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2016/2017 @NE_NonLeague season review.

I started NE_NonLeague back in November and, despite usually working 6 days a week, I managed to get to numerous games at 17 grounds across the North East of England. And whilst I didn’t do nearly as much writing as I would’ve liked, I’ve got plenty to summarise as the season draws to it’s conclusion.

So here’s my best, and my worst, of the 2016/2017 season:

Best result – Guisborough Town vs Whitley Bay (2-1).

Way back in November, promotion chasing Whitley Bay visited a struggling Guisborough Town side. Separated by 18 places in the league, and with both side’s recent form taken into account, I think a lot of the spectators, as well as myself, were a bit pessimistic of Guisborough’s chances. At this time, Guisborough were managerless, and hadn’t won in their last 13 attempts.

In just the 5th minute, Whitley Bay took the lead after dominating the game’s opening exchanges. But a goal before half time, and a 66th minute winner for Dave Onions, gave Guisborough a shock win. Despite everything being against Guisborough on paper, The Priorymen dug deep and grabbed a great result!

Best value for money – Coxhoe Athletic vs Cleator Moor (0-3).

My visit to Coxhoe was my first ever Wearside League game, so I was unaware of how much entry and any extras would be. To my surprise, entrance was only £3, which you really can’t go wrong with!

So, for this visit, £5.50 got me entrance to the game, a sizeable portion of chips, a hot chocolate, and a 3-0 swing in the away team’s favour. Some places I’ve been to this season were £11 for entrance alone, so Coxhoe was definitely the best place I’ve been this season in terms of value. And the game wasn’t too bad, too!

Worst game – Billingham Synthonia vs Billingham Town (0-0).

The first of a double header for me back on Boxing Day 2016, I was expecting big things from my first Billingham Derby. But it never really happened!

The game finished as a very dull 0-0, with neither team doing anything special to edge the game. And, whilst I wouldn’t want to see any fighting on the pitch, it was nowhere near as feisty as I would’ve expected from two local rivals fighting for promotion.

Best new ground – York City’s Bootham Crescent vs Brackley Town (1-0)(FA Trophy).

Having been to games hosted at Premier League grounds, and games played on fields in Spennymoor, I think I’ve seen a variety of what the North East has to offer. But York City’s Bootham Crescent now holds a special place in my heart, having visited back in February for their FA Trophy Quarter-Final game against Brackley.

Whilst the game left a lot to be desired (a solitary first half Jon Parkin header the difference), the ground continually intrigued me and I loved exploring whenever I could during half time and after the final whistle.

There were numerous places to get food, and their club shop was the most professional I’ve seen in Non League as a whole. If you haven’t been to Bootham Crescent before, I definitely suggest it.

Entrance to watch the future FA Trophy winners was just £8 for this game and I thoroughly enjoyed my day!

Best individual performance – Lewis Wing (Shildon AFC) vs Guisborough Town.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dull game when I’ve travelled over to the KGV, and this game was no exception. The game finished 4-2, and Shildon finished with 10 men, but it was the performance of Shildon’s Lewis Wing that was the talking point for the 140 spectators.

Wing scored the first hattrick I’d seen all season, and I think it’ll take me a while to see a better one anytime soon. Wing’s three exceptional finishes, including a 25 yard screamer that swerved away from Guisborough’s Jordan Nixon at the last second, and his absolute control of the game, left everyone talking about his performance.

To cap off an exceptional season, including 21 more league goals, Wing has signed a contract with Middlesbrough U23s and looks destined for bigger things. At Shildon’s presentation night, Wing picked up ‘Supporters player of the year’, ‘Performance of the season’, ‘Top goal scorer’ and ‘Player’s player of the year’.

 

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my season with NE_NonLeague, and I hope the page continues to progress in the same direction. as it has done last season. As far as pre-season goes, I’ve seen a lot of exciting fixtures that I’ll be aiming to get to, including Whitby Town hosting AZ Alkmaar. Next season is set to be great and I’ll be there for every step of it!

