2008 Latest News

Late August 2008

* Matt Derbyshire once again started on the bench at West Ham but was soon called into action after Rocky Santa Cruz was injured in the first half. With the Rovers already 2-1 down, Matt helped the team regain the initiative and scored an equaliser early in the second period. Sadly for the Blues a lineman wrongly flagged for offside and despite numerous further chances they lost 4-1. The best of those came when the Rovers were awarded a penalty but instead of the ‘proper’ spot-kick taker, Matt, doing the honours, Roberts grabbed the ball and his weak effort was easily saved.

* Simon Garner finally got a first team opportunity at Fleetwood because of John Hills' suspension but things didn’t go too well for the Fishermen as they were well beaten at home by Tamworth despite the 2-1 scoreline.

* James Dean came close to giving Hyde the lead at Harrogate but the home side hit two before Deano scored a late consolation.

* In the F.A. Cup, Andy Clarkson’s Squires Gate forced a replay at Congleton while Pete Smith’s Clitheroe won comfortably, 3-1 at Penrith. Behind the scenes Clarky has just gained his level two coaching badge and is soon to begin work on a UEFA B badge. Staying with the Cup, Keiran Fletcher and his Chorley team-mates suffered a giant-killing as visiting Atherton LR won 1-0 at Victory Park.

In the NWCFL, Dennis Hill took his Darwen side to new boys Irlam Town and saw Jason Jones hit the equaliser to earn a point in a 2-2 draw.

* That slight improvement in results soon came crashing back down to rock bottom as Bootle ran out 6-0 winners at the Anchor three days later before a pitiful ‘crowd’ of 17. The same evening saw Squires Gate exit the FA Cup after a 3-0 home defeat in the replay versus Congleton.

Mid August 2008

* Russ McKenna scored the opener for his new club Squires Gate but Andy Clarkson’s men had to settle for a point after a thrilling 3-3 draw.

* Dennis Hill’s Darwen endured a nightmare first week of the season. Despite a goal from Richard Fogarty, they went down 2-1 at home to Holker Old Boys and made it three defeats in a row as they were thrashed 7-4 at the Anchor by minnows Penrith in the FA Cup. With Darwen losing 3-0, Ed O’Neil scored a spectacular goal to give them a life-line just before half-time and a Paul Lynch goal saw the home side fight back at 4-6 with four minutes to go but terrible defending meant no cup glory this time around. That defeat cost the Salmoners £500 ( paid to the winners) and with Clitheroe at home in the next round, another bumper pay day was lost. The Holker game was watched by a paltry ‘crowd’ of just 18.

* The NWCFL certainly isn’t the same without Harwood but there’s still plenty of excitement. AFC Liverpool scored another five goals, this time at Rochdale Town (Castleton Gabriels). They edged out their opponents 5-4 before a small attendance (although massive for Rochdale) of just 173. It’s become quite clear in the early part of the season that the Merseysiders aren’t going to be the massive club that FC United are, although they’re still the biggest club in the league.

* James Dean and Simon Garner were team-mates last year but found themselves on opposite sides when Hyde United met Fleetwood Town on the second Saturday of the season. Deano hit the post before Hyde took the lead and eventually ran out 5-3 winners after trailing 3-2. James has looked excellent in pre-season and has already scored two goals. Those three points were the Tigers’ first of the campaign after two defeats but Fleetwood now sit at the foot of the table after two heavy losses and the sooner Simon Garner returns to the defence (he was on the bench at the weekend) the better.

* Matt Derbyshire had to make do with a place on the bench in the Rovers opening day victory at Everton

* The following week saw Darwen stop their losing streak but even so manager Dennis Hill must have been disappointed with just a single point from the 2-2 home draw with perennial strugglers Rochdale Town (Castleton Gabriels). Indeed the Anchor side had to come from two goals down and the signs are that it’s going to be a long, hard season.

* Clitheroe may have lost their opening game of the season but they were soon on the right track with three successive victories. A 4-3 win at Garforth, with Ryan Fisher netting the winner, was followed by a 2-1 win at Ossett Albion. The home side were defending a 100% record and were soon in front but the Blues fought back although Ryan Fisher missed a sitter when he blazed over from just a few yards out. Two days later they hit another four as Salford City were put to the sword at Shawbridge.

* James Dean put Hyde in front in their local derby at Droylsden and almost made it two before the home side fought back to win 2-1.

Also in the Conference North, Fleetwood Town got their season up and running with a 2-0 home win against Vauxhall Motors in front of over 900 fans and followed that up on the Bank Holiday Monday with a 1-1 draw at leaders Southport. Still no starting place for Simon Garner who once again had to make do with a place on the bench.

* Andy Clarkson’s Squires Gate made it three games unbeaten with a 1-0 win at Atherton LR, Russ McKenna once again starring at left back.

Early August 2008

* Meanwhile at the top of the tree, Matt Derbyshire was in the starting line-up for the Rovers’ first two friendly games, with the ‘first half’ teams made up of predominantly 1st choice players. In both games things went downhill after Matt was replaced.The ex-Harwood hero also made the headlines after new boss Paul Ince stated that he was a big part of his plans because of his obvious talent, youth and hunger to succeed. Matt himself stole the back pages with an article pleading for a starting berth as a striker, as opposed to the right wing slot that Mark Hughes often gave him. Those pleas obviously fell on deaf ears as the final Blues friendly game against Dutch side NAC Breda, saw him once again start on the wide right where he struggled to make any impact.

The non-league season began with Darwen fielding several ex-Robins in their ranks. Matt Woods, the Fogarty brothers, player/boss Dennis Hill, new signing Ed O’Neil, Dave Anwar now training with the Salmoners and John Eastham about to sign. Their opening game saw them travel to new club AFC Liverpool with Dennis hoping to catch them out at NWCL level. Sadly for the ex-Harwood contingent there were few teething problems as the Merseysiders ran out easy 5-0 winners and it would be a major surprise if they didn’t emulate FC United and win promotion at the first attempt. One surprising statistic was the attendance of ‘only’ 442, which, although ten times better than many clubs at this level, was surely only half of what might have been expected. Even more extraordinary was the reported crowd of 150 for the Daisy Hill v Leek CSOB game. Fifteen maybe, 150? NO WAY!

