Thursday 30th October 2008

Upottery FC

Not long before setting off back home from our short break in East Devon, I took a walk to see the home of Upottery FC, members of the Devon and Exeter League Senior Division 1.

The ground, known as Glebe Park, is located on the road to Hemyock, less than half a mile down the hill from the village centre.

Shaftesbury 1 Stockbridge 2

Wednesday 29th October 2008
Shaftesbury 1 Stockbridge 2
Sydenhams League (Wessex) Division 1
At: The Cockrams
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: none
Attendance: 35 (headcount)
Weather: rain
Duration: first-half: 46:11; second-half: 48:05

The journey to the game was horrible. They journey back was horrible. But I did enjoy the bit in the middle – the game itself – despite all the rain.

Shaftesbury’s current ground is a relatively new venue, only a couple of years old I think. As the aerial photo on Google maps shows, the land now occupied by football ground and adjoining supermarket was previously used by the town’s cricket club. The old football ground was located in the next field immediately to the north-west with the top of the new ground being, I guess, a few yards from the bottom goal of the old ground.

The Cockrams, located on Coppice Street, is a fully enclosed ground (orientated north-west to south-east) with a high wire-mesh perimeter fence and conifers growing in front. The pitch stretches lengthways from the entrance which is situated next to the changing rooms/tea bar building, with a seated stand on the right-hand touchline. There is overhang from the club building and a further area of cover on half-way behind the dugouts down the left-hand side.

Shaftesbury FC are long established, being founded in 1888. They became a founder member of the Dorset Combination in 1957 but left after a couple of seasons. They rejoined the Combination for the 1976/77 season and progressed into the Wessex League in 2004/05 when that competition was expanded into two divisions.

I obtained the line-ups from a club official by the changing rooms and decided to watch the game from a seat in the stand.

Stockbridge (blue and yellow stripes, blue shorts, blue and yellow hooped socks) got the game underway defending the entrance end and attacking down the slight slope.

The visitors took the lead in the 17th minute. Nick Coates pulled the ball back from the left bye-line for Ryan Boare to fire into the bottom-right corner from 15 yards out.

However, Shaftesbury (wearing all red) hit back with an equaliser two minutes later. Lee Williams’ initial shot was blocked by a defender with the home side appealing for handball. The ball fell for Matthew Chant to fire across the face of goal from the right and into the far side of the net.

The rain started to get heavier (eventually it turned thankfully to drizzle) but it didn’t stop Stockbridge scoring what proved to be the winner in the 28th minute. Lou Bain hit a 35-yard lob that flew over the statuesque keeper and dipped under the bar.

Shaftesbury created chances in the second half to get back on level terms but, near the end, a good save from Austin Cornell prevented Sam Coleman from adding a third for Stockbridge with a 25-yard shot.

What made the evening more enjoyable was watching the last hour or so in the company of a well-known traveller who I hadn’t seen for many years.

Shaftesbury (red/red/red): 1. Austin Cornell, 2. Mark White, 3. Ben Gibbs, 4. Mark Harvey, 5. Julian Hawkins, 6. Lee Hale, 7. Matthew Chant, 8. Nick Ward, 9. Lee Williams, 10. Stuart Dominy, 11. Lee Gale. Subs: 12. Daniel Webb (for Dominy, 68), 14. Dane Cull (not used), 15. Aaron Martin (not used), 16. James Coffin (for White, 88), 17. Andy Ford (for Hale, 68).

Stocksbridge (blue and yellow stripes / blue / blue and yellow hoops): 1. Alan Ralph, 2. Andy Burgess, 3. Gavin Burgess, 4. Tristan Burton, 5. Dave Barker, 6. Gavin Richards, 7. Ryan Boare, 8. Lou Bain, 9. Nick Coates, 10. Simon Paultney (capt), 11. Liam Edwards. Subs: 12. Sam Coleman (for Paultney, 52), 14. Mike Barker (not used), 15. Chris Payne (for Gavin Burgess, 25), 16. Steve Smith (not used).

Referee: Steve Graham.

0-1 Ryan Boare (17)
1-1 Matthew Chant (19)
1-2 Lou Bain (28)

Shaftesbury: Stuart Dominy (YC, 45), Ben Gibbs (YC, 54), Julian Hawkins (YC, 84).
Stocksbridge: Simon Paultney (YC, 12), Sam Coleman (YC, 73), ??? (YC, 84).

Full-Time match report

Willand Rovers 0 Frome Town 2

Tuesday 28th October 2008
Willand Rovers 0 Frome Town 2
Toolstation League Premier Division
At: Stan Robinson Stadium
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Programme: £1
Attendance: 53
Weather: rain
Duration: first-half: 46:28; second-half: 46:25

Willand Rovers (white/white/white): 1. Brian Cann, 2. Gary McAuley, 3. David Hambly, 4. Shuan Goff, 5. Simon Hill, 6. David Steele, 7. Danny Jee, 8. Robert Norrish (capt), 9. Russell Jee, 10. James Ansell, 11. Paul Pocock. Subs: 12. Luke Skinner (for Ansell, 27), 14. Daniel Kenyan (for Goff, ht), 15. Danny Baily (not used).