 

Guisborough Town vs Shildon AFC – 15/03/2017

Guisborough Town: 1 – Jordan Nixon, 2 – Anthony Snook, 3 – D McAvoy, 4 – Lee Bythway, 5 – Matthew Lovatt, 6 – Jamie Poole, 7 – Steven Roberts, 8 – Ben Hugill, 9 – Anthony Hume, 10 – Connor Smith, 11 – Louis Goldsack, 12 – Thomas Bligh, 13 – James Dawson, 14 – David Onions, 15 – J Baily, 16 – Mason McNeill.

Shildon AFC: 1 – Nick Liversedge, 2 – Jamie Harwood, 3 – Matty Robson, 4 – Daniel Moore, 5 – Danny Parker, 6 – Dan Groves, 7 – Lewis Dodds, 8 – Sam Hodgson, 9 – Michael Rae, 10 – Lewis Wing, 11 – Adam Burnicle, 12 – David Vincent, 14 – Marc Ellison, 15 – Chris Bell, 16 – Paul Connor, 17 – Amar Purewall.

There were a wide variety of games on offer tonight, but Guisborough’s home tie stood out amongst the others. Sitting rock bottom of the Northern League division 1, Guisborough welcomed a Shildon side sitting in the top 3, and looking to close the gap on both Shields’ side whilst stretching their advantage from forth placed Morpeth.

Shildon kicked off the game in front of a bumper crowd of 140. And it was Shildon who kicked off the stronger. In just the 2nd minute, Lewis Dodds did well inside the Guisborough area, and forced the home keeper into a low, left-sided save. Guisborough were being immediately pressured on the ball this early on in the game as Shildon clearly showed their intent to dominate the game with possession.

But, for all their pressure, it was Guisborough who struck first, against the run of play. After some great work on the right hand side from Steven Roberts, Guisborough’s number 7 managed to make himself some space and shoot at Shildon’s Nick Liversedge. Liversedge could only parry his shot towards the feet of Whitby Town loanee Anthony Hume, who sidefooted home from 3 yards to give the home side a shock lead.

Shildon didn’t let their heads go down though, and some great play from Matty Robson and Adam Burnicle continued to force chances for the away side. And, this time, the pressure became productive as Shildon won a penalty in the 18th minute. Stepping up to take the penalty was number 3 Matty Robson, who had continued to look dangerous on the left side. Robson took the penalty, aiming to the keeper’s left, but Guisborough’s Jordan Nixon saved incredibly well, parrying into the top left corner, rebounding out of the goal where the post meets the crossbar. But the rebound luckily fell to the penalty taker, who slotted home from point-blank range to make it 1-1.

This equaliser just spurred on the away side, who didn’t stop the pressure with some very well played, on the floor Football. In the 24th minute, the ball fell to Lewis Wing, who must’ve been 20-25 yards out. Shildon’s number 10 then worked some space and struck exceptionally well with the ball swerving away from Guisborough’s Nixon at the last moment, and nestling in the back of the net. I haven’t seen a ball swerve like that all season, and it was a great way for Shildon to take a well deserved lead.

Both teams started to play some great Football, with the ball being continually switched to either flank by both sides. 35 minutes into the game, and Shildon were still looking the stronger of the teams, not allowing Guisborough any time on the ball. After 10 minutes of very little in terms of clear-cut chances being made, Daniel Moore played the ball across to Shildon’s second goal scorer, Lewis Wing. And, same as his previous goal, Wing put his body behind his shot, and launched it into the top of the goal, leaving Nixon with no chance. Wing getting his second of the game, and putting Shildon two goals clear of Guisborough.

40 minutes in, and four goals so far, there was still one more noticeable moment in the first half. Guisborough’s Steven Roberts, the one diamond in the rough for the home side so far, made a great solo run towards the Shildon goal. Shildon’s Matty Robson got back and fouled the Guisborough attacker, and the referee deemed Robson to be the last man, rather controversially. The referee had gone to converse with his official on our near side, but that was only to query whether the foul took place in the area or not. Despite protests from the Shildon players, the referee showed Robson a straight red four minutes before half time.

As the half time whistle blew, it gave us 15 minutes to reflect on what we’d just seen. Where else can you see four goals and a red card for £6 in one half? We were definitely getting our money’s worth so far, and I could only presume this run of goals would continue into the second half.

