2009 Latest News

Late December

* Mixed bag of Christmas results for our area’s top team Accrington Stanley. As usual, Andy Procter put in a couple of great performances, firstly to help the Reds triumph 2-1 in the Lancashire derby at Morecambe, but two days later Bury won 4-2 at the Crown ground to leave Stanley just short of the play-off spots.
* Very little non-league football took place in the latter part of the month with every Vodcat game over Christmas falling foul of the weather, but in the Conference North, our old adversaries Fleetwood Town invested around £15,000 in covers and that helped get their Bank Holiday game on at Highbury. The Fishermen were desperate to get back to winning ways after their Boxing Day 5-0 defeat at Southport and they did just that by beating Vauxhall Motors 4-2 in front of over 1100 fans to cement their 2nd place in the League.
* AFC Wimbledon are on a roll and that should please Great Harwood Town fan Don Fitzgerald. The Dons continued with their winning streak beating in-form Hayes & Yeading 5-0 although they remain 13 points behind leaders Oxford United in the Conference Premier.
* One step down in the Conference North, it’s looking good for our two local teams with Southport leading the way, closely followed by Fleetwood. The Boxing Day clash at Haig Avenue drawing in excess of 1,800 fans.
* In the Conference South, we must mention struggling Lewes. They stood next to bottom before taking on second placed Dover Athletic and with the visitors 2-0 up after just 13 minutes, it looked like another defeat, but three goals in 25 minutes saw them lead at the break and three more in the second half gave them the result of the season so far.
* The South was hit far less than the North and most games took place including the derby between Horsham YMCA and Eastbourne Town in the Ryman Division One South. In a relegation battle, a win for Eastbourne would have put them within two points of their opponents but the expected tight contest never materialised. Horsham led 1-0 at the break but the second half was nothing less than a massacre as they added eight without reply to win 9-0.
* Another ‘classic’ took place at former F.A. Vase heroes Didcot Town. They entertained near neighbours Oxford City and in a game that swayed one way and then another, a last minute goal gave the home side a share of the spoils in a 4-4 draw.
Also in the Zamaretto League, this time the South & West Division, struggling Bishops Cleeve trailed 2-0 just before half time to North Leigh but hit back to win 5-2 in front of a disappointing holiday attendance of 74.

*Talks are now on-going in a bid to get Great Harwood Town up and running in the not too distant future, although efforts which took place in the Summer by a different group failed.
Finally for this year, I hope that all our ‘readers’ have had a great Christmas and enjoy a happy New Year and that we’ve some good news to bring you about GHTFC in the coming weeks.

Mid December

* Halifax Town had to be content with a point after a 1-1 draw with Wakefield at the Shay. James Dean came close to securing al three points after coming close on no less than four occasions.
* It was heartache for Andy Procter as his Accrington Stanley side lost 2-0 at Leeds United in the JPT Semi-Final in front of 12,000+ fans at Elland Road. That crowd included several hundred Stanley fans who gave the Reds the backing which the team has deserved for their great efforts this season. Andy came close to scoring in a match which the Leeds Boss Simon Grayson admitted his side were second best.
* Dennis Hill managed to get on the scoresheet but it didn’t stop his side losing 4-1 at lowly Turton to leave them just 4 points off the bottom of the West Lancs. League. Another of the handful of sides below them, Euxton Villa, knocked them out of the Richardson Cup, 3-2 at the Anchor, but despite the poor results, it appears that the Vodcat League are ready to welcome them back next season.

