Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Retford United 1 v Liversedge 2 - NCEL Prem

Tuesday 3rd May 2016
Retford United (1) 1
Brad Johnson 9
Liversedge (1) 2
Rob Thomas 37
Joseph Walton 90
Admission £5. Programme £1.50. Attendance 94
Liversedge were without the Under 19 players who have been supplementing their line up as they overcame a fixtures backlog, while finishing the season with a six game unbeaten run, in which time they've escaped from the drop zone and leapfrogged Retford United tonight to finish the season in a very respectable 14th place, which bodes well for next season if they can avoid the problems they suffered because of the OTT rainfall that Cleckheaton suffered from this winter and beyond.
For the record, the Sedge U19 team, who've impressed me no end when I've watched them this season, beat Thackley 7-0 tonight.
The Badgers finished this campaign with more than twice the points tally they limped over the finishing line with last season, which, if you were to take on board the macabre theatre that has provided a backdrop to the past nine months, is actually a bigger achievement that it might seem in the fianl reckoning. Respect to everyone who steadied the ship and kept it moving forward at a sensible and just about sustainable pace.
Elsewhere tonight, relegation issues were settled when Pontefract Collieries suffered a 6-1 reversal against Handsworth Parramore, which was the perfect response to the doubters who had said Micky Godber's side wouldn't be trying now that they had nothing left to play for, with both Jonathan Froggatt and Keiran Wells hitting the total of 40 goals apiece for the season.
The Amber Parras win spared Armthorpe Welfare from the drop, as Ponte joined the other relegated sides Brigg Town and Nostell Miners Welfare in Division 1 next season.
Cleethorpes Town won 1-0 at Bridlington Town, whilst Tadcaster Albion saw off Albion Sports 2-1, in the NCEL League Cup semi finals... the final will be played at Garforth Town on Saturday 14th May, see you all there!
Jermaine Gordon tries scaring Joseph Walton
with some plastic fangs he got from a Xmas cracker
But back to Cannon Park, or the Jones & Co. Solicitors Stadium, to give the Badgers home it's full and proper name, where two sides who are both already clear of the relegation places, went head to head with the players they have available, on a pitch that was in severe need of a haircut.
Obviously, the surface wasn't ever going to allow either team to create beautiful geometrical patterns, or weave a rich tapestry of artistry for the purists to savour, but credit to both sides for giving it their all in the hard graft and full on commitment stakes as Liversedge proved to have just that little bit extra in reserve, right at the end, to grind out a result.
The Badgers pressed from the off, cut struggled to find the final touch inside the opening exchanges, while Joseph Walton, leading the line for Sedge, settled into the night's one against one 90 minute personal dual against Jermaine Gordon
Jon Rimmington, captured in a rare moment of tranquility
Retford took the lead after 9 minutes, when their captain got to the ball first as the visitors tried to clear lines and spanked it past Christian Thewlis via the right hand upright.
At the other end Gordon fouled Walton just outside the area and Brandon Kane's free kick was cleared behind at the expense of a right wing corner, which found it's way through to Kane on the edge of the area, but he shot over from 12 yards out.
Walton and Kane advanced towartds the Badgers goal, but United's defence closed ranks in front of them and Gordon put his foot through the ball to clear the danger.
Thewlis got a lucky break when he battled with Reece Hands and Christian Savage for a loose ball at the foot of his left hand post, but amidst the struggle the ball went out for a goal kick.
Kane and Walton sprung up in the Badgers penalty area again, but in spite of them having two bites at the cherry, the home side cleared the ball away again.
Marc Lumb saw a gap ahead of him and covered forty yards down the left flank, before delivering a pin point cross into Jamie Davies six yard box, but James Finnegan and moved in from his left back berth to clear the ball away.
The clearance gave Retford the opportunity to push forward again, but although Johnson impressively cut a swathe right through the middle of the visitors defence, his final shot let him down. 

The visitors were level on 37 minutes, when Kane delayed his run to stay onside, before surging forward with Rob Thomas to his right, who he rolled the ball in front of to finish from ten yards out.
The home side had a half chance to regain the lead just before the break, but Savage could only hit his shot straight at Thewlis.
HT: 1-1
The second half wasn't massively entertaining as it became congested in the midfield that both teams were having to share with a tribe of Pygmies who had made their summer camp in the long grass.
Gordon hacked a long punt out of the rough for James Binney to run onto, but Thewlis came quickly off his line and got their first.
