Blog Archives

Team of the Week 9th February

A day later than normal, its time for this week’s team of the week awards, featuring a well earned replay, a hard earned win and a superbly earned draw. Read the rest of this entry

Team of the Week 25th January

Step Five is the focus in this week’s awards, with all three selections playing five levels below the football league. Read the rest of this entry

Superb Southport Prolong Bromley’s Bleak Midwinter

The clock has just ticked past 18 minutes when Adam Blakeman’s deftly weighted free-kick is glanced in by the head of Andy Wright. Southport’s revival under new boss Dino Maamria seems set to continue. After three wins in their previous four league games, it’s another 1-0 lead for the side who are the league’s lowest scorers, going into this Christmas clash. But after two 1-0 wins in their previous four league games, this does not play out as the tight, tense affair those gathered on Haig Avenue are expecting. Amidst a torrent of miserable Merseyside rain, we witness a stunning goal-fest, awash with skill, slip-ups and a touch of controversy. Here’s how it all went down…

I eat at A Great Little Place, a cafė in the heart of the charming town centre. And it does live up to the name. The vibe is attractive and pleasant, without being hipster or overly cutesy. But it’s the food where this place really excels. I go for an amazing chestnut and wild mushroom soup and a very nice bacon & brie panini. It’s hearty fare for a chilly Christmas afternoon – and combined with the handy location just a stone’s throw from Southport railway station, I’d have no hesitation in recommending it – though if a cosy cafė isn’t your thing, then there’s a huge range of good places to eat and drink in Southport.

A delicious bite to eat at one of Southport's best-loved cafés.

A delicious bite to eat at one of Southport’s best-loved cafés.

Whilst a lot of England’s seaside towns have been declining amidst waves of dilapidation, social issues and unemployment for several decades, Southport has been one of the few to buck that unhappy trend. The architecture along the grand Lord Street is stunning. The town is upmarket, leafy and filled with attractions – from air shows to water parks and, erm, a lawnmower museum. And after a wander through its grand central streets, I’m whisked away to the home of its finest institution – Southport F.C. – by a very prompt and equally racist taxi driver…

Southport's impressive town centre.

Southport’s impressive town centre.

I head into the sanctuary of The Grandstand Lounge, a bar within the ground, just along from the terraces of the ground’s Grandstand. There’s nothing particularly special about it – all sixth-form style tables, pints of Mild (I go for a Chestnut Dark Mild, which is quite nice) and hastily-added tinsel. But it’s a friendly place for fans to congregate, with football on the TV and fans discussing the upturn in form of Dino Maamria’s side.

Esteemed company: pennants from several visiting Football League sides.

Esteemed company: pennants from several visiting Football League sides.

I chat briefly to three chaps in Southport kits, to get a feel for their verdict on the Sandgrounders’ season thus far. As is usual at Non-League grounds, people are friendly and happy to chat. “Our season’s been as usual, as well as could be expected [for a part-time team]”, one gent tells me. “It’s now 7 managers in 2 ½ years, there’s no continuity”, another grumbles. But they all concur that there seems to be a new-manager bounce under ex-Southport player Dino Maaria. Two predict a draw, the other a narrow win.

I thank them, and flick through this game’s issue of club program The Sandgrounder. It’s glossy, (fairly) well-written and includes one or two unique, slightly quirky features. The content is better than average for programmes at this level, but at £3, it feels a bit steep at a level of football where avoiding the overpriced trappings of the Football League is considered one of the main attractions.

The Merseyrail Community Stadium – better known as Haig Avenue – has stood in this corner of east Southport since 1905. Whilst it does have a sense of character and history, it’s also pretty much the archetypal old National League ground. There’s one big seated stand, the Grandstand (housing 1,840 fans), one large covered home terrace behind one goal (the Jack Carr Terrace), and smaller, uncovered terracing around the rest of the ground. The capacity is just over 6,000 in total – though the crowds usually just creep into four figures. Today, just 751 of us have braved the rain. But those who stayed at home may soon be regretting their choice…

Today’s game starts at a frenetic pace, and the Santa-hatted away fans briefly think their side has snatched an early opener, when Steve Pinau fires a fierce shot with just 92 seconds on the clock. The ball, though, lands in the side netting. And there are chances at both ends. Jamie Allen hits a smart, flicked effort from Paul Rutherford’s cross, but his effort is smartly caught by Ravens ‘keeper Chris Kettings. But it’s a brief reprieve for the Bromley stopper. Just five minutes later, Andy Wright nods home from Blakeman’s free-kick, and the home side have the lead. Can beleaguered Bromley – after four defeats on the spin – muster a response?