The Unibond hierarchy came up trumps again when they refused old Harwood adversaries Nantwich Town and Boston United permission to change the opening day fixture. The Dabbers pitch wasn’t ready so both clubs agreed to play the game at York Street but Duncan Bayley and his merry band of spoilsports reckoned that Boston would be given an unfair advantage by playing their first three games at home. Now the Pilgrims players and supporters will need to get time off work if they’re to appear at the re-arranged mid-week game-Nice one Dunc!

* Hurray! About a year since the GHTFC web-site’s inception, we’ve finally sold some souvenirs. Richard Gledhill, Harwood supporter from Wigan, got the ball rolling with an order which pushed our account to the dizzy heights of £430. It may not seem much but from little acorns etc. etc. Well done Richard!

* Another long-distance Robins follower, Paul Clark from Cove near Farnborough, was hoping to visit the Showground for the first time when he followed his other favourite club, Aldershot, for their opening Football League game at Accrington Stanley. Sadly for Paul, the bad weather meant delays on the motorway and a late arrival at the Crown Ground leaving him with no time for the short journey to Harwood. His disappointment was eased by the Shots 1-0 win despite the best efforts of ex-Robin Andy Proctor who forced Bull in the Aldershot goal to produce a fantastic save. Stanley supremo and ex-Harwood boss Eric Whalley must have been gutted by the pathetic attendance of 1800 despite a huge away following.

Late July 2008

* AFC Fylde were rocked when one of their Vase heroes failed a drugs test, taken after the Final. He was immediately suspended by the club until the New Year.

* Meanwhile, our neighbours Darwen were in the news for the wrong reasons when former owner Kevin Henry stated that current owner Ted Ward had been removed from the board due to non-payment for the club. Mr. Henry also said that he’d applied for an injunction to ban Mr. Ward from the Anchor Ground. The turmoil won’t help with Dennis Hill’s efforts to recruit more quality players although Robins’ legend John Eastham is rumoured to be joining in the near future.

* NWCFL 2nd Division new boys Wigan Robins Park look to have a very professional set up and expect them to make a impact in their first season. They made the step up after winning the Manchester Premier League-no mean feat-and finished the season with a thirteen game unbeaten run.

* Meanwhile, long time league members Blackpool Mechanics are the second Fylde side to have changed their name this ‘summer’.
They’ve now dropped the Mechanics and will be known as AFC Blackpool although their Jepson Way ground will now be listed as ‘The Mechanics’.

* John Eastham has signed for Darwen and featured in a couple of their pre-season friendlies, while former owner Ted Ward has indeed been ousted and banned from the Anchor ground. His plans for a multi-million pound sports complex have been ‘pooh-poohed’ by new owner Kevin Henry who reckons that if Accrington Stanley can make it to the Football League then maybe Darwen can!!

* Simon Garner made an immediate impact with new club Fleetwood Town. He was named man of the match in the game against Championship side Blackpool but unfortunately, three days later, he was injured in the pre-match warm up at AFC Blackpool (Mechanics) and missed the game.

* Clitheroe looks to be the best bet for nomadic Harwood fans this season as their squad includes Pete Smith (now officially retired from the playing side), Russ McKenna, Liam McManus, Ryan Fisher, Jason Jones and Jonathon Smith. On a trip to Shawbridge about three years ago, the visiting team were less than impressive and a chant came from the home supporters- ‘Are you Harwood in disguise?’ We can now answer that-YES!

July 2008

Great Harwood Rovers held the fourth annual Dave Smith Memorial Tournament recently and an amazing 2000 people, including players, coaches and relatives, representing 68 teams took part. Many different age groups took part and the Rovers, who Dave helped to set up, won the under 8’s and under 11’s competitions. As well as being heavily involved with GHR, he was also our turnstile man and was well known to all Robins’ supporters. No doubt he’ll be looking down and be proud that his name and memory continue to live on in the town.

June 2008

Clitheroe have made a great close season signing in the shape of ex-Robins star Liam McManus. Another ex-player, Simon Garner, has been surprisingly allowed to move from Stalybridge Celtic where he was one of their best players during last season’s promotion push. He’s signed for Fleetwood Town who continue to improve their playing squad each year as they climb the leagues.


Surprise, surprise! The F.A. have overturned their decision to force AFC Liverpool to start their life at step 7 of the ‘Pyramid’. They’ve used their brains so that must be a first!

Eastbourne Special

Giving hope to all Harwood fans is the rise and rise of Eastbourne Borough. One member of our Sussex Supporters Branch, who is also a very keen Borough fan, sent a very interesting account of the progress of his first love, so I’d like to share it with all Robins followers.

EASTBOURNE BOROUGH F.C. – route to the top

Formed as Langley Football Club and entered the Eastbourne and Hastings League Division Two.

Move to their own pitch at Princes Park after previously playing on local recreation grounds.

Earn intermediate status after winning promotion to the Premier division of the Eastbourne and Hastings League.

Elected as a founder member of the Sussex County League Division Three and move to Priory Lane.

Become a senior team for the first time by winning Division Three and promotion to Division Two.

Win Division Two title and promotion to Division One.

Garry Wilson takes over as manager.

Champions of the Sussex County League and promotion to the Dr. Martens League Eastern Division.

Change name to Eastbourne Borough Football Club.

Finish as runners up and win promotion to Dr. Martens Premier Division.

Earn a place in the newly formed Conference South after finishing 11th.

Narrowly miss out on title but earn promotion to the Blue Square Premier Division via the play-offs.


