Rugeley Rangers 4 Chesterton AFC 4

Wednesday 29th February 2012
Rugeley Rangers 4 Chesterton AFC 4
Staffordshire County Senior League Division 1
At: Red Lion Ground, Brereton
Kick-off: 7-30 pm
Admission: £2 including 12-page programme
Weather: mild, dry, misty
Attendance: 40 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 45:34; second-half: 49:32

What were the odds of that happening? Back in April I saw Rugeley Rangers draw 4-4 with local rivals Lea Hall and tonight, amazingly, the scoreline was the same this time against Chesterton AFC. Rugeley appeared to cruising towards a substantial victory with a 3-1 half-time lead that was extended early in the second half by hat-trick hero Joe Murphy. However, two quick goals just before the hour mark got Chesterton back in contention and they clinched a point from Dan Macdonald’s spectacular 35-yard free-kick.

Several things have changed for Rugeley Rangers since I saw that initial 4-4 draw back in April. To start with they have been promoted from Division 2 to Division 1 of the Staffordshire County Senior League. Also, they have moved less than a mile up the A51 from Brereton Town’s ground, where the Lea Hall game was played, to the Red Lion Ground which has a long association with Brereton Social FC. And, they have become regular programme issuers as well.

The first person to greet me at the ground was ‘Tram’, making a return visit to the ground having seen Lichfield City play a home game many years ago. Soon we were joined by ‘Hednesford Rob’ and ‘Ratty’ as well as six or seven other travellers.

Going into this evening’s game, Rugeley Rangers (35 points from 19 games) occupied eighth position, some 14 points behind leaders Wolstanton United Reserves who had played three games more. A bit further down the table in 12th position were visitors Chesterton AFC (20 points from 19 games), well clear of bottom side Longton Harriers who picked up their first league points of the season last Saturday at the 21st attempt.

The Red Lion Ground is a familiar venue to me which I first visited back in 1985. Changes have been made over the years and now there is a stand on the near touchline around half-way containing around 100 yellow-coloured seats.

Programmes arrived a few minutes before kick-off and an interesting, none-the-less most-welcome, publication it was. Personally, I think it is good news that clubs at this level produce regular programmes as they can be good fundraisers. The glossy outer eight pages were the programme from last month’s Northern Cup game against Old Xaverians with a four page insert in the middle relevant to tonight’s game. Earlier in the season, Chesterton beat Rugeley 5-0 in a ‘very stormy, physical match’.

Chesterton (in all red) got the game underway defending the A51 end and attacking down the slope. However, Rugeley were quickly into gear and took the lead after just 75 seconds. Rhys Baker took the ball forward down the left and found Joe Murphy unmarked inside the area who slotted home the opening goal. The perfect start for Rugeley and great news for ‘Tram’!

The visitors won two corners before equalising in the 10th minute. Nath Marlow played a free-kick forward down the left to Kyle Cooke who crossed into the area. Matt Gee was unmarked inside the area and he volleyed part Rugeley goalkeeper Adam Hill into the left side of the net.

Wasting no time, Rugeley were back in front less than two minutes after the equaliser. Murphy found space down the right and hit a low right-foot angled shot into the far left corner of the net past the diving Chesterton goalkeeper Ant Anderson.

A cleaner contact with the ball two minutes later from Murphy could have given the midfielder his hat-trick. Instead, it looped in the air and Anderson made a clean catch on his line.

Rugeley full-back Matt Cole will be pleased no cameras were recording the game, especially in the 28th minute. Cole took what he thought was a foul- or non-throw and picked up the ball which travelled barely two yards on to the pitch. Unfortunately for the defender, the throw was legal and he was penalised for handball, not given the opportunity for a second attempt!

Still dominating as they had done for the majority of the first-half, Rugeley increased their lead five minutes before the interval. Tom Wright latched onto a throughball, rounded the advancing Anderson and sidefooted into the net, avoiding covering defender Marlow who had got back into the six-yard box.

I decided to walk around the pitch during the early stages of the second half and found hard-standing all round the perimeter. I guess this dates back to a time when the ground regularly hosted West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division games.

Carrying on where he left off, Murphy completed his hat-trick in the 48th minute which a goal that looked have put the outcome beyond doubt in favour of Rugeley. Pete Robinson found Murphy with a throw-in down the right and the nippy midfielder beat several defenders before shooting low into the far left corner of the net.

Chesterton started the comeback with their second goal scored in the 55th minute. Dan Macdonald, wearing ‘7’ like Murphy, send a screaming and unstoppable long-range drive flashing past Hill into the net.

The visitors scored again on the hour to make the scoreline 4-3. Macdonald delivered a free-kick from the right to the far spot which Hill failed to hold and central defender Sean Vaughan headed home at close range.

The Rugeley bench were concerned, especially when Macdonald’s shot was deflected wide for a corner: “Get back in their faces, not the other way round,” shouted the manager to his side.

On an evening of players wearing ‘7’ scoring the bulk of the goals, it was Macdonald who scored Chesterton’s 75th-minute equaliser. From fully 35-yards out, he curled a free-kick straight into the right side of the net, again giving Hill no chance of saving.

