NORTHERN FOOTBALL LEAGUE
Founded 1889 - second oldest League in the world
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Wednesday, 24 January 2018
30/11/2016 Ryton & Crawcrook 0 Billingham Town 5 – Division Two Crazes come and go. The current one is the mannequin challenge and at times the Ryton defence made a pretty good fist of taking part. It only took Billingham Town 90-odd seconds to take the lead. Craig Hutchinson released Elliott Beddow who easily beat the offside trap and made no mistake slotting it past Ross Coombe in the Ryton goal. After six minutes it was 0-2. A short corner found Luke Hogan who took it forward a yard or two and, uncontested, shot home. One spectator posed a question to one of the referee’s assistants, wondering whether he could keep up with Hutchinson. In a frank bout of honesty, he admitted he couldn’t, but added that neither could the Ryton defence. Hutchinson was a thorn in their side all game long. Two goals by him in the second half confirmed him as the best player on the pitch by a long way. Connor Dunlavy made it five with the last kick of the game. Ryton looked second best for most of the game, unable to match Town’s passing, movement and pace. Their best spell was at the start of the second half when they started to make a contest of it, but a couple of goals midway through the half soon put paid to any fight back. Town look in good shape for their trip to Humberside on Saturday to take on Bottesford Town in the FA Vase. 29/11/2016 Dunston UTS 3 Hemsworth MW 1 – FA Vase 2nd round It was not the most elegant of games at Dunston but the bottom line is that the Tynesiders are through to the third round. At the fourth time of asking, the tie finally took place with both teams depleted. Dunston had several players cup tied while work commitments meant that some of the visitors’ players weren’t available or couldn’t make it to the game until after kick-off. It took only three minutes before Dunston had their first effort – a long-range free kick by James Luccock which was tipped over the bar by Sam Leigh in the Hemsworth goal. But both teams struggled to get much going early on – both out of synch, with most moves breaking down after a couple of passes. Dunston captain Dale Burrell broke the deadlock in the 18th minute. A cross by left back Dan Halliday was only half cleared by the Hemsworth defence. It fell to Burrell who took a touch to the right and found the inside of the post to put his side ahead. Despite Hemsworth’s best efforts, Dunston were in control of the game and never really put under sustained pressure, especially in the first half. Stefan Holden didn’t have much to do in the home goal. One of the visitors’ late arrivals – Brice Tiani – came on and gave the visitors some pace and willingness to run at Dunston and their general play improved in the second half. They had a good chance cleared off the line by Adam Froggatt within seconds of him coming on as a substitute. But it was Dunston who extended their lead in the 82nd minute. A Hemsworth defender slipped letting Dunston centre back Dan Capewell have a free run into the box and he fired it home. No-one was quite sure what he was doing that far up the pitch…..but they weren’t complaining. Hemsworth pulled one back two minutes later to give them a glimmer of hope but Burrell sealed the win with only a couple of minutes to go with his second goal of the night. And it’s straight back to Vase action for Dunston on Saturday when they take on Sunderland RCA. No doubt it’ll be a bit more competitive and hopefully the quality will be up a notch or two too. PS – the language and attitude of some of the visiting fans left a lot to be desired, which was a pity, as quite a few had made the journey up from Yorkshire. 23/11/2016 Brandon 2 Darlington RA 0 – Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup It’s been a tough season so far for a young Darlington RA team. And they were caught napping early on in this cup-tie – just three minutes into the game Tony Phillipson’s through ball released Daniel Quine who pushed it past keeper Callum Liddicott before slotting it home with a simple finish. Soon afterwards the host’s Kieran Duffy-Weekes broke from midfield. He wasted a good chance by trying to beat Liddicott instead of crossing to two Brandon team mates joining the attack. It took RA more than 10 minutes to get their passing together, and once they did they played some neat pass and move football. They were stronger going forward but looked vulnerable to runs from the Brandon midfield. Their best chance of the first half came on the half-hour when a Joseph Peel shot forced a good