Thomas took flight and weaved his way through the Retford back line in a manner akin to John Barnes at his best, when he scored a 'wonder goal' against Brazil back in the day, but the Badgers were always better at the back than the Samba boys and he was snuffed out before he could get his shot away.
Jamie Davies
Craig Tonkinson was unlucky to see his free kick from just outside the Retford area (below) dip over the crossbar at the last moment. Several people thought Davies had got a touch to keep the ball out, but the referee didn't and there were no appeals as the referee awarded a goal kick.
In their eagerness to keep Liversedge out, United conceded another free kick outside their area, but Kane struck the dead ball straight at Davies who saved it with ease.
The Badgers seemed to be in or around the last third, around the visitors penalty area for the final five minutes, but their efforts to break the deadlock were somewhat lacklustre... in fact I will bring this report to a close by repeating verbatim exactly what I scribbled down in my notebook:
"Retford spent the closing stages fannying around with the ball too much in front of the Liversedge goal, but they lacked any real penetration, which allowed the visitors to break quickly in the very last minute, in a direct but very effective manner, cutting out the leg work on this grassy pitch, which gave Walton the opportunity to squeeze home the winning goal from a tight angle ,on the left hand side of the Badgers area"
So there you have it. 
An away win for Liversedge on the night that an intriguing league season came to an end.
FT: Retford United 1 v Liversedge 2
Safe journey home Milly and Co.
Well done for keeping RUFC afloat and proving all of the doubters wrong to everyone involved.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Notts County 3 v Liverpool 2 - FA Women's Super League

Monday 2nd May 2016
FA Women's Super League
at Meadow Lane, Nottingham
Notts County (2) 3
Ellen White 13, 59
Jess Clarke 34
Liverpool (0) 2
Katie Zelem 85 pen, 87
Admission £6. Programme £2. Attendance 1407
Ladies Academy poster opposite NCFC entrance with NFFC in background
Notts County
Telford; Buet, Bradley-Auckland (Krantz 46), F Whelan, Turner; Clarke, Bassett, James, Crichton; White, Yankey (Luik 74). Subs not used: Walsh, A Whelan, Hassall, O'Neill.
Liverpool
Chamberlain; Harding, Bonner, van den Berg, Pacheco (Greenwood 64); Coombs, Ingle; Zelem; van de Sanden, Weir (Longhurst 74), White (Lundh 64). Subs not used: Gibbons, Hodson, Murray.
Surprisingly this was County's first win in their opening four games. 
I say surprisingly, because with players of the calibre of Jess Clarke and Rachel Yankey (currently on loan from Arsenal), terrorising opposition defences down both flanks, while providing a consistent service of quality openings for England striker Ellen White, they're not going to finish many games without having scored like they did at Manchester City in March.
Prior to kick off their was a minutes applause held, by way of a tribute to the Liverpool fans who have fought for justice since April 1989, for the supporters who died as a consequence of the Hillsborough disaster.
At half time, with the 'Lady Pies', as they call themselves, looking good for all three points and sitting on a very comfortable 2-0 lead and seemingly in control of the game, nobody could have predicted the kind of second half that actually unfolded, when Liverpool had a delayed real go at salvaging a point... and they very nearly did too, as Notts were made to hang on for dear life towards the end of the game. 
Liverpool started well enough, with Rosie White going close twice, with Carly Telford needing to sprint out of her area to clear the ball when the visitors number 13 chased after a long pass that had caught the Magpies defence flat footed, while at the other end Sophie Ingle was on hand to hook Clarke's cross away from in front of Siobhan Chamberlain's goal, after the tricky winger had swapped flanks momentarily and got in behind the Reds defence.
The home side took the lead on 13 minutes through Ellen White, when Rachel Yankey put the ball on a plate for her with a great delivery from out on the left hand side of the field.
With the bit between their teeth, Notts upped the ante and Leanne Chrichton shot over, after Liverpool had made hard work of clearing a through ball from Clarke and at the third attempt, could only hook it as far away as Chrichton.
Yankey played a short pass down the left flank to Fern Whelan, who dragged two defenders out of position before knocking a return ball back to Yankee, who dropped a teasing cross towards the back stick, where Clarke couldn't quite get a clean contact and she scuffed her shot off target.
But Clarke atoned for her miss in the 34th minute, when she won the ball from Mandy van den Berg on the right hand side of the area, skipped past her and curled a great left footed shot into the opposite top corner of the goal.
