Monday, December 26, 2011

Points shared in East Cleveland clash

Guisborough Town 1 - 1 Marske United

Queues and Boxing Day have become synonymous when discussing the fortunes of High street Retailers. Queues and the Northern league are perhaps less closely associated, so it was heartening to see a crowd just short of 400 for this local derby between Guisborough and Marske. This is the first time in four years that the two clubs have clashed in the traditional Boxing Day fixture and the first time for even more that the two clubs have shared First Division status. These factors, combined with expected temperatures of an unseasonable ten degrees, drew locals for the late morning clash. Although there was only one place separating the two sides in the league table, the form table told a different story. Marske have hit a purple patch and came into the game on the back of a six game unbeaten run. Guisborough's performances of late have been impressive, even if results suggest otherwise. Profligacy in front of goal and festive generosity towards opposition forwards has cost the side points when conceivably they too could have hit the thirty point mark. As supporters funneled into the ground, a strong wind funneled the length of the ground. It made good football difficult and much of the first forty five minutes was attritional, with Marske pressing hard to maximise the advantage of the wind at their backs and Guisborough largely content to contain the visitors and spring at them on the break with the pace of Johnson, Roberts and McPhillips. The best chances of the first half fell to Marske and undoubtedly the clearest opportunity came to Karl Charlton. Playing against a former side seems to have different effects on different players. There is no doubting the fact that Charlton is a good player at this level, as his record demonstrates both this season and last in the yellow of Marske. But the King George V ground does not appear to be a happy hunting ground for Charlton. On several occasions he carved out openings only to be thwarted by good saves. He had the chance to set the tone in the sixth minute but having beaten Jack Norton his underhit shot allowed Wood to clear superbly off the line.

A few eyebrows were raised when the in-form Decosemo made way for Willie Boland in the starting line up. But the Irishman enjoyed an excellent hour on the pitch as he used every ounce of experience to control the pace and tempo of midfield and to bring other men into play. As Boland was replaced by Decosomo, this signalled a clear intent from Chris Hardy to take the game to the visitors. Yet it was Marske who should have gone ahead as Bradley burst clear. As he flicked the ball past the onrushing Norton the crowd expectantly waited for the ball to nestle in the corner of the net. Yet somehow, the ball dribbled past the post. Sport is all about chances taken and chances missed. Having been given a reprieve at one end of the pitch Guisborough surged forwards and Wood fired a shot/cross into the box. Austin Johnson, as tenacious, mobile and aware as ever, met the ball and cleverly flicked it over the visiting keeper to give the home side the lead. A goal so often gives a side momentum and when momentum is created, sides must capitalise upon it. Decosomo showed great vision to put McPhillips in the clear but with the home supporters expecting the lead to be doubled, he rashly blazed the ball over the bar. Following Decosomo's example, Roberts cut infield towards the centre circle and played a replica ball to McPhillips. Sadly for Guisborough supporters and to the relief of traveling fans, the outcome was the same as McPhillips failed to properly test the goalkeeper.

When Marske equalised it was perhaps inevitable but undoubtedly merited. Substitute Jones proved his credentials as a goal poacher as he tapped home from close range. There were chances at either end and Marske always looked dangerous from set plays, but a draw seemed fair as both sides were left to reflect on chances not taken.

As 2011 comes to a close, both sides will leave the year with fond memories of what has gone. Both sides promoted, both teams drawing good crowds and both sides making decent strides in a tough new division. By Easter we will know a lot more about how the two teams have fared in Division One. For now, they can look back on a year of fulfilled hopes and the realisation of a lot of hard work, both on and of the field.

This is what derby days should be about. A good crowd, a positive atmosphere, a lively but sensible local rivalry and an evenly contested and even tempered contest on the field. May 2012 bring more of the same.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Should I stay or should I go?

Geographically peripheral, a potential financial burden and an ongoing headache which divides opinion at every turn. You could be forgiven for thinking that I was talking about Britain’s present relationship with its neighbours in the Eurozone. Instead I am referring to the Northern League’s position in the football pyramid. It all sounds very sensible – promotion to a higher level, progression through different leagues and part of a meritocracy that rewards success with promotion and failure with relegation. Yet it has not panned out like that and over recent seasons no Northern League club has opted for promotion, despite domination of the FA Vase since the turn of the millennium. Should teams be forced to take promotion or are Northern League clubs understandably reluctant to take a leap of faith?

If the situation could be summed up musically, it would have to be the Clash’s Should I stay or should I go? The financial costs of promotion are obvious with increased travel and the need for players to leave work early to get to games. A Saturday fixture might involve a 10.30a.m start for players with a return almost exactly twelve hours later. Midweek fixtures represent even more of a problem. Guisborough’s recent mid-week North Riding trip to play Scarborough Athletic at Bridlington proved the point exactly. Frantic calls were being made to enquire as to players’ whereabouts and players were stretched to get there. Players may want be recompensed for time lost from work and booking a coach almost every week would be a huge expense. Players would seriously consider whether this jump would be worthwhile and even whether they could commit to this extent when they could play for a Northern league side along the road, especially if the money they are receiving is of parity. Those against the notion of promotion may be nodding their heads wisely and recounting the line from the aforementioned song which states that ‘If I go there will be trouble’. But we should note that the following line was ‘If I stay it will be doubled’. The Northern League is currently very strong – perhaps falsely so – due in part to its isolation. It exists in the pyramid and has the advantage of FA sanctioned competitions but perhaps understandably there are elements of the non-league community who are irritated at the perceived reluctance of some of the more successful clubs to make the move.

There are some who argue that the costs of moving up are exaggerated and that you don’t need to pay the players so much. By paying players less some of the extra costs would be negated. Equally, some would argue that extra revenue could be created by playing in a higher division. Crowds could in theory be higher through interest from the local community that their side is playing ‘new’ teams each week and admission costs would be greater in a higher division, creating more revenue. There is also the sense of adventure associated with travelling to new places, new teams and new challenges for supporters.

These arguments are easily countered. For Northern League teams to be given a realistic carrot to encourage them to apply for promotion, I would argue that the FA needs to offer a helping hand. This could come in two forms. One, by redrawing the boundaries to make travel less of an obstacle – especially for the Tyneside teams. Two, by allowing four or five Northern league teams to make the jump at the same time. By giving Northern League teams a feeling of strength in numbers, they would feel reassured that eight local derbies would exist each season, cutting travel costs and guaranteeing large gates to recompense them their additional overheads. The following season other teams may join them. Within a two year period, even if Northern league sides achieved promotion, there would be a sizeable enough quantity to make it feel a more realistic proposition. Promotion would almost be normalised.