save by Tom Orton in the Brandon goal. Duffy-Weekes also had an excellent chance to double the host’s lead but his header hit the post when he was only a few feet out. In the second half RA’s back line looked a lot tighter, restricting Brandon mainly to shots from outside the box, the best of which was provided by Kyle Wren, but his effort was well saved by Liddicott. Any chance of RA salvaging a draw and sending the game to penalties was snuffed out with one of the last moves of the game. Three minutes into extra time Phillipson beat the offside trap and crossed for Niall Fingleton to prod home. There was a respectable turn-out of ground hoppers at the game (rather than a turn-out of respectable ground hoppers) and they will all have seen games which were worse than what was on offer at Welfare Park last night. Brandon had more experience and nous on the night and that proved enough to see them through. 22/11/2016 West Auckland 0 Newcastle Benfield 3 – Division One On Saturday Benfield striker Paul Brayson missed with a howler of a penalty, skying it well over the bar. Unluckily for him, cameras captured the moment. Luckily for him, he only had to wait three days to make amends and he duly slotted in his team’s third goal, also from the penalty spot, in a much more accomplished fashion. The three goal margin just about summed up the difference between the two teams. Benfield were just that little bit better than their hosts all over the pitch. Having seen West mount a spectacular, but ultimately unsuccessful comeback on Saturday, I wondered which team would turn up tonight – the poor team of weekend’s first half or the committed hard-working team of the second half. To be honest, it was a bit in between. They kept plugging away but didn’t really trouble the Benfield defence, in particular keeper Andrew Grainger who had a quiet night of it. At the other end, it only took 10 minutes before the visitors were ahead. A well-delivered through ball by that man Brayson set Scott McCarthy clear, he rounded the keeper and knocked it in. Just before half-time the duo almost repeated the performance, but this time West keeper David Knight managed to block it. They combined for the third goal too, when McCarthy crossed for Brayson who was brought down in the box, leading to the penalty. In between, Dylan McEvoy ran clear on to a pass, with the West defence left for dead, and it was an easy finish for him, to make it 0-2. Unlike Saturday, West never really threatened to get back into the game. Throughout the night, good passing and flowing moves were at a premium. The football reflected the league standing of both teams. 19/11/2016 Shildon 3 West Auckland 2 It would appear that there’s a new rule which allows teams to make 10 outfield substitutions at half-time. If so, West Auckland made full use of the rule. In the first half they weren’t at the races. They should have been 5-0 down against a rampant Shildon. Shildon took control of the game from the off, and never relinquished it for the first half. After nine minutes, David Ferguson crossed for Micky Rae to head in. After 25 minutes it was 2-0 - Billy Greulich-Smith pushed the ball on to Lewis Wing who was in acres of space in the West Auckland box. He smashed it into the net. On 34 minutes they made it 3-0 when Paul Connor’s acrobatic overhead kick found the back of the net when West Auckland failed to clear the ball. Wing spurned another good chance a few minutes later when he was put clear with only the keeper to beat, but his shot went wide. He should have had his hat-trick three minutes later after the referee awarded a penalty. Wing took the spot kick which was well saved by David Knight in the West goal. He couldn’t hang on to the ball and it re-bounded back to Wing, whose follow-up shot sailed over the bar. Greulich-Smith almost added another with a second overhead effort which was the last kick of the first half. You wondered if a cricket score was in the offing. West Auckland had only one real chance, but that was all to change. A different team turned up for West in the second half – bearing no semblance to the 10 outfield players on the pitch for the first 45 minutes. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in their dressing room. Whatever manager Darren Williams said in the dressing room, it worked a treat. If it was a full blast rollicking, it obviously took some time. They were a couple of minutes late coming out for the second half. This “new” West Auckland team looked up for the fight. Within eight minutes of the re-start they had clawed their way back into the game. Carl Jones headed in a Brahim Hassan cross. This batch of players suddenly remembered what tackling, running and competing was. On 57 minutes, one of their players was fouled but the referee played on. Danny Parker thought he’d scored, but was ruled offside. Almost straight away they had pegged Shildon back when Adam Burnicle scored for the visitors. West Auckland were re-juvenated. They were putting in some feisty, but legal challenges and making a real contest of it. Shildon’s best chance of the half fell to Connor. He turned it round the keeper and only had to beat a defender on the line, but he shot wide. There was controversy on the 80th minute. A Shildon player went down injured but his team-mates played on. West Auckland won possession and were about to launch a counter attack with three attackers against two defenders, when the referee stopped the game for the original injury. To say West Auckland were less than happy would be an under-statement. It was a top game, full of incidents. I just wish I’d known about the new FIFA rule for 10 substitutions. 17/11/2016 Norton & Stockton Ancients 0 Consett 4 – League Cup It was a fairly straight forward affair for the Steelmen, despite some spirited defending by Norton. Although 2-0 at half-time, the game had lacked a bit of sparkle, despite the effort and energy of both sides. Lewis Teesdale put the visitors one up just after the half hour when he turned in the box and his shot found the corner of the goal. The half ended by one of the least controversial penalty decisions of the seasons. There was not a murmur of dissent when Michael Sweet was brought down in the box. Luke Sullivan despatched it. Things livened up in the second half when Consett upped their game and started to play some better football. Sweet helped himself to a brace of goals, his pace taking him clear of defenders and slotting them both past Philip Pentony in the Norton goal. For Norton chances were few and far between during the game. Lewis Murphy had a good couple of runs, one of 55 yards but he shot straight at Sam Guthrie in the Consett goal. It wasn’t a night for cup upsets, with all three Division One teams beating opponents from Division Two. 16/11/2016 Whitley Bay 5 Bedlington Terriers 1 – League Cup. (Just for a change I thought I’d just transcribe my notes from the game as it happened, rather than write it up afterwards using my notes as a reference. For background, I saw Terriers early on in the season get well beaten by Team Northumbria and a few weeks ago I was at Seaham Red Star when they out played Whitley Bay. Coincidentally both lost 6-1.) First half: Bay 10 (Alex Kempster) shot confidently saved by Bedlington keeper (Jak Wells). Long run by Whitley 11 (Kyle Fryatt), weak shot. Whitley keeper (Tom Flynn) good early distribution. Terriers playing high back four. Whitley quicker and busier than against Red Star. 22 minutes Whitley 9 (Andy Robertson) takes extra touch and chance was gone. Bedlington 3 (Adam Harvey) 30-yarder, only just wide. Nicely struck. Whitley 7 (Tom Potter) good trap – ball behind him – and shot forced save from keeper. Kempster pace takes it round defender, forcing another save – two shots in a minute. Bedlington looking better at back than against Team North but seems a matter of time before Whitley score. 40 minutes - lull in proceedings for last 10 minutes. At end of first half good cross by Whitley 2 (Callum Munro) met by Robertson at far post: 1-0. Bedlington might be second best but at least they’re competing. Second half: Best spell by Terriers. Bedlington 9 (Jack Foalle) on the right, gets a shot away, parried by Whitley keeper. Corner by 11 (Kyle Oliver), free header by 6 (Paul Wardle) 1-1. One of those efforts that as soon as he headed it, looked a good chance of going in. Terriers have made the most of their best spell. Well delivered corner. Whitley 8 (Callum Patton) crisp volley leaving keeper no chance. 2-1. Minute later 3-1: Whitley 3 (Chris McDonald) free kick behind defenders and in front of keeper. Kempster tucks it away. Whitley 3 (McDonald) 4-1. Another quality goal – this time from 30 yards out. Swerve and dip over the keeper. Keeper stranded. Whitley finding another gear and more space. Some intelligent distribution by Whitley keeper, not just hoofing it. 76 minutes: Good game by the officials* as well. Not got anything wrong as far as I can see. Whitley 3 (McDonald) having an excellent second half, despite less than ideal conditions down the left – clumpy pitch. Drop ball after play halted to have ball changed. Bedlington don’t bother to compete for it!? Commentator’s curse: Whitley keeper two poor kicks out. Shouldn’t have written about intelligent distribution! Five minutes to go. Good point blank save by Bedlington keeper (Wells). 