NORTHERN FOOTBALL LEAGUE
Founded 1889 - second oldest League in the world
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Wednesday, 24 January 2018
28/02/2017 Alnwick Town 0 Crook Town 2 – Ebac Northern League Division Two Yesterday the Northumberland Gazette’s headline for the famous Shrovetide football match in Alnwick described the “thrills and spills” of the game which was first played more than 250 years ago. A few hours later the association version of the game in the town had very few thrills or spills. It wasn’t a match that will go down in the history books. Alnwick had only picked up one point from their previous six games and Crook have been undergoing a major overhaul of players and it showed, with not much quality on show at St James’ Park. Tony Brown had Alnwick’s best chance of the match in the first half when his shot from the edge of the box swerved and dipped, forcing a good save from Crook keeper Paul Watson. On 34 minutes a quick Crook move from the back left them two against one. Christian Holliday broke down the left, drew a defender towards him and then passed to Daniel Pigg who chose his spot and knocked it in. Alnwick striker Ian Lee was shown the red card as the players left the pitch for half-time. Going down to 10 men seemed to give the home side a bit more impetus at the start of the second half. They pressed a bit higher up the pitch and created a few more half chances but never really threatened the Crook goal. Crook doubled their lead in the 67th minute when Holliday found a bit of space in the box and scored thanks to a deflection. Centre back Matthew Stephenson went close with a couple of headers to extend their lead – one went just wide and another hit the post. Three valuable points for Crook and they edged it on the night. Alnwick should have enough points on the board to see them through to the end of the season. 25/01/2017 Bishop Auckland 3 Seaham Red Star 0 – Ebac Northern League Division One Andrew Johnson: two chances; two goals. And very different goals they were too. In the 17th minute James Fairley set him up with some excellent wing play – beating a couple of defenders, making it to the line and sending over a low cross into the six-yard box. Even before the ball was on its way, Johnson had already started to gamble and ran into the box in the hope that he would be in the right place at the right time. He was. While the defenders stood and looked, he ghosted in from the far post and knocked it in. His second was all about technique. With the game approaching the hour mark, he received the ball at the edge of the box, turned the defender, looked up and curled it into the top left corner with his left peg. Shaun Newbrook in the Red Star goal had no chance of reaching it. Fairley himself sealed the win with his own quality curler of a shot, more than making up for a weak shot at the keeper earlier in the game. Two other players deserve honourable mentions. Thomas Dawson pulled off one of the saves of the season. Red Star midfielder Nicholas Kane unleashed a beaut of a shot that looked odds on to nestle in the top left corner. Dawson made a superb fingertip save to deny him (prompting memories of a Shay Given save at the Stadium of Light to thwart Kevin Phillips.) And Bishop’s left back Michael Hoganson had an outstanding first half – providing the main source of their attacks and had a couple of pops at goal too. Red Star will be disappointed with their game. Too many of their passes were mis-judged or easily intercepted and they never really got into their stride. Luke Procter was their biggest threat. He had their best chance too, but hit the ball straight at Dawson. 22/02/2017 Shildon 2 Morpeth Town 2 – Ebac Northern League Division One When you get two good teams who try and play good football, the chances are you’ll get a good game. This was a cracker. The game didn’t kick off until 8.18 when Morpeth players were delayed by traffic problems on the A1. It was worth the wait. The game had a bit of everything: goals; great saves; fluent, passing football; and 22 players battling it out. Morpeth took the lead in the 31st minute thanks to one of the passes of the season. Keith Graydon struck the ball first time with the outside of his right foot, bisecting two Shildon defenders and laying it up perfectly for Liam Henderson. Henderson rounded the keeper, was forced wide but managed to slot it home from the tightest of angles. The lead lasted all of a minute when the referee pointed to the spot for a foul in the Morpeth box. Matty Robson struck it confidently to make it 1-1. The last decisive action of the first half was a point blank, instinctive save by Morpeth keeper Karl Dryden who denied Shildon’s new signing Adam Burnicle. For the opening 20 minutes of the second half, Morpeth bossed the game, with Shildon looking surprisingly sluggish, but the hosts were unlucky when a finely judged Billy Greulich-Smith header came back off the bar. They fell behind after a defensive blunder. Jamie