Southport build from the back in a breathless first-half.

Southport build from the back in a breathless first-half.

After Frenchman Steve Pinau heads a promising opportunity over the bar just before the half-hour mark, it looks like this might not be Bromley’s day. But in the 36th minute, the capital club draw level. After good build-up play on the wing, the ball reaches Lee Minshull, whose hard, low shot squirms under the outstretched arm of Southport ‘keeper Max Crocombe. The young New Zealander looks on in despair as Minshull wheels away, and within ten minutes, that frustration is compounded.

Whilst Paul Rutherford’s rasping effort beats a stranded Kettings – but flies wide – at one end, with the scores locked at 1-1, Bromley grasp their opportunity when it arrives, in the 45th minute. Joe Anderson’s whipped-in corner is defended haplessly, allowing Rob Swaine to nod home from close range. Southport’s pre-Maaria frailties seem to have returned to the surface, but only for an instant. The first-half drama is far from over.

In the first minute of first-half stoppage time, just 79 seconds after Bromley take the lead, parity is restored in dramatic fashion. Southport’s number #11, Gary Jones picks the ball up in space and unleashes a long-range rocket, which rockets into the back of the Bromley net. It’s a fantastic crescendo to an exciting half, and those gathered file out of the Grandstand to grab a hot drink and catch our breath.

As the second half begins, the intensity shows no sign of letting up. And neither, for that matter, do the goals. Perhaps the best of the lot comes in the 47th minute, as Southport’s speedy turnaround sees them lead for the second time in the game. A fantastic, slick, quick, passing move reaches the lively Paul Rutherford, whose cross is delivered at an awkward height for the Bromley back line, but lands perfectly for Mike Phenix. The Barnsley loanee finishes the move off with immense composure, as scenes of stunned delight play out on the bouncing rows of the Jack Carr terrace.

In the 59th minute, the home side double their lead, when a clumsy challenge rightly results in a Southport penalty. Ex-Hyde United man Louis Almond steps up to calmly convert the spot kick for his 7th of the season, and Bromley are increasingly being run ragged. And Jamie Allen joins in the fun on 75 minutes, finishing superbly into the Bromley net after a lovely run. Maaria’s troops have the Haig Avenue faithful in dreamland.

Ex-Dover defender Sean Francis reduces the arrears to two a couple of minutes later, but Simon Bennett waves away a Bromley penalty claim – seemingly wrongly – and Max Crocombe makes a few smart saves, meaning that the closing stages never get too nervy for Southport. The home side get the points, the plaudits and probably immense confidence, after tearing their unwanted record as the league’s lowest scorers to ribbons. It’s been quite an afternoon.

The exterior of the grandstand, advertising today's clash.

The exterior of the grandstand, advertising today’s clash.

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Under the League Interviews…Carl Piergianni

It was no surprise when Carl Piergianni was named Boston United’s Player of the Year at the end of the last campaign, and it was a given that his face yet again adorned the National League North’s ‘Team of the Year’. A tough, talented and combative force at the heart of ‘The Pilgrims’ defence, Piergianni is as articulate, measured and likeable off the pitch as he is solid and skilful on it.

We discuss everything from Carl’s early memories as a Peterborough United fan, to learning the ropes in the Northern Premier League with Spalding United, a brief appearance for the first-team of his boyhood heroes, the experience of relegation at Corby Town…and much more. With Boston pushing for promotion again this season, there’s no better time to hear from one of the division’s hottest prospects.

DB: You’re a Peterborough lad, and spent your youth career with the POSH. What are your memories of supporting the POSH growing up, and what do you remember about being a young player at the club?

CP: I have really good memories of supporting the club as a youngster. One of the first games I remember going to was when Peterborough played Darlington at Wembley in the playoff final [in 2000]. They won 1-0 and Andy Clarke scored the winner and that was one of many great memories of being a Peterborough fan growing up.

Being a youth team player at Peterborough United was great as well. To be named Captain during that time was a great honour and then to get offered a pro contract – at my hometown club – was fantastic. It was exactly what I’d always dreamt of.

A youthful Carl during his Peterborough days.

A youthful Carl during his Peterborough days.

DB: Despite coming through the ranks at London Road, your first taste of senior football came 20 miles north at Lincolnshire club Spalding United. Were you keen on heading out on loan to play mens football? And was it tough to adapt to the physicality of the Northern Premier League, as a young player?