25-yarder by Whitley 16 (Jack Cooper). Wicked later swerve fooled the keeper. 5-1. Bit harsh on Terriers. Just about everything that Bay have tried in second half has worked. Bedlington shouldn’t be dispirited – better performance than against Team North, despite the scoreline. Vast improvement from Whitley Bay compared to Red Star. (*The officials were referee Lindsey Robinson and assistants Paul Cooper and Stephen Birkett.) 15/11/2016 Pete Sixsmith reports on his travels during the international break: Like the man from Frank’s Carpets who “loves carpets, me”, I enjoy the international breaks that come three or four times a season. Anything that alleviates the misery and tension of Sunderland’s latest battle to avoid the Championship has to be a good thing. I got a double up this weekend with rugby league at Workington and the FA Vase at Pickering. Both were highly satisfactory results and both were excellent days out. The rugby league at Derwent Park is probably of minor interest to the Northern League followers who read this. Suffice to say that Scotland’s thoroughly deserved draw with New Zealand was probably the equivalent of Chester-le-Street Town taking a point off North Shields. The difference would be that Chester would not moan about playing in North Tyneside anywhere near as much as the Kiwis twisted about being forced to play in Cumbria on a cold and rainy night. The visit to Pickering was to watch a game that was nowhere near as tight and was over as a contest before the referee blew the half time whistle. By this time Shildon were three goals to the good and were cruising into the next round. The first two were scored by a rejuvenated Michael Rae, a player who looked to be on his way out of the club at the beginning of the year. Since his return from a productive loan spell at Seaham Red Star, he has been a regular contributor of goals and Saturday was no exception. His opener was a beautifully placed shot across the Pickering keeper which settled any early nerves from The Railwaymen. The second came from a sublime cross from David Ferguson which Rae turned into the net with as subtle and well placed header as you could wish to see. Pickering, well placed in the Northern Counties East League, had no answer to this and struggled to get any kind of foothold into the game. A powerful Shildon midfield of Daniel Moore, Sam Hodgson and Lewis Wing prevented this and when Moore, enjoying his release from defensive duties, scored with another well placed shot, the game was up for the Pikes. Things got worse for them at the start of the second half when their defence was bamboozled by an intricate passing move involving Moore and Ferguson which saw the latter slot home the fourth and Amar Purewal scored his second in two games to wrap up a splendid win. Even the appearance of Jules Gabbiadini, son of Sunderland hero Marco, failed to stem the red tide. Post-game, Pickering manager Paul Marshall said that Shildon were the best side he has seen in the last two seasons and that they had every chance of winning the Vase. Kind words and sincerely meant but the draw for the next round has pitted them against league leaders North Shields. That game, on December 3rd, could well be one to savour. 12/11/2016 Life of Pie reports from two games as three of our teams look to progress in the FA Vase: Non-League Daily editor Mark Carruthers visits a historic ground to see Morpeth begin the defence of their FA Vase crown: The last time Morpeth Town kicked a ball in anger in the FA Vase they were about to set off wild celebrations in the luxurious and historic setting of Wembley. Their next kick was to meet every last drop of the history that England's national stadium possesses, but came up short in luxury. Hallam FC's Sandygate home is the oldest football ground in the world, home to the very first game that took place on Boxing Day in 1860 between Hallam and the world's oldest club Sheffield FC. To say the pitch was not ideal for Morpeth's favoured passing game would be the understatement of the century. Boggy in places, bumpy in others and all set on a slope that meant defending well first half, then upping the tempo in the second half. And that is exactly what Nick Gray's men did! They took a battering at times in the first half, not in terms of pressure, just a physical battering. Both Chris Reid and Matthew Grieve took blows to the head, with Hallam striker Anthony Wilson the chief tormentor, or should that be batterer? Nevertheless half time was reached with the scorers left untroubled. In the