Frome Town (red/red/red): 1. Richard Fey, 2. Lauris Coggin, 3. Greg lake, 4. Stewart Bryant, 8. Sam Duggan, 9. Mark Slater ( capt), 10. Matt Rawlings, 11. Joe Gomes. Subs: 12. Toby Colbourne (for Rawlings, 89), 14. Jack Metcalf (not used), 15. Simon Millard (not used).

Referee: Mark Philpott.
Assistants: I Loader and A Tinkler.

0-1 Mark Slater (24)
0-2 Mark Slater (42)

Kidsgrove Athletic 2 Glapwell 5

Saturday 25th October 2008
Kidsgrove Athletic 2 Glapwell 5
Unibond League Division 1 South
At: Seddon Stadium
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: press pass; Programme: yes
Attendance: 122
Weather: dry, mild
Duration: first-half: 48:47 ; second-half: 46:57

Kidsgrove paid the price for not making more a good first-half performance as visitors Glapwell hit back with five goals after the break.

Peter Ward’s side got off to a perfect start with Andy Hurst’s early strike but failed to increase their lead before the interval despite enjoying plenty of possession.

The visitors came out a changed side for the second half scoring three goals without reply, including a header from former Stafford Rangers striker Neil Grayson, before two refereeing decisions arguably played a part in the final outcome.

The referee only booked defender Aaron Shelley for deliberate handball in front of goal and Dave Shaw missed the resulting penalty.

Then after defender Tom Schwartz halved the deficit, Grove keeper Adam Wilkes was sent off for a foul when Kidsgrove were pressing hard for an equaliser. Glapwell then added two more goals to their haul against ten men in the final minutes.

“The first decision came at a critical stage,” said manager Ward.

“It was deliberate hand ball and the referee has given a penalty but not sent off the player.

“Regarding the goalkeeper, I think he (Wilkes) deserved to be sent off as he left his foot in.”

Ward felt his side should have turned their first-half performance into more than one goal.

“I was a little disappointed at half-time that we didn’t go three up.

“Andy Hurst worked hard for the goal. The defender slipped, he has had to ride a tackle and put the ball away.

“We fully deserved the 1-0 lead but I felt the game should have been over and done with at half-time.

“We’ve come out in the second half and not passed the ball or played and just lumped it up front. That is not the way we play.

“When we went to 3-2, we started playing a bit and were on the ascendency and then Adam Wilkes gets sent off.

Ward gave a debut to midfielder Adam Beasley.

“Adam is on loan for a month and he has come from Nantwich. I thought he was a good asset to have in the side.”

Hurst’s opener came after just eight minutes when he took full advantage of a slip by defender Steve Kennedy.

Aiden Matranga forced a fine diving save out of Neil West as Kidgrove looked to quickly extend their advantage.

Tim Sanders then twice got into good positions on the right inside area, only to fire over on each occasion.

Just before the interval, skipper Danny Smith made a vital clearance when Grove were caught short of defenders at the back and Wilkes also beat away a free-kick from Michael Fox.

The visitors went on the attack up the slope after the restart scoring three goals without reply from Fox in the 51st minute, Grayson eleven minutes later and Pat McGuire in the 71st minute

Then came the decision in the 75th minute not to send off Glapwell defender Shelley for deliberate handball and Shaw fired the penalty against the left-hand post.

Defender Schwartz got his side back into contention two minutes later, blasting a drive through the crowded area to score his first goal since arriving from Walsall.

Kidsgrove almost got an equaliser when West made a brave block to keep out a well-struck shot from Matranga.

Wilkes was dismissed in the 87th minute when he caught Ian Brown inside the area as both went for a throughball into the area.

Charlie Reeves went in goal and was sent the wrong way from the penalty that followed, converted by Fox.

And to make matter worse, Brown again got clear in the 89th minute and this time slotted with ease past the helpless Reeves.

Kidsgrove Athletic (blue/blue/blue): 1. Adam Wilkes, 2. Danny Smith (capt), 3. Craig Dove, 4. Tom Schwartz, 5. Cahrlie Reeves, 6. Karl Miller, 7. Aiden Matranga, 9. Dave Shaw, 10. Andy Hurst, 11. Tim Sanders. Subs: 12. Andy Matthews (for Miller, 67), 14. Tom Moss (not used), 15. Mitch Shenton (not used), 16. Ricky Bridge (for Sanders, 85).

Glapwell (yellow/yellow/yellow): 1. Neil West, 2. Craig Robinson, 3. Simon Wright, 4. Matt Varley, 5. Steve Kennedy, 6. Aaron Shelley, 7. Pat McGuire, 8. Mark Wilson, 9. Neil Grayson (capt), 10. Ian Brown, 11. Michael Fox. Subs: 12. Justin Burdett (for Kennedy, 40), 14. Jake Williams (for Grayson, 84), 15. Dave Rimington (for Wilson, 77), 16. Dave Davies (not used), GK. Lawrence Matthewson (not used).

Referee: Chris Byrne.
Assistants: R Andrew and P Adamson.

1-0 Andy Hurst (8)
1-1 Michael Fox (51)
1-2 Neil Grayson (62)
1-3 Pat McGuire (71)
2-3 Tom Schwartz (78)
2-4 Michael Fox (88)
2-5 Ian Brown (90)

Kidsgrove: Adam Wilkes (87, RC)
Glapwell: Craig Robinson (YC, 21), Mark Wilson (YC, 53), Aaron Shelley (YC, 75)

Tuesday 21st October 2008

Squires Gate 1 Newcastle Town 1
Vodkat League Premier Division
At School Road
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Attendance: 52
Weather: Cold, windy, showers

This was always going to be an interesting game.

