NORTHERN FOOTBALL LEAGUE
Founded 1889 - second oldest League in the world
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Wednesday, 24 January 2018
31/10/2017 Tow Law Town 0 Durham City 2 – Ebac Northern League Division Two Going into this game, an away would look to have been a slightly surprising result: Tow Law among the leaders of the second division and Durham hovering mid-table. At the end of the game, the result was anything but a surprise. Durham started and settled into the game quicker than their hosts. They played the better football too over the 90 minutes. And on a night of few shots on target by either team, their two goals were pretty decent too. The game was rather dominated by both teams keeping the ball bouncing around a congested midfield for three or five passes and then giving possession away. It was Durham who were most successful from breaking this stalemate with overlapping runs by full-backs Alex Dobinson and Joshua Thompson. Their attacks were of a faster pace and had a bit more guile about them. Their defence was solid, with not much getting past their 18-yard line. Having seen the Lawyers a couple of times this season, their performance was a disappointment, especially in the way they booted the ball upfield without much purpose or accuracy. And the players clearly got more and frustrated as the match progressed – becoming more vociferous in their complaints about decisions, committing more fouls and then several players being booked in quick succession. The goals made up for a lot of the huff and puff on show. Callum Smith scored the first in the 37th minute when he controlled a cross, took a touch which turned a defender and buried it in the back of the net. Durham were good for their lead going into the break. Caris Dean wasted an excellent chance to make it 2-0 in the 87th minute when put through by Kieran McWaters only to see his shot blocked by Tow Law keeper Gareth Young. Dean set up Durham’s second goal in the 89th minute when he pulled the back from the byline, setting Nick Allen up, and the Durham man thumped it in. Just as Durham were good for their lead at the end of the first half, they were certainly good for the win at the end. It’s back-to-back wins for them. With seconds to go a Tow Law shot went 15 yards wide. It didn’t quite sum up their night, but they’ve played far better than this. 28/10/2017 Marske United 2 Ryhope CW 0 – Ebac Northern League Division One If we had such awards, Ryhope keeper Jonathan Ball would have won the nomination for man of the match by a country mile. And he only played for just under an hour of the game. He pulled off four superb saves to save his teammates’ blushes. Bizarrely, at the end of the game, both teams were lucky: Marske were lucky that Ryhope didn’t snatch a point with their best chance (and one of only a few) with only four minutes to go. Ryhope were lucky that the scoreline wasn’t five or six against them, and that was all down to Ball. Those of a Ryhope disposition may want to look away now. In the first half especially, they were very poor. For the first five or 10 minutes it looked as though they thought they were still warming up. And for big chunks of the half they looked as though they’d never played together before. Whenever they did have the ball, they tried to punt it long and each time, their passes were easily intercepted by the Marske defence. Meanwhile, Marske should have been home and hosed by half-time. They played excellent controlled, passing football. Three minutes in Glen Butterworth was one-on-one with Ball who managed to spread himself and get enough on the shot to force a corner. He repeated the save 14 minutes later to deny Danny Earl. In between Ryhope’s Danny Gordon brought down Craig Gott in the area. Gott converted the penalty to make it 1-0. In the first half hour, Ryhope managed one header and one shot. James Ellis had two chances in quick succession in the 39th and 40th minute for the visitors, but they were very much against the run of play. Normal service was resumed right on the 45th minute when Ball made a terrific double save. One nil down, and it could have been so much worse for Ryhope. When Ball was substituted after picking up a knock, Marske failed to test Antony Lowerson on many occasions in the second half. Ryhope did improve in the second half, especially in the last 15 minutes when they managed to string some passed together and play more of their football in the Marske half. In the 86th minute Corey Nicholson latched on to a mis-placed Marske pass, crossed it to Josh Home-Jackson who came steaming into the box and flicked it past home keeper Robert Dean only to see it just scrape past the outside of the post. Marske doubled their lead in the 93rd minute when they finally converted one of their numerous quick breaks in the second half. Butterworth crossed the ball and Gott scored after making a far post run. The game should have been closed off far earlier. As the spectators left the ground, one Marske fan said: “We made hard work of that.” Indeed. (A final word for referee Alex Clark: I thought he was excellent – one of the best referee’s games I’ve seen this season. He got every decision right, didn’t make a drama out of decisions, didn’t turn having to talk to players into a sermon, didn’t try to be the centre of attention and kept the game going.) 