Sutton Coldfield T 4 Loughborough Dynamo 2

Tuesday 27th November 2012
Sutton Coldfield Town 4 Loughborough Dynamo 2
Doodson Sport Cup First Round
At: Coles Lane, Sutton Coldfield
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £7; Programme: £1-50 (24 pages)
Weather: cold, dry
Attendance: 49
Duration: first-half: 45:29; second-half: 47:58

Sometimes a change of plan can turn out to a good thing as was the case tonight.

I’d planned to watch two games this week – Coventry Sphinx v Rocester last night and Brocton v Nuneaton Griff tonight. Last night game’s at Sphinx Drive fell not unexpectedly to the bad weather but this afternoon I remained hopeful of making the short 1.7 mile trip from home to the Silkmore Lane Sports Ground, especially after a mostly dry day in Stafford.

However, around 4pm came the bad news via Twitter:

To confirm tonight's game vs Nuneaton Griff is OFF sorry all!

Not for the first time this year in bad weather, my thoughts then turned to the 3G pitch at Coles Lane and, as luck would have it, Sutton Coldfield Town were hosting Loughborough Dynamo in a Doodson Sport Cup First Round tie. I’ve said before that Sutton’s ground is one of my favourites with that impressive tall stand.

‘Bad news’ about Brocton became ‘good news’ about Sutton Coldfield by the time I’d arrived at Coles Lane and I saw an entertaining game in which Mark Danks bagged four goals for the Royals. Another former Stafford Rangers player from the Phil Robinson era, Danny Davidson, made a real impact as a half-time substitute by scoring TWICE for Loughborough within 64 seconds of the restart.

This tie in what is the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Cup pitted two sides in Division One South at opposite ends of the table. Sutton (5th with 30points from 20 games) are chasing promotion to the Premier Division while Loughborough (17 points from 19 games) occupy 20th position out of 22 clubs.

Loughborough were making their second trip to Coles Lane in three days after defeating Romulus 4-2 in a league game on Saturday.

As usual, programmes were available at the gate, a teamsheet pinned up in the clubhouse foyer, line-ups announced on the tannoy, the tea bar offered its usual extensive menu (chip and curry sauce for me tonight) and I took my usual place towards the front of the stand. Things some people take for granted but always appreciated.

Three named stood out on the teamsheet – Danny Edwards and Mark Danks for Sutton and Loughborough’s Danny Davidson. All three previously played for Stafford Rangers though Edwards’ blond hair and central midfield role had me confused [I think Luke Chapman may have started – need to check].

Before kick-off, I had a chat with ‘Grounhopper Dave’ who I only seem to see at Coles Lane and briefly with another person [whose name I don't know] who no doubt will report the proceedings in a future edition of a well-known Sunday non-league newspaper!

Sutton Coldfield (in all blue) got the game underway defending the car park end of Coles Lane. Unlike my last visit to see them when they drew 0-0, Sutton took the lead after just 14 seconds! Mark Danks picked up the ball on the left and fired a low shot past the diving Dynamo goalkeeper Laurie Pearson into the far corner of the net.

Sutton’s Jake Bedford, playing in place of suspended Lee Evans, was called into action in the 19th minute to tip over a far post header from Tom Liversedge.

Danks, on his full debut for the Royals, struck again five minutes later. He intercepted a poor backpass from Chris Hollist, rounded the goalkeeper and somehow scored from the acutest of angles on the right side of the area.

Even though the visitors started playing with some urgency, Danks completed his hat-trick in the 39th minute. He latched on to a ball over the top of the Loughborough defence, got the better of Mark Ruddock and lobbed the advancing Pearson from 25 yards out.

Loughborough made a change at the interval, replacing Liversedge with Danny Davidson, what an impact the substitute made. Barely 18 seconds of the second half had elapsed when Bedford dropped a hanging right-wing cross and Davidson tapped home on score with his first touch his debut.

Davidson (pictured right chatting to Danks) scored again with 64 seconds on the second-half clock to reduce Sutton’s previously unassailable lead to just a single goal. Bedford could only parry an initial shot from Reece Lester and the tall former Stafford striker slotted home.

The possibility of extra time had all but ended by half-time, now it was a real possibility especially when Amoo fired a decent chance over the bar from just outside the area. Davidson almost completed a quick-fire hat-trick with a header that Bedford held.

Loughborough continued to press forward. Bedford blocked a shot from Amoo and Shawn Richards curled another shot wide of the left-hand post.

With 20 minutes remaining, I thought it more likely that Loughborough would equalise than Sutton would net a fourth goal.

No sooner had I made that comment in my notebook… Sutton scored a fourth and Danks it was Danks who netted from another tight angle with two defenders on the line.

Shows what I know!

Despite the two-goal deficit, Loughborough heads didn’t drop and they kept on pressing for a goal. They were almost gifted one when Bedford managed to keep out an eccentric wild backpass from Joel Kettle. And the Sutton keeper then produced a diving fingertip save to turn Rob Norris’s angled shot round the post.

