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West Auckland vs Guisborough Town – League game (08/08/2017)

My first visit to a league game this season took me to the Wanted Stadium, home of West Auckland. A ground I had never visited before tonight, but one I’ll definitely be looking to go back to when the heavens aren’t well and truly opened.

West Auckland’s visitors tonight were Guisborough Town. Guisborough had an exceptionally poor start to last season that was only, just about, recovered towards the back end after their relegation was overturned following an appeal to the FA. So Guisborough would obviously be looking to get off to the best possible start to avoid all that happening again. But it wouldn’t be an easy game, against a very strong West Auckland side, in not very favourable weather conditions.

West Auckland were the side that got us underway, but the first chance fell to the visitors. A smart ball to Thomas Bligh from Connor Smith was crossed invitingly into the West Auckland penalty area. Guisborough’s Nathan Steel was the player who met the ball with his head, only to see his shot go narrowly past the post and out for a goal kick. Hopefully a sign of things to come for the travelling Guisborough faithful!

But it wasn’t to be, as it was West Auckland who struck first after some smart play in the centre of the park. The ball was played out wide to Jack Walker who put a sublime ball into the area which was met confidently by Nathan Fisher who prodded the ball towards goal and past the helpless Jordan Nixon. 1-0 to the home side after just 8 minutes.

And just two minutes later, West Auckland had their second. A smart run from Amar Purewall was attempted to be stopped, only for the ball to fall back at his feet and 1 on 1 with the Guisborough keeper. Purewall confidently finished past the outrushing Nixon to make it 2-0 to the home side, who now looked firmly in control of the game. ‘It’s a long time since we’ve been two goals up after 10 minutes’ is what a West Auckland supporter had said to me shortly after the previous goal. He had a lot more to look forward to!

And, surprisingly enough, it was soon 3-0. Amar Purewall, again, was slotted through very smartly, beating Guisborough Town’s offside trap. Feeling déjà vu from 8 minutes ago, Purewall again finished smartly past the outrushing Nixon. You could hear the shock from the West Auckland fans as they started laughing between themselves as opposed to cheering. It would be a long evening for Guisborough if they didn’t change something soon.

It wasn’t the best first half of the season for Guisborough so far, but they kept on fighting and attempted to get forward. But West Auckland matched Guisborough exceptionally well, staying very professional, even with their comfortable lead. Guisborough had one more meaningful shot in the first half, with Steven Roberts laying the ball off to Ben Hugill. Hugill’s powerful shot went just past the post, but a clear sight of goal that really needed to be capitalised on at this stage of the game.

But, apart from some speculative efforts from both sides, the first half finished 3-0. West Auckland very much in the driver’s seat, but if they can score three goals in 45 minutes, so can Guisborough, as long as they didn’t let their heads go down.

As Guisborough kicked the second half off, the main thing they had to focus on was sticking together and ensuring it didn’t get any worse for themselves. And, for 12 minutes, they did just that. Playing some very good Football, the away side created some promising opportunities for themselves, but couldn’t work any clear chances.

Unfortunately for Guisborough, it was West Auckland who managed to get the next goal, and almost putting the game out of the away side’s reach. West Auckland’s Amar Purewall passed the ball across to Nathan Fisher, who finished very well and secured his second goal of the game. It was noticeable at this point that the away side had started to become a bit demoralised and frustrated, lunging needlessly into tackles and losing the ball very easily. 4-0 to the home side, with little over 30 minutes still to play.

The next real memorable moment of the game, again, came from West Auckland. A fairly average corner was whipped in for the home side. The corner was cleared by the Guisborough defence as far as West Auckland’s Michael McKeown who sent the ball back into the area. The ball was flicked on to Nathan Fisher who headed easily into an almost empty net to make it 5-0, and grabbing his hattrick in the process.

It was starting to get out of hand for the away side now, with everything seemingly going against them. And so it would prove in the 71st minute – A freekick sent into the Guisborough box ricocheted around before somehow going into the back of the net. I couldn’t see what happened too well from where I was standing, but it was Matthew Lovatt with the OG, although Nathan Fisher definitely wanted to claim it.

And it was soon seven! West Auckland substitute Denver Morris passed the ball across the edge of the area to another substitute, Ben Wood. Wood struck the ball sweetly, being described as a ‘thunderbolt’ by the West Auckland Twitter team, straight past the helpless Nixon in the Guisborough net to make it 7-0. I don’t think anyone had predicated this from the start but, from a neutral point of view, it was a perfect night. West Auckland were still massively up for this game and, with 15 minutes left on the clock, there was plenty of time to add to their tally.

To the 77th minute, and it was West Auckland still powering forward. Some smart play around the Guisborough area from Morris and Wood, again, found some space for a cute little pass across to Amar Purewall, who sliced under the keeper, making it 8-0. The previous goal also made Purewall the second player to score a hattrick tonight – an achievement I’ve never seen before in a league game.

And the home side saved the best until last! A West Auckland corner, taken by Adam Mitchell, was cleared well by the Guisborough defence, only to fall to Michael McKeown, who struck the ball from 20 yards. The resulting shot kept rising and rising, until it found the top of Nixon’s net, making it 9-0 to the home side.

And that’s how it finished.

West Auckland 9 (nine) – Guisborough Town 0

I’ve got a lot of love for Guisborough Town, and I hope tonight was just one to get out of the way early so they can crack on and have a great season, because they deserve it! But West Auckland were superb tonight, and they didn’t allow Guisborough a moments peace.

The Wanted Stadium was my 25th North East ground visited, and not very many games will be as memorable as this one was! Best of luck to both teams for the forthcoming season.

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.

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!

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!

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!