The F.A. have plenty of appeals to deal with in the coming weeks as clubs up and down the length of the country aim to over turn decisions made mainly by their respective league.
One particular blunder though is all the F.A.’s own work. AFC Liverpool have been ordered to begin life at step 7 of the ‘Pyramid’ instead of the step 6 in the NWCFL 2nd Division. Special cases can be made, as for FC United of Manchester a few years ago, one of the main reasons being for crowd safety. Now in all probability, the Merseysiders will attract four figure crowds so why they haven’t been treated as a ‘special case’ is quite baffling, and if the decision is made to stand, it’ll be a huge blow to all NWCFL 2nd Division clubs. Let’s hope that for the sake of our local clubs, the Football Association see sense but I wouldn’t hold my breath. They wouldn’t help Great Harwood Town in their hour of need while they paid Sven a fortune even after he’d left the England set-up!
Congratulations to Dennis Hill who has turned 35 this week. Much as he would have liked to apply for the vacant Rovers job, he needs to get some ‘credits’ on his managerial C.V. first but in ten years time, who knows?

End of Season

* In the play-offs, Stalybridge pulled back the one goal deficit to win 2-1 and take the tie on penalties, this despite the absence of James Dean. The final saw them take on Barrow at Burton Albion’s ground where a single goal defeat spelt the end of their promotion dreams. Simon Garner played and Deano came on as a substitute in the second half. Simon made 38 appearances scoring one goal and Deano started 26 games hitting the target 8 times.

* Neil Zarac scored both Bamber Bridge’s goals as they went out in the semi-finals, 3-2 at FC United. They were Neil’s first goals for the club in his seventh appearance. He’ll be hoping to play a big part in next season’s promotion push. FC United went on to gain their third promotion in a row as they beat Skelmersdale 3-1 in the final at Gigg Lane before a crowd of 3,500, leaving the record of 6,000 against the Robins safely in tact. Brig are one of the clubs with whom we enjoyed great rivalry in the early nineties and another was Fleetwood Town, although much more recently. The Harwood supporters must look at those two clubs with great envy - it could have been us!

* Although Ashton United, yet another of our fiercest rivals 15 years ago, secured their Unibond Premier League status, they had to do it without Liam McManus. He suffered a nasty head injury in the home game with Matlock Town at the end of April and failed to appear again this season.

* Clitheroe’s final game of the season at home to Bamber Bridge, saw their last goal of the season scored by Jonathan Smith and a substitute appearance form the evergreen Pete Smith.

* Chorley’s Keiran Fletcher looks to have established himself in the first team and he ended up making 20 league appearances this term.

* Cammell Laird, who passed us on the way up from the NWCFL 2nd Division, as we were heading in the opposite direction from the 1st, won another promotion although this time a tad fortunate. They finished 2nd to Unibond South champs Retford United, a massive 13 points adrift but the Notts. Side couldn’t complete their ground renovations by the deadline and were denied promotion. After amassing 99 points during a magnificent campaign, United must have been particularly gutted.

* The season’s honours go to another club who we sadly didn’t get to compete against at NWCFL level, Kirkham and Wesham. They completed a fantastic treble when they beat Lowestoft Town in the FA Vase final at Wembley. In one of the most amazing Vase comebacks of all time, they looked to be heading for heartbreak as they trailed 1-0 with just six minutes left when substitute, 17 year-old Matt Walwyn took centre stage. He equalised before scoring the winner in the last couple of minutes before a crowd of 19,500.

* Anthony Green is looking forward to meeting up with some old Harwood team mates at Darwen, amongst them Paul Mashiter and Dennis Hill. Mash scored Darwen’s final goal of the season and it secured a 3-2 win at Stone Dominoes. Den meanwhile was named man of the match.

* One player more than any other continues to keep GHTFC in the news and that’s Matt Derbyshire. He enjoyed another great season for the Rovers featuring in no less than 27 first team games. In the Premier League, he started four games whilst appearing on the bench a further nineteen times and in cup competitions he made two starts plus two more on the bench. His contribution was immense and helped his team to what amounts to a third place (given the fact that the top four play in a mini-league of their own!). His four shots on target yielded three goals which must surely make him the most accurate and deadly striker in the country. He also assisted for one cup and two league and goals while his ‘off-target’ efforts amounted to four in the league and two in the cups. The Rovers finished at the bottom of the ‘discipline table’ but Matt led by example ‘earning’ just a single yellow card in his 27 appearances and generally being a credit to himself, his family and the club.

* In the Conference, Altrincham, for whom James Dean starred earlier in the season, have had another great piece of luck. For the third season running they finished in the relegation places but incredibly the misfortunes of others has meant a last minute reprieve. This time it was the demise of Halifax Town, who not too long ago were playing against the likes of Blackburn Rovers in the old 3rd Division.

* The Football Association have once again covered themselves in glory by showing a complete lack of common sense when dishing out their ‘justice’. They insisted that Grays Athletic pay a player his wages whilst he was serving a prison sentence for armed robbery, despite him being unavailable to play!! Not surprisingly the Chairman of the Essex club refused to pay which looked like leading to their expulsion from the Conference. The money was in the end paid by a third party saving Grays from any further punishment but the F.A. should hang it’s head in shame for their disgraceful decision.

* Meanwhile, they appear to have broken their own rules by allowing Durham City promotion despite the club’s ground improvements not meeting the set regulations. Over the past couple of years many clubs have been refused promotion, or even worse, relegated due to ground criteria not being met-the F.A. and the various leagues really need to get their act together. Our neighbours Darwen and old adversaries Alsager Town have both suffered in recent years because of problems with their grounds.

* Nelson have parted company with their manager Nik Jackson-Cooney after relegation to the NWCFL 2nd Division. The new boss will have plenty to look forward to next season with several local derbies and the newly formed AFC Liverpool due to play their first ever game, against the Blues at Victoria Park.