second half it was a matter of when Morpeth would score, and it didn't take very long at all. Liam Henderson could and should have put the Highwaymen ahead two minutes into the half but headed wide from around eight yards out. Moments later that miss was forgotten as Matty Grieve got on the end of a long throw from Michael Turner and nodded it into the far corner. Buoyed by their opener a second goal duly followed and it was Steven Anderson grabbed his first goal of a quickfire double. Now, as much as I would like to discuss that first goal I feel it's neccassary to move on to his second. The reason for that is that I am still unsure how it went in. Another Turner through caught the home defence unawares and despite being met with a goalkeeper tied to his near post, and an increasingly difficult angle, Anderson volleyed the ball past the keeper, off the far post and into the net. That was game over but just to rub salt into the wounds Liam Henderson grabbed a scrappy fourth goal and left Morpeth to look forward to Monday's draw after a hard-fought win. As I left Sandygate I was left to ponder a few things. Firstly could Morpeth Town retain their FA Vase title? Secondly, after finding out some of the other Vase results, could the league continue it's monopoly on the competition? And thirdly.....who did Sheffield FC play before Hallam came along? (Secret Shopper's note: My Sheffield mate told me many years ago that apparently Sheffield FC would just organise games between players at the club.) Meanwhile Secret Hopper was at the all Northern League tie at the Sam Smiths Sports Ground Newcastle Benfield 0 Penrith 1 – FA Vase 2nd round Can one team thump another 1-0? If they can, then Penrith came pretty close. For the first 10 minutes there wasn’t much to choose between the sides, but once Penrith got into their stride, they never looked like losing this game, which they dominated. The decisive moment came in the 14th minute when a corner by Matthew Read was met by Grant Davidson. He rose unchallenged in the Benfield box to head it in. The hosts seemed to struggle with corners, despite having lots of practice during the game. Penrith striker Martyn Coleman had a number of chances but was reluctant to pull the trigger on several occasions, though he kept the defenders on their heels and was a willing runner on to balls knocked past the centre backs. Penrith secretary Ian White watched apprehensively in the second period, half expecting Benfield to snatch an equaliser but he, along with the coach-load of Cumbrians who had made the journey over the Pennines, could enjoy his journey back home. They’re in the next round. There were no complaints from Benfield, they’d been outplayed and the only surprise was that it stayed 1-0. Their busiest and best player – both defensively and going forward - was left back Moussa Bakhti. Benfield’s midfield never got to grips with the game, and clear-cut chances were few and far between. Paul Brayson got more frustrated as the game progressed. It was an hour before Benfield started to get into the game, their passing improved and they exerted more pressure on the Penrith goal without ever really threatening their keeper Jonny Jameson. It was one of the most one-sided 1-0s of the season. 09/11/2016 Washington 2 West Allotment 0 – First Division The match was not exactly gripping. A group of four of us chatted about sausage rolls and the Tyne Tunnel toll charges rather than the football on offer. The most entertaining moment of the first half was watching South Shields secretary Philip Reay’s dog do an impersonation of a cricket umpire signalling a six. (You had to be there.) The first 45 merited only a few scribbled notes. One West Allotment shot from 25 yards out was closer to the corner flag than the goal. We had to wait until the 33rd minute before Washington’s Jonny Wightman provided the best chance of the half when his shot hit the bar. At least the second half provided a couple of goals – provided by George McCain and Matty Waters. Washington substitute Jordan Jewson was unlucky not to add a third. From 30 yards out his effort struck the post and the bar but spun back out from the line. It was a rare bit of skill. And that was about it. Both teams have been struggling and it rather showed. For Washington it was three valuable points rather than the performance that they’ll take away from the game. (PS: Apparently the dog hasn’t quite mastered the umpire signal for a four. Work in progress.) 