27/10/2017 Darlington RA 1 Billingham Town 3 – Ebac Northern League Division Two A referee’s lot (and sometimes a blogger’s) is not always a happy one. I was convinced Damon Reaks had fouled a Billingham Town player outside the box. A spectator next to me had other ideas: “Definitely inside…..mind you, I’m a Billingham Town fan.” Another observer thought that, like me, it was outside the box. That view came from RA secretary Alan Hamilton, so not exactly an impartial observer. Two other spectators – Newton Aycliffe press officer Bob Wood and North Shields committee man/league social media co-ordinator Russell Wynn – thought it was a penalty. And of course, only one man’s views mattered. Referee Joe Knowles didn’t have the luxury of debating the decision and he awarded the spot kick which was duly despatched by Ashely Lavan. Earlier, two quick goals promised a highly entertaining, high scoring encounter. An Elliott Beddow cross was met at the far post by Jake Fenton to put Town 1-0 after only three minutes. RA were level four minutes later when Dominic Joynes harried Town keeper Alexander Leeds as he unsuccessfully tried to gather the ball, allowing Joynes to poke it into the net for 1-1. Town edged the rest of the first half, but it was 45 minutes dominated by defenders and midfielders as the teams battled it out between the 18-yard lines. In the second half Mr Knowles seemed to spend most of his time awarding free kicks, warning players and booking them. In between all that, RA had their best spell of the game. For 20 minutes they looked more confident and more positive, their passing improved and they started to play more of their football in Town’s half. But they, just like their visitors, just lacked some quality and guile up front. The game was put beyond RA in the 75th minute when Craig Ruddy sent over the cross of the match. Kris Summers out-jumped the defenders to power in a header. In added time, RA had one last chance cleared off the line. (I’m still not sure about the penalty, though.) 25/10/2017 Jarrow 1 Dunston UTS 3 – Durham Challenge Cup This was more of an interesting than a thrilling game. The first division team never looked in serious danger of losing the cup tie, but division two Jarrow can take a degree of satisfaction from putting up a spirited, competitive performance against one of the best teams in the league. The visitors couldn’t take their foot off the gas and were forced to keep going right to the end rather than coast to the whistle. Like last night’s game at RCA, both sides made a brisk start and I did wonder whether they’d both be able to maintain the pace. Apart from a shot by Liam Thear, which rattled off the bar in the 14th minute, the opening 20 minutes featured plenty of activity without much of note. The 20 minute mark also saw Jarrow passes begin to go astray and the balance of the match starting to tilt towards Dunston. That was confirmed in the 26th minute when Adam Rundle took a pass on the edge of the box; a couple of feints and shimmies took the Dunston man past three Jarrow defenders, he got himself into some space and a confident finish made it 0-1. The visitors then started to boss the game. Dunston striker Mark Fitzpatrick had only managed one shot until the 34th minute when he had two in quick succession: the first was blocked by Jarrow keeper Gary Frater, the ball fell back to Fitzpatrick and his second effort was cleared off the line by Nicholas Little. At the other end, Jarrow were finding it difficult to get much going until the 40th minute when Jordan Mellish made it 1-1 by scoring from a shot that rebounded back off the bar. The chance came out of the blue and was their first real chance for 20 minutes and gave them a confidence boost going into the break. But with the second half only three minutes old Dunston re-took the lead when a one-two between Callum Elliott and Fitzpatrick opened up the Jarrow defence, Fitzpatrick pulled it back for Steven Anderson who cantered into the box and struck it home. In the 55th minute Fitzpatrick had another chance – going for placement rather than power with a shot that hit the bar. He wrapped the game up in the 75th minute. Frater fluffed a clearance and couldn’t stop Thear tapping it to Fitzpatrick who in turn tapped it into the net to make it 1-3. Thear had his own chance to score with eight minutes to go, taking a Fitzpatrick pass in front of goal. He could have hit it first time, instead took three touches, was forced wide by defenders and shot wide. This blog may make it sound as though Jarrow were swamped by Dunston chances, but it wasn’t quite that on the night. Jarrow kept their shape, clearly work well as a team and pressed Dunston throughout the game. They’ll come up against much weaker opposition in the weeks and months ahead. Hopefully the game will have been a good barometer of how far they’ve come in a year. 24/10/2017 Sunderland RCA 3 Seaham Red Star 2 – Durham Challenge Cup I rarely see a bad game involving either RCA or Red Star, and this game didn’t disappoint. Right from the off it was clear that it wasn’t going to be a dull, slow game. The brisk start was carried through much of the match. RCA were first out of the blocks with three shots in the opening four minutes, but Red Star came closest in the opening minutes when a shot by Ash Davis was only just saved by RCA keeper Keith Finch at full stretch. RCA had more shots, but most of them went wide right. They also had a series of “almost” crosses which almost found their man, they were just not quite accurate enough. A pattern of play started to emerge – RCA’s attacks were more methodical, working through their midfield, while Red Star relied on quick breaks. With only a couple of minutes to go before the break RCA almost took the lead when Red Star keeper Jordan Harkess could only palm an Adam McGuinness free kick into the air. Colin Larkin followed it up and his effort was cleared off the line by David Scorer. They finally managed to take the lead in added time when Nathan O’Neill lost his marker at a corner and headed it in past a melee of players in the six yard box. RCA picked up where they left off in the second half and within five minute they doubled their lead when O’Neill grabbed his and