Liverpool's captain Gemma Bonner realised that this game was slipping away and as County took their places in anticipation of the restart, she summoned her entire team to the middle of pitch, where they held a group huddle and refocusing session.
The crowd were whipping up an atmosphere, but remind me not to sit in front of the guy with a drum when I'm here with Birmingham City Ladies next week... and both sets of fans sang the "Justice for the 96" song in unison.
Sophie Bradley- Auckland collided with the left hand post as she arrived a split second after Chamberlain had caught another cross into the six yard box from Yankey, but thankfully she was able to play on... and in first half stoppage time she was back in defence, blocking Emma Lundh's shot from Shanice van de Sanden's left wing cross.
HT: Notts County 2 v Liverpool 0
Liverpool were thrown a lifeline when Amy Turner fouled van de Sanden inside the Pies area, but Caroline Weir thumped the resulting spot kick well over, while Notts increased their lead from their very next attack, when Ellen White raced through a gap in the visitors back four and clipped home an angled shot.
So, 3-0 up at home after a hour, the opposition have just missed a penalty and despite the rain, it was turning out to be a very pleasant afternoon for County's Ladies... or so you'd have thought.
But the Liver Birds (I'm damn sure that they don't actually call themselves that), weren't prepared to chuck the towel in and though they were probably only playing for pride now, they had plenty of it as they set about finding some kind of consolation.
Amy Turner tripped Emma Lundh as she moved in on the Lady Pies goal and in doing so conceded another penalty, which Katie Zelem dispatched without any fuss, before claiming a second goal just two minutes later, to set up a nervy finish for Notts.
This certainly hadn't been on the cards only a short while ago.
But try as they might, Liverpool couldn't force a third goal as County held on to take all three points, from an highly entertaining game. Nobody could say that they hadn't had their money's worth this afternoon.
FT: Notts County Ladies 3 v Liverpool Ladies 2

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Bottesford Town 1 v AFC Emley 1 - Bottesford won 4-3 on penalties - NCEL Div 1 Play Off Final

Saturday 30th April 2016
Toolstation NCEL Division 1 Play Off Final
Bottesford Town (0) 1
Terry Barwick 90+ Pen
AFC Emley (0) 1
Michael Tunnacliffe 74
Admission £5. Programme £1. Attendance 280
Full time 1-1. AET 1-1. Bottesford won 4-3 on penalties
Bottesford Town:
Leigh Herrick, Danny Gibbons, Steve Ridley, Lee Ridley (C), Tom Johnson, Terry Barwick, Tom Spall, Martin Pembleton, Danny Boulton, Josh Nichol, Wayne Graves
Subs - Craig Bridge, Aaron Busby, Ollie Donald, Ryan Short, Luke Robinson
AFC Emley
Paul Day, Iwan Heeley, Jordan Coduri, Robbie Graham, Sam Jerome, Tom Brennan, Michael Tunnacliffe (C), Jordan Townend, Ash Flynn, Kieran Ryan, Ruben Jerome
Subs - Dominic Noteman, Alex Slack, Craig Billington, Alex Hallam, Paul Sykes
Leigh Herrick, Bottesford's experienced goalkeeper, bid farewell to his playing career today and signed off in style, turning Sam Jerome's spot kick away, to claim a 4-3 victory for his side in the penalty shoot out that determined which of these sides would be promoted to the NCEL Premier Division.
Personally I think it's great that Leigh went out with a bang, while recognising the fact that AFC Emley were desperately unlucky not to have won this winner takes all, end of season lottery, in normal time.
Tom Brennan was the visitors man of the match, in the centre of their defence, where he didn't miss a header all afternoon and prowled his domain authoritatively with a single minded "they shalt not pass" determination that marked him out above all others.
It was ironic that it was Brennan who conceded the injury time penalty, when he tripped Wayne Greaves whilst trying to clear what must surely have been the Poachers last throw of the dice, that let the home side back into the game, when, if the Pewits hadn't been guilty of some spectacularly profligate finishing and Herrick hadn't been so determined to give his side a massive parting gift, the game should've been over as a contest, long before the visitors captain Mike Tunnacliffe had headed home the opening goal on 74 minutes.
But deep into stoppage time, Terry Barwick made light work of dealing with the pressure he must surely have been under and drilled the ball past Paul Day to set up an 30 minutes of play, which in the event, still wasn't long enough to separate these two promotion hopefuls and the shoot out was required.