Blyth Spartans did it, Whitby Town managed it, Durham City have just about pulled it off and Spennymoor, Bishop Auckland and Whitley Bay have tried it and returned to the Northern league for a whole host of reasons. The suggestion that Dunston, Sunderland RCA, Whitley Bay and Bishop Auckland may be interested in promotion is clearly welcome news and it would be marvelous if they were able to fly the North-eastern flag effectively in higher divisions.

For now, the issue remains a clash of interests. Promotion from the Northern League is a Curate’s egg. It remains to be seen whether the egg turns out sunny side up or leaves an unpleasant taste. I’m not one to normally sit on the fence and am firmly of the view that to do so you end up with some unpleasant splinters, particularly if the issue is thorny one. But on this matter, I feel the decision very much has to be club-based and founded on clear financial principles. We all want to see our clubs progress, but not at the risk of a club’s long term existence. From Eurozone to nonleaguezone in one fell swoop. From Sarkosy to too cosy and from Channel Tunnel to tunnel vision. The debate is set to rumble on and on.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Scoring draws, Christmas draws and drawing the crowds

Guisborough Town 2 – 2 Ashington

Two things have been central to Ashington as a settlement; coal and football. It was the football team who were forced to dig deep today in a keenly fought contest played in front of a crowd of more than two hundred.
A trip to Guisborough just about represents Ashington’s longest league trip this season. They have traveled further this season in the FA Cup, both in terms of distance and by navigating their way through each of the qualifying rounds to face Grimsby in the first round proper. Teams don’t get through to the First Round Proper through chance. Ashington are well drilled, well supported and well placed in the league table to move into the top half with games in hand over surrounding teams.

Christmas is a time for hangovers and on a cold day where the pitch just about shrugged off the effects of the morning frost, it was of interest to see whether Guisborough could overcome the disappointment of their midweek defeat at Shildon. The performance was excellent up in County Durham and we were left to rue missed chances in a game where we should have left with a least a point.

Guisborough were quick out of the blocks and in the early exchanges it became clear that I’Anson and Roberts would pose defensive headaches for the opposition. Roberts skipped past his marker on several occasions before sprinting clear of his marker in the mid-stages of the first half to sweep the ball into the bottom corner. Only minutes later the moment was almost replicated but as Roberts struck the ball towards the bottom corner the visiting keeper pulled off a stunning one-handed stop to keep the ball out and push it past the post. It was not all one way traffic and on two occasions Norton was required to pull off good saves with his hands and feet to deny Ashington an equalizer. However, the scores were soon level as Bell scored from close range to send the sides into the warmth of the dressing rooms as level as when they had departed them forty five minutes previously.

As the second half commenced it was almost as though the pattern of the first half was playing itself out again, just with the two sides shooting in the opposite direction. Much as in the first half it was the lively Roberts who proved to a thorn in the visitors’ sides. At times he appeared impossible to mark and was as slippery as the surface. Twice he peeled away from his marker and could have added two headed goals to his first half strike. Roberts did add to his tally and the goal he scored was perfectly worked as I’Anson cleverly fed the ball into his path and Roberts thumped the ball into the bottom corner.

At 2-1down and two thirds of the game having elapsed, Ashington began to press and prod the home defence in an attempt to prise open and fashion an opportunity. To add perfect symmetry to the first half, it was Bell once again who scored from close range to secure an Ashington point.

A crowd of 235 watched a closely fought, competitive game between two seemingly well matched sides. Ashington were well supported and I have to say that it was a pleasure to welcome them to the King George V ground. Their bench were fair-minded and their supporters were affable and pleasant. With a celebration of youth event in the clubhouse and the club's Christmas draw taking place today, the club was buzzing.

With their game at Dunston postponed, a number of Marske fans made the short journey to watch this game. They will no doubt make the same trip on Boxing Day. With the form that Marske are demonstrating there is every reason to think that we are in for a Christmas cracker.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

From Shallots to Shalom: Goodbye to Onions as both sides part on good terms

With a name like Onions, every headline writer wants a slice of the action. For four years, most of the headlines at Guisborough have focused on Onions’ goals. This was never truer than last season when David Onions embarked on a scoring spree which included three consecutive hat-tricks – a remarkable feat at any level of the game. His thirty-seven goals last season were instrumental in propelling the club to promotion. Onions’ goalscoring feats did not go unnoticed. His nickname – ‘DO’ - was a reference to his initials but the Wakefield Post took an interesting slant on this, referring to him as the ‘Dangerous One’ as he posed a constant threat in our cup clash with the West Yorkshire outfit.

Onions is a Guisborough lad and not just popular for his goals. As team captain he urged the side on and his never say die attitude spurred the team on to secure draws when defeat looked likely and to steal three points when many sides would have settled for just one.

All players thrive on confidence, but especially goalscorers. This is especially true of DO and with the anticipation and excitement of a new season in a different division approaching, it was crucial that last year’s top scorer hit the ground running. Onions certainly hit the ground but not in the way intended. In a pre-season game against Consett he twisted under a heavy challenge and injured knee ligaments, missing the first month of the season.

There was never any questioning DO’s commitment when he returned, but the sharpness of last year only seemed to be present in patches. His announcement that it was time to move on to pastures new was naturally disappointing, but perhaps understandable.
Perhaps the most poignant and refreshing aspect of DO’s departure was the manner in which he left. No fit of pique, no unnecessary slagging off of the club or players, no side swipes or stinging words aimed at individuals. In fact, quite the reverse. Onions praised a club he loves, stating that it has been the most enjoyable four years of his time playing the game. Some of the so-called professionals of the world – Joey Barton chief amongst them – might want to take a long hard look and learn something.

My abiding memory of DO will be his lion-like roar as he lifted the North Riding Senior Cup last year after his goal was enough to brush local rivals Marske aside. The goal itself was a collector’s item as Onions used his head to nod Guisborough into the lead. It is not so rare for Onions to use his head in a less literal sense; his intelligent, well-considered points upon leaving the club attracted even greater respect. I’m leaving with great memories and a list of true friends - which is why we play the game in the first place Onions noted. You can’t say fairer than that. Wise words from the old sage that is Onions.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Are you Bayern in disguise?

Billingham Town 3 – 3 Guisborough Town

Sympathising with a German football team’s plight is not an emotional response that sits too comfortably with most English football fans. The scars from two semi-final shootout disasters still runs deep within the national psyche and so it was not altogether surprising that there was no emotional outpouring of sympathy for Bayern Munich when twelve years ago they let the Champions League trophy be wrenched from their grasp in the dying seconds of the final as Manchester United somehow contrived to win (or should that be Bayern contrived to lose?)