Could Newcastle make it five league and cup wins on the trot?

Could Squires Gate, unbeaten in their previous five league game, do their neighbours (and league leaders) AFC Fylde a favour by taking points off one of the side in second place in the Premier Division table?

What would AFC Fylde do in their home game with Nelson as a better result for Newcastle would see then leap over Fylde into top spot?

As it turned out, both Squires Gate and Newcastle scored in the last five minutes in a 1-1 draw but the main talking point was the decision to disallow Andy Kinsey’s goal early in the second half. Leaders AFC Fylde did win their game 4-1 at home to Nelson to extend their lead at the top to three points with a game in hand.

I accepted a most welcome offer to travel to Blackpool on the Newcastle coach – much appreciated. Approaching the ground along the M55, there was a torrential downpour which made me wonder if the game would actually be on or not. I needn’t have worried as the playing surface was in excellent condition and showed no real sign of the rain that had fallen.

Squires Gate’s School Road ground is one of three in close proximity. Next door are Blackpool Wren Rovers and AFC Blackpool play a quarter of a mile way as the crow flies.

A drive leads away from the road to SG’s home and programmes (£1) are available at the entrance. Through into the ground, the pitch runs length ways to the right. On the near touchline is the clubhouse with covered seating on half-way. Behind the near goal is another seated stand reserved for club officials. Over of the far touchline, nearest to Rovers’ ground is a lengthy but narrow area of covered standing from where I chose to watch the game, sheltered from the biting cold wind blowing from the Irish Sea.

I obtained the teams from the helpful Secretary and they were also announced over the tannoy.

With Squires Gate in blue, Newcastle wore their change kit of all yellow.

The first half was best described as a stalemate though Newcastle keeper Danny Read pulled off a couple of fine saves in the minutes leading up to the interval.

The incident involving Kinsey’s goal looked like proving crucial especially when, in the 86th minute, Andy Harvie hammered home what looked like being a late winner for the home side. But Newcastle substitute Neville Thompson fired home at close range three minutes later from Steve Elks’ flick on to salvage a vital point for his side.

However, the furore surrounding the goal that wasn’t, five minutes after the restart, will be one of those incidents that will be stick in the football memories part of my brain. Kinsey fired a 20-yard free-kick into the top right corner only for the referee to disallow it after consulting his assistant because an INDIRECT free-kick had gone straight in without gaining a touch. The Newcastle players were sure the referee had awarded a DIRECT free-kick. Both sides appeared to accept that a goal had been scored.

It was one of those things that needed a lot of careful thought on how to word it correctly before filing my copy. I suppose I thanked Thompson for his late goal which made my job in the early hours a little easier, but only just!

Squires Gate: Speight, Benfield, N. Taylor, McKenna, Phillips, Ford, Harvie, Muscroft, Farrar, Bartlett (Hibbert, 53), Horn. Unused subs: Davies, Broomhead, Moretti, Harrison.

Newcastle Town: Read, Espley, P. Taylor, Elks, Dicker (Hill, ht), Bourne, Brown, Wilkes, Budrys (Thompson, 73), Kinsey, Minor. Unused subs: Willis, Fogg, Macari.

Referee: M. Pope.

Saturday 18th October 2008

Alsager Town 2 Atherton Collieries 4
Vodkat League Premier Division
At: Town Ground
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Attendance: 42
Weather: dry, mild

For the second time in four days, Alsager Town suffered at the hands of lowly opposition as Atherton Collieries recorded their first league win of the season.

Despite a goal in each half from Andy Whitney, the Bullets were never in front against the Premier Division’s bottom club even though they created enough chances to have won the game. They were also led down as well by defensive lapses.

Hesitant defending allowed Atherton to take the lead after less than 3 minutes. Lee Duckworth failed to clear just outside his own area and Craig Wilson sent an unstoppable drove past keeper Mike Langley.

Looking to bounce back from Wednesday’s defeat at Flixton, Alsager took a while to get into their stride and almost levelled on 20 minutes when skipper Lee Jones fired against a post from fully 30 yards out.

In the next attack Gavin Bates tipped over a rising drive from Tim Drohan and defender John Cheetman missed a great chance from the resulting corner.

Eventually the equaliser came in the 35th minute. Kyle Griffin got to the right bye-line and pulled the ball back for Whitney to hammer a low shot into the opposite corner of the net.

The goal noticeably unsettled the visitors and Alsager were expected to go on and win the game.

Just before the break, Drohan was unlucky to see a header rebound off the game and the ball was scrambled clear.

The Bullets made a positive start to the second half and both Whitney and Drohan saw efforts cleared off the line by defender James Cotton within five minutes of the restart.

Bates also produced a fine save to block a close-range shot from Whitney after good work by Drohan down the right.

However, the visitors regained the lead in the 65th minute with a gift of a goal. Dave Chambers needlessly impeded Troy Hayder inside the area and Wilson sent Langley the wrong way from the penalty spot.

Alsager continued to created chances. Bates tipped over a rising drive from Joe Roberts while Drohan fired wide from Duckworth’s corner.

It was visitors who struck next with a third goal in the 74th minute to double their lead. Andy Barker delivered a free-kick into the area from the left and unchallenged Simon Howard beat Langley with a diving header.

