NORTHERN FOOTBALL LEAGUE
Founded 1889 - second oldest League in the world
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Wednesday, 24 January 2018
30/09/2017 Penrith 3 Ryhope Colliery 5 – Ebac Northern League Division One Confidence, lack of it and over-confidence are big factors in football. All three were on show at this thrill-a-minute game, including what surely must be one of the quickest four-goal hauls anywhere in football this season. Penrith have had a poor start to the season, haven’t been scoring many and recently lost striker Martyn Coleman to Shildon. Ryhope, on the other hand, have got off to a solid start and sit comfortably in mid table. That form showed in the first 20 minutes of this game. Ryhope’s Joey Melvin had a couple of good chances in the opening 10 minutes but couldn’t find the net. His team-mate Danni Lay also tried his luck with an off-target header. It took Penrith more than 20 minutes to craft their real first chance. Another two followed in quick succession and it gave them a foothold in the game as well as some much-needed confidence. That confidence was given a further fillip when they took the lead. Captain Grant Davidson met a Penrith corner unchallenged and his looping header evaded defenders and Ryhope keeper Jonathon Ball. I did wonder if Ryhope were going to rue their earlier missed chances (and that just goes to show what I know). Penrith started the second half with a shot and a header. Ryhope were about to step it up a couple of gears: 49th minute: Josh Home-Jackson meets a cross to make it 1-1. 51st minute: a pass by Simon Ord tears the Penrith defence apart and Home-Jackson makes it Penrith 1 Home-Jackson 2. 54th minute: Penrith battle back to make it 2-2 when Jonny Murray runs to get on the end of a low drive and knocks it in from a couple of feet away. 56th minute: Ryhope awarded a penalty for handball. Home-Jackson is given the honours to claim his hat-trick and he doesn’t disappoint. Penrith 2 Home-Jackson 3. 58th minute: With the Penrith defence all at sea, Home-Jackson scoops the ball into the net. Four goals in nine minutes. Priceless. Penrith 2 Home-Jackson 4. The Penrith defensive horror show continued when Matthew Weirs made it five just after the hour mark. To give them credit, Penrith didn’t give up and were rewarded for their efforts when Robbie Hebson got their third with a quick turn and shot. It was a symptom of the over-confidence that Ryhope had started to show. As their manager Gary Pearson shouted: “You’ve stopped working. You’ve stopped doing the good things. Don’t think you’ve got this won.” Penrith kept on pressing. They were partly helped by an injury to right back Elliott Woods who had to stay on the pitch as they’d used all three of their substitutes. At best all Woods could do was hobble around out of the way up front. It was a hugely disappointing afternoon for the Cumbrians but I just want to mention two of their players. Murray played well, causing the Ryhope defence problems and he didn’t look over-awed filling Coleman’s striking boots. And secondly Chris Wraighte was their best attacking player, particularly in the last 15-20 minutes, driving at defenders, trying to set up team-mates and having a go at goal himself. Post script: As Home-Jackson’s fourth went in, there were peals of laughter from the Ryhope bench. Their chairman Darren Norton explained: at half time club captain Kyle Davis (who was on the sub’s bench) had told Home-Jackson to score four so he would have a chance to get on the pitch. Take a bow Josh. You had a day to remember and you did as you were told by your club captain, which is always a good idea. Finally, huge congratulations to Shildon for their great win against Banbury and Newcastle Benfield did the Northern League proud, just going down by a single goal to Kidderminster. 28/09/2017 Easington Colliery 0 Blyth AFC 0 – Ebac Northern League Division Two The second 0-0 of the week, but this a very different game from Tuesday’s match between Thornaby and Ryton & Crawcrook. Tuesday’s game was an intriguing contest of attack v defence. This game involved two teams who determined to attack at every opportunity. The 90 minutes flew by. Blyth were more measured in their attacks, Easington quicker on the break and quicker to get the ball up to the front players. And there were interesting contests all over the pitch: Easington defenders Chris Pearson and Shane O’Brien up against Gary Day and Adam Harvey. Easington winger Harry Wood up against Blyth right back Kyle Oliver. Both keepers had very solid games. Easington’s Kyle Donaldson was the busier of the two but both he and Chris Bannon shared one trait on the night – getting their angles absolutely spot on to repeatedly deny attackers. Now down to the nitty gritty of the game’s highlights and notable incidents. A 50 yard pass from O’Brien to Wood was the pass of the game. A David Robinson shot for Blyth from just outside the box that skimmed off the bar. A Wood chance for the hosts when he found himself one against one with Bannon and chose the wrong side of Bannon to shoot. In the first half, Wood seemed to be the busiest man on the pitch. In the closing six minutes of the first half two shots by Blyth - a Gary Day chance just over the bar and a Ryan McGorrigan shot into the side netting. Second half: 58th