Saturday 30th January 2010

Arnold Town 1 Dinnington Town 2
KoolSport Northern Counties East League Premier Division
At: Eagle Valley
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £5; Programme: £1-20 (36 pages)
Attendance: 87
Weather: sunny, cold
Duration: first-half: 46:42; second-half: 50:00

Two first-half goals provided Dinnington Town with enough of a cushion to withstand a second-half fightback by Arnold Town.

Arnold Town (maroon/maroon/maroon): 1. Lee Broster (capt), 2. Josh Thornton, 3. Kevin Brookes, 4. Martin Carruthers, 5. Tommy Hannigan, 6. Mark Clarke, 7. Mark Parrott, 8. Joe Naylor, 9. Robert Gill, 10. Mark Smith, 11. Luke Smithson. Subs: 12. Chris Freestone (for Naylor, 58), 14. Craig Evans (for Smith, 78), 15. Tyrone Burton (not used).

Dinnington Town (yellow and black stripes / black/ black): 1. Luke Hands, 2. Jon Somerset, 3. Andy Sykes (capt), 4. Ryan O’Carroll, 5. Louis Axcell, 6. Ben Rosser, 7. Rob Ward, 8. Peter Smith, 9. Michael Blythen, 10. Grant Allott, 11. Liam Cartledge. Subs: 12. Sam Dixey (not used), 14. Gary Unwin (not used), 15. Cohn Sanderson (not used).

Referee: G Mellor (Derby).
Assistants: P Dixon and M Hopton.

0-1 Peter Smith (9)
0-2 Liam Cartledge (33)
1-2 Craig Evans (85)

Arnold: Joe Naylor (YC, 31)
Dinnington: Rob Ward (YC, 31), Ryan O’Carroll (YC, 45), Grant Allott (YC, 57), Jon Somerset (YC, 63)

Saturday 23rd January 2010

Barnoldswick Town 0 Stone Dominoes 0
Vodkat League Division 1
At: Silentnight Beds Stadium
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £2; Programme: £1 (40 pages)
Attendance: 105
Weather: Occasional showers
Duration: first-half: 47:57; second-half: 48:28

In a top of the table clash that lived up to its billing, Barnoldswick Town, who started the day in third position, and leaders Stone Dominoes served up a keenly-contested and absorbing game – the only thing lacking was a goal.

Patchy fog was a worry travelling up the M6 but a phone call from Knutsford calmed my nerves. Fog was swirling around the ground I was told but wouldn’t threaten the game.

My route along the M65 from Preston passed close to Padiham and Nelson, then through Colne on the A6068 – three clubs that Barnoldswick have aspirations of facing in the league in the near future. Unexpectedly crossing the border into the West Riding of Yorkshire, I approached the town on the northbound A56, turning left onto the B6383 not long after passing The Old Stone Trough pub. Continuing straight through to a mini roundabout, I ended up having great fun finding the ground as the post code and address related to the old entrance. Thankfully a local amateur rugby league club official in Victory Park pointed me in the right direction via Gisburn Road, past the Fosters Arms pub and right into Greenberfield Lane from where the ground was signposted. Try BB18 5LJ.

I used the new entrance off the car park and past the paybox, the ground ran lengthways. Behind the near goal were the clubhouse, changing rooms, hospitality suite and three small stands. Two contains blue tip-up seats, totally around 72, and the third was a small area of covered terrace. Down the right-hand touchline being the dugouts was a stone-build stand boasting four terrace steps. A further entrance was behind the far goal, aimed a pedestrians entering the ground from Victory Park.

Programmes and lapel badges were available at the paybox. Line-ups were written on a whiteboard and also announced over the tannoy.

The name Barnoldswick Town was adopted as recently as the 2003/04 season following the amalgamation of Barnoldswick United (1972), Barnoldswick Park Rovers and Salterforth Juniors. Last season they finished sixth in the West Lancashire League and, having brought the ground up to the required standard, decided to move up to the Vodkat League Division 1. So far their first season at this level is going to plan and, come May, they could be celebrating another promotion into the Premier Division.