Early December

* Poor old Durham City didn’t manage to reach December without conceding over 100 goals. They’ve lost all 19 of their League games and even this early stage, must be doomed to relegation. Hats off to them though as their young side haven’t thrown the towel in and hopefully will be able to avoid defeat soon.
* Ramsbottom United moved up into 3rd place in the Vodcat Premier League after a 3-3 draw at St. Helens but football took a back seat at the Riverside after winger Matt Edgington was badly beaten during a night out in Manchester at the weekend. He suffered a fractured skull amongst other injuries and remains on the I.C.U. still in a hospital-induced coma. I’m sure that all Great Harwood Town fans will wish Matt all the best and that he’ll make a speedy and full recovery.
* Bobby Harris kept a clean sheet for Colne as they moved further away from the relegation zone after a 2-0 win at Atherton L.R.
* Jonathan Smith scored his first goal for Leigh Genesis and although it gave them the lead at neighbours Bamber Bridge after only 11 minutes, the hosts came roaring back to win 3-1 before a dreadful ‘derby’ attendance of just 125.
* Don’t know what our teams are up to in the Non League Paper’s Fantasy Football League but GT Harwood Town have dropped like a stone almost 200 places to 839th while Blackburn Robins have also dropped to 1,037th. Now we’ve managed to ditch Durham City in the November transfer window, I’m expecting great things from our teams. Considering GT Harwood Town have Oxford United, Newport County, Fleetwood Town, Farnborough Town and Cambridge City amongst others, I can’t understand why we aren’t right up near the top of the League.
* Ex-Harwood players continue to have a big impact on the local non-league scene and two of them, ‘Excellent Ed O’Neil’ and ‘Kool Keiran Fletcher’ helped Ramsbottom United to an exciting 4-3 derby victory over Padiham. Ed scored a typical 20 yard blockbuster to open the scoring before the Storks hit back to equalise. He then put the Rams back in front before the break and then set up Connell after half time to make it 3-1. Keiran Fletcher was then fortunate not to concede a penalty before his team-mate Bernard Morley hit the home side’s 4th to seal the points-or so it seemed. Padiham stormed back with two goals before a last minute Little shot hit the bar and almost secured a point.
* Our last remaining local team in the FA Vase, Nelson, bowed out after a 5-0 thrashing at Northern League Marske United. The Vodcat League still has representatives in the next round as Bootle won 4-1 at Penrith and Glossop hit visitors West Auckland Town with a five-goal first half salvo before running out 5-1 winners. Glossop North End were left fuming as a series of contentious refereeing decisions were blamed for their 2-0 defeat at Barwell.
* John Hughes finally enjoyed a Saturday evening after Rossendale United won their first game for three months and move off the bottom of the Unibond Division One North.
* In the same League, Pete Smith’s Clitheroe continue to improve and a fine 2-0 win at Trafford saw them rise to 8th. Liam McManus, Jason Jones and Ryan Fisher all helped the Blues to victory as both goals were scored in the final ten minutes.
* Two old boys met as Leigh Genesis entertained Halifax Town. The Shaymen almost opened the scoring after Jonathan Smith fouled James Dean on the edge of the box but the free kick was hit fractionally over the bar. Deano was then fouled in the box but the penalty was missed before Leigh took the lead. Halifax, cheered on by the majority of the 600+ crowd had the final word with a last minute equaliser.
* The midweek Unibond Challenge Cup games produced some fantastic games and amazing come-backs. North Ferriby United took the lead at Frickley but the home side hit back to lead 2-1. Back came the visitors to re-gain the lead before the Yorkshire side looked to have clinched victory with two more goal of their own. United once again came back to take the game to penalties where they held their nerve to win 3-2 on spot kicks.
* Just as exciting was the game at Marine where the Merseysiders took a 2-0 lead after only 10 minutes but Curzon Ashton powered back and scored three times without reply to progress to the next round,
* On the same night but in the West Riding County Cup, Garforth Town travelled to Askem and were cruising at 4-1 but the minnows stormed back to make it 4-3, leaving their illustrious visitors hanging on at the end.
* Those games may have been exciting but the gold star goes to Silsden versus Bradford Park Avenue where the scoring went like this: Silsden 1-0, 2-0, 2-1, 2-2, 2-3, 3-3 (89 minutes), 4-3, 4-4, 4-5, 5-5, 5-6 (116 minutes).
In the Vodcat League, Newcastle Town made it 21 wins in a row with a 3-0 victory over struggling Atherton L.R. but just 121 turned up to see the latest win. Just a few more saw AFC Liverpool thrashed 4-1 at home to Stone Dominoes in their top-of-the-table clash. In the 1st Division, only 83 turned out to see Barnoldswick hammer Rochdale Town 6-0 to move into joint 2nd position.
* For the umpteenth time this season Andy Procter put in a man-of-the-match performance as Stanley hammered Torquay United 4-2 at the Crown Ground. After the Gulls took an early lead, the Reds stormed back with Procter at the heart of most good moves. Despite lying on the floor at the time, he managed to head Stanley into a 2-1 lead and he helped finish things off by brilliantly setting up the 4th. He was prominent again as the Reds took on Barnet in the FA Cup 2nd round and was desperately unlucky not to have been on the winning side, but the replay at Underhill saw Stanley make it through to a home tie with Gillingham thanks to a 1-0 win.
* Simon Garner’s FC United exited the Unibond Challenge Cup thanks to a 2-1 defeat at Kendal. The game was played on the usual quagmire before what might well have been the lowest crowd to watch the Reds since they formed-181.
* Matt Derbyshire’s Olympiakos made it through to the final stages of the Champions League and the ex-Robin will be hoping to get fit in time to take part in those games.
* Halifax Town lost twice in two days, both by the same 2-1 scoreline. They travelled to Stamford in the League Cup and despite dominating for much of the game, and taking the lead, the home side hit to win after extra time. James Dean spurned a glorious chance to make it 2-0 before Town had a player sent off to give Stamford the initiative.
* The following day the Blues lost at Farsley Celtic in a West Riding Cup game but not surprisingly, most of the 1st team, including Deano, were rested.
* Saturday saw another great result for Accrington Stanley as they travelled to ‘Millionaires’ Notts County and came away with a fairly comfortable 2-1 win. The late nerves could have been eased as the Reds missed a penalty after ex-Robin Andy Procter was fouled. The home players weren’t too happy about Andy’s role and some of them chased him around the area to tell him personally! If Stanley can stay clear of injuries then the play-offs could be a possibility as they could be with our old foes Morecambe who won yet again, beating second-placed Bournemouth 5-0..
* After Halifax’s mid-week blip, James Dean had them back on the right track with a hat-trick in the 6-1 demolition of lowly Salford City in the Unibond North. Deano should have opened the scoring inside 30 seconds but missed a sitter. That should have helped his old boss John Hughes but his Rossendale United side went down 4-0 at Colwyn Bay who went top as a result. They replaced Curzon Ashton who were involved in a fabulous game at Shawbridge against Harwood legend Pete Smith’s Clitheroe. The Blues scored an early goal before Curzon hit back to lead 3-1 at the break. The second half saw Clitheroe produce a devastating spell of attacking play to lead 4-3 within only 20 minutes but the Mancsmen saved a point with the final goal 15 minutes from time. Ryan Fisher hit the equaliser to make the score 3-3.
* In the Unibond Premier League, Kings Lynn have been wound up due to unpaid tax bills and they almost certainly won’t be the last club to ‘bite the dust’ this season. Despite success on the field and with regular attendances of around 800, they were closed down during the week. No doubt their record will be deleted form the records although for some strange reason, the Unibond League haven’t done this already. A few weeks ago, the Linnets won successive home games 11-0 and 7-2 and had also made it through to the FA Trophy 1st Round. Opponents Vauxhall Motors have since been given a bye into the next round.
* Also in the Trophy, Conference side Chester lost out on vital revenue when they went down 1-0 at home to Fleetwood Town. Just 400 home fans turned out for the game and with players threatening to strike because of delayed or non payment of wages, Eric Whalley’s boys could soon be following Kings Lynn into the abyss.
* Simon Garner’s FC United are still in a relegation spot after losing 4-2 to leaders Retford United at Gigg Lane. Three goals in the 1st half effectively ended the game as a contest but the Reds fought back and almost made it 4-3 when Simon’s header hit the bar.

* In the Vodcat League, the Ramsbottom United boss was asking for more support for their top-of-the-table clash with New Mills and he must have been delighted at the turn-out of 200 who saw a hard fought 0-0 draw.
* Colne couldn’t follow up their 3-0 midweek win at neighbours Nelson, going down by the same scoreline to Runcorn Linnets at Holt House-all the goals coming in a 12 minute spell either side of half time.
* The game of the day took place at lowly Ashton Athletic where visitors St. Helens won the day. Ashton scored a late equaliser through Fletcher to make it 4-4 before Prescott had the chance to complete a hat-trick from a penalty (he’d already scored one from the spot). He missed and St. Helens duly hit the ninth and final goal through Dyson in the 90th minute.
* In the 1st Division, the most exciting game took place at AFC Blackpool where Barnoldswick raced into a 3-0 half time lead which they held until 10 minutes from time. Then the home side decided to make a game of it scoring two quick goals but Town eventually won 4-3. Jepson Way was also the place for goals in midweek as the Seasiders under 18’s lost 10-2 to Colne.
* The 1st Division Trophy failed to capture the imagination of the public with only 22 turning up to see Norton lose 2-1 at home to Irlam, and the local derby between Rochdale and Chadderton attracting just 30 frozen spectators who saw Chaddy triumph 1-0.

Late November 2009

* James Dean was rested form the Halifax Town side that travelled to Durham City in the Unibond League Cup and the Shaymen nearly paid the price as whipping boys Durham twice took the lead before going down 4-2.
* AFC Fylde were involved in a great FA Trophy game at Hinckley where they came back from 4-1 down to trail 4-3 shortly after the break, before three further goals saw the home side through 7-3.
* A team that had a good loyal following when we played them was Alsager Town but a midweek 3-2 Vodcat Premier League defeat to struggling Ashton Athletic was witnessed by a paltry 20 supporters. That defeat made it nine in a row for the Cheshire side since their 2-1 win at Ed O’Neil’s Ramsbottom United.
* Southport are another side who’ve seen their crowds drop despite their great start to the season. A miserly 263 saw their FA Trophy win against Stourbridge.
* James Dean ended the month just as he’d started it, and just like he started and finished September and October, by scoring for Halifax Town. He hit the first in a 2-1 home win over Woodley Sports to keep the Yorkshiremen near the top of the Unibond Division One North.
* In the same League, Jonathan Smith set up Leigh’s opening goal in their 3-1 home success against top-of-the-table Colwyn Bay.
* At the bottom of the League John Hughes’ Rossendale lost 2-1 at Skelmersdale despite a good performance and were desperately unlucky when hitting the post late on.
* An eventful game for Pete Smith’s Clitheroe and in particularly Liam McManus. He was inches away from scoring an early goal against local rivals Bamber Bridge before getting his marching orders mid-way through the second half of a game which saw the Blues run out comfortable 3-0 winners.
* Still in that League, Chorley were rocked when leading star Terry Fearns was arrested on suspicion of supplying class A drugs and was immediately suspended by the club. He signed for the Magpies after being sacked by AFC Telford for being arrested for possession of drugs in March. If found guilty of the latest charge, it would surely mean the end of his footballing career.
* The Vodcat League has been severely hit by the atrocious weather this month and our neighbours Bacup Borough and Padiham have up to eight games in hand on rival Premier League clubs. At the top of the League Newcastle Town looked to have the Championship sewn up after their twentieth win of the season, 6-0 against Nelson. That leaves them 18 points clear of the chasing pack of three clubs, who in turn have opened up a big gap from the rest.
* Ed O’Neil and Ramsbottom United are fourth after a 2-1 win at Alsager while Bobby Harris couldn’t prevent Colne from losing 2-0 at home to high-flying Bootle, a defeat that leaves the Reds just two points above the relegation places.
* Padiham’s Robbie Smith scored the only goal of the game at Congleton and what a goal! Robbie returned the goalkeeper’s clearance with interest from inside the Storks’ half for a once in a lifetime 60 yarder.
* In the 1st Division, AFC Liverpool beat Holker Old Boys 3-1 in front of just 84 supporters. Not sure where the Cumbrians star player Dave Swarbrick is based, but this week saw him transferred to New Mills so one way or another he’ll have clocked up an incredible amount of mileage by the end of the season.
* Eric Whalley must surely be regretting his move to Chester City as they lurch from one crisis to another. Their home game with Eastbourne Borough had to be abandoned with the Blues leading 3-2 well into the second half. A second pitch invasion, albeit from just a handful of supporters, saw the police decide that they couldn’t guarantee the safety of the players-so how many police were there? One….or two? The fans were protesting, not surprisingly, against the club’s owners the Vaughan’s who don’t seem to have much idea of how to run a football club. The Conference is sure to have lost patience with the club after the debacle over debts and once again their future must be in jeopardy.
Matt Derbyshire is edging towards a European Cup Final despite not having played any football this season! His Olympiakos side drew 0-0 away at AZ Alkmaar in the Champions League to leave them in 2nd place in the group, three points clear of the rest with just a home tie against Arsenal to come.

