Brocton 3 Continental Star 3

Tuesday 30th September 2008
Brocton 3 Continental Star 3
Midland Combination Premier Division
At: Old Police Sports Ground, Silkmore Lane, Stafford
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (28 pages)
Attendance: 52
Weather: showers
Duration: first half: 47:40; second half: 48:48

On what was my first visit to the Old Police Sports Ground on Silkmore Lane in Stafford, Brocton twice took the lead in the first half but ended up needing a last-minute equaliser from Andy Harrison to gain a point.

Some time in my dim and distant past, 1975 I think, I saw a game at the Police Sports Ground between Staffs Police and Bilston but I don't think I watched it that keenly. I recollect a railed off pitch with a blue-painted stand near to the entrance. The Police side were in the West Midlands League at the time and ended up being members of the Staffordshire Senior League from 1984 until the 1995/96 season. Some 30+ years after my visit, Brocton took over the lease of the ground and have developed a first-class facility.

The ground was accessed via a drive off Silkmore Lane to the south of Stafford town centre. At the end of the drive was a pay box where the programme (£1) was available. There was plenty of car parking inside the ground with a stand containing about 100 dark green seats on the nearside touchline. Behind the left-hand goal are various buildings containing changing rooms, hospitality room and a tea bar. On the far side of the ground was a second pitch. The flat playing surface was a superb condition and must drain well as Brocton's home game at the beginning of the month survived a huge amount of rain.

The village of Brocton is a few miles south of Stafford on the A34 towards Cannock and is where the club has its roots. Back in 1937, Arthur Mayer owner of the Chetwynd Arms at the time gave a football to the boys of Brocton and neighbouring Bednall and asked them to form a team. The club played home games on a pitch next to the 'Chet' before moving first team games first Rowley Park in Stafford, Cannock Stadium and Heath Hayes FC. The club moved into their new home at the start of the current season.

The programme (28 pages) tells the history of the club in more details. There was also a history of opponents Continental Star, match reports, a league table, player profile and a look back to Brocton's fortunes in 1956/57.

Teams were displayed on window of the hospitality room and there were quite a few names familiar to me in the Brocton starting line-up who had had a previous connection with Stafford Rangers – Matt Skinner, David Berks and Gary Fife.

With rain falling at the start, Continental Star got the game underway defending the changing room end in the first half.

In terms of scoring opportunities, Brocton dominated and went close on several occasions with Andy Harrison heading against the top of the bar. “This is a good start, keep it up”, shouted one encouraged Brocton player.

So, it was no surprise when the Badgers took the lead in the 18th minute amid confusion. Andre Campbell crossed into the area from the right and something happened which prompted the referee to award a penalty despite his assistant flagging for offside. The referee stood by his decision and Gary Fife converted the penalty.

The referee was busy again two minutes later when he awarded Continental Star a penalty for a foul during a goalmouth scramble after Andre Robinson’s header hit the bar. Robinson took responsibility and despatched the spot kick into the bottom-right corner.

Amazingly, Brocton regained the lead within 80 seconds of the equaliser. Fife hit a low left-foot shot from a narrow angle into the far right corner of the net to score his second goal of the game.

Three goals in just over three minutes took the score from 0-0 to 2-1 and this remained the score at the interval.

Like me, several other travellers had headed to Silkmore Lane including ‘AndyD’ and ‘ModelHobbies’.

Continental Star were forced to make a change at half-time with captain Franklin Hazel replaced by Darren Green and Sean Burrell took over the armband. And Star were back on level terms nine minutes after the restart. Kirk Marrow crossed from the right and Warren Brookes beat Mike Shelper with a close-range header.

The visitors continued their good start to the second half and Robinson saw a shot blocked by Dan McLeod.

With time running out, Brocton put the Star defence under pressure and eventually grabbed a late equaliser in the 89th minute. David Berks delivered a corner from the right into the area and Harrison headed home at close range.

Star weren’t finished and in stoppage time Shelper turned round a rising shot from Robinson at the expense of a corner.

One spectator, following Brocton, commented art full time that “we got a point and I didn’t think we would get that”.

Brocton (green and white halves / white green): 1. Mike Shelper, 2. Ben Harrison, 3. Matt Skinner (capt), 4. Dan McLeod, 5. Dean Crowley, 6. Jon Wylde, 7. Andre Campbell, 8. Adam McMahon, 9. Andy Harrison, 10. David Berks, 11. Gary Fife. Subs: 12. Jermaine Bowen (for Campbell, 73), 14. Karl McLeod (for Wylde, 67), 15, Andy Chandler (not used).

Continental Star (red/black/black): 1. Chris O’Connor, 2. Krisnan Ramsey, 3. Shaun Watson, 4. Tony Green, 5. Josh O’Garro, 6. Sean Burrell, 7. Warren Brooks, 8. Jhazian Campbell, 9. Andre Robinson, 10. Kirk Marrow, 11. Franklin Hazell (capt). Subs: 12. Kalder Bhogal (not used), 14. Hardip Kainth (for Marrow, 88), 15. Darren Green (for Hazell, ht), 16. Daniel Moses (not used), 17. Paul Hewitt (not used).

Referee: ???
Assistants: ???

