Tag Archives: Town

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!

 

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Stokesley vs Hartlepool FC – Wearside League (29/03/2017)

Stokesley: 1 – Jordan Lowrie, 2 – Sean Harland, 3 – Chris Lynas, 4 – Tim Sharples, 5 – Seb Hanratty, 6 – Craig Winter, 7 – Billy McGrath, 8 – Jordan Rivis (C), 9 – Anthony Barnes, 10 – Dan Joseph, 11 – Connor Hardman, 12 – Sean Oddy, 13 – Jon Kinson, 14 – Shaun Laverick, 15 – Jake Laverick, 16 – Chris Mason.

Hartlepool FC: 1 – Elliot Coils, 2 – Luke Naylor, 3 – Kieron Campbell, 4 – Jack Swales, 5 – Paul Moss, 6 – Callum Short, 7 – Kalon Lloyd, 8 – Samuel Cook, 9 – John Stephenson, 10 – Andrew Blackburn, 11 – Jamie Tumilty, 12 – Jonny Murray, 14 – Mat Hughes, 15 – Jack Harrison, 16 – Mat Stokes, 17 – Josh Nobus.

A completely last minute decision, following the late announcement of a day off, I travelled down to Stokesley to watch them host Hartlepool FC in the Wearside League. Stokesley, sitting 14th in the league before kick-off, hosted a Hartlepool side sitting in 7th, so we could be looking at a close game!

On arrival to the ground, we were greeted by a very welcoming gentleman in the ticket office. The bargain hunter in me loves Wearside League games; at £3 each for entry, you really can’t go wrong! The added bonus of today’s trip was availability of badges and scarves on offer – just £2.50 for a scarf, and £3 for a badge. I hadn’t seen the price for the scarves, so I went for just a badge, but I’ll definitely be back for a scarf when I can!

Onto the game, and with all the formalities done with, it was Stokesley who got the game underway. And it was the hosts who created the first chance, but this was headed straight at Hartlepool’s Elliot Coils by Stokesley’s captain, Jordan Rivis, in the first minute.

And it was the hosts who managed to strike first. In just the 3rd minute, Stokesley’s Sean Harland floated a freekick into the area that was touched in past the onrushing keeper. Whilst it was quite the scramble to win the header, Jordan Rivis claimed the goal post match. Traditionally, an early goal in a game usually makes for a cracking rest of the game, so I was hoping for a high scoring game at this point!

But, to my dismay, the game settled down after the goal. In fact, it took nearly 7 minutes for the next half chance to be created. Hartlepool’s John Stephenson made a powerful run towards the Stokesley defence, winning his team a corner as a result. The resulting corner was easily cleared by Stokesley, who countered straight away through Chris Lynas, who managed to run the ball into the Pools half, only to pull it back for Dan Joseph who shot the ball into the car park.

Hartlepool’s John Stephenson seemed like the only source of creativity for the visitors at this point, and it was the pacey striker who managed to win the away side a freekick in the 12th minute. The resulting freekick was, again, easily cleared by the defence; Hartlepool seemed to be struggling to get the ball past the tall figure of Craig Winter so far.

It took until the 18th minute for Hartlepool’s pressure to almost come good. A great cross by Luke Naylor fell kindly to Jamie Tumilty, who struck a half volley straight at Stokesley’s Jordan Lowrie, who’d got down well to save. Certainly not the easiest chance, but a sight of goal for the away side to build on, having struggled so far in the game.

Apart from the goal, the first half seemed a bit dull. The game had gotten a bit heated at times, with players disagreeing with officials, as we often see, but nothing else really happened of note. So the teams went in at 1-0, and not particularly the goal fest I’d craved so far!

Hartlepool kicked off the second half, knowing they really had to step up their game if they were to get anything out of the game. And they did just that. After some great play from Stephenson, the ball was played to the Pools number 2, Luke Naylor, who shot low and squeezed the ball under  Jordan Lowrie, who’ll probably feel he could’ve done better. 1-1 in the 48th minute, and game on!

Not only had Hartlepool come out of the changing rooms the stronger team, they managed to continue the momentum well into the half. Some great pressure from their attacking players kept Stokesley penned back for parts of the game, allowing the away side to create some great chances, although none of these were taken.

But there’s no point of having all the pressure if you can’t convert chances, and this was proven in the 58th minute, with goalkeeping error number 3. Stokesley’s Rivis intercepted a poor clearance, and shot low at Pools’ Elliot Coils, who allowed the ball to skim under him, and into the back of the net. I sympathise with both keepers, because the pitch was soaking due to showers before and during the game, and it was fairly windy. But it was 2-1 to Stokesley, maybe just against the run of play, but that’s the way it goes if you can’t work keeper.

And just three minutes later, Jordan Rivis got his, and his sides, third goal of the game. A great searching ball into the area from Dan Joseph was sensationally put into the back of the net via a sweetly struck overhead kick. Whilst the away side can be disappointed with their poor defending, it takes a great amount of skill to finish in that way, and a great way to cap the hattrick for the home side’s captain. It was 3-1 now, and the away side looked out of the game at this point, despite there being 30 minutes remaining.

But the away side kept their heads up, and carried out with the same determination that they’d shown all game. Hartlepool’s Andrew Blackburn and Jamie Tumilty continued to work together, but nothing really came of it. The only real activity of note between the two was a Tumilty pull back, just after Stokesley’s third goal, falling to Blackburn but this was shot well over.