minute an instinctive save by Donaldson at the near post to deny McGorrigan. Shaun Smith, on as a substitute, lively and pacey, always looking to test Blyth’s back four. And then an incident that could have turned the match: Blyth’s Jake Armitage was shown a straight red for a high tackle on David Vincent that left the Easington player needing treatment for a couple of minutes. Blyth lost the edge as far as possession was concerned after the sending off but they didn’t batten down the hatches and settle for the point; they were still prepared to attack, albeit with fewer numbers. In the final seconds there was a scramble in the Blyth six-yard box, Easington just couldn’t prod the ball over the line. No goals, but I for one couldn’t have cared less, it was a really enjoyable game. 27/09/2017 Esh Winning 1 Willington 1 – Ebac Northern League division two This was a difficult game to get a handle on. At times there was some good, entertaining football on show. At other times there were periods of untidy play, niggling fouls and petty dissent. This isn’t a blog that’s going to flow, so in no particular order: In the third minute, a mistake by Esh Winning midfielder Scott Arnott sent Willington striker Damon Ellis on his way with a clear run at goal and the visitors were 1-0 up As the game progressed, Esh Winning’s play got better and better. Their perseverance finally paid off in the 79th minute. A Callum Boakes shot from outside the box deflected off Willington defender Lewis Milner and looped into the goal to level it up. Earlier they’d had good chances to draw level. In the first half Reece Brown sent over a perfect cross and it was met by Daniel Kent at the far post. He could only head the ball on to the bar. Seconds later Brown saw a shot go just over. In the second half Esh Winning came close again. Gavin Brown rattled the bar with a well-taken free kick from 20+ yards out. It was Matty Moffatt’s debut for Willington. He had an eventful first game. In the 41st minute he beat a defender to the ball, rounded the keeper, stroked it goalwards and he seemed certain to score until Esh Winning captain Max Stoker slid out of nowhere to scoop the ball away off the line. The niggling fouls, mis-timed tackles and dissent kept referee Jonny Gill busy with a raft of bookings. His colleague Christopher Smith had to have the patience of Job. Two instances: the Esh Winning defence claimed Matty Moffatt was offside as the ball was knocked past them. Three times Mr Smith (correctly) shouted: “he was on.” Did they keep on complaining after the ball went out? Yep, including one player who was 50 yards away. And Mr Smith was involved in Moffatt’s dismissal. Ellis nudged the ball to him. He was clearly in an offside position and was flagged accordingly. Dissent led to his second yellow card and his marching orders. It wasn’t the best way to mark your debut for your new club. I was also less than impressed by one player who howled with pain as he crashed to the ground after a “tackle”. My only gripe with him was that he wasn’t enough touched by the opposition player. I hope my gripes don’t over-shadow what was a pretty good game of football. It was certainly competitive. Esh Winning played some of the best football I’ve seen them play for a couple of seasons, especially in the last 10-15 minutes when they put Willington under the cosh. 26/09/2017 Thornaby 0 Ryton and Crawcrook Albion 0 – Ebac Northern League Division Two You just can’t trust some people. Before kick-off an official with one of the clubs at last night’s game guaranteed – guaranteed mind you – that this wouldn’t be a goalless draw. That he was proved wrong was hard to believe at the end of the 90 minutes. Thornaby were on a bit of a roll coming into this fixture with three away wins, including a win in the Vase against Carlisle City. For Ryton it was a win and a loss in their last two. My first note of the game was: “R&C defence had to be in good order for the opening stages of the game.” Not much changed for the rest of the game either. It was a classic set up of attack v defence. At times the visitors set up 7-2-1 and for chunks of the game their striker Martyn Hepple must have forgotten what the ball looked like. That was as much due to the little service he got as the fog which shrouded the pitch. If they’d been available, the possession stats would have made interesting reading. I can’t remember a game so dominated by one team. The only thing Thornaby couldn’t do was find a way through Ryton’s massed and, to be fair, well-organised defence. The home side look a lot better than last season’s team and they played some good football – showing good variety to their game, exhibiting a range of passing: short, medium and long; moving the ball around the pitch well and attacking patiently. The only thing lacking was that final ball, a killer pass to open the Ryton defence up. For all their possession they should have tested Ryton keeper Darren Houghton more often and when they did they tended to shoot the ball straight at him. The one time he was beaten right back Neil Turner was on the line to clear a header away. 0-0? Never going to happen, obviously. Guaranteed. PS - Ryton secretary Stevie Carter said it was the second time that the team had worn new yellow fluorescent socks (and they were very fluorescent indeed) and they’d won the first time they’d worn them. Lucky socks, obviously. They were by far the most visible things on the pitch on a foggy night on Teesside. 