1-0 Gary Fife (18 pen)
1-1 Andre Robinson (20 pen)
2-1 Gary Fife (21)
2-2 Warren Brooks (64)
2-3 Kirk Marrow (72)
3-3 Andy Harrison (89)

Brocton: Dan McLeod (YC, 20)
Continental Star: Andre Robinson (YC, 76)

Biddulph Victoria 2 Studley 1

Saturday 27th September 2008
Biddulph Victoria 2 Studley 1
Aspire Midland Alliance
At: Tunstall Road
Kick-off: 3-00 pm (delayed until 3-15 pm)
Attendance: 71
Weather: warm and sunny
Duration: first half: 46:04; second half: 48:22

Biddulph recovered from conceding an early goal to earn a third league victory of the season with a late winner. The win, courtesy of goals from Paul Macari and Chris Boast, was one, however, which Mark Bromley didn’t think his side deserved.

“To be honest we didn’t play well enough to deserve a win,” said the joint-manager.

“But then there have been games this season when we have played well enough and got nothing or just a point. On the day we’ll take this, no problem.

“We encourage our lads to push on and close that midfield space.

“They didn’t do it well enough for the first 15 minutes but certainly in the latter part of the second half they got tight and we played our better football.

“They took their two forwards who I think are their two better players.

“We never looked that efficient at the back but as they look off their two best players, so we were effective.”

With the Everall brothers both missing, Bromley and Karl Wilcox gave debuts to Steve Jones and substitute Dean Cox.

Studley suffered a delayed journey up from Worcestershire and, as a result, kick-off was put back 15 minutes. But the visitors showed no ill effects from those motorway hold-ups and took the lead in the 9th minute. Aaron Grey nodded the ball into the path of Steve Ruck who fired into the top corner from 20 yards out.

Biddulph, beaten 3-1 at Studley less than two weeks ago, bounced back with a 16th-minute equaliser. Boast and Shaun Mould were both involved before Macari forced the ball over the line to score for the third consecutive league game.

The goal gave the home side a lift and Steve Grogan turned round a left foot shot from Mould.

A great saving tackle from last defender Ben Clarkson just before the interval denied Studley a clear shooting chance inside the home area.

Phil McGing produced a good save in the 70th minute to beat away a well-struck volley from James Beauchamp.

The winner came in the 81st minute. Mould delivered a deep corner from the left to the far side of the area where Chris Boast sent a looping header dropping just under the bar.

Late in the game, Biddulph should have had the opportunity the put the outcome beyond doubt. Boast clearly impeded by shirt pulling inside the area but the referee saw it differently and waived play on.

The home bench were incensed by the decision though, in the end, it didn’t matter as Vics wound down the clock.

Biddulph now face four consecutive away games starting with a trip to Cradley Town in the league on Tuesday. Then on Saturday, they travel to Shifnal Town in the FA Vase first round with £1000 on offer to the winner.

Biddulph Victoria (sky blue/maroon/maroon): 1. Phil McGing, 2. Neil Edwards, 3. Ben Clarkson, 4. Scott Burge (capt), 5. Darren Vernon, 6. Danny Smith, 7. George Barlow, 8. Chris Boast, 9. Shaun Mould, 10. Paul Macari, 11. Steve Jones. Subs: 12. Rob Opoe (for Barlow, 76), 14. Dean Cox (for Smith, 63), 15. Michael White (not used).

Studley (yellow/blue/yellow): 1. Steven Grogan, 2. Ian Mitchell (capt), 3. James Beauchamp, 4. Craig Hall, 5. Greg Ellard, 6. Aaron Grey, 7. Nigel Haylor, 8. Peter Saunders, 9. Daniel Stubbs, 10. Craig Pountney, 11. Steven Ruck. Subs: 12. Leon Thomas (not used), 14. Damon Gariff (not used), 15. Ashley Buffong (for Pountney, 75), 16. Liam Foxall (for Stubbs, 84), 17. Jack Edwards (not used).

Referee: J. Glover (Nuneaton).
Assistants: A. Leigh and B. Cooke.

0-1 Steven Ruck (9)
1-1 Paul Macari (16)
2-1 Chris Boast (81)

Biddulph: Neil Edwards (YC, 54), Steve Jones (YC, 74)
Studley: Steven Ruck (YC, 53), Greg Ellard (YC, 80), Craig Hall (YC, 90+3)

Eccleshall 1 Holbrook Miners Welfare 0

Wednesday 24th September 2008
Eccleshall 1 Holbrook Miners Welfare 0
FA Carlsberg Vase Second Qualifying Round Replay
At: Pershall Park
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £3; Programme: £1 (36 pages)
Attendance: 73
Weather: dry, mild
Duration: first half: 45:50; second half: 48:52

Eccleshall’s leading scorer Dwayne Spence booked his side a place in the FA Carlsberg Vase first round after scoring the only goal in last night’s keenly-fought second qualifying round replay at Pershall Park. The tall striker, who caused problems for the visitors’ defence all game, struck the winner just before the half-hour mark with a close-range shot. However, the Eagles needed a second-half penalty save from new keeper Dean Latham to remain in front.

Considering how close Eccleshall is to Stafford, I is somewhat surprising that I haven't seen a game at Pershall Park since 1987 (21 years ago). The easy-to-find ground is located on the right-hand side on the Eccleshall to Loggerheads Road (take High Street through the town which becomes Chester Road).