CP: I was very keen to go out on loan, personally. The advice I’d give to any young player now is that it’s vital to go out and get experience of playing in mens football, as early as possible.

Doing so made me the player I am today. I became a lot stronger, a lot more physical – so I definitely recommend going out and playing first-team games, rather than sitting on the bench or player under-21 matches.

I enjoyed the toughness of the NPL. I’m quite a physical player and don’t mind getting stuck in. It was important to learn how to use my body in those kinds of games, and also to adapt to a game which actually meant something.

When you play in reserve games, obviously you want to win, but it doesn’t really mean anything. However, when you go into a club like Spalding and it’s a proper first-team game, the 3 points are vital and the team were trying to survive relegation [from the NPL Division One South]. You quickly learnt that both performances and results really meant something.

DB: In 2010 you had your first taste of the Football League back at Peterborough, but it was just a single game. What are your memories of that sub appearance against Rochdale? And do you feel you deserved more first-team opportunities at London Road?

CP: At the time, I don’t think I was ready to be starting games for Peterborough. I wasn’t quite good enough at the time, and I was only a young lad – so I don’t hold a grudge against anybody at the club. There were much better players there than I was at that point. Peterborough were challenging to try and get up into the Championship, so it was difficult for me to get a game.

With a debut, people always say ‘it’ll happen when you least expect it’. And I remember just being sat on the bench, and [then manager] Gary Johnson suddenly just told me I was going on. So I was suddenly just standing on the sideline, my knees shaking, and just waiting to go on!

DB: You joined Altrincham on loan later that season, in early 2011. The club’s awful start to that season meant they ended up relegated from the Conference Premier, but you were a regular fixture in the side, as results improved. So was Alty an experience you enjoyed or not?

CP: Very much so. Altrincham’s a great club. As you said, they had such a bad start to the year that it was hard for them to claw their way back up the table. There was a big gap of points between them and safety at one point, but during the time I was there Alty won a fair percentage of the games we were involved in, so it was actually a period I really enjoyed.

Credit to Altrincham, they’re back in the National League now and as with Spalding, I felt it was a club which did a lot to help develop my career. The players there were a very close, tight-knit group. Robbie Williams at the back, Sean Densmore (who’s now Alty captain) at full-back, and Damien Reeves – they were really good players, and everyone there ensured I loved my time at Altrincham. There were no cliques in the changing room, which was great – everyone at the club just got along really well.

DB: Aged 19, you moved to my local club – Stockport County! You played in almost every game that season, as the club stabilized themselves in the Conference Premier. But you had three different gaffers in that one season – Dietmar Hamann, Willie McStay and Jim Gannon. How did they all compare?

CP: That was an interesting experience. Dietmar Hamann and Jim Gannon were polar opposites. Willie was the assistant under Didi Hamann, so he was familiar to us already, and his management style was similar to Didi’s.

Didi had a more relaxed approach than Jim Gannon did. He’d change the team a lot, go with different tactical approaches and was very keen on rotating the squad. He was a lot more laid-back in training and gave the players free-reign to play as they wanted to. Jim was at the opposite end of the spectrum. He knew exactly what tactics he wanted to employ in every part of the game, and stuck to a certain way of playing. So, two deeply contrasting managers!

Carl in action during his season at Edgeley Park.

Carl in action during his season at Edgeley Park.

DB: At County, you scored your first league goals in senior football, getting four in total. What do you remember about your first two, both scored in an exciting 3-3 home draw against Hayes and Yeading United.

CP: I just had a bit of luck and managed to score two! (*Laughs*). The first one just came to my feet and I slotted it in. As for the second, I just remember being completely surprised after scoring again! Sadly I didn’t have a celebration planned, I think I just raised a finger into the air and ran off.

DB: You moved to Corby Town in October 2012 after just over 12 months at Stockport. You helped the side to some excellent results in that early period, and scored 4 goals in your first 5 games! Why do you think you fit into that side so well? And what caused your sudden goal rush?

CP: I always thought I was a threat from set-pieces, and having moved down a league, where the defensive marking wasn’t always as good, I found it a bit easier to get goals than I did in the Conference Prem.

I also had the benefit of a giant centre-half next to me in Paul Malone, so their biggest player would always be marking him and it’d give me a chance to go up against someone a bit smaller! I managed to get on the end of balls quite a lot, and luckily a few of them went in.