Due to the bad weather, both sides hadn’t played a league game for six weeks since Saturday 12th December. Third-placed Barnoldswick (22 points from 15 games) faced leaders Stone Dominoes (29 points from 15 games) on the back of an impressive run of five straight league and cup victories prior to the enforced winter break. In a bid to get in some match practice, they defeated Padiham 4-1 in a friendly on Tuesday evening.

Visitors Stone were also in good form as well with seven wins from their last eight league and cup games. They emerged from their winter break with a 3-1 win a Brocton on Tuesday to progress into the Staffordshire Vase Fourth Round.

“Change it round boys,” shouted referee Richard Wild following the toss and Stone got the game underway defending the changing rooms end in the first half. I opted for a spot down the side near to the dugouts but soon moved up cover when the first shower commenced.

Raffle tickets quickly came round – 291–195 on the sky blue was my lucky strip. No chance of winning surely? News of the winning tickets later.

Both sides made what could be described as a physical start and the eagle-eyed Mr Wild didn’t hesitate to penalise any stiff tackles.

Despite a few chances during the opening 15 minutes, neither keeper was seriously tested though Barnoldswick’s Billy Carrington needed to get down to smartly save a 10-yard shot from Dan Brown.

Ashely Alderson picked up a cut to the back of his head and, after treatment, he swapped his bloodied ‘8’ shirt for the ‘15’.

News of Burnley’s lunchtime FA Cup exit at Reading was a talking point amongst some fans and meant that “only Accrington Stanley round ‘ere were left in the Cup”.

Danny Roberts was tested around the midpoint of the first half. Liam Blades hit long-range rising drive which the leaping keeper stopped diving to his right and claimed at the second attempt as Neil Chapman pounced.

Brown and Simon Eldershaw combined inside the home area and the latter saw his shot blocked by Carrington.

From first whistle to half-time, there seemed little let up in a fast tempo. “Well done lads, keep it going,” were shouted in encouragement as the Barnoldswick side entered their changing rooms.

As I had before kick-off, I made good use of the ‘Tearoom’ hatch inside the clubhouse – again my tea came in a proper mug! The discussion behind me in the queue centered around the performance of the home side who the fans reckoned had had the better half and created the better chances.

Alderson received more treatment during the interval and came out for the second half with a bandaged head in the fashion of Terry Butcher all those years ago.

With lights on two minutes after the restart, Stone made a bright start and, from Andrew Matthews’ corner, Eldershaw powered a header just wide of the near post.

An error at the back by Stone defender Adam Sloane on the hour was almost punished with a goal. His poor backpass header let in Chapman who fired against the bar.

Into the final 20 minutes and the diving Carrington did well to keep out a swerving shot hit by substitute Anthony Marshall who had replaced Michael Marren moments earlier.

Roberts was twice called into action to keep his side on level terms. He was well-positioned to hold Shaun Clough’s free-kick and did well to hold onto Adam Hayton’s deflected 25-yard shot.

In the end, I think a draw was a fair result and even though the 0-0 was my first in a league game since Boxing Day 2008, I certainly wasn’t disappointed with the action served up on the field.

Stone remained top and the point moved Barnoldwick over Leek CSOB into second spot.

So, an enjoyable day out, friendly welcome, friendly club, game played in a good spirit = recommended!

Barnoldswick Town (yellow/blue/yellow): 1. Billy Carrington, 2. Liam Blades, 3. Shaun Clough, 4. Lewis Jordan, 5. Russell Clarke (capt), 6. Bill Williams, 7. Adam Hayton, 8/15. Ashley Alderson, 9. Stewart Airdrie, 10. Neil Chapman, 11. Chris Clarke. Subs: 12. Daniel Caton (not used), 14. Paul Barrett (for Airdrie, 85), 15. Wayne Morrison (not used), 16. Spencer Jordan (not used), 17. Craig Bradshaw (for Chris Clarke, 85).