23/09/2017 Stockton Town 4 Consett 3 (AET) Buildbase FA Vase second qualifying round £6 doesn’t get you too much these days, that is unless you were at this game. VFM (value for money) doesn’t even get close. This was 120 minutes of thrilling, thrilling football. Goals galore, countless chances, a dubious penalty, a saved penalty, non-stop action and a wonderful/heart-breaking sting in the tale. The 200+ crowd didn’t have long to wait for the action to start. Chris Rogan sold a great dummy to Stockton right back Matthew Garbutt, made it to the byline and pulled it back for Danny Craggs to put the Steelmen one up. Garbutt made amends by setting up the equaliser with a cross converted by Joe Carter. Game on. Minutes later Carter found space, drove forward and then pulled it back for Fred Woodhouse who couldn’t have hit his shot much better, only for him to see it rebound off the post with Consett keeper Ross Coombe beaten. And then with minutes to go before the break, Consett’s Daniel Hawkins pounced on a loose ball and ran into the box. Stockton keeper Michael Arthur sprinted out and looked as though he’d got enough of the ball to save it before Hawkins fell to the ground. Referee Shane Sugden pointed to the spot for what looked a harsh penalty. Justice was done when Arthur saved Craggs’ penalty. And in the dying seconds of the first half Hawkins belted the ball against the bar. Stockton made much the brighter start to the second half and it took Consett 10 minutes to get back in the groove, but they re-took the lead in the 72nd minute when unmarked Craggs swung at the ball from 25 yards out to put the visitors back in the lead. It looked odds on to be a goal as soon as he struck it. Four minutes later Stockton were level again. Consett centre half Arjun Purewal and Coombe hesitated as the ball fell between them. Stockton substitute Chris Stockton nicked in between them, knocked the ball past Coombe and then put the finishing touch into an empty goal. 2-2 and extra time beckoned. In sharp contrast to their sluggish start to the second half, Consett got extra time off to a flyer with a powerful Calvin Smith shot that made it 2-3. There was yet more drama to come: Stockton’s Sonni Coleman drove the ball across the Consett box and Stockton buried it at the far post to make it all square at 3-3. A replay seemed inevitable until Stockton hit a sensational strike from the edge of the box to make it 4-3. He was mobbed by team mates and the substitutes. It was, effectively, the last kick of the game. It was the only time that Stockton were ahead in the game. As soon as Consett kicked the ball to re-start the game Sugden blew up for the end of the match. A couple of Consett players fell to the ground despondent and who can blame them? Astonishing. Remarkable. Fantastic. The shots and missed chances by both teams would have filled a blog all on their own. I might have just seen the game of the season. 22/09/2017 Jarrow 1 Chester-le-Street 1 – Ebac Northern League division two Honours even. In a boxing match the judges might have just given the verdict to Jarrow on points. And, of the two teams, it will be the hosts who will be most disappointed. They couldn’t find the second goal that would have secured all three points. They set their stall out early in the game, with Kai Elliott and Josh Allan combining well on a number of occasions. Elliott was impressive – showing good pace, beating defenders and knocking in some quality crosses. Sam Attewell came close for Jarrow when Elliott pulled the ball back for him to side foot with a shot that looked a certain goal until Chester-le-Street keeper Jack Wilson scrambled back across his goal to stop it with his legs. Soon after Jarrow were ahead when Allan squared it for Kris Allen who tucked it away. They had their chances to extend their lead. Allan had one chance with a free header after losing his marker, but he couldn’t get enough on it. Another shot rebounded to Liam Clark. He should have buried it, instead he shot wide. The second goal just wouldn’t come. They had to settle for a point. Meanwhile, Chester-le-Street looked edgy and nervous in the opening minutes of the game. Throughout the 90 minutes they put together some good moves rather than good spells. They saved their best ‘til last. In the last 10 minutes they found an equaliser and could have nicked it at the death. In the 81st minute Alex White forced a good save out of Gary Frater with a free kick. A minute later Joshua King sent over a cross which striker Andrew Clarkson got his foot to but couldn’t quite control and the ball went over. The same two players combined again a minute after that effort. This time Clarkson managed to hang in the air, met the cross with a header which just eluded Frater to make it 1-1. In added time Michael Hepplewhite got a glancing header to an Aaron Reynolds cross only to see it go wide. It was a precious point for the visitors. It was my first game at the Perth Green ground and I hope Jarrow are enjoying life in the Ebac Northern League – they seem to be getting a lot right in the opening months. They’ve taken the transition from Wearside League to division two in their stride. A very healthy crowd just shy of 200 were at the game, bolstering their place at the top of the home attendances for the division and their pitch looks to be in very good nick. I’m sure they’d have taken a place in the top half of the table after a quarter of the season when we started back in August. 