Whitney set up what looked like being an exciting finish by halving Atherton’s advantage in the 84th minute. Cheetham headed down Jones’ corner and Whitney fired low into the bottom right corner from 10 yards.

But the visitors netted a fourth goal in stoppage time to complete a miserable afternoon for the Bullets. Langley produced an outstanding diving save to turn James Parkinson’s thunderbolt shot on to post. However, the rebound across the face of goal fell for Ryan Outcliffe to square for Ajit Wale to tap in at close range.

Alsager Town: Langley, McCarthy, Duckworth (Taylor, 77), Chambers, Cheetham, Griffin (Clarke, 83), Whitney, Jones, Roberts (Williams, 83), Wooley, Drohan. Unused subs: Swann, Gill.

Atherton Collieries: Bates, Parsonage (Hunt, 70), Cotton, Parkinson, Howard, Conlon, Levendis, Wilson, Hayder, Sharpe (Outcliffe, 68), Barker (Wale, 90). Unused subs: Walker.

Wednesday 15th October 2008

Eccleshall 0 Stone Dominoes 1
Vodkat League Division 1
At: Pershall Park
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Attendance: 83
Weather: -

Stone followed up two consecutive cup victories with another win after a hotly-disputed second-half winner settled this enthralling local derby.

Liam McKinney’s cross-cum-shot from the left side of the area looped up off a defender and dropped into the far side of the net. Eccleshall felt keeper Dean Latham was impeded as the ball crossed the line but the match officials didn’t agree.

“It was a good victory,” said Dominoes manager Shaun Hollingshead.

“It was difficult as Ecccleshall are a decent side.

“We didn’t play as well as we did on Saturday. I think that was more down to Eccleshall putting us under pressure as oppose to us not playing particularly well.

“We’ll take the lucky goal and we’ll take the win.

“It is pleasing. We need to get on a run. That is three wins on the trot. If we win on Saturday and take it into the week after, that is what we’ll continue to do.”

Despite the narrow defeat, disappointed Dave Dale couldn’t fault the way his side played.

“I think we battled. We edged it first half and I don’t think they were a threat.

“I thought our lads battled well and I’m pleased with the performance.

“I can’t fault the lads. They worked hard and did what they were asked.

“Whether the keeper was held down or not, I don’t know. The referee said not, so you get the goal given against you.”

Both sides showed changes from Saturday. For Dominoes, keeper James Hall was out with a back injury so in came Richard Stone.

Dale made two changes in a tactical switch with Adam Soane and Jack Watson in for Mark Mapperson and Adam Stonier.

Dominoes survived an early scare. Michael Marren punted a free-kick forward from 40 yards out which looked to have been hit too deep until it dropped onto the bar. Dwayne Spence following-up couldn’t take advantage of the rebound.

Keeper Stone produced a good save to hold onto a well-struck deflected 30-yard drive from Leigh Skellern.

Both sides showed plenty of attacking intentions though solid defending kept first-half chances to a minimum.

Eccleshall had a goal disallowed in the 36th minute for a foul on Stone after Spence headed home from Soane’s free-kick.

Just before the break, Oliver Rabie got on the end of Dan Brown’s pass inside the home area but sliced a right-foot shot wide of the near post to miss his side’s best chance of the half.

There was no let up in the competiveness or entertainment after the break and scoring opportunities started to occur a bit more frequently.

Four minutes into the second half, Spence sent a free header straight at Stone. The visitors quickly broke and the diving Latham was forced to beat away a close-range shot from Brown.

Just after the hour mark, Stone did well to palm over a long-range free-kick from Marren that was heading for the top corner.

Eventually, the deadlock was broken by defender McKinney in the 77th minute. Both Alex Hutchinson and Leigh Skellern were booked for protesting the decision to allow the goal to stand.

Eccleshall pressed forward and appealed for a penalty waived away when Russell Dematteo went down inside the area.

Keeper Stone produced a couple of decent saves in the closing stages to keep his side in front including a fine block to keep out Shore’s header.

The win takes Dominoes level on points with Eccleshall and one position higher into 11th by virtue of a marginally better goal difference.

Eccleshall: Latham, Soane, Watson, Hutchinson, Brunt, Leaver (Bromley, 84), Marren, Shore, Spence, Dematteo, Skellern (Oxley, 90). Unused subs: Adlington, Mapperson, Stonier.

Stone Dominoes: Stone, Edwards, McKinney, Scheuber, Byrne, Baird, Rowley, Maguire, Rabie (Shufflebottom, 56), Brown, Curley (Young, 88). Unused subs: Basford, Haddrell, Grocutt.

Tuesday 14th October 2008

Newcastle Town 1 Tamworth 0
Staffordshire Senior Cup First Round
At: Lyme Valley Parkway Stadium
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Attendance: 93
Weather: rain

Newcastle Town named four first-team regulars on the bench and gave a run out to several fringe players but it didn’t stop them progressing to the second round at the expense of Blue Square North side Tamworth.

Ryan Dicker’s header in the 25th minute proved the difference between the sides though the game wasn’t as close as the final scoreline may suggest.

“It is a very good result,” said assistant manager Dorian Garner, who ran the team from the technical area with Greg Clowes away.

“I thought in the first half we did very well. In the second half I thought they came at us, as they had to, but we showed good resilience. It was a good performance.”