Obviously, Leigh Herrick is the obvious choice as Bottesford's man of the match, although the referee, Martin Chester (from Lincolnshire) probably ran the Poachers custodian close to nicking that particular accolade on a number of occasions.
Everybody makes mistakes... and though their is no doubt that Mr Chester was guilty of several complete howlers over the course of the game, the eventual losers wouldn't have needed to claim that the decisions that went against them cost them the game, if the league's top scorer, Ash Flynn, with 73 (seventy three) goals to his name this season, prior to today, hadn't completely fluffed his lines several times, when it was his turn to call the shots.
He'll be back stronger for the experience next season, as will his team. I'm sure that Darren Hepworth's plans for another tilt at the title are already at a very advanced stage in preparation for next term. I wouldn't bet against them.
Flynn had an off day in the Pewits biggest game of the season... mind you I would imagine that it requires a lot of effort to project a sphere into the top corner of the goal, when you are stood just inside the area with your back to it, while two opposition players are simultaneously kicking your legs from under you and grappling with your upper torso.
But hey! The referee was better placed than me to make a decision as regards that particular episode, even if his reading of the incident was unique compared to everyone else in the grounds take on things.
And let's not forget, although the referee is a resident of Lincolshire, both of his assistants are Yorkshireman, not that I am doubting anybody's complete neutrality at this this juncture you understand.
Leastways, you can't blame the officials for everything I did count four separate occasions, when (in chronological order) Jordan Coduri, Kieran Ryan, Michael Tunnacliffe and Ruben Jerome all drilled the ball across the face of the Bottesford goal, that all only needed to faintest of touches from the Pewits number 9 to increase their goal tally, but despite Flynn having made all of the right runs, he failed to get any purchase on any of them, if indeed he managed to touch the ball at all. But, let's be serious here for a moment, he probably knew that Herrick was always more likely to come out on top anyway.
Terry Barwick makes it 1-1 in the ninety somethingth minute
Mr Craggs of the parish of Mansfield said to me as I was giving him a running commentary of the notes I was jotting down, asked if I was doing a match report or writing a testimonial brochure for the Poachers goalkeeper (they are welcome to borrow my fan boy scrap book in the occurrence of such an event, as long as I get it back), after two plus hours of open play and thirteen previous spot kicks had failed to find a winner between these two sides, somebody had to step up to the mantle and claim the day for his team... and to that end Leigh Herrick underlined, with a thick red marking pen, why I had every faith in him to go out on a high this afternoon.
FT: 1-1 Bottesford Town win on penalties
Game over courtesy of Lee Herrick
No doubt there will be far more detailed accounts of today's events elsewhere, given how many proper scribes, bloggers, reporters and real photographers were present, with their fancy equipment, apps, laptops and stonking great big phallically bulging camera lens' to utilise.
This is my humble and truncated guide to what went on, detailing the input (or lack of it) of the pivotal characters.
 No offence intended or 'owt, some people will know they could have done better and will be relishing the opportunity to put matters right after the summer.
Well done and good luck in the NCEL Premier Division next season Bottesford Town.
Commiserations to AFC Emley, you deserved to win the game over the course of 90 minutes, let this be a springboard for next season now.
And last but not least, best wishes with your post football playing life Leigh Herrick, you're going to miss it like hell pal and the local non league circuit is going to miss your massive presence too, even if, right now, AFC Emley must be wishing you'd retired in the week leading up to the play offs.

Grimsby Town 0 v Mansfield Town 2 - FLYA (NE)

Saturday 30th April 2016
Football League Youth Alliance - North East
at Cheapside, Waltham
Grimsby Town (0) 0
Mansfield Town (1) 2
Kieran Harrison 36, Zayn Hakeem 72
A result that means Mansfield Town U18 are FLYA (NE) champions
Click HERE for Flickr photo gallery from this game
Mariners:
Corey Briggs, Adam Lanis, Mikey Davis, Myles Lawman, Joe Crowther, Cameron Hough, Max Wright, Tom Sawyer, Bilal Sessay, Callum Jennings (C), Jamie Gooddard
Subs - Joey Finnigan, Jack Pearson, Ben Sibbick, Ryan Evans, Charlie Lofts
Stags:
Adam Bishop, Teddy Bloor, Louis Danquah, Cain Smith, Morgan Ratcliffe (C), Kieran Harrison, Tyler Johal, Cameron Healey, Tyler Blake (Tom Marriott 87), Alistair Smith (Devante Reittie 84), Zayn Hakeem (Nyle Blake 79)
Unused subs - Sam Wilson, Kane Baldwin
The real beauty of this championship clinching performance, is that all but a couple of this Stags side are still first years, who are still eligible to play at this age level next season, it's a mouthwatering prospect and bodes very well for the future progress and development of the youngsters, who were actually light of two players who they could have selected today (including a 16 year old), because they were away on first team duty at Leyton Orient.