Bayern Munich and Billingham Town have little in common, so you would be forgiven for wondering why on Earth this article begins in this manner. Put simply, Bayern Munich were the words that were spat from my mouth as the full-time whistle blew at Bedford Terrace last night. Guisborough were leading 3-1 as the game neared its conclusion. I even tempted fate and suggested to some of the nearby Guisborough supporters that we move closer to the main stand where the players would leave the field to applaud off a dominant performance and three well earned points.

Then the seemingly impossible happened. A stupid defensive error allowed a sniff on goal for the home side’s Jamie Owens and he finished well. A ripple of nerves spread amongst the travelling support, but in truth this ripple didn’t have the opportunity to travel very far. Virtually from the
restart, another ball played in from the right this time was met by Nicky Martin who headed – ala Teddy Sheringham – into the corner to turn the game on its head.

How cruel, how unkind of Billingham Town to spoil the start of my weekend. They didn’t even have the good grace to do this to us on a Saturday afternoon. At least then it would have been half-way through the two-day break. Instead, this act was perpetrated on a Friday night leaving me with two whole days to mull over what might have been.

Of course, I jest. Credit has to go to the home side who plugged away and never gave in. They were never short on commitment and the biggest cheers of the night from the home crowd actually came from some of the tough tackling they demonstrated.

My bias is undoubted, but even with my rose tinted spectacles taken off and parked to one side, it was clear that Guisborough should have won. The pace of Roberts, McPhillips, Johnson and Decosemo was combined with the poise of Henry and I’Anson and at times Guisborough’s movements forward were so slick and so fast that every time we poured up the field we looked like scoring. Alas, therein lay the problem. The game should have been put to bed, done and dusted – use whatever cliché you like. But if you allow a hungry side a sniff – and let’s face it, Billingham Town had an appetite for points – expect them to feast. A quick glance at
the home side’s forward line also hints at the everpresent danger. Michael Dunwell, Nicky Martin, Jamie Owens – all good players, all good goalscorers and all clinical if given half a chance.

Twenty –four hours later - and with the shock of an unexpected outcome now firmly sinking in – I find myself being a little more philosophical. The last five games have seen this Guisborough team arrive in the First Division. Bedlington expected to come and conquer and only left with
a share of the spoils. Birtley were brushed to one side in the League cup and Newton Aycliffe – by their own admission – were fortunate to take the points away back to County Durham. Spennymoor – League champions, no less – were beaten 2-1 and Jarrow soon followed by a two goal winning margin. In midweek we travelled to Bridlington to face Scarborough Athletic and pace again caused havoc, with a 5-1 victory making the journey home psychologically far shorter.

There is still work to be done and last night’s conclusion demonstrated that this side remains a work in progress. Anyone present at the game last night was royally entertained. Billingham Town afforded us a warm welcome, which acted as a perfect contrast to the decidedly cold November night.

Sir Ridley Scott – director of Alien, Blade Runner and Gladiator, no less - was brought up on Teesside and apparently based his dystopian image of the future world on his memories of industry at Billingham. Even he would have been hard-pressed to devise a conclusion as unexpected as this. But that’s football for you. I just hope I don’t have to say the words Bayern Munich again at the end of a football match. Unless of course it’s Bayern Munich that are playing.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A seaside sojourn and a seadogs revival?

The date was 29th March 1988. It was the North Riding Senior Cup semi-final - Scarborough against Guisborough - and along with my Father and some family friends, we took our place in the stand at the McCain Stadium. There is a programme from the game on eBay and Northern League fans of the 80s may remember names such as Mark Lawrence and Trevor Smith, who had graced the professional game before plying their trade in the Northern League. Lining up for the opposition was the teenage Christian Short, who went on to play for Sheffield United. Short’s brother – Craig – was also on Scarborough’s books at the times before a successful playing career at Everton and Blackburn.

I remember virtually nothing about the game that day, other than the comfortable margin of victory for Scarborough and the fact that the game felt like a professional football encounter; proper stands, genuine cheers when a goalscorer was announced over the tannoy and substitutes for Scarborough that looked and acted like professionals as they warmed up.

Nobody could have predicted what would have happened to Scarborough over the two subsequent decades. After a high profile FA Cup tie at home against Chelsea in 2004 (which they lost narrowly 1-0), a spiral of decline resulted in the club being wound up in the High Court. Scarborough’s motto – No battle, no victory – was semi-appropriate for this semi-professional side. A battle ensued, but the club did not emerge victorious. The McCain stadium then proceeded to lie dormant for several years. But the ground was not so much sleeping as rotting. Finally the ground was laid to rest in September 2011 as the council cleared the site. The images of the ground in its final hours – the grass untamed and the stands looking worn and haggard – must have been hard to take for the seasoned supporters of one of England’s oldest clubs.

After any trauma, there is often a collective will to begin again. The club effectively splintered in two directions. Scarborough Athletic formed and found a place in the Northern Counties East League, their games being played at the home of Bridlington Town. Scarborough Town initially played in the Teesside League and have rapidly progressed into the Wearside League.
Twenty-three years on from our semi-final encounter, the two sides met again on Tuesday in a North Riding clash, played at Bridlington. There is clearly a continued thirst for football in Scarborough. Crowds often number over 400 (and all of the home fans are travelling fans as they have to make their way seventeen miles to a neighbouring town) and the side are making headway on the pitch, handily placed this season in third position with games in hand over the teams above them. By all accounts, Scarborough Athletic took a relaxed approach to the game on Tuesday and handed opportunities to fringe players. But whereas twenty years ago they could take these liberties and still overcome a Northern League side, these days it is different. Guisborough were the comfortable victors 5-1 and now go into the last eight in a competition where they look to defend their title.

It remains to be seen how life will pan out for Scarborough Athletic. There are questions unanswered, such as when will they secure a Scarborough based ground? and how far through the pyramid can they once again penetrate?

With a population of 50,000 and having secured the tag of Most enterprising town in Britain in 2008, you have to think it is possible. Let’s hope the seadogs bite back.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Back to back wins bring new sense of perspective

Guisborough Town 3 – 1 Jarrow Roofing

Three days, two wins, six points. What a difference a few days make. After edging past Spennymoor on Wednesday evening, it was crucial that this momentum was maintained today against a side in Jarrow that have won just once in their last nine games and were sitting just above Town in the table, but having played several games more.
The two sides are far from strangers to one another. This was the third occasion already this season that we had met. The FA Cup tie had ended with a 2-1 Guisborough win and the League fixture at the same ground had ended 3-3 after Guisborough had squandered their advantage three times.