Mid November 2009

No stopping James Dean at Halifax and he followed up his two goal salvo against AFC Fylde with a man-of-the-match performance at Skelmersdale United. He hit the equaliser fifteen minutes from time to earn the Tykes 2-2 draw in front of a mind-boggling 927 fans.
* Leigh Genesis made it four wins in a row after running riot in the final 15 minutes of their game at Prescot Cables. They hit four without reply to make it 13 goals scored and just one conceded in that time, largely due to the magnificent defending of Jonathan Smith.
* Things not going quite so smoothly for Simon Garner at FC United. He was dropped to the bench after the Reds suffered a 1-0 home defeat to Buxton but was introduced to the action with his side 3-0 up a Hucknall Town in the next game. The home side then pulled two back and also missed a penalty and United, who could have been five or six up at one stage were left hanging on.
* We used to sing ‘there’s only one Bobby Harris’ at Harwood games but maybe there are two! His name was given in the line-ups for Rossendale’s home defeat to Mossley so I’m presuming that Bob’s signed on for them as well as Colne. Either way, he or the other Bobby Harris couldn’t prevent yet another defeat to leave them stranded at the bottom of the table. The defeat followed an encouraging draw at Ossett Albion where the Stags went behind in the 92nd minute only to fight back with an equaliser a minute later.
* Jason Jones was on target for Clitheroe as they progressed in the LFA Lancs. Co-operative Trophy with a fine 3-0 win at home to Fleetwood Town. Liam McManus and Ryan Fisher were also in the starting line-up for Pete Smith’s men. They then beat Harrogate Railway Athletic 4-2 at Shawbridge with Jason hitting the final goal of the evening from the penalty spot. The Blues carried on their hot goal-scoring streak in the next game at Ossett Albion hitting four in 16 second half minutes to win 5-1.
* Another ex-Robin to hit the target was Ed O’Neil. He scored to put Ramsbottom United one up in their LFA Trophy tie at Lancaster City but the Dollyblues hit back to win 4-1.
* Also in the same competition, Martin Parkes scored the first of Padiham’s three goals at Colne although he was a little fortunate to have still been on the pitch at the time after a last-ditch foul only produced a yellow card. Sadly for Martin but happily for Bobby Harris in the Colne goal, the evening ended extraordinarily. With the Storks three up and only seven minutes left, the Reds hit the back of the net four times for one of the greatest come-backs in the club’s history. The attendance of 60 for a local derby must have been very disappointing for the Holt House side and the ‘stay-aways’ will be regretting their decision not to bother for a long time.
* In the FA Vase, New Mills were ordered to reply their second round tie at Bourne after it was revealed that the scorer of their winning goal, the only one of the game, was ineligible. In these cases the ‘guilty’ club is usually expelled but New Mills had been given the wrong advice in that loan players can play in all of the FA’s Cup competitions. In actual fact, loan players are allowed to play in the FA Cup and Trophy but not the Vase. The unfortunate replay decision looked costly as the Millers found themselves two down with only 10 minutes to play but they forced extra time and eventually won through 5-4 on spot kicks.
* Holders Whitley Bay were given a hard game by our old friends from Alsager Town but went through nonetheless 2-0 in front of a magnificent crowd of 606. Last year’s beaten finalists Glossop North End also went through but were mightily relieved at the final whistle as visitors Dunston pushed them all the way before losing 1-0 in front of another excellent attendance of 378.
* Bacup Borough couldn’t replicate our recent victory at Crook Town, going down 2-0.
* In the Vodcat League congratulations go to bottom of the 1st Division Ashton Town who beat AFC Liverpool 2-0 for their first win of the season but where were the hoards of visitors who heralded the birth of the Reds. A miserly 60 turned up to witness their latest defeat.
* Oldham Town appear to have changed their name to Oldham Borough.
* In football, we have injury time, extra time and ‘Fergie’ time but a recent F.A. Conference Youth Alliance Cup game went one step further. Boston United Youth were leading Chasetown 2-1 until a late equaliser sent the game into extra time. No more goals were scored during the extra 30 minutes but the game went on…….and on……and on…...until the Pilgrims hit the winner in the 127th minute.
* James Dean hit an injury time winner for Halifax as they progressed in the Unibond President’s Cup, 2-1 at home to Mossley.
* Leigh Genesis came from one down to thrash Harrogate Railway 5-1 with the excellent Jonathan Smith marshalling the defence with ease. When Leigh moved to their new ground the crowds improved significantly but we seem to be back in the old routine as a scandalously low 84 turned up for the latest victory.
* Our neighbours Nelson made it through to the next round of the FA Vase with a fine 3-1 win against Morpeth.
* Not too many Vodcat sides left in the FA Vase but Bootle progressed to the fourth round after beating Stone Dominoes and New Mills could be following their Derbyshire neighbours Glossop North End to glory as they progressed to the next stage for the first time in their history. Their great recent goal scoring exploits continued with a 6-1 hammering of Tividale.
* Daisy Hill fought back from two down at home to Armthorpe but with a replay beckoning, the visitors hit the decisive winner just two minutes from the end of extra time.
* It looked as though our neighbours Padiham would be following Harwood in thrashing Norton & Stockton Ancients as they found themselves 2-0 up in quick time-the first through Martin Parkes-but the visitors hit back with four goals of their own, the last two in the final couple of minutes of injury time.
* In the League, the 1st Division’s bottom two met at Rochdale Town where visitors Ashton Town recorded a memorable 6-0 win before a poor crowd of 30. Mind you, the Mayfield Sports Centre must have been positively rocking compared with some of the other grounds in the League. Russ McKenna’s Squires Gate won away again, this time 1-0 at bottom side Abbey Hey before a shocking crowd of 28. Even less at Atherton Collieries where 22 saw the home side beat Norton United 2-1. Ashton Athletic lost 3-2 at home to the perennial crowd-pullers Flixton with an attendance of 18 spectators. But Wigan Robin Park, who would have gone 5th in the 1st Division with a win, managed to pull in a mind-blowing 15 for their 3-2 defeat against Eccleshall.
* Plenty of ex-players had their interest in the FA Trophy ended in the final qualifying round with Jonathan Smith’s Leigh Genesis particularly unlucky after a late goal saw then lose 1-0 at home to Redditch United. Jonathan gave a brilliant performance at the back restricting the higher-placed Redditch to very few half chances. The strike was set up by Andy Ducros who was a team mate of ex-Robin Lee Slater at Coventry City.
James Dean missed a sitter from two yards for Halifax Town at Guisley and it proved to be costly as shortly after wards the home side took the lead and eventually ran out 3-1 winners. Meanwhile Deano’s old club Harrogate Town put paid to Simon Garner’s hopes of Cup glory as they won 3-2 at FC United but not before the Reds had come back from a three goal deficit to push their higher-placed opponents all the way.
In the Unibond League, Pete Smith’s Clitheroe came back from one down at the break to win 2-1 against Wakefield at Shawbridge. Jason Jones started the comeback and was described as a ‘hero’ and man-of-the-match in the newspaper report. Kenny Mayers, who must be almost as old as Smithy, came on from the bench to hit the 85th minute winner.
Rossendale United went the other way, leading 1-0 at Garforth Town before going down 2-1 to leave John Hughes’ charges still rock bottom. Owner Andrew Connolly has announced that he’s looking to sell the club as he feels it’s time to move on and let someone new, enthusiastic and ‘hands-on’ to take over. Mr. Connolly hasn’t really been involved for the past two years but during his ten year stay as number one has seen the club improve both on and off the pitch with the ground in particular having been transformed during that time.
* Around the Unibond, Chasetown produced a fantastic finish to their home game with Goole. They were 3-1 down after 85 minutes but stormed back to win 4-3. Skelmersdale United found themselves two down to Woodley Sports at the break in their Presidents Cup game but hit five without reply in the second half to go through to the 3rd Round. Glapwell won 7-1 at Willenhall with one player, Lee Gregory, hitting six.
* Further afield, one of the great come-backs of the season at Leighton Town. Struggling Soham Town were shell-shocked after 20 minutes, 4-0 down and fearing a record defeat but a goal before half time gave them hope and three more in the second half saw them earn a brilliant point in the Zamaretto League.
* In the Ryman Division One South League, two play-off contenders met at Fleet Town, and Chatham Town looked to be going home with the points, leading 3-2 with time almost up, but Darren Wheeler scored for Fleet in the 90th minute and then had the chance to win it but his 95th minute penalty was saved. The resulting corner saw Mark Anderson hit the home side’s fourth and winning goal.
That League seems to be the one where you ought to stay till the end as the same day saw another remarkable finish. Visitors Merstham were 3-1 down at Corinthian Casuals and were also down to ten men but three goals in the final five minutes saw them leave with the points. The 3rd and 4th goals came in the 92nd and 94th minutes!
* In the Football League, Eric Whalley’s Chester City have amazingly still not paid their football debts but the deadline has been extended again, this time until the end of the month. Eric’s old club are doing very well since their debts were cleared and Andy Proctor inspired them to a fine point at Bradford City before a huge five figure crowd. Stanley’s following of 162 appears to be an improvement on recent years and they must have been pleased with the performance. A penalty two minutes from the end looked to have denied the Reds a point but luckily it was struck wide and then Stanley could have wrapped up the points but for a great save at the other end.

