UniBond Premier League FC United of Manchester 0 Eastwood Town 1
IAN Holmes' penalty on the stroke of half-time secured the points for Eastwood Town in Lancashire on Tuesday night.
An unchanged Eastwood line-up started promisingly on a Gigg Lane pitch which bore no resemblance to the 'cabbage patch' I recall from my only previous visit many years ago.
On a beautifully tended surface, the visiting attack created early chances and Holmes twice failed to capitalise on direct confrontations with Sam Ashton.
The Eastwood striker first lost control as Ashton challenged and then saw the ball smothered when he attempted to round the keeper.
Chris Baguley led United's riposte but Shane Redmond got squarely behind the flanker's viciously skidding shot and blocked the ball untidily but effectively out for a corner.
Lindon Meikle missed out when released by Ross Gardner and Ashton breathed again when Andy Todd ended a good solo run with a shot across and just behind his exposed goal.
Meikle simply ran away from two opponents and claimed a spectacular diving save from Ashton.
As the half threatened to end with a dominant Eastwood side frustrated, Northwich-based referee Mr Smallwood enraged the sizeable home crowd by spotting a trip and awarding Eastwood a penalty.
Significantly there was little on-field protest and Holmes confidently converted for an interval 0-1 lead.
In a fast, furious second period, Eastwood's defence was regularly extended and Redmond had, once or twice, to show his undoubted class to resist efforts from Kyle Wilson and Jerome Wright.
Around Ashton, an Eastwood attack, with Tris Whitman on for Holmes, buzzed menacingly and the newcomer's forays down the left created nervous moments for the home fans.
Vociferous appeals for a spot-kick as Mark Hume and Wilson clashed, were waved aside and Eastwood, sometimes nervously, held on, through seemingly endless added time, for a very important away win.
The value of Eastwood's strong midfield has rarely mattered more and all four from that division performed well.
Richard Dunning has absolutely no right to win his huge share of balls in the air against taller opponents but he does so and was my 'Best Badger'.
1 - Shane Redmond
2 - Alistair Asher
3 - Russell Cooke
4 - Richard Dunning
5 - Mark Hume
6 - Simon Sturdy
7 - Lindon Meikle
8 - Anton Foster
9 - Ian Holmes (Tris Whitman 60)
10 - Ross Gardner (Matt Rhead 72)
11 - Andy Todd (Wayne Diuk 65)
Subs not used: Marc Smith, Craig Swinscoe
Referee: W Smallwood (Northwich)
Best Badger - Richard Dunning