Macdonald had the chance to win the game for Chesterton deep into stoppage time after Neil Hill tripped Cooke on the edge of the area. Rugeley assembled a seven-man wall which Macdonald could not avoid hitting.

Surely, my third Rugeley game sometime in the future can’t finish 4-4, can it?

For the record, this was my first midweek game on 29th February and with the only previous game I’d seen on this date was Slough Town 2 Stafford Rangers 2 on a Saturday afternoon at Wexham Park precisely 20 years ago.

Rugeley Rangers (navy blue / navy blue / navy blue): 1. Adam Hill, 2. Matt Cole, 3. Tom Cunningham, 4. Jack Turner, 5. Matt Bushnell (capt), 6. Pete Robinson, 7. Joe Murphy, 8. Neil Hill, 9. Tom Wright, 10. Rhys Baker, 11. Ashley Andrews. Subs: 12. Dan Bolas (not used), 14. Dave Jones (not used), 15. Jam Russell (for Murphy, 70), 16. John Hurley (for Andrews, 80), 17. Dan Arnold (for Cole, 72). Manager: Craig Corrigan.

Chesterton AFC (red/red/red): 1. Ant Anderson, 2. Shaun Morgan, 3. John Wood, 4. Nath Marlow, 5. Sean Vaughan, 6. Tom Gibson (capt), 7. Dan Macdonald, 8. Mick Rodgers, 9. Kyle Cooke, 10. Matt Gee, 11. Kyle Clarke. Subs: 12. Phil Farr (for Gee, 70), 14. Matt Clowes (for Rodgers, 50), 15. Andy Smith (not used), 16. Nathan Green (for Wood, 74), 17. David Betts (not used).

Referee: Ken Swift.
Assistants: Ron Daley and Stuart Kerr.

1-0 Joe Murphy (2)
1-1 Matt Gee (9)
2-1 Joe Murphy (11)
3-1 Tom Wright (41)
4-1 Joe Murphy (48)
4-2 Dan Macdonald (55)
4-3 Sean Vaughan (60)
4-4 Dan Macdonald (75)

Rugeley: Ashley Andrews (YC, 29), Matt Bushnell (YC, 80), Neil Hill (YC, 90+4)
Chesterton: none

Evesham United 2 Hemel Hempstead Town 2

Sunday 26th February 2012
Evesham United 2 Hemel Hempstead Town 2
Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division
At: St George’s Lane, Worcester
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £8; Programme: £2 (48 pages)
Weather: mild, dry, sunny
Attendance: 113
Duration: first-half: 45:00; second-half: 48:24

The reason for making a late decision to head to St George’s Lane was simple – the opportunity to watch a player in action for the first time in almost four years who, in my mind, is a true footballing ‘legend’. Wayne Daniel, currently Evesham’s captain and central defender, made 300 appearances for Stafford Rangers from his debut in August 2002 until April 2008 and would be impossible to omit from my ‘dream team’.

While I wouldn’t have turned around and gone home had he not been playing, I was pleased to see Wayne named in the ‘number 4’ shirt on the teamsheet. Also in the Evesham line-up was Craig Wilding, 89 appearances and 26 goals for Stafford, while another ex-Marston Road man, Matt Clarke, is the recently-appointed Evesham manager.

In what was scheduled as Evesham’s last Sunday home game at Worcester before their impeding move a new ground back in the town, both sides shared the points and four goals in an entertaining encounter. Played throughout in sunshine, visitors Hemel Hempstead took an early lead which was cancelled out not long before the interval by probably Evesham’s first decent chance. Central defender Henry Eze put the Robins in front but Hemel equalised within three minutes. Eze was then sent off for violent conduct which forced Evesham to resolutely defend to prevent their fellow relegation-battlers from scoring the winner.

Evesham have been groundsharing at Worcester City’s St George’s Lane since 2006 when they left their old and now redeveloped Common Road ground which I visited once in April 1991. Still very much in situ are the large stand, cavernous covered terrace opposite and the ‘Craven Cottage’ style changing rooms building in the corner.

Programmes and teamsheets were available from the table beyond the turnstiles and a club shop table, run by ‘Gladys’ was found in the bar – two different design of badges plus a whole range of club merchandise, including knitted player dolls in Evesham colours.

This season, both Evesham (18th position with 32 points from 28 games) and visitors Hemel Hempstead (20th with 25 points from 28 games) have been fighting a relegation battle to avoid the drop from the Evo-Stik Southern Premier Division. To quote the programme editorial, ‘[w]ith seven points separating the two sides, three points for either team today would go a long way towards easing any relegation worries’.

Both sides have recently changed manager with Matt Clarke and Rob Elmes replacing Paul West at Evesham back in November while Mark Eaton and Alan Biley took change at Hemel just two weeks ago.

With Daniel wearing the Evesham captain’s armband, the PA announcer, rather uniquely I thought, told the crowd that “the players are now going to swap ends”.

Hemel Hempstead (in all fluorescent green) got the game underway attacking the Dressing Room end, defending into the bright sunshine, and got off to a perfect start in the 2nd minute. A sliced defensive clearance resulted in a right-wing corner which was swung in dangerously by Dave Pearce and recent signing Keiron Schmidt forced the ball home at the near post. Great news for the group of eight Hemel fans stood behind that goal.