Into stoppage time and Bedford picked up a harmless backpass which initially went unnoticed until the visitors appealed. Norris slammed the indirect free-kick against the wall.

Sutton Coldfield Town (blue/blue/blue): 1. Jake Bedford, 2. Scott Lycett, 3. Louis Keenan, 4. Danny Edwards, 5. Joel Kettle, 6. Kristian Ramsey-Dickson (capt), 7. James Wilcock, 8. Jamie Sheldon, 9. Mark Danks, 10. James Quiggan, 11. Reece Leek. Subs: 12. Luke Chapman (not used), 14. Daryl Taylor (for Leek, 67), 15. Phil Male (for Danks, 75), 16. Jake Healy (for Quiggan, 56), 17. Lee Parsons (not used).

Loughborough Dynamo (amber/black/black): 1. Laurie Pearson, 2. Wayne Dean, 3. Chris Hollist, 4. Dan Henton, 5. Danny Gibbons (capt), 6. Mark Ruddock, 7. Shawn Richards, 8. Ryan Amoo, 9. Tom Liversedge, 10. Dom Brennan, 11. Reece Lester. Subs: 12. Matt Langham (not used), 14. Danny Davidson (for Liversedge, ht), 15. Jake Betts (not used), 16. Rob Norris (for Amoo, 71), 17. Mitch Williams (for Henton, 83).

Referee: Dumitru-Ravel Cheosiaua.
Assistants: Philip Hardisty and Simon Gudger.

1-0 Mark Danks (1)
2-0 Mark Danks (24)
3-0 Mark Danks (39)
3-1 Danny Davidson (46)
3-2 Danny Davidson (47)
4-2 Mark Danks (71)

Sutton Coldfield: none
Loughborough: Reece Lester (YC, 36)

Rocester A Kirby Muxloe A

Saturday 24th November 2012
Rocester A Kirby Muxloe A
(Abandoned after 63 minutes due to waterlogged pitch)
Baker Joiner Midland Alliance
At: Hillsfield
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £5; Programme: £1 (24 pages)
Weather: continuous rain
Attendance: 50 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 45:25; second-half: 18:30

This game was abandoned after 63 minutes with Kirby Muxloe leading 2-0.

First, I’d like to send my best wishes for a full and speedy recovery to Rocester captain Craig Holland who suffered a broken leg during the second half.

Once again I needed to stay local and fancied a trip to one of my favourite grounds as I’d not seen a full game at Hillsfield since August. Rocester (11th with 21 points from 14 games) stood three places higher than visitors Kirby Muxloe (14th position with 17 points from 13 games). Last Saturday Rocester reached the last 64 of the FA Carlsberg Vase for the first time in 26 years.

For those who haven’t been to Hillsfield before, the ground boasts two stands as well as a decent clubhouse and tea bar. Line-ups are announced over the tannoy and a teamsheet is displayed next to the tunnel.

As I mentioned in my programme article, I saw visitors Kirby Muxloe for the first time on the last day of the 2008/09 season when they avoided defeat at Graham Street Prims win the inaugural East Midlands Counties League title and with it promotion to the Midland Alliance.

Rocester (in amber and black) got the game underway attacking the Mill End in the first half. The best chance during the opening quarter hour fell to Edwin Asante-Ahenkorah who hit a curling 25-yard right foot shot which rebounded off the bar.

In what was an even end-to-end contest, Rocester goalkeeper Richard Froggatt was called into action in the 20th minute to tip over a rising shot from Brett Darby who burst through to get a clear sight of goal.

It was Darby, the Kirby captain, who put the visitors in front two minutes later. Stuart Verrall pulled the ball back from the left bye-line for Darby to flick low into the bottom-right corner of the net.

Soon after, Andy Dakin and ‘Wiretown Editor’ joined me in the stand who had both seen the early game at Uttoxeter Town.

Asante-Ahenkorah caused problems for the Kirby defence and forced a diving save out of Elliott Shilliam just before the half-hour mark. But the Dutch-born striker was sent off in the 41st minute for retaliation.

Chris Sterling had a great chance to equaliser just before the interval but saw his shot blocked by Shilliam.

Rocester almost equalised in the 54th minute when Ryan Grocott hit the underside of the bar. Kirby broke upfield and Aaron Preston glanced home a left-wing cross from Tom Hill to double the visitors’ lead.

However, Craig Holland suffered a broken leg in the 64th minute.

A paramedic car promptly arrived within 10 minutes and after a further 20 minutes of treatment on the field, Craig was stretchered to a waiting ambulance. The referee and two assistants then decided to carry out an inspection before abandoning the game due to a waterlogged pitch – a decision that could not have been easy as Kirby led 2-0 against 10 men. Unlike the match officials, I didn't go on the pitch to check for myself but will add that the continuous rain certainly increased in intensity during the half-hour delay.