the team’s second. He managed to get on the end of a low cross and hit the ball as he was falling backwards and the ball bobbled over the line through a crowd of players. It wasn’t the most elegant of goals but it put Red Star on the back foot for much of the second half – a half which RCA controlled for much of the 45 minutes. In the 55th minute McGuinness tried a 30-yard shot which bounced off the top of the bar and it was against the run of play when Red Star gave themselves a foothold in the game when Thomas Scott met a perfect cross with a perfect head back across Finch to make it 2-1 in the 61st minute. The goal sparked a mini-revival by Red Star. It wasn’t to last long. Five minutes later Harkess couldn’t hold on to a Luke Page shot, Michael Charlton was quickest to react and he prodded it home. In the second half RCA’s spells were better and longer than Red Star’s who relied on Scott up front to pose their main threat – he looked their best player, albeit in a losing cause. With four minutes to go, Red Star gave themselves a glimmer of hope when Robbie Bird was brought down in the box and Davis converted the penalty. RCA deserved their 3-2 win, even though they couldn’t extend their lead with a late, late flurry. 21/10/2017 Pete Sixsmith braves the weather to see an FA Vase upset The FA Vase First Round is one of the best days on the Northern League calendar and for once, the FA has got it right. Of the 12 ties only one is an all Northern League tie and our teams are pitting their wits against the likes of Burscough, Westella and Willerby and West Didsbury and Chorlton – hopefully the Wheelies would be attending their game with West Auckland. Being on the pension, I opted for a local game and, not having the infinite patience or stoicism required to brave either the Silverlink traffic conundrum or the hell of the Western by-pass as the Christmas shopping season starts at the Metro Centre, I opted for a 20 minute spin up to Ironworks Road, the home of Tow Law Town. They had an attractive looking game against NCEL Premier Division Bridlington Town, a club with ambitions of getting back into the Northern Premier system and managed by one time Sheffield United star and former British light-welterweight champion, Curtis Woodhouse. Growing up as one of the very few black people in Beverley, when faced with racial abuse “a smack in the mouth soon put a stop to that.” It was a perfect day for watching football at Tow Law. The wind was blowing, the turbine on the open side of the ground was whirring away merrily and, just before kick-off, the rain started, causing this correspondent to abandon his favoured view overlooking the glories of Weardale, for a sheltered seat in the stand. The visitors had a decent following, mostly middle aged/elderly types who had worked as extras in the recent big screen version of Dad’s Army that was filmed in the town. However, for this game, there was no sign of Sergeant Wilson’s coolness under pressure , more like Corporal Jones’s regular intonations of “Don’t panic” as the ball was leathered all around, and often out of, the Ironworks Road stadium. Bridlington played the more thoughtful football as they tried to seize control of the game. They played a 4-5-1 system with the big target man Brett Agnew the recipient of their passes, some long, some short. In contrast, the Lawyers moved the ball quickly to Lewis Teasdale and Dean Thexton, sometimes being caught offside by a Brid defence who decided that the risk was worth taking. The East Riding side were the better of the two in the first half as they kicked with the wind towards the Weardale end of the ground. Just when it looked as if the Lawyers were going to go in for their Bovril level, a header by a defender hit centre half Kevin Dixon on the head and rolled into the net to leave Brid a goal to the good and looking as if they could build on it. The Lawyers had different ideas though. Playing with the wind at their backs and with vociferous local support massed behind the covered goal (the open side was now empty save for one man grimly trying to keep hold of an umbrella), they flung themselves at the visitors in search of an early leveller. It came within two minutes of the restart when Matty Smith was played in and he scored comfortably, although a section of the 182 hardy souls in attendance, were too busy bemoaning the fact that Brentford had pulled a goal back against Sunderland. The longer the game went on, the more Bridlington were squeezed and the more they complained. The young referee began to make some less assured decisions and was usually surrounded by a group of red shirted players who attempted to put doubts into his mind – a form of gamesmanship which might not affect the Michael Oliver’s of this world but does have an impact on less experienced officials. The rain continued to lash down – even umbrella man had moved by now- and the pitch was becoming very squelchy. One of my colleagues was hoping that extra time was avoided as he was attending a birthday party that night and his wishes were granted when Dean Thexton cut in from the left and scored an excellent goal, sparking riotous celebrations from the self-styled Misfits hunkered in the covered end. Bridlington rarely looked like levelling and the Lawyers had a couple of other chances to seal it. Tom Orton in the Lawyers goal had barely touched the ball in the second half and complained that parts of his body (we won’t go into which parts) were extremely cold and he couldn’t wait to get into the shower to warm up. The firm blast of the referees whistle gave him that opportunity as Bridlington trudged off, victims of a giant killing act, not quite as grand as the 5-1 demolition of Mansfield Town in 1967 but one that gives Tow Law a greater chance of getting closer to a Wembley final. Like Private Fraser, they were doomed…… The short journey home (no roadworks, no hold ups, save for a 30 second stop at the traffic lights outside Asda in Bishop Auckland) allowed me to curse Brentford for having the temerity to equalise at Griffin Park and chuckle at Manchester United losing at Huddersfield. In many ways it was far better than spending three hours avoiding motorway closures, heavy traffic and Robbie Savage on 606. The other results were interesting, with only Ashington losing to “foreign” opponents and Ryhope CW and Whitley Bay leading the way with rousing victories. We had to wait for Benfield’s result to come through as they had been taken to extra time by Pickering Town and we will have to wait until Tuesday to see if Marske can win at what was, presumably, a very soggy AFC Darwen. Dontch’a just love the FA Vase…….. 