A good number of this years successful Under 16 crop of players will also be available to join John Dempster and Mark Peters side next season too.
Exciting times ahead then.
Although their fate was in their own hands and a win would secure the league title regardless of how Scunthorpe United fared today, the Stags knew they were going to have to work hard against a young Mariners side who had proved to be tough opposition in both league and cup competitions already this season.
Mansfield came out all guns blazing and Tyler Blake chased down Corey Brigg and forced him into a save inside the first minute and the Grimsby keeper was called into action again moments later when he had to sprint out of his area, to nick the ball away from Zayn Hakeem, who had dispossessed Joe Crowther in the middle of the park before charging toward's the home side's goal.
Kieran Harrison broke up an attack and switched play into the host team's half with a quick pass to Cain Smith whose wide ball to the ever willing Tyler Johal, was whacked out of play by Adam Lanis as he raced back to prevent a cross into his goal area.
Bilal Sassey broke free down the right flank, but Grimsby's first attack was thwarted when Teddy Bloor stooped to head the Grimsby number 9's cross away.
The Stags right back is a real box to box player and within minutes of tidying things up at one end, he was involved at the other, providing the ammunition for Johal at the other end,with a throw in that Crowther failed to deal with and Briggs was called on again to thwart the Stags as he grabbed at Johal's shot.
Briggs' long clearance bounced deep inside the Mansfield half but as Tom Sawyer raced after the ball, Adam Bishop had spotted the danger and came off his line to collect, with Joe Harper screaming at the Mariners number 8 to get the ball out wide to Huckleberry Finn, who had made an crafty blind side run. OK, I made that last bit up to see if the Stags website admin were paying attention or not ;-)
Ali Smith was excelling the role as a foil to his fellow attackers and was unlucky when his measured ball through to Tyler Blake came to nothing when the assistant referee's flag went up late.
But as Grimsby conceded possession quite quickly from the resulting free kick, Ali Smith struck again and released Tyler Johal through into the penalty area, but with only Briggs to beat, the ball sat up awkwardly and Johal shot over the bar from 10 yards out.
Sessay got forward for the home side, but as his pace got him in behind the Stags defence, Bishop reacted quickly and smothered the ball at the Mariners striker's feet.
Though this game was being billed as the day the Stags clinched the title, the home side were ignoring that script and the visitors were relieved to see Callum Jennings shoot over the bar from 12 yards after Max Wright had picked him out with a great pass.
Bloor's cross was fumbled by Briggs and fell to Johal whose goal bound strike was blocked by Crowther and ricocheted into the path of Cain Smith and his crashing shot through the crowded goalmouth was deflected wide of the right hand post. 
It was quite fitting that when the Stags finally did beat the deadlock it was through a combination of two of their most consistent performers over the course of the season... when Louis Danquah's corner kick, was met by Kieran Harrison who headed the ball firmly into the back of the Mariners net.
Tyler Blake slipped the ball through the Grimsby back four who were defending high up the pitch, but the Stags were frustrated again by another late flag after Hakeen had seemed to time his run to perfection.
Tyler Blake appeared to be tripped in the Grimsby area but the ref waved play on, Cameron Hough, Grimsby's centre half nudged the ball to his keeper, but Hakeem burst in to plant the ball past Briggs. But, once again, the linesman endeared himself to the local supporters and raised his flag, to signal an offside infringement to the referee who chalked Hakeem's strike off.
The Stags captain Morgan Ratcliffe, delivered a long ball towards Tyler Blake, but Briggs came off his line a caught it, in spite of his defence having temporarily gone AWOL
HT: Mariners Youth 0 v Stags Youth 1
Tyler Blake drew a defender out of position as he slowed down his run towards the edge of Briggs' penalty area and rolled the ball into the space he had created for Hakeem to run onto, but, with so much at stake, the first team fringe player was too eager to get his shot away quickly and he sliced the ball wide of the target.