Late April 2008

* With the season coming to an end, Andy Proctor helped Stanley retain their Football League status, although it was the deficiencies of their relegation rivals that finally saw them safe. Yet another home defeat, this time against Barnet, finished with smiles all round as Mansfield and Wrexham were left stranded at the bottom. Stanley’s next game was a trip to the already relegated Dragons and Coleman’s boys enjoyed an embarrassingly easy 3-1 win.

* James Dean scored the second and fifth goals, set up the fourth with a fabulous through ball, passed up the chance of his hat-trick by playing in his strike partner for the sixth, and was named man of the match as Stalybridge went into the play-offs on the back of a 6-0 home win. Deano’s first was scored when he cut in from the left and beat the keeper at the near post and his second saw him cut in from the right before curling a superb into the bottom corner of the net. Simon Garner was restored to the starting eleven and another great display will surely see him included in the big play-off games.

* Dropping down a league to the Unibond Premier, Liam McManus’ Ashton United saved themselves with a 3-2 win at Matlock Town to finish the season in 10th place, five points clear of the drop zone.

* At the other end of the table, Fleetwood Town, a club that was at the same level as ourselves just a couple of years ago, won the Championship despite being held to a 1-1 draw by Frickley Athletic. That draw meant that Witton Albion would take the title and the one automatic promotion place if they could beat Worksop at home. Thankfully for the Fishermen Witton’s nerves got the best of them and the visitors ran out easy winners 3-0. An incredible crowd of almost 3,000 joined in the post-match celebrations at Highbury, the kind of attendance which could easily sustain a club at Football League Two level.

* Going down the ‘Pyramid’ another level to the Unibond Division One North, Jonathon Smith scored again as local rivals Clitheroe and Bamber Bridge shared four goals at Shawbridge. Clitheroe were already safe and Brig already in the play-offs.

* Another of our most recent rivals, FC United have found the Unibond more of a challenge, losing nine games, but they’ve still managed to finish second just a single point behind champions Bradford Park Avenue.
In the Unibond South, a team who we passed on the way down from the NWCFL Division One, as they went up from the Second, and a team who hit us for seven in the FA Vase, Camell Laird gained yet another promotion by finishing runners up. Their final game saw them draw 2-2 at Brigg Town, another side who we’ve crossed in recent years in the FA Vase.

* Recent trips to Nantwich Town have seen Harwood gain some cracking results but our paths have gone shooting off in different directions since our last meeting about three years ago. They finished their league campaign in third position and despite the final game at home to Goole AFC meaning little to either side, a truly ‘mind-blowing’ attendance of 927 witnessed Town’s 5-1 victory. The first leg of the play-off semi-final saw another great crowd of over 600 as Town came from behind to beat Grantham 2-1.

* In the NWCFL, Nelson kept their slender hopes of survival alive when they beat Formby 2-1 with Ed O’Neil once again prominent, setting up the first goal. The final game was a tough one at Flixton and the home side ran out easy 4-1 winners leaving the Blues as wooden spoonists. With Alsager being thrown out of the Unibond because of new ground grading rules, and some new applicants to the NWCFL, there is still hope that Nelson will remain in the top flight. Bacup Borough, who kindly offered the use of their ground before we folded, also lost four-one and despite taking just one point from the final four games, finished third from bottom thanks to the deficiencies of Atherton LR.

* Ramsbottom United started the season with a host of ex-Robins in their line-up but as they left so did Rammy’s hopes of success and they finished with their lowest points total since joining the league in 1995. On the other hand, Colne enjoyed their best ever season since their formation in 1996-24 wins, 68 points, and fourth place.

* In the 2nd Division Darwen endured another heavy defeat, this time 4-2 at Oldham Town. If the Salmoners under-achieved then the campaign was even worse for Padiham. They finished in12th place, one behind their Anchor ground rivals. Kirkham & Wesham clinched their expected promotion finishing second to New Mills, the Fylde side also won the 2nd Division Trophy.

* Matt Derbyshire, although not starting for the Rovers in recent weeks, is still meriting a place on the bench, and this remember, is for one the top eight teams in the best league in the world!

* The last day of the month saw the play-offs begin and James Dean and Simon Garner both left Haig Avenue disappointed as Stalybridge were beaten 1-0. Deano looked to be the main threat to the Sandgrounders coming close to scoring on a couple of occasions but was surprisingly substituted early in the second half. Simon, despite his terrific display a few days earlier, spent the whole of the game on the bench. Maybe if the two ex-Harwood stars had played for the whole ninety minutes, Celtic would have got something from the game-you know that if a player has turned out for Harwood, he must be good!

Mid to Late April 2008

* Ed O’Neil’s Nelson really have their work cut out if they’re to avoid relegation from the NWCFL 1st Division and Runcorn were the latest team to leave Victoria Park with all three points. ‘Corn manager Steve Wilkes reckoned that the visitor’s following numbered around 100, so the official attendance of 101 meant that Nelson had one supporter at the game!

Wembley finalists Kirkham and Wesham followed up their 6-0 win at Ashton Town with a comfortable 3-1 victory at Darwen just two days later. Despite the prompting from Dennis Hill on the touchline and fielding Matt Woods in defence, Richard Fogarty in midfield and Paul Mashiter up front, a Walwyn hat-trick put paid to Darwen’s hopes of an upset and in truth, some poor finishing and last ditch defending stopped the margin of victory from being much greater. A fine Kirkham following swelled the attendance to 126. Meanwhile Daisy Hill entertained Bootle and the visitors won 3-2 in front of a dreadful ‘crowd’ of just 15.

* That win kept Kirkham hot on the heels of leaders New Mills who show no signs of slipping up as Darwen were once again on the wrong side of a heavy defeat, this time by four goals to nil.

* Last month saw James Dean leave Bury to join Stalybridge on a permanent basis, until the end of the season, and he’ll be hoping to score the goals that take Celtic into the Conference. Recently ambitious Fleetwood Town made an audacious bid to sign the ex-Robin but their enquiry was immediately rejected.