I entered the ground from the far end and all the facilities are down the near (eastern) side touchline of the ground which is orientated south-west to north-east. There are three areas of cover. Seats in front of the clubhouse on the near touchline, covered standing opposite on halfway behind the dugouts and further cover behind the near goal by the corner flag.

The present-day Eccleshall FC was founded in 1971 and became members of the Staffordshire Senior League in 1984. Facilities were enhanced so they could move up to the North West Counties League in 2003.

As a member of the press covering the game for the local paper, I introduced myself and copied down the teamsheets from an Eccleshall official.

Holbrook (in all white) got the game underway attacking the road end in the first half. However, it was Eccleshall who had the first decent effort on goal just before the quarter hour mark. Visiting keeper Damien Clark was forced to turn round a well-struck shot from Mick Marren at the expense of a corner.

Holbrook winger Karl Demidh was fortunate to escape with just a booking for an awful late challenge on Mark Mapperton.

In the 29th minute, Peter Shore played the ball off defender Chris Sadler to win a corner. Delivered by Shore, the ball was headed towards goal by Oliver Leaver for Spence to hammer home from close to the right-hand post.

Holbrook went close to an equaliser before the interval when a low left-foot drive from Sam Kellog flashed across the face of the home goal.

Spence almost doubled his side’s lead nine minutes into the second half. He got only the end of a long ball from the back by Alex Hutchinson only to send a lob agonisingly inches wide.

Russell DeMatteo was also unlucky to see a right-foot curler hit the inside of the right and rebound into the arms of a relieved Clark.

Holbrook were awarded a penalty in the 64th minute for a foul by Hutchinson on Joe Kellog. The decision looked harsh and Eccleshall felt justice was done when Latham dived to low his left to keep out Rob Harrison's spot kick.

Latham was called into action again to tip a rising shot from Joe Kellog onto the bar.

The two saves, along with some well-organised and determined defending, proved crucial in the end.

In the closing stages, DeMatteo narrowly missed with a lob and Spence drove just over the bar as the home side tried to extinguish any prospect of extra time.

Speaking to me after the game, Eccleshall manager Dave Dale said: “All in all, we deserved the win and I’m really proud of the lads as they worked really hard. Holbrook are a good side. They work very hard. They gave us no time on Saturday and they gave us no time tonight. If you look at the game in terms of clear-cut chances, we could have won by three or four. We soaked up the pressure as they had a lot of possession play in our last third. They didn’t really hurt us.”

Eccleshall (blue and black stripes / black / black): 1. Dean Latham, 2. Mark Mapperson, 3. Adam Soane, 4. Alex Hutchinson, 5. Steve Brunt, 6. Oliver Leaver, 7. Peter Shore, 8. Mick Marren, 9. Dwayne Spence, 10. Russell DeMatteo (capt), 11. Leigh Skellern. Subs: 12. Rob Adlington (not used), 14. Craig James (not used), 15. Joe Abedini (not used), 16. Nick Oxley (not used), 17. Gary Wootton (not used).

Holbrook Miners Welfare (white/white/white): 1. Damien Clark, 2. Ron Harrison (capt), 3. Chris Sadler, 4. Shaun Roulston, 14. Neil Broadhurst, 6. Sam Kellog, 7. Vaughan Hallsworth, 8. Joe Kellog, 9. Joe Ashdown, 10. Sam Bayliss, 11. Karl Demidh. Subs: 12. James Slack (for Ashdown, 70), 14. Craig Black (not used), 15. Adem Mahmoud (for Bayliss, 79), 16, David Moon (for Hallsworth, 79), 17. Jon Brown (not used).

Referee: I. Hurdle (Holmes Chapel).
Assistants: R. Crawford (Stoke-on-Trent) and D. Critchlow (Waterhouses).

1-0 Dwayne Spence (29)

Eccleshall: Mick Marren (YC, 38), Alex Hutchinson (YC, 64), Dwayne Spence (YC, 75), Mark Mapperson (YC, 86)
Holbrook: Karl Demidh (YC, 19), Sam Kellog (YC, 90+1)

Alsager Town 0 Stalybridge Celtic 1

Tuesday 23rd September 2008
Alsager Town 0 Stalybridge Celtic 1
Cheshire County FA Unibond Senior Cup First Round
At: The Town Ground
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Programme: £1 (12 pages)
Attendance: 53
Weather: mild
Duration: first half: 46:11; second half 49:14

An early goal proved the difference as Alsager Town bowed out of the Cheshire Senior Cup despite a battling performance. The tie was settled in favour of Blue Square North Stalybridge thanks to a close range effort from defender Tom Sharpe, on-loan from Nottingham Forest.

However, Alsager manager Neil Gill was pleased with the performance of his side which included several fringe players.

“They are three leagues higher than us so I thought we showed good character right to the end,” said Gill.

“It was just a little scrappy in the first seven minutes.

“Tonight was about giving some of the lads who haven’t featured at the start of games throughout the season some minutes (on the field).

“I told the lads they didn’t do themselves any harm.

“They did the club proud.”

There was early danger for the Bullets when defender Nathan Griffiths got in a vital challenge inside the area to deny Nathan Ellington a clear shooting chance.