Early November 2009

* The beginning of the month saw our non-league fantasy teams climbing the table. GT Harwood Town moved up to 665th and Blackburn Robins shot up an incredible 200 places in one week and are currently 1,014th.
* On the pitch, James Dean and his Halifax Town side suffered their first League defeat of the season, going down 1-0 at Prescot Cables. Deano went close, missed a sitter and was thwarted by the keeper in front of a massive 600+ crowd-400 up on the last attendance at Cables.
* One team who look certain to be passing Town on the way up next season is Durham City who probably thought things couldn’t get much worse than losing their opening 16 League games but November saw them sink to new lows. They were 6-0 down at Kings Lynn within half an hour, 7 down at half time and 9 down after 50 minutes. Luckily, the Norfolk side took it easy for the final 40 minutes scoring just twice more.
* John Hughes’ season isn’t going much better and Rossendale slumped to yet another defeat, this time at Curzon Ashton although the only goal came in the final minutes. That’s just one win in 13 games and only 6 goals scored.
* Pete Smith’s Clitheroe should have taken all three points at struggling Salford City and in the process gain revenge for last week’s FA Trophy defeat, but they had to settle for a point. Liam McManus, Ryan Fisher and Jason Jones all started for the Blues who had to wait until the second half to take the lead despite dominating the opening 45 minutes.
* In the Vodcat Premier League, Russ McKenna’s Squires Gate enjoyed a 1-0 win against Alsager Town while Colne won 1-0 at Flixton to move away from the bottom three. Bobby Harris was up to his old tricks again, not only saving a penalty but also the follow up.
* Ramsbottom United’s good run came to an abrupt halt at New Mills who ran out 5-1 winners after a strong finish to the game. Ed O’Neil was brought back into the starting line-up but Rammy’s problems began when he was substituted with his team only 2-1 down.
* Mis-match of the day looked to be at Newcastle Town who’d won all 16 League games, the last six without conceding a goal. Visitors Abbey Hey were bottom, a mere 43 points behind, and had already lost 5-0 to ‘Castle in the reverse fixture, but the visitors gave a great account of themselves and it took a penalty and some fine saves from the home keeper to deny them a point.
* In the FA Cup, our old friends from Fleetwood Town put up a great fight at Northampton Town before going down 2-1. The Fishermen had numerous chances and twice hit the post but were undone by a 35 yard free kick that should have been saved.
* Accrington Stanley avoided the banana skin that was Salisbury City and won 2-0, their first FA Cup win for six years. Andy Procter is the only Reds’ player still at the club who played in that game and he gave another master-class performance in the middle of the park.
* We were involved in an epic cup clash with Morecambe a few years ago and the Shrimps played in another one at Carlisle United. They were two down and on their way out at Brunton Park before Jevons(70) and Duffy(85) forced a replay.