19/09/2017 Jarrow Roofing 1 Bishop Auckland 2 – Ebac Northern League Division One Footballers’ wives/partners have to be very understanding people. But sometimes there’s a line that cannot be crossed, and so it proved at Jarrow Roofing last night. There we were, half an hour into the game when Roofing centre back Darryll Donnelly was substituted for no apparent reason until legendary ground hopper Lee Stewart provided the answer – Donnelly’s other half was expected to give birth at any moment so everyone was on standby. Making a speedy exit from the ground, it was probably the quickest he’d moved all night. There was less good news on the pitch for Roofing. They’re still searching for their first home win of the season and they looked second best for most of this game. They gave themselves a glimmer of hope in the 79th minute when Dennis Knight was fouled in the box by Alex Francis. Knight took the penalty himself. It was a rare clear-cut chance for the hosts who didn’t create too much that troubled the Bishop Auckland defence who looked more and more comfortable as the game progressed. Meanwhile Bishop Auckland look as though they’ve turned a corner. They controlled the game for long periods and exerted more of the pressure. Up front Tom McAloon looked very good. Apart from two well-taken goals, his pace was a problem for the Roofing defence. His first was a shot as he was lying on the ground. The ball fell kindly for him when Roofing failed to clear the ball, he swivelled and found the back of the net. The second was thanks to a great through ball by Alex Goundry who opened up the Roofing defence. McAloon looked as though he’d taken too many touches and failed to pass to a team-mate who was in a better position to score. Instead he showed typical strikers’ mentality: “I’ve got a chance, I’m taking it.” He took it and thumped it past Shaun Newbrook in the Roofing goal. David Palmer had a late chance for the hosts when his shot hit the post, but it would have been an unlikely equaliser. · A later update: Apparently Darryll wasn’t meant to even play last night, but his partner sent him out. Very understanding. Very understanding indeed. The blog wishes the new parents and baby all the best. 16/09/2017 Shildon 1 Altrincham 0 – Emirates FA Cup second qualifying round Wow. Shildon are through to the third qualifying round of the FA Cup. And their tremendous win was built on tactics and a game plan that worked like a dream against a team a couple of rungs further up the non-league ladder. The victory will have tasted even sweeter given that they had a depleted starting 11. With a couple of minutes to go, people started drifting towards the exits, while keeping an eye on proceedings. It was just as well they did – it had the feeling of a match where there could be a late goal. Adam Burnicle (and more of him later) drove into the box and his shot was handled by Alty defender James Jones. He was sent off for his troubles and Shildon were awarded a priceless penalty. Even then, the Railwaymen managed to squeeze a bit more drama out of the game. Billy Gruelich-Smith stepped up to take the spot kick. Anthony Thompson in the visitors’ goal managed to save it and the ball spun up and out. Shildon substitute Cameron Fenton was first to react and he headed it past a floundering Thompson. And boy, did the Shildon players and fans enjoy it. Fenton was mobbed and the team was given a standing ovation after they saw out the last nervous seven minutes before the referee blew the whistle. (I'm still not sure where the ref got the five minutes of added time.) It was just reward for the tactics and game plan. Shildon played it tight in the first half, with Gruelich-Smith a lone striker. For the first 15 minutes or so it wasn’t that great a game, with too many niggling fouls. In the opening period, Alty looked more sure of themselves when in possession, but didn’t do much with it. Then for the next 30 minutes they edged the game, with winger John Johnston and striker Jordan Hulme particularly impressive. They were both instrumental in the team finding their rhythm, range and creating the better chances. Shildon weren’t pummelled in the first half, but it felt like a “let’s keep plugging away” 45 minutes for the home team. Both in the first half and in the opening part of the second half, Gruelich-Smith looked isolated and high balls kept skimming harmlessly off his head towards the Altrincham goal. But the game plan had worked so far – they were level. Shildon then decided to be more adventurous. Burnicle came on and the Alty defence had something different to contend with. After his introduction, Shildon grew in confidence and looked equal to their opponents. Shildon threw the dice again by introducing another striker – Fenton. Both substitutions were crucial in the victory. By going for the win and throwing more attacking options on to the pitch, Shildon deserved their place in the next round. Who knows what that’ll bring? For the time being, they’ll just enjoy a great win. And from our second match, Andy Potts reports on another Northern League upset: Ashton United came across the Pennines with high expectations of success on Tyneside. Midway through the second half, with his team trailing 0-2, one of their fans lamented: ‘I was thinking this morning, how bad would it be if we lost to these.’ Funny things, expectations. The confident attitude that can prompt one team to make sure it allows no prospect of a cup upset so quickly becomes a cocksure certainty that invites a painful kick up the backside. Newcastle Benfield, an underdog with teeth, were happy to oblige. Admittedly, the early stages hinted at a long afternoon for the hosts. Mark Convery set up his team in a 4-5-1 formation with birthday boy Paul Brayson, 40 years young, leading the line. The idea was clear: boss the midfield, and look to push men up to support Brayson wherever possible. In practice, though, it left the striker isolated and the midfield bereft of outlets. The first rain of a showery afternoon was still slick on the turf when Brayson was berating his colleagues about the need to get forward and support; Ashton looked dangerous, with Matthew Chadwick flashing an early header on target. Gradually, though, Benfield warmed to their task. The centre of the park became more congested, Ashton dropped deeper to hunt the ball and there was scope for the home attack to get forward. In between two penalty shouts – one hopeful, the second plausible – the officials managed to annoy the away team but overruling the claims of offside from the defence. Dylan McEvoy raced through to open the scoring. It got better for Benfield: Brayson, ageless, added a second after the break. Ashton’s switch to three at the back, intended to gain purchase in midfield, backfired; the substituted full-back didn’t argue with his friend’s Anglo-Saxon assessment of the new-look defence. The visitor threatened a late rally. Alex Nesbit saw a straight red late on after a lunge in midfield. When Ashton sub Alex Johnson deflected a shot past Andrew Grainger in the Benfield net moments later, the fightback was on. But Chadwick fired wide with the Robins’ clearest opportunity, and that confirmed an impressive win against a team from two leagues higher. 13/09/2017 Heaton Stannington 3 Northallerton Town 1 – Ebac Northern League Division Two Sometimes neutrals can see a different game from fans. Heaton Stannington fans will point to three points and three goals against one of the top sides in the division. Northallerton fans will point to a missed penalty early in the second half that would have got them back on levels terms. And yet, as a neutral, the game was on the disappointing side. Heaton Stan started strongly and confidently and had a number of shots on target. They took an early 8th minute lead when Ethan Tait picked up a rebound off the bar from a looping header to score. Northallerton only started to settle into their game after 10 minutes. The first half then developed into a midfield stalemate. The second half started with a great early chance for Northallerton to draw level. Two minutes after the break Heaton Stannington’s Adam Laidler was judged to have pushed Stephen Jackson as he ran in the box, but Karl Hewitt put the penalty over the bar. Hewitt made a more meaningful contribution at the other end just over 10 minutes later, clearing a Dan Robinson header off the Northallerton line. The game then reverted to the first half midfield stalemate, with both teams struggling to string more than a couple of passes together. There was plenty of endeavour in the game without it sparking into life until the last 10 minutes or so. Matty Shaftoe doubled the host’s lead in the 81st minute when he flicked a header in from a corner. The game looked as though it had run its course but then there were two late, late goals – one for each side. In added time Abu Salim latched on to a through ball, paused and knocked it past Tom Dawson in the Northallerton goal. We all presumed that was that until, with the last attack of the game Shaun Hudson broke clear to score in the 92nd minute. There were no celebrations – there wasn’t much point. The late goals gave the scoreline a gloss that the overall game didn’t really deserve. Well, that’s how it looked for the neutral. 12/09/2017 Consett 3 North Shields 2 – Ebac Northern League Division One This was another quality game between two quality teams with a couple of quality goals. Despite the pouring rain, both sides laid on a high tempo game with movement and passing that paid scant regard to the conditions. North Shields striker Gareth Bainbridge looked back to his best and it was no surprise that he bagged both the goals for the visitors. The first one was a simple tap in from a couple of feet away in the 10th minute after Dean Holmes fired one cross in. It found Ryan Carr on the right hand side of the six yard line and he knocked it back across for Bainbridge to apply the finishing touch. His second in the second half was set up by the pass of the game – from Gary Ormston who threaded it between a couple of defenders. Bainbridge still had plenty to do – he cut across one defender and produced a smart finish that levelled it up at 2-2. In between Bainbridge’s brace Consett produced their own quality. With two minutes to go before the break Calvin