08/11/2016 Ryhope CW 3 Seaham Red Star 2 – Division One America might have been voting for a new president but Ryhope goalkeeper Chris Rookes would have won man of the match by a landslide for his display at last night’s game. At times Seaham Red Star laid siege to the Ryhope goal. He must have made at least half a dozen blocks and saves in the first half alone. Had it not been for his heroics, Seaham would have been out of sight. He had a quieter second half – ironically it was when Red Star got their goals. While Rookes was making block after block, he was also aided and abetted by the men in front of him, who played their part in throwing themselves as shots peppered their goal. Ryhope had only got one point out of their last six league games, but they got off to a great start – they were one up after only 90 seconds when Lee Chapman capitalised after a shot by Brian Stewart was pushed away by Shaun Newbrook in the visitors’ goal. Nathan O’Neill doubled their lead after Red Star couldn’t clear a corner from the box. Stewart was involved in the third – crossing for O’Neill to head home. Red Star must have wondered what hit them. Ryhope had five chances and took three of them. At the other end they could have been four or five up in the first 30 minutes. Everything they tried came up against some inspired defending. They put in some quality crosses, tried shots from inside the box, shots from outside the box, and defenders broke forward to pile the pressure on. They kept their patience and kept playing their football and 22 minutes into the second half Paul Gardiner put them back in the match and it was just reward for their efforts. Lee Kerr came on as a substitute and he set up their second goal with a trademark long, precise pass to Craig Lynch who took the ball, turned a defender and tucked it away with an accomplished finish. They kept plugging away but the third wouldn’t come. Work commitments meant Ryhope manager Gary Pearson couldn’t make the match, but he had an able replacement on the pitch. Leon Ryan was captain and boss – praising and cajoling his team-mates, directing traffic, organising the team and making tactical changes. Both teams have been going through a lean patch in the league recently. The three points give Ryhope a bit more confidence going into their Vase match against Billingham Town on Saturday. It was a terrific game of football. 05/11/2016 South Shields 0 North Shields 1 – Division One It was a captain’s tale at Mariner’s Park for the eagerly anticipated Shields derby. And it was the Robins captain Kevin Hughes whose strike decided a crucial match between the teams standing first and second in the league. A record crowd of 2,651 jammed into the ground, braving the biting cold and downpours. The first half didn’t quite live up to the billing North Shields seemed strangely lacking in confidence in the first half, as though they expected to be under the cosh. Their passing wasn’t at its best, with many moves breaking down after a couple of passes. They had a couple of chances. The first fell to Dean Holmes. Gary Ormstron put him through but Holmes decided to knock it across the goal rather than have a shot himself. The second almost fell to Jack Donnison as he made a far post run. Only a last-gasp tackle by Anthony Callaghan denied him. It was a terrific interception. Their passing improved in the second half as their confidence improved. For the second 45 they seemed to realise that they could have a go. Hughes and Curtis Coppen in particular were resolute at the back, but a special mention for Gary Ormston who threw himself at a shot which seemed destined to go in. It was the kind of commitment that the Robins players showed all over the pitch. And then Hughes sealed it with a shot from distance in the 84th minute that eluded Liam Connell in the South Shields goal. Meanwhile for South Shields it was a frustrating afternoon. They put in cross after cross but couldn’t convert any of their chances. They were methodical - their play just lacked a little bit of punch and spark Julio Arca was their main goal threat in the first half, but his shots never really tested Kyle Hayes in the North Shields goal. Hayes was also pivotal in keeping the visitors in the game by saving an Arca penalty, awarded when Andrew Stephenson was fouled in the box. In the second half the lax passing that North Shields had shown in the first half seemed to be contagious. South Shields increased their tempo and created better chances, but couldn’t quite find that one killer ball to unlock the defence or one quality finish. Two South Shields fans put their perspective on the game. “The best team lost today” said one, while another was overheard to say: “They had one shot. We should have taken our chances”. Their counterparts from north of the Tyne cheered their team off the pitch and just smiled, not least chairman Alan Matthews who looked pleased as punch. The spoils belonged to the men from NE29. 