Late October 2009

* Congratulations go to our old adversaries Fleetwood Town who’ve made it through tot the FA Cup 1st Round. They faced a daunting trip to Kidderminster Harriers in the final qualifying round but came away with a draw before progressing after a magical 3-1 win at Highbury with Kiddy’s goal coming at the end of the game. Once again the townsfolk came out in force with a shade under 1,700 enjoying another memorable night.
* On the same evening, Eric Whalley’s Chester City exited the competition which must have come as a huge blow considering the financial chaos at the Deva. After holding Barrow at Holker Street, they lost the replay 4-0 but like Stanley, they have been given more time to pay their debts. Many ex-businesses up and down the country must be thinking that football clubs adhere to different rules than the rest.
* One team that we played regularly about 20 years ago, Lincoln United, also went out at the final qualifying stage but they enjoyed a fantastic afternoon on Sunday when they hosted Cambridge United. They even took the lead before going down 3-1 in front of a huge attendance of 837. Three days later and it was back to League Cup and United must have been disappointed to see only 56 hardy souls turn up for the game with Shepshed Dynamo, which once again they lost 3-1.
* At the weekend, it was FA Trophy action and as usual, James Dean was making the headlines. He skimmed the bar on 20 minutes, hit the post a minute later, then scored the opener 60 seconds later. He also scored the 3rd in Halifax’s 5-0 win at Shepshed Dynamo.
* Elsewhere in the Competition, Simon Garner’s FC United looked to be in control of their tie at Lancaster City and were 3-1 in front with less than 10 minutes left but the home side hit back to force a replay.
* No problems for Leigh Genesis who hammered Skelmersdale United 4-1, despite Jonathan Smith being an unused substitute.
* Last week I saw Harwood legend Pete Smith in the town, looking exactly the same age as he did when he scored in the 6-0 FA Trophy win at Fleetwood 15 years ago. He took his Clitheroe side the short distance to struggling Salford City but despite pushing for an equaliser in the last few minutes, an injury time 5th saw City win 5-3. Ryan Fisher was moved into midfield and his presence at the back was badly missed. Not too sure how many Blues fans made the trip but there can’t have been too many in a gate of just 43.
* Mixed bag of results for our local Vodcat League sides with Padiham, Rossendale and Nelson getting 4-3, 5-0 and 5-1 hammerings respectively. The Storks will be kicking themselves after leading Irlam 3-1 while John Hughes’ Rossy really are struggling to make any headway. Nelson conceded three goals in the last few minutes at Ashton Athletic.
* Colne exited the Vodcat Challenge Cup thanks to a 1-0 defeat against St. Helens Town at Holt House. This despite the visitors being reduced to ten men after scorer Mitchell clashed with Bobby Harris after his goal.
* Bacup Borough defeated AFC Blackpool 2-0 while the goal machine that is Ramsbottom United hit another four to win by the odd goal in seven against Congleton Town at the Riverside. Keiran Fletcher managed to get himself booked while * * Ed O’Neil cam on as a sub. after an hour.
In the West Lancs. League, Dennis Hill’s Darwen lost again despite the debut of Gaz Holt who impressed throughout. The Salmoners made the long trip to Vickerstown and were well beaten 3-1.
*Accrington Stanley fans can once again breathe easily as Ilyas Khan has saved the club at the eleventh hour. He has paid the Inland Revenue the outstanding debt and the Reds can look forward to a brighter future.
* Our old friends from Holker Old Boys came within nine minutes of a fantastic win at Southport in the Lancs. Trophy but the late equaliser sent the game into extra time where ‘Port scored twice more without reply in front of a miserable turn-out of 80.

Mid - Late October 2009

* Midweek ‘goal-fest’ at Atherton LR where 4th from bottom Alsager Town eased their relegation fears with a great 8-1 win.

* Simon Garner returned to haunt his old club Stalybridge Celtic as FC United progressed into the 4th qualifying round of the FA Cup for the first time in their short history. The Reds won the replay 1-0 in front of another amazing crowd of almost 2,000-four times Celtic’s normal attendance. Simon had to be at his best to keep the Conference North club’s forwards at bay and twice in the second half he made goal-line clearances. Another tricky tie awaits them at Northwich but with their magnificent fans sure make it seem like a home game, anything is possible.

* If it’s entertainment that you crave then get along to a Derbyshire Senior Cup game. After New Mills’ amazing goal scoring exploits, it was the turn of Glossop North End at the weekend as they travelled to Newhall United and won 8-3.

* Elsewhere it was First Division Trophy day which failed to capture the imagination of the Atherton public as Collieries drew just 17 spectators for their clash with Norton United. The fans who decided to go shopping were totally justified as the visitors won 4-0. Another ‘crowd’ of only 17 saw the Ashton Athletic v Bacup Borough League game but this time the stay-aways lost out big time as Brent Peters’ side fought back from 4-2 down to force a draw.

* Barnoldswick Town enjoyed their biggest game of the season, beating AFC Liverpool 2-1 before 170 fans in a game that was more comfortable than the score-line suggests.

* It was FA Trophy qualifying day and Simon Garner’s FC United ended a great week with another away victory at higher-placed opposition. They beat Unibond Premier League Ashton United 3-1 at Hurst Cross.

* Clitheroe were another side to beat higher-placed opposition in another game that wasn’t as close as the score suggested. They came through 1-0 at Bradford Park Avenue where only a great save prevented Ryan Fisher from getting on the score sheet.

* James Dean missed a six-yard sitter but it didn’t matter as Halifax beat Romulus 2-0 before the round’s biggest crowd, just under 1,000-the win was Town’s fourteenth victory in a row, a truly phenomenal achievement.

* Jonathan Smith’s Leigh Genesis came from behind to beat Atherstone Town 3-1 with Tom Ince scoring all three.

* Skelmersdale United, who we enjoyed some great tussles with, progressed without too many difficulties, winning 5-0 at home to Goole AFC and even keeper Ryan McMahon got on the score sheet via a penalty.

* Highest score of the round came at Bracknell Town where visitors Thatcham Town hit four in each half to claim an 8-1 victory.

* Best result was undoubtedly at Hastings United where lower-placed visitors Merstham won 6-1 with all the goals coming in an amazing first half.

* Most exciting game was at Horsham where the home side led 4-1 after just 20 minutes only for Barton Rovers to rally and force a replay with a last minute equaliser.

* In the Unibond Division One North, it’s looking like ‘deja-vu’ with the bottom two once again, Salford City and Rossendale United, Rossy entertained an Ossett Town side with the same points and goal difference but lost 2-0 to leave them on five points from 10 games with their nearest rivals all having games in hand. The visitors had, like John Hughes’ side, won just one of their opening 10 league games.

* In the Conference North, title favourites Fleetwood Town made the ridiculously long journey to Gloucester where a last minute Seddon goal condemned the hosts to their 6th home defeat in 7 games.

* Kieran Fletcher was unlucky with a long range effort that just cleared the crossbar in Ramsbottom’s 2-1 home defeat to Alsager Town. Ed O’Neil was missing through injury and his clinical finishing was sadly missed by the Rams who dominated much of the 90 minutes.

* In the West Lancs. League, Dennis Hill’s Darwen are showing few signs of consistency and were well beaten 4-1 by Fulwood Amateurs to leave them struggling in the lower half of the table.

* Further afield, the most ridiculous sacking in living memory, occurred at Leamington where Boss Jason Cadden was shown the door after a remarkable decade of nothing but success. A.P. Leamington were one of the leading non-league clubs in the country before they folded but they re-formed almost ten years ago and Cadden has been in charge from the start guiding the Midlanders to no less than five promotions. Despite a good start in the Zamaretto Premier League which sees them lying comfortably in mid-table, Chairman Jim Scott reckoned that the decision to boot out the boss was unanimous from the boardroom members-they’ve got to be having a laugh, although Jason doesn’t see the funny side of it. No doubt he’ll be a wanted man in the coming weeks and will soon be back at one the top sides in the land.

* In midweek, Jonathan Smith returned to his old club Clitheroe and helped his Leigh Genesis side come away with all three points after a 2-1 win. Mind you it looked highly unlikely with six minutes left and the Blues leading 1-0 but two late penalties, the first conceded by Ryan Fisher saw Leigh victorious. Team-mate and ex-Robin Liam McManus had earlier started the move that gave Clitheroe the lead and then hit the bar before the late turnaround.

* James Dean was back on the goal trail and he hit the winner in Halifax’s 2-1 success at neighbours Harrogate Railway Athletic.

* Ed O’Neil returned to the Ramsbottom line-up at Ashton Athletic and helped them to a 5-1 win which moved them up into 5th place but leaders Newcastle look unstoppable as they recorded their 14th league win of the season in their 14th game. The 6-0 win was their second such score-line in the last three games and NWCFL records look set to fall.

* The most exciting game of the week came at FA Vase stalwarts Quorn, where the home side were trailing 3-1 to Radcliffe Borough before a devastating spell saw them hit five without reply to take the FA Cup tie 6-3 in front of a poor crowd of just 91.

