NORTHERN FOOTBALL LEAGUE
Founded 1889 - second oldest League in the world
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Wednesday, 24 January 2018
30/08/2017 Guisborough Town 2 Dunston UTS 3 – Ebac Northern League Division One Guisborough should take a lot of positives from this game, but with nothing to show for their efforts, I’m pretty sure that won’t be any consolation to them. Firstly, even when they were 2-0 down they kept on trying to play football. Secondly, they showed a lot of character to get it back to 2-2. Thirdly, they style of football is good to watch – they’re always looking to attack. The only issue is that at times that might be their undoing. Their character was tested in the opening minutes when Dunston’s Liam Thear flighted a ball into the box for Mark Fitzpatrick whose shot was blocked and fell back to the Dunston midfielder who put the visitors one up with a smart finish. The same two players were involved in their second as well. Thear set Fitzpatrick away in the box and his effort, from a wide angle, crawled along the Guisborough line, was cleared but only back to Thear who gratefully grabbed his chance for his and Dunston’s second. For most of the half Guisborough continued to pass the ball well, they just found the Dunston defence a hard nut to crack and only tested their keeper Aidan Grant once when he blocked a Mason McNeill shot with his body in the first half hour. Dunston were winning most of the 50-50 balls as well as the physical contest. McNeill seemed to spend much of his time receiving the ball with his back to goal and he had few other chances to speak of. Guisborough’s confidence was given a lift two minutes before the break. Lewis Maloney hit a long free kick which Grant might have lost among a bunch of players. It hit the post and Steven Roberts was the quickest and first to react, it fell invitingly in the six-yard box and he bundled it in. Their positive football had earned them the goal. They carried their positive approach into the second half and were immediately rewarded when Roberts got his second in the 47th minute. Centre back Ben Hugill spotted a chance to send Roberts on his way to goal with a 40-yard pass, his speed gave him the edge, he just beat Grant to the ball and managed to prod it past him. The two number 7s had bagged all the goals for their respective teams. Dunston’s form dipped in the second half. They seemed to lose their organisation and their grip of the game. When the winner came, it wasn’t out of the blue, but it was certainly against the run of play. In the 77th minute Fitzpatrick got on the end of a cross and met it just right to head the Tynesiders ahead again. They then had the nous and experience to close the game down. Some of their defending for the last five or 10 minutes may not have been pretty, it was certainly effective. No points for Guisborough but, like Dunston, they’d played their part in a good match. 29/08/2017 Tow Law Town 6 Willington 1 – Ebac Northern League Division Two A stunning game with some stunning goals. Tow Law demolished Willington with an avalanche of quality strikes. Even Willington’s consolation was one of the best on the night. We were only four minutes in when the goal fest started. Lewis Teasdale worked a quick one-two with Liam Whitworth and the Tow Law number 10 scored with a beaut of a strike in off the post from 20 yards out. Next up was Teasdale with his second. Kai Hewitson had a chance to shoot but unselfishly pulled it back to Teasdale who squeezed the ball under Lewis Graham in the Willington goal. Fifteen minutes gone – two chances and two goals for the striker. For the next 20 minutes Willington managed to steady the ship until Teasdale had the chance to complete his hat-trick with another shot, but he couldn’t keep it down. The third duly came just before half-time with another one-two with Hewitson. Four chances and three goals and Teasdale looks a step above most other strikers in the division. The visitors gave themselves a bit of a toe hold in the game shortly after the break when Evann Graham scored with another shot in off the post – this time from 25 yards out. On any other night it would have been the goal of the game – but not last night. Kai Hewitson went straight up the other end from the kick off, exploited a massive gap in the Willington defence and finished with a crisp strike. His next was the best of the night. Tow Law were awarded a free kick 30 yards out at an angle to the goal. Hewitson absolutely thumped it. Graham had no chance and grasped at air. The strike was met a communal “wow”. It was a belter. Ben Collinson wrapped up the scoring with another precise finish after playing a 1-2 with Teasdale. Willington couldn’t seem to keep track of the one-twos on the edge of the box all night. By the end they were battered and bruised by a rampant Tow Law side. Whenever their defence made a mistake they were punished, mind you, they didn’t help themselves by ball watching and not marking close enough. To add to their miserable night, they had Michael Brown sent off in the 80th minute for a crude, lunging tackle. If they keep this form up, Tow Law will be there or thereabouts at the top of the division come the end of the season. It was an impressive performance. Six goals on Saturday, two goalless draws yesterday and seven last night. It’s been feast or famine for the last couple of days and it was definitely a feast worth savouring at Tow Law. I can’t remember seeing so many goals of such a high standard. · Eagle-eyed Tow Law secretary Steve Moralee spotted that the attendances for both second division games were better than the two in the first division. It could be an interesting season in division two. 28/08/2017 Ebac Northern League Division Two Billingham Town 0 Thornaby 0 Alnwick Town 0 Jarrow 0 You might think that to see one 0-0 in a day is unfortunate, but to see two is