Celtic keeper Paul Phillips needed to dive at the feet of Drohan who took the ball forward into the visitors’ area.

The winner came from a set-piece. Danny Wood delivered a corner from the left which has helped towards goal by Barry Keeling and forced over the line at close range by Sharpe.

Alsager looked to get back on level terms and Kyle Griffin sent a well-struck drive flashing past the post.

However, Stalybridge, with a side also including several fringe players, went close to doubling their advantage. Ellington curled a long-range free-kick just wide and Nick Platt also headed against the bar.

The start of the second half saw Alsager play with more urgency thought Ellington sent a free header wide just before the hour mark.

Craig Ellison was hurt making a double save from Matty Barlow and Ellington. The brave keeper was able to continue after treatment.

The arrival of substitute Dave Roberts added pace down the left and he forced Phillips to concede a corner with a rising drive.

A flowing move involving Drohan and Andrew Whitney set up another chance for Dave Roberts who fired just wide of the left-hand post.

Ellison kept his side in contention with another double save, holding a well-struck effort from Michael O’Connor after blocking Paul Sykes’ initial shot.

In stoppage time, Joe Roberts volleyed over a chance set up by Drohan but that equaliser to force extra time didn’t come.

On Saturday, Alsager return to league action with a home game against Abbey Hey.

Alsager Town (white/black/black): 1. Craig Ellison, 2. Kurt McCarthy, 3. Lee Duckworth, 4. Dave Chambers, 5. Nathan Griffiths, 6. Tom Swann, 7. Kyle Griffin, 8. Lee Jones (capt), 9. Andrew Whitney, 10. Matt Wooley, 11. Tim Drohan. Subs: 12. Vincent Francis (not used), 14. Dave Roberts (for Swann, 65), 15. Adam Davenport (for McCarthy, 83), 16. Joe Roberts (for Wooley, 88), 17. Kurtis Gill (not used).

Stalybridge Celtic (blue with white sleeves / blue / white): 1. Paul Phillips, 2. Greg Wilkinson, 3. Rhys Maynell, 4. Tom Sharpe, 5. Nick Platt, 6. Barry Keeling, 7. Danny Wood, 8. Keith Briggs (capt), 9. Lee Ellington, 10. Nathan Joynes, 11. Andy Smart. Subs: 12. Michael O'Connor (for Maynell, 68), 14. Steve Torpey (not used), 15. Paul Sykes (for Ellington, 83), 16. Matty Barlow (for Joynes, ht), 17. Steve Burr (not used).

Referee: Robert Jones.
Assistants: Mike Sherwin and Neil Proctor.

0-1 Tom Sharpe (7)

Alsager: Tim Drohan (YC, 35)
Stalybridge: none

Congleton Town 3 Maltby Main 0

Saturday 20th September 2008
Congleton Town 3 Maltby Main 0
FA Carlsberg Vase Second Qualifying Round
At Booth Street
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Attendance: 102
Weather: warm and sunny

I'd previously visited Booth Street on two occasions. The first was over 20 years ago in April 1988 when Congleton recorded a 1-1 draw over Farsley Celtic in the Northern Premier League Division One, and the second was for a pre-season game in 2003 when the Bears defeated a Stafford Rangers XI 1-0. With Congleton winning this Vase game as well, I suppose I am a lucky omen for them!

The Booth Street ground (or the 'Bears Den' as described in one place in the programme) is tucked away and hemmed in by houses to the south of the town. There certainly is a substantial feel to the place, not surprising when you consider that Congleton Town were members of the Cheshire League (top non-league competition at the time) from 1920 until 1965. All the facilities are on the near side of the ground next to the entrance. Located on halfway is a modern seated stand with five rows of individual tip-up seats - predominately blue with a group of red seats and occasional the green one. Behind the stand is the club house and refreshments hatch, and to the left is an area of covered standings. There is more covered standing at the left (northern end) of the ground with a grass bank behind the right-hand goal. Dugouts are located on the opposite touchline.

Even though the place is known as 'Booth Street', SatNav users be warned - the ground is past the end of Booth Street and off Crescent Road. I travelled up the A34 from the Potteries and turned right at the roundabout junction with the A534 and A54. At the next roundabout, I went straight on into West Street and took the second right, after passing the Fire Station and Farmers Arms, into Booth Street. At the end of the road, turn right into Crescent Road then first left into Ivy Gardens to the ground. Parking is limited at the ground so the best bet may be street parking on one of the nearby roads. An alternative route is to take the first right off West Street (by the church and just past the Fire Station) into Astbury Street then left at the first crossroads. Either way the ground is signed by brown football signs or white 'Congleton Town FC'.

I was met at the gate by the Vice Chairman who took me into the clubhouse where I was made to feel most welcome. Programmes (£1-20) were sold inside the ground by the turnstile. Reading matter was good, plenty of articles, statistics, quiz, reports, tributes to Peter Hallett, and opposition history, plus 'Colliedog...who's barking' penned by one of the people I met in the club.

The FA's fair play initiative was again in evidence after the teams emerged from the changing rooms. Congleton got the game underway attacking down the slight slope towards the covered standing end of the ground.

Early chances were created by both sides with Stuart Tulloch driving low across the face of goal and wide of the far left-hand post. Chris Smith (in distinctive orange boots) sent another shot wide and Tulloch finished another move by firing straight at Maltby keeper Daniel Heald. In the middle of all this action, Rob Hackney beat down a well-struck shot from Scott Sommerville.