18/10/2017 Brandon 1 West Allotment Celtic 2 – Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup This was the first game that the Ebac Northern League streamed live on Facebook and there was certainly plenty for the audience both at the ground and online to see – not all of it involving football on its best behaviour. On the positive side, the game was a good, even contest decided by two own goals and a little cracker of a strike. Early on, West Allotment’s attacks had a bit more compsosure, while Brandon’s attacks had men in space, their team-mates just couldn’t find them. The first own goal came in the 10th minute when a Brandon free kick was fired into the box, the ball was poked towards the goal and got a deflection off Allotment captain and number five Ian Dunn before scraping over the line. A couple of minutes later the visitors almost pulled it level only to see a shot hit the bar. They got it back to 1-1 with another own goal in the 32nd minute. A Bruno Mendes-Lorreia shot hit Brandon captain and number five Steven Turnbull and took it past keeperJohn Brown. The goal spurred Brandon on to their best play of the half, they had a couple of openings, their players just seemed reluctant to take a pot shot. They started the second half the brighter of the teams too, with Jack Pounder turning a defender and curling the ball past Taylor only to see Elliot Mitchell clear it a yard from the line. The winner came in the 70th minute when Alex Berhan found himself in some space, took it to his right and hit a terrific strike up and over Brown from distance, giving him no chance to make a save. The rest of the game was dominated by the negative side, there were two multi-player confrontations and two red cards – one a straight one. The first red card was just before the hour mark when Jason White was given a second yellow. The referee twice had to intervene in confrontations and spoke to both captains to try and calm the players down with the game in danger of getting out of hand with some potentially nasty tackles. Another red card seemed inevitable and Turnbull was sent off for a tackle that left West Allotment striker Dean Walker needing treatment and hobbling off the pitch. It was a tetchy end to what had been a decent cup tie. West Allotment were better than the other times I’ve seen them this season, but they’ll need to keep on improving if they’re to pull away from the bottom of the division. Needless to say, Brandon didn’t do themselves any favours by ending the game with only nine men on the pitch. PS: The live Facebook stream was an experiment by the league and the online watching audience included viewers from London and Dublin. The trial seems to have gone down well. 16/10/2017 Team Northumbria 2 Penrith 0 – Ebac Northern League Division One Team Northumbria beat Penrith with a little room to spare. For 20 minutes or so it was pretty even between the two sides but as the game progressed Team North improved and Penrith struggled. And for those opening 20 minutes the game was busy rather than noteworthy. And for much of the first half generally, Team North created the openings but didn’t do much with them. Perennial goalscorer Ben Dibb-Fuller broke the deadlock in the 39th minute with a well-taken goal. He took a long ball, turned the Penrith defender, took another touch and tucked it into the near post with not much to aim for. Penrith couldn’t muster too much to trouble home keeper Stefan Holden whose toughest save was in the 52nd minute when Shaun Gardner struck a low drive at the near post. Two minutes later Team North had doubled their lead and it crowned the best pass of the game. Kevin Carr threaded a beautiful pass between the Penrith defence, setting Joshua Bynoe up and he hit it first time to score with a precise finish. My second half notes on Penrith mainly consisted of “shot on target but weak”. They lack a cutting edge. High winds didn’t help the quality of the football, but Team North looked much more comfortable than the Cumbrians. 14/10/2017 Guiseley 6 Shildon 0 Emirates FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round Looking at the scoreline you would have thought there was little positive to reflect on for the Railwaymen, but there were some real pluses from yesterday’s game. Firstly, it was a tremendous achievement just to reach the fourth qualifying round – winning six matches on the way. And for the first 45 minutes they more than held their own against opponents who are several divisions further up the league system. No-one seemed to have told the Shildon players that they were the under-dogs. They matched Guiseley as far as the quality of the football on offer in the first half, creating some chances and defending well. Their only problem was that too many of their moves broke down at the 18-yard line, with Adam Burnicle a solitary striker. Most of their best moves were down the right, where Jamie Harwood found time and space to cause Guiseley’s defence some problems. Guiseley had to make one goal-line clearance from a Lewis Dodds shot and twice they had to frantically put the ball over their own bar to relieve Shildon pressure. 