Stone Dominoes (red/black/black): 1. Danny Roberts, 2. Steven Brunk, 3. Adam Edwards, 4. Karl Charlton, 5. Matt Bradbury, 6. Adam Sloane, 7. Michael Marren, 8. Niall Maguire (capt), 9. Simon Eldershaw, 10. Dan Brown, 11. Andrew Matthews. Subs: 12. David Shaw (not used), 14. Robbie Malloy (not used), 15. Matt Lowndes (for Eldershaw, 83), 16. Liam McKinney (not used), 17. Anthony Marshall (for Marren, 72).

Referee: Richard Wild (Rochdale).
Assistants: M Pope and C McGill.


Barnoldswick: Clough (YC, 38), Lewis Jordan (YC, 60)
Stone: Niall Maguire (YC, 77)

Saturday 16th January 2010

Barrow Town 2 Heanor Town 3
East Midlands Counties League
At: Riverside Park
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £4 including 24 page programme
Attendance: 120
Weather: cold, dry
Duration: first-half: 47:11; second-half: 48:00

Barrow Town were unlucky to go down by the odd goal in five against a Heanor side which moved to second position with the win. With 20 minutes left, it looked like the home side would gain at least a point with a 2-1 lead until Heanor equalised direct from a corner. The visitors went on to score the winner in front of Riverside Park’s biggest league crowd of the season.

English non-league football was again hit by the weather and in many parts of the country entire league programmes were wiped out. I was resigned to another League game, until the news about my chosen destination was of a noon inspection. No use to me with a three-hour drive. The match was postponed!

Last night I spotted several games not marked with a ‘P’ on the East Midlands Counties League mitoo site and to my delight this morning the updated comment for Barrow Town read ‘10.35am MATCH ON - KO 3pm”.

Barrow Town are based at Barrow upon Soar, Leicestershire, a few miles south-east of Loughborough. The ground proved easy to find immediately north of the A6 Barrow/Quorn bypass and down a track leading from Quorn Hall Lodge. Travelling east on the A6, there was an exit signed ‘Barrow-on-Soar Quorn’ and a brown sign for ‘Marinas’. At the roundabout, it was right towards Barrow and the ground drive was signed 200 yards on the right. I can’t think of any other ground off the top of my head that has a cattle grid at the entrance to the car park!

The ‘Riverside Review’ was available at the paybox and included a potted history of football in the village. Present-day Barrow Town were founded at the beginning of the last century as Barrow Old Boys and moved to Riverside Park sometime around 1970. ‘Old Boys’ changed to ‘Town’ in1981. The club enjoyed continuous membership of the Leicestershire Senior League from the end of the War until the formation of the East Midlands Counties League at the beginning of last season. They captured the Senior League Division 1 title in 1992/93 and finished Premier Division runners-up on three occasions since.

The main pitch ran widthways through the entrance off the car park. A decent clubhouse and changing room block was right of the entrance with a ‘Burger Bar’ hatch facing the pitch. Over on the far side, as well as the dugouts, were three stands. The middle one, containing 50 red seats and dedicated to the memory of Rob Burton (1966–2005), was positioned on half-way next to an equally modern area of covered terrace. The third stand, the oldest of the three, provided further covered shelter. Hard standing ran all round the pitch perimeter which was enclosed by a red rail supported by white posts. Beyond the far hedge was a large playing field including a further two full-sized pitches.

Barrow Town (14th position with 20 points from 19 games) had an advantage over their visitors by playing two games since the cold snap arrived. Heanor (3rd position with 39 points from 19 games), on the other hand, hadn’t played for five weeks since December 12th.

Teams turned round after the toss and Heanor got the game underway attacking the bypass end in the first half.

Perhaps looking to take advantage of any rustiness in the Heanor defence, Barrow created three decent chances. Sam Ogzivovic beat away a well-struck effort from Matt Lichfield in the second minute.

However, it was Heanor who took an 11th minute lead. Put clear down the left, Dan Williams rode the challenge of the advancing Barrow keeper Tommy Allen and slotted home into an unguarded net.

Barrow equalised in the 20th minute. Stuart Wilson latched onto a long clearance from Allen, got clear of the Heanor defence and fired past the advancing Ogrizovic into the far bottom-right corner.