Raffle tickets were brought round duringthe first half and I decided to buy a strip. Once again I was out of luck when the winning numbers were announced.

Midway through the half, Sommerville tried to find the top right corner of the net from a narrow angle on the right side of the area. However, Hackney did well to turn the ball over at the expense of a corner.

Congleton almost took the lead on the half hour. Ryan Baker, Carl Nesbitt and Ryan Greene all saw shots blocked inside the area in the space of a few seconds, but home fans didn't need to wait long to cheer a goal. In the 33rd minute, Tulloch saw a shot rebound off the Maltby bar and Baker hammered home the rebound from the the inside right channel inside the area.

As the interval approached, Congleton had another opportunity when Smith's 20-yard right-foot volley flashed past the right-hand post. Fancying something different at the interval, I opted for carrot and coridander soup -very nice!

The Bears continued to create chances in the second half and doubled their lead on the hour mark. Found by Greene on the right, Tulloch squared a low ball to Smith who made mistake from a few yards out to round off a superb move. Maltby faced an uphill task to force extra time, especially when Tulloch forced a save out of Heald.

Despite trailing by two goals, Maltby responded and went close tried to respond and almost reduced the deficit. They won a corner when Sommerville's shot took a defelction off a defender. The resulting corner from the right was headed off the line by Adam Vickers and Carl Nesbitt got in the way of a follow-up shot from Sommerville. The visitors threw on an extra attacker.

The third goal came in the 78th minute. In a delightful move started by Carl Nesbitt, Andy Bostock got forward from the back to latch onto a pass from substitute Graham Molloy and slot into an empty net after skipping past a challenge from the advancing keeper.

Congleton Town (black and white stipes / black / black): 1. Rob Hackney, 2. Adam Vickers, 3. Andy Bostock, 4. Wayne Brotherton, 5. Steve Millington (capt), 6. Carl Nesbitt, 7. Ryan Baker, 8. Simon Robinson, 9. Stuart Tulloch, 10. Chris Smith, 11. Ryan Greene. Subs: 12. Graham Molloy (for Smith, 75), 14. Matt Woolley (for Robinson, 53), 15. Matt Quinn (for Greene, 67), 16. Anthony Buckle (not used).

Maltby Main (red/white/red): 1. Daniel Heald, 2. Jonathan Wragg, 3. Paul Staniforth (capt), 4. James Ellis, 5. Scott McDonald, 6. Daniel Patterson, 7. John Beggs, 8. Simon Hickey, 9. Matthew Wragg, 10. Scott Sommerville, 11. Daniel White. Subs: 12. Michael Baker (for Hickey, 53), 14. David Shephard (not used), 15. Nick Hancock (for Beggs, 73), 16. Robert Branagan (for White, 64), 17. Sean Lee.

Referee: D. P. Meeson.

Kidsgrove Athletic 2 Gresley Rovers 1

Wednesday 17th September 2008
Kidsgrove Athletic 2 Gresley Rovers 1
Unibond League Division One South
At: Seddon Stadium, Hollingwood Road
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Attendance: 157
Weather: mild, dry

I'm making a habit of this - driving to a game thinking I know how to get to the ground by memory and somehow getting lost. But finding this ground is straight forward. Take the A34 exit off the A500 and following signs to the north for Congleton. Turn right at the Cauldwell Arms, staying on the A34 then down the hill and right at the next set of lights into Cedar Avenue. I turned off Cedar Drive too early but the correct route is third right into Lower Ash Road then third left into Hollingwood Road, ground on the left.

The is a close to the left off Hollingwood Road which leads up to the ground. Programmes are sold by the entrance and all the main facilities are on this west side of the ground (orientated just about north-south), including the tea bar. There is seated stand on halfway, split into two sections by the players entrance, and another area of covered seats towards the top end of the ground along this near touchline. In between these two stands is a raised viewing platform used by sponsors. In fact, there is covered seating on each of the four sides of the ground which I guess not many Unibond League clubs can boast. Behind the bottom goal to the left is the Harold Taylor Stand, opposite behind the dugouts is another stand on halfway and behind the top goals the Seddon Stand.

I met up with Malc, my photographer friend, who introduced me to manager Peter Ward and some of the others behind the scences, as well as pointing out that teamsheets were available from the Press/PA box at the bottom end of the main stand. Kidsgrove is certainly a very welcoming club.

I chose to watch the first half from the main stand and saw Kidsgrove (blue shirts, blue shorts and blue socks) kick-off attacking up the slope towards the Seddon Stand, Fans from both sides chanted from behind the respective ends their sides were attacking and the Kidsgrove drummer started to make himself heard.

Gresley (red shirts, white shorts, red socks) made the better start and had several near misses before taking the lead in the 14th minute with a spectacular strike. Carl Slater hit a rising 35-yard drive which the leaping Adam Wilkes got his hands to but couldn't prevent going into the top-right corner of the net.

The home side, in need of points near the bottom of the table, got back on level terms eight minutes later. Dave Shaw scored with a glancing header from Craig Dove's lofted down the middle into the area. Just after the half-hour mark, Shaw held off the attentions of a defender to head staright at Gresley keeper Simon Baldwin from 8 yards out.