Another goal always looked to be on the cards as the visitors upped things a notch and put Grimsby under a sustained spell of pressure.
Jennings was marshaling his Mariners team mates well, as they battled hard to clear their lines, but they had Briggs to thank for clawing the ball away from the visitors forwards, when Ratcliffe headed Danquah's right wing free kick back across the front of the goal.
Hakeem burst past Hough and advanced on Briggs goal, but the Grimsby defender pulled him back and they crashed to the floor together.
Once again the match officials saw no wrong in a clumsy Mariners challenge and the home side got away with what had looked like a stonewall penalty to the parents and supporters from Mansfield who were stood directly in line with the incident.
A bit of niggardliness began to creep into the game, as the visiting players felt they weren't getting the rub of the green, while the hosts seemed to be getting away with far too many indiscretions.
The Stags won a corner when Adam Lanis lost a tussle for the ball with Tyler Blake. Bloor floated the ball beyond the back post, Cameron Healey nodded it back across the face of Grimsby's goal and Morgan Ratcliffe glanced a header against the upright.
Tenuous decisions apparently balance themselves out over the course of a season, but the Stags were denied what looked like another definite penalty, when Ali Smith forced his way past two defenders and sprinted into the Grimsby area, Crowther caught him with an outstretched leg, there was a cracking noise as their boots came together and the Stags number 10, with goal at his mercy was tripped. The only decisions that seemingly needed to be made was whether the foul had occurred inside the area or out, and how the Mariners captain would be dealt with, given that Alistair was the last man. The crowd held their breath and waited to see what the referee was going to do... he did nothing... apart from wave play on.
The young Stags weren't going to let the way things were panning out knock them out of their stride however and fortunately Ratcliffe was still focused enough to realise that Grimsby had broken forward on the counter attack and was on hand to clear Bilal Sessay's goal bound strike off the line.
It was apparent that with just the one goal cushion, the Stags would need to score again while they were pushing forward and vulnerable to a counter attack, but they must have wondered if the fates were against them when Bloor hooked a cross in and Tyler Blake directed his header out of the reach of Briggs, but the ball cannoned back off the left hand post.
But in the 72nd minute the Stags were nearly home and dry, when Ali Smith and Tyler Blake homed in on the Mariners keeper in tandem and he had to push the ball away to his left where Hakeem was arriving at just the right moment to roll the ball over the goal line and all but claim the victory and the league championship for the Mansfield Town.
Hakeem had two more chances to increase the lead, but Briggs turned one around the upright and the Mansfield frontman who had given his all chasing everything and anything today, headed the other over the bar, before he hobbled off with cramp to be replaced by Nyle Blake, a product of the Stags Under 16 side, who looks to be comfortably taking the step up a level.
Briggs turned a header from Nyle Blake onto the bar, when Johal put found him with a telling cross... and the Stags substitute came close again when Briggs saved from John Dempster's youngest youngster, when he shot from 12 yards despite being held back.
Blake junior was running amok in the Mariners area as the clock ticked down and when he rolled the ball back from the dead ball line to Johal, the former Ilkeston player was only inches away from scoring as his shot cleared the bar.
The last action of the second half, saw Cain Smith drill the ball narrowly wide from outside the area, but mattered not, the final whistle sounded and the celebrations began... we are the champions my friends!
FT: Grimsby Town U18 0 v Mansfield Town U18 2
Footnote to a great season:
Of course, football at this level is all about nurturing talent and helping to bring out the best in developing young footballer; essentially, nobody likes to lose, but results should never take precedence.
The enjoyment, camaraderie and bonding associated with this young Stags side this season is the most important thing, even though it is very nice to finish the season off at the top of the pile, in a league where the majority of opposition sides boast stronger and older squads of players.
The management, players, coaches, support staff, the families and supporters who have turned out to support this Under 18 adventure over the season, not forgetting the directors who oversee the development side of things at Mansfield Town, have had a great time together, it is a real shame that the season is now over, but the party isn't going to be and the friendships and links we've formed as we all gelled as a group aren't going to go away, as everyone moves on to the next phase.
I have worked with and met some truly awesome people this season, thank you for your time, effort and support... it has been my most enjoyable season ever and I feel privileged to have rubbed shoulders with you all.
But, everything else aside, well done lads! It is all about you.
You've got the future at your feet now, enjoy yourselves!