The visitors quickly responded and Allen did well to palm Danny Bainbridge’s rising shot over the bar.

But poor defending by Heanor in the 24th minute allowed Barrow to take the lead. They failed to deal with Adam Beazeley’s corner, resulting from Ogrizovic’s diving save, and Lee Dawson hooked the ball home at close range.

Play was certainly end to end and from Allen’s poor punch of Gary Webster’s corner both Williams and Graham Wells saw shot blocked.

Fans either headed for the bar or burger bar queue at half-time. I joined the latter and spotted soup and a roll on the menu. “What flavour is the soup?” I enquired and when a reply of “vegetable” came back, it was soup and roll at £1 for me. Delicious! Recommended!

Barrow could have extended their lead on the hour. Ade Adelukan dribbled into the area and fed Dawson who saw his shot blocked by the legs of Ogrizovic.

Heanor almost equalised when Williams’ header was cleared off the line by substitute Dave Hollis. The visitors did get back on level terms in the 71st minute. Wells swung in a right-wing corner which flew straight into the far side of the net via the fingertips of the leaping Allen.

“About 12,” said the assistant near me after Ogrizovic enquired how long remained, and a minute later Heanor scored what proved to be the winner. In a populated area, Williams flicked on a right-wing cross for Jaylee Hodgson to hook home at close range.

“Everybody pick up a man,” was the instruction as Barrow threw men forward in a bid to snatch a draw, and they almost did. Dawson drove the ball across the face of goal to the far post where unchallenged Lichfield couldn’t apply the finishing touch. “Boy’s that’s a let off,” as Barrow were so close to scoring.

Before heading home, I popped into the bar and spotted a list of club merchandise, including enamel badges priced £2-50.

There was time to chat with a club official from Heanor, pleased with the win, who promised me a warm welcome at their ground. It must be 22+ years since I visited The Town Ground, so a return trip one Tuesday night in the future will be on the agenda.

I left with pleasant memories of the day and wouldn’t complain at all about a return trip to Barrow Town either.

Barrow Town (red and white stripes / black / black): 1. Tommy Allen, 2. Aaron Dignum, 3. Jason Munn, 4. Phil Garner, 5. Matt Lichfield, 6. Adam Beazeley, 7. Marrekomi Chilipula, 8. Neil Stringfellow (capt), 9. Lee Dawson, 10. Stuart Wilson, 11. Ade Adelukan. Subs: 12. Scott Maclennan (for Chilipula, ht), 14. Dave Hollis (for Dignum, 42), 15gk. Adam Hall (not sued), 16. Stephen Hugo (for Beazeley, 78), 17. Rich Burford (not used).

Heanor Town (white with black sleeves / white / white): 1. Sam Ogrizovic, 2. Dean Randall, 3. Phil Austin, 4. Danny Bainbridge, 5. Michael Norbury, 6. Adam Kay, 7. Gary Webster (capt), 8. Ashley Grayson, 9. Dan Williams, 10. Lee Hodgson, 11. Graham Wells. Subs: 12. Callum Mason (not used), 14. Aled Biggs (for Wells, 90+1), 15. George Walker (for Williams, 82), 16. Gerard Moran (not used), 17. Craig Hopkins (not used).

Referee: Adrian Seward (Sutton-in-Ashfield).
Assistants: R Freakley and A Howson.

0-1 Dan Williams (11)
1-1 Stuart Wilson (20)
2-1 Lee Dawson (24)
2-2 Graham Wells (71)
2-3 Lee Hodgson (80)

Barrow: none
Heanor: none

Saturday 9th January 2010

Coventry City 3 Barnsley 1
Coca-Cola Championship
At: Ricoh Arena
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £25; Programme: £3
Attendance: 15031
Weather: very cold, clear sky
Duration: first-half: 47:23; second-half: 51:11

I was pleased to find a game that was on, especially at the stadium I hadn’t previously visited!

After days and days of sub-zero temperatures and snow blanketing the whole country, it had become clear by Thursday that the most of today’s professional and non-league programme would be wiped out.