* Just 24 hours later the above match had a rival for ‘game of the week’ as Worksop Town and North Ferriby United produced a fantastic FA Trophy replay at Ilkeston Town’s New Manor Ground. The Villagers looked to be cruising after building up a 3-0 half time lead but with ten minutes left they were hanging on for extra time as Town fought back heroically. Gary Bradshaw hit his third to put United back in front in the 6th minute of extra time but up popped Mathew Glass with a 120th minute equaliser to take the game to penalties with North Ferriby finally making it through 4-3 on spot kicks.

* Eric Whalley’s Chester City are once again on the brink of folding and have been given till 5-30 on Monday afternoon to pay off their ‘football’ debts including the one owed to Vauxhall Motors for Paul Taylor transfer, and ticket sales cash owed to Wrexham. The FA have already heard the case of Taylor, who was sacked by City, but the fee and instalments had been agreed and Motors should have received the balance almost a year ago.
City have a new Chairman and Manager and they recently won an away game which saw them down to minus 10 points at the bottom of the Conference but it could all be academic come Monday evening.

* Ryan Fisher set Pete Smith’s Clitheroe on the way with the first goal in their 2-0 win at Radcliffe Borough while John Hughes’ Rossendale United continue to struggle and they lost once again, 3-1 at home to Warrington Town before a pitiful 75 spectators. Adam Wagstaffe was amongst the starting line-up but he was sacrificed after the Rossy keeper was sent off.

* Jonathan Smith helped Leigh Genesis to a 1-1 home draw with Mossley before a season’s best 235 attendance. The result was made even more impressive by the fact that the home side were reduced to ten men after only 20 minutes and trailed at the interval.

* Despite Ramsbottom United winning their last two games, at Atherton L.R, and Ashton Athletic, 4-0 and 5-1, Ed O’Neil has failed to find the target.

* James Dean’s dream of FA Cup glory has come to an end as his Halifax side lost to a late goal at home to Wrexham in front of just under 3,000 fans at the Shay.

* Another of our ex-players hoping to make it through to meet the ‘big-boys’ in the 1st Round Proper was Simon Garner but he was at fault for the opening goal in Northwich Victoria’s opening goal in a 3-0 defeat for the Reds. A late own goal and an injury time third made the result look far more comprehensive than it actually was.

* In the Vodcat League, the result of the day went to Stone Dominoes who, despite going a goal down at Ashton Town, won 6-1 with the attendance being reported at a whopping 88 so maybe the players were included in that total!

* AFC Liverpool got back to winning ways with a 5-1 win at home to Chadderton and despite Liverpool not playing till the Sunday, only 121 turned up.

* A side who we enjoyed many close battles against, are Nantwich Town, who’ve made great strides in recent seasons with a new ground, continued improvement on the pitch and attendances more than five times what they attracted in the NWCFL. But they were the latest in a number of clubs who’ve met their match in the shape of the mighty Boston United. Last season saw the Dabbers thrash the Pilgrims 5-0 in both League games but on Saturday the visitors ran out easy 4-0 victors before a crowd of almost 700, swelled by a huge away following.

* Dennis Hill’s Darwen were in Amateur Cup action and although they led 2-0 at one stage, visitors Garstang hit back to win 3-2 leaving Den’s Dawdlers to concentrate on the League, where they’ve slipped to 6th from bottom. The good news for the Salmoners is that their final position will be academic as very few clubs are willing to take the next step up to the Vodcat League, leaving Darwen to gain ‘promotion’ irrespective of their final league placing.

* Our two non-league fantasy teams show few signs of improvement with the Blackburn Robins dropping to 1,139th and GT Harwood Town also slipping another 150 places to 729th. Our chances of getting amongst the prize money are…………NIL!

* The mid-week games saw Leigh and Rossendale crash out of the Unibond Cup with Genesis missing Jonathan Smith’s presence in defence, falling to a 4-0 thrashing at Mossley. Vas Theophanous played for Rossy but couldn’t prevent a 2-0 home defeat by Curzon Ashton.

* No such problems for Halifax although they were struggling for 45 minutes until the introduction of James Dean from the bench. His great diving header put the Shaymen ahead against Ossett Albion and his 15th goal of the season sealed the victory.

* In League action were Pete Smith’s Clitheroe and they had a fortunate home win against Woodley Sports, netting the only goal of the game in the 94th minute. Liam McManus, Ryan Fisher and Jason Jones were all involved.

* In the Vodcat League Premier Division, Ramsbottom United are up to 5th after a fine 3-1 win at neighbours Padiham. That makes it an amazing 21 goals for the Rams in the last 5 away games and although he didn’t score, Ed O’Neil set up the third after a great run and cross, as The Storks were pushing for an equaliser.

* Last but not least, the big mid-week news came away form the pitch as Accrington Stanley were given a 7 day stay of execution despite coming up short of the money owed to the taxman. Ilyas Khan appears to have changed his mind about helping the club and has put his weight-and cash-behind the club once again. Maybe he should take full control as the current regime have proved to be incapable, taking the club to the brink of extinction.

Early October 2009

For those of you familiar with the Non League Paper’s Fantasy League, we have two teams this year, GT Harwood Town and Blackburn Robins but despite having many of the leading teams, we’re struggling in 581st and 1088th places so we need a marked improvement before we appear on the leaders Board. Many teams have racked up over 100 points this season including some of ours but we also have Durham City who’ve earned us NIL POINTS after losing every game so far!
* Liam McManus and Ryan Fisher have become regular fixtures in Clitheroe’s starting line-up for the past few weeks and Liam found the net in the Blues recent 4-1 cup replay win at Belper Town.
* James Dean didn’t manage to score at the weekend but he was a constant thorn in the side of visitors Burscough in the FA Cup and he helped the Shaymen to another memorable win. One goal was enough and the reward is home tie with Wrexham which will attract the biggest crowd of the season.
* Simon Garner looked to have helped FC United into the next round of the FA Cup when he began a great move which saw the Reds go two up against Stalybridge but the visitors hit back to draw 3-3 in front of almost 3,000 fans at Gigg Lane. A trip to Northwich awaits them if they win the replay.
* Locally, Ramsbottom United came away from highly-rated Bootle with a fantastic 6-3 victory and even more surprising was that Ed O’Neil wasn’t on the scoresheet.
* Our old ‘friend’ Steve Wilkes took his Runcorn side to his old stomping ground at Padiham and came away with a 4-1 thrashing.
* Bobby Harris showed all of his old magic in helping Colne to a 1-1 draw at New Mills. Nothing so great about that I hear you say, but four days earlier New Mills went to Abbey Hey hit them for seven in a Premier League game and two days after the Colne fixture, they hit Parkside for seven in a Derbyshire Cup game. The Millers needed a 90th minute equaliser to make it 4-4 before three more without reply took them through.
* Meanwhile, Nelson, who Bob joined after Harwood’s demise, were strolling at 4-0 before visitors Atherton L.R. hit back with three of their own to set up an exciting last few minutes.
* Some pretty feeble attendances last week in the Vodcat League. AFC Liverpool could draw only 73 for their game at Chadderton and Atherton Collieries were watched by only 17 in their home defeat by AFC Blackpool. Oh dear oh dear, the atmosphere at Colls must have been electric compared to the one at Flixton where EIGHT hardy souls witnessed the 2-0 defeat by St. Helens. Was anyone reading this at the game? Did St. Helens take any of those eight? Please let us know.
* Just as surprising was the away following of Unibond Premier League leaders and our old foes, Ashton United. They went to York Street to take on the mighty Boston United and were cheered on by…….four supporters, although two more turned up during the second half!
* Two more ex-Robins have turned up our radar. Adam Wagstaffe, one of several promising youngsters on our books for a short while is now playing for John Hughes at Rossendale United and Gary Holt, who played a round half a dozen games for us has signed for Dennis Hill at Darwen.
* Still no sign of Matt Derbyshire coming back from injury but his Olympiakos side are managing quite well without him. They’ve won five and drawn one of their opening six games to leave them in second place in the Greek League, two points behind 100% Panithinaikos in what looks already to be a two-horse race for the title.
* Not too much local interest left in the FA Cup with Chorley going down 4-1 at Northwich Victoria while Southport and Kendal Town face home replays. Fleetwood Town meanwhile show no signs of slowing down in their efforts to reach the top. They’re currently lying in the play-off positions in the Blue Square North and on Saturday they came from two down to beat Vauxhall Motors 3-2 in the FA Cup at the Highbury Stadium. Their reward is a tough looking tie at Kidderminster Harriers.
Meanwhile off the pitch, the improvements to the ground go on with a new 2,000 seat stand next in line to go with the two new stands, bar, new pitch and Football League standard floodlights that were installed last year.
The rise and rise of the Fishermen bears a striking resemblance to Wimbledon and don’t be surprised if they make it into the Football League sooner rather than later. It’s just thirteen years ago that the club folded and their astonishing success should be an inspiration to all non-league clubs and we here wish them all the best for the future.