Rocester (amber and black stripes / black / black): 19. Richard Froggatt, 2. Ryan Pirrie, 3. Carl Allen, 4. Joe Rogers, 5. Wayne Johnson, 6. Adam Swain, 7. Mensah Kinch, 8. Craig Holland (capt), 9. Chris Sterling, 10. Edwin Asante-Ahenkorah, 11. Ryan Grocott. Subs: 12. Craig Hulme (not used), 14. Nick Ward (for Grocott, 58), 15. Rob Perks (not used), 16. Dan McLeod (not used), 17. Chris McComisky (for Rogers, 40).

Kirby Muxloe (orange with black and white hoop / orange / orange): 1. Elliott Shilliam, 2. Richard Phillips, 3. Mitchell Warner, 4. Adam Hohn, 5. Richard Darlison, 6. Bryn Statham, 7. Elliott Pacey, 8. Tom Hill, 9. Stuart Verrall, 10. Brett Darby (capt), 11. Aaron Preston. Subs: 12. Jamie Mason (not used), 14. Karl Wilson (for Statham, ht), 15. Danny Agar (not used), 16. Ryan Seal (not used), 17. Michael Turner (not used).

Referee: Mark Murfitt (Stoke-on-Trent).
Assistants: B. Rowley and S. Hale.

0-1 Brett Darby (21)
0-2 Aaron Preston (54)

Rocester: Wayne Johnson (YC, 2), Edwin Asante-Ahenkorah (RC, 41)
Kirby Muxloe: Elliott Pacey (YC, 33), Bryn Statham (YC, 43)

Lutterworth Athletic 1 Barrow Town 2

Saturday 17th November 2012
Lutterworth Athletic 1 Barrow Town 2
East Midlands Counties League
At: Weston Arena, Hall Lane, Bitteswell
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (24 pages)
Weather: cold, dry
Attendance: 87
Duration: first-half: 45:25; second-half: 47:03

There were many reasons for choosing this particular game. It pitted Barrow Town, the runaway leaders of the East Midlands Counties League, against newly-promoted Lutterworth Athletic, who had the league’s leading goalscorer Danny Laywood in their line-up. Like Barrow, Lutterworth were also on a decent run of form and, added to that, I’d not previously visited the refurbished Weston Arena and the game was sufficiently near (61 miles) to get me back home in time for Strictly Come Dancing! Lutterworth held a single goal lead at half-time then had a penalty saved. Barrow took full advantage to score two quick goals to extend their run to fourteen straight league wins.

I remember well my visit to Lutterworth Athletic’s original ground on Dunley Way ( Towards the end of April 2011, they hosted Aylestone Park in their last league game at Steve Rendell Park prior to a move a couple of miles up the A426 to the Weston Arena near the village of Bitteswell. Formerly the home ground of Lutterworth Town, the place has been totally refurbished with new pitch-side rail, handstanding and stand. There is also a smart new clubhouse as well as artificial pitches. According to Groundtastic, the stand originally stood at Leicester United's old Winchester Road ground.

Approaching Lutterworth from M6 Junction 1 along the A426, I noticed was a large plane in the centre of a roundabout and, a few yards further on, the ‘Welcome to Lutterworth’ sign reminded me of the connection between the town and Sir Frank Whittle, inventor of the jet engine. John Wycliffe, the other name on the sign, was a 14th century philosopher and Rector in Lutterworth's Parish Church of St Mary between 1374 and 1384 where he is traditionally believed to have produced the first translation of the Bible from Latin into English. The Whittle roundabout is at the opposite end of the town to the Western Arena which is a couple of miles to the north of the centre near the village of Bitteswell.

Last season, 2011/12, was Lutterworth’s first at the Weston Arena and they finished as runners-up to Rothley Imperial to gain promotion to the East Midlands Counties League for the first ime. This season it took them a while to get accustomed to the step up as they picked up just two points from their opening eight league games. Once they got their first win under their belt at the ninth attempt (6-1 at home to Ellistown), Lutterworth (18 points from 15 games) have moved up the table to tenth position. Four weeks ago, the beat Barrow’s main title rivals Basford United 3-1 at the Weston Arena.

League leaders Barrow Town (40 points from 14 games) drew their opening game before embarking on an unbroken run of 13 consecutive league wins. Manager of the Riversiders is Adam Beazeley, who made 15 appearances for Stafford Rangers during the 1997/98 season. One interesting player amongst Barrow’s substitutes was Ohio-born Zak Boggs (, a post-graduate student at Leicester University who previously played for MLS side New England Revolution.

Just before kick-off while stood near the entrance awaiting the arrival of the players onto the field, I heard a familiar voice making his way through the turnstiles. It was Horwich-based John Holland, who I got to know on August’s Mid-Wales League groundhop and briefly bumped into on Manchester Piccadilly Station a few weeks ago. John provided good company and I was more than happy to give him a lift to Stafford station after the game to save him having to take a lengthy return bus journey back to Leicester.

Lutterworth Athletic (in green and white) got the game underway attacking the north end in the first half, left to right in relation to the stand. They created the first chance, a right-foot shot from Ben Laxton which Barrow goalkeeper Matt Nurse pushed clear.