When leagues like the Wessex, Sussex County, Midland Combination and Hellenic called off their entire programme, it fast became clear that my choice would be a League game or an afternoon in front of the TV. Coventry City, with undersoil heating, were very positive about their game going ahead so I decided to book a seat online for collection at the stadium.

By their own admission, Coventry didn’t play well and were fortunate to bag all three points against a decent Barnsley side. The Sky Blues scored twice in three minutes against the run of play just after the midpoint of the first half and secured the win with a late third after Barnsley reduced the deficit soon after the restart.

The M6 was very quiet for a Saturday lunchtime all the way down to junction 3 and the Ricoh Arena, visible from the motorway, was just over a mile south on the A444 towards the city centre – not as close as Bolton but very convenient just the same. I’d printed off a map of ‘park and walk’ stations and opted for Car Park 1 (Christ the King) on Wheelhouse Lane off Winding House Lane, at a cost of £5.

On the way down, it was mentioned on the radio that today was probably the worst Saturday for postponements since 27th January 1995 – I failed to find a match that day by the way.

I found the Ricoh Arena an impressive stadium with a single tier stand of some 48 rows of sky blue seats running round three sides of the ground. The exterior of the west side of the stadium was different with a large exhibition centre and casino. The stand in front, aka main stand or telent Stand, had two tiers with a narrower upper tier, and this side of the ground also featured press facilities and hospitality boxes. One continuous level roof covered all four sides of the Ricoh Arena.

One thing I observed in the corridors underneath the stand was that the refreshment outlets were all cashless. Fans pay with smart cards which can be topped up – I only I’d found out in advance how the system worked then I’d have obtained a card and had my much-desired hot drink. I remember reading that Bayern Munch’s Allianz Arena also uses a similar system.

Just two places and two points separated Coventry (17th with 28 points from 24 games) and Barnsley (15th with 30 points from 22 games) in the Coca-Cola Championship table. The visitors arrived at the Ricoh Arena on the back of an eight-match unbeaten run in the league stretching back to the end of October. Coventry had won three of their last four league games, losing their last league game 2-0 at promotion-chasing Nottingham Forest.

The odd snow flake started to fall around 2-30 pm but didn’t come to anything. Teams were first announced and displayed 16 minutes before kick-off and some pre-match entertainment came in the shape of seven cheerleaders who performed a routine in the centre circle. The announcer also thanks the fans for making the effort through the snow and ice to get to the game.

“Welcome to the Ricoh Arena, home of the Sky Blues,” said the announcer around the time the teams emerged. The reading of each name in the Coventry line-up was greeted with an enthusiastic cheers from the home fans.

Teams turned around after the toss and Coventry got the game underway attacking the end fans housing their fans in the Coventry Evening Telegraph Stand.

Most of the early action was down the end furthest from me in front of the Jewson Stand as Barnsley made the better start. Bobby Hassell’s header forced a save out of Kieran Westwood and Stephen Foster later headed against the bar.

Coventry survived and, from their first corner, Leon Best fired over.

On the back of the programme, I’d noticed as ‘Lucky Kick Challenge No.’ and around the 20-minute mark came the announcement of the five lucky winners. The closest number to mine was 3386 though I felt that the winners would have to do something at half-time to claim a prize. As for what I don’t know and I headed for the warm of the corridors at the interval.

Returning to the action and Coventry took the lead against the run of play in the 24th minute. Stephen Wright crossed deep from the right to the far post where Freddie Eastwood headed home.

The Sky Blues made it 2-0 three minutes later. Michael McIndoe’s corner was headed out to Sammy Clingan volleyed home from 15 yards out.

Barnsley reduced the deficit in the 49th minute as half-time substitute Adam Hamill made an immediate impact. He delivered the cross from the right which unchallenged Jonathan Macken who headed past Westwood at close range.

Three goals and all in the goal nearest to me – good choice of seat!

Hamill and another sub Iain Hulme both went close to netting a Barnsley equaliser.