0-0 was a fair reflection of the first-half. Guiseley were late coming back out for the second half. One suspects they may well have been given a rollicking by their new manager. If they were, it certainly worked. With just over15 minutes of the second half gone Shildon were 3-0 down. Guiseley cranked their play up by a couple of gears and all of a sudden Shildon couldn’t cope with their attacks. Mike Fondop produced a man-of-the-match performance. Apart from a couple of goals, he hounded the Shildon defence and was instrumental in turning the game in the home team’s favour. Kyle May was given a red card for a foul on Fondop in the box just as he was about to shoot. The penalty – their third goal – was effectively the end of the game as far as Shildon were concerned. The hosts piled on the agony with three more. In truth it could have been more had it not been for some exceptional saves by Nick Liversedge. The outfielders kept on trying to play football right to the end. The FA Cup dream ended in West Yorkshire but there was certainly no shame in the defeat. 11/10/2017 Morpeth Town 3 Marske United 2 – Ebac Northern League Division One Footballers can be so damn irritating. I had the start of the blog all ready prepared – how both teams seemed to have left their shooting boots at home. And then. And then the last 15 minutes happened. Not just one goal of the season contender. Not two goal of the season contenders, but three absolute stunners which turned this good game into a memorable one. First up was Morpeth captain Keith Graydon, with the score all square at 1-1. From 20 yards out he hit a pile driver that couldn’t have been placed better. The lead lasted a matter of seconds. Second up was Craig Gott whose 35-yard shot had power and bend, giving Morpeth Karl Dryden no chance. It was hard to believe, but it eclipsed the effort by Graydon. Astonishingly even that was beaten by Joe Walton’s winner. With only four minutes of the 90 left, there didn’t seemed to be anything on for the Morpeth man as he took the ball outside the Marske box. Standing side-on to the goal, he flicked it up, turned and volleyed it in with an unstoppable, unsaveable gem. Marske heads sank. In the second half they’d been put under the cosh by Morpeth but had defended stoutly, albeit at times hanging on precariously and they obviously thought they’d rescued a point with the Gott goal. After the three goals, the rest of the game pales in comparison. I lost count of the shots that went high or wide. Joe Walton was one of the guilty parties for not hitting the target. Set up by Ben Sayer, he had time to pick his spot as the Marske defenders appealed for offside, but he blasted it wide with the goal gaping. His goal more than made up for the miss. Given the lack of accurate shooting, it was somewhat appropriate that it was a header rather than a shot that opened the scoring. Morpeth failed to mark Adam Wheatley at a corner, the centre back headed it down and it sneaked under a bunch of defenders and Dryden. It wasn’t the host’s defence at their best. It got Marske’s noses in front at half time but in the 54th minute Liam Henderson made it 1-1 with one of the few shots on target, although it looked as though it took a deflection on the way in. For 30 minutes of the second half, Marske were tenancious - but having to defend in numbers – with Wheatley leading by example while Morpeth dominated the play. It looked as though they were going to have to settle for a draw. And then the fun really started. Those three goals will live long in the memory. 10/10/2017 Durham City 3 Team Northumbria 2 – Brooks Mileson League Cup Sometimes strikers have one of those games and last night Durham striker Bradley Hird had one of those games. He showed a combination of pace, strength, being in the right place at the right time and, most importantly, he tucked away his three chances with aplomb. Within 10 minutes he was two-thirds of the way towards a hat-trick. Seven minutes in he sprinted past a square back four, rounded keeper Stefan Holden and finished from a tight angle. Three minutes later he exploited the high back line for the visitors for a second time to make it 2-0 with a precise finish. It took Team Northumbria 20 minutes to find their feet. Up until then they looked out of sorts while Durham showed energy and pace. Their best chance in the opening half an hour was a free kick by Scott Gunn which he got over the wall but wide. On target it would have been a goal, with Durham keeper Dean Caris rooted to the spot. Durham clearly had a gameplan to close down the Team North back four as quickly as possible and it certainly stifled their efforts to play the ball from the back. They played with shape and discipline and matched their first division opponents. Team North pulled one back in the 33rd minute when a neat flick by Scott Gunn set Joshua Bynoe up and he couldn’t miss from close quarters. They almost made it level three minutes later when Caris missed a Team North corner, forcing Craig Hennis to clear off the line and then with minutes to go before the break, Robert Spence saw his diving header go wide. Team North had finally got into their stride. They picked up where they left off in the second half too, with chances for Gunn and Bynoe who left the Durham defenders standing only to be denied by Caris racing off his line to smother the ball. In the second half Durham’s defence was far busier than their attack and Adam Crathorne in particular had a stand-out performance at the back. With a couple of minutes left they extended their lead against the run of play when Team North failed to fully clear their lines from a corner, Hird found himself in the right place at the right time, went for placement rather than power and found the corner of the goal. Deep into added time, a long ball through by Team North skipped between defenders, past Caris and trundled into the goal to leave it 3-2 but a notable scalp for Durham. 