DB: Corby were extremely unlucky to be relegated that season, going down on Goal Difference – and just by a solitary goal – below Histon. As a player, how do you cope with that kind of a setback? And did the club’s drop to the Southern Premier League influence your decision to leave?

CP: That was a really tough time for me personally, and for everyone at Corby Town. I’d really enjoyed being at Stockport, and I was sad to have to leave the club. I chose Corby because I’d moved back home and wanted a local club, to try and steady myself again.

That season, I thought all along that Corby would comfortably avoid the drop. We had an okay squad, and I certainly thought we were good enough to compete in the division. We played some good football at times and looked like we were going to avoid the drop, but unluckily went down by such fine margins. All we needed was a point in any of the games that we lost, which was tough to take.

Once the club went down, I made the decision that I wanted to play in the Conference North (or higher) in the following season. As soon as I spoke to the people at Boston United, I knew that joining them was the right move for my career.

DB: In May 2013, you headed to York Street, home of your current club, Boston United. In that first season, the club finished 6th in the Conference North, and you were part of a formidable defensive unit, alongside the likes of Scott Garner, Conor Marshall and Netan Sansara. What were those guys like to play alongside?

CP: It was interesting, because when I signed for Boston I was the only centre-half at the time, and then the gaffer told me he was bringing in Scott, who’d been captain at Cambridge United the year before. Playing alongside Garns* [*Scott Garner] was great, and he’s challenged me and brought my game on a hell of a lot. I’ve really enjoyed playing alongside him, and the other lads you’ve mentioned.

DB: Going back to the beginning of that season, your competitive debut for The Pilgrims was in a 4-1 win away at Edgeley Park, home of your former employers Stockport County. Is it extra sweet to beat one of your old clubs, or is it no different to any other 3 points?

CP: There’s always something extra there when you play an old club. You want to try and show that club what they’re missing! The main thing is always getting the win, but personally it was really special to do that at Edgeley Park.

DB: Last season Boston improved on that 6th placed finish, ending the season in 3rd place – before the narrowest of play-off losses to Chorley. The Pilgrims have been a little inconsistent so far this season, but do you feel this squad has the quality for another play-off finish…or maybe more?

CP: Definitely. I think we’ll achieve at least a play-off spot this year. We’ve been a bit hit and miss at times, but the quality across this group of players is good enough to be up there. It’s about getting a sustained run of form. We’d gone five games unbeaten – with four wins in there – before the North Ferriby game [a 4-3 loss on 7th November]. But when you have those frustrating results, you need to bounce back. That’s absolutely vital if we want to finish in the play-offs.

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Boston’s defensive dynamo in action against Stalybridge Celtic.

DB: Absolutely. And alongside yourself, who would you say are the main danger men for Boston. Who should we all be watching out for?

CP: In terms of goals, you can’t look past Dayle Southwell. He’s already on 12 for the season. But he’s only one of the really good strikers here. Mark Jones is so hardworking up top, and he’s something of an unsung hero for us. We’re certainly not short of options in attack.

From set-pieces, me and Scott Garner chip in with quite a few goals, so I think as a side, we always pose a threat – whoever we’re up against!

DB: You’ve made it into the Conference North/National League North ‘Team of the Year’ two years running, and at 23, you still have a long career ahead of you. Are you looking to stay with Boston in the long-term, or is the aim to keep performing well and hopefully interest a Football League side.

CP: I always hope that one day a Football League side will be interested in me. But Boston have treated me so well, and I’ve always had good dealings with everyone at the club. I couldn’t ever envisage leaving for another club at this level. For me to even consider moving, the interest would have to be from a club at the top end of the National League [Premier], at the very least.

Living here is important for me, as well. I’m close to home, I have work outside of the game and there’s football at a club I really enjoy being a part of. When it comes to Football League interest, though, I don’t think anyone [at this level] would be able to turn it down.

DB: We’ve talked about the National League North. It’s a division with some lovely old grounds and some pretty impressive new stadiums. Is there an away trip you especially enjoy – either for the results you get there, the location or what kind of away support the Pilgrims fans bring?

CP: Stockport’s probably the best away ground I’ve played at. When we played at Edgeley Park on the opening day of this season [a 2-1 defeat for Boston] the atmosphere was electric, and as a player, it’s great to be involved on the field when the ground is like that.

Tamworth is another trip I always enjoy. We always get an excellent away following there, and [The Lamb Ground] is a really tight ground, the fans are right alongside the pitch, and it’s a fixture where that traveling support always makes a lot of noise!