Guisborough kicked off the second half, and it was the home team who made the first real chance of it. Roberts, the mastermind behind any of Guisborough’s best chances so far, made another one of his solo runs, forcing Shildon’s Liversedge into a great save before the ball was confidently cleared.

But the 10 men of Shildon were still looking confident on the ball, and it looked only a matter of time before they scored again, or Lewis Wing got his hattrick. And Wing did get his hattrick, in emphatic style, in the 61st minute. Making his way into the area, Wing cut back very smartly, pushing the ball onto his left foot, before side footing into the bottom left corner of the goal, again leaving Nixon with very little chance of making a save. Wing’s hattrick was the first I’ve seen this season, surprisingly, and I don’t think I’ll see better any time soon! It was now 4-1 to the away side, and they looked like they’d run away with it.

Despite occasionally looking down and out, Guisborough did start to come into the game stronger as it progressed, showing glimpses of quality. Some solid defending from the away side, as they’d done all game, restricted the Priorymen to long shots, but this didn’t stop them. Substitute Thomas Bligh picked up the ball 25 yards out, and struck towards goal, where a wicked deflection took the ball past the wrong footed Nick Liversedge, and brought the deficit back to two goals.

The last 15 minutes definitely weren’t as entertaining as the previous 75, with Shildon keeping the ball exceptionally well, frustrating the home side by keeping the ball in the corner, and forcing them into silly mistakes.

So it finished 4-2, and one of the more entertaining games I’ve seen so far this season; it had absolutely everything. It obviously wasn’t the result Guisborough were wanting, but they can be proud that they managed to perform fairly well at times against a team sitting 19 places ahead of them in the league. A great advert for Non League Football, and the Northern League, both sides definitely gave the 140 spectators plenty of talking points.

About me – NE Non League

Since I started @NE_NonLeague, I’ve found myself feel welcomed by so many people and teams from the North East, receiving weekly invites to games and constantly conversing about past and future fixtures. It’s crazy to think I only started the page in November, yet I’ve gained over 250 followers which is something I never thought I’d achieve, and it’s still growing!

One thing I do get asked fairly frequently is ‘who is the mystery person behind NE_NonLeague?’ So, I felt a nicely written piece about myself would solve any curiosities anyone may have.

So, my name’s Adam, I’m 24 and I live in Billingham. I’m a lifelong Whitby Town supporter, both home and away, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But, besides a passion for Whitby Town, I absolutely love Non League Football of any kind. I’ve only ever been to two Premier League games, and that’s it for the top four flights of English Football. Every other game I’ve ever been to has involved a Non League team of some sort.

Via direct message, I’ve been asked a few questions, so here are the eagerly anticipated answers:

What’s the furthest you’ve ever travelled to a game?

Back on the 6th September, Whitby Town played an FA Cup Preliminary Round Replay over in Winsford against Winsford United. For myself and my Fiancée, it was an 146 mile, each way, journey across the country to watch a rather feisty game where Whitby Town came away with a 2-1 victory, just. By far the most tired I’ve ever been driving home, but totally worth it!

Out of all the games you’ve been to, which one have you enjoyed the most?

Way back to last season, on the 2nd of January, a struggling Whitby Town travelled over to high flying Nantwich with new manager Chris Hardy at the helm. The weather was torrid and I honestly wasn’t too optimistic about the result. But a Mikey Roberts chip and a Ryan Brobbel wonder strike helped Whitby to a 2-1 victory and initiated the great escape that saw Whitby just about survive the drop.

What’s the most disappointed you’ve been following a game?

It was a Whitby Town game again; no surprises there! It was a tossup between two games, but away to Workington this season just about tops it. It actually sounds a bit selfish, seeing as we’ve been flying high in the Northern Premier League for a while now, and I shouldn’t take it for granted. But, we travelled to Workington high in confidence, and expected a close game. On a pitch that was unplayable, in my opinion, Whitby fought hard, but ended up on the wrong side of a 4-0 result.

But we’re currently fourth in the league! And a lot of my local Non League teams are also high flying, and ever so welcome when I travel over to do a write up on their games.