07/10/2017 Washington 1 Penrith 2 – Ebac Northern League Division One Three valuable points for the Bonny Blues and this match was all about the ability to convert superiority into goals. Both teams are scrapping for points at the bottom of the first division and it was the Cumbrians who made the most of the time when they had the upper hand. Washington, on the other hand, couldn’t get a second goal when they were on top and it cost them. In the first half Washington were the better team and they were ahead in the 10th minute when a cross by Robbie Williamson was met by Shaun Pickford with a well-executed first time shot. Only a couple of last-man tackles prevented Washington extending their lead just after the half-hour mark. Williamson was denied a shot with a diving tackle by Grant Davidson and then two minutes later Dean Crozier repeated the feat just as his opposite number Rhys Evans was about to shoot. Penrith weren’t able to mount many attacks and the most difficult incident Washington keeper Daniel Gladstone had to contend with in the first half was a wayward backpass by his skipper Alexander White that almost caught him out. Evans had another effort – this time from 30 yards out – tipped over the bar by Penrith keeper Daniel Eccles. In the second half the tables were turned – Penrith’s play improved, they played further up the pitch and started to create some chances. In the 53rd minute Chris Wraighte ran clear of the Washington defence, Gladstone came sprinting out of his box, Wraighte rounded him, got a shot away and was only denied by a diving block on the line by White. Adam Maine was next up for Penrith, he saw his shot go just wide. In the 70th minute they were level. Jonny Murray was put through, shrugged off a couple of Washington defenders and held his nerve to make it 1-1. Washington had another chance to re-take the lead. Pickford found Sam Grieveson who sprinted on for a one-on-one with Eccles who came off his line to block Pickford’s shot. Murray wrapped up the points for the visitors after Connor Shields raced away from Washington centre half Michael Laws. Shields’ shot was saved by Gladstone but the ball fell kindly for Murray who hit the back of the net for his second. They had the chance to get a third when Shields out-muscled new signing Pascal Chimbonda on the edge of the box, but he couldn’t keep his shot down and it sailed over the bar. There’s a lot of hard work ahead for both teams. Chimbonda watch: Washington’s headline-grabbing signing of Pascal Chambonda boosted the attendance but his debut ended in a defeat. Playing at right back, he wasn’t in the thick of the action but until the dying minutes had a relatively comfortable, straight forward game. He made a couple of penetrating runs down the flanks and always made himself available to other defenders as an outlet. Fitness and a degree of rustiness may have been factors, but in added on time at the end of the match he was out-muscled for the ball by Shields that led to a clear chance for the Cumbrians – a reminder, if any was needed, that it’s a physical league. Signing for the Mechanics made news around the world, including Japan and Bangladesh. Before yesterday’s game he said: “It’s a new experience, I have never played in a division that is the ninth level in the country. “It is two years since my last game, but my fitness is good. I look after myself, I train, I am ready to play, if the coach selects me. I just want to play and if I can help the coach I will do so. “I will help the younger players and try to help them approach the game in the right way. I want to help them through the game, to keep the ball, to win games. Pascal had been in contact with the club for several weeks before the deal was finalised on Thursday night. “Everytime we talked, the manager asked me how I was, how my fitness is and we stayed in touch as the talks went on. I went to the French Federation to help the move get completed. The people over there know me. It was quick and I am happy to sign.” He hopes to move into coaching once his playing days are over. 06/10/2017 Tow Law Town 3 Crook Town 1 – Ebac Northern League Division Two If they keep this form up, it’s going to be a good team who beat Tow Law when it comes to the end of season honours. Solid at the back, hard working midfielders and plenty of goals up front. They don’t mess about – getting the ball up to the front players quickly and they’ve clearly got a good work ethic too. Even in the last 10 minutes, with the game clearly won, they were still battling for balls and tracking back. All in all, it’s a pretty good combination. The only man slightly out of the picture at last night’s game was their goalkeeper Thomas Orton and that was only because he didn’t have very much to do. Neither team got off to the best of starts. For the first 10 minutes or so it was all a bit bitty, but once Tow Law got into their stride they took the game by the scruff of the neck. Adam Nicholls was involved in all three Tow Law goals: jinking past defenders for the first before pulling the ball back for Lewis Teasdale who tends not to miss from eight yards out. He slotted a ball between defenders, setting Dean Thexton on his way with a clear run a goal. Thexton finished with confidence to make it 2-0. Nicholls wrapped up a good night’s work with the third and best goal of the night, running across the Crook defence before unleashing a right foot curler which gave Bryan Wood in the Crook goal no chance. For much of the first half Crook were chasing the ball and when they got it, they couldn’t hang on to it. They had to rely on several last man tackles, especially in the first half. Their best spell was in the opening 10 minutes of the second half when they finally matched the home team, got some passing going and exerted some pressure. The third Tow Law goal knocked the stuffing out of their mini revival. Their goal came in the dying seconds of the game – a well-taken free kick by Dan Smith who beat Orton with an accurate shot just inside the post, but it was already game, set and match to Tow Law. · It was a healthy crowd of 220 for the derby, including ground hoppers from as far away as Farnborough and Eastbourne – making the most of crossing another ground off in time for Non League Day tomorrow. 