DB: I know from Twitter that you like a bit of Ibiza. So what else do you enjoy away from football, aside from soaking up the sun? And what job you do outside of playing the beautiful game?

CP: I like to travel. And not just to Ibiza! I’ve been around Asia and traveling is always something I’m looking to do come the end of the season. I try and save my money so I can see as much of the world as possible. I always like pre-season but we stay here, which isn’t quite as exotic!

Outside of football, I work for Molson-Coors, the Brewery, as a sales rep. I go into convenience stores and Co-Ops as an account manager for them. And it keeps the money in that I need, as someone playing football part time.

Aside from all that, I like the gym – though that’s also a necessity when you’re playing football – and like everyone, I enjoy a bit of golf in the summer!

Thanks to Carl, and best of luck to him and everyone at Boston United for the rest of the season. You can find the Pilgrims defensive rock on Twitter @CarlPidge.

 

Latest Non League Podcast Available Now

FC United of Manchester and Woking dominate this week’s chat as Kristan, Dave and myself tackle the week’s issues in non league. Read the rest of this entry

Under the League Interviews…Kurtis Guthrie

Right now, Kurtis Guthrie is the toast of The New Lawn. With five goals already this campaign, the Jersey-born forward is skilful, powerful and regularly contributing vital goals for the current leaders of the National League. Having begun his career at Jersey club St. Clement, 22-year-old Guthrie has experienced time in the Football League with Accrington Stanley, promotion from the Conference South with Welling United, and last season helped Forest Green Rovers to the highest finish in their 126 year existence. And this time, they’re aiming to go even further… Read the rest of this entry

Boreham Wood Wounded By Late Guiseley Goal

194 miles separate Guiseley A.F.C.’s scenic Nethermoor Park ground from Boreham Wood’s modernised Meadow Park, but the two sides battling for points on this bright autumnal weekend have much in common. Both clubs have belied their small stature to reach the pinnacle of the English Non-League. Both are part-time clubs with modest attendances, and each triumphed via last year’s playoffs, vanquishing more fancied opposition – including Chorley and Havant & Waterlooville respectively – along the way. It’s also the first year at this level for both The Lions and The Wood. So, with just 4 points dividing them before kick-off, could either team come away with a priceless victory?

I arrive in Guiseley just after midday, and am instantly enamoured with this attractive corner of West Yorkshire. Resplendent with handsome brick and stone buildings, dotted with tranquil green spaces and imbued with a resolutely laid-back feel, Guiseley may be just 10 minutes from the bustling heart of Leeds, but its peaceful, traditional vibe feels a world away.

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The scenic heart of leafy Guiseley.

My first stop is the Station, a lovely pub and pizza bar, with strong ties to the football club and located a stone’s throw from the ground, on Otley Road. The food is – with no exaggeration – fantastic. I enjoy a sumptuous pizza, as fans of both teams congregate in number around the pub, preparing for the crucial clash. Involved with sponsoring their local team, the Station’s doors and walls host posters beseeching fans to go and support the Lions. I hardly need the encouragement.

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The Station pub is rightly famed for its superb (and spicy) pizzas.

Nethermoor Park – shared with the town’s cricket club and, erm, a childrens playground – is less than half a mile’s walk from Guiseley railway station and the appropriately named pub across the road. It’s a quick and straightforward stroll through the pleasant surrounds of this picturesque Leeds suburb.

I head in through the turnstiles to the sight of Guiseley’s players milling around, chatting to early arrivals on the terraces and beginning their warm-up. The Boreham Wood squad wander into the club bar, a few of them stopping to chat with the hardy Hertfordshire fans who’ve made the long trip and are enjoying the gravy-heavy cuisine on offer here.

Keen to get an insider’s perspective on Guiseley’s first season at the National League’s top table, I speak to Brian, a veteran Lions fan ahead of the game. “Reasonable” is his one-word summary of the year so far. He credits the team having “not lost too many”. “Too many draws” is his main issue thus far, but he’s “confident we’ll stay up”, predicting his side to finish in mid-table. As a neutral, it seems optimistic, but this is a club which has repeatedly upset the odds to achieve success, having been Northern Premier League stalwarts until as recently as 2010.