02/11/2016 Morpeth Town 2 North Shields 0 – Division One You wonder if Morpeth are starting to have the Indian sign over North Shields. After wins in last season’s Vase and this season’s FA Cup, last night it was down to the bread and butter of the league and a clash between two of the best teams in the league. And the first 15 minutes of the game was a joy to watch. It was like watching two prize fighters slugging it out – both teams playing some wonderful football at pace and taking it in turns to attack, with exceptional touches and passes. Liam Henderson broke the deadlock on the 18-minute mark. Shields left back Jordan Summerly was left exposed by a team-mate’s pass and two Morpeth players put him under immediate pressure and dispossessed him. Joe Walton crossed for Henderson whose curling shot found the target. Keith Graydon made it 2-0 with a strike from distance. Sean McCafferty did well to save the initial shot, but the ball fell behind him and spun into the goal. It would have been a miracle if the players had managed to keep the pace and quality going for another 45 minutes. Unfortunately for the spectators, it didn’t quite happen. Morpeth were stronger all over the pitch. Defensively they were rock solid, Graydon and Ben Sayers in midfield were given too much time and space while up front the Highwaymen made the most of their chances. For Shields, manager John McDonald tried to ring the changes with three substitutions in the second half, but Dean Holmes, Adam Foster and finally Gareth Bainbridge didn’t turn the match around for the visitors who, I’m sure, will be disappointed by their overall performance. Karl Dryden in the Morpeth goal wasn’t troubled much by North Shields. Dan Wilson spent much of his time with his back to goal as the ball was pushed up to him. His best chance was in the second half when he turned the defender but he could only shoot wide. This game marked the first of three matches in eight days for table-topping North Shields when they play the teams in second, third and fourth. This defeat was only a setback to their title hopes. They’ll have a better idea of where they stand in the title race this time next week. 01/11/2016 Tow Law 2 Team Northumbria 1 – League Cup Life’s full of decisions. Some you get right; some you don’t. I was on the verge of going to Welfare Park to watch the Bedlington Terriers v Stockton game, until plumping for the game at Ironworks Road. Such is life. I missed what sounded like a classic, with goals aplenty as well a few red cards and penalties thrown into the mix as well. It’s not that the game at Tow Law was poor, it just pales in comparison, especially with regular updates via Twitter from Northumberland. Secret Hopper only just got into the ground in time for kick-off, which is just as well because Tow Law were one up in the first minute. Jordan Lee found space on the right and sent in what looked suspiciously like a cross over Team North keeper Sean Minto and into the net. It seemed to unsettle Minto for much of the rest of the match. Save for one top save in the second half, he looked nervous, especially when coming for crosses. The Lawyers doubled their lead when Kieran Barker drilled a low drive into the bottom corner. Matt Souslby was within a whisker of making it three a few minutes later. They were giving Team North no chance to get their usual passing game going, and their defence was doing a creditable impersonation of a brick wall. Keeper Michael Allan didn’t have much to do at all for the first 45. The Team North’s coaching staff were confident that their performance would improve in the second half, and they were spot on (which is why they’re coaches and we’re spectators). Apparently Robert Grainey was delayed by work commitments and could only make the second half. It seemed to make a difference – Team North went to a back three from a back four and all of a sudden they were on the front foot. They created more chances in a three-minute spell in the second half than the entire first half, one of which was a thumping shot by Dan Taggart to make it 2-1. The best sign that the momentum shifted at the half was Soulsby. In the first half he was the around the centre circle dictating play, but as the second half progressed he dropped deeper and deeper. Save for the Team North goal and them gaining the upper hand as far as pressure and possession were concerned, there wasn’t much else of note in the second period. Meanwhile, up in Northumberland…….