* Arguably the most exciting relegation battle is taking place in the Unibond Premier League with Liam McManus’ Ashton Town having been in the thick of it all season. They currently occupy 11th position but just TWO points separate them from next to bottom Stamford.

* Neil Zarac’s Bamber Bridge are fighting it out with Ossett Albion for the final play off place in the Unibond North and the two met at Irongate. Ossett took the points thanks to a 2-1 win and in doing so moved above Bridge into 6th place.

* Jonathon Smith returned from suspension to help Clitheroe to a fine 2-2 draw at Championship chasing Curzon Ashton.

* Despite an Ed O’Neil headed goal, Nelson went down to yet another defeat, this time 3-1 at Glossop, and with two games remaining the Blues cause looks hopeless as they remain at the foot of the table.

Mid April 2008

* Not only has Dennis Hill taken on the extra responsibilities of management, both at Darwen F.C. and Royal Mail, he’s also currently helping his Postie colleagues in their quest to win the Orphanage Cup. The Police ‘B’ team had their cup run arrested as Dennis produced a devastating display to inspire Royal Mail to a 6-1 win, hitting two unstoppable penalties in the process. A few days later his Darwen team enjoyed a great 4-1 win over highly placed Bootle at the Anchor, Paul Mashiter amongst the scorers.

* Den is spending less and less time at home and rumour has it that while his better half Sonia was making tea the other day, son Thomas and daughter Britney asked her who the man with the tan was watching telly!

* Unfortunately for the Royal Mail team, the ex-Robin was unavailable for the next round, due to Darwen FC commitments, and they were easily beaten 4-1. Meanwhile Dennis was helping the Salmoners to another fine win, scoring a fabulous 25 yard scorcher.

Andy Clarkson’s Squires Gate continue to impress and a 3-2 win at Silsden meant that they will almost certainly finish in 4th place. Andy has recently recruited ex-Harwood manager Ian McGarry whose vast experience in non-league football should prove to be of great benefit. All items which could be thrown around, including chairs, tables and tea pots have been removed from the dressing rooms!!

Early April 2008

* Stalybridge Celtic’s title ambitions failed as they were well beaten 3-1 at Boston United despite the best efforts of James Dean. A lively Deano kept the Pilgrims on their toes early on but a double blast from the home side put them in control. Deano was then fouled in the box to give Celtic a lifeline but the spot kick was missed and Boston ran out comfortable winners. Kettering’s home win clinched the title and meant that Celtic must now aim for play-off glory.

* Neil Zarac returned to Rossendale with new club Bamber Bridge and helped them to record an emphatic 5-1 victory, a scoreline which flattered Rossy. The three points all but sealed their play-off spot in the Unibond Division One North League and also kept alive their chances of the Championship.

* Another team to score five in an away game was Clitheroe who recorded their best result of the season. They came from two down at leaders Skelmersdale United to win 5-3 with another Harwood old boy, Jonathon Smith, scoring the fourth.

* Kirkham’s Chairman announced that the club would receive an initial allocation of 5,000 tickets for the Vase final but was hopeful that the club could take nearer 10,000 for the game at Wembley in May. No doubt many non-league fans from the North West, and in particular, the NWCFL, will lend their support on the big day.

* Ex Harwood full back Andy Clarkson continues to do a great job managing Squires Gate in the NWCFL 1st Division. Their 1-1 draw at home to Ramsbottom made it four games without defeat and consolidated the Fylde sides position of fifth in the table.

Late March 2008

* Andy Proctor continues to star for inconsistent Accrington Stanley and scored both goals as the Reds went two-up at Chesterfield, but the home side hit back with four of their own to send the Stanley faithful home in a miserable mood.

*Jonathan Smith was sent of for Clitheroe as they went down 1-0 at home to Bradford Park Avenue.
Meanwhile, Clitheroe’s Jason Jones has signed for Nelson in an effort to regain match-fitness and his impressive performances have helped the Blues to cut back the deficit at the bottom of the North West Counties 1st Division.
Stalybridge’s relentless march towards the Conference was halted when they lost 2-0 at Tamworth after seven wins on the ‘bounce’, but a 4-0 home success against Solihull soon had them back on track. James Dean was once again amongst the scorers.
Keiran Fletcher’s disciplinary record with the Robins was pretty abysmal and it shows few signs of improving as the lad gets older but no wiser. In the recent derby clash with Bamber Bridge, ‘a thoroughly reckless off-the-ball challenge’ saw Bridge’s Salmon taken to hospital with a shoulder injury. Chorley’s losing run extended to four games as the visitors won 1-0.

Kirkham and Wesham must surely be the lowest ranked team to make it to the F.A. Vase final after they won 3-2 at home then 1-0 away against Needham Market. Walwyn scored the only goal of the 2nd leg in the 90th minute to send the 200 travelling supporters into raptures. Their opponents in the final at Wembley will be another Suffolk side, Lowestoft Town who were involved in an amazing 2nd leg at Whitley Bay. Despite the tie being ‘done and dusted’ after Town’s 4-0 romp in the 1st leg, Bay fought back and were 3-0 ahead after just 20 minutes in the 2nd leg on Tyneside, and only a series of missed chances and last ditch defending denied them an historic come-back.

In the NWCFL 1st Division, Trafford recorded a fantastic crowd of 343 on Easter Monday when they entertained Flixton. Another win virtually guaranteed Trafford the title and promotion to the Unibond League. The same day saw a slightly poorer attendance at neighbouring Castleton Gabriels as a paltry 18 turned up for their league game with Ashton Town. The loyal few were about to go home happy before two goals in the last three minutes saw the visitors leave with a 3-2 victory.
Matt Woods took little time in getting off the mark for new club Darwen, scoring in the 3-2 win at Norton.


Mid March

Dennis Hill certainly had a big job on his hands as soon as he took over the reigns at Darwen. Many players left the club after the departure of previous manager Wayne Watkins, and the ex-Harwood hero had to use his many contacts in the game to put out a decent squad for his opening game at Cheadle Town.