Late September 2009

FA Cup weekend saw goals galore and the gold star goes to Ashford Town (Middlesex) who hammered ‘never-heard-of –them’ Badshot Lea 10-0 with Bryon Harrison netting four. Two clubs hit eight without reply, Dover Athletic against East Preston and Northwich Victoria against another ‘unknown’ side, Bardon HS. Mark Danks was the Vics hero and top scorer of the round hitting five while six Dover players were on target against opponents from five levels below.

Also scoring for fun were Blythe Spartans who beat Ossett Albion 7-1 with no fewer than four of their goals coming in the last ten minutes.

Many ties were over long before half time, amongst them Alfreton Town versus Old Wilfrunians (who?). Town took 45 seconds to get off the mark and were five up by the break. Eastleigh travelled to Oxfordshire to take on Whitney Town and took just over half an hour to take a five goal lead before easing off to win 6-1. A similar game at Willand Rovers where Bath City ‘declared’ at the break with the score at 5-0.

One tie that went the distance was at Chesham United where they came from behind to beat Billericay Town 4-2 with the last two goals coming in the last minute.

Comeback of the round was at Bishop’s Stortford where the home side raced into a 2-0 lead within 12 minutes before famous Cup Giant Killers Thurrock hit back with three of their own.

Not too many local clubs left and Bamber Bridge exited the Competition after a 2-0 defeat at Guiseley. AFC Fylde may not have been expected to win at Unibond Premier side Buxton but a four goal first half salvo must have come as quite a shock before the Vase winners tightened things up conceding just one more in the second 45 minutes. Fleetwood Town came from behind to beat Farsley Celtic 3-1 before a good crowd of over 700. An even better crowd at North Ferriby to see Simon Garner’s FC United win 1-0 with three quarters of the 800+ fans going home happy.

James Dean was on target yet again, hitting the second goal in Halifax’s great 2-0 win at Droylsden before a huge 900 supporters, most of who were from Yorkshire. The hosts sit top of the Conference North and were overwhelming favourites to make it into the next round.

Deano’s old club Stalybridge Celtic looked to have a difficult game at Unibond Premier League leaders Stocksbridge Park Steelers but six second half goals sealed a 7-2 victory.

In the League, our recent opponents Nantwich continue to go onwards and upwards and a cracking 3-0 win at Kings Lynn sent them to the top of the Unibond Premier League. In the Unibond North, Jonathon Smith was missing from the last two games but Leigh Genesis still moved up into the top five thanks to a 6-0 demolition of Prescot Cables who still have the losing habit after last season’s relegation. Leigh also hit six in midweek against local rivals Warrington Town in the Unibond Cup. The bottom of that League has a familiar look to it with Rossendale United and Salford City propping up the table. Rossy lost 4-1 at home to table-toppers Colwyn Bay. Another local side, Pete Smith’s Clitheroe also went down by the same scoreline at Curzon Ashton to leave them fourth from bottom with Ryan Fisher and Liam McManus in the starting line up.

In the Vodcat League, there were defeats for Colne, Bacup, Nelson, Padiham and Squires Gate in the Premier Division but in the First Division, new-comers Barnoldswick were surprisingly held 0-0 by visitors Norton United. Despite those dropped points, Town remain in second place. Another ex-Robin has been found and he’s helping his side to great success. James Coonan, who was brilliant in his time at Harwood, is now helping Barnoldswick take the Vodcat League by storm and scored a goal in the great 7-1 win against AFC Blackpool in midweek.

In the same League, AFC Liverpool are certainly not another FC United and they’re making little headway with the attendances very disappointing. They beat Oldham Town 2-0 in front of just 115 supporters. Game of the day was at Rochdale Town (Castleton Gabriels) where the home side roared into a 2-0 lead after just 3 minutes but visitors Stone Dominoes hit back to lead just after the break and eventually ran out 5-3 winners before a measly 26 spectators. Mind you, that was good compared with Neil Zarac’s new club, Premier Division Ashton Athletic, who drew a pathetic 19 for their game against Colne in which they won 2-1. How many were from Colne?

Highest scorers were Leek CSOB who hammered bottom of the table Ashton Town 8-1.

AFC Darwen slipped down to mid-table after a disappointing home defeat against Tempest United in the West Lancs. League and Dennis Hill and his ex-Harwood contingent will have to do much better if they’re to make an impact in that League. Once again Dennis was sent from the dug out for giving the officials ‘ear-ache’.

Better news for Stanley as the last two attendances have been well up on normal and a 5-2 win on Friday saw them climb the table. Captain Andy Procter was once again prominent in midfield and capped a great performance with a goal.

Another ex-Robin has surfaced-Harwood’s brilliant keeper Bobby Harris is playing for Colne.

Eric Whalley’s old club is still in deep trouble despite the best efforts of captain Andy Procter. He secured a valuable point for the Reds at Port Vale when his 90th minute, 20 yard shot took a deflection before nestling in the bottom corner of the net. The tables were then turned when, despite a late penalty save, a last minute goal was enough to beat them at Saltergate.

Meanwhile off the pitch, ‘Saviour-in-waiting’ Ilyas Khan has withdrawn his offer of financial help and vice Chairman Peter Marsden has resigned from his position after his backing of the businessman was not universally supported by other members of the board.
Eric’s current club Chester City are in even worse trouble and could yet fold despite looking safe just a few weeks ago. Also still in dire straights are Weymouth, Hyde, Hornchurch (again), and Bromsgrove.

At the top end of the Pyramid, Mick Harford has been the shown the door at Luton Town after some fans turned on him after the 1-0 midweek home defeat to neighbours Stevenage. The Hatters are currently fifth in the league and the derby game attracted over 8,000 to Kenilworth Road so things surely can’t be so bad.

In the Unibond League, there’s no stopping James Dean and his Halifax side as they remain second, one point behind but with two games in hand after their midweek win against Curzon Ashton. They travelled to Trafford for an FA Trophy game on Saturday and came away with a 4-3 win, six of the goals coming in the final 18 minutes. Deano hit a 16 minute hat-trick to continue his great goal scoring run.

