THE FA Cup always produces heroes so step forward 24 year old goalkeeper Sam Ashton.

The former Bolton Wanderers player now plies his trade with non-league outfit FC United of Manchester, a semi-professional club.



United, based in Bury, Greater Manchester, were only formed in 2005 by Manchester United supporters following the takeover of the Old Trafford club by the American Glazer family.

This led to hundred of fans defecting from United and creating their own club. FC United have quickly risen through the ranks to play in the Evo-Stik League Premier Division, the seventh tier of league football.  And on Saturday they played away to League One leaders Brighton in the second round of the FA Cup.  They shocked Brighton by taking a 40th minute but were then reduced to 10 men after having a player sent off for violent conduct. From then on it was all Brighton and the home side equalised with seven minutes to go.  The FC United goal was put under siege and in the sixth minute of injury time Brighton were awarded a penalty.

It was a real pressure situation but Ashton leapt in the right direction to produce a spectacular save and earn his side an unexpected replay and the chance of a home tie against Championship team Portsmouth if they win through.

Sunday’s draw for the third round of the FA Cup – when the bigger clubs from the Premiership and Championship join in – produced one quirky rock ‘n’ roll moment.

The live televised draw at Wembley Stadium was made by former Oasis member Noel Gallagher (a fanatical Manchester City fan) and Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian who supports Leicester.  The pair apparently joked beforehand about drawing out their respective teams – and that’s exactly what happened with Leicester playing at home against City.

“We were talking about drawing each other but to see it happen, what are the odds on that?” said Gallagher.

The draw wasn’t kind to my own team, Derby County. We currently lie fourth in the Championship but face a tricky visit to either League One side Swindon or non-league Crawley in January.  Let’s hope it’s not Crawley. Too many so-called big teams have come unstuck when they travel to face unknown, unfancied opponents at small, compact grounds where the pitch and facilities are far below what they are used to.

It’s no wonder that referees have their judgement questioned if Israeli official Eli Hacmon is anything to go by.

Hacmon says he would never have come to Scotland to cover for the referees’ strike there if he had known the true reasons for the dispute. He refereed Kilmarnock’s 2-0 win over Aberdeen.

Scottish referees are striking over what they feel is excessive criticism from factions within Scottish football regarding recent performances.

“If I knew the reason was the managers didn’t give respect to our colleagues, we wouldn’t have come here,” added Hacmon.

Err, Eli, ever heard of the Internet?

More financial worries – League One side Plymouth Argyle have been issued with a winding-up petition by HM Revenue & Customs.

And on Saturday just 4,960 fans – their lowest gate of the season – saw them beat Dagenham & Redbridge.

Let’s hope Santa Claus brings Argyle fans a very special Christmas present this year in the shape of a benefactor to rescue the Devon club.