Tamworth were thankful to keeper David Bevan for a double save in the 19th minute when he blocked shots in quick succession from both Neville Thompson and Paul Macari.

However, the teenager, on loan from Aston Villa, couldn’t prevent Dicker heading home what proved to be the winner six minutes later. The unchallenged defender, up for a corner, got on the end of Richard Minor’s deep cross from the right.

Newcastle continued to cause problems and Minor, back after serving a one-match ban, fired across the face of goal and narrowly wide of the far post.

Just after the restart, Bevan got down to hold a deflected shot from Minor.

The visitors named a side of fringe and reserve players and showed more urgency at the start of the second half.

But, the lively Minor almost doubled Castle’s lead six minute after the restart, smashing a shot against the bar after good work by Ashley Hill.

Danny Read turned round a well-struck free-kick from former Stafford Rangers defender Craig McAughtrie and that was just about as close Tamworth got to forcing extra time.

First-team regulars Alastair Brown, Chris Budrys and Andy Kinsey were all given a run out in the closing stages by Garner.

Castle had to defend in depth as Tamworth pressed for a late equaliser without unduly troubling keeper Read.

Newcastle Town: Read, Gillick, Taylor, Espley, Dicker, Wilkes, Minor (Brown, 80), Hill, Thompson (Kinsey, 85), Macari (Budrys, 82), Fogg. Unused subs: Bourne.

Tamworth: Bevan, Law, Murphy, McAughtrie, Boothe, Burgess, Roscorla, Fulford (Holyland, ht (Redfern, 73)), Hambleton (Davis, 65), Lea, Packer-Sturridge. Unused subs: Gillon, Wilkins.

Referee: Simon Bennett (Kidsgrove).

Saturday 11th October 2008

Wigan Robin Park 4 Norton United 3
Vodkat League Division 1
At Robin Park Arena
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Attendance: 55
Weather: mild, dry

Norton United manager Dave Beswick was left to a defensive lapse after his side scored three goals away from home yet ended up without a point.

With the scoreline 3-2 in favour of Wigan entering the final quarter hour, substitute James Martin was given time and acres of space to latch onto the throughball and lob Gary Goodwin to give his side a match-winning two-goal cushion.

That fourth goal ended up proving crucial at the end as Norton managed to score what was merely a consolation late on with Lee Talbot’s second goal of the afternoon.

“I am very disappointed,” said Beswick.

“The game was going our way until we’ve given them the fourth goal.

“We switched off from defending, they scored the fourth goal and that is what has killed us.

“We’ve got some really good players and I can’t say that anyone in the team has played badly. They have all played their part today.

“As a team we’ve done very well, worked hard and played some good football. We were the best team on the day and were extremely lucky to get a win and you can tell that by the way they defended.”

The opening half hour at the Robin Park Arena, located next to the JJB Stadium, gave no indication of the goal glut that was to follow. Wigan striker Danny Worthington volleyed against a post early on thought that was just about the only chance of note.

The home side, however, took the lead in the 32nd minute. From a free-kick awarded 28 yards out for a foul by Jon Jackson, defender Ben Kay curled the ball over the wall and into the top-right with the aid of a wicked deflection.

Norton put Wigan under pressure during the latter stages of the first half and got back on level terms a minute before the break.

Tom Winkle’s long throw from the left into the area was flicked on to the far post where Paul Rutter fired home from eight yards out.

Unchallenged Rutter should have put his side in front nine minutes after the restart. Talbott and sent skipper Mark McDonald down the left but his low pinpoint cross was put over the bar from a just a few yards out.

The miss proved costly as poor defending allowed Wigan to regain the lead just after the hour mark. Kay, up for a corner, hammered home his second goal of the game after Norton failed to deal with Andy Whittle’s cross into a crowded area.

Whittle was again the provider as the home side increased their lead in the 69th minute. Scott Callaghan nipped in at the near post to convert a low right-wing cross via the underside of the bar.

Beswick made a double change and his side again got back into contention with a 76th-minute opportunist goal. Talbot flicked the ball past Foulds with an acrobatic overhead kick.

Steven Colclough whipped as dangerous ball from the left but the sliding Rutter just couldn’t apply the finishing touch as Norton almost equalised.

But Norton were undone at the back as Wigan regained their two-goal advantage through Martin.

Norton quickly bounced back in the 84th minute when Talbot turned inside the area 15 yards out and fired a low left foot shot into the bottom left corner.

Jimmy Dunn came on for Robert Drummond as a third striker and he almost forced a late equaliser. He cut in front the left and fired a low shot which Kay almost deflected into his own net.

Wigan Robin Park: Foulds, Dennett, Mullen, Pitts, Kay, Callaghan, Whittle (Martin, 78), Neafcy, Edwards (Corcoran, 65), Worthington, Callaway. Unused subs: Ben Musa, Mullen.

Norton United: Goodwin, Davies, Drummond (Dunn, 84), Jackson (Dundas, 74), Winkle, Harper, Hughes, McDonald, Talbot, Rutter, Fox (Colclough, 74). Unused subs: Smith.

Referee: N. Gibbons.