Barrow’s pre-match assessment of a ‘difficult looking fixture’ proved correct as the home side took the lead in the 29th minute. Cameron Laywood found Danny Laywood who stayed onside and sent a low shot past Nurse into the far left corner of the net. The goal took Laywood’s tally of league goals for the season to 18 goals. I felt that Lutterworth’s hard work deserved a goal. Was Barrow’s winning streak about to end?

The visitors thought they’d equalised in the 40th minute. From Cameron Gray’s left-wing corner, a header was cleared off the line amid appeals for a goal which were waived away. Just before the interval, Karl Whymark dispossessed Lutterworth goalkeeper Ryan Tilley and sent a shot towards goal which Tony Brown calmly got back to clear.

Concerns John and I had about the floodlights during the latter stages of the first half proved unfounded and Barrow made a positive start to the second half.

Lutterworth, however, were awarded a penalty seven minutes after the restart. Ash White brought down Laxton inside the area and Danny Laywood stepped up. However, Nurse produced a great save to keep out the spot kick and prevented the home side opening up what could well have been an unassailable two-goal advantage.

Looking to extend their winning streak to fourteen games, the save lifted Barrow and they themselves were awarded a penalty in the 70th minute. Brown tripped Jamie Allen inside the area and captain Craig Noble scored from the spot even though Tilley dived the correct way.

“Heads up” the Lutterworth players were told but they were stunned three minutes later when Barrow scored what proved to be the winner. A shot Zak Boggs was blocked and Allen rifled a right-foot shot into the bottom-right corner from 20 yards out.

Boggs and Portuguese-born Jose Moreida both had chances to extend the lead while Lutterworth gave the leaders a few anxious moments during the closing stages.

We were all treated to one of the most spectacular sunsets I've seen for a long while.

The win extended Barrow’s lead at the top to nine points over second-placed Basford United who were taking a break from league action and lost 5-3 at AFC Rushden & Diamonds in the FA Carlsberg Vase.

I enjoyed my trip to the Weston Arena!

Lutterworth Athletic (green and white hoops / white white): 1. Ryan Tilley, 2. Cameron Laywood, 3. Adam Laywood, 4. Mike Lucas, 5. Tony Brown, 6. Andy Morris, 7. Mark English, 8. Dom Ivens, 12. Josh Rapley (capt), 10. Danny Laywood, 16. Ben Laxton. Subs: 9. Liam Baines (not used), 14. Jack Sutherland (for Morris, 77), 15. Bill Hayes (not used).

Barrow Town (red and black stripes / black / red): 1. Matt Nurse, 2. Ash White, 3. Phil Garner, 4. Tom Cooper, 5. Josh Stevenson, 6. Niall Prenderville, 7. Karl Whymark, 8. Cameron Gray, 9. Ross Calum, 10. Jamie Allen, 11. Craig Noble (capt). Subs: 12. Zak Boggs (for Calum, 58), 14. Lewis Allen (not used), 15. Michael Paparozzi (not used), 16. Jose Moreida (for Whymark, 71).

Referee: T. Walker.
Assistants: C. Banks and A. Anderson.

1-0 Danny Laywood (29)
1-1 Craig Noble (70 pen)
1-2 Jamie Allen (73)

Lutterworth: Tony Brown (YC, 69)
Barrow: Ash White (YC, 52), Craig Noble (YC, 84)

Bilston Town 6 Wyrley Juniors 4

Wednesday 14th November 2012
Bilston Town 6 Wyrley Juniors 4
West Midlands (Regional) League Division One
At: Queen Street
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £3; Programme: £1-50 (20 pages)
Weather: cold, dry
Attendance: 80 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 46:36; second-half: 49:00

Quite a few things crossed my mind as I headed down the M6 into the Black Country. Bilston Town FC were the away side in my ‘match no. 3’ some 40 years ago; Queen Street deserves a place on all bucket lists of grounds that have to be visited; my Dad worked with a former Bilston Manager Alan Wakeman who played in goal for Aston Villa; the last of my two or three visits to the ground came during the 1999/2000 season; and would there be a programme tonight?

I didn’t know while driving to the game that something else I recalled would have some relevance during tonight’s game. Back on Boxing Day 1997, I saw one of the remarkable comebacks in Stafford Rangers’ history.

Facing Bilston in the Southern League Midland Division at Marston Road, Rangers looked totally down and out trailing 3-0 at half-time yet managed six unanswered second-half goals to win 6-3. Tonight, Bilston staged a fantastic comeback to overcome a 2-4 deficit and turn it into a 6-4 win which kept their unbeaten league record intact.

And, yes, a 20-page programme was issued, on sale both at the gate and tea bar. No need to have worried about that!

For first-time visitors, I personally think Queen Street is one of those grounds best seen in daylight to fully appreciate the place. I love the quirky tangerine-coloured stand. Saying that, at night, it does have a feeling of non-league football from a bygone age. According to Kerry Miller’s The History of Non-league Football Grounds, it was opened over 90 years ago in 1919 with the stand almost as old. Queen Street is a survivor from the good old days of non-league football, right down to being able to park inside the ground.