Momentum is a popular buzzword in modern sport. Coaches talk about it, players capitalise upon it and supporters wish that when their team had it, it could be seized and bottled for release on matchday. Perhaps this is exactly what Chris Hardy had done. For the first twenty minutes of today’s encounter, it was as though Wednesday’s win had been minutes ago. The back four looked settled, McPhillips was at his tricky best on the left hand side and Decosomo’s penetrating runs from deep were forcing Jarrow onto the defensive.

A goal seemed likely and a goal duly arrived. Fresh from his thundering volleyed goal against Spennymoor, Shane Henry smashed a left footed shot on the turn which thundered against the underside of the bar and bounced down on the line. Roberts was quickest to respond and lashed the ball into the opposite corner to open the scoring. Having scored one, Guisborough looked as though they might score another. They did. As the ball was played across the penalty area from the right hand side, I’Anson swivelled and acrobatically diverted the ball into the far corner. With half-time still some way off, Austin Johnson broke through the home defence and looked to have secured a three goal advantage as he sidefooted the ball past the visiting keeper. The ball struck the inside of the post, but again it was a Guisborough player that was quickest to respond as Chris I’Anson doubled his own personal tally and afforded his side a three goal cushion.
Jarrow and shipbuilding were once synonymous, with more than 80% of the working population employed in the trade in the early years of the last century. The Jarrow of today, shorn of its shipbuilding and much of its manufacturing base, is a very different place. At 3-0 down and with Guisborough in search of more goals, Jarrow’s ship appeared to be sinking and there was a genuine danger that the home side’s lead would be unassailable by half-time. But sometimes when an opponent is on the ropes, the worst possible thing to do is to let your guard down. Casual defending allowed a Jarrow chance which was well taken and suddenly the visitors were handed a lifeline. In their nine previous away games, Jarrow had scored 23 goals. They were pacy up front and it was clear that they could cause problems, despite the absence of the muscular Aris Guerin-Lokongo. The twenty year old has just returned from a trial with Plymouth Argyle, where he reputedly impressed before being injured and forced to return home.

The second half incredibly saw no more goals. Jarrow had chances, Guisborough had chances and the game could have ended 6-3. As Jarrow pushed forward in an attempt to get back into the game, gaps appeared at the back and Roberts more than once could have added to his opening goal.

The win lifted Guisborough out of the bottom three, but it also took on greater significance when other results filtered through. Tow Law secured a point (having looked likely to take all three points against Newton Aycliffe), Marske beat Shildon 2-1 and South Shields overcame Bishop Auckland. At the moment, it seems as though anybody can beat anybody.

The fixtures at the moment come thick and fast. On Tuesday we travel to Bridlington to face Scarborough Athletic in the North Riding Senior Cup and on Friday night we face third bottom Billingham Town at Bedford Terrace. It’s perhaps a little early on in the season to describe it as a six pointer, but it’s pretty important. Hopefully an inflated Friday night crowd will be treated to a classic local clash.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

More for Priorymen, less for Moors

Guisborough Town 2 - 1 Spennymoor Town

There is a wonderful feeling about being the underdog and securing a triumph against all odds. Winning when you’re not meant to is one of the sweetest feelings, like proving a teacher wrong who said you’d never make the grade. Having lost to Newton Aycliffe (despite controlling possession for the bulk of the game) a win against reigning champions Spennymoor seemed as unlikely as a cold day in hell. Third bottom against fourth top seemed a mismatch.

The old saying – that the table doesn’t lie – is only a partial truth. With several games in hand on surrounding teams and with a young side gradually finding their feet in a faster and more demanding division, Guisborough are a better side than many would anticipate. With a new formation with I’Anson central and two runners in Roberts and McPhillips overlapping, the home side began brightly and Roberts’ effort forced visiting ‘keeper Turns to live up to his name and push the ball past the post. Not to be discouraged, Guisborough pressed forward again and Shane Henry managed to prod the ball in the bottom corner, despite pressure from several defenders.

It felt like a matter of time before Spennymoor got back into the game. They were quick and incisive and it was the movements of Ruddy which caught the eye. He was difficult to pin down as he came deep to collect possession before spreading play and spinning off his marker. Like many small players, Ruddy’s low centre of gravity afforded him a split second extra time on the turn and he looked Spennymoor’s most likely threat. Ruddy great, Ruddy brilliant. Or from a home perspective, get him Ruddy well marked.

The game remained 1-0 as the half time break arrived. The home optimists mused over the possibilities of hanging on for an unlikely win. Those holding a pint which was half-empty pointed out Spennymoor’s depth on the bench and that they would carve out second half chances to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Whilst in part it was true that the visitors controlled second-half possession, a Herculean effort from Guisborough saw Spennymoor players being harried, harassed on the ball and generally made to feel that they had no time to pull the strings and to pull home defenders out of position. When the Spennymoor equaliser arrived, it was Moore for the Moors as he flicked the ball past Jack Norton from a well directed free-kick.

If the script had returned to convention, Guisborough hadn’t read it. The goal to win the game was a beauty. McPhillips – fighting tiredness and defying the odds to keep the ball in and prevent a goal-kick – spotted Shane Henry’s run from deep. His cross to the edge of the box surprised the home defence, who perhaps expected the ball to be delivered into the six-yard box. The onrushing Henry barely broke stride in thumping the ball home to the delight of the home support. There were moments of stress and with minutes left the ball was fizzed across the home side’s box and was as close as wet is to water as the onrushing forwards strained to reach the cross. The home fans were more tense than a campsite and it was to great relief that the final whistle blew.

This was a win against all expectations. Equally pleasing was the good natured banter with Spennymoor’s excellent travelling support. Whilst they were disgruntled with the result, both the fans and manager Jason Aindsley were gracious in defeat. Perhaps with half an eye on Saturday’s FA Vase clash, Aindsley had rested several players. Saturday takes the Moors to Barnoldswick Town and their stadium – the Silentnight stadium. Ainsley was left with a number of things to sleep on in the days leading up to a Second Round FA Vase clash.
Barnoldswick is also home to the Rolls Royce. When at full speed and fully functioning, Spennymoor are more than capable of returning from Lancashire with their FA Vase on track. I for one very much hope they manage it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sabotage Times

The Sabotage Times - brainchild of the founder of Loaded magazine - has featured an aticle on my love for Northern League football, here:

The Irish site 'The Score' even features it in 'The week's best sportswriting':

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Aycliffe hold firm to take the points

Guisborough Town 0 – 1 Newton Aycliffe

In their Promotion winning campaign of last year, Newton Aycliffe became renowned for their brand of attacking football which focused so heavily on the prolific Warren Byrne. After netting more than forty times during the last campaign, more than a few eyebrows were raised when Byrne upped and left for his old side Shildon. Of the new additions that Aycliffe brought in, it was defender Darren Craddock that was the most notable; an experienced and no-nonsense centre half around which the team could build a strong defensive base. In today’s game, Aycliffe carved out just one clear cut chance which was clinically taken. For the rest of the game they defended deep, defended well and did just enough to take the three points. It was easy to see how Aycliffe had restricted the free-scoring West Auckland and Whitley Bay to just a goal each in recent weeks.