downright bad luck. Things weren’t quite what they seem. The Billingham Town v Thornaby derby was a decent match that could have been better; the Alnwick v Jarrow contest was better. The benefit of the staggered kick-offs meant that I could take a look at a couple of teams that had got off to a good start. First stop was Bedford Terrace. It was a game dominated by defending. Both back fours looked very solid and the keepers didn’t have much to do for much of the game, but when called upon they pulled off some very good saves. In midfield neither team gave the other any time or space on the ball and the strikers couldn’t time their runs to threaten the goals. A couple of tackles changed the tone of the match. Thornaby’s Joshua Keogh was booked for a lunging tackling. It could have been a red card. A minute or two later Town’s Michael Jameson was sent off for another tackle. It was the cue for a slew of yellow cards for the rest of the match. There were a lot of complaints about the referee, but the players didn’t do themselves any favours and certainly didn’t help the officials either. In between all the cards, it was a good competitive contest, without a hatful of chances. For me, Thornaby left back Matthew Robinson looked the most accomplished player on the pitch and regularly drove forward to put pressure on Town and he had their best chance with a fierce shot in extra time at the end of the first half that was well saved by Alex Leeds. The second half developed into a stalemate and Billingham saved their best chances to extra time at the end of the 90: Ashley Lavan had a 25-yarder parried by Thornaby keeper Oliver Simpson. It fell to Liam Travers and his shot hit Simpson’s leg. The match didn’t quite live up to its early promise and it was an “almost but not quite” game: strikers almost but not quite timing their runs and midfielders almost but not quite finding the right pass. And then up to St James’ Park for my second visit of the season and my first look at Jarrow - the league’s new boys. It was a match of contrasting styles. Alnwick strong and robust, especially up front – exemplified by Stephen Young and Josh Hay. Jarrow a bit quicker and sleeker. Like the first game, there weren’t too many shots on target. Jarrow’s keeper looked to distribute the ball quickly and when they attacked, usually down the wings, they attacked with three or four players running at the defence. Alnwick went for the longer balls to their front players and couldn’t quite match the visitors for the speed of their play. My only gripe is that both teams became predictable in the last 15 minutes – slinging high balls into the box instead of trying to craft chances on the ground, but that shouldn’t detract from an entertaining game. A couple of us are thinking of setting up the Mozza fan club. Jarrow left winger John “Mozza” Murray seemed to be the centre of his manager’s attention. Other players got the odd bit of praise, tactical advice and criticism but it seemed that every couple of minutes it was “Mozza do this, Mozza do that.” I just hope he wasn’t feeling too paranoid by the end of the game. It was a nice sideshow in a match that was worth the journey up the A1. Alnwick are a better team than last season and Jarrow look as though they’re good enough to more than hold their own in the division, a division which looks to be even more competitive than last year. 26/08/2017 Ashington 6 Washington 0 – Ebac Northern League Division One Callum Johnston scored a fine hat-trick for the Colliers, but the biggest cheer of the afternoon was reserved for substitute Damien Stevens. He’s been out for a year after suffering an horrendous fractured knee cap in a game against Penrith and this was his first competitive game since then. He got a great welcome when he came on. Things got even better a couple of minutes before the final whistle. Washington goalkeeper Daniel Gladstone came out of his box to clear the ball. His kick went straight to Stevens who shot, unchallenged, into the empty net.* He was mobbed by team-mates who were clearly delighted to have him back. It sealed a very impressive performance by the home team who, by all accounts, played their best football for some time. Johnston got his first in the third minute after Ben Sampson had done all the hard work and had a shot which was blocked. It fell to the Ashington number 9 who had a straight forward finish. The second came when Jay Hornsby sent over a cross. Tony Stephenson timed his run well and he couldn’t really miss from close in. With seconds to go to half-time Ben Sampson made it three with a perfect strike from more than 20 yards out. The goals kept on coming in the second half. A Ben Harmison header fed Johnston who had another simple finish. For the first time, Washington heads started to drop. Another 20-yarder, this time by Johnston, sealed his hat-trick and was the best of his bunch. It was a sweet strike which gave Gladstone no chance. The scoreline clearly looks as though Washington were given an absolute hiding but for the first half especially they matched Ashington and were somewhat unlucky to go into the break 3-0 down. The third goal sealed the win, the fourth sapped their confidence. In the second half the game ran away from them and they couldn’t find a way back into it. Their possession and chances diminished as the second half progressed and they ran out of ideas. For Ashington this was a game of good team work, solid defending and quality goals. It was the first time that Ashington used The Farm’s All Together Now as their walk-on music, chosen in a poll of their fans. The team played like it too. A good day’s work and a very happy return for Stevens. · The Ashington fans (thankfully) didn’t live up to their promise that if he scored they’d be on the pitch. On the day I couldn’t disagree with their “Oh, Ashington is wonderful” chant. 