Ex-Robins Matt Woods, Paul Mashiter, Neil Kennedy and Liam Denning have all signed and Ed O’Neil and Paul Lynch could be on their way to the Anchor in the not too distant future. Matt only played for the Robins for a short while but he was a rock at the heart of the defence while Mash enjoyed a couple of spells with us before illuminating the Anchor in recent years. Kenny was, and always will be Harwood through and through, and he has pledged to help Dennis out whenever he can. Liam was one of the best midfielders to play for Harwood in recent seasons and his undoubted quality will help the Salmoners as they endeavour to build a team capable of winning promotion next year. Ed meanwhile, will hopefully link up again with Den as he has been one of the few successes at Nelson this season. He scored many goals for Harwood in our last few seasons in the North West Counties League, most of them spectacular long range efforts. Paul Lynch was probably the best midfielder to turn out for Harwood over the last ten years and it was no surprise when he left to join Stanley. If not for injuries, he would now be playing in the Football League but as Dennis has proved, being over 30 doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road and Lynchy could be a great role model for the Darwen youngsters.

March Stop Press


Dennis Hill has been named as the new manager of Darwen F.C. The ex-Robins star has been playing for 1st Division Nelson for the past few months but has returned to the Anchor where he began this season and from where Harwood signed him three years ago.


* Contrary to recent reports, John Hughes has not become assistant manager but Dennis will be relying on the vastly experienced Hughesy for advice on his first managerial position. Cheadle Town provided the opposition for his first game and things looked bleak as they found themselves two down just before half time, but two goals in three minutes, the second from Richard Fogarty, drew them level at the break. Cheadle regained the lead but it was Den himself who salvaged a point with a last minute equaliser which came from a 20 yard free kick.

* One manager still looking for a job is Lee Sculpher, who left Ramsbottom in October. ‘Scully’ spent two and a half years in charge at the Riverside enjoying a fair amount of success including a 9-1 win against Atherton and two Cup Final wins, but resigned after the Rams stuttered a little following an excellent start to this season. After leaving the manager’s post at Clitheroe, he signed on for Harwood and made an immediate impact bringing stability and no shortage of quality to the defence.

* James Dean looks as though he’s going to enjoy an exciting climax to the season as his Stalybridge side won yet again, this time at promotion rivals Southport. Celtic came from behind to win 3-2 and although Deano didn’t get on the scoresheet, he twice came desperately close to adding to his total of five goals.

* Jonathon Smith returned to the Clitheroe line-up and helped them to keep a clean sheet and also record their third win in a row.

March 2008

* Although there aren’t any ex-Robins playing for Kirkham and Wesham, their magnificent season has to be worth a few mentions. In their F.A. Vase ¼ final at home to Coventry Sphinx, they twice took the lead and were just 6 minutes from winning before the midlanders forced the game into extra time. Then it took an equaliser of their own, 9 minutes from time to take the game to a replay. A 49th minute goal from Sean Paterson proved to be the only one of the game and it took Kirkham into a two-legged semi-final. The first game saw an incredible record breaking attendance of 1,093 and the following league game against Blackpool Mechanics saw the league attendance record broken, this time a more modest 131 saw the home side win 1-0. The Vase replay not surprisingly was watched by Coventry’s biggest ever crowd, 774, which was swelled by around 100 fans from Lancashire. Let’s hope that the club can keep hold of many of those supporters.

* One of our neighbours, Colne, know all about great cup runs having been to Wembley for the F.A. Vase final a few years ago but their support has dwindled away to leave them with their original ‘hard-core’ of around 75, the number who turned up for their recent home game against Formby which the Reds won 3-0.

* Talking of crowds, as Kirkham’s hoards headed south to Coventry, the remaining clubs in N.W.C.L. action drew some pitiful attendances with the highest being just 53 at Leek CSOB.

* Nelson remain bottom of that league despite once again taking the lead against Salford City, this time away. The home side replied with two goals although Dennis Hill’s late free kick was brilliantly saved by the Salford keeper.

* As if Kirkham’s exploits weren’t enough of a boost to the N.W.C.L., the imminent arrival of AFC Liverpool will mean another financial windfall for the clubs in that league.

* Further up the ‘Pyramid’ Liam McManus inspired Ashton United to a great comeback in the Unibond League against North Ferriby United. Trailing 1-0, Liam popped up with a magnificent header to draw Ashton level and they went on to win 3-1 to move up four places and out of the relegation zone.

* Even further up, James Dean came off the bench to seal the game for Stalybridge Celtic as they consolidated their play-off position in the Conference North. His towering header made it 2-0 and Celtic then scored again to make it four wins in a row.

* At the pinnacle of English football, Matt Derbyshire once again came off the bench, much to the delight of the 20,000 home fans, to inspire a lack-lustre Blackburn Rovers. His introduction soon after half time lifted the Blues who duly took the lead although unlike last week, their opponents came back to equalise.

Early March 2008

* The end of February and beginning of March was another momentous period for 21 year-old Matt. He became the Father of twin boys, Callum and Braidin, and a couple of days later left 50,000 Geordies crying into their Newcastle Brown as he came on as a sub. to score the only goal of the game at St. James Park. He certainly thrives on the big stage as he’s already scored at Old Trafford and Wembley in front of huge crowds. Despite being on the pitch for only about half an hour, he’d already come close to scoring after waltzing round two defenders in the box before his goal-bound shot was blocked.

* A little further down the ‘Pyramid’ Simon Garner, now playing in midfield, and James Dean, helped Stalybridge gain their third win in a row and 4th place in the Conference North. Simon came close with two efforts while Deano had a ‘goal’ disallowed.

* Chorley made it five games without defeat as they drew 1-1 at home to Garforth thanks to an injury time equaliser. Keiran Fletcher hit the woodwork (again) for the Magpies with the score at 0-0, but the point keeps them moving in the right direction and away from the relegation zone.