For Guisborough, the day was far from perfect. They had a goal disallowed and far more importantly lost not only the game but midfielder Joel Guy to an unpleasant injury. An ambulance was called for Guy as an initially diagnosed broken leg turned out to be ruptured ligaments and a long spell on the sidelines.

An even first half produced few chances. Aycliffe looked dangerous on the flanks and it was their left-sided player Owens who scored the only goal of the game. The energetic Gardner struck a seemingly harmless effort towards goal which was far more accurate than first appeared. The ball squirmed past keeper Jack Norton and struck the inside of the post. The onrushing Owens was left with a lot to do but made it all look easy as he clipped the ball perfectly into the bottom corner from an acute angle.

Guisborough began the second half reinvigorated and for the first fifteen minutes of the second period, Aycliffe struggled to get out of their own half. As Guisborough pushed for an equaliser, Johnson surged from a deep position and found himself with just the keeper to beat from close to range. With several in the crowd putting their house on him scoring, Johnson screwed the ball high and wide from close range. This chance almost marked a watershed in the game and Aycliffe began to exert more pressure and looked dangerous on the break. Tom Portas – far from a stranger to the home fans after three years of success in a Guisborough shirt – became more involved and his surging runs both forward and across the pitch posed an increased threat. Despite this, there was the feeling that if Guisborough scored they could go on to win the game. The goal duly came as the ball was swung in from the right and was forced home from close range. The home players and supporters celebrated, but the joy was short lived as the dreaded sight of a raised lineman’s flag saw the goal chalked off for offside.

Prior to this game, Aycliffe had never beaten Guisborough before in the Northern league. They had been left to kick themselves twice last season as Guisborough rescued points from seemingly impossible situations. Today there was perhaps less flair about Aycliffe’s performance, but certainly more steel. They were organised, committed and stuck firmly to their game plan in the second half. Without a doubt, they are club on the up. They have a healthy travelling contingent, are well run and clearly aspire to greater things.

Games between these two sides are always close and Aycliffe will have been both pleased and relieved to have taken all three points back along the A66 to County Durham.

The First Division offers no let up; we entertain reigning League Champions Spennymoor on Wednesday. But in case you didn’t notice, England beat Spain today. Over ninety minutes, anything can happen. Which I suppose is why we all come back week after week. Hope springs eternal…

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ferguson endures in an age of change

There is a picture of Sir Alex Ferguson in his first day in the Old Trafford hotseat, with a ball under one arm and his other arm around the shoulders of his then assistant Archie Knox. So much in the world has changed. Margaret Thatcher was at the helm of British politics, Ronald Reagan was mid-way through his eight years of US presidency and Liverpool had dominated the top flight of British football for more than a decade. This was pre-Hillsborough, pre-Premiership and for those brought up on a diet of continuous live football, seemingly pre-historic. The one enduring feature of the photograph is Ferguson’s grin. Who can blame him after lifting twenty seven trophies in twenty five years?

Of course, it was not always destined to be this way. If rumours are to be believed, Ferguson was a hare’s breadth away from the chop in his early tenure when Manchester United supporters were hungry for success after an extended famine at the hands of their Merseyside rivals. If you discount Arsene Wenger from the equation, it would be interesting to establish whether the rest of the top division’s managers have this length of service at their current clubs between them. Answers on a postcard…
In a media driven society where information is at our finger tips and instant gratification is expected, managers have barely got their feet under a table before the furniture is rearranged and a new man is at the helm. Surely it takes time for a manager to cultivate his own style and to embed his vision throughout a football club? A ready meal might take minutes to prepare – ping, there we go, out it pops from its plastic tray and hey presto, dinner is served. But the end result is usually less satisfying. Keeping in line with the Food Industry analogy, as Guinness would tell you – good things come to those who wait.

How does this apply to non-league football? Perhaps fans even at this level need to be more patient and not expect instant success. There are times when a manager’s time is clearly up. But how often do we move one man on to find that the club is in no better shape a year on? Ferguson has enjoyed 1409 games thus far as Old Trafford supremo – significantly more than my own side Guisborough have even played in the Northern League since their admission in the mid-eighties. How many of the current Northern League managers have been in post for less than two years? New blood and fresh ideas are obviously welcome, but so often the same managers are merely recycled on the football merry go round.

Perhaps I’m just being naïve. Football and sport generally are perhaps just a reflection of modern life. According to government estimates, young people just finishing their education will have done 10-14 different jobs by the time they reach the age of 38 and a week’s worth of New York Times newspapers contains more information than a person was likely to come across in their whole lifetime in the 18th Century. To borrow a phrase – shift happens.

Yet there is Fergie; enduring, entrenched and excelling just as much as ever. Love him or loathe him, there may never be another like him. Next stop, 1500 games.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Town leave Terriers with plenty to chew on

Guisborough Town 1 Bedlington Terriers 1

As the old saying goes, if we played like that every week we wouldn’t be so inconsistent. Faced with the tough task of securing points from a clash with Bedlington Terriers, Guisborough deserved their point against a side with good credentials and the ever present threat of Shandran and Richardson in attack.
Mention the name Bedlington to anyone and there is a strong chance that they will associate the place with the famed Bedlington Terrier, a dog with a woollen coat which strongly resembles a sheep. The dog features on the club crest, but for the first forty five minutes the Terriers were seriously lacking bite. Guisborough controlled possession, with the evergreen Willie Boland revelling in his role playing in front of the back four. He took every opportunity to spread the play and with Bedlington playing very narrow and with a lack of width, Guisborough’s forays down the flanks looked most likely to break the deadlock. Despite the home side’s superior first-half possession, chances were few and far between and with the game deadlocked at half-time, Bedlington were given the opportunity to regroup and reassess their tactics.