Friday 10th October 2008

Buckley Town 2 Gresford Athletic 0
Huw Gray Cymru Alliance
At: Etna Park
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Attendance: 100 (headcount)
Weather: mild, one rain shower

Perhaphs I think for the first time since Bootle back in May, there was a distanct possibility of have a wasted journey - not because of a possible postponment but by horrendous traffic delays. Everything was going to plan until I made it to Chester - the A55 was queuing so I opted to go through the city centre instead only to face what were probably even longer queues. To make matters more frustrating, the SatNav took me to what turned out about 800 yards from the ground but I managed to find the ground in time.

I'd previously seen Buckley play at home in 1995 at their previous home on Hawkesbury Road in May 1995 (1-0 home win over Llandrindroid Wells). Since then, the club have moved to a new venue on Globe Way off Liverpool Road on the north-eastern edge of the town. A drive leads slighly uphill from Globe Way to the ground. Programmes (£1) were sold at the entrance and, once inside, I bought a raffle ticket for a prize of a nice fruit hamper. The pitch runs lengthways with changing rooms, club house and tea bar at this end on a raised terrace. Behind the near goal is a seated stand and on the touchtine to the left is an area of covered standing with covered seats on halfway.

With Wales at home to Lichtenstein tomorrow, all the scheduled Cymru Alliance games were brought forward a day, hence the Friday night action at Etna Park. Buckley went into the game in eight position in the seventeen-team league with a record of ten points from six games. Visitors Gresford were second-from-bottom with one point from five games.

There were plenty of good statistics in the programme along with quite a number of other articles of interest including manager's notes, match reports and league news, etc., along with a history and pen pics of the visitors. In his column, Buckley manager 'Sedge' was looking forward to Friday night football and wrote: "There is nothing better than night games ... it seems to give people a buzz.'

Buckley Town consolidated their position in mid-table with a goal in each half against lowly Gresford.

Wednesday 8th October 2008

Meir KA 4 Brocton 2
Midland Combination Premier Division
At: Kings Park
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Attendance: 95
Weather: cold, dry

(see also 13/9/08)

I last saw Meir twice last month when they faced Halesowen Town in the FA Cup, holding the Southern League Premier Division high-flyers to a 1-1 at Kings Park before losing the replay 8-1. The club certainly left a positive impression on me so it was a pleasure to return for this local debry - and the friendliness was again very evident.

Both clubs were looking for a win for different reasons - Meir to end their run of consecutive defeats in the league and Brocton to extend their current unbeaten run.

Before kick-off, I bumped into a familiar face from my Stafford days as 'Rugeley Mick' and his son had made the trip up the A51 for the game. I certainly good the catch up on the news with someone I'd always enjoyed chatting to during my days reporting Rangers games. There were also a couple or three groundhoppers present who I'd get the opportunity to speak to.

Returing to the action, Meir defended the southern end (the one with the covered seats behind the goal) in the first half.

Having lost their last five league games, some by the odd goal, Meir KA got back to winning ways with a victory by the odd goal in seven against their nearest neighbours Brocton. They raced into an early three-goal lead which Brocton ate into with two goals before one of the visiting midfielders suffered a nasty injury. The referee took the players off for an early 'half-time' before resuming the game 20 minutes later. Both sides scored once in the second half.

Tuesday 7th October 2008

Congleton Town 0 Abbey Hey 2
Vodkat League Premier Division
At: Booth Street
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Attendance: 81
Weather: -

Congleton missed out on the chance to move into the top three when their run of four straight league victories came to an abrupt end against lowly Abbey Hey.

In contrast, the visitors had lost seven of the opening eight league games but it didn’t stop them pulling off an unexpected result at Booth Street with a goal in each half.

Second-from-bottom Abbey Hey had the first effort on target when Rob Hackney parried a long-range drive from Dominic Lilley.

The near miss provided Congleton with a warning sign and they responded by creating a series of really good chances.

Graham Molley twice had shots blocked by defenders and also headed against a post while defender Steve Millington fired narrowly wide. In what was one-way traffic, Abbey keeper Andrew Ralph produced diving saves from both Stuart Tulloch and Simon Robinson.

However, the visitors grew in confidence and their two forwards, Alex Monde-Leke and Adie Nevins, started to cause problems with their speed and movement.

Midway through the first half, Hackney was again called into action to turn round a bullet header from Nevins.

The Bears keeper also made a remarkable save to keep out a deflected shot hit by Danny Heffernan. Abbey Hey, however, took a 28th-minute lead from the resulting corner when Monde-Leke headed home.

There certainly didn’t look a gulf of league positions between the teams and Hackney needed to remain alert to hold a near-post shot from Carl Maylott.

Congleton should have been awarded a penalty three minutes after the restart. Tulloch was clearly brought down inside the area but the referee opted to awarded a free-kick outside instead.

Ralph continued to frustrate the Bears and he kept out a shot from Carl Nesbitt and also Wolley’s 20-yard rising drive.

Abbey Hey doubled their lead in the 62nd minute. Lilley fed Astley Mulholland who beat Hackney with a low drive across goal into the bottom left corner.

It could have got even worse. Nevins slipped the ball past the advancing Hackney only to see it rebound off the right-hand post.

Congletom manager Darren Twigg threw on both Matt Quinn and James Marrow, and later himself, but the Bears just couldn’t get on the scoresheet.

Congleton Town: Hackney, Vickers, Bostock, Brotherton (Twigg, 82), Millington, Nesbitt, Woolley, Robinson (Quinn, 72), Tulloch, Molloy (Marrow, 72), Greene.