25/08/2017 West Allotment Celtic 1 Blyth AFC 1 – Ebac Northern League Division Two I try my best to make the most of a game for this blog but it was a meagre offering at Druid Park last night. It’s usually one two or three games a season where I came away not having enjoyed the football. This was one of those games. For the record Blyth went ahead in the dying seconds of the first half when Stephen Little drove the ball through a crowd of defenders and into the net. Up until then there hadn’t been much to report on. In fact there was more discussion about plane-related issues at the airport next door, including favourite quotes from the Airplane! film, than what was on offer on the pitch. There was lots of running around but not much quality, which was especially surprising of Blyth, given the talent they have at their disposal. In the 78th minute West Allotment levelled it up from an indirect free kick after a back pass picked up by the keeper. Colin McKenzie decided to go for power and found a gap between the players on the line. Given the chances they created, Blyth should have won. I scribbled several times during the game “just past the post” for Blyth chances. The game was wide of the mark too. Not a memorable game at all. 23/08/2017 Ryton and Crawcrook Albion 2 Chester-le-Street 1 – Ebac Northern League Division Two Ryton and Crawcrook stand guilty as charged of daylight robbery, albeit at night. Chester-le-Street players must have left the pitch wondering how on earth they lost this one. For most of the second half they had the game by the scruff of the neck, they just couldn’t find the knockout blow. It was a game where all the goals came out of the blue against the run of play. Chester-le-Street started well enough for the opening five minutes or so but gradually Ryton started to find their feet while the visitors lost their way. Inevitably it was Chester-le-Street who took the lead. In the 32nd minute Michael Hepplewhite found himself in a bit of space in the Ryton half and not much seemed to be on. The Chester-le-Street midfielder took a look up and decided to have a go. He couldn’t have hit it much better and it sailed past Darren Houghton. The goal gave them a lift and for the rest of the half they were more positive and on top. They carried that into the second half where they were even more dominant, creating several chances throughout the 45 minutes. It was, of course, Ryton who got the next goal. In the 69th minute they produced one of their best moves of the game and Martyn Hepple finished some neat passing off with aplomb to record their first home goal of the season. They didn’t enjoy the bounce in confidence that Chester-le-Street’s goal had afforded them in the first half. They spent much of the rest of the match defending in numbers. Chester-le-Street created several chances, including Hepplewhite hitting the post with one effort and Ryton Liam Anderson hooking another shot off the line. It was to prove to be a crucial interception. Minutes later and deep into injury time he conjured up a goal to steal the win. Outrageous. 22/08/2017 Seaham Red Star 2 Bishop Auckland 0 – Ebac Northern League Division One This was three out of four wins in the league for Red Star and four losses out of four for Bishop Auckland, but on this showing there’s no need to press the panic button at Heritage Park. Bishops chairman Nick Postma expects to announce the new manager today and the club certainly needs a steadying hand after a start to the season that couldn’t have gone much worse. This was a lively, end-to-end game, with both teams playing with a high tempo and there were plenty of chances for the spectators to enjoy. A couple of players stood out. Seaham’s centre back Bradley Staunch was at the heart of the action for the first 20 minutes – most of it causing mayhem in the Bishop Auckland penalty area at corners. With 15 minutes gone, he met a corner with a strong header which Bishops keeper Thomas Dawson managed to clear off his line. A minute later Staunch was at it again, this time his header found the back of the net, despite Dawson getting a hand to it, to put Red Star in front. It wasn’t too long before he swung a boot in another chance from a corner, but the chance went wide. Bishops couldn’t say they hadn’t been warned. He also put in some crucial tackles to stop a couple of Bishop Auckland attacks in their tracks. Bishop Auckland right back Andre Bennett had an impressive game too. He looked very solid defending both in the air and on the deck, made positive runs, overlapping on the wing and getting in some good crosses. It was a quality all-round display of how to play full back. Red Star looked a more cohesive team. They automatically knew where their team mates were going to be and kept possession better than their opponents. They were also better at breaking up Bishop Auckland’s moves. For the visitors, they seemed to be in a hurry every time they had the ball. It was entertaining to watch but meant that they didn’t hang on to the ball as much as they should have done. They could probably have benefitted from slowing the game down now and again, showing a bit of patience and keeping possession. The game was wrapped up when Craig Lynch came on for Red Star with only a few minutes left. He had an immediate impact. Dawson could only push a Liam McBryde shot out, it fell to Lynch who made it 2-0. Robbie Bird should have made it 3-0 when put clear with only the keeper to beat but his effort went just past the far post. Red Star keep their momentum going whereas Bishop Auckland weren't too far away from getting something out of this game. 20/08/2017 Hallam FC 1 Atherton Collieries 4 – Emirates FA Cup Preliminary Round The blog for the second oldest league in the world was at the second oldest club in the world yesterday. Hallam FC – 800ft above sea level in the hilly suburbs to the west of Sheffield – also prides itself on being