Rather than introduce more width, the visitors evidently sensed that their biggest threat was the Little and Large combination of Richardson and Shandran, with the former player’s pace complementing Shandran’s physicality, good close control and ability to shield the ball. They played the ball long to Shandran, who looked menacing with his aerial presence and ability to turn the defence. Having looked fairly comfortable – if at times slightly stretched – an aberration in the home defence allowed Richardson to give the visitors the lead. As Town were forced to push forward in search of an equaliser, more gaps appeared and Richardson’s pace took him through on goal. A poor first touch saw the forward overrun the ball. He then went to ground, claiming a penalty. Optimists may say that he merely lost his balance; others suggested that Richardson was disingenuous in his claims. A similar incident ten minutes later towards the home side’s own corner flag did nothing to appease those home fans that felt that the forward went to ground too easily. Shortly afterwards, Shandran twisted and turned on the edge of the box before curling a left footed shot which struck the base of the post and bounced straight back into keeper Norton’s arms. It was a moment of sublime skill and indicative of why Shandran already has thirteen goals to his name this season.

Having weathered this storm, the home side gradually began to assert themselves. With the added pace of Decosomo and Roberts introduced, Bedlington began to look stretched. Boland dinked the ball into Shane Henry’s path and as he surged past two players, Henry shot on the run into the bottom corner to round off an excellent team move. By now, both teams looked stretched and Guisborough were forced to reshuffle when Casey was withdrawn from action with what looked like a pulled groin muscle. I’Anson went close and on several occasions, the ball was flashed across the box without anyone getting on the end of it. Yet the visitors could have left with all three points, but for a stunning one handed save from Jack Norton as he flung himself to his right and prevented a certain goal.

Guisborough have now only lost three times in the last eleven games and this was an assured performance against a strong side. Bedlington have some fine players and their two previous games had yielded strong victories against League leaders Sunderland RCA and one of last season’s front runners, Newcastle Benfield. Last season, Shandran and Richardson (then of Spennymoor) bagged 38 league goals between them. To keep them relatively quiet was significant and the defence looked settled with the return of Lee Bythway, partnering Mark Casey in defence. Shane Henry is coming into form and looking increasingly comfortable with the added pace and vigour of the First Division. Every game in the first division is tough; but we have games in hand and a couple of wins will lift us towards the middle of the table.
The Bedlington supporters were pleasant; in good voice and in good numbers. They even won the raffle prize, despite their consternation at having to take a share of the points. I will look forward to our visit to Northumberland later in the season. Between now and then there are twenty games; a lot of water is to pass under the bridge – be it the Tees or the Wansbeck. How the teams will line up in the league table by that point will be very interesting.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Town must tune in again as Consett force a replay

FA Vase 1st Round Proper

Guisborough Town 4 - 4 Consett (AET)

Guisborough Town 4 – 4 Consett
Cup games are meant to provide goals, near misses, controversy and crowd involvement. This game ticked each of the above boxes and after 120 minutes of pulsating, end to end action, both teams were left to reflect on what might of being, before turning their attentions to a much anticipated midweek rematch.
Guisborough entered the game on the back of a 4-0 home reverse against Whitley Bay in midweek. This was no disgrace; Bay were sharp, incisive and supremely organised and at times they cut through our defence like a hot knife through butter. Despite that, Guisborough’s second half showing was promising. Chances were carved out and on another day the deficit may have been smaller. It was clear to see why Whitley Bay have won the FA Vase three years in a row. The basics are done so effectively and professionally and there was no obvious weakness anywhere on the pitch. When they could find the space, Bay looked to play the ball from the back, but were equally adept at playing the percentages when there was any risk of being dispossessed.

Consett are a good side, but for a number of reasons – not least some injuries to key players – their form going into this game was at best patchy, with just three wins in their last eleven games. It was Guisborough who started the brightest and with a strong wind in their favour, Town did the early pressing. Yet the first goal belonged to the visitors. The home defence dallied too long in possession and the mistake was punished clinically as Michael Mackay skipped past the home defence and the advancing Jack Norton before finishing smartly from an acute angle. In a pattern that was to be played out throughout the rest of the game, Consett’s lead was short-lived. Within just minutes of the restart, Onions clipped a perfect ball through for Shane Henry to slide past the visiting keeper. The game then settled into a pattern, with Guisborough good in possession and Consett looking threatening going forward. With half-time approaching, Consett broke clear down the left and a rasping twenty yard effort thundered into the underside of the crossbar and bounced down on the line. In the absence of a Russian linesman, the goal was not given but Guisborough were slow to react and Marc Walton restored Consett’s lead. Consett manager Kenny Lindoe was perhaps mentally preparing himself for a team talk which centred around preserving their lead in the second half and springing at Guisborough on the break. This all went out of the window when more loose marking allowed the persistent I’Anson to break clear and level the tie on the stroke of half-time.

I am usually extremely reticent to be openly critical about referees. It is a tough job and officials, like players, are bound to make mistakes. However, the referee ‘s performance and manner today put him centre stage. This was a keenly fought contest but there was barely a poor tackle. Despite this, six home players received cautions and both sets of supporters were left baffled at some of the decisions. That said, football is a game of angles. In the first period, Guisborough had a goal chalked off for a handball leading up to Joel Guy’s finish past the visiting keeper. From where I was stood, it looked quite feasible that the ball had struck his arm as he challenged the home goalkeeper. Yet a discussion with neutrals on the other side of the pitch provided an entirely different perspective. “He headed the ball” they said. “His arms were up but the ball never touched them” his friend added. Through a different set of eyes and from an alternative vantage point, the same event took on a totally different perspective. You can see a referee’s dilemma.

Both sides had chances to score in the second period before Michael MacKay restored Consett’s lead in the seventy-seventh minute. Aside from the goal, he was the visitors’ stand-out-player. His speed of movement, darting runs and general awareness posed regular problems. MacKay looked to have won it as he stroked his sixteenth goal of the season past Jack Norton. He took the goal with nonchalant ease.

At this point, Chris Hardy opted to take both Onions and I’Anson off and played McPhillips and Roberts up front. What the two players lack in inches they made up for in pace and against a tiring Consett defence, McPhllips found just enough space on the edge of the box late on and he turned and swivelled to place the ball into the corner and send the game into extra time.

McPhillips was proving to be difficult to live with; he burst clear of the visiting defence again in the first period of extra time to give Guisborough the lead for the first time in the match and had he managed to strike his shot to either side of the goalkeeper just moments later, the game would have been sewn up and McPhillips would have completed a twenty minute hat-trick.