Focusing tonight’s game and a quick glance at the league table shows that Bilston (28 points from 10 games) were in third position, five points behind leaders Wem Town with five games in hand. A quick bit of maths gives a league record of nine wins and one draw (1-1 against Mahal back in August). Visitors Wyrley Juniors (19 points from 12 games) occupied a mid-table eight position out of 18 teams.

One thing of many I noticed before kick-off was the number of fans wearing club colours – tangerine and white scarves and the odd bobble hat as well. Teams were announced over the tannoy, though the PA man had already lent me his programme so I could copy down the line-ups.

Wyrley Juniors (in black and white) got the game underway attacking from left to right in relation to my seat in the stand.

Encouraged by decent vocal support, Bilston had the ball in the back of the Wyrley net in the 8th minute. However, Sean Pugh was flagged offside when he received a pass from Matt Curley.

Three minutes later, Bilston were stunned when Wyrley took the lead. Chris Geldart, on the right, beat two defenders inside the area before drilling a low right-foot shot into the far corner of the net.

Despite their possession, it was clear that Bilston weren’t firing and were told to “play football” and “not just kick and hope” when a speculative punt forward ended up harmlessly in the arms of Wyrley goalkeeper Jordan Hughes.

The fans got involved and started louder chants of “C’mon Bilston” when a shot by Dan Kalinski flashed past the home goal.

The Steelmen responded and a header from Curley rebounded off the bar from Danny Mason’s corner.

It got even better for the home fans when Bilston netted a 23rd-minute equaliser. Nick Turton raced cleared from a pass by Lee Onions and fired low past Hughes to trigger one of the loudest (if not the loudest) goal celebration cheers at a West Midlands League ground.

The home fans were celebrating again a minute later when Turton struck his second goal. Again he was put clear by a defence-splitting pass and clinically fired past Hughes into the left side of the net.

When Leon Pugh headed over the bar, it looked like Bilston would go on and record a substantial victory.

I was wrong with that assessment as Wyrley got back on level terms in the 33rd minute when Dan Martin fired home at close range following poor defending. If that wasn’t bad enough, Queen Street was stunned seven minutes later when the visitors regained the lead. Geldart, on the left, managed to squeeze a shot past goalkeeper Ben Astley from an acute angle.

I’d bought a raffle ticket during the first half – 876–880 on the pink – and almost scooped the prize as the winner was 901–905.

Bilston had the ball in the back of the net within 20 seconds of the restart but one again Sean Pugh strayed offside before firing home.

Having survived that let off, Wyrley doubled their lead in the 55th minute to move 4-2 ahead. Aaron Wight delivered a free-kick into the area from the left and Nathaniel Hare headed past Astley into the top-left corner of the net.

Again stunned into action, Bilston went close from a Curley header which was cleared off the line before giving their fans some hope just before the hour mark. Sean Pugh rifled an indirect free-kick into the back of the net past the helpless Hughes. The Steelmen now trailed by just one goal with half-an-hour still to play.

Not finished, Wyrley quickly got forward and Astley pushed a curling right-foot shot to safety.

Amid loud cheers, Bilston got back on level terms in this amazing game in the 63rd minute. Mason delivered a right-wing corner into the area where Leon Pugh ghosted in at the near post to glance a header into the far side of the net. 4-4!

Full of confidence, Bilston pressed forward and Sean Pugh forced a save out of Hughes while Turton got between two defenders before shooting inches wide.

Yet, mistakes at the back almost let Wyrley back into the game. Geldart shot wide and also headed straight at Astley.

“We want five,” chanted the Bilston faithful from the stand. As the tangerines continued to press, I wondered if he Wyrley defence would remain intact until full-time.

Hughes stood firm on his line to hold a 29-yard free-kick from Mason which took a deflection off the five-man wall.

Amazingly, Wyrley should have taken the lead in the 85th minute. Hare found unmarked Lee Myatt inside the Bilston area but saw his shot kept out by Astley’s boot.

With time running out, Bilston won a corner in the 88th minute, delivered by Mason, from which Curley headed home at the far left-hand post. 5-4 to Bilston and the cheer nearly lifted the roof off the stand!

There was still time for more drama. Wyrley threw men forward and Stefan Gordon headed wide from Hare’s cross.

But Bilston had the last word with a sixth goal scored in the fourth minute of stoppage time. Daniel Westwood cut in from the left and hit a low shot into the far corner of the net.

Had I seen a 6-4 before? I couldn’t remember [I had… Nuneaton Griff 6 Southan United 4, 7th May 2007].

This was an amazing game at an amazing ground, which in due course needs another visit in daylight.

Bilston Town (tangerine/white/tangerine): 1. Ben Astley, 2. Neil Eccleston, 3. Leon Pugh (capt), 4. John Griffiths, 5. Matt Curley, 6. Danny Mason, 7. Matty Rutter, 8. Lee Onions, 9. Nick Turton, 10. Sean Pugh, 11. Jamall Pinnock. Subs: 12. Daniel Westwood (for Sean Pugh, 83), 14. Mitchell Fellows (for Pinnock, 78), 15. Stuart Skitt (for Rutter, 58), 16. Rhys Hall (not used), 17. Chad McCormack (not used), 19gk. Karl Frankham (not used).