Much to Matt Clarke’s frustration, the visitors continued to cause problems and Rob Howarth sent a bullet header inches wide of the near right-hand post from Danny May’s cross. Evesham keeper Daniel Platt was then called into the action to keep out Ross Lafayette’s shot with a diving save.

When Evesham did get forward, Luke Male’s cross was too close to Russ Kitteridge who make a comfortable unpressured catch.

Howarth headed over after good work from Lafayette and Marquin Smith as the Tudors’ continued to impress.

A long throw from the right by Ben Pugh put the Hemel defence under pressure. Kitteridge’s punch failed to leave the area and Marcus Palmer went down under a challenge but the referee wasn’t interested in the penalty appeals.

For the first half hour, I watched the game from the stand in the seat usually occupied by Worcester City season ticket holder Bob Stokes before heading downstairs to pitch-side.

Evesham started to threaten as the interval approached. Josh Quaynor drove across the face of the Hemel goal and Pugh got a 29-yard left-foot free-kick on target.

For some reason I started to ponder a question in my mind: Why were Hemel Hempstead were nicknamed the ‘Tudors’? Then I spotted the badge on the programme cover showing Henry VIII and assumed the town had some previous connection with the ‘six-wifed’ monarch. I was right as Wikipedia mentions that King Henry granted the town its charter in 1539.

Back to the action and the Robins levelled things up in the 43rd minute. Pugh received a forward pass inside the area on the left and clinically hit a first-time left-foot shot into the far corner of the net past the diving Kitteridge.

During the interval the PA man gave the golden goal winning time as “two minutes”. Time to open up my forgotten envelope which contained a raffle ticket bearing the number… 23.

I kept Mr Stokes’ seat warm at the start of the second half and just before the hour mark, Platt pulled off a smart save to push Dave Deeney’s free-kick and at the other end Wayne Daniel headed Quaynor’s corner straight at Kitteridge.

Platt needed to be brave to dive at the feet of Smith who had looked to latch onto Lafayette’s pass into the area.

I think I’m right in saying that all but one of my previous nine visits to St George’s Lane have been spent at the press tables at the back of the stand. So during the second half, it was a rarity (and a nice one too) to walk round the perimeter to watch part of the game from the opposite ‘popular’ side.

Evesham were in the ascendency, despite Hemel’s chances and took the lead for the first time in the 77th minute. Pugh sent a long throw into the area from the right and Henry Eze fired home at the far post during a scramble.

The lead lasted three minutes. Schmidt found substitute Lewis Toomey on the right who crossed low into the area. Defender Jared Wilson failed to clear the danger allowing Lafayette score with a close-range shot.

“Pick yourselves up,” Evesham were told but a minute later they suffered another blow. Eze caught Lafayette in the face and the referee instantly produced a straight red card. Craig Wilding plugged the gap at the back left by Eze and Farai Hallam powered a header straight at Platt from the free-kick.

Defender Kevin Spencer replaced the sacrificed Quaynor allowing Wilding to return to midfield and Evesham were forced to defend. Platt against excelled in the 86th minute with a superb reaction save to tip over Lafayette’s header. The corner was cleared and played back into the area and Deeney thought he’d scored the winner, only to be flagged offside.

Evesham keeper Daniel Platt was named ‘Man of the Match’.

While walked round to the exit not long before full-time, I was spotted by Northamptonshire hopper ‘Groundhopper Dave’ who I’d last seen at Sutton Coldfield a couple of weeks ago. We had a long chat at the end of the game and stood behind the goal at the Dressing Room End, wondering how many more visits we’d make to the ground before it is due for demolition in 2013.

Still, next season there is Evesham’s new Cheltenham Road ground to look forward to!

Evesham United (red and white stripes / red / white): 1. Daniel Platt, 2. Jared Wilson, 3. Lewis Tasker, 4. Wayne Daniel (capt), 5. Henry Eze, 6. Craig Connor, 7. Luke Male, 8. Craig Wilding, 9. Ben Pugh, 10. Marcus Palmer, 11. Josh Quaynor. Subs: 12. Ryan Keen (not used), 14. Jack Winter (for Male, 60), 15. Kevin Spencer (for Quaynor, 84), 16. Oliver Burness (not used), 17. Joshua Bartlam (not used).

Hemel Hempstead Town (fluorescent green / fluorescent green / fluorescent green): 1. Ross Kitteridge, 2. Danny May, 3. James Brighton, 4. Farai Hallam, 5. Matt McEntergart, 6. Dave Deeney (capt), 7. Marquin Smith, 8. Keiron Schmidt, 9. Rob Howarth, 10. Ross Lafayette, 11. Dave Pearce. Subs: 12. Charlie Gorman (not used), 14. Lewis Toomey (for Smith, 74), 15. Brad Harrison (not used), 16. Dennis Fenemore (for Howarth, 69), 17. Barrie Matthews (not used).

Referee: Daniel Leach (Witney).
Assistants: Richard Price (Walsall) and Colin Nahor (Wolverhampton).