I’m not too sure if this will help you all form an image of the alias behind NE Non League, but it might!

Thank you to everyone who’s supported me so far with NE Non League, and to every team that’s invited me along and provided amazing hospitality. Here’s to making more memories in the North East!

Thornaby FC vs Darlington Railway (Northern League Division 2) – 04/03/2017

Thornaby FC: 1 – Adrian Boblowski, 2 – Stephen Morrison (C), 3 – Mitchell Morris, 4 – Nico Weatherald, 5 – Michael Joseph, 6 – Stuart Browne, 7 – Benjamin Jackson, 8 – James Rowe, 9 – Daniel Brunskill, 10 – Gary Mitchell, 11 – Karl Charltom, 12 – Lewis Green, 14 – Taylor Crainey, 15 – Jake Marron, 16 – Kurtis Howes, 17 – Danny Crawford.

 

Darlington Railway: 1 – Callum Liddicott, 2 – Danny McLachlan, 3 – Mattie Hughes, 4 – David Harrison (C), 5 – Dan Flounders, 6 – Andrew Lonsdale, 7 – Paul New, 8 – Glenn Donaldson, 9 – Chris Tarn, 10 – Callum Bennett, 11 – Joe Peel, 12 – Ryan Taylor, 14 – Jordan Hanratty, 15 – Aiden O’Connor, 16 – Jason West, 17 – Paul Griffith.

 

Today’s game of choice was Thornaby at home to Darlington Railway. I’ve been to Teesdale Park countless number of times, and my restaurant actually sponsored one of the youth teams a little while ago, but this was my first time watching Thornaby FC play. I’ve seen Middlesbrough Ladies play at Teesdale Park, but Thornaby FC have always played at home at times where it’s been extremely difficult to get over.

A bottom of the table clash, both teams sat in the bottom 5 of the Northern League Division 2, with Darlington Railway sitting at the base of the table. So, on paper, it looked as though we were in for a close affair between two teams struggling to pick up any sort of form.

Indeed, the game started quite evenly, with both teams stringing some great passing plays together. Apart from a few hit-and-hopes, the first real shot fell to Thornaby’s James Rowe, who chose to shoot when he had time to pass; Rowe’s shot went way over the crossbar to the dismay of his colleagues. Darlington were also a force early on, winning two corners in the first 5 minutes of the game, although these came to nothing as they were both well defended.

It looked as though Darlington were getting a hold on the game, but it was Thornaby who continued to create the best chances. In the 12th minute, a smartly crossed corner fell to Thornaby’s James Rowe, again. Under pressure from an outrushing defence, Rowe failed to connect with the ball as he shot, putting the ball wide of the post.

Possession wise, the game was all Darlington, but some stubborn Thornaby defending continued to frustrate the away team. Thornaby’s Danny Brunskill, formerly of Billingham Synthonia and Whitby Town, used his strength continuously to create chances, and looked like the best bet to provide any sort of hope for Thornaby.  In the 21st minute, the ball was crossed in by Brunskill, and headed just over by Karl Charlton, who can think he was unlucky not to hit the target at least.

Both teams went in at half time knowing they’d both not done enough to register a goal, and things definitely had to change in the second half if either side was to break the deadlock.

Thornaby kicked off the second half, and it was their big number 9, Danny Brunskill, who created the first chance. Taking the ball into the corner, he won a freekick that was whipped in by number 3, Mitchell Morris. Morris aimed the ball towards the back post, but no one managed to get on the end of it, and it was confidently cleared.

Straight down the other end, after some great passing play, Darlington’s Paul New crossed the ball across the face of goal, leaving Thornaby’s Callum Liddiecott stranded, but no Darlington players took a risk so they watched the ball float past, to the disarray of their captain, David Harrison, who made sure the whole ground knew his thoughts.

With all these chances though, it definitely looked like a goal was coming. And, in the 53rd minute, the away supporters’ wishes came true. A poor cross field ball was intercepted by Chris Tarn, who made a great run into the area and fired low, under Adrian Boblowski, who watched the ball nestle in the back of the net. 1-0 to the away side, and just about justified given the quality of chances created by both sides.