Smith intercepted a North Shields pass and curled a shot past Kyle Hayes from 20 yards out to make it 1-1. They took that momentum into the second half. Within two minutes of the re-start a sloppy back pass almost allowed Michael Mackay to score. His effort hit the bar and came back out. David Dowson pounced to make it 2-1. Consett edged the game in the second half when they had a bit more focus than North Shields. They almost benefitted from what looked a harsh decision when Jordan Summerly was judged to have tripped Mackay in the box. Hayes guessed right with the spot kick to save from Mackay. The decider came in the 66th minute. Jordan Lavery played a quick give and go with Dowson, took the ball on and struck with his left foot to give Hayes no chance. Consett chairman Frank Bell was pleased as punch at the final whistle – rightly proud of the younger members of his squad who had been drafted in to fill the gaps left by a whole host of injuries. They in turn did him proud. PSG might have been parading their half-a-billion pound squad at Celtic in the Champions League, but I wouldn’t have swapped games. The game at Belle View was a great advert for the Northern League. 09/09/2017 Newcastle Benfield 1 Whitley Bay 4 – Ebac Northern League Division One Blyth AFC 2 West Allotment Celtic 1 – Buildbase FA Vase first qualifying round With six members of the first team squad missing, Whitley Bay’s trip to the Sam Smiths Sports Ground could have been an uphill struggle, especially in light of losing 2-0 to the same opponents in the FA Cup a week ago. Instead they produced one of the best performances seen by the blog so far this season. Once they got into their stride – and it took a bit of time to get there – they looked unstoppable. It might be unfair to pick out individual performances, but here goes anyway: On his day, Peter Glen-Ravenhill can be an elegant and effective striker. Today was one of those days. He ghosted around the Benfield penalty area, set up goals and chances for team mates and was involved in many of Whitley Bay’s best attacking moves with some wonderful passes. Alex Kempster is one of the most improved players I’ve seen in the first division over the last two years. A couple of seasons ago it was clear he had skill but he still had something to learn about football at this level. He’s learning quickly. He makes intelligent runs on and off the ball, his passing and crossing is much improved and he’s scoring some excellent goals. He’s much more of a threat. Scott Jasper was a pain in the proverbial for the Benfield defence with his work-rate and running. And finally keeper Thomas Flynn. His team were 4-1 and looked as though they were coasting to an easy victory but Benfield could have clawed it back in the last 15 minutes. John Campbell couldn’t have hit a free kick more sweetly only to see Flynn pull off the first of two great saves. He repeated the feat a couple of minutes later when Joe Hailes hit another strong shot which Flynn parried. All three outfielders were given generous applause as, one by one, they were substituted, their work done. For the record Kempster got a couple, Thomas Potter scored just before half-time and Thibault Charmey made it four, finishing off a smart move involving Kempster and Liam Brooks. And what of Newcastle Benfield? For the first 15-20 minutes they played the better football: comfortable on the ball and knocking it around confidently. Their main problem, especially in the first half, was that most of their chances ended up sailing over the bar. Like Whitley Bay, they played open, attacking football and in the early stages it looked as though it was going to be a close contest. They also had the TMB factor – That Man Brayson. Inevitably he scored. He picked the ball up 35 yards out, ran forward unopposed and struck home. It gave them a lift and they finished well, but had too much to make up by the time he scored. Three hours earlier Blyth AFC were trying to get their first ever win in the FA Vase with their all-Northern League tie against West Allotment Celtic. It wasn’t quite as entertaining as the Benfield/Whitley Bay game, but was much improved compared to when these two teams met in the league a couple of weeks ago. Two first half goals put Blyth in control of the game, although West Allotment didn’t do themselves any favours with either of them. In the 15th minute they had to make two goal line clearances in quick succession but on neither occasion did they relieve the pressure by just thumping the ball as far upfield as possible. They gave Blyth a third bite of the cherry and Ryan McGorrigan fired the ball back to the goal and it went in off Allotment keeper Daniel Charlton. For the second Charlton and the defensive wall didn’t line up properly for a free kick just outside the box. Most people were expecting Ben Richardson to take it but Luke Gillesphey took the initiative, picked his spot and squeezed it in just inside the post. Just before the half hour mark Blyth defender Matthew Tumilty was caught in possession by Shaun Reay, he shrugged off a challenge, kept his poise to pull a goal back for the visitors. It gave them some much-needed confidence. In the second half Blyth stepped up their tempo and put the West Allotment defence under more sustained pressure, they just couldn’t extend their lead. In the end this was a relatively comfortable win for Blyth but you get the impression they’re not yet fulfilling the potential of the squad. 