the oldest football ground in the world. They play in the Northern Counties East League First Division – the equivalent of our second division and they were up against Atherton Collieries who won the North West Counties League last season and were promoted to the Northern Premier League. On paper this should have been a relatively easy game for the visitors and looking at the scoreline that’s what it looks like, but the game was somewhat different. Sandwiched between the opening and last 10 minutes, Hallam more than held their own against the visitors. Atherton were 1-0 up after nine minutes when Jordan Cover was put through to shoot under Hallam keeper Josh Diggles. Diggles made three good saves in the opening period to keep his team in the game – it threatened to be a cricket score, which might have been appropriate as Hallam share the ground with a cricket club. Atherton couldn’t press home their advantage. They were clearly stronger, fitter and technically better, but Hallam re-organised and matched them for much of the next 70 minutes. The home team levelled it up when left winger Ashley Cooper crossed and centre forward Chris Wood planted a header into the net. It gave them the confidence to have their best spell and they could have taken the lead just before half-time. Atherton made it 2-1 after 67 minutes when Cover broke free, sprinted on goal and fired it past Diggles. They doubled their goal tally in the last six minutes when Hallam’s defence looked to be flagging. Cover got his hat-trick in the 84th minute and then should have made it four from the penalty shot. His spot kick was saved by Diggles who pulled off a double save when blocking a follow-up shot only to see if fall to Gareth Peet who scored at the third attempt. Diggles had a top game – despite conceding the four goals. It was a new ground for the blog and one with quite a bit of football history (as well as quite a slope too.) Hallam are aiming to return to the Northern Counties East Premier Division and this performance should give them a bit of a boost for the rest of the season. 19/08/2017 Albion Sports 2 Newton Aycliffe 1 – Preliminary Round Emirates FA Cup A controversial decision will leave a bitter taste in the mouth for Newton Aycliffe. With nine minutes left – and trailing 2-0 - Matthew Pennal was fouled. The question was: Where? The referee, Darren Whatling, gave a foul right on the edge of the box. It couldn’t have been any closer to the white line. However, the assistant referee was in line with the incident and was overheard to say that it was a penalty. He even went to the goal line where he would have had to stand if it had been a penalty. At the urging of Newton Aycliffe players, the referee went over to consult the assistant and after a lengthy discussion the referee stuck with his decision to give a free kick. The free kick was hit straight at the wall and you got the feeling that it was their last chance to get something out of the game. They did manage to score in the 87th minute: Andrew Grant Soulsby met a corner with a powerful header to give Aycliffe a glimmer of hope. Even with five or more minutes of extra time, they couldn’t level it up. No doubt they’ll be disappointed with the non-penalty decision, but they’ll be disappointed with their play for much of the match too. For the opening 20 minutes of the game they were the better team and Craig Hutchinson was involved in most of their good moves and efforts. Only two minutes into the game he shot from an angle and the keeper managed to block it with his shin. In the 10th minute Hutchinson met a right wing cross at the near post and the keeper did well to force it on to the post and then gather. He was up against two centre backs who were almost a foot taller than him and he could have done with some better support. The Albion back four out-muscled Hutchinson and the other Aycliffe attackers. Albion Sports took the lead in the 17th minute and it involved two players who were their best by some distance. Midfielder Chris Fairhurst spotted striker Omar Habeeb in some space and he delivered a ball which allowed him to turn and put them ahead with a sharp shot. In the 20th minute Newton Aycliffe had an appeal for a penalty turned down then a couple of minutes later Albion had a brace of chances. It seemed to be a turning point. Until then, Aycliffe had passed the ball better and been the more attacking team. Albion’s play had been a bit ragged. Albion started playing with more confidence and Aycliffe’s play was ragged. The goal had given the home team a real confidence boost. They doubled their lead just before half-time when Aycliffe defender Grant Hickman was caught napping as he tried to marshall the ball out for a goal kick. Habeeb nicked it off him, knocked it across and Danny Facey scored. Aycliffe did have more chances – in the 75th minute Pennal thumped a shot which rattled the post - as well as a header and shot right at the end. Managers Deano Brown and Danny Mellanby tried to shake things up by using all three substitutes and Josh Grey in particular made a big difference to their attacking play, but the team came up short. (A quick online search for Mr Whatling brings up an interesting story from two years ago involving a referee called Darren Whatling who forgot that he was officiating a Northern League match between Guisborough and Jarrow Roofing. Newton Aycliffe would have probably preferred if he hadn’t turned up yesterday.) Scarborough Athletic 1 Marske United 1 - Preliminary Round Emirates FA Cup Andy Potts reports from the new home of Scarborough Athletic: The FA Cup gave Northern League fans their first look at Scarborough’s new Flamingo Land Stadium, with Marske United heading there for a Yorkshire coast derby against the Evo-Stik North team. The ground, opened this summer to bring to an end a decade of exile in Bridlington, is impressive – a great example