05/10/2017 Newcastle Benfield 1 Morpeth Town 3 - Ebac Northern League Division One This was a surprisingly straight forward win for Morpeth, Benfield were far from their best. Morpeth were quick, sharp and decisive; Benfield lethargic. Things didn’t get off to the best of starts for the hosts. Four minutes in and Morpeth were one up with a move that looked straight off the training ground. Ben Sayer was given time to pick a pass, spotted Sean Taylor lurking at the far post and his pass invited the Morpeth number seven to attack the ball and he polished off the move with a clinical header. It was a classic “you cross it, I’ll knock it in” goal. It didn’t seem to galvinise Benfield into action. They continued to give the Highwaymen time and space, especially in midfield and they defended deep – inviting Morpeth to attack. It could have got worse in the 18th minute when Wayne Phillips looked as though his foot was clipped as he ran into the box, but he failed to win a penalty. Three minutes later Morpeth extended their lead with another Sayer assist, this time threading the ball between defenders, Liam Henderson ran onto goal, Benfield keeper Andrew Grainger just manged to get to the ball a split second before him but all he could do was kick it against Henderson’s foot and it rolled into the goal. For his part, Sayer couldn’t find the net despite four or five attempts with long range shots from outside the box, with the best of the bunch a stinging shot in the 28th minute that Grainger did well to palm away. Benfield seemed strangely dis-interested in closing him down whenever he looked to shoot. Benfield picked their game up in the second half but in truth never looked as though they were going to pose a serious threat to Morpeth. Even Paul Brayson looked out of sorts. A 56-minute header he put wide was one of the few chances they created. Henderson made it three in the 68th minute and the visitors could have had more if they hadn’t struck so many shots straight at Grainger. Oliver Leedham came on as a substitute for Benfield and improved their passing game, including one pass to Richie Slaughter who put a header wide. Slaughter made amends by setting up Benfield’s goal by Ryu Williamson, but with only six minutes to go, it was too late to turn the tide of the game. Morpeth consolidated their place at the top of the table. 04/10/2017 Billingham Synthonia 0 North Shields 1 – Ebac Northern League Division One Recently the blog has been feast or famine – plenty of goals or 0-0 draws. This game was definitely on the famine side. The Synners have found the step up from division two somewhat of a struggle, however this performance was an improvement from when I saw them against Team Northumbria back in August. For them, the upside from last night was their defending. They were well organised, tracked players and tackled well. Their captain John Seaton was their “engine room” player, leading with energy and drive. The downside was their attack didn’t trouble the North Shields defence on too many occasions and their keeper Kyle Hayes had little to do. They failed to get anything out of the game because of one lapse of concentration. Dean Holmes found himself in some space and drilled it home in the 63rd minute. Holmes looked the visitors’ best player on the night – mobile and brisk, running at defenders and pushing the ball through for other attackers. North Shields are on an excellent run at the minute , with four consecutive wins going into this game. They did just about enough to earn the three points. If crosses were the deciding factor in a game they would have been out of sight. They sent scores across but they all came to nought – they were either over-hit or strikers failed to time their runs to convert them. I’ve seen worse games this season, but I’ve seen much better ones too. 03/10/2017 West Auckland 1 Dunston UTS 5* (see NB) – Ebac Northern League Division One Sometimes everything just clicks. That “sometimes” was the opening 45 minutes for Dunston UTS. They played just about a perfect half of football. The game was effectively over after half an hour, let alone at half-time. For the opening 10 minutes it was fairly even between the two teams, with defences gaining the upper hand and then the game turned, in no small part to Dunston striker Mark Fitzpatrick. As Dunston official Cliff Starkey observed: “Keep it going Fitzy, they can’t handle you.” He ran them ragged and a hat-trick was a fitting return for his night’s work. First touch? Tick. Pace? Tick. Strength? Tick. An eye for goal? You bet. Dale Burrel set Fitzpatrick up for his first goal with a short through ball, catching the West Auckland defence square. Liam Thear got their second when he connected with a ball across the box with a clean, sweet strike. The visitors were awarded a penalty in the 23rd minute for handball and Fitzpatrick despatched it. West resorted to longer and longer balls that were less and less effective and