Wyrley Juniors (black and white stripes / black / black): 1. Jordan Hughes, 2. Dan Martin, 3. Leigh Bevan, 4. Adam Brough (capt), 5. Neil Hudson, 6. Arron Wright, 7. Nathaniel Hare, 8. Tom Essex, 9. Chris Geldart, 10. Mark McMahon, 11. Dan Kalinski. Subs: 12. Stefan Gordon (for McMahon, 83), 14. Steve McMahon (not used), 15. Lee Myatt (for Kalinski, 81), 16. Mark Brindley (not used), 17. Chris Fowler (not used).

Referee: G. Barrow.
Assistants: R. Massey and S. Rushbury.

0-1 Chris Geldart (10)
1-1 Nick Turton (23)
2-1 Nick Turton (24)
2-2 Dan Martin (33)
2-3 Chris Geldart (40)
2-4 Nathaniel Hare (55)
3-4 Sean Pugh (59)
4-4 Leon Pugh (63)
5-4 Matt Curley (88)
6-4 Dan Westwood (90+4)

Bilston: Neil Eccleston (YC, 55)
Wyrley: none

Stafford Town 2 Atherstone Town 2

Tuesday 13th November 2012
Stafford Town 2 Atherstone Town 2
Athium Midland Combination Premier Division
At: Evans Park
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (28 pages)
Weather: mild, dry
Attendance: 36
Duration: first-half: 46:00; second-half: 51:43

Stafford Town continue to enjoy life in the Athium Midland Combination and recorded another impressive result against Atherstone Town. They recovered from a two-goal half-time deficit to earn a point with second-half goals from Paul McMahon and Joe Woodward. The draw extended their current Premier Division run to one defeat in nine games and made sure they remained unbeaten at home in the league since August.

Looking at the league table printed in the programme, one league position and two points separated tonight’s side with Stafford Town (24 points from 15 games) in tenth and Atherstone (26 points from 16 games) immediately above.

I also knew that Town were one of the Premier Division’s form sides with five wins from their last six league games. Amongst these five wins was a 1-0 victory over Atherstone at the Sheepy Ground last month.

Stafford Town (in red) got the game underway attacking the cricket end in the first half. I watched the game in the company of Phil from Leeds (not the same person as ‘LeedsPhil’ on the Non-League Matters Forum), making his first visit to Evans Park tonight.

Having lost their last two games against Stafford – last season in the FA Vase and last month in the league – Atherstone got off to the perfect start by taking a 7th minute lead with a superb finish. Gregg Webb received the ball in space on the right and hot an unstoppable first-time right-foot shot which thundered into the net between a stunned Richard Stone and right-hand post.

The visitors continued to pose problems and almost doubled their lead in the 19th minute, Stone got down to save an initial shot from Joe Boggild and Liam Bailey smashed the rebound against the far right-hand post. But Bailey’s strike wouldn’t have counted as he had strayed offside.

The woodwork did save Town five minutes later. Webb hit another unstoppable right-foot shot which beat Stone and rebounded to safety across the face of goal off the far left-hand post.

Stafford went close to an equaliser from an Ishmale Reid corner. The ball wasn’t cleared and Steve Bennett shot wide during the ensuing scramble inside the Adders’ penalty area.

A set-piece led to Atherstone doubling their lead in the 36th minute. Webb delivered a free-kick into the Stafford area from the right. Mark Latham rose highest to head home past Stone.

The Reds survived a scare just before the interval when a well-struck 20-yarder from Webb flew just wide of the left-hand post.

Stone kept Stafford in contention early in the second half with a diving save to keep out a shot on the break by Darren Eggleton.

John Kirby replaced Daryll Evans early in the second half, as Adam Cunningham rejigged his formation, and the substitution produced a great goal in the 57th minute. The pacey Irishman got down the right and delivered a perfect cross from leading scorer Paul McMahon to head home at the far post.

I couldn’t have agreed more with the comment I heard to describe Kirby’s cross: “class ball that was”.

But, Atherstone bounced back and almost regained their two-goal advantage on the hour. Boggild headed against the Stafford bar and sent another header over from the rebound.

As Phil said, “that would have been curtains had it gone in”.

It didn’t and in what was an absorbing end-to-end contest, it was the turn of Darryll Johns to head against the bar.

With their tails up, Stafford equalised in the 74th minute with Kirby again the provider. He sent a free-kick into the area which Joe Woodward headed into the back of the net.

Though Stafford were in the ascendency, they still needed to be wary of the visitors, especially on the break.

Captain Mat Dockerty was stretchered off with a nasty-looking injury just before the start of stoppage time, which prompted another bit of rejigging by Cunningham.

Sensing time to grab a winner, Reid hit a long ball out of defence to Chris Morris on the right who broke into the area. Defenders got back to prevent a shot and ensured McMahon couldn't make use of the loose ball either..