0-1 Keiron Schmidt (2)
1-1 Ben Puh (43)
2-1 Henry Eze (77)
2-2 Ross Lafayette (80)

Evesham: Henry Eze (RC, 81)
Hemel: none

Askern Villa 1 AFC Emley 3

Saturday 25th February 2012
Askern Villa 1 AFC Emley 3
Baris Northern Counties East League Division 1
At: Welfare Ground
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: none
Weather: mild, dry, sunny spells
Attendance: 57
Duration: first-half: 45:09; second-half: 47:36

For the first 45 minutes, I did wonder if my presence had brought Askern Villa a bit of luck, just like Leek CSOB last Saturday. They held a deserved half-time lead through Mike Braithwaite but visitors AFC Emley produced a strong second-half performance to claim the points. Danny Lyness, on his full debut, scored twice including the equaliser 34 seconds after the restart and Simon Asquith added the third.

Askern Villa (black and white stripes / black / black and white hoops): 1. Liam Copley, 2. Adam Deakin, 3. Daniel Taylor, 4. Josh Gibbons, 5. Glen Rafferty, 6. Lee Pugh (capt), 7. Ashley Towler, 8. Jamie Sherlock, 9. Gary Collier, 10. Jay Rollins, 11. Mike Braithwaite. Subs: 12. Regis Mvambu (for Collier, 81), 14. Matty Holmes (for Pugh, 77), 15. Frazer Hartley (not used), 16. Nigel Croad (for Rafferty, 57), 17. Michael Evans (not used).

AFC Emley (claret with sky blue sleeves / sky blue / claret): 1. Luke Herriot, 2. Paul Banton (capt), 3. Stephen Powell, 4. Max Joice, 5. Sean Hazelden, 6. Declan McGivern, 7. Josh Ingham, 8. John Cyrus, 9. Scott Hargreaves, 10. Simon Asquith, 11. Danny Lyness. Subs: 12. Ian Brock (for McGiven, 84), 14. Craig Goodyear (for Asquithm 81), 15. Jonny Irving (not used), 16. Simon Ripley (for Joice, 76).

Referee: Martin Chester.
Assistants: Neil Birkett and Andrew Pontin.

1-0 Mike Braithwaite (17)
1-1 Danny Lyness (46)
1-2 Danny Lyness (76)
1-3 Simon Asquith (78)

Askern: Josh Gibbons (YC, 45), Lee Pugh (YC, 60)
AFC Emley: Danny Lyness (YC, 64)

Brocton 4 Stafford Town 1

Tuesday 21st February 2012
Brocton 4 Stafford Town 1
Staffordshire FA Vase Quarter Final
At: Old Police Sports Ground, Silkmore Lane, Stafford
Kick-off: 7-30 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (32 pages)
Weather: mild, dry
Attendance: 120 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 46:41; second-half: 50:00

Brocton retained the local bragging rights with a 4-1 victory in the second derby of the season to follow up November’s Vase win at Evans Park. With a place in the Staffs Vase Semi Finals at stake, Sam Bell opened the scoring with an early goal and completed his hat-trick with two more in the closing stages to put the outcome beyond doubt. In between, a super strike from David Berks doubled the Badgers’ advantage and Dave Woodvine pulled a goal back to give Town some hope of forcing extra time. This was a feisty content which I watched in the company of ‘local legend’ Gary Hazlehurst who provided full match live commentary on StaffordFM.

Brocton, who have a realistic chance of winning the Midland Combination, must now wait until Saturday teatime before finding out whether they face a trip to Norton United or Walsall Wood in the semi finals on Saturday 10th March. The other semi final is Redgate Clayton or Bilston v Wolstanton United or Florence. The four Staffordshire FA Vase Quarter Final ties were due to be played 10 days ago when freezing temperatures forced all of them to be postponed.

I felt a real sense of occasion at the Old Police Sports Ground hosting its first competitive derby game between the teams– a decent-sized crowd, vocal support for both sides, the aforementioned radio commentary and keenly-contested game.

During the afternoon, I’d received a message from Henfield Bee (aka Mike) from the Non-League Matters Forum to say he was travelling to the game; it was good to chat and put a face to the name during half-time. As a coincidence, he sat near Adam Checkley, Brocton’s Assistant Secretary, during the second half who is a fellow Brentford fan. Also at the game were friends Jonathan and Jeff who came over to join in the conversation at half-time. With all the chatting, I couldn’t make use of my hospitality pass.

Even though their grounds are barely a mile apart, Brocton (5th position with 37 points from 20 games) are members of the Athium Midland Combination Premier Division while Stafford Town (15th with 33 points from 25 games) compete in the West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division – both at step 6 with promotion to the Baker Joiner Midland Alliance the ultimate goal.

I’ve described the Old Police Sports Ground before – after all tonight was my seventh visit. With hardstanding all round, the main floodlight pitch boasts a seated stand on halfway containing around 100 individual dark green seats.

As usual, the lineups were displayed in the hospitality room window. Stafford were lacking leading scorer Sam Agar as well as Craig Hulme and Ollie Parker who, like Agar, were injured during the 6-3 win at Darlaston on Saturday. Brocton included several former Stafford Rangers players in Matt Skinner, David Berks, Gary Fife and Richard Miller. Town’s Dave Woodvine also played for The Boro while Sam Bell is on loan from Marston Road.