Mid February 2008

* Kirkham & Wesham’s reward for their F.A. Vase heroics was a home tie against Coventry Sphinx on March 1st and the cup run doesn’t seem to be distracting them from their league commitments, with Castleton Gabriels being hammered 8-0. Sadly just 116 saw the game which must have been a little disappointing after all that’s happened so far this season.

* Many games have fallen foul of the weather this month and how Nelson wished that their game at Newcastle Town had gone the same way. Dennis Hill was made captain and he experienced a nightmare as the Blues were annihilated 10-1! Coming up to half time and already four down, Ed O’Neil set up Smith to make it 4-1 and raise hopes of a remarkable comeback, but those hopes lasted about 30 seconds until the home side’s fifth hit the back of the net. Nelson had a couple of chances to score early in the second half before Newcastle once again slipped into top gear and found the Nelson defence in very accommodating mood.
“It was the most embarrassing game that I’ve ever played in.” Said Dennis.
“Not only was it the heaviest defeat of my career, I can’t even remember losing by ten even in a five-a-side game! When the first goal went in after only three minutes I felt that some of the lads let their heads drop, although I must say that 10-1 flattered Newcastle as everything they hit seemed to end up in the net.”
The defeat sent Nelson to the foot of the table after Bacup Borough’s win and it all proved too much for manager Denny Khan who resigned a couple of days later. Maybe the time has come for Dennis Hill to step up from managing youngsters to taking on the reins at a semi-pro club? Watch this space.

* I took in Nelson’s next game, at home to local rivals Ramsbottom United, hoping to see a host of ex-Robins on show but despite the programme listing Ryan Dervish and Paul Walker amongst the visitor’s team sheet, neither appeared. Dennis Hill and Ed O’Neil started for Nelson who were greatly improved from the Newcastle debacle. Dennis in particular produced a man-of-the-match performance, displaying the full array of the silky skills which he learned at the Showground. Despite taking the lead in the second half, the Blues remain bottom after Rammy came back to win 2-1. A very poor attendance wasn’t helped by a dreadful ‘away’ following of around six. The Robins rarely took less than twenty no matter where or when they played.

* James Dean started for Stalybridge at Hucknall but it was Simon Garner who stole the headlines when he replaced Deano in the second half. With Celtic leading 1-0, a fantastic piece of wing play by Simon saw him make monkeys out of two defenders before setting up the clinching second goal. He almost scored himself after a great shot but helped his team to a 3-0 win Two days later Hinckley were the opponents and not surprisingly Garner started the game. Once again he was outstanding and set up the first goal in another 3-0 win. He continued to create chances throughout and even cleared a Hinckley effort off his own goal line. Deano came on as a late sub. but didn’t have enough time to make an impact.

* Ryan Fisher was the hero for Clitheroe as they drew 2-2 at Rossendale United. Fish scored the late equaliser to earn the Blues a valuable point.

* For the second successive home game, Nelson took the lead only to end up pointless, this time as Salford City won 3-1. Dennis Hill almost scored after just 10 minutes as his great shot missed by inches, but not to be outdone, he set up Nelson’s goal. The Blues had two players sent off and the imminent suspensions won’t help their cause.

* The Dave Smith Memorial Football Tournament will be taking place on Saturday June 7th. All Harwood supporters will remember Dave as a jovial turnstile man who loved nothing better than talking about the Robins past and present and often told me how he really enjoyed officiating at the Showground ‘turnstile’. A tree was in fact planted at the gate and it still thrives amongst the wreckage that remains. He was also highly instrumental in the huge success of junior football in the area and this summer’s tournament will be a fitting tribute to him. The seven a-side event has six boys and two girls groups up the age of twelve and the entry fee is £30 per team. The annual tournament is run by Great Harwood Rovers and will take place on the Lyndon House playing fields next to the Showground. For any more details phone Rovers’ secretary Andy Counsell on 07791 499365.

*Alex Marrow, an 18 year-old Ashton Athletic player is hoping to follow Matt Derbyshire into the Blackburn Rovers 1st team. He’s just signed a contract with the Premier League high-flyers until the end of the season after impressing in trials. If Alex can make the grade then it would be another great boost for all young non-league players, especially in the North West Counties League.

February 2008

* Martin Parkes has left Padiham to join local rivals Darwen. One of Harwood’s star strikers in recent times, Yaqoob Khan, has begun training with Nelson after spending about 18 months out with an injured knee-let’s hope that he gets back to full fitness soon and helps the Blues to safety. They let a two goal lead slip in their home game with fierce rivals Colne in an eventful game at Victoria Park on Saturday. Dennis Hill scored the home side’s opener from the spot and then set up the second before Colne hit back with two in three minutes, with the game also including a free-for-all in the back of the Nelson net as the away side went for the winner!

* The big game of the day was North West Counties League Kirkham and Wesham’s F.A. Vase tie at Crowborough Athletic who play in the Sussex County League Division One. Long distance Robins supporter Mike Barry from East Sussex went to see the game and was impressed with the Kirkham team who won the tie 2-0 in front of an amazing crowd of 772- the usual attendance being just above the 100 mark. Mike said: “Kirkham looked a good all round side and could even reach the final.” Let’s hope so. He was also good enough to send me the local newspaper report and the match programme which looks as though it belongs in the higher reaches of the Football League so well done to both clubs on their success this season.

* Andy Proctor continues to impress even though Accrington Stanley’s form is somewhat erratic. For the second time this season he was named as League Two’s player of the month.

* After defeat to Nuneaton, Simon Garner and James Dean were both relegated to the bench but Stalybridge still couldn’t win, losing 2-0 at Harrogate before drawing 2-2 at home to Southport. Deano was brought on in both games but Simon had to sit them out.