Onto the 81st minute, and Hartlepool’s pressure paid off.  The ball fell to the feat of Andrew Blackburn, who’d looked exceptionally good in this second half, who managed to shoot the ball rather tamely at the front post. This time, the ball was unfortunately parried into this own goal by Lowrie, making it 3-2 with 10 minutes remaining.

But the last significant action of the game fell to the hosts, much to Hartlepool’s dismay, who’d had a thoroughly frustrating night. Anthony Barnes made way for Sean Oddy in the 87th minute and, with just his second touch following a 1-2, Oddy slotted the ball home, wrapping the game up for Stokesley.

4-2 was how the game finished, with 5 of those goals coming in the second half.

I never realised just how close Stokesley was to home, but I’ll definitely be returning soon following tonight’s game. From the team’s performance, to the Stokesley Ultras, who didn’t stop singing for the whole 90 minutes, I was thoroughly entertained. Good luck to both teams for what’s left of the seasons!

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.

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!

Hartlepool United vs Mansfield Town – Central League (07/02/17, 2pm kick off)

Hartlepool United: 1 – Joe Fryer, 2 – Kenton Richardson, 3 – James Martin, 4 – Kieran Green, 5 – Craig Reid, 6 – Tolu Kayode, 7 – Connor Smith, 8 – Eddie Rogerson, 9 – Tyler Harvey, 10 – Jake Orrell, 11 – Nathan Thomas, 12 – Isaac Assenso, 13 – Ryan Catterick, 14 – Josh Hawkes, 15 – Devante Rooney, 16 – Harly Wise.

Mansfield Town: 1 – Xavier Sundby, 2 – Tom Slone, 3 – Louis Danquah, 4 – Cameron Healey, 5 – Mohamed Kamara, 6 – Keiran Harrison, 7 – Charlie Shaw, 8 – Lewis Collins (C), 9 – Nyle Blake, 10 – Jason Law, 11 – Adriel George, 12 – Sam Wilson, 14- Henri Wilder, 15 – Morgan Ratcliffe, 16 – Cain Smith, 17 – Sufarel Behaili.

 

The first of two games for me today took me to Billingham Town’s Bedford Terrace to watch Hartlepool United take on Mansfield Town in the Central League. A lot of eyes were focussed on Hartlepool’s Nathan Thomas as he looked to get some match fitness in the hope of returning to Hartlepool’s first team following three months out with a groin injury.

In the North East section of the Central League, Hartlepool sat second before kickoff, equal on points to Grimsby Town, who edge them on goal difference. Mansfield sat fifth out of six, three points ahead of Rotherham with a game in hand.

Mansfield kicked off the game in front of a fairly impressive crowd considering its 2pm on a Tuesday. Both team’s immediately showed their quality, knocking the ball around very confidently as they strived to create an opportunity. But we had to wait until the 7th minute before the first chance came. Mansfield’s Jason Law winning and taking a corner, but this was cleared well by the Hartlepool defence.

Onto the 27th minute, and a very smart through ball was played to Mansfield’s captain Lewis Collins, who had his feet clipped by Hartlepool’s Tolu Kayode. Although it looked like the foul was committed just inside the area, the referee awarded a freekick just outside. A close but equally difficult position for a freekick, it was Jason Law to take it, but he only managed to smash the ball into the Hartlepool wall.

As Hartlepool cleared following the Mansfield freekick, the ball fell to Nathan Thomas, who worked the ball into the area really well, before being fouled by two of the Mansfield defence. This time a penalty was awarded, and was taken by a trialist, Tyler Harvey, who slotted the ball into the bottom left corner very well. Totally out of the reach of Mansfield’s Xavier Sundby, the penalty made it 1-0 to the home side in the 29th minute.( Hartlepool’s first goal – a penalty in the 29th minute from Tyler Harvey. )

Not much happened in the next 15 minutes as both teams continued to knock the ball round really well. Whilst it was great to watch, not very much was created from it as both defences stood tall. That was until the 44th minute, as some great play from Mansfield’s Adriel George earned a brilliantly positioned freekick. Lewis Collins stepped up to take the freekick, and placed it brilliantly into the top right corner of Joe Fryer’s net. That goal made it 1-1 just as the halftime whistle sounded, and it was probably a justified scoreline given the quality both teams had on show.

Similarly to the whole of the first half, the second half was also extremely well contested, with both teams cancelling each other out in terms of quality. Mansfield’s draw back was their inability to create any clear cut chances, but that could also be down to physicality of the Hartlepool defence.

The main talking point was the last chance of the game. In the last five minutes, Hartlepool started to pick up the tempo a bit, forcing Mansfield back and creating a few more chances. As they continued to attack, they drew a foul from Mansfield’s Mohamed Kamara, who earned himself a yellow card for his troubles. Nathan Thomas’ replacement, number 14 Josh Hawkes, got in position to take the freekick. From a very similar position to the freekick scored by Mansfield to equalise, Hawkes definitely didn’t want to be outdone as he, too, found the top right corner, this time beating Mansfield’s substitute goalkeeper, Sam Wilson. So, in the 90th minute, Hartlepool retook the lead.

A game where set pieces made the 2-1 scoreline, it was Hartlepool who managed to see the game out and get the three points; probably deserved following their increase of attacking play towards the end of the game. Somewhat unfortunate for Mansfield Town, who showed some real periods of quality play.

Good luck to both teams for the rest of the season, and indeed the rest of their careers. There were definitely some future stars on show here today!

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!