“As we are, green kick,” announced referee Andy Mapperson and Brocton (wearing the usual green shirts, white shorts and greebn socks) got the game underway attacking the changing rooms end in the first half.

Stafford Town (in familiar all red kit with black trim) created some early pressure and won a free-kick 25 yards out for a foul on Morgan Hurley by Matt Skinner. Hurley hit the target and Badgers goalkeeper Adam Whitehouse made a comfortable save.

Brocton quickly got forward and took the lead in the 7th minute. Bell, on the right inside the area, was given time to fire across the face of goal and into the far left corner of the net.

The Reds had goalkeeper Russ Todd to thank for denying Brocton a second goal within two minute. Defender Richard Jones got forward to hit a low left-foot shot which the diving Todd turned round the right-hand post.

Defences were very much on top as both sides struggled to make an impact in the first third. Jordan Bloor, who certainly impressed pushed further forward down the left in a more attacking role, found Josh Anderson at the near post who saw his shot blocked by a defender – surprisingly the referee gave a goal kick. Town were awarded another free-kick in a dangerous position in the 20th minute but Mat Dockerty sent the ball over the bar.

Scoring opportunities started to be created as the interval approached. Gary Fife fed Bell on the right who fired wide of the near post. Fife then curled a free-kick across the face of goal and wide of the far right-hand post with Todd diving at full stretch. At the other end, Hurley chased a long ball which deflected off the advancing Whitehouse for a corner.

Needing a goal to get back into the tie, Stafford Town made a positive start to the second half, displaying battling qualities. Good work by Bloor set up a chance for Hurley who saw a low shot gathered up by Whitehouse. The Reds continued to threaten and Carl Morris fired wide. From a Town point of view, there was plenty to be encouraged about.

Just before the hour mark, Todd got down to hold a well-struck shot from David Harvey from 25 yards out. The contest was certainly hotting up and both Bloor and Jones picked up bookings in quick succession to add to the four names taken by Mr Mapperson during the first half.

Back in November, David Berks, once of Aston Villa and Stafford Rangers, scored Brocton’s winner in the FA Vase tie at Evans Park. And tonight, he netted another superb goal to double his side’s lead in the 74th minute. Jamie Evans got down the left and crossed low into the area. The ball was cleared to Berks, 25 yards out, who had time to pick his spot and shot straight into the top left corner of the net.

However, it was game over. Hurley had a goal disallowed for offside two minutes later and Town gained a lifeline in the 84th minute. Dockerty delivered a free-kick into a packed area where Dave Woodvine shot low into the bottom right corner.

So, there were six minutes to go plus stoppage time remaining and Town just needing one goal to force extra time. However, Bell, StaffordFM’s Man of the Match, had a final say on the outcome with two goals in three minutes at the end to put the outcome beyond doubt.

In the 87th minute, Bell latched onto a ball down the middle and beat covering defender Mark Johnson before slotting past the advancing Todd from 20 yards out.

Bell completed his hat-trick with a well-taken goal in the 90th minute. He received a pass from Fife, got past Todd and slotted into an empty net.

Derby games are coming along like buses this season and Stafford Town will face Brocton for a third time this season in four weeks time. The prize at stake on Tuesday 20th March will be a place in the Walsall Senior Cup final and again StaffordFM will be providing live commentary from the Old Police Sports Ground. Before then, the Reds need to keep picking up points in the league to ensure they finish sufficiently high to earn a place in next season’s FA Cup.

The late Bob Gee was fondly remembered by a couple of the people I spoke to. As I wrote on Saturday, RIP Bob.

Brocton (green/white/green): 1. Adam Whitehouse, 2. Richard Jones, 3. Jamie Evans, 4. Matt Skinner (capt), 5. Andy Chandler, 6. David Harvey, 7. Sam Bell, 8. Mick Fox, 9. Gary Fife, 10. David Berks, 11. Dan Lomas. Subs: 12. Richard Miller (for Bell, 90), 14. Joe Pickering (for Fox, 56), 15. Andy Bourne (for Harvey, 84), 16. Ashley Justin (not used), 17. Richard Greaves (not used). Manager: John Berks.

Stafford Town (red/red/red): 1. Russ Todd, 2. Mat Dockerty, 3. Mark Johnson, 4. Adam Seward, 5. Tom Betts, 6. James Price, 7. Carl Morris (capt), 8. Dave Woodvine, 9. Morgan Hurley, 17. Josh Anderson, 11. Jordan Bloor. Subs: 12. Jack Milgate (for Anderson, 79), 14. Wayne Bailey (not used), 15. Sean O’Callaghan, 16. Adam Price, GK. Andy Heal. Manager: Steve Dockerty.

Referee: Andy Mapperson.