Due to being slightly under-the-weather, I stick to the soft stuff, but there’s a good range of drinks on offer in the ground’s Clubhouse – all at a reasonable price. The place is roomy, full of snug sofas and there’s lunchtime football on TV screens. All in all, a pleasant spot to pass the time before the serious business on the pitch begins. I flick through the match day magazine, where Lions boss Mark Bower candidly seethes about last weekend’s penalty decision at The New Lawn. Overall it’s a good read, though at £3 perhaps a touch steep.

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The guys of Guiseley and the Wood Army congregate for a drink in the comfy Clubhouse.

I take a pew in the Main Stand, one of only two seated area within the ground – both running along one side of the pitch, with a combined capacity of 500. Across the other side, the unusual, covered terraces of the JCT600 Stand are also split, with two cameramen located perilously between on a makeshift gantry, presumably hoping that the wind doesn’t pick up. There’s no formal setup behind either goal, but a handful of supporters of both sides are crowded by the fence at each end. Ground ‘improvements’ are set to take place in the coming months at Nethermoor, and whilst some roofing at either end wouldn’t go amiss, one hopes that any changes don’t spoil the likeable, low-key feel of this picturesque venue.

As the game begins, the home side look much the brighter. Within the opening few minutes, a good passing move gives Guiseley captain Adam Lockwood the first chance of the match, but the experienced defender fires his effort well over the bar. Buoyed on by their early dominance, the home side look to have taken the lead after a goalmouth scramble, but the Boreham Wood defence somehow clear the ball to avoid an opening goal – and it’s as close as either side come for the majority of a quiet first half.

The West Yorkshire side’s dominance of possession continues throughout the first period, but to no avail. The inconsistent Tom Craddock – in a particularly poor display – wastes a golden chance after Liam Boyes’ fantastic build-up play, just beyond the 15 minute mark. George Maris produces a scintillating run a little while later, but he too fails to trouble Wood stalwart James Russell, between the sticks. Amidst an overly whistle-happy refereeing performance and a defensive Wood side seemingly happy with a point, the first half seems set to be petering out.

Then, in first-half injury time, talented teenager George Maris receives the ball on the wing. A blur of movement, against the rich autumnal hues of Nethermoor’s grand trees, and the Guiseley A.F.C. flag flapping grandly in the wing, he skins the Wood defence, cutting inside with a dexterous flair. He locks his eyes upon Russell and curls a shot past the helpless Russell. It rolls inches wide, and a collective sigh rings out as the patrons of the Main Stand (myself included) head down the steps to seek some comfort in a cup of tea. So close to delight, we stand unified, resigned to the reality that Boreham Wood may not be so wasteful – if they ever create a chance, that is.

And they do. Boreham Wood begin the second half with a newfound tempo and slickness. They have a goal ruled out for a narrow offside, before Conor Clifford fires wide after some sumptuous footwork. Then, the visitors get the breakthrough. In the 59th minute, a soft free-kick is awarded on the right wing, and the imposing Clovis Kamdjo heads home smartly. His distinctive dreadlocks breeze through the air as he races away in triumphant celebration. After back-to-back home defeats against Lincoln and Macclesfield, the Lions have to pick themselves off the mat against a Wood side growing in confidence.

‘Give him a BAFTA!’. The Guiseley support are annoyed by a piece of perceived play-acting. It’s an oddly moderate shout, as if this isn’t Oscar-worthy fakery, but still deserves a less prestigious award. But to brand the Wood as time-wasting would be unfair. For the most part, they continue to push forward, looking to extent their lead. Steve Drench – superb in the Guiseley goal today – produces two excellent saves in quick succession to deny the tireless Jamie Lucas.

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At 1-0 down, Guiseley attempt to build a late attack.

Then, against the run of play, Guiseley strike a leveler in the 90th minute. But referee John Brooks has already blown for a Lions penalty, chalking out an equaliser, at least for the moment. Joy turns to fury. Fury turns to anxiety, as Nicky Boshell places the ball on the spot. Then joy reigns again, as Boshell slots home with perfect placement, to bring Guiseley level. As injury-time begins, the Wood push forward frantically. They miss a couple of good chances, and as with Guiseley in the first period, the Herts. Side are left to rue their profligacy. The whistle rings out. The points are – fairly – shared.

Overall, Guiseley has offered one of, if not the best matchday experience I’ve had in the National League. It’s a lovely place not only to watch football, but to enjoy a warm autumn afternoon. Just before reaching Nethermoor Park, I passed a chap walking in the opposite direction, clad in a Leeds United tracksuit. Some people, man. They don’t know what they’re missing.

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The flag flaps proudly as fans exit Nethermoor.