Harwood and Nick Liversedge went for the same ball and collided, allowing the ball to run to Sean Taylor who had the easiest of tap-ins. Morpeth could have been out of sight if they’d have converted their next two chances. Liam Henderson unselfishly set up Joe Walton who looked certain to score, only to be denied by an outstanding save by Liversedge. Minutes later Jordan Fry had only centre back Daniel Groves to beat on the line, but he hit a weak shot straight at him. Shildon clawed their way back into the game thanks to a penalty. Chris Read was judged to have handled a Lewis Wing cross in the box. Robson stepped up to level it from the spot for his second penalty of the game. Both teams went for the winner, but it finished all square. There were bookings galore and referee John Matthews seemed a bit too card happy in a game that was highly competitive but not dirty. Luckily it didn’t affect the quality of the game. One of the games of the season so far. Footnote: One person off the pitch covered as much ground as the players during the game. Morpeth chairman Ken Beattie paced the side of the pitch, encouraging his players, kicking every ball and making every tackle. He would have burnt a pedometer out. He loves his team. He loves his football. 21/02/2017 Consett 1 Newton Aycliffe 0 – Ebac Northern League Division One It was a tough night to play decent football, but it wasn’t for the want of trying by both teams. Heavy, gusting winds made any high balls and clearances into a lottery. Even playing the ball on the ground was difficult, with the ball veering around unpredictably. Newton Aycliffe were the first to settle and come to terms with the conditions. They had three chances in the opening minutes – two of them attempts at lobbing Peter Jeffries in the Consett goal, but neither Jamie Owens nor Josh Gray could quite find the finishing touch. Consett captain Danny Craggs also had a go at the “lob the keeper” competition – with the same result. Despite Aycliffe making the early running, it was Consett who took the lead in the 17th minute. Thomas McAloon worked a bit of space for himself in the Aycliffe box and pushed it goalwards where he found Luke Sullivan who got just enough on it to beat Philip Pentony at the near post. They almost doubled their lead as the first half wound down. Pentony made the save of the opening period when he blocked a low, hard drive from 10 yards out by Craggs. Pentony picked up where he left off when the second half got underway. Jordan Nellis broke down the left and was one-on-one with the keeper who made another crucial block. At the other end, Owens had Aycliffe’s best chances. Jeffries matched Pentony’s heroics by pulling off a top save from the Aycliffe captain who fired in a shot from 10 yards out. He couldn’t quite believe it didn’t find the back of the net. In the 73rd minute Gray squared a free kick to him and his effort from 25 yards out swerved and dipped only for him to see if bounce off the bar. Despite all their chances, it wasn’t going to be Aycliffe’s night. Consett had a late flurry of chances when, in quick succession, Nellis, substitute Michael Sweet and Nellis again tried to wrap it up but the Sullivan goal proved to be enough to secure the points. 18/02/2017 South Shields 6 Newport Pagnell 1 – Buildbase FA Vase quarter final Torture is against the Geneva Convention. South Shields are guilty as charged. They put Newport Pagnell to the sword in merciless fashion. If it had been a boxing match, then the referee would have put an end to it at half-time. The visitors from Buckinghamshire had the ball in the back of the Mariners’ net in the second minute. It was ruled out for a foul. Shields keeper Liam Connell had one save to make in the second half. They scored in the dying seconds of the game to make it 6-1. And that was about it from them. Meanwhile. Three minutes: David Foley unleashes an unstoppable shot from almost 30 yards out, giving the keeper no chance. It was Shields’ first attack. 1-0. Six minutes: Wayne Phillips delivers another long-range screamer. 2-0. Newport Pagnell had fallen foul to the same Achilles heel that they showed against Sunderland RCA in the previous round – players running at them unchallenged from midfield. Fifteen minutes: Another long-range effort by Craig Baxter pushed up and over by NP keeper Mark Osbourne. Twenty three minutes: Dillon Morse makes it three with a header from a corner. Twenty five minutes: Robert Briggs with another pile driver. 