Abbey Hey: Ralph, Maloney, A. Brown, Dennis, Doherty, Lilley, Mulholland (Taylor, 87), Heffernan, Monde-Leke, Nevins, Maylott (Marshall, 82). Unused subs: M. Brown, Massey.

Referee: Nigel Smith.

Newcastle Town 5 Highgate United 0

Saturday 4th October 2008
Newcastle Town 5 Highgate United 0
FA Carlsberg Vase First Round
At Lyme Valley Parkway
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: press pass; Programme: £1-50p (36 pages)
Attendance: 73
Weather: rain
Duration: first-half: 45:22; second-half: 46:38

This tie stood out as the one to chose as 'Match of the Day'. After making a great start to the season in August and early September, Newcastle had suffered the dreaded Manager of the Month. I witnessed Greg Clowes receive the Premier Division award before the 4-0 home win over Runcorn Linnets. Since then Castle have won one of their four league games and lost their unbeaten record in a home defeat against AFC Fylde. Could this Vase tie get them back on track?

Now that I've got around nine or ten clubs to follow, I'm starting to feel like a supporter as well as reporter of these clubs when I see them play. Being a one-club man with Stafford for all those years seems a distant memory and the variety of being able to choose a decent match to watch each week has reinvigorated my enthusism for the beautiful game.

As before, programmes (£1-50 36 pages) were available at the entrance and teams available from the Press/PA Box from where I chose to watch the action. Weather wasn't brilliant - cold, wet and damp - but ideal for the cross country runners competing in the adjacent park.

The game got underway in driving rain with Newcastle opting to attack from right to left (or north to south) in relation to my position in the ground.

Newcastle took the lead on 11 minutes. Jordan Johnson got on the end of a pass from Kinsey and cleverly chipped visiting keeper Perry Cox from just outside the area.

With clear-cut chances scarce, Newcastle needed a second goal which came in the 32nd minute, just after Andy Bourne hit the bar. Minor sent a pin-point cross into the area for Chris Budrys to score his fourth goal of the season with a diving header.

The rain eased for the second half and any lingering doubts about the visitors getting back into the game ended five minutes after the restart. Andy Kinsey was brought down inside the area by substitute Scott Turner and got up to send the keeper the wrong way with the resulting penalty.

The fourth goal came in the 57th minute courtesy of Bourne who slotted home from 10 yards out.

Cox pulled off a good save to turn round a rising effort from Johnson as Town looked to further add to their goal haul.

Richard Minor finished off the scoring in the 75th minute. Keeper Danny Reid launched an attack on the break and found Kinsey on half-way. Minor stayed on side down the left to receive a throughball from Kinsey and easily beat the helpless Cox with a low shot.

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. Ashley Hill, 9. Chris Budrys, 10. Andy Kinsey, 11. Jordan Johnson. Subs: 12. Neville Thompson (not used), 14. Karl Espley (for Hill, 62), 15. Ian Willis (for Johnson, 61), 16. Dean Gillick (not used), 17. Tom Fogg (for Bourne, 72).

Highgate United (red/red/red): 1. Perry Cox, 2. Jake Sammons, 3. Ian Wood, 4. Neil Kitching, 5. Steve Darlington, 6. Luke Edwards (capt), 7. Chris Hayden, 8. Dave Timmins, 9. Matthew Breeze, 10. Chris Gummery, 11. Marvin Johnson. Subs: 12, Kieran Robotham (for Breeze, ht), 14. Curtis Karim (for Kitching, 54), 15. Alan Shimmon (not used), 16. Scott Turner (for Darlington, ht).

Referee: A Clayton (Hyde).

Kidsgrove Athletic 3 Willenhall Town 3

Wednesday 1st October 2008
Kidsgrove Athletic 3 Willenhall Town 3

(3-3 at 90 mins and after extra time, Kidsgrove won 4-3 on penalties)
Unibond League Cup First Round
At: Seddon Stadium
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: press pass; Programme: £1-50p
Attendance: 89
Weather: prolonged heavy rain showers, cold
Duration: first-half: 46:18; second-half: 48:00
Extra-time (15): first-half: 15:00; second-half: 15:00

It was worth going though the 'pain' on extra time to witness the tense penalty shoot-out which Kidsgrove won in dramatic fashion. The home side to the lead and lost it three times with Willenhall netting their third equaliser deep into stoppage time at the end of the 90 minutes. The late finish didn't matter, nor did having to file my copy back home before going to bed.

After my minor difficulty in finding the ground two weeks ago, normal service was restored and I got to the Seddon Stadium with putting a foot wrong!

As before, programmes (£1-50) were sold before the turnstiles. This time I decided to have a go at the Golden Goal competition and purchased a sealed envelope containing the time which the winner needed to coincide with the first goal of the game.

Inside the ground, I headed for the Press/PA Box where teamsheets were available from the Secretary, who also performed the duty of tannoy announcer as well. I suppose, as a shy sort of person, it does take me time to get chatty with people but I'm starting to get to know people here at Kidsgrove and them getting use to me covering their home games.

It is no suprise, considering I was there two weeks ago, that the ground is as described previously. Main seated stand on the halfway line with other seated stand opposite and further covered seating behind both goals. Just before kick-off, I opted for a seat in the main stand and decided to keep my envelope sealed until the first goal was scored. What time would it contain?