As the interval approached, I overheard an interesting discussion as to where Gresley were from. Lancashire? Leicestershire? They are, in fact, a Derbyshire side based in Church Gresley near Swadlincote.

After a half-time cuppa, I decided to watch round to the opposite side via the Seddon Stand end and eventually took a seat near to the Kidsgrove dugout. Chances continued to be created and Gresley's David Blenkinsopp hit the bar from the edge of the area. Kidsgrove appealled for a penalty when substitute Andy Hurst went down under the challenge of Dan Douglas but the referee wasn't interested. I could clearly hear Ward encouraging his young side as they enjoyed a good spells either side of the midpoint of the second half. Shaw headed wide across the face of goal and Tim Sanders volleyed over the bar from 15 yards out.

Ward wanted his side to "keep the tempo up" with Gresley hanging on but the visitors almost scored in the 88th minute. Miles Chamberlain met Jordi Gough's corner and watched a downward header agonisingly end up just wide. However, it was KIdsgrove who were celebrating with a winner timed in the third minute of added time. Skipper Aidan Matranga fired across the face of goal from the right and low into the opposite corner of the net. Play continued for another 85 seconds and Kidsgrove held on for their second league victory of the season.

Kidsgrove Athletic (blue/blue/blue): 1. Adam Wilkes, 2. Danny Smith, 3. Mitch Shenton, 4. Tom Schwartz, 5. Matt Elder, 6. Tim Sanders, 7. Aiden Matrange (capt), 8. Craig Dove, 9. Tom Moss, 10, Dave Shaw, 11. Ricky Bridge. Subs: 12. Andy Matthews (for Bridge, 90+1), 14. Chris Leigh, 15. Andy Hurst (for Moss, 56), 16. Simon Eldershaw (for Shaw, 89), 17. Chris Smith.

Gresley Rovers (red/white/red): 1. Simon Baldwin, 2. Dan Douglas, 3. Sam Milson, 4. Miles Chamberlain, 5. Nathan Morris, 6. Carl Slater (capt), 7. Nicky Lyons, 8. Jamie Barrett, 9. Oliver Hancock, 10. David Blenkinsopp, 11. Robbie Banks. Subs: 12. Jamie Hood (for Hancock, 76), 14. Kevin Lock (for Banks, 60), 15. Jordi Gough (for Lyons, 69), 16. Tom Liversage, 17. Brian Woodhall.

Referee: C Rushton.

Halesowen Town 8 Meir KA 1

Tuesday 16th September 2008
Halesowen Town 8 Meir KA 1
FA Cup sponsored by e.on First Qualifying Round Replay
At The Grove
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Attendance: 308
Weather: mild, dry
Duration: first-half: 46:32; second-half: 45:06

Having gone close to causing a major upset on Saturday, Meir KA found Halesowen too hot to handle second time round in last night’s replay. The Southern League high-flyers scored six goals in an impressive first-half performance and added another two after the break. Tom Bryant’s 25th-minute own goal was Meir’s consolation.

Meir, with Stuart Clegg and Andy Teague in for Jonathon Barras and the holidaying Ryan Misziel, made a confident start. An early mix-up between keeper James Russell and defender Bryant almost gifted a chance to Teague.

But Halesowen soon got themselves into gear and Richard Amison did well to push clear a glancing header from Justin Rowe.

However, the young keeper couldn’t keep out a rising 25-yard drive from Rowe which gave the home side a 12th-minute lead.

Three minutes later Jermaine Palmer slotted past Amison at close range and Jay Denny volleyed home from the edge of the area to make it three in the 23rd minute.

However, Meir briefly got back into the game when Bryant hammered a clearance into his own net from Russell Gibbons’ low cross.

Palmer converted a 34th minute penalty, awarded for a trip by Darren Reaney on Rowe, and Denny drove home the fifth two minutes later to end the game as a contest. Just before the break, the unfortunate Clegg headed into his own net.

Halesowen continued to create chances in the second half but they didn’t add to their tally until just before the hour mark. Rowe flicked a near post shot past Amison from Alex Cowley’s left-wing cross.

Meir had their moments in the Halesowen area and a low shot from Teague looped over the bar off a defender.

Denny completed the scoring and his hat-trick in the 83rd minute. He forced the ball over the line after Amison somehow kept out his initial header.

Amison produced a couple of fine saves in the closing stages to prevent Halesowen adding further to their goal tally.

Speaking to me after the game, joint-manager Gary Woolrich said: “I’m just proud of the lads to be honest as it has been very difficult. They put in a lot of effort on Saturday. We have come here and lost a couple of players through work issues but it made the job a little bit harder for us. I give credit to Halesowen as they are a quality outfit on a good surface. We did ourselves proud on Saturday but this is disappointing when you’ve reached our level and have to realise that.”

Meir return to league action on Saturday with a home game against Oldbury Athletic.

Meir KA 1 Halesowen Town 1

Saturday 13th September 2008
Meir KA 1 Halesowen Town 1
FA Cup sponsored by e.on First Qualifying Round
At: Kings Park, Hilderstone Road
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Attendance: 214
Weather: warm and sunny

I'd had a busy morning in the build-up to my first 'Match of the Day' for the local press. We went down to Alexandra Stadium in Birmingham for a junior athletics 'come and try it' kind of roadshow with star guest none other than Sally Gunnell.