As the game progressed, the Thornaby players became increasingly frustrated, earning themselves two yellow cards, one for dissent. Their only real chance in the remainder of the game fell to substitute, Lewis Green, who cut inside the defence really well, but shot just wide from the outside of the area. A difficult chance, but probably the best Thornaby had created all game.

Straight after Green’s chance, Darlington’s Callum Bennett got 1 on 1 with Boblowski, who saved well as Bennett was chased down by the Thornaby defence, who just about did enough to put him off.

So the game finished 1-0 to the away side, and maybe a fair result given the hard work each player put in. The player’s reactions after the final whistle showed it all, and just how much it meant to them. The away supporters will definitely be hoping this win propels them in their coming games!

A morning in the Sunday League.

One of my biggest regrets since starting ‘NE Non League’ was my struggle to get down to a Sunday League game. Whether it was due to work commitments, or weather related postponements, I’ve not been able to get to a Sunday game. A lack of social media presence from a lot of the teams, and somewhat outdated league websites, made finding a game to get to all that more difficult.

So, when I saw Spennymoor Voltigeur (Volti) tweet they had a home fixture against high flying Barnard Castle, I knew I had to get down to it. The third of three games in three days, this was the fixture I was most looking forward to. A step into the unknown for myself, Sunday league is something I’ve never ventured into.

Maybe the only downside to this fixture, and indeed a lot of Sunday League fixtures, was the 10:30am kick off. But the excitement definitely made up for the 20 mile, or so, each way journey over the Tudhoe Playing Fields, home of Spennymoor Volti.

As we arrived (myself and my groundhopping counterpart / fiancée), we went for a little walk around the field. I often observe the pre-match warm-ups of both sides, and it was clear that everyone involved thoroughly enjoyed what they were doing. Something I feel I often don’t see in the Saturday leagues, everyone got along and knew what they had to do.

At around 10:20, I heard a shout of ‘ready when you are, Ref’. This was something I obviously had never seen before, but I loved the relaxed approach to the game. Everyone involved was keen to get started, and it was clear from the off that every player on the pitch was determined to get the best possible result.

Usually, as I prepare to do a write up for a game, I’ll have a scan on Twitter, or do a rough headcount, to get a figure of the game’s attendance. Well, there were three people watching. Myself, my fiancée and a lovely gentleman, who I managed to have a lovely chat with about the team and the local area.

Unaware of the league positions of the two teams involved, I had a look at the thoroughly updated Wear Valley Sunday League website. The away side, Barnard Castle, were sat pretty at the top of the league, having played 16 games and having a goal difference of +53. Spennymoor Volti, also sitting in the top half of the league, were forth in the league with a -5 goal difference.

Knowing we could be in for a goal fest, we took our places on a fence closest to the home side’s goal. Unfortunately for the home team, Barnard Castle started the game very confidently, and took the lead after a minute. The away side had obviously come here with a plan and put it into operation straight away. Their pressure also continued after the first goal as they peppered the home goal with shots from any possible angle.

It’s very rare that you’re able to hear the communication between the players, but it was refreshing to know what they were thinking. Obviously the home side were getting frustrated, but they continued to play quite well, having chances of their own. Barnard Castle also kept their attacking up, ending up putting the ball in the back of the net two more times before half time, ‘going in’ 3-0 up.

I quotation marked ‘going in’ simply because the players just had a drink, got some words off of their managers, and got back to it as quickly as they possibly could, which I admired. It caught me off guard though, as I’d gone back to my car to get a drink, and missed the start of the second half, just. Looking for a different angle to watch the second half, we picked the swings at the back of the field, right next to the now away team’s goal. This put us in a good position to watch the game, close to a break in the fence to return the ball if it rolled under, and it unleashed the child in me as I attempted to swing as high as I could.

As I was swinging though, I thought to myself that there can’t be too many places where you can sit on a swing and watch a great game of Football for free. Kind of another reason why I’m leaning more towards Sunday League than Saturday, more of the community turned up for the second half. Ranging from talking to the manager, to practicing fly fishing (yes, really), it seemed everyone in the surrounding area had ventured down to watch the Football.

