no knowledge of either side watched the game, they would think Neil Reynolds' side were gunning for promotion.
It was a position Telford had not found themselves in this season at home.
And the worrying thing was that it took 20 minutes after the visitors' third for Telford to really look like getting anything back.
Some beautiful wing play from Adam Dawson so him skip over his marker and cross for Dinanga, but his header was denied by the crossbar.
Then his next action summed up Telford's afternoon.
Udoh got past his man before crossing for the former Burton striker, but he was inches away from turning it home.
Banister should have made it four in the dying embers, and Louis Myers struck the foot of the post.
In the third minute of added on time they grabbed a consolation, as Udoh as upended in the box and Deeney swept a spot kick home. But it was little more than a consolation.
More displays like this one, especially defensively, and the play-off dream could evaporate very quickly.
16 - CHANCE - Daniel Udoh beats his man down the left and crosses for the unmarked Amari Morgan-Smith. But the cross evades him and finds its way to Barnett who lashes over the top of the bar.
28 - VISITORS GO CLOSE - Ball bounces around before finding captain Kurt Willoughby. He cuts inside before firing a warning shot just wide from 18 yards.
35 - GOAL - The visitors go in front after threatening as the half time break approaches. Jack Banister crosses from the left and new signing Dom McHale turns it into the net.
42 - BAR - How it is not two no one knows. Willoughby hangs up a cross that leaves Josef Bursik stranded, but Banister can only head against the bar from two yards out.
45 - MISTAKE - It should really be all over. Shane Sutton's pass is misjudged by James McQuilkin and Michael Donague can run in on goal. He dodges a tackle but somehow the keeper gets something on it. Bucks lucky to go in one down.
53 - 0-2 - FCUM double their lead and it is so easy. A goal kick is headed back into Bucks danger and Banister runs clear. Sutton snuffs it out but the ball comes to Willoughby, The captain goes this way and that, before finding the corner.
61 - 0-3. GAME OVER? - The third was even worse. The winger beats Streete an crosses to ex Buck Tom Peers. He takes his time and curls it beyond the goalkeeper.
81 - CROSSBAR - Telford would have had a late chance to salvage something but for the woodwork. Some top wing play from Adam Dawson saw the wide man skip over his man and cross for Marcus Dinanga. But the striker's head cannoned back off the back.
86 - INCHES AWAY - Sums up Telford's afternoon this one. Udoh crosses for Dinanga at the back post who is inches away from turning it in.
88 - SHOULD BE FOUR - Banister runs clear but lashes over. So easy, Telford's back line just collapsed.
90 - POST - Bucks lucky it isn't four. Louis Myers gets into a good area, and his shot cannons back off the foot of the post.
90+3 l CONSOLATION l Nothing but a consolation as Ellis Deeney scores from the spot after Udoh was upended.
AFC Telford United (3-5-2) - Bursik, White, Sutton, Streete, Barnett, McQuilkin, Deeney, Daniels (Dawson 58), Knights (Dinanga 64), Morgan-Smith (Brown 64), Udoh
Subs not used - Morley, Royle,
FC United of Manchester (4-4-2) - Fisher, Morton, O'Halloran, Mohammed, Lynch, Winter, Banister (Grimshaw 90), Wallen, Willoughby (Myers 82), Donahue, McHale (Peers 56)
Subs not used - Myers, Allinson, Sharp, Grimshaw
Referee - Benjamin Speedie
Attendance - 1,672