Tag Archives: Durham

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!

 

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!

 

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

Welcome to game day, as Stockton Town take on Seaham Red Star in the Durham Challenge Cup. One of two DCC fixtures tonight as Billingham Synthonia also take on Hartlepool.

Stockton Town, currently sitting pretty at the top of the Northern League Division 2, welcome a Seaham Red Star side sat in eighth position in the Northern League Division 1, following a 2-1 away loss to Consett in their last game, eight days ago. Stockton faired differently in their last fixture, as they travelled up to Easington Colliery and left with all three points following a comfortable 5-1 win.

To get to this point in the competition, Stockton had to overcome a Darlington 1883 side boasting a mixture of first team players, reserves and some of their under 18s. A fairly dominant display saw Stockton Town win 3-0. Seaham’s route into the current round was also backed by a confident performance, a 5-2 home victory against Sunderland West End. Watched by 52 spectators, the home side swept aside a Sunderland West End side that play in the same league as their Reserves.

Kick off at Stockton’s Bishopton Road West is at 19:30, and I’ve never been disappointed when I’ve travelled over for a game, so it should be a really good match. Hope to see you all there!

(Full match write up will be up within a few hours of the final whistle).

Hartlepool United Reserves vs Ryhope CW (Durham Challenge Cup) – 03/01/2017

Tonight, I was at Billingham Town’s Bedford Terrace ground to watch this Durham Challenge Cup game between Hartlepool Reserves and Ryhope of the Northern League Division 1. Two teams that I’ve never seen play before, so I didn’t really know what to expect when I travelled down. That being said, I have seen Hartlepool’s Jack Blackford play this season during his 1 month loan spell at Northern Premier outfit Whitby Town.

As Hartlepool set the ball down to kick off the first half, it was apparent just how windy it was out there, and that may have scuppered any plans to play long ball tactics. It was Hartlepool who started out the stronger of the two teams. The ball fell to the feet of their number 8, Brad Walker, who made a strong darting run into the Ryhope area and forced a save from their Goalkeeper, Ball, who managed to clear the ball for a corner. From the resulting corner, a short ball was played out by Hartlepool’s number 11, Jack Blackford, but nothing was made of it.

It was clear that Hartlepool were determined to play some proper Football as they started to knock the ball around with a lot of confidence, although Ryhope kept the pressure up, forcing the young Pools side into a few silly mistakes. At one point, Hartlepool were struggling to get the ball out of their 18 yard box because of the pressure forced on them by the Ryhope attack.

As the game settled, both sides were playing some good looking Football, but failed to make any real chances. Solid defending from both sides forced a few wayward long shots, but nothing of real quality.

It wasn’t until the 13th minute that a quality chance was made. Hartlepool’s number 7 made a great run from 40 yards out into the penalty area, and dragged a smart ball back in the direction of number 8, Brad Walker, who finished coolly into the bottom left corner, giving his side a 1-0 lead in what was, so far, a fairly even game.

That goal definitely settled Hartlepool, and almost ruffled Ryhope, who looked a bit frustrated as they re-kicked off the game. Similar to the first goal, it was same Hartlepool duo that combined again to make the next chance. Following their smart play, the Ryhope defence managed to clear the ball out for a throw. From the resulting throw, the ball was sent into the area, and pinged around, before hitting a Ryhope defender and somehow managing to creep over the line. An own goal, and a frustrating one at that, to make it 2-0 to Hartlepool.

Ryhope’s first chance came in the 25th minute, as their number 7 struck a powerful shot from 20 yards out that went just over the crossbar without challenging the Hartlepool keeper, Dudzinski.

Whilst the game became bogged down in midfield, as both teams managed to cancel each other out, there was time for one more chance before half time. Hartlepool’s Jack Blackford received a fairly innocent ball just outside the area, and managed to work it into some space in the area, and struck the ball with his left foot, but his shot struck the crossbar and went out for a goalkick.

So, it was Hartlepool that went in at halftime the stronger of the two sides, having made the most of the few quality chances they’d managed to create.

Ryhope knew they’d really have to take the game to Hartlepool in the second half if they were to take anything away from this game. And, although they started the half in a similar fashion to the first, they did manage to get their first shot on target. Their number 11 managing to make space following a badly sliced shot, but he shot straight at Dudzinski.

Spurred on by the previous chance, Ryhope started to press up field, leaving unnecessary gaps at the back, and this was capitalised on by Hartlepool. Sensing his chance, the number 9, Jake Orrell, made a darting run between the two central defenders, and calmly received an inch perfect through ball. Using his pace, he managed to make enough space to smartly finish just over the onrushing Ryhope keeper to make it 3-0 to Hartlepool; a lead they didn’t look like surrendering.

Whilst some great Football was played in the remainder of the game, no real chances were made by either side. Whenever Ryhope managed to gather enough momentum to attack, Hartlepool were already back in position ready to defend, determined to keep a well earned clean sheet.

The game finished 3-0. With the chances Hartlepool created, it seemed a fair result simply because of the lack of chances created by Ryhope.

The silver lining for Ryhope is that they can now focus on the league coming into the second half of the season. As for Hartlepool, they can keep looking forward to the possibility of picking up some silverware this season. Good luck to both teams!