1-0 Sam Bell (8)
2-0 David Berks (74)
2-1 Dave Woodvine (84)
3-1 Sam Bell (87)
4-1 Sam Bell (90)

Brocton: Dan Lomas (YC, 45+2), Richard Jones (YC, 67)
Stafford: Adam Seward (YC, 30), Russ Todd (YC, 39), Morgan Hurley (YC, 50), Jordan Bloor (YC, 65)

Leek CSOB 2 Daisy Hill 1

Saturday 18th February 2012
Leek CSOB 2 Daisy Hill 1
North-West Counties League Division 1
At: Harrison Park
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: none
Weather: sunny spells, cold wind, brief shower
Attendance: 22
Duration: first-half: 46:04; second-half: 46:55

Leek CSOB provided a bright spot for me on a sombre day as they produced a battling second-half performance in coming from behind to defeat Daisy Hill. After bailing out at Longton Harriers, when it was clear their home game was not going to happen, I headed instead to Leek Town’s familiar Harrison Park to see my first-ever Old Boys home game. Trailing to Daisy Hill at the interval, the Old Boys responded in true battling fashion as they turned things completely around by the hour mark with goals from Rich Morton and Karl Miller. They then creditably held on for a richly-deserved morale-boosting victory to aid their fight to move off the bottom of the table.

After hearing that Bob Gee, a long-time Stafford Rangers fan and a lovely man to chat with, had sadly passed away during the night, I made my way up the A520 through Meir to Longton Harriers (pictured right). When I arrived at their Leek Road ground, a group of players were warming up, which I took as a positive sign the Staffs County Senior League Division 1 game with Ashbourne Town was on. By 2pm, it was clear something was wrong as neither opposition or match officials had arrived and the bottom goalmouth was completely waterlogged as well. A quick phone call home confirmed that CSOB’s home game with Daisy Hill was, thankfully, not marked ‘P-P’ on the NWCL website, so I made a hasty exit for Harrison Park.

The current 2011/12 season has been a difficult one for Leek CSOB (which stands for ‘County School Old Boys’) with news that several stalwarts leaving at the end of season and a seven-point deduction which sent them to the foot of the Division 1 table. Saying that, I know there are people working hard behind the scenes to keep the club going.

Goining into today’s fixture, Leek (10 points from 19 games with the aforementioned deduction) hadn’t played a league game for four weeks since they lost 4-0 at home to Wigan Robin Park. Their last league win came two months ago at Formby and their solitary home league win back in August. Visitors Daisy Hill (27 points from 22 games) stood around midtable in 9th position. The Old Boys gained one of their fourth league wins with a 2-0 victory at Daisy Hill back on Saturday 13th August.

Looking specifically at the Old Boys line-up, it included one familiar name in player-manager Brett Barlow, who made his debut for Stafford Rangers under Ian Painter some 14 years ago in 1997. He made 27 appearances for the Boro, scoring two goals.

Daisy Hill (wearing all blue) got the game underway defending the Macclesfield Road end in the first half and immediately won a corner.

The first chance fell to Leek after four minutes. Darren Gavin fouled Oliver Mellor 28 yards out and Karl Miller sent the free-kick over the bar. From another Miller free-kick, the ball rebounded off the wall and James Heath fired the rebound wide.

Daisy Hill got more into the game, after being guilty of “giving away the ball too cheaply”, and started to create chances. Craig Xuerbeb drove not too far wide from fully 30 yards out and just after the half-hour mark, Sam Parkinson saw a well-struck shot hit the left hand post and fly across the face of goal.

It was no surprise when the visitors took the lead in the 35th minute. Parkinson was fouled on the edge of the area by Heath and Ryan Chaisty expertly curled a right-foot free-kick into the far right-hand side of the net.

As I walked around the ground toward the Macclesfield Road end, I spotted a familiar face in Malc Hampton armed with his camera, It’s always good to catch up with Malc whenever I’m in North Staffordshire and today was no exception. He left at half-time, with photos taken, and I followed the crowd into a hospitably room underneath the stand for a much-needed tea! Alas the announced winning raffle ticket wasn’t mine.

A deflected shot from Heath signalled the start of Leek’s comeback and they got back on the level terms in the 49th minute. Mark Fox swung in the corner from the left and Rich Morton forced the ball over the line from just a few yards out.

On a heavy pitch that survived a morning inspection, Daisy Hill still posed a threat and Daniel Gregory fired against the near left-hand post.

Having survived that scare, Leek took the lead on the hour mark with the goal that proved to be the winner. A poor defensive clearance gifted a chance to unmarked leading scorer Miller who fired home from 12 yards out.

With just a slender one-goal lead, Leek defended in depth and restricted the visitors to a couple of long-range shot and another low effort which ended well side of the target.

Seconds were ticking way, perhaps slowly for the home side, and a looping shot Morton in the 90th minute cleared the stand behind the goal, to use up a few more seconds.

With resilient and determined defending keeping the Old Boys in front, Daisy Hill had one last chance in stoppage time. Once again, solid defending prevented any scoring opportunity coming from Callum Livingstone’s free-kick delivered into the packed home area.

A loud collective ‘Yeh!’ from the Leek players greeted the final whistle to celebrate a first home league win since early September – one that was richly deserved this afternoon.

I can’t finish without a word about Bob Gee who was always a pleasure to chat with whether it be in Market Square, Marston Road or elsewhere. RIP Bob.