of what can be achieved if clubs and local authorities work together. The football ground is part of the larger ‘Scarborough Sports Village’. Signs at the exit thanks visitors for ‘being active’, and your correspondent is delighted to confirm that he enjoyed a vigorous step work-out to climb up to the bar and actively queued for a pie. Said bar, at the back of the main stand, offers a commanding vista of the hill opposite, complete with grazing horses and a steward in a hi-viz jacket ensuring that nobody snuck in for a free view of the game. It might seem like jobsworthery, but expectations of big crowds are coming true. Scarborough – now known as Scarborough Athletic after folding and re-forming in 2007 – are working their way up the pyramid from Step 6 and got 1,300 for their first league game here then had 885 for Marske’s visit. The bank holiday game against our old friends from South Shields is all-ticket. A big, confident home crowd expected a straightforward afternoon in the cup, but Marske had other ideas. The Chicken Run Collective, louder than their numbers would suggest, irritated the locals with unflattering comparisons of the charms of Flamingo Land and Lightwater Valley; the team made its presence felt with a performance that more than matched an opponent tipped for promotion from a league above ours. Home confidence turned into unease as Marske got to grips with the midfield battle; relief when Scarborough converted a penalty quickly turned back to frustration when Craig Gott converted from the spot a few minutes later. Gott, the key figure in midfield, came closest to winning it for the visitors, crashing a free kick against the bar in the second half; Scarborough also had their chances late on, but a draw was a fair result. Once again, then, a Northern League team produces a creditable result and performance against Evo-Stik league opposition. Depending on where you stand on the promotion debate, it’s either more evidence that teams should embrace the challenge of a higher level, or a further sign that the footballing quality of the leagues is so similar that the additional travel is hardly justified when opponents are of similar calibre. Regardless of compulsory promotion this season, that argument is likely to run and run. 17/08/2017 Easington Colliery 1 Durham City 1 Ebac Northern League Division Two This wasn’t a bad game, it wasn’t a thriller either – just one of those solid, ok, second division games between two teams who cancelled each other out over the 90 minutes. A draw was just about the right result. Easington striker David Paul was the centre of attention for many of the major incidents in the game. In the 25th minute a defender managed to get just enough of a touch on a Paul shot to knock it on to the woodwork. In the 39th minute he took a free kick 20 yards out and it forced Durham keeper Joe Wilson to dive to his right and knock it on to the post. The first half ended with Easington having the better chances and Durham passing the ball around a bit better. Their attacks were slightly different: Easington using the wings while Durham trying to drive through the middle. The early chances in the second half fell Easington’s way. The first was a quick turn and shot by Chris Bell which went only just wide. The second one got them ahead. Jack Pounder bisected the Durham centre backs with a well-weighted pass, Paul ran onto it, kept his cool and slotted it in. But twelve minutes he put his team under pressure when he was sent off for a rash, lunging tackle. It took a while for Durham to make their number superiority count. When they did, it was a nicely taken chance. Callum Smith turned a defender and curled the ball past Kyle Donaldson into the net with not much of the goal to aim for. Smith almost grabbed a winner with five minutes to go when he struck another curling shot round Donaldson. This time it hit the post and come out. Earlier in the half Ben Joyeux had an audacious 40-yard lob go just over the bar. It forced Donaldson to pedal backwards a bit sharpish. Each side had a free kick just outside the box in the closing minutes; unfortunately both sailed well over the bar. For Easington David Paul will be a handful for Division Two defenders. For Durham Bradley Hird looked the best passer on the pitch and left back Ben Joyeux looked good in the tackle and pretty nippy going forward. There wasn’t much between the two teams and it might well be that there won’t be much between them at the end of the season either. 16/08/2017 Team Northumbria 2 Billingham Synthonia 0 – Ebac Northern League First Division It was a night of sustained pressure. The only problem for Billingham Synthonia was that they were on the receiving end of it. Last season both clubs won promotion back to the first division and Team Northumbria look in much better shape to meet the rigours of the campaign ahead. “Watch the runners” was a regular shout from the Billingham manager. It was just one of the things they had to worry about. Apart from the runs through the middle, Team North mixed their play up, attacking down the flanks too. In the opening 17 minutes all but one of the chances fell to Team North. In the 22nd minute they made their pressure count. Full back Liviv Cristea darted down the right and hit a low cross into the box where it deflected off a defender and into the net. They continued to press forward, with Synthonia standing off, not marking the runners and giving them space to attack. The host’s next best chance was a turn and volley by captain Liam McNamara which forced a save by Liam Gibbs. It was a rearguard action by Billingham who couldn’t get anything going. The most difficult task for Team North keeper Stefan Holden was having to gather a mis-directed header by one of his own defenders. With 10 minutes of the half left they should have doubled their lead when Ardelean hooked a shot just wide. Things