08/09/2017 Whickham 3 Newton Aycliffe 1 – Buildbase FA Vase first qualifying round Fellow ground hopper Pete Sixsmith speculated before the game whether a giant killing tie was in the offing. I’d like to know which numbers he’s put on today’s lottery – he was spot on. Whickham’s victory was built on two simple foundations: hard work and team work. They won 50-50 balls, they didn’t let Newton Aycliffe settle on the ball, they didn’t mess about when defending – clearing the ball as quickly as possible – and they put maximum effort in from front to back for 90+ minutes. They never looked back after the visitors squandered a great chance to take the lead in the 15th minute. A mis-kicked clearance by Whickham keeper John Mordey on the edge of his box only made it as far as Kieran Duffy-Weekes. He lobbed it back over the keeper but he couldn’t hit the empty goal. It was a crucial miss. Less than 10 minutes later Chad Collins met a Kallum Broadhead cross with an unchallenged header to make it 1-0. Newton Aycliffe’s overall play hadn’t been great up to the goal but Andrew Grant-Soulsby almost levelled it up when he had an effort come back off the bar. It was a rare, clear-cut chance for Aycliffe – they were being tackled out of the first half. After the break Whickham doubled their lead when a Steve Aiston diving header at the far post converted a Kyle Wharton cross. The goal spurred Aycliffe to produce their best spell of the match. Their play had more urgency to it, their passing improved and they found a way back into the game when Matthew Pannal ran across the front of the defence and got to a corner first. He slid it goal-wards and it went in off John Marton. But within a minute Whickham had re-established their two-goal advantage. Wharton managed to hold off a strong challenge, keep his balance and fire it into the top left corner of the goal past keeper James Winter who could do little about an excellent finish. It was one of the best moves of the game and deserved to seal the win. It knocked the stuffing out of Aycliffe and then things went from bad to worse to even worse for them. Matthew Pannal was sent off and two more players had to leave the field after picking up injuries. All three substitutes had already been used and that left the visitors with only eight players on the pitch at the final whistle. In mitigation, Newton Aycliffe were a long way short of being able to start with their best 11 players because of a combination of players being either injured or unavailable – but that shouldn’t detract from a spirited and thoroughly deserved win for the Tynesiders. 06/09/2017 Bishop Auckland 4 West Auckland Town 3 – Ebac Northern League Division One This was football cliché and drama writ large. First the clichés. It’s a funny old game. The form book goes out the window in derbies. You have to make the most of your chances. The league table doesn’t lie. In this league any team can beat any other team. Goals change games. Next the drama. Bishop Auckland have got off to a pretty miserable start to the season, while their (very) near neighbours are flying high, top of the division going into the game. And for the opening 10 minutes or so, it looked as though the table wasn’t lying. West had three shots in the first five minutes and that became five by the 12th. Bishop Auckland were hanging on by the skin of their teeth and it wasn’t until the 13th minute before they had their first shot. And then up popped Andrew Johnson bearing down on goal only to be fouled by Dan Parker. Penalty. Johnson took the spot kick, Jack Norton guessed right and pulled off the save. The reprieve only lasted a second or two as Alex Francis was quickest to the ball and scored. 22 minutes gone and the game could have already been beyond the home team. Francis and Johnson combined again for the second, this time Francis picking Johnson out, the Bishops number 9 got his angles right and all of a sudden they were 2-0 up. They’d been second best for almost half an hour apart from one crucial category – the one that counts. It took West another 10 minutes before they settled back into their game, but they got back into the game in some style. Anthony Bell picked up the ball more than 20 yards out. Everyone just seemed to stop, apart from Bell who tried a long-range curler. Defenders and keeper Peter Jeffries were rooted to the spot as it squeezed in by the left post. 2-1 and it was no more than they deserved. As the game progressed in the second half, Bishop Auckland improved while West Auckland dropped away, producing few moves that lasted more than three or four passes. The hosts were disrupting their play effectively and had got their lead by hard work and making the most of their chances. But there were more twists in the tale. 63rd minute: Matty Moffatt shoots through a bunch of defenders and it looks a certain goal until Parker handles the ball to deny him. Parker is handed his marching orders and Priestley Griffiths converts the penalty. 3-1. 83rd minute: Moffatt edges the ball to Thomas McAloon, he dithers and fluffs a chance to make it four. It was a miss that could have cost Bishop Auckland dear, West go straight up the other end and a Nathan Fisher shot takes a deflection and is in. 3-2. And there’s more. 87th minute: Ben Wood to Darren Richardson and Richardson scores. 