Leek CSOB (red and white stripes / red / red and white hoops): 25. Ashley Knight, 2. James Heath (capt), 3. Russell Gibbons, 4. Samuel Pettitt, 5. Brett Barlow, 6. Rich Morton, 7. Mark Fox, 8. Oliver Mellor, 9. Joel Dawson (Grocott, 88), 10. Karl Miller, 11. Tim Barrass. Subs: 12. Adam Grocott (for Dawson, 88), 14. James McMullen (not used), 15. Zak Parker (not used), 16. Daniel Hyde (not used).

Daisy Hill (blue/blue/blue): 1. Adam Thomas, 2. Kyle Hynes, 3. Darren Gavin, 4. Marc Shemwell, 5. Paul Monks, 6. Craig Xuereb, 7. Alex Leigh, 8. Ryan Chaisty, 9. Daniel Gregory, 10. Sam Parkinson, 11. Sam Howell. Subs: 12. Callum Livingstone (for Gavin, 66), 14. Daniel Reid (for Leigh, 71).

Referee: R. Goodwin-Davey.
Assistants: J. Wilde and G. Walsh.

0-1 Ryan Chaisty (35)
1-1 Rich Morton (49)
1-2 Karl Miller (60)

Leek: Tim Barrass (YC, 44), Rich Morton (YC, 77)
Daisy Hill: Kyle Hynes (YC, 48), Ryan Chaisty (YC, 86)

I assume Longton’s game didn’t take place though the league’s website has a blank in the place where all the other games wither had a scoreline or P-P.

Stafford Town 1 Sporting Khalsa 2

Tuesday 14th February 2012
Stafford Town 1 Sporting Khalsa 2
West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division Cup First Round
At: Evans Park
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (28 pages; dated 7/2/12)
Weather: cold, windy, dry
Attendance: 23 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 45:13; second-half: 50:28

The ‘romance’ of the West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division Cup on Valentine’s Day [does that sound right?] saw Sporting Khalsa come from behind with two second half goals to book a home second round tie with Wolverhampton Casuals. Stafford Town, lacking leading scorer Sam Agar, held a slender advance at the interval though Morgan Hurley only to be ultimately undone by a couple of defensive slips. Wisdom Machangani levelled things up and then Tyler Maxwell what proved to be the winner on a windy night at Evans Park.

Stafford Town (red/red/red): 1. Karl Smith, 2. Josh Anderson, 3. Olly Parker, 4. Mat Dockerty, 5. James Price, 6. Rob Tomlinson, 7. Carl Morris (capt), 8. Dave Woodvine, 9. Morgan Hurley, 10. Craig Hulme, 11. John Kirby. Subs: 12. Jack Milgate (for Woodvine, 51), 14. Sean O’Callaghan (for Kirby, 90+2), 15. Adam Price (not used), 16gk. Andy Heal (not used), 17. Darren Alexander (not used).

Sporting Khalsa (blue and yellow stripes with yellow sleeves / blue / blue): 1. Thomas Turner, 2. Manraj Chanal, 3. Neil Eccleston, 4. Lee Onions, 5. Robert Holdcroft (capt), 6. Hayden Williams, 7. Wisdon Machangani, 8. Marc Thomas, 9. Stehen Thompson, 10. Andre Brown, 11. Shaun Campbell. Subs: 12. Deepak Gill (for Machangani, 77) 14. Tyler Maxwell (for Andre Brown, 68), 15. Adam Lane (not used), 16. Leon Brown (not used), 17. Mark Holdcroft (for Gill, 88).

Referee: James Kerrigan.
Assistants: Jonathan Bell and Richard Cattell.

1-0 Morgan Hurley (39)
1-1 Wisdom Machangani (68)
1-2 Tyler Maxwell (79)

Cards: none

Llanfairpwll 3 Gwalchmai 3

Saturday 11th February 2012
Llanfairpwll 3 Gwalchmai 3
Lock Stock Welsh Alliance Division 1
At: Maes Eilian
Kick-off: 2-30 pm
Admission: £3; Programme: £1 (24 pages)
Weather: cold, dry
Attendance: 60 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 47:24; second-half: 49:51

Today was one of firsts for me – watching a first-ever game on Anglesey as well as a first-ever Welsh Alliance game. In the company of driver Laurence Reade and fellow passenger Peter Grant, an Aussie from Melbourne via Osaka, I saw an entertaining six-goal game in which home side Llanfairpwll twice came from behind to earn a point after taking an early lead.

Last night, updates on Facebook and freezing temperatures around dhome persuaded me to join Laurence and Peter on their trip to North Wales and we ended up in the famous Anglesey village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. A quick phone call on the way confirmed the game was on and we arrived in plenty of time to climb the Marquess of Anglesey's Column and, of course, visit the tourist magnet that is the railway station with its incredibly long sign.

Llanfairpwll moved to the current ground at Maes Eilian in 2008, a few hundred yards from their old home at Y Gors which is still used by the reserves and juniors. Maes Eilian is a decent ground with a stand containing 60 individual seats and cover in an elevated position behind the left-hand goal. As present there are no floodlights.

Programmes were available at the entrance and the teams were announced on the tannoy, first in Welsh and then in English.