Early in the second half, Barnard Castle struck a fourth goal, and it looked like there was no way back for the Volti. Getting caught up playing with a local’s dog, I missed a fifth Barnard Castle goal, but did manage to watch them miss a penalty soon afterwards.

As I resumed my focus on the game, I watched the Volti have some real chances on goal, but nothing fell kindly for them, and Barnard Castle capitalised on this by scoring a sixth goal with more or less the last kick of the ball.

A great advert for Sunday League, however! Obviously not the result Spennymoor Volti wanted, but an entertaining game for the neutral. I met some lovely people, watched a game with six goals, a penalty miss, didn’t pay a penny but petrol, and I watched it all whilst sitting on swings. This one experience alone is more than enough to convince me that Sunday League definitely deserves more of a chance than its getting.

I just want to say thank you to Spennymoor Volti for having me, and offering me a team sheet before the game. I thought, with it all being new to me, I’d go with a different style of writing to accommodate it. I’ll definitely do my best to get down to Tudhoe Playing Fields again, and a few other fixtures in Wear Valley Sunday Leagues. I’m definitely a bit more determined to give the Sunday League the coverage it deserves!

Northallerton Town vs Blyth Town (Northern League Second Division) – 14/01/2017

Northallerton Town: 1 – Thomas Briggs, 2 – Richard Walker, 3 – Stephen Jackson, 4 – Stephen Cheeseman, 5 – Dan Jones, 6 – Jack Proctor, 7 – Marcellus Kerr, 8 – Stuart Owen (C), 9 – Nicky Martin, 10 – Josh Keogh, 11 – Shawn Hudson, 12 – Mark Sims, 14 – Liam Jarvie, 15 – Thomas Atkinson, 16 – Marcus Laing, 17 – Karl Hewitt.

Blyth Town: 1 – Matthew Crook, 2 – Matthew Tumility, 3 – John Gray, 4 – Lee Middleton, 5 – Anthony Moran, 6 – Ian Herron (C), 7 – Liam Gillesphey, 8 – Shawn McRoberts, 9 – Zak Atkinson, 10 – David Robinson, 11 – Daniel Sayer, 12 – Josh Miller, 15 – Andrew Connor, 16 – Jack Errington, 17 – John Iveson.

Today, I opted for a 30 or so mile drive down to Northallerton to watch their home league game against Blyth Town. 9th in the league at home to 7th, it was always likely to be a close game.

It was Northallerton who kicked the game off, although it was Blyth who managed the stronger start. Blyth’s number 3, John Gray, won the first corner of the game in the 4th minute. From the resulting corner, the ball was shuffled over the line, although the linesmen deemed it offside and brought the play back for a free kick. This prompted chants of ‘you’re just a small town from Scotland’ by the home supporters.

Yet it was the small town from Scotland that continued the pressure. Their number 11 and 8, Daniel Sayer and Shawn McRoberts, combined well to force an amazing point blank save from the home goalkeeper, Thomas Briggs. The corner was smartly sent into the area and confidently met by Blyth’s number 7, Liam Gillesphey, who got up well to make it 1-0 to the away team, and justifiably after the previous pressure.

And Blyth managed to continue the pressure after the restart with some long range, audacious efforts, though they didn’t manage to test Briggs all that often. Onto the 22nd minute, and Blyth had another corner. From the corner, the ball was shot over the line, and cleared by the Northallerton defence. A shot that definitely looked over, the referee waived play on, and the score remained 1-0 to the away team.

Northallerton only really looked dangerous on the counter attack so far. With Shaun Hudson and Marcellus Kerr continuously running at the Blyth Town defence, there were very little else in terms of attacking threat thus far.

It was the 37th minute when the next real chance was created, seamlessly out of the nothing. The ball was knocked around the centre of the pitch very smartly by the Blyth team before it fell to their number 6 and captain, Ian Herron. Rather audaciously, Herron struck a long range shot, straight into the top right corner of Briggs’ goal, to make it 2-0 to Blyth. Again, justified after the previous pressure, Northallerton didn’t look like they’d turned up so far.

So the teams went in at 2-0. An exceptionally dominant performance by Blyth totally keeping the home side out of the game.