There was an aching sense of inevitability about Consett’s equaliser. In fairness, despite Guisborough’s late surge, Consett merited a replay. Having led three times, Consett may have left thinking about what might have been. Equally, having carved out numerous late chances, it could have been Guisborough picking up a cheque for £900 and looking forward to next week’s draw. After eight goals in one hundred and twenty minutes, the crowd were royally entertained, even if Alan Hansen would not have eulogised about some of the defending on show. Wednesday will determine the fate of the two sides in a replay at Belle Vue Park. You can bet there will be goals and on this showing, quite possibly a lot of them.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Chances sealed as Shields' defence is punctured

South Shields are comparative giants in Northern League football; not necessarily for their exploits on the pitch, as they were positioned only marginally higher than ourselves in the League table prior to today’s game – but because of the size of the population. At around 85,000, South Shields is more populated than Macclesfield, Shrewsbury and even Burnley who were Premier League inhabitants only a couple of years back. Perhaps the moral is that South Shields is a club with potential; slumbering giants of the Tyne and a side that played league football in the early years of the last century. By Northern League standards, South Shields are well supported with crowds just shy of two hundred. They brought a healthy away contingent to the game today on a crisp, clear October afternoon where the calm atmospheric situation made for perfect playing conditions.

In terms of star quality, two names sprung out from the South Shields team sheet as I cast my eyes over it before the game – Davey Southern and Alex Benjamin. At one point, perhaps seven or eight years ago, I remember Southern as the scourge of our visits to Dunston, where he then plied his trade. He was quick, incisive and had great awareness. Southern was one of the leading lights in the Dunston side which dominated the early parts of this decade. Alex Benjamin is renowned for his Northern League goalscoring feats and it was a surprise to me that he left Bedlington in the close season. With these two players as the fulcrum of their side, there was no doubting that the visitors could be very dangerous.

Several years on, Southern’s role at South Shields appears an altogether different one. Rather than haring down the wing, he now plays in a less advanced role. He was nevertheless central to everything that Shields did; he would lay the ball off, switch play, float the ball into gaps and invariably take every free-kick and dead ball, more often than not very effectively. Benjamin is a strong, direct and traditional centre forward and one of the first contributions he made was to stroke the ball with precision into the bottom corner from the penalty spot as South Shields took an early lead. The chief architect in winning the penalty was the fresh-faced Yanis Galas, whose pace was a constant threat.

Despite this early set-back, Guisborough soon settled into a clear pattern of play. The evergreen Willie Boland would pick the ball up from goalkeeper or centre half, draw a challenge and play the ball into a forward or fellow-midfielder’s feet. More often than not, it was to the feet of Luke Bythway who was at his effervescent best. Bythway created panic as he ran at defenders and whilst Shields looked dangerous as they sprung forward at pace, they looked equally as likely to be undone by speed and running themselves. An equaliser soon followed. Bythway swung in a perfect free-kick from the left and Austin Johnson applied a deft headed flick into the roof of the net. The delivery of the free-kick was nigh on perfect; it was almost impossible for the centre half to get in front of and left the hapless (and totally blameless) visiting keeper stranded and exposed to any diversion from either attacker or defender.

Momentum is everything in sport. Capitalising on this momentum is crucial. Before long Guisborough had taken the lead. Brimming with confidence after his hand in the first goal, Bythway embarked on a mazy dribble towards the visiting goal. As defenders backed off, Bythway kept going and as still no real challenge was made as he entered the area, he wrong-footed the keeper to complete a great piece of individual skill. Guisborough soon had a two goal cushion courtesy of an own goal and having fallen behind early on, could not have wished for a better half time scoreline.

Credit here has to go to South Shields; they came out for the second half rejuvenated and for the first ten minutes of the second period they virtually camped in Guisborough’s half. They had more corners than the Pentagon and such was the intensity of pressure, it felt a matter of time before they pulled a goal back. Had they scored, South Shields would very much have had the momentum and may have gone on to secure at least a point from the game. But on several occasions, the ball was scrambled away and shots went narrowly wide. The real turning point was when Goalkeeper Norton somehow spooned the ball over the bar as he flung himself down low, akin to Gordon Banks’ 1970 World Cup save from Pele. At every set-piece Shields looked dangerous and Southern’s free-kicks - floated across on some occasions as though he had used a nine-iron and whipped across at pace at other times – caused serious problems. Yet the home defence stood firm and gradually the early second-half thrust and energy of the visitors petered out. Guisborough’s Onions had the chance to seal it as his relentless running put him through, but his tired effort fell wide.

This was a fiercely competed and enjoyable encounter between two well-matched sides. It’s amazing what a difference a week makes – in the space of two games, we have doubled our points tally with back to back wins. With games in hand, the picture looks brighter. We now have the small task of taking on Whitley Bay on Wednesday night as they travel just a few miles more than Shields from the other side of the Tyne. The talk is that Whitley Bay’s derelict amusement park – The Spanish City – is all set for renovation. Like the infamous Spanish City attractions, Wednesday evening will no doubt throw up lots more twists, turns, thrills and spills.

Monday, September 26, 2011

More reviews of the book...

Fly me to the moon, Middlesbrough's highly acclaimed fanzine describes the book as "delightful", "thoroughly enjoyable" and praises the writen style, noting its "large smattering of wit"

The most recent Northern Ventures magazine (135) also describes the book in similar terms - "beautifully crafted" and "nakedly passionate".

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pipping Penrith...

Saturday 24th September

FA Vase

Penrith Town 0 – 1 Guisborough Town

With green rolling hills framing the ground and the sight of a Buzzard soaring across the picturesque landscape, Penrith’s World Group Stadium is a genuine pleasure to behold. We were warmly welcomed by both the hospitable home officials and the sun which coated the ground in an amber, early Autumn glow. It would be fair to say that Guisborough supporters were made to feel at home and a quirk of the fixtures meant that this was our second visit to the ground in the space of four days. Having won a tight League Cup encounter 4-3 in extra time on the Tuesday, Penrith’s team talk would have been an easy one and the opportunity for revenge in this FA Vase clash was presented to them in super quick time. Yet it was Guisborough who were the fastest out of the blocks and only last-gasp defending and profligate finishing prevented early goals for the visitors.

At all levels of the game, pace frightens defenders and can force errors of both body and mind. Guisborough’s Michael Roberts – who looked as though he would not play this season until the New Year after a badly broken collarbone – demonstrated just what we have missed in the early weeks of the season as he pressured and harried the home defence. It was Roberts’ trickery as he cut inside from the right which opened up and stretched Penrith’s back four. As they moved out to close him down, Roberts played in Shane Henry on the left and his well struck effort nestled in the corner, despite a good effort from the home keeper. With his marker now unaware of just which way he would twist and turn next, Roberts posed further problems and delivered a series of threatening balls into the box.

All football supporters are biased to some degree and I would not exclude myself from these descriptions. Some supporters are totally blinkered and can only see their own strengths and failings and never recognise the good things their opposition have done. With the half-time score at 1-0, several home fans complained at their side’s poor showing. “We’re making them look good” said one elderly spectator as I passed him. “We’re not even doing a good job of that” said his companion. Amused at this exchange, it made me reflect on the previous week’s game against Billingham Synthonia when we had been two goals down at the interval and all of the talk in the clubhouse had revolved around our own mistakes and never the clinical nature of Synthonia’s forward play or finishing.