The Welsh Alliance, sponsored by Lock Stock, is part of the third tier of Welsh football and promotes teams into the second-tier Cymru Alliance like the Welsh League (Wrexham Area) and Mid-Wales League. With two divisions (1 and 2 – no ‘Premier’ in this part of the UK), both Llanfairpwll (15 points from 21 games) Gwalchmai (17 points from 15 games) went into this Anglesey derby occupying 14th and 11th position, respectively, in the 16-team Division 1.

Gwalchmai (in sky blue shirts, black shorts and socks) got the game underway attacking from right to left in relation to the seated stand. Surprisingly kick-off was not preceded by fair-play handshakes.

It didn’t take long for the first goal which came after just under 90 seconds. Kelvin Frazer delivered a free-kick into the area from the right which wasn’t cleared and Aled Thomas fired home at close range via the underside of the bar. It was Thomas’ first goal for the club and a perfect start for Llanfair.

Gwalchmai quickly responded with a 6th minute equaliser. Corey Sinnott burst through the middle into the Llanfair area where goalkeeper Liam Dewing blocked the resulting shot. The rebound fell to Craig Evans who accurately fired into an empty net from 20 yards out.

The early goals continued and the visitors took the lead in the 10th minute. A free-kick played into the home area fell to Gerallt Jones who hit a low shot which thumped the right-hand post. James Burgess quickly followed-up to drive home the rebound.

Gwalchmai thought they’d scored a third goal six minutes later. A right-wing cross found Burgess, who looped a shot over Ewing and into the net from eight yards out. However, a raised offside flag dampened the celebrations.

However, the next goal (fourth of the afternoon) was not long in coming and what a spectacular strike it was. Aled Thomas beat a couple of defenders before unleashing a spectacular 25-yard shot which flew past Kenny Hughes into the back of the net. So 2-2 in the 19th minute!

Llanfair continued to create chances. Hughes produced a good save just after the half-hour mark to push over a 30-yard free-kick from Kelvin Frazer at the expense of a corner. Frazer fed Richard Evans who saw his shot bounce down from the underside of the bar without crossing the line. At the other end, Ewing needed to remain alert and produced a smart save to keep out Sinnott’s left-foot shot after the striker had cut in from the right.

A couple of minutes before the break, Richard Evans endured one of those moments which every striker dreads. Arwyn Owen did all the hard work on the left to tempt Hughes off his line. Owen pulled the ball back to Evans who hit the bar from barely eight yards out.

Like many in the crowd, I headed to the portacabin behind the stand to find a tea bar within a hospitality room.

Ewing produced another excellent save six minutes after the restart to keep out a Burgess’s header from Gerallt Jones’s left-wing cross.

In what was an even second-half of few clear-cut chances, Gwalchmai regained the lead in the 76th minute. Gerallt Jones found Gareth Allman, a midfielder wearing the ‘2’ shirt, hit a rising left-foot 25-yard shot past the outstretched hand of Ewing.

However, Llanfair got back on level terms with a classic centre-forward’s goal. Arwyn Owen delivered a deep cross from the right towards the far post where unmarked Richard Evans sent a free header past Hughes.

Both sides almost won the game in stoppage time. First, Llanfair had a goal disallowed. Arwyn Owen stayed onside as his latched onto a ball down the right and crossed low into the area. Unmarked substitute Sion Hogan got forward to slot home, from an offside position with just Hughes to beat.

Then, even deeper into stoppage time, Ewing produced a ‘top-class’ save to deny Gwalchami a winner by tipping over a header from Sinnott that seemed destined for the net.

Llanfairpwll (blue and black stripes / black / black): 1. Liam Ewing, 2. Stephen Smith, 3. Jack Williams, 4. Aron Owen, 5. Gavin Jones (capt), 6. Brendan Hogan, 7. Kelvin Frazer, 8. Rhys Evans, 9. Richard Evans, 10. Arwyn Owen, 11. Aled Thomas. Subs: 12. Hefin Danial (not used), 14. Ben Verburg (not used), 15. Sion Hogan (for Thomas, 65), 16. Dion Hughes (not used), 17. Andy Will (not used).

Gwalchmai (sky blue / black / black): 1. Kenny Hughes, 2. Gareth Allman, 3. Jason Thomas, 4. Stephen Sinclair (capt), 5. Jon Williams, 6. Paul Tilbury, 7. Matthew Jones, 8. Craig Evans, 9. Corey Sinnott, 10. James Burgess, 11. Gerallt Jones. Subs: 12. Mark Giffiths (for Sinnott, 82), 13. Kenny Jones (not used), 14. Paul Bryant (for Matthew Jones, 61), 16. Andrew Sinclair (for Stephen Sinclair, ht).

Referee: M. Petch (Deganwy).
Assistants: Miss C. Pritchard (Menai Bridge) and S. Parkinson (Bangor).

1-0 Aled Thomas (2)
1-1 Craig Evans (6)
1-2 James Burgess (10)
2-2 Aled Thomas (19)
2-3 Gareth Allman (76)
3-3 Richard Owen (79)

Llanfairpwll: Rhys Evans (YC, 58)
Gwalchmai: Paul Tilbury (YC, 21)