* Clitheroe lost 2-1 at home to Garforth Town despite the sterling efforts of the ex-Harwood brigade. The Blues equalising goal was set up by Ryan Fisher who also saw a goal-bound shot cleared off the line. Jonathon Smith and the evergreen Pete Smith also suffered the same fate thanks to two more goal-line clearances.

February 2008

Matt Derbyshire was in the starting line up for the games at Aston Villa and at home to Everton. The Villa game didn’t go too well for him personally as his first half penalty was saved by Carson and he was then injured in the melee that followed. The Everton game saw him perform at right wing which is isn’t his favoured position and he struggled to make an impact. The following week would have seen him pick up another England under 21 cap but for the imminent birth of his twins!

* Ryan Fisher was again on target for Clitheroe as they gained a vital three points at Woodley Sports with Jonathon Smith once again a colossus at the back.

* The bad weather put paid to most of the non-league fixtures but one that survived was Chorley’s trip to Skelmersdale United-and how Chorley wished it had been snowed off! Despite having the excellent ex-Robin Keiran Fletcher in their defence, the Magpies were clobbered 7-0 to leave them floundering near the foot of the table. Keiran came closest to getting a consolation when his header crashed against the bar. Not surprisingly manager Gerry Luczka and the club went their separate ways after a meeting between himself and the Chairman.

* Stalybridge Celtic’s great run of results ended at home to Nuneaton Borough but James Dean and Simon Garner both came close to scoring twice.

End of January 2008

Jonathon Smith, Ryan Fisher and Neil Zarac helped Clitheroe to a vital 1-0 win against Ossett Albion to enhance their survival chances. The win ended a dreadful run of five defeats and a draw in the Blues’ last six league games.
*Away from the ex-Robins, congratulations must go to Kirkham and Wesham who continue to fly the flag for the North West Counties League in the F.A. Vase. They beat Studley 3-0 at Kellamergh Park before a tremendous attendance of over 400 and must now fear no one as they attempt to follow fellow Lancastrians Colne and Clitheroe to the final of the competition. Sadly for neighbours Squires Gate, Kirkham’s exciting run appears to have had an adverse affect on their attendances with a paltry 17 turning up for their League Cup tie against Norton United.

Weekend 26th January 2008

* He carried on in a similar vein as Celtic won yet again the following week, 3-1 at Barrow, with James scoring the second and clinching goal after being promoted to the starting line up. Simon Garner also started the game after being promoted from the bench but he starred in midfield as opposed to his usual left back position.

Jonathon Smith, Ryan Fisher and Neil Zarac helped Clitheroe to a vital 1-0 win against Ossett Albion to enhance their survival chances. The win ended a dreadful run of five defeats and a draw in the Blues’ last six league games.
*Away from the ex-Robins, congratulations must go to Kirkham and Wesham who continue to fly the flag for the North West Counties League in the F.A. Vase. They beat Studley 3-0 at Kellamergh Park before a tremendous attendance of over 400 and must now fear no one as they attempt to follow fellow Lancastrians Colne and Clitheroe to the final of the competition. Sadly for neighbours Squires Gate, Kirkham’s exciting run appears to have had an adverse affect on their attendances with a paltry 17 turning up for their League Cup tie against Norton United.

Mid January 2008

Wilkes was given a great chance to further his managerial career when Runcorn Linnets asked him to become their new boss and not surprisingly he took up the offer.

* Andy Proctor stated publicly before the game at Peterborough, that Accrington Stanley needed to be pushing for a play-off place in League Two. Maybe Eric Whalley’s boys will have to wait a little longer as their promotion ambitions looked to be ‘pie in the sky’ after an 8-2 mauling. The Reds were 4-0 down at the break but fought back with two goals of their own to set up what could have been an exciting finish, but four goals in the last 15 minutes made it a nightmare trip home for Andy, his team-mates and the thirty supporters who travelled for the midweek clash.

* Jonathon Smith has signed for Clitheroe from Fleetwood Town joining ex-Robins Pete, Ryan, Jason and Neil. Smithy was a cracking player for Harwood before being ‘pilfered’ by Accrington Stanley, performing brilliantly both at centre half and up front for set pieces. He made his debut for the Blues in the Lancashire derby at Lancaster City but found the Dollyblues in terrific form which saw them win 2-0 and complete their seventh game without conceding a goal.

* Middleborough must be sick of the sight of Matt Derbyshire. He came on as a substitute on the opening day of the season to score a spectacular winner and on the 19th of this month repeated the trick although his goal was only worth a point for the Rovers this time, as the sides played out a 1-1 draw.

* In the Conference North, two teams, Harrogate Town and Kettering Town have led the table all season yet in the last couple of weeks Stalybridge Celtic have beaten both. Helped in no small way by Simon Garner and James Dean, Celtic have won eight games in a row to reach the play-off positions. Saturday’s win at leaders Kettering was only the home side’s second defeat of the season and Deano took the plaudits after coming on as a sub. and scoring a great winner in the closing minutes.

Early January 2008

* Nelson continued with their mini-revival with Dennis Hill and Ed O’Neil once again behind most of their good work. Den made the first goal as the Blues took an early lead at Abbey Hey before the home side equalised. Constant second half pressure resulted in Roscoe giving Nelson the lead before Abbey made it 2-2. Ed then had a chance to seals the points from the penalty spot but a great save from the keeper denied the ex-Harwood forward.

* Clitheroe’s defence looks in need of an overhaul as they ship goals at an alarming rate. Five more on Saturday made it 15 in the last four games with Ossett Albion going nap despite trailing 1-0 at the interval. The Blues are now third from bottom and also had two players sent off on another day to forget, especially for the ex-Harwood contingent. Jason Jones was dropped, Neil Zarac substituted and Ryan Fisher scored an own goal!

Another team to have two players dismissed was Castleton Gabriels where the visitors, John Eastham’s Padiham won 3-0. Steve Wilkes’ side obviously don’t have the kind of following that the Robins enjoyed, with just 14 supporters (from both sides!) turning out for the game-around half of what we took to most away matches.

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