A foul by Wayne Bailey on Latham deep into stoppage time provided Atherstone with a chance of grabbing the winner but Green’s free-kick was headed clear.

With seconds remaining, Town won two corners in quick succession but the referee blew for full-time when the second one was headed clear.

Stafford and Atherstone remained in tenth and ninth, respectively, following this draw and in the only other Premier Division game played tonight, eighth-placed Bolehall Swifts lost 2-0 at home to Pelsall Villa. Southam United's home game with Pershore Town fell victim to a waterlogged pitch.

Stafford Town (red/red/red): 1. Richard Stone, 2. Steve Bennett, 3. Daryll Evans, 4. James Price, 5. Joe Woodward, 6. Mat Dockerty (capt), 7. Liam Evans, 8. Chris Morris, 9. Paul McMahon, 10. Darryll Johns, 11. Ishmale Reid. Subs: 12. Wayne Bailey (for Dockerty, 89), 14. Ryan Fox (for Liam Evans, 78), 15. Craig Smith (not used), 16. John Kirby (for Daryll Evans, 49), 17gk. Sam Winstanley (not used). Manager: Adam Cunningham.

Atherstone Town (green with white sleeves / green / green): 1. Sam Slater, 2. Dean Johnson, 3. Chris Sockett (capt), 4. Chris Charles, 5. Matt Silvester, 6. Liam Bailey, 7. Gregg Webb, 8. Mark Latham, 9. Joe Boggild, 10. Ash Wilkes, 11. Darren Eggleton. Subs: 12. Stephen Olanipekun (not used), 14. Craig Madden (not used).

Referee: Mark Murfitt (Stoke-on-Trent).
Assistants: Phil Magness and Brian Rowley.

0-1 Gregg Webb (11)
0-2 Mark Latham (36)
1-2 Paul McMahon (57)
2-2 Joe Woodward (74)

Stafford: Chris Morris (YC, 26)
Atherstone: Chris Sockett (YC, 27), Gregg Webb (YC, 82)

Brocton 5 Castle Vale JKS 3

Saturday 10th November 2012
Brocton 5 Castle Vale JKS 3
Athium Midland Combination Premier Division
At: Silkmore Lane Sports Ground, Silkmore Lane, Stafford
Kick-off: 2-00 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (36 pages)
Weather: sunny
Attendance: 25 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 46:16; second-half: 50:06

The need to stay local this afternoon provided the perfect reason for making a first and overdue visit of the season to the ground of Brocton FC. I know I often use the phrase ‘it proved to be a good choice’ but certainly was apt for this game as it produced eight goals with four of them netted by Brocton captain David Berks.

Back in the ‘old days’ before the Internet, Twitter, club websites, etc., I may well have missed kick-off and part of the first half. Assuming nothing else than a 3 pm kick-off, I was alerted yesterday via The Football Traveller’s Friday fixture update that the kick-off time had been changed to 2 pm and this was confirmed by both Brocton’s website and Twitter feed:

Due to an issue with one of our floodlights, we have had to bring forward our home game with Castle Vale JKS to 2pm on Saturday. Please inform friends and family so we can avoid anyone missing the first half and arriving for a 3pm KO.

The Silkmore Lane Sports Ground, to the south of Stafford town centre, used to be the sports ground of Staffordshire Police – in the past I’ve referred to it as the ‘Old Police Sports Ground’. It reopened in 2008 as the new home of Brocton FC following a complete makeover which included a main floodlight pitch, fully railed off with hardstanding around the entire perimeter and a 118-seater stand. There is also a second unlit pitch mainly used by the Youth Section as well as an area for warm-up routines.

To find a form guide for this afternoon’s game, I needed to look no further back than seven days ago when the sides met at Vale Stadium. Brocton came back from 2-1 down to win 5-2 with a brace from Dan Lomas and other goals from Dave Berks, Richard Jones and Joe Pickering. Jack Jayes and Roy Dunkley scored for JKS.

So, looking at the league table, Brocton (21 points from 14 games) occupied 12th position with JKS (10 points from 18 games) 18th in the 19-team Premier Division. Table toppers were Walsall Wood (36 points from 15 games), a point clear and three games in hand of second-placed Littleton.

A one-minute silence was observed to mark Remembrance Sunday before Brocton (in green and white) got the game underway defending the changing rooms end. The low sun shining directly behind the far goal had the potential to make things uncomfortable for Brocton goalkeeper Adam Whitehouse and his defence.

The start couldn’t have been better for the Badgers as they took a 4th-minute lead. Jordan Bloor, who posed plenty of problems for the JKS defence, ran down the left to the bye-line and pulled the ball back for David Berks to fire home.

Perhaps already fearing the worst, one JKS defender quickly told his teammates to “get your heads up”.

Brocton continued to dominate, so much so that the visitors were given the instruction that “everything has got to be 100%”.

Berks forced a save out of Roy Dunkley, whose usual role is as a goalscorer not stand-in goalkeeper. I don’t know why he was between the sticks this afternoon.