An injury-time third goal sealed the win for the Sky Blues and lifted them above Barnsley into 14th position. Luke Steele palmed away Clinton Morrison’s initial shot and Morrison headed home when the ball was hooked back into the area.

Game over and the scoreboard encouraged fans to ‘Let’s all sign together’, which quite a few did!

In the end Coventry’s game was one of just nine Premier League and Football League games played over the weekend. Just one non-league game in England went ahead – St Stephens Borough 2 Edgcumbe 3 in the Cornish Guardian East Cornwall League Division One.

Sportbox Stats

BBC Highlights

1-0 Freddie Eastwood (24)
2-0 Sammy Clingan (27)
2-1 Jonathan Macken (49)
3-1 Clinton Morrison (90+2)

Coventry: none
Barnsley: Bobby Hassall (YC, 39), Ryan Shotton (YC, 62), Carl Dickinson (YC, 90+1)

Saturday 2nd January 2010

Bolton Wanderers 4 Lincoln City 0
FA Cup sponsored by E.ON Third Round
At: Reebok Stadium
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £16; Programme: £1 (32 pages)
Attendance: 11193
Weather: cold, clear sky
Duration: first-half: 46:25; second-half: 48:10

Bolton Wanderers began the post-Megson era by easing into the Fourth Round of the Cup with four unanswered second-half goals against plucky Lincoln City. After an even first half, it was two goals scored within the space of a minute, soon after the restart, that turned the tie dramatically in favour of The Trotters.

On a third consecutive Saturday when most non-league games in the North and Midlands were off, it again proved difficult to find a game that was definitely on. With options running out and only Ascot United a definite (three hours drive away though), an FA Cup tie at either Bolton Wanderers or Wigan Athletic seemed the safest option to guarantee some afternoon action. I’d not previously been to either the Reebok Stadium or the DW Stadium and opted for the former because it was the easiest to access from the motorway.

The Bolton game had a tenuous link with the Second Qualifying Round tie I’d seen back in September. Had Bardon Hill Sports kept their run going to the Third Round then they’d have been the opponents today. Sports were knocked out by Northwich Victoria in the Third Qualifying Round who in turn were knocked out in the Second Round by Lincoln.

Blizzards through Cheshire up the M6 made me think about turning round at the Holmes Chapel junction and head back to the Britannia Stadium instead. News, however, of the problems the York City team coach was having on the M62 persuaded me to carry on even though Lincoln were reportedly having similar problems themselves.

The impressive Reebok Stadium, Bolton’s home since 1997 after they left Burnden Park, proved to be unmissable close to M61 junction 6. Access was excellent and a parking spot in the huge car park was 300 yards from the ground, even if it did cost me the £6. I was off the motorway and parked up with hardly a queue of traffic, then again this was 75 minutes before kick-off.

The Reebok design is unlike any other of the new stadiums in that each stand had a rectangular lower tier and semi-circular upper tier. Four floodlight pylons rose from each corner from the stand roof. Home fans had three sides of the ground – Nat Lofthouse (East) Stand, North Stand and West Stand – with those from Lincoln occupying the lower tier and part of the upper tier of the South Stand.

I’m not sure what the norm is for a Premier League game but cash admission was taken at certain turnstiles – £16 down the side and £13 behind the goal. I opted for the Nat Lofthouse Stand and got a decent unobstructed view from Row S in line with the penalty area attacked by Bolton in the second half.

Following the sacking of Gary Megson on Wednesday, managerless Bolton went into the game in 18th position in the 20-team Barclays Premier League with 18 points from 18 games. Though occupying a relegation spot, they did have two games in hand on most of the teams immediately above and below them. Bolton were unbeaten in their last four games in a run which included a win and three draws.

Visitors Lincoln were third from bottom in Coca-Cola League Two in 22nd position (90th in the professional game pyramid) with, like Bolton, an average of one point per game from 22 league games.

When the teams were announced, there was a sense of disappointment that former Stafford Rangers loanee Chris Basham wasn’t in the squad. He’d featured in the recent games against West Ham and Burnley.