they couldn’t get anything going in response to Dunston’s positive, pacey play. They were second best everywhere on the pitch. In the 37th minute their defence was caught square again, Fitzpatrick raced past them and confidently put it away for his hat-trick and his team’s fourth. A Fitzpatrick cross in added time in the first half led to a mix-up in the West defence, the ball bobbled up and it was a simple finish for Scott Heslop. West Auckland’s goal was a rare bright spot. They were awarded a free kick 20-odd yards out in the 73rd minute. Adam Mitchell hit an excellent free kick up and over the defensive wall, leaving Dunston keeper Aiden Grant rooted to the spot. Nathan Fisher hit the post for West in added time at the end of the game, but the game had long been over. It would be trite to suggest that West Auckland “won” the second half by scoring the only goal. Dunston had a couple of opportunities to extend their lead, but they understandably didn’t seem too concerned as further goals went begging. Four players were fortunate to stay on the pitch. One for a high, late, “that’s why you wear shin pads” tackle, one for swinging a punch that fortunately didn’t land and another two for a nose-to-nose confrontation. Luckily the game won’t be remembered for those incidents, but for a dominant performance by Dunston. *NB – For Saturday’s game at Penrith I wrote: “….I did wonder if Ryhope were going to rue their earlier missed chances (and that just goes to show what I know)…..” Last night I was expecting a tough, competitive game with not much in it. It became: “And that just goes to show what I know” Part II. 01/10/2017 BANBURY UNITED V SHILDON Pete Sixsmith makes the 400+ mile round trip to see Shildon's magnificent win against Banbury United in the FA Cup: Banbury was the furthest south that Shildon could have gone in this Third Qualifying Round game. This busy and prosperous town is in North Oxfordshire, part of the South East economic region but only a few miles from both the West Midlands and the East Midlands areas. It’s a round trip of 440 miles (more if you add in the ludicrous detour that every travelling fans friend The Highways Agency sent northbound traffic on in North Yorkshire; Catterick Garrison has rarely looked so grim) but it was a joyous day for the 100+ Shildon fans who made the journey. The Puritans, so named because this was a steadfast Protestant town during the Civil War, were hopeful of making the Fourth Qualifying Round for the first time in over 30 years. The Railwaymen were looking to make it twice in the last three years and maybe become the first Northern League club to make the First Round proper since 2004 – Shildon again. The game turned out to be a good one – nay, a very good one. Both sides played it in a fine spirit with no bad challenges and only a couple of bookings for a little squabble in a tense last few minutes. After a cagey opening twenty five minutes, the experienced Jefferson Louis (35 clubs and still counting) put a teasing cross in which went across Shildon keeper Nick Livesedge. The ball fell to Tom Winters who lined up his shot and put the home team ahead. The old maxim is that a team is at its most vulnerable just after they have scored and so it proved to be here. A Shildon attack down the right saw Daniel Moore fouled on the edge of the box but the ball was flicked on from the head of the outstanding Billy Greulich-Smith to Adam Burnicle. The former Willington and West Auckland man rattled in the equaliser with the home fans stood next to me of the opinion that keeper Jack Harding should have done better. From that moment, The Railwaymen were heading down the right track. Inspired by a vociferous following and by the fact that the Spencer Stadium is next to the railway line, they seized control of the game and, apart from a nervy spell at the end, never relinquished that grip. The second goal came in the 57th minute when Greulich-Smith’s fine run down the right led to the ball being played across to the left. It broke to Louis Dodds who measured an excellent cross for Daniel Moore to score with as good a header you will see anywhere. Wild celebrations on and off the pitch; wise words from the Shildon dug-out to keep concentrating. The clincher came ten minutes later as Greulich-Smith once again beat full back Matt Peake-Pinjen and fed the busy Burnicle. He controlled the ball, got into the box and stroked the ball past the despairing Harding. Cue even greater celebrations. Now it was kitchen sink time. Off went the poetically named Conor O’Donough (almost as poetic as Swansea full back Angel Rangel) and on came the cavalry. The ball was flung into the Shildon box at every available opportunity but Nick Liversedge had a fine game in goal catching and punching, aided and abetted by his capable and well-disciplined defence. They got one back with eight minutes left when sub Ricky Johnson headed in but the Shildon defence held firm. Clever substitutions helped and there were chances to increase the lead but it stayed at 2-3. Four minutes were added by referee Richard Gardener who had an excellent game and there were a couple of panicky moments but when Mr Gardener blew the whistle, the Shildon crowd erupted and the Banbury support accepted that the better team had won on the day. It made up for the grisly stuff I had watched at Ipswich on the Tuesday although I had seen a good game at Rushden and Higham United on the Wednesday. I also visited the derelict Nene Park, home of one time golden boys Rushden and Diamonds, a club that died because the money ran out and there were no real roots in the communities that they represented. It was a great day for the Northern League and the new management team of Daniel Moore and Mickey Barron. Shame the Highways Agency had to spoil it…….