Thursday, 28 April 2016

FORTHCOMING GAMES - THE66POW UPDATED TOUR SCHEDULE 2015-16

FORTHCOMING GAMES
THE66POW ON TOUR 2015-16
Updated 19:00 Thursday 28th April 2016
All travel plans are subject to late and unannounced alterations.
Sat 30 Apr - Grimsby Town  v Mansfield Town - FLYA - 11AM
Sat 30 Apr - Bottesford Town v AFC Emley _ NCEL Play Off Final - 3pm
Tue 3 May - Retford United v LIversedge - NCEL Prem - 7.45pm
Wed 4 May - Northallerton Town v South Shelds - Northern League 2 - 7.45pm
Thu 5 May - Scunthorpe United v Doncaster Rovers - FLYA (NE) - 6.30pm
Sat 7 May - Mansfield Town v Cambridge United - SkyBet L2 - 3pm
Sun 8 May - Notts County Ladies v Birmingham City Ladies - 2pm
Tue 10 May - Basford United v Clipstone - Notts Senior Cup Final - at Mansfield Town FC
Sat 14 May - NCEL League Cup Final - 3pm - at Garforth Town FC
Sun 22nd May - England v Turkey - Friendly International - 5.30pm - at Manchester City
Fri 27 May - England v Australia - Friendly International - 7.45pm - at Sunderland AFC
The England v Australia match at the Stadium of Light on 27.5.16 will be the final game that I attend this season, after which time this blog will lay dormant for a while.
But I'll attempt to pick up the pieces where I left off, or thereabouts, sometime during the pre-season friendlies for 2016-17.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Bottesford Town 2 v Hallam FC 0 - NCEL Div 1 Play Off SF

Wednesday 27th April 2016
Toolstation NCEL Division 1 Play Off Semi Final
at Birch Park, Ontario Road, Bottesford
Bottesford Town (0) 2
Wayne Graves 72, 85
Hallam FC (0) 0
Admission £5. Programme £1. Attendance 275
According to the club's records in the programme, the highest ever attendance at Bottesford was 204, who attended a game v Scarborough in September 2008.
Which doubtless means that the Poachers will now smash that record twice this week.
Bottesford Town:
Leigh Herrick, Danny Gibbons, Jack Cross, Lee Ridley, Tom Johnson, Terry Barwick, Tom Spall, Martin Pembleton, Danny Boulton, Josh Nichol, Wayne Graves
Subs - Craig Bridge, Luke Robinson, Steve Ridley, Ryan Short, Matt Steeper
Hallam FC:
Dave Darwent, Elliott Simpson, Micah Bishop, Simon Mirfin, Scott Lowe, Tim Whittaker, James Reed, James Lipka, Michael Blythen, Steve Brammer, Ted Phillips
Subs - Max Pemberton, Tom Nolan, Harry Bamforth, Danny Mulooly, Connor Chappell
Bottesford Town set up a play off final on their home pitch v AFC Emley in three days time, by virtue of a brace of second half goals from Wayne Graves which he netted shortly an outstanding save by Leigh Herrick had kept Michael Blythen's well struck free kick from going in by the foot of the post, at a point in the game when Hallam had been getting on top of things for a while.
The Poachers had finished the season two days ago, in third place, ten points clear of Ryan Hindley's side, but that kind of thing goes out of the window in these one off winner takes all games.
Personally, although people have mixed opinions on the merits of a couple of play off games deciding the outcome of nine whole months of sweat and toil, I personally think they are a good thing by virtue of creating sustaining interest until the very end of the season, while generating a much needed cash boost for the competing clubs, who would otherwise get no money coming in through the turnstiles for three whole months.

Prior to kick off, there was an immaculately observed minutes silence for Josh Catterall, a twenty year old who worked with Bottesford Town's Under 16 team, before he tragically lost his life on Friday.
Rest in peace Josh
Michael Blythen had the first chance of the game, but he uncharacteristically drilled his shot well wide of the target.
Wayne Graves got the better of Tim Whittaker and laid the ball sideways across the face of the Hallam goal, but Dave Darwent pounced and smothered the ball at Danny Boulton's feet.
Blythen had the ball in the net for the visitors as he tangled with Jack Cross, nudged the ball forward and finished from just inside the area, but the referee decreed that Cross had been fouled and the goal was ruled out.
It was one of those 50/50 decisions that would be viewed completely differently by the respective followers of each club, but from my position of complete neutrality, I can categorically say, without fear of contradiction, that it was definitely one that I wouldn't have wanted to call.