Bolton got the game underway attacking the South Stand (away end) in the first half. After surviving an early scare, they enjoyed a lot of possession without seriously troubling Lincoln keeper Robert Burch. After the half-hour mark, the Lincoln fans got excited when Chris Herd fired straight at Ali Al Habsi.

Just before the break, Chung-Yong Lee’s corner was hit too deep and signalled an early exodus to the refreshment queues.

With minimal cloud cover, it was certainly getting cold by the interval, a bit teeth-clatteringly cold actually, so I headed for the relative warmth of the corridor beneath the stand. I thought that if Bolton were going avoid a cup shock, they would need to score in the goal nearest to me.

Score the Trotters did just 195 seconds after the restart with a goal that was tough luck on the visitors. Matt Taylor’s cross took a deflection of defender Moses Swaibu and ended up in the net.

The Lincoln fans behind the far goal were stunned to silence 53 seconds later as Bolton doubled their lead. A nice move down the left was finished by unmarked Lee who fired home from 15 yards out.

Lincoln didn’t roll over and created several decent chances. The flying Al Habsi produced a superb save in the 71st minute to turn round a well-struck effort from Herd.

Bolton added a third goal in the 83rd minute. Kevin Davies crossed towards the far left post where Gary Cahill headed into the top right-hand corner from six yards out.

Game over and home fans started to make an early exit, content their side had booked a place in the Fourth Round. I wonder what they thought about the loud cheer they heard when three sides of the Reebok celebrated a fourth goal in the second minute of stoppage time. Substitute Tamir Cohen pulled the ball back for Mark Davies to sidefoot home at close range.

The home fans chanted “we want five” but there was no time left for another goal.

“Attendance at the Reebok Stadium 11,193.”

Sportbox stats

1-0 Moses Swaibu (49 og)
2-0 Chung-Yong Lee (50)
3-0 Gary Cahill (83)
4-0 Mark Davies (90+2)

Friday 1st January 2010

The New Saints 4 Technogroup Welshpool Town 0
Principality Building Society Welsh Premier League
At: The Venue at Park Hall, Burma Road
Kick-off: 2-30 pm
Admission: £7-50; Programme: £2 (32 pages)
Attendance: 395
Weather: cold, snow during first half
Duration: first-half: 45:52; second-half: 46:30

With leaders Llanelli not in action until tomorrow, The New Saints moved back to the top of the table with a comfortable win over local rivals Technogroup Welshpool. They held a single goal advantage at the interval and made sure of the points with a second-half hat-trick from Alex Darlington.

I’d always got The New Saints’ 3G pitch up my sleeve for a rainy day (or should that be freezing day) and headed to Park Hall after I found out that Cammell Laird’s game was off.

Early this morning, there were positive noises about Laird’s home game with Kidsgrove on their website ( “Barring any sort of biblical downpours or sudden frosts the game today against Kidsgrove should take place with no problems.”

Then came the bad news around 11-15 am: “Our initial enthusiasm about today's game was misplaced as the match against Kidsgrove has been called off.”

So off I headed along the M54 and up the A5 to the Oswestry bypass. I took the A495 towards Whitchurch and signed ‘Park Hall Countryside Experience’. Burma Road was on the left after 400 yards immediately after the BT building. The ground itself and car park were easily spotted up Burma Road on the right.

The New Saints of Oswestry Town & Llansantffraid Football Club, the given them their official title, was the result of a merger in 2003 between two clubs based eight miles apart. Oswestry Town FC was originally formed in 1860 and reformed during the mid 1990s after folding the late 1980s. I remember visited their old Victoria Road ground a few times before it was redeveloped for housing. I also visited Llansantffraid FC (founded in 1959) once at the Recreation Ground in the village of Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain. Llansantffraid FC, of course, came to prominence as Total Network Solutions.

The entrance was round to the left of ‘The Venue’ leisure complex next to the stadium and through the turnstile the pitch ran lengthways. Enclosed by a green wire mesh fence on three sides, it was an artificial 3G surface with two stands down the right hand side in front of ‘The Venue’. The first one contained seven rows of uncovered red individual tip-up seats while the far stand had six rows of the same style of seats with a roof. Also down that side, there was an elevated viewing position reserved for press and sponsors, etc. Dugouts were on the opposite touchline either side of the halfway line.