Guiseley – 1 (Boshell, pen ’90)

Boreham Wood – 1 (Kamdjo, ’59)

3pm, 17th October 2015

Nethermoor Park, Guiseley (Att: 749)

 

Travel & Ticket Info:

Ticket Prices: Adults (£15), Concessions (£10), 12-18 year olds (£5), Accompanied u-12s (Free) – prices the same for seated and standing areas.

Travel: Guiseley is well served by rail, with regular services between Leeds and Ilkley, as well as services from Bradford Forster Square (also terminating at Ilkley). Buses also run to Guiseley from Leeds, Bradford and Harrogate. The station is 0.4 miles from Nethermoor Park.

By car, the football ground is along Otley Road/A65 and very close to Bradford Road/A6038. The main car park is on Netherfield Road. There is limited parking at the Otley Road End of the ground, but much of this is reserved for players, club staff and officials.

Welling Extend Harriers’ Aggborough Agony

This was a day of firsts at Aggborough. Lively midfielder George Porter grabbed his first Welling United goal, Jordan Tunnicliffe saw red for the first time in his career and Antigua and Barbuda international Zaine Francis-Angol wore the historic red and white of Kidderminster Harriers for the first time. But the most hotly anticipated first – a first victory of the season – continued to elude Harriers. Despite a decent display, backed by the vocal support of the Aggborough faithful, it was another frustrating afternoon for Colin Gordon’s charges.

Nestled within the largely green and tranquil Wyre Forest district of Worcestershire, Kidderminster is an unremarkable but fairly pleasant town, best known for its carpet-making heritage and as the home of the county’s only ever Football League club, Kidderminster Harriers. The town’s Wiki page also informs me that it was formerly the home of ‘80s TV chef and UKIP candidate Rustie Lee. Heady stuff.

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Kidderminster’s busy town centre.

Today’s time constraints mean that the usual pre-match meal in town is scrapped, in favour of a bacon butty (lukewarm – hopefully the football won’t follow suit) and a pint of Hereford Pale Ale (delicious) amidst the bustling environs of the Final Whistle. This pub, based inside Aggborough, is one of several spots in and around the ground to settle down with a pre-match pint and bite to eat. With a social club also in the ground, and several good venues nearby, the only lack of options around here is in the Harriers strike force.

Here in the Final Whistle, blokes of every age pore over this week’s edition of The Harrier match program, where striker Reece Styche answers fan questions, in the process revealing his love of Leonardo da Vinci and describing why he wouldn’t want to be a slug. As someone who has long objected to the lack of surrealism in Non-League matchday publications, I’m delighted.

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Pints, predictions and pre-match chats abound in the Final Whistle pub.

The mood around the place is surprisingly optimistic. The playing budget at Aggborough has been slashed in half for this campaign, and much-needed cutbacks have been made in other areas too. Right now, Harriers fans may just be happy that the lights are still on here. And there’s plenty of us home. Despite four defeats in the last five home games, there’s 1,438 of us in attendance – including a small but hardy band of Welling fans huddled together upon the South Terrace, proudly tying their flags onto the stand.

It’s one of two terraced stands at Aggborough – the North Terrace lying behind the other goal, and housing Kiddy’s most vocal support. I opt for the traditional main stand – the C&S Solicitors Stand – which runs along one side of the pitch, opposite the modern and smart Hire-It! Stand (which, confusingly, is not available to rent). The fairly smart interior of Aggborough belies the fact that this ground is 125 years old, though its largely corrugated exterior evokes either unpretentious tradition or Soviet Russia, depending on how kind you’re being.

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Harriers’ passionate supporters on the North Terrace reflect on a tight first half.

The teams kick-off, backed by an upbeat home support, and in the early stages, this good feeling seems warranted. Kiddy’s Joe Clarke has the first half-chance of the game, but his 4th minute free-kick lands safely in the arms of Welling’s young ‘keeper Tom King. The home side look the livelier outfit throughout the opening 15 minutes, but struggle to turn possession into good chances. Harriers also look nervy in defence, and only the reactions of ‘keeper Alex Palmer stop a goalmouth scramble from putting the visitors ahead just before the 20-minute mark.

The hosts continue to play some neat passing football, and the talented Jordan Jones blasts an effort just wide after superb play on the wing. Too many of their moves, though, are breaking up in the final third, against a strong Welling defence who haven’t conceded more than once in any game since August. Tahvon Campbell’s effort – another comfortable stop for King – is the final act of a tight but intriguing first half.