Following their confident first half performance, Blyth barely had 5 minutes in the changing room but, instead, decided to stay on pitch and start some warm-up drills to maintain their body heat, whilst Northallerton took as long as they could in the changing room.

In contrast to the first half, it was Northallerton who started the half stronger. The first chance of the half fell to their number 11, and main threat so far, Shawn Hudson, although this went just past the post, but a glimpse of goal that they lacked in the first half.

Whilst Northallerton had started to get their stride in the game, I couldn’t help but notice the alarming amount of free headers Blyth continued to win. The home side were dramatically lacking in physicality compared to their opponents, yet they still attempted long passing. When they started keeping the ball of the floor, and knocking it around freely, they looked the much better team.

Continuing the pressure, Northallerton got their first real sight of goal, and it came directly from the captain, Stuart Owen. Pushing the ball onto his left foot, Owen coolly sidefooted the ball into the top left corner from 20 yards out. With a lack of closing down from the Blyth defence, Owen placed the ball as far into the top left corner as reasonably possible, giving Blyth’s keeper, Matthew Crook, absolutely no chance. 1-2, and the momentum working favourably for Northallerton.

And just two minutes later, in the 64th minute, it was Northallerton who’d manage to grab an equaliser. Passing the ball through the middle to their substitute number 12, Mark Sims, who managed to take a smart touch to get behind the Blyth defence. Utilising his pace, Sims managed to hold off the chasing defence, and take the ball around the outrushing Crook, to finish into the bottom of the goal, making it 2-2. Having looked out of the game by half time, this was a phenomenal turnaround from the home team, and one they’d be looking to capitalise on.

Having known the game was slowly going in their favour, Northallerton started to push more players up the field, after previously not being able to. This left a huge gap in the defence for Blyth to make the most of. Feeding the ball through to their number 7, and scorer of their first, Gillesphey, Blyth managed to cut open the defence. Leaving the defenders for dead, Gillesphey chipped the ball over the keeper, but the ball bounced off the crossbar and out. A definite eye opener for Northallerton, who had looked completely in control so far in the second half.

A pretty even game in terms of pressure in each half, but the game was decided in the 87th minute, and it was Blyth who’d managed to seal the deal. Gillesphey, who always seemed to be at the centre of anything creative Blyth had to offer, played the ball behind to his attacking colleague, Zak Atkinson,  who smashed the ball first time towards Briggs’ goal. This unstoppable, close range shot found its way into the top left corner of the goal, and decided the fate of the game, making it 3-2 to the away team in the dying minutes.

I very rarely see a game with two halves so conflicting in terms of which team looked the stronger, but I can’t complain as it made for an exceptionally good watch! Good luck to both teams for the rest of your seasons!

 

Stockton Town vs Seaham Red Star (Durham Challenge Cup) – 04/01/2017

Stockton Town: 1 – Liam Jordan, 2 – Matthew Garbutt, 3 – James Ward, 4 – Joe Scaife Wheatley, 5 – Adam Nicholson, 6 – Tom Coulthard, 7 – Fred Woodhouse, 8 – Steven Roberts (C), 9 – Joe Carter, 10 – Kallum Hannah, 11 – Kevin Hayes, 12 – Alan Cassavella, 14 – Chris Dunwell, 15 – Joe Posthill, 16 – Sonny Coleman, 17 – Tony Johnson.

Seaham Red Star: 1 – Shaun Newbrook (C), 2 – Jack Walker, 3 – Thomas Price, 4 – Andrew Johnson, 5 – Kieran Gilbraith, 6 – Bradley Staunch, 7 – David Palmer, 8 – Nicholas Kane, 9 – Craig Lynch, 10 – Luke Proctor, 11 – Robbie Bird, 12 – Airon Duell, 14 – Lee Heatherington, 15 – David Scorer, 17 – Craig Price.

 

Tonight, I was at Stockton’s Bishopton Road West for their Durham Challenge Cup game against Seaham Red Star. Seaham being a league above Stockton gives the home team a great opportunity to find out what they could face next season if they keep their league form up. Stockton were in their usual yellow home kit, and Seaham were in their less familiar blue kit.