Snow was piled up around the pitch and a lot of effort had been needed to clear the ‘white stuff’ off the surface so the game could go ahead. It led to the place having a particularly Scandinavian feel about it. The tannoy man thanked all the volunteers for their help and I, for one, was appreciative of their efforts. Teams were also announced as well just before kick-off.

Toilets and another refreshments bar were inside ‘The Venue’ building and I needed my hand stamped to prove I’d paid admission money for the football before getting access to this area, which was frequented by the general non-football public as well.

Before kick-off, I’d spotted ‘Leatherhead Pete’ in the covered stand and spent the game in his company. I also made use of the white refreshments van next to the entrance. 50:50 draw tickets were on sale. Naturally, I had to have a go and my ticket, 385, wasn’t too far away from the winning ticket 411.

The New Saints (38 points from 17 games) went into the game in second position, a point behind leaders Llanelli who had also played 17 games. They had an unbeaten home record and only lost once away in the league at Bangor City towards the end of August.

The 2009/10 season is a peculiar one for Technogroup Welshpool as they will be relegated back to the Cymru Alliance regardless of where they finish in the table come the end of April. They decided not to apply for the new FAW domestic licence which will be required by all Welsh Premier League clubs from the start of next season. Welshpool went into this game at Park Hall in 15th position with 12 points from 16 games.

Technogroup Welshpool got the game underway attacking the turnstile end in the first half, or going from right to left in relation to my position in the stand.

It took The New Saints eight minutes to take the lead in a dominant start. Craig Williams fired into the top-right corner from the edge of the area. Snow began to fall steadily during the first half and actually led to a rise in temperature on a really cold afternoon. Surprisingly they didn’t add to their tally before the interval with such a dominant performance.

At half-time we relocated to the other stand, nearest to the goal that The New Saints were attacking during the second half. The home side continued to dominate and Williams twice hit the post within the space of two minutes early in the second half.

A mistake led to The New Saints doubling their lead in the 69th minute when Alex Darlington fired home at close range.

Darlington scored his second and The New Saints’ third goal eight minutes later. Poor defending allowed substitute Chris Seargeant to set up Darlington who beat Welshpool keeper Danny Jones with another close-range shot.

With the points in the bag and The New Saints heading back to the top of the table, Darlington completed his hat-trick in the 85th minute. A neat passing move sliced open the Welshpool defence and Darlington scored with a low shot from the right.

The New Saints (green and white hoops / white / white): 1. Paul Harrison, 2. Danny Holmes, 3. Chris Marriott, 4. Tommy Holmes, 5. Steve Evans (capt), 6. Barry Hogan, 7. Scott Ruscoe, 8. Aeron Edwards, 9. Alex Darlington, 10. Craig Jones, 11. Craig Williams. Subs: 12. Matthew Berkeley (for Jones, 81), 14. Chris Seargeant (for Edwards, 67), 15. Jamie Wood (for Williams, 67).

Technogroup Welshpool Town (blue/blue/blue): 1. Danny Jones, 2.George Hughes (capt), 3. John Boardman, 4. Max Peate, 5. Arran Pritchard, 6. Martyn Beattie, 7. Gareth Williams, 8. Richard Harris, 9. Mike Cronshaw, 10. Peter Doran, 11. Steff Edwards. Subs: 12. Joe Price (for Boardman, ht), 14. Mark Bloom (not used), 15. James Watkin (not used).

Referee: Mike Jones (Gwersyilt).
Assistants: John Swindley and Alan Alexander.
Fourth Official: Ian Evans.

1-0 Craig Williams (8)
2-0 Alex Darlington (69)
3-0 Alex Darlington (77)
4-0 Alex Darlington (85)

The New Saints: Aeron Edwards (YC, 58).
Technogroup Welshpool: Peter Doran (YC, 49), Joe Price (YC, 59).

S4/C Sgorio Highlights