At half-time, fans queue for Aggborough’s famously good food as the theme from The Great Escape booms out over the tannoy. But any plans to escape from 24th spot today are thwarted in the early minutes of the second period, as individual errors enable the skillful George Porter to make his mark on the game. First, his curling free-kick sneaks under Palmer, who should probably have kept it out. Then, a misplaced ball from Hodgkiss allows Porter a clear route through on goal. Jordan Tunnicliffe trips the Welling man, and though the contact is slight, the Harriers’ last man receives a straight red. From then on, the home side’s task looks momentous.

Amidst a continued cacophony of chants from the passionate Kiddy fans upon the North Terrace, George Porter continues his role as today’s pantomime villain. The speedy midfielder oscillates between producing exciting moves and rolling around petulantly to try and win free-kicks. Indeed, whilst Welling put in a solid and disciplined footballing performance, a few of The Wings players hope to gain the referee’s sympathy with some rather questionable ‘injuries’. Cynics might suggest that some members of Loui Fazakerly’s side have failed to learn the lessons of the embarrassing and costly Sahr Kabba debacle.

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Welling look to double their lead on the counter-attack.

With that said, Welling also show some of the game’s best flashes of quality. A superb move is almost finished off by the lively Xavier Vidal with a quarter of an hour remaining, but he can’t quite provide the strike needed to double their lead. In the closing minutes, 10-man Harriers surge forwards, but neither Reece Styche’s curling effort nor Kelvin Langmead’s close-range header in injury-time hit the target. The points go to the club from Park View Road, who make it four wins in four. The contrast between the fist-pumping, cheering Fazakerly and the dejected Colin Gordon could not be starker.

This has been a decent performance from both sides, in a tense and hard-fought game. But for Kiddy, positives in defeat are hard to take after a 14-game winless run. It may have been a narrow and nervy win for Welling, but Kidderminster would give anything for one of those right now. Already five points from safety, Tuesday night’s game against fellow strugglers Boreham Wood at Aggborough could hardly be more crucial.

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The distinctive exterior to Aggborough as fans head home, as do Welling (with all three points!).

Kidderminster Harriers – 0 [Tunnicliffe Sent Off, ‘52]

Welling United – 1 (Porter, ’49)

3pm, 3rd October 2015

Aggborough, Kidderminster (Att: 1,438)

 

Ticket & Travel Info:

Ticket Prices: Terraces (North & South Stands) – Adults (£14), Over ‘60s/Students/Young Adults (£8), Under-16s (£5), Under-5s (Free)

Seats (C&S Solicitors & Hire It Stands) – Adults (£17), Over ‘60s/Students/Young Adults (£11), Under-5s (Free)

Travel: Kidderminster can be reached by direct train from Worcester, Smethwick or Birmingham’s Moor Street and Snow Hill Stations. The ground is also located close to the convergence of the A448 and A451 roads.

Ground Location: Aggborough lies 0.5 miles south-west of Kidderminster Railway Station, and the same distance south-east of the town centre.

Diamonds and Kings in a Right Royal Mess

The Southern League Division One Central match between Kings Langley and AFC Rushden & Diamonds on Tuesday night was bizarrely abandoned with only seconds remaining by referee Mr Morrison.

Kings Langley took the lead with fourteen minutes to go, but AFC Rushden equalised in the final minute, and it is this goal that sparked the controversy.

The reason? Rushden scored from a throw-in following the ball being kicked out of play after a Kings Langley player went down injured. The home side felt that the ball should have been kicked back to them, but instead Scott Joseph crossed from the right, and Dan Quigley scored the rebound after the Kings’ goalkeeper spilled the ball.

The goal sparked furious scenes, and a member of the home management team was dismissed. Once this fracas had been calmed, the game restarted, but not for long. A foul on a Langley player sparked more fury, with most of the players and both benches involved. The confrontations lasted several minutes, and the referee eventually called the game off in minute 90+5.

It has been confirmed that the referee abandoned the game, meaning both clubs now face a nervy wait to see whether they will be sanctioned for the incidents, and more importantly whether the result will stand or the match will be replayed. The match is hugely vital to both clubs, as both are chasing promotion to the Southern Premier.

Holbeach Hero Drury Rescues Replay

I’m sure you’ve all seen the video by now. After all, it went viral within hours, garnering national and international attention for both Holbeach United and their goalkeeper Ricky Drury. But it’s so good, it’s worth watching again and again! Read the rest of this entry

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