It was back up the M6 to Meir and the afternoon couldn't have had a much better outcome. In a real 'David v Goliath' tie, the Midland Combination side forced a replay against a side three leagues higher on an enjoyable afternoon at Kings Park.

Meir certainly put in an awful lot of effort to ensure their big day went smoothly and, from what I could see, it did. I had a chat to the Chairman Des Reaney (Mr Meir KA) who said the club were expecting a crowd of 200-300.

Kings Park, Meir's home for almost 30 years, looked in great condition. The entrance was on the far side of the car park from the road when the programme (£1) was available. There was a gtreat friendly and happy atmosphere inside the ground. Entering the ground through the turnstile near one corner of the pitch, there was a red-painted pavilion to the left which houses the changing rooms and bar. Set back between the entrance and pavilion was a refreshment tent, staffed by helpers in black Meir KA shirts. To the right behind the near goal, was a seated stand (with two rows of red seats) and only the near touchline is an area of covered standing. Three floodlight pylons rose up along each touchline but obviously weren't needed on such a lovely afternoon.

Meir KA were formed in 1972 as a Sunday side which moved to Saturday football in the Longton League four years later. They progressed through the North Staffs Alliance League to become a founder member of the Staffs Senior League in 1984 and joined their present league, the Midland Combination, for the start of the 1992/93 season.

To set up this tie against BGB Southern League Premier Division opposition, Meir beat Goodrich on penalties in the Extra Preliminary Round and Nuneaton Griff in the Preliminary Round.

As is the norm this season, both sides came out together behind the match officials and lined-up on half-way. Meir then went down the line of Halesowen players and shook the hand of each of their counterparts in blue. Before kick-off, there was a minute silence in memory of Peter Hallett.

I opted to watch the game from the pavilion. Halesowen got the game underway, attacking the covered seats end of the ground and immediately put Meir under pressure. Home keeper was quickly called into action to block a shot from Dean Brennan with his legs. In the 6th minute, Brennan missed a simple chance when he lifted the ball over an unguarded net after Justin Rowe rounded Amison who left his line. Rowe also when close, flicking a shot past Amison and the left-hand upright.

But having survived the early pressure, Meir took a 12th minute lead. A mix-up between defender Tom Kemp and keeper James Russell allowed Ryan Miszkiel to get on the end of a throughball and fire low into an empty net. The visitors kept pressing forward and defender Tom Bryant volleyed over after Meir failed to clear a corner.

In fact, Halesowen forced no fewer than nine first-half corners as they forced the home side to work hard to maintain their one-goal advantage. As the interval approached, Nathan Chan-Shaw got down the right into the area and forced Russell to turn a low shot round his near post.

There was applause at the interval from the home fans – could 'David' hang on against 'Goliath' in the second half? Certainly, Halesowen's chances came less frequently in the closing stages of the first half.

Halesowen got back in level terms five minutes after the restart. In a good move down the right, Daryl Taylor crossed deep and Aaron Cornwall played the ball back for Justin Rowe to hammer into the back of the net. The visitors kept up the pressure and Amison emerged a hero with a series of fine saves. Just after the hour mark, he pushed over a flicked header by Rowe from Cornwall left-wing near-post cross and also got down to hold a low drive from Alex Cowley who got forward. Amison also did well to dive to his left to turn round Dwane Lee's curling right-foot free-kick.

Meir were pegged back but in the 74th minute, Chan-Shaw looked to latch onto a ball over the top but Russell left his line to head clear the danger. In the last ten minutes, substitute Andy Teague almost got on the end of another ball over the top but Bryant got in a vital saving tackle. At the other end, Amison beat away a well-struck shot from Jermaine Palmer and also held Kemp’s looping header under pressure.

With no injury time board, there was no knowing how long the referee was going to add. Meir almost won it as Russell had to hurriedly leave his line to clear a long ball just ahead of the advancing Chan-Shaw.

In the final few seconds, Darren Caskey crossed into a crowded area, Amison caught the ball and moments later the referee's whistle signalled a fame result for Meir.

As the Meir players came off, they got a deserved rousing reception.

Meir KA (amber/black/black): 1. Richard Amison, 2. Aaron Kelter, 3. Russell Gibbons, 4. Jonathon Barras, 5. Russell Leadbetter, 6. Darren Reaney (capt), 7. Steven Harrison, 8. Kieron Wooley, 9. Ryan Miszkiel, 10. Nathan Chan-Shaw, 11. Mark Philcock. Subs: 12. Andy Teague (for Miszkiel, 67), 14. Stuart Clegg (for Gibbons, 61), 15. Danny Riley (for Kelter, 71), 16. Lee Cooper, 17. Ben Buckley

Halesowen Town (blue/blue/blue): 1. James Russell, 2. Alex Cowley, 3. Tom Bryant, 4. Tom Kemp, 5. Michael Briscoe (capt), 6. Jay Denny, 7. Daryl Taylor, 8. Dwane Lee, 9. Justin Rowe, 10. Dean Brennan, 11. Aaron Cornwall. Subs: 12. Zema Abbey, 14. Darren Caskey (for Taylor, 67), 15. Jermaine Palmer (for Brennan, 60), 16. Mark Danks, 17. Jack Allward (for Rowe, 79), 18. Erik Hommell, 19. Dino Melitas

Referee: J. Simpson (Shropshire).