Kidsgrove (blue shirts, blue shorts and blue socks) got the game underway attacking down the slope towards the Harold Taylor Stand, which contained the drummer and a few chanting home fans.

In the 9th minute, Dave Shaw flicked the ball into the path of Andy Hurst who was brought down inside the area by Brendan Kelly. Penalty pointed the referee and Shaw sent Luke Tilt the wrong way from the spot to put Grove 1-0 up.

"The winning golden goal time is nine minutes," came the announcement or something like that. Time to open the envelope which contained '16' - never mind!

Willenhall (red shirts, red shorts and red socks) took nine minutes to get back on level terms. Scott Stevenson delivered a free-kick from the left into the area and Rory May netted with a downward header.

Within a couple of the equaliser, the first of several spells of torrential rain commenced which in the first half was slanted into the faces of the Willenhall defenders.

But Grove quickly got back in from with an own goal in the 23rd minute courtesy of Kelly, the same unfortunate Willenhall skipper who had conceded the penalty. He could only help Hurst's low right-wing cross past his own keeper. Kidsgrove soon went close to another goal. Tim Sanders hammered a rsing 25-yard shot against the bar.

Once again, Willenhall hit back seven minutes before the interval, this time with a well-struck 25-yarder from Justin Nisbett.

Half-time and a most welcome cup of tea and cakes!

Now attacking up the slope towards the Seddon Stand, Kidsgrove took the lead for the third time five minutes after the restart. Adam Miller headed home a cross from Aiden Matranga at close range.

Shaw saw a header cleared off the line as Grove almost doubled their lead.

Willenhall pressed for an equaliser and it remained 3-2 to Kidsgrove when "the minimum of three minutes of added time" commenced. Frustratingly from the home side but to the delight of the visitors, Willenhall equalised for the third time on the second minute of injury time. May's drove the ball into a crowded six-yard box and it went in off a Kidsgrove defender.

The visitors went closest to finding a winner in extra time when May fired against the woodwork.

Cue the penalty shoot-out in front of the Seddon Stand.

First to step up was Rory May who saw his penalty saved by Adam Wilkes. Luke Tilt repeated the feat to deny Andy Hurst.

Luke Findlay put away Willenhall second penalty and the score remained 1-0 to the visitors when Kidsgrove missed their second spot kick.

Both sides missed their third penalties in similar fashion (over the bar) before Craig Milligan made it 2-0 - It looked all over from Kidsgrove who needed to net their fourth to stay in the contest which they did through Sanders.

Even though Sanders' spot-kick went in, Willenhall simply needed to score from their fifth penalty to settle the tie but Wilkes produced a vital save.

The pressure was still on as Matt Elder needed to score, which he duly did. It was 2-2 after five penalties each so sudden death to decide whether Kidsgrove or Willenhall progress into the next round.

Lorcan Spittle and Tom Schwartz both put away their penalties to maintain the tension and make it 3-3 after six penalties each. Willenhall's seventh hit the outside of the left-hand post via Wilkes' fingers and Danny Smith sent Luke Tilt the wrong way to win the tie 4-3.

Kidsgrove Athletic (blue/blue/blue): 1. Adam Wilkes, 2. Danny Smith, 3. Craig Dove, 4. Matt Elder, 5. Tom Schwartz, 6. Jordan White, 7. Aiden Matranga (capt), 8. Karl Miller, 9. Dave Shaw, 10. Andy Hurst, 11. Tim Sanders. Subs: 12. Andy Matthews (for Miller, 77), 14. Chris Leigh (not used), 15. Tom Moss (for Shaw, 84), 16. Chris Smith (not used).

Willenhall Town (red/red/red): 1. Luke Tilt, 2. Ashley Langford, 3. Craig Milligan, 4. Brendan Kelly (capt), 5. Lorcan Spittle, 14. Shaun Griffiths, 7. Scott Stevenson, 8. Shaun Findlay, 9. Rory May, 10. Justin Nisbett, 11. Luke Findlay. Subs: 12. Wayne Brown (for Nisbett, 114), 14. Jay Hawkins (not used), 15. Matt Salmon (for Shaun Findlay, 81).

Referee: G Etchells.
Assistants: L Taylor and I Hurdle.

1-0 Dave Shaw (9)
1-1 Rory May (18)
2-1 Brendan Kelly (23 og)
2-2 Justin Nisbett (38)
3-2 Karl Miller (50)
3-3 Rory May (90+2)

0-0 Willenhall Rory May - MISS saved by Wilkes
0-0 Kidsgrove Andy Hurst - MISS saved by Tilt
0-1 Willenhall Luke Findlay - SCORED
0-1 Kidsgrove Tom Moss - MISS saved by Tilt
0-1 Willenhall Brendan Kelly - blasted over bar
0-1 Kidsgrove Aiden Matranga - lifted over bar
0-2 Willenhall Craig Millian - SCORED
1-2 Kidsgrove Tim Sanders - SCORED
1-2 Willenhall Matt Salmon - MISS saved by Wilkes
2-2 Kidsgrove Matt Eldeer - SCORED so sudden death
2-3 Willenhall Lorcan Spittle - SCORED
3-3 Kidsgrove Craig Dove - SCORED
3-3 Willenhall Scott Stevenson - MISS hit post
4-3 Kidsgrove Danny Smith - SCORED!!!!!

Kidsgrove: none.
Willenhall: none.