As Stockton kicked off the game, it was the home team who had the first opportunity of the game. Forcing a corner, the ball was floated in to Stockton’s number 5, and ever present figure in the home defence, Adam Nicholson, who headed over.

Seaham’s first chance came in the fifth minute, as their right back, Jack Walker, cut inside following some smart play and fired straight at Stockton’s Liam Jordan.

As Seaham continued their pressure, the ball fell to the number 8, Nicholas Kane, who fed the ball through smartly to his attacking colleague, Craig Lynch, who fired straight at Jordan. Unable to hold the initial shot, Lynch pounced on the rebound and prodded it low into the back of the net, to make it 1-0 to the away team.

Seaham looked like a well oiled machine as Stockton kicked off again, keeping the same solidity as they had at the start of the game. Standing strong at the back, Stockton were restricted to long range efforts. Stockton’s Fred Woodhouse managed to set up the number 11, Kevin Hayes, who managed to shoot high and wide, with the ball actually leaving the ground.

As the rain slowly started to come down, it was Stockton who continued to lose the ball cheaply, with Seaham continuing to capitalise on weak passes. The Stockton players were obviously frustrated, and maybe took it out on their teammates, with no positive encouragement to be heard at all, but a barrage of insults every time one lost the ball.

It was Stockton who managed to create the next real chance of the game, however. Hayes passing the ball over to Kallum Hannah, who cleverly managed to turn and shoot at goal, forcing Seaham’s Newbrook into a reflex save down to his bottom right. Nothing came from the resulting corner, but a glimpse of goal that Stockton desperately needed as the game was getting away from them.

As Seaham received the ball, after some smart play in the midfield, the ball was passed through to Luke Proctor, whose pot shot was blocked in the area. The ball kindly fell to Craig Lynch, who controlled the ball with his chest, before slotting the ball into the bottom right corner of Jordan’s goal to double the away team’s advantage, 2-0.

Stockton, again, looking for a way back into this game, and really rallied to start putting the pressure on Seaham. The one noticeable chance they had to get one on the board before half time fell to captain Steven Roberts, whose shot was saved for a corner. The resulting corner lead to Fred Woodhouse having a well struck shot, but wide of the goal.

So, Stockton went in at half time trailing Seaham 2-0, in a half only just edged by the away team. In the few games I’ve seen of Stockton before, they always come out after half time with a real desire to chase the ball down when they’ve not got it, and make chances, so anything could still happen at this point.

And it was Stockton who started the second half the stronger of the two teams. The first meaningful attack of the half was lead by Stockton’s Hayes, again, who smartly won a corner for the home team. The resulting corner was cleared confidently by Seaham, but Stockton did manage to win a free kick 25 yards out, after reclaiming the ball. Hayes took the free kick, but this was straight at Newbrook.

Stockton had definitely started the second half with much more desire than the first, but were still making avoidable mistakes. In roughly the 72nd minute, the ball came to Seaham substitute, David Scorer, who managed to feed the ball through to Luke Proctor, who held the ball up well in the area. Proctor managed to drag the ball back to Robbie Bird, who finished well past Jordan to make it 3-0.

Just three minutes later, it was Seaham who capitalised again on some weak Stockton play. Seaham’s David Palmer managed to run the ball into the area with little challenge, and held the ball up on the by-line. Putting in a perfectly weighted ball, another substitute, Airon Duell managed to strike a volley into the ground, but with enough power that it bounced up and looped over the helpless Liam Jordan to make it 4-0 to Seaham.

And, in keeping with the way the game had gone so far, it was Seaham who had the last meaningful play of the evening. Number 10, Luke Proctor, my personal man of the match, very smartly carried the ball through two of Stockton’s midfield by dummying them, before feeding Robbie Bird, who struck a well hit shot towards goal. Bird’s shot managed to again loop over Liam Jordan, who had no chance in keeping out the left footed shot. 5-0 to the away team, and no way back for Stockton.

As the final whistle sounded, it was Seaham who progressed to the next round of the Durham Challenge Cup. A real eye opener for Stockton, who may be facing teams of this quality each week if they manage a promotion this season. Good luck to both teams for the remainder of the season!