As last week’s rousing comeback against Synners demonstrated, half-time offers a chance to regroup when you are losing and to refocus any remaining energy. Penrith certainly did this and within ten minutes of the second half they had carved out more chances than in the whole of the first period. Visiting keeper Jack Norton saved well low-down to his left and as the half wore on, Guisborough’s defence and midfield found themselves sucked backwards like the receding tides under the influence of the moon’s gravitational pull. Clearances were finding Penrith players and the ball for long stages was like a proverbial hot potato as nobody could hold onto it for any period of time.

Penrith enjoyed a spell of pressure and had they scored, may well have had the momentum to go on and win the game. Credit must go to the visiting defence who drew the sting from the home attack and the midfield harrying of Johnson, Henry and Luke Bythway forced Penrith into longer balls into the box which either ran into touch or were well dealt with. It increasingly felt as though Penrith’s spell of pressure had come to nothing and the ever-willing Onions, Roberts and Decosemo looked as likely to sneak a second goal on the break as Penrith committed more men forward in search of a goal that would take the two teams into another extra-time period.
This was far from a classic game, but was it was a classic example of how to defend a lead in the cup away from home having scored relatively early on. The margins between the two teams was small, but I reckon that we just about deserved it. But as I said, I am biased…

Of the two cup games, had I been offered one win and asked which one to choose, naturally the FA Vase tie took on greater significance. To win not once but twice was a tremendous effort and sets up a home tie against Consett in a few weeks. For Penrith, to lose twice to the same team in a matter of days is a kick in the teeth. But they need not fret; they have two more opportunities to gain revenge against us in the league. Having thoroughly enjoyed this visit to Penrith’s sleek and professional set up on the edge of the town, I’d be more than happy to return again later in the year.

Like the A66 journey back to Teesside, there is a long road to travel within the competition. Consett, as they themselves have demonstrated already at the King George V ground, will prove to be a stiff challenge.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A fitting tribute...

A fitting tribute

Four seasons in one day was a 1992 hit for Australian Band Crowded House and described Melbourne’s notoriously unpredictable weather. Teesside and Melbourne are perhaps not natural bedfellows, but as the game today began with torrential rain before light clouds and drizzle gave way to dazzling sunshine in the second half, it was almost a case of four seasons in one game.

I was more than a little curious to see how Thornaby’s Teesdale Park had taken shape since my last visit in the spring. After years of problems with vandalism, Thornaby finally appear to be making some headway with their ground which was in urgent need of renovation, repair and renewal. At the top of many football club’s summer shopping lists would be a star striker to boost the goals for column or a new creative midfielder to open up sides and conjure opportunities from nothing. At the top of Thornaby’s wish list was a new perimeter fence. Situated at the end of a long track which is well away from the main road, Teesdale Park has been the victim of repeated acts of violence. Almost as soon as their hard working committee put something new into place, local yobs would be attracted to it like moths to a flame. They would then create their own flames with several fires and acts of graffiti and destruction. One evening (several years ago), Guisborough arrived to find that the pitch had been marked out not only with the regulation white markings but also by the rutted marks of car tyres as some mindless idiots had driven across every square inch of the pitch the previous day, creating the rather curious impression that we were playing on top of a zebra. Perhaps with this context, it is clear to see why the club are determined to push on with ground repairs, more secure in the knowledge that their good work is less likely to be undone now that the problems can be kept out.

As Guisborough arrived for our pre-season friendly, the work that has been done was clear to see. There is now a club house on site, a hospitality room and most significant of all on this occasion, a newly renovated stand which is fittingly dedicated to the memory of Club Secretary Peter Morris, who recently died whilst refereeing a local football match. The opening of the new stand also heralded the start of the first Peter Morris Memorial match between the two sides (and hopefully the first of many).

It is seventy-seven days since I last saw a game between two Northern League sides – Guisborough’s Promotion Party trip to Gilford Park in Carlisle. But like a conversation with a long absent friend, within minutes it felt as though I had never been away. Thornaby’s pitch looked as good as it has for many years and both teams tried to keep the ball on the deck. In a relatively even first half, Guisborough’s possession finally told as Shane Henry carried on from where he left off last year as he poked the ball into the far corner to give us a half-time lead. The second half was more one-sided. Luke Bythway thundered a shot into the bottom corner and Chris I’Anson – after four goals in a half against Washington at the end of last season – added two more here to secure a comfortable 4-0 victory.

David Onions was as threatening and enthusiastic as ever and the muscular Tommy Marron impressed at centre half. The game ended as all pre-season games should do – in bright sunshine. Both teams had reason to feel satisfied. For Guisborough, this was a good work out as we build towards the start of the season and some tough challenges. For Thornaby, the opening of the new stand was a fitting tribute to a man who had done so much for his club.

With the ongoing ground improvements, Thornaby are moving in the right direction and it is no less than their excellent and very welcoming committee deserve. After years of uncertainty, there are hopefully brighter skies ahead.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sales (and reviews) both positive...

The Northern Echo described Far from the massive crowds as 'hugely enjoyable' last weekend. Thanks to all those that have either bought a Print copy or downloaded it via Amazon kindle. All relevant links are provided below...


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Pay by PayPal

Many thanks to SyMpOsIuM on Nonleaguezone for providing me with the knowledge of how to install a PayPal button. The book can now be purchased for £5.99 (+£2 P&P) by clicking on the secure link below!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Ebook is ready...

The print version of Far from the massive crowds is on its way...Watch this space for further details over the coming days.

The ebook is ready and can be downloaded for Kindle (for PC, Ipad, Iphone, Kindle - obviously) by clicking here (from PC):

Or if you are viewing this from your phone/ipad:

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Updates available on Twitter...

Follow FFTMCrowds on Twitter

The book release is imminent...

Far from the Massive Crowds, my season-long account of Guisorough's Northern League journey, is due for release on Monday 5th June 2011.
As well as a print copy (see below), the ebook will also be released on the same day and will be available for Kindle and Kindle apps on Iphone, Ipad and PC.

All of the profits from the book go to Guisborough Town Supporters' Group. These monies will then be invested in the club's infrastructure, bus trips to other grounds and in devising strategies to encourage more people to come to experience the wonderful spectacle that is Non-league football.

The RRP for the book is £7.99, but a special introductory price of £6 is available for people to take advantage of in the next few weeks.

The e-book is likely to be priced slightly cheaper, at just under £5.

Further details to follow in the coming days as things are finalised...