The words of advice given to the JKS players paid dividends as they started to cause Brocton a few problems, playing some passing nice football on Brocton’s award-winning immaculate playing surface. They certainly didn’t look like a side near the bottom on a poor run of form.

Bloor, who played for Stafford Town last season, picked up a booking for the words he directed towards the referee in disagreement for the decision to penalise him for a foul.

However, it was Brocton who scored the next goal in the 22nd minute to double their lead. Charlie Jones found Sam Bell, a constant threat on the right, who crossed low to the far post where unmarked Berks powered the ball past Dunkley.

I was right about JKS posing a threat as they pulled a goal back two minutes later. Hesitancy in the Brocton defence allowed Tyrone Smith to nip in a slot the ball low past Adam Whitehouse.

Dunkley produced a couple of decent saves which kept JKS in contention. So much so, that the visitors equalised just after half-hour mark. Smith was fouled on the edge of the area but Scott Goodby’s free-kick hit the wall. The ball ended up at the feet of Jack Jayes who played it into the area for Smith to head home.

Berks, once of Aston Villa and Stafford Rangers, hit the outside of the left-hand post with a 30-yard free-kick before restoring his side’s lead in the 39th minute and completing a hat-trick at the same time. Fed by Bell, Berks hit another 30-yard shot which took a deflection of Joe Pickering on the way into the net.

“The most embarrassing decision ever” [not my opinion] resulted in a Brocton corner from which Bloor saw a shot blocked at the near post (photo right). Just before the interval, Dunkley tipped over a rising right-foot shot from David Harvey.

So, 3-2 to the Badgers at half-time and I was enjoying the entertainment in the autumnal sunshine.

I obtained the names of the match officials at half-time as it was clear that one of the assistants had been changed since the programme was printed. Thanks Terry. In fact, all the match officials had changed. I also chatted to Adam Checkley who told me that leading scorer Gary Fife was nearing a return following his broken metatarsal suffered earlier in the season.

Brocton were against stunned just before the hour mark when Castle Vale equalised. Ralph Richardson, on the left inside the area, caught out Whitehouse with a clever lob which dropped in the far side of the net.

Upset on the cards?

Well it was soon after when Richardson stayed onside down the right and forced Whitehouse to save at the near post with his legs.

“Get the tempo up,” said one concerned Brocton defender.

It was, therefore, a relief when the Badgers regained the lead in the 68th minute. Dunkley and his defence assumed someone else would clear a bouncing ball down the right to the edge of the area. Nobody did and Pickering nipped in to slot into an unguarded net [photo right: Pickering celebrates, Dunkley asks 'what happened?'.

JKS were reduced to ten men two minutes after Brocton’s fourth goal. The assistant running the home defence attracted the attention of the referee who, after a brief conversation, shouted “seven” and showed a straight red card to Jayes.

Moments later on the Brocton right, Faulkner brought down substitute Mick Fox. Berks took the free-kick with his left foot and expertly curled it over the leaping Dunkley into the far side of the net (photo right). Four goals to Berks, Brocton 5-3 up and no way back for JKS.

It looked that way until the 90th minute. Richardson crossed into the Brocton area from the right where Brett Yarlington managed to fire over the bar from just a few yards out. He could have made things interesting.

The win lifted Brocton up one place in the table to 11th on the same number of points and games as neighbours Stafford Town.

Having faced Brocton seven days ago and today, JKS face Stafford opposition again next week for the third consecutive Saturday when Town visit their Vale Stadium for a league game. Brocton are also on the road and heading for Bolehall Swifts.

Brocton (green with white sleeves / white / green): 1. Adam Whitehouse, 2. David Harvey, 3. Richard Jones, 4. Andy Chandler, 5. Rob Tomlinson, 6. Charlie Jones, 7. Sam Bell, 8. Jordan Bloor, 9. Joe Pickering, 10. David Berks, 11. Dan Lomas. Subs: 12. Dave Abelwhite (for Chandler, ht), 14. Mick Fox (for Lomas, 74), 15. Michael Stark (not used), 16. Sam Hollinsworth (for Bell, 67).

Castle Vale JKS (yellow with blue right sleeve / blue blue): 1. Roy Dunkley, 2. Robbie Desmond, 3. Ryan Faulkner, 4. Joe Obi (capt), 5. Scott Goodby, 6. Kieran Fitzgerald, Jack Jayes, 8. Dan Bostock, 9. Tyrone Smith, 10. Ralph Richardson, 11. Richard Lernihan. Subs: 12. Brett Yarlington (for Faulkner, 76), 14. Lewis George (not used), 15. Craig Williams (not used).

Referee: Paul Hands.
Assistants: Brian Rowley and Mike Wrigley.

1-0 David Berks (5)
2-0 David Berks (22)
2-1 Tyrone Smith (24)
2-2 Tyrone Smith (32)
3-2 David Berks (39)
3-3 Ralph Richardson (58)
4-3 Joe Pickering (68)
5-3 David Berks (76)

Brocton: Jordan Bloor (YC, 21)
Castle Vale JKS: Jack Jayes (RC, 72)