perked up a bit with the introduction of three substitutes in quick succession by the Synners in the second half. The biggest impact was made by Daniel Chapman on the left wing. He brought some much-needed pace and an attacking option for the visitors. Rather strangely, after 10 or so minutes of promising play down the left involving Chapman, the Synners then switched their attacks to the right flank and it proved less effective. No matter how dominant, 1-0 is a slender lead and Team North gave themselves a two goal cushion in the 72nd minute. A three man move was finished by Andrei Ardelean. It could have been more. Ardelean was profligate in front of goal, missing several other good chances on the night. They didn’t need the two-goal advantage. Synthonia didn’t look like scoring. Their substitutes made a bit of a difference, just not enough of one. 15/08/2017 Ryhope CW 3 Stockton Town 2 – Ebac Northern League Division One Stockton were undone by a 13-minute blitz of goals. This win was Ryhope’s second league win out of two, while Stockton have lost all four of their games. The first half saw two evenly matched teams pitted against each other. Stockton’s play was a bit more measured but there were chances at both ends. On 35 minutes I wrote a note: “The only surprise is that there hasn’t been goal.” We didn’t have to wait long. The visitors got their noses ahead in the 40th minute when Sonni Coleman pinged a quality cross in from the right and Max Craggs bounced it in. At the start of the second half, Ryhope were quick and sharp out of the traps. Their play was reminiscent of Whitley Bay’s performance a week ago: hitting teams on the break with hard, driving balls on the deck to the front players. They were playing with a lot more purpose than the first half. Corey Nicholson and Joe Melvin in particular caused the Stockton defence all kinds of problems and Melvin helped himself to an impressive hat-trick. 50th minute – a double take: David Gordon slings over a corner and Melvin heads it against the bar. The loose ball falls to Gordon who slings over another cross and Melvin knocks it in at the second attempt to level the scores up. 61st minute – Nicholson knocks in a cross which is begging to be buried in the net and Melvin, timing his run to perfection, duly obliges. 63rd minute – Melvin finds himself in a bit of space in the box, he keeps his poise with a sharp finish to seal a big turn-round for the home team. Stockton looked a little shell-shocked and took a bit of time to recover their composure. They gave themselves the chance to get something out of the game in the 73rd minute when a cross was pushed out by Ryhope keeper Jonathan Ball. It landed at Kevin Hayes’ feet and he managed to squeeze it past Ball and a couple of defenders to make it 3-2. They couldn’t find the third goal, which they probably deserved. On paper it looks as though Stockton are struggling to make the step up from the second to first division but I’m not sure that’s the full picture. Apparently they’ve been close to getting something out of their previous games, coupled with a bit of bad fortune, and a couple of decisions went against them last night. They’re competitive, they just need a few breaks. Another good, entertaining game chalked up in the early weeks of the 2017-18 season. Good fun this. 12/08/2017 Dunston UTS 2 Consett 0 – Ebac Northern League Division One Towards the end of last season Dunston looked a team in transition: a new manager and a team that looked as though it needed a bit of fixing. They were a lot better today and on this showing they’ll be a tough team to beat. They worked hard, were well set up and played both a long ball as well as a short, passing game. The game took a bit of time to get going. Dunston had the first chance to take the lead when Mark Fitzpatrick was fouled in the area. Dale Burrell got the angle of his penalty kick right, it just lacked power and Consett keeper Ross Coombe got down well to save it. Most of the early play was in the Consett half and the hosts went one up when Burrell knocked the ball right to Liam Thear who in turned knocked it right to Jake Stafford and his strike when through a bunch of defenders and in. Consett’s front line couldn’t hold the ball up and the team looked out of synch. Calvin Smith had their best effort – his shot from 35 yards looked ambitious until it went only just past the corner of post and bar. The standout player for me in the first half was Dunston right back Callum Elliott. A sports hack would use the word “marauding” to describe his play. He made some strong runs at pace and regularly provided crosses during the first 45. Burrell made up for his earlier miss when Dunston were awarded a second penalty for a foul on Thear. This time he thumped it down the middle. He almost got a second when he hit the post with the last kick of the game, but they were already home and hosed. Consett have got one of the strongest squads in the division and expectations are high. Yesterday they were some way short of those expectations, although there were some mitigating circumstances – keeper David Knight was injured in the warm-up and others weren’t available on the day, including Arjun Purewal and Danny Craggs who were both at weddings. Substitute keeper Ross Coombe was drafted in a short notice and he had a pretty good game – he couldn’t do much about the first goal and he guessed right by diving right for the penalty save. He made some other decent saves too. The combination of all the changes were most obvious when Consett were defending corners – they didn’t look comfortable dealing with them throughout the match. On another day they would have scored a couple of goals. Even in the last 10 minutes Michaels Sweet and Mackay had chances. In the first half they looked disjointed (unsurprisingly with players playing out of position) and their 4-3-3 formation clearly wasn’t working. They started the second half with a bit more purpose and made it a more even contest. Sweet came close in the 47th minute when he curled a shot just past the far post, but their cause wasn’t helped when Shaun Ryder was shown a straight red for stamping. The Steelmen have had better days at the office. 