4-0 and effectively game over. By half-time South Shields were in complete control. The only bemusing part of the first 45 minutes was that Gavin Cogdon wasn’t on the score sheet. That would be rectified in the second half. Sixty five minutes: Cogdon brought down in the penalty area after turning a defender. He converts the spot kick. 5-0. Seventy two minutes: Cogdon’s last contribution to the game, finding the narrow gap between keeper and post from outside the box. 6-0 and substituted. His work here is done. With 10 minutes to go, you got the impression that NP wouldn’t have complained if the referee had blown the full-time whistle to put them out of their misery. Their goal wasn’t even a consolation. They had been overwhelmed. It is ludicrously unfair to nominate a man of the match, given the all-round team performance by South Shields, but Wayne Phillips was outstanding. They’re in the semi-finals of the Vase for the first time in their history. Oh, and there was the little matter of a record-breaking attendance of 3,161 at Mariners Park. Apart from that, it was just another day for South Shields FC. Quote of the day from a Mariners fan (surprisingly enough): “It’s better than Sunderland this.” 17/02/2017 Billingham Synthonia 2 Thornaby 0 – Ebac Northern League Division Two Macaulay Langstaff was a welcome ray of sunshine in a disappointing night of football on Teesside. It was a sluggish start by both teams and that set the tempo for much of the first half. Noteworthy incidents were few and far between, with players seemingly happy to punt the ball away rather than try pass and move footie. In the opening minutes, Thornaby’s James Rowe put in a solid tackle to deny Synners striker Conor Winter. Thirteen minutes in Billingham number four John Seaton saw a long range shot go wide of the post. For the first 20 minutes the Thornaby defence was the best unit for either team. The closest chance of the half was a Macaulay Langstaff free kick from distance which went just wide. Fortunately he was more accurate in the second half. Three minutes after the re-start he drove in a free-kick which went in off the inside of the post. On the 70-minute mark he was on hand again to double Synthonia’s lead and seal the match. He broke into the box and had his first effort blocked by Thornaby keeper Daniel Bowman. The ball bobbled up and fell nicely for the home striker who made no mistake at the second time of asking. He almost got his hat-trick when he tried to lob the keeper, only to see it go past the post. Thornaby had a couple of half-chances in the second half but neither Michael Joseph nor Stephen Morrison could find the target. Apart from the goals, neither keeper had much to do. Earlier this season Secret Hopper saw Synthonia beat Northallerton 1-0 in a game where the three points were more important than the performance. This was more of the same. 10/02/2017 Esh Winning 1 Willington 1 – Ebac Northern League Division Two This wasn’t a match for the faint hearted. Or, as sometime contributor to this blog Pete Sixsmith observed: “It’s not a game where you dwell on the ball.” Robust tackles flew in left, right and centre. Two red cards might suggest that it was a dirty game, but the players mostly kept the challenges competitive rather than overly aggressive. And in the end a draw was a fair reflection of the match – both teams deserved something out of the game. Esh Winning had the best of the opening period with the first three chances without really troubling Chris Storey in the Willington goal. Both Storey and his counterpart Mark Fish were kept busy during the first half. Willington were down to 10 men on the half-hour mark when Jason Brazavskas kicked out at an Esh Player. It didn’t seem to affect their play – they kept plugging away and creating chances. The only puzzling thing was how the score stayed at 0-0 at half-time. Both teams had chances to score a couple of goals. Esh Winning edged ahead in the 55th minute with the best shot of the game when Kai Hewitson made the most of a yard of space just outside the box. He took his time, picked his spot and curled it into the top right corner. The rest of the second half saw more of the same to the first – plenty of chances at both ends with both teams grafting despite the heavy conditions. Every player put in a full shift. Kieran Day was sent off after receiving his second yellow card to make it 10 v 10 in the 68th minute and in the 81st minute Willington grabbed the equaliser. Will Preston was judged to have been brought down in the box and Graham Stephenson scored with the spot kick. It had been a good, competitive game with plenty of action on offer. 09/02/2017 North Shields 1 Newcastle u23s 1 (10-9 on penalties after extra time) - Northumberland Senior Cup North Shields are going back to St James’ Park. Scene of a great win over Blyth Spartans in the same competition last season, they’re returning to NE1 to defend their crown. And it was all thanks to a dramatic 24-penalty shoot-out. Gary Ormston was the hero for the Robins after all 11 players had taken a spot kick, but his second penalty was the decisive one and he was mobbed by the fans. The teams couldn’t be separated after 120 minutes of play. For the first half North Shields more than held their own and were ahead in the opening minutes. Newcastle keeper Nathan Harker fumbled a corner and Ryan Carr was on hand to prod it home. Newcastle knocked the ball around but didn’t do much with it. It was 28 minutes before they had a meaningful