Steve Brammer cut into the Poachers area from out on the right flank and his cross cum shot deflected wide of the goal and Leigh Herrick did well to keep the ball from going out for a corner.
Brammer was penalised for a hand ball as he jumped to clear the ball away from outside the Hallam goal area, but Terry Barwick drilled the ball straight at the visitors defensive wall.
The Countrymen attacked again through Brammer who picked out James Lipka whose shot was saved and Ted Phillips cleared Herrick's crossbar from the rebound.
The game moved back into Hallam's half from Herrick's goal kick and Josh Nichol tried his luck from 25 yards, but he hit his speculative effort way too high and the ball disappeared harmlessly into the car park.
Whittaker stopped Boulton in full flow with an excellently timed slide tackle... somebody was bound to try one on the sticky wicket, that had suffered a real downpour of rain, sleat and snow in the build up to the game. Luckily we'd checked the forecast and watched a 'four seasons in one day' demonstration of rapidly changing weather conditions, through the window of the nearby Dolphin public house, while waiting for the clubs to confirm that the late pitch inspection had been successfully passed.
Brammer was having a personal one versus one with Danny Gibbons, who battled to clear the ball from the Hallam playmaker and finally got it away at the third attempt.
On the stroke of half time, Simon Mirfin conceded a corner, which Cross swung dangerously into the visitors goalmouth, but as the ball took an awkward bounce, Darwent clutched it to his chest, with Nichol homing in.
HT: Bottesford Town 0 v Hallam FC 0
Hallam came flying out of the blocks at the start of the second half, using Phillips as an outlet on the left wing.
The visitors wide man was thwarted by Gibbons, but moments later he was back and beat the defender, forcing Herrick to advance from his goal to salvage the situation.
Micah Bishop's left wing cross found Whittaker, but he headed over from close range.
Herrick was in the thick of the action, when Mirfin shot straight at him and shortly afterwards the experienced keeper had to intercept a through ball from Lipka that had left Bottesford's defence flat footed.
It's a good job that these railway welders don't do anything all day and conserve their energy for playing in goal at night, isn't it!?
Terry Barwick (who'd have thought it!?), conceded a free kick 15 yards from the Poachers goal.
Herrick was slightly off centre to the left of his goal, when Blythen delivered a perfectly flighted free kick towards the opposite bottom corner, but Herrick covered the ground in a flash and pulled off a worldly to keep the ball out. James Reed tried to steer the loose ball back across the face of goal, but it was cleared for a corner. Had Blythen's free kick have gone in, with Bottesford weathering a bit of a storm, tonight's final income could've have been very different. Well. slightly different anyway, given that there were only two options, but you get my drift. That particular save was just as important as either goal.
Bottesford were stung into action by their close call and snatched the lesad from their next attack, when Tom Spall broke away on the right and drilled a low cross into the Hallam goalmouth, from which Boulton took a slight touch to divert it to Wayne Graves who buried the ball past Darwent with an emphatic shot.
Hallam tried opening up the Bottesford defence with a long ball, straight down the middle that was flicked on by the evergreen Scott Lowe, but Herrick was in no mood to surrender his clean sheet and he puched the ball away to safety.
Graves came close to grabbing a second goal for the home side, but Drwent was alert to his threat and grabbed the ball out of the air.
But in the 82nd minute, nobody was aware of what Graves was about to attempt, when he thumped an out of the blue long range shot, that found it's way into the back of the net via Darwent's outstretched gloves.
I heard somebody say "Goalkeeper error!" but that was disingenuous to both players, one had scored a great goal out of nothing, the other had bust a gut to prevent it.
In stoppage time, Graves could've claimed his hat trick but he leaned back and propelled his shot over thefence and onto the adjacent junior training pitches.
The referee blew for full time and Bottesford had turned a backs to the wall opening 20 minutes or so of the second half, when they'd had their keeper to thank for keeping them in the game, into a winning formula.
FT: Bottesford Town 2 v Hallam 0
So, the Poachers will now face AFC Emley at Birch Park on Saturday, in the play off final, while Hallam can take consolation from the fact that they have obviously got enough quality players in their ranks to have another tilt at promotion next season.
Final word must go to the Hallam Ultras, a young body of fans who vocally got behind the south Yorkshire side all night and were magnanimous enough to give the victors a great reception at the end of the night too.