11/08/2017 Crook Town 0 Willington 1 – Ebac Northern League Division Two This was Willington’s third away games out of three. Last week they were second best at Alnwick and the blog’s network of spies (well, North Shields committee man Russell Wynn actually) said they were unlucky to lose at Chester-le-Street in midweek. They’ll be glad to get off the mark. One incident decided the game – referee Steve Lawson saw a push on a Willington player as a corner came over into the box, with Conor Winter scoring from the spot. The 30th minute penalty was a bit tough on Crook who had played the better football, and continued to do so for the rest of the first half. At times Willington resorted to longer balls. They were most effective in the first half when they kept it on the ground and tried to knock it around. Things changed in the second half. Willington pushed up 10 yards compared to the first half and denied Crook the space they had enjoyed in the first half and manged to exert more pressure on the home side. Crook weren’t as effective and their football wasn’t quite as fluid either. In the first 45 minutes their build up play was easy on the eye, they just struggled to get the ball into the box to cause Willington real problems. Winger Daniel Smith was one of the busiest players on the pitch and he had one of their better shots, but overall they didn’t really threaten the Willington goal. Their captain Chris Emms tried to catch Lewis Graham in the visitors’ goal napping by shooting straight from the kick off after the penalty. The attempt was on target but easily gathered by the keeper. In the second half Willington were the better team and Crook’s form dipped. Willington had managed to get a goal against the run of play – Crook couldn’t match them when the roles were reversed in the second half. It’ll be interesting to see where both clubs are in the league at the end the season. It’s a bit early to tell at the moment. · One Willington player, who shall remain nameless, asked the linesman how long was left in the match. When told that it was 25 minutes, the way the player puffed his cheeks out and looked particularly uncomfortable suggests he’s not yet firing on all cylinders. 09/08/2017 North Shields 0 Marske United 1 – FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round Replay It was perhaps expecting too much for another eight-goal thriller repeat of Saturday’s game and excitement was in short supply in last night’s replay. The only important thing about a cup tie is to get through to the next round and the Seasiders did just enough to deserve this win. The goal in the 52nd minute by Craig Gott wasn’t one of those “worth the admission price on its own” gems but it was a quality goal all the same. 20 yards out he turned Gary Ormston to work a bit of space, his shot had swerve and dip and left Kyle Hayes clutching thin air. It was a rare bit of flair in an otherwise stodgy game. Markse had the better of the possession and played the more progressive football through the team. North Shields on the other hand seemed to bypass their central midfield players – Adam Forster and Ormston were unusually quiet for the Tynesiders. Up front Dan Wilson ploughed a lone furrow with little support close to him when he did receive the ball – usually with his back to goal. Good scoring opportunities were few and far between for both teams. Among them for North Shields was a first half Dean Holmes cross that just eluded Craig Macfarlane and a Wilson effort that was just wide. For Marske, their main threat was crosses, with most easily gathered by Hayes. The two teams cancelled each other out for much of the game. North Shields’ ball retention improved in the second half and substitutions gave them a lift for the last 15 minutes but they can’t have too many complaints at the final score. It wasn’t too lively at the Morgue. 08/08/2017 Whitley Bay 4 Seaham Red Star 1 – Emirates FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round Replay Last season Whitley Bay went to Red Star and were on the wrong end of a 6-1 drubbing. That day they were awful. The Tynesiders are a team transformed. Last night they played some thrilling stuff with quick, decisive attacks that kept Red Star on the back foot. It was a team performance, but Scott Jasper and Alex Kempster were the stars of the show. Jasper could have had a four minute hat-trick. Red Star started the slightly better of the two. Their build-up play showed a lot of promise, they just seemed to hit a wall at the 18-yard line when they ran out of attacking ideas. The Kempster/Jasper show got on the road in the 17th minute when Jasper opened the scoring with a powerful header. One minute later Kempster played a through ball to set the number 9 up one-on-one with Jordan Harkess in the Red Star goal but he was able to smother Jasper’s attempt. Three minutes later it was Jasper’s turn to set Kempster up and his shot brought out another good save by Harkess who then made it a hat-trick of saves when he blocked another Jasper shot with his legs. The Red Star defence was all at sea. Things got worse on the 23 minute mark when Tom Potter passed to Kempster who found space in the box. His neat finish made it 2-0. Seaham were in danger of drowning. It was almost on the half-hour mark before the visitors had their first real chance when Craig Lynch and Ashley Davis combined, but Davis’ shot was safely gathered Bay keeper Tom Flynn. A minute later they had another chance when a Callum Munro shot went wide. And that was the pattern for much of the match: Whitley Bay created three