effort on goal. Meanwhile Shields were playing the more positive football. Lee Mason had a couple of chances but couldn’t quite find a finish. Former Toon first-teamer Haris Vuckic was the visitor’s biggest threat and he got them level in the 50th minute when he collected a Dan Barlaser cross, turned and got his shot away. It was the cue for sustained pressure by Newcastle. As the game progressed, it got more difficult for North Shields to retain possession and mount many attacks and then, from out of nowhere, they crafted three decent chances to snatch victory in the last 10 minutes of normal time. The Robins’ fitness levels just about held up for extra time and the 636-strong crowd had the drama of the penalty shoot-out. Newcastle were the first to miss a spot kick and North Shields had two chances to win it before Ormston wrapped it up. The game kicked off at 7.35. The winning penalty hit the back of the net at 10.22pm. It had been a long, cold night but Robins fans couldn’t have cared less. The boys from NE29 did the Northern League proud. And just like last season they’ll be up against a team from Blyth – it’s just a matter of whether it’ll be Spartans or Town. 08/02/2017 Newcastle Benfield 1 South Shields 2 – Camerons Brewery Brooks Mileson League Cup A win for South Shields. They controlled big chunks of the game. They took their chances well and deserve to be in the semi finals of the league cup. But that doesn’t quite tell the full story. Benfield pushed them all the way and were within a whisker of taking it to a penalty shoot-out. It was a brace of goals for Michael Richardson and it should have been a brace of penalties for Paul Brayson. Tom McNamee almost drew first blood for the hosts. He unleashed a pile driver that looked certain to go in the top right corner. He couldn’t have hit it better, but somehow Shields keeper Liam Connell managed to pull off a top save. Richardson was instrumental in setting up Shields’ first chance. He nudged it past the Benfield defence and unselfishly passed it to Craig Baxter with only Benfield keeper Andrew Grainger to beat instead of shooting himself. The pass gave Grainger the chance to smother Baxter’s effort. The reprieve only lasted two minutes. Baxter and Richardson were involved again, this time it was the full-back who set up the Shields number 10 who knocked it home to put the visitors 1-0 up. Brayson had Benfield’s next best chance on the half-hour but he saw his shot go just wide. The rest of his team-mates were up for the contest too. For the entire match they were organised, defended well and never allowed Shields to rest on their lead. But after surviving a couple of goal mouth scrambles in quick succession in the 62nd minute, Benfield were down to 10 men when centre back Stepehen Tobin picked up his second yellow card. Then Brayson had a great chance to equalise. He found a yard of space in the box to meet a cross with a downward header but it went just wide. With 10 minutes to go it was Shields’ turn to go down to 10 men. Brayson broke free of the last defender and was pulled back by Dillon Morse in the box. Morse got his marching orders and Brayson despatched the penalty. The host’s hard work and perseverance had paid off. And then with four minutes of normal time left it looked as though Richardson had ended the contest. Substitute Gavin Cogdon split the defence inviting Richardson to run through on goal. He didn’t need any more prompting – he took it round Grainger and put them ahead with his and his team’s second. It looked game over only for Benfield to be awarded their second penalty in the 87th minute when Alex Nicolson was judged to have handled in the area. Brayson stepped up again but this time his penalty hit the bar. It was their last chance and it was all over. South Shields join Marske in the semi finals. 07/02/2017 Sunderland RCA 2 Marske United 4 – Camerons Brewery Brooks Mileson League Cup The two teams will look back on this game with completely different takes on the match. No doubt the assessment of Marske’s players and management will be that they deserved the win after playing the better football and creating more chances. RCA will look back with some bitterness about two controversial decisions that went against them. They were two decisions that had a direct impact on the game. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the decisions, from the opening minutes it was a terrific, competitive game that flew by. Marske’s Ashley Coffey put in a man-of-the-match performance and was involved in just about everything they did well. In the opening 15 minutes he almost unpicked the RCA defence three times with deft passes – only for his team-mates to be caught offside. It was fourth time lucky in the 17th minute when he sent over a cross which was met by Peter Bulmer at the far post to put them 1-0 ahead. John Butler made it all square on the 50th minute when a mistake by the Marske defence let the RCA striker in. He rounded Robert Dean and tucked it away. Parity only lasted a minute and Marske re-took the lead with the first of the controversial decisions. RCA failed to clear the ball out of their box. It fell to Glen Butterworth and his shot deflected off Danny Earl into the goal. RCA were convinced that Earl was in an offside position when it hit him, but their protests fell on deaf ears. Earl was involved in their third – pulling the ball back for Curtis Round who took his time before finding the net. With 12 minutes to go RCA gave themselves a lifeline. Dean was caught off his line and stranded, leaving Jonathan Davis free to score. The game was put beyond RCA’s reach in the 87th minute with the second controversial decision. The assistant flagged for a foul on an RCA player as they attacked. The referee didn’t give the foul, Marske broke away and Coffey sealed the win. It was Marske’s fifth win in a row and it booked them a place in the semi-finals. A final thought: many people complain that the art of tackling is missing from football but there was plenty on show at last night’s game, particularly by the Marske back four. 04/02/2017 Jarrow Roofing BCA 1 Newton Aycliffe 1 – Ebac Divison One This game was a bit of a struggle. Plenty of effort, but short of quality. Jarrow Roofing started the more positive of the two teams. Three times within the first six minutes they were close to beating the Newton Aycliffe back four’s offside trap. Unfortunately it didn’t last. As the game progressed their passing deteriorated and they resorted to long, aerial balls which were meat and drink to the Aycliffe centre backs. It was Aycliffe who stuck their noses – at the third time of asking. In the 8th minute a Stuart Banks header hit the bar. Roofing keeper Lewis Brass managed to stop a follow-up shot but could do nothing about a header by Jamie Owens. Dan Kirkup flung himself at the ball to try and scoop it out from under the bar but couldn’t stop the ball crossing the line. Aycliffe keeper Philip Pentony almost gifted Roofing with an equaliser when he wandered 30 yards up the pitch, was beaten to the ball by Michael Mackay. He rounded Pentony but his shot was high and wide. Dennis Knight did level it up just after the half-hour mark. He ran on to a ball over the top and lobbed Pentony. It was a simple but effective move. For the rest of the game clear-cut chances were few and far between. Calvin Smith for the home team and Ben Wood for the visitors had the best of them but it finished all square, which was just about right. Both teams can play far better than this. Footnote: Things can only get brighter. We must have turned the corner as far as the end of winter’s concerned, for the time being at least. The game finished without the need for floodlights (just). 01/02/2017 Shildon 1 Billingham Synthonia 1 (4-5 on penalties) Durham Challenge Cup The Synners put themselves through the ringer. An early goal to give their fans hope of an upset? Tick. A golden opportunity to go 2-0 up spurned just before half-time? Tick. Some stout, top-notch defending to defy Shildon? Tick. Conceding an equaliser deep into added time? Tick. A penalty shootout ? Tick. In the end they scraped through winning 5-4 on penalties, but it was no more than they deserved. This must have been one of their best performances of the season. Within seven minutes they were ahead, Anthony Peacock running at the Shildon defence, beating his man, choosing his spot and scoring with a confident finish. That was quickly followed by a shot by Conor Winter. They weren’t over-awed by the double winners and were taking the game to the home side. Winter should have given them some much-needed breathing space just before the break. He ran on to a through ball and rounded the keeper but he could only shoot the ball wide with the goal gaping. In the second half they were unlucky not to go further ahead. Joe Hillerby sent over a perfect cross to the far post. Jordan Wilson looked as though he’d done everything right: timed his run and jump to perfection and headed it down, only to be denied by a top save by Nick Liversedge. At the other end their defending was impressive. They didn’t panic, they looked organised and committed, mostly limiting Shildon to long-range shots. For Shildon it was a lacklustre performance. They looked as though they could have stepped it up another gear or two, but they didn’t seem to want to put their foot to the floor. They had the possession, passing and movement you’d expect but they couldn’t find that little bit extra until the closing minutes of the game. When it came it was a scorcher. Matty Robson was their main attacking force, making several powerful runs down the left in the second half but it looked as though they were all for nought until he unleashed a pile driver from a tight angle to send the game to penalties. They had two penalties saved and one went high and wide and they were out of the cup to a second division team. There didn’t seem to be too many complaints about the result from Shildon fans.