3-3. West Auckland had launched a late, late comeback and it looked as though Bishop Auckland had blown their chance, until…. 88th minute: A powerful header by Daryll Hall looked certain to go in, Francis gets a touch and Bishop Auckland had clinched a classic. A bumper crowd of 750 had been served up a treat. 05/09/2017 Northallerton Town 1 Hebburn Town 3 - Ebac Northern League Division Two It’s a bit of a hike for the blog down to Northallerton, but this game was well worth the journey – four goals, two red cards and plenty of gutsy football. Hebburn started the better and seemed to have more confidence in their football in the opening 10 minutes, while Northallerton were chasing the game and struggling with crosses and corners knocked into the box. Tom Dawson in the home goal was the busier of the two, especially dealing with two Sam Bramley headers. At the other end Bramley managed to tackle Northallerton striker Nicky Martin just as he was about to shoot. Bramley had a more significant contribution later. Then just before the half hour Northallerton defender Sam Grainger changed the whole complexion of the game. Kris Hughes produced one of the passes of the season so far, slotting it perfectly through the defence for Jason Blackburn to run on to into the Northallerton box. In desperation Grainger caught him from behind to concede a nailed-on penalty and was duly booked for his efforts. Hughes stepped up to make it 0-1. Minutes later a rush of blood by Grainger cost his team dearly. A lunging tackle could easily have been a straight red. Instead the referee showed him his second yellow and he was off. A man down, it was a damage limitation exercise for the home team who, at the most, committed two or three players to attacks but they were up against six to eight defenders. Martin had one chance in the 30th minute but he took four touches instead of pulling the trigger at the first opportunity and the chance was gone. For their part, Hebburn were quick and direct when they attacked and they doubled their lead just before the break when Peter Jones picked his spot with an accurate finish. It was well into the second half before Northallerton fully recovered, and that was mainly thanks to another poor tackle – this time by Bramley who was shown a straight red in the 56th minute. The sending off gave Northallerton something they looked as though they’d been lacking since going down to 10 men – a belief they could get something out of the game. The red card was the green light for them to press and press. They created enough chances to salvage of point and they’ll be kicking themselves at some of the opportunities they squandered. Aaron Ramsbottom gave them a lifeline in the 67th minute. He found himself six yards out with a clear chance on goal. He couldn’t miss and didn’t. But as they pressed forward for the equaliser, they were always susceptible to the counter attack and so it proved. With six minutes to go Channon North, on as a substitute, sealed the game with a goal to make it 3-1. This game continued the theme of most division two games attended so far this season: commitment and hard running, good football and very good entertainment. 02/09/2017 Sunderland RCA 0 Liversedge 0 – Emirates FA Cup first qualifying round When defences are on top, it’s not usually a thrilling game of football, and so it proved at Meadow Park yesterday. There were chances for both teams, but they were few and far between. The 0-0 score line told the tale of two teams that couldn’t be separated and reflected the play. It was a game lacking creativity and some clinical finishing. It wasn’t a dirty game with reckless tackles but one peppered with niggling fouls which did little to help the ebb and flow of play. RCA got away with a very early scare that could have dumped them out of the cup. Roy Fogarty from the Northern Counties East Premier Division team had a golden chance to score in the opening seconds only to see his effort cleared off the line by RCA’s number four Adam McGuinness. Leaving Fogarty unmarked six yards out wasn’t the best start for the Wearsiders and for the opening 10 minutes they generally looked a bit out of synch and subdued. It wasn’t until the 16th minute when they started to threaten the Liversedge goal with a couple of chances, with none of them were on target. RCA came closest to scoring in the first half on the 35th minute when James Cassidy broke free and ran on goal only to see his effort blocked by Liversedge keeper James Waggett. The second half was a repeat performance, niggling fouls, attempts on goal not quite on target and midfields and strikers struggling to make headway against the defences. Like RCA, Liversedge survived a close shave. It was Cassidy again who had the chance and once again it was cleared off the line, this time by the visitor’s number four Joe Kenny. The two number fours kept their team in the tie with identical, crucial interceptions. Colin Larkin wasn’t available for RCA for the game and he was a big miss. He’s the kind of player who could have produced that bit of quality to make a difference. The magic of the FA Cup was missing, so it’s down to West Yorkshire for the replay.