or four chances for every one of Seaham’s. The host’s overall play was better too – with 30-40 yard passes being splayed accurately around the pitch. The last kick of the first half put the game beyond Seaham when Jack Byerley bundled the ball in from a corner. Within a couple of minutes of the re-start Whitley Bay had picked up where they left off in the first half with, low, hard passes at pace to the front. Seaham’s captain Craig Lynch was involved in most of their best moves. In the 54th minute he set Robbie Bird up, but the winger could only run the ball into Flynn. Minutes later Lynch swung a hopeful boot at a free kick and it just scraped past the post. They gave themselves a glimmer of hope when Bird was brought down in the box and Lynch scored from the penalty spot in the 56th minute to make it 3-1. The game was put to bed when a Kyle Patton shot found the net through a packed penalty area. Jasper was substituted in the 78th minute and he richly deserved the applause he got as he left the pitch. Red Star kept grafting and didn’t throw in the towel - they were just up against a better team. It was a pleasure to watch Whitley Bay on a grey, damp night. 05/08/2017 Shildon 2 Morpeth 0 – FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round Sometimes you can use words like “solid”, “workman-like” and “organised” to damn something with faint praise. And Shildon were indeed solid, workman-like and organised, but they thoroughly deserved this win. They got their noses in front as early as the 9th minute when Adam Burnicle was pulled down in the box and Matty Robson duly tucked the penalty down the middle. On 15 minutes Jamie Harwood struck a strong, rising shot which Karl Dryden did well to tip over. They came even closer when Dan Moore pulled the ball back from the byline for Anthony Peacock who wrapped his foot round the ball. The shot beat Dryden only for it to come back off the far post. Most of the best chances of the game went Shildon’s way and it was no surprise when they made it 2-0 in the 64th minute. Burnicle fired in a shot and it was well parried by Dryden. He tried to kick the loose ball away but he kicked it straight at Lewis Dodds who followed it up and the ricochet bundled into the net. At the back Kyle May was impressively solid. As a team they were quicker about their work and looked much more cohesive than their visitors. Morpeth are one of the best teams to watch in the Ebac Northern League, but not yesterday. They were surprisingly lacklustre. They never got their passing going and at times they looked anything but a well-drilled unit. As the game progressed they resorted to longer and longer balls, which is anything but their usual style. It looked as though they kept swapping formations through the game and they never really settled into comfortable shape and rhythm. Last week they were excellent against North Shields in the Cleator Cup. They’ll be bemused as to why they didn’t approach anything like that performance in this cup tie where the stakes were much higher. Their best chance was when Joe Walton hit the post when an ambitious lob which left Nick Liversedge stranded. The ball almost spun in off the post but Shildon managed to clear their lines. They had other chances without ever really looking as though they could win this game. They can and will play much better than this for the rest of the season. 04/08/2017 Alnwick 3 Willington 1 – Ebac Northern League Division Two The first league game of the Ebac Northern League season. A fresh season and fresh legs – and it showed, with both teams getting off to a lively start. Both were clearly prepped and ready to go. The game was only six minutes old when Alnwick striker Stephen Young picked up a loose ball in the Willington box. He turned keeper Lewis Graham and slotted it in with the first real chance of the game. Young was to be a thorn in Willington’s side all game long and the Willington defence never quite worked out how to play him. Three minutes later he tried to lob Graham but his effort was just over. Willington pegged it back in the 13th minute when Andrew Taylor ran on to a through ball. His cross found Gareth McMahon unmarked in the box and he had a simple finish. Parity didn’t last long and Young was involved again – he had a shot well saved by Graham only to see if fall to Lewis Coyle who made it 2-1. Neither team looked as though they were having to blow away the off-season cobwebs. It was a cracking opening 15 minutes. The rest of the first half saw Willington possession coming up against a team with more of a cutting edge and creating the chances – Coyle scuffed one shot after good work by Danny Lowes down the right and Jonathan Wilson had three chances to shoot as he ran across the 18-yard line but he didn’t pull the trigger. Willington didn’t clear their lines at the end of Wilson’s run and Tony Brown had a strong shot well saved by Graham who was much the busier keeper. That was followed in the 38th minute when he pulled off a better, diving save to deny a Brown free kick. Willington came out for the second half had a bit more fizz about their play. They had one shot come back off the post and a penalty appeal turned down by referee Jack Gordon. Their best chances were free kicks rather than from open play. Young put the game beyond them when he got his second after a crisp one-two with Chris Laidlaw. Alnwick’s Tom MacPherson was sent off for a second yellow card but Willington couldn’t convert their extra man and the hosts looked pretty comfortable even when down to 10 men. The Alnwick camp will be happy with their opener but Willington couldn’t build on their good start. As Ashington secretary Gav Perry pointed out: With no games played, Alnwick started the day top of the second division – thanks to the alphabet – and finished the day top too. A job well done. More of the same for the rest of the season please.