(see also 8/10/08)

Newcastle Town 4 Runcorn Linnets 0

Tuesday 9th September 2008
Newcastle Town 4 Runcorn Linnets 0
Vodkat League Premier Division
At: Lyme Valley Parkway Stadium
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Programme: £1-50 (36 pages)
Attendance: 156
Weather: mild, dry
Duration: first-half: 46:37; second-half: 46:45

Newcastle Town maintained their 100% league record with an impressive performance against fourth-placed Runcorn Linnets. After a sluggish start, Richard Minor put Town ahead towards the end of the first half and Andy Kinsey doubled the lead on the hour. Minor quickly struck again and Jordan Johnson wrapped up the win with a fourth goal near the end.

Before kick-off, Newcastle paid tribute to Sentinel football correspondent Peter Hallett with an immaculately-observed minute silence. I was an unreal experience for me as I was reporting the game for The Sentinel in place of a much-loved and respected man. Rest in Peace Peter.

Runcorn got the game underway attacking the north or entrance end of the ground and the visitors created a couple of decent early chances. Michael Morrison headed straight Danny Read and Rob Whyte headed another opportunity wide at the far post. Whyte also got on the end of Michael Morrison’s low cross only to drive over.

Having had their last two league games postponed, it took Newcastle a while to get going and they perhaps should have taken the lead on the quarter hour. Daryl Wilkes put Andy Bourne though but the skipper fired into the side-netting from a narrow angle.

Kinsey saw a shot blocked in front of goal before Minor broke the deadlock in the 35th minute. The midfielder dribbled past two defenders on a run into the area before firing low across the face of goal into the opposite bottom left corner.

Runcorn keeper Robbie Holdcroft pulled off a smart diving to save to turn round Kinsey’s curling free-kick as Newcastle looked to quickly double their advantage.

Kinsey saw a couple of shots in quick succession blocked by defenders as Town started the second half on the attack.

Neville Thompson should have scored seven minutes after the restart. Instead he fired narrowly wide after outpacing his marker on a run down the left into the area.

But it was Kinsey who doubled his side’s advantage in the 59th minute, glancing a header past Holdcroft from Paul Taylor’s free-kick.

Five minutes later, Kinsey turned provider to slip a pass for Minor to fire low past the helpless keeper and put Newcastle in the driving seat. Holdcroft’s one-handed reaction save denied Kinsey a second goal as the dominant home side continued to threaten.

With the outcome arguably beyond doubt, Runcorn posed a threat in the closing stages without unduly troubling Darren Read.

Minor rounded off a fine performance by setting up his side’s fourth goal just before the start of added time. He took the ball forward and fed Johnson who slotted home low past Holdcroft.

I spoke to Newcastle Manager Greg Clowes who agreed his side started slowly and went on to dominate decent opposition. He said: “We started slowly and didn’t come out of the traps. Runcorn took the game to us and caused us some problems. We took control after half an hour and went ahead with a great goal from Richard Minor. In the second half we dominated all the way through. I think the 4-0 scoreline let them off lightly as we had chances to win by more. Credit to Runcorn as they are the best side we’ve played this season. I told the players that we are racking the goals up and they are worth an extra point as we’ve only conceded one goal. We put in a good performance.”

Newcastle, who moved up to second place, face a big game on Saturday when they visit league leaders Glossop North End who won 1-0 at Abbey Hey.

Newcastle Town (blue/blue/white): 1. Danny Read, 2. Alastair Brown, 3. Paul Taylor, 4. Steve Elks, 5. Ryan Dicker, 6. Andy Bourne (capt), 7. Richard Minor, 8. Daryl Wilkes, 9. Andy Kinsey, 10. Neville Thompson, 11. Jordan Johnson. Subs: 12. Chris Budrys (for Thompson, 67), 14. Ian Willis (for Kinsey, 79), 15. Ashley Hill (for Wilkes, 73), 16, Mark Fitton (not used), 17. Dean Gillick (not used).

Runcorn Linnets (yellow/green/yellow): 1. Robbie Holdcroft, 2. Steve Pickup, 3. Alan Glover, 4. Lee Morris, 5. Tom Boden, 6. Robbie Moore (capt), 7. Stuart Telfer, 8. Damian Morrison, 9. Michael Morrison, 10. Ged Courtney. 11. Rob Whyte. Subs: 12. Paddy O'Driscoll (for Boden, 62), 14. Brian Walsh (not used), 15. Lee Page (for Morris, 67), 16. Jay McKayne (for Moore, 80), 17. Ross Boyd (not used).

Referee: J. A. Sheffield (Burntwood).

1-0 Richard Minor (34)
2-0 Andy Kinsey (59)
3-0 Richard Minor (64)
4-0 Jordan Johnson (90)

Newcastle: Andy Kinsey (YC, 77)
Runcorn: Robbie Moore (YC, 77), Michael Morrison (YC, 80), Ged Courtney (YC, 81)

Presentations were made to Greg Clowes, Neville Thompson and Danny Read, the respective Vodkat League Manager, Player and Goalkeeper of the Month for August.