Not too much local interest in the Competition with John Hughes’ Rossendale United losing at home to Chorley while Clitheroe and Bamber Bridge were both held. Vasillis Theophanous came on as a second half substitute for Dale and unlike his last outing against Colwyn Bay, managed to finish the game without being sent off!

The FA Vase also took place with neighbours Padiham, Nelson and Bacup Borough progressing, the latter beating Ramsbottom United after extra time at the Riverside. Ed O’Neil hit Rammy’s equalising goal which eventually saw the tie go into extra time. Meanwhile Colne, surprisingly-with Bobby Harris in goal-lost 4-0 at home to Hallam in front of a paltry 33 spectators.

Of our recent Vase opponents, Norton & Stockton Ancients and Crook Town made it through while Winterton Rangers, Guisborough Town and Hall Road Rangers went out.

Plenty of goals and excitement in the latest round of the Lancashire Co-operative Trophy, not least at Lancaster City where visitors AFC Blackpool were put to the sword. 7-3 the final score and almost as many goals at Leigh Genesis where Jonathan Smith was a relieved man at the end of the 2 hours+ game with Atherton LR. Baguley hit 4 for Leigh but it still wasn’t enough to settle the game which the home side eventually won 4-3 on penalties. Smithy missed his spot kick but it didn’t matter as Rovers players missed the ones either side his woeful effort!

In League action, Russ McKenna’s Squires Gate desperately needed a win against Maine Road and duly got it thanks to a 3-0 scoreline. That followed a dreadful run of five defeats in a row where the sea-siders conceded 20 goals. Amazingly that run had followed three successive victories where Gate had scored 17!

Simon Garner helped FC United come from 3-1 down to win 4-3 against Stocksbridge Park Steels and only a great save prevented him scoring a from second half free kick.Before the game United were surprisingly in the relegation zone despite being one of the pre-season favourites for promotion.

Mid September 2009 cont..

In the Vodcat League, Ed O’Neil helped Ramsbottom United to a 2-0 derby win at Nelson and was unlucky not to score at least one goal, while Paul Walker’s fantastic 77th minute strike sealed a 2-0 win for Padiham at Alsager Town.

Neil Zarac has been persuaded to come out of early retirement by Premier League basement side Ashton Athletic who’ll be hoping he can play enough games to help them out of trouble.

Dennis Hill’s Darwen continued their good recent form with a comfortable 4-1 win at home to BAC Springfields in the Lancashire Amateur Trophy. Richard Fogarty was amongst the scorers but fellow ex-Robin Dave Anwar has dislocated his shoulder and will be out for some time.

Simon Garner and his FC United side appear to have found their level in the Unibond Premier League and they lost 2-1 at home to Guiseley to leave them in mid-table after four defeats in their opening seven games.

One step down the Pyramid, Clitheroe were thrashed 4-1 at home to Trafford despite Jason Jones’ prominent display in midfield and Ryan Fisher’s 65th minute goal.

In the same league, James Dean’s barren goal-scoring run of one game came to an end as the Tykes defeated Jonathon Smith’s Leigh Genesis 3-1. Deano hit the second as all four goals came in the first half.

It was FA Vase day on Saturday and Harwood’s recent Cup opponents enjoyed plenty of success. The game of the round came at Silsden where Guisborough Town, who we defeated a few years ago, went through after a fabulous 6-5 win.

Crook Town also went through, winning 1-0 at Ryton, while Norton & Stockton proved too strong for visitors West Allotment Celtic, 3-0 the score. Seaham Red Star went down to a surprise 4-1 home defeat against Stokesley.

Of the local sides, Padiham forced a replay against Chadderton after a 2-2 draw, Bacup Borough beat Holker Old Boys 2-1 at West View, Nelson hammered Abbey Hey 5-1 at Victoria Park and Colne won 2-1 at Irlam.

Lots of goals in Vase and two teams hit nine. United Counties League side Blackstones annihilated East Midlands League visitors Radford 9-0 and things look bleak for the away side as they’ve lost all five of their opening League fixtures. The gold star though goes to Ridgeons Legaue Haverhill Rovers who travelled to Fakenham Town and also won 9-0. Shaun Banham hit four to make it ten for the season but just 45 spectators were present to see the rout.

Mid September 2009

At last some good news for Accrington Stanley. A friendly game against Burnley raised around £40,000 for the Reds and a the next League game against Darlington saw over 3,000 fans turn up at the Crown Ground to give their support for struggling Stanley. Fans from Rovers, Burnley, Morecambe, Rochdale, Bury and beyond rallied round and saw the Reds win 2-1 thanks in no small way to ex-Harwood player Andy Proctor. The ‘Captain Fantastic’ was instrumental in everything good about Stanley’s play and scored the first goal to set them on their way.

In Blue Square North, Fleetwood Town continue to impress and they beat high-flying Corby Town 4-2 at Highbury before more than 1,100 fans to move up to 3rd in the table just one point behind leaders Droylsden.

It was FA Cup weekend and a couple of our local clubs went down to disappointing results. Rossendale united lost 4-2 at AFC Fylde while Clitheroe lost 2-0 at home to Premier League Stocksbridge Park Steelers. Chorley just about held on to a 3-2 victory at Glossop North End before almost 300 fans. One of the surprise results of the round was at the Giant Axe where Lancaster City were thrashed 3-0 by lowly Ashton Town. Simon Garner helped FC United to a 3-1 win at the country’s oldest club Sheffield. The Reds raced into a 3-0 half time lead before the home side fought back strongly in the second period before a huge crowd of over 1,200.

The highest score of the round involved one of our recent FA Cup opponents Guisborough Town. They lost 9-1 at Unibond Premier League leaders Kendal Town and the score was just 2-1 just before half time before the home side ‘cut-loose’ after the break.

Other recent Cup opponents had mixed results. Brigg Town were not surprisingly hammered 5-0 at home to giants Nuneaton Town in front of almost 250 fans which included a large away following. Cammell Laird disposed of St. Helens without too much difficulty but the Birkenhead public continue to show their apathy to the local team with a paltry 75 turning up for the vital money-spinner.

Minnows Winterton Rangers, who we hammered a few years ago gave a great account of themselves at higher placed Buxton before going down 2-1.

Norton and Stockton Ancients were no match for Harwood four years ago and they were no match for Harwood old boy James Dean this season. His Halifax Town side cruised into the next round of the Cup with the same scoreline as the Robins, 4-0, although amazingly Deano failed to hit the target.

In other competitions, the most exciting game of the season so far must surely have been the Unibond Premier League Presidents Cup game between Goole and the afore-mentioned Brigg Town. An own goal five minutes before the break put Goole three up but Town hit back with two quick goals before half time. Seven minutes after half time it was 3-3 but Goole re-took the lead soon after. Our old FA Vase opponents weren’t to be out-done though and three further goals made it 6-4. A great pity that les than 100 supporters witnessed the classic encounter.

Early September 2009

Accrington Stanley seem to go from one disaster to another and the latest could put them out of business in a couple of months. They owe the ‘taxman’ £308,000 and according to the club, they’d agreed a payment schedule that would see them pay the debt over the next 12 months but now they’ve been told to pay it back within 8 weeks. The Stanley Chief Executive stated that the club ‘thought’ that they’d agreed a 12 month deal with the authorities. Just how one can ‘think’ that they’ve reached an agreement is beyond me-either they’ve agreed it or they haven’t!

Still plenty of non-league clubs in crisis including Weymouth, Salisbury, Lewes, Durham and Farsley Celtic, who miraculously are still playing. On Thursday, all of the players were told to find other clubs and on Friday they resigned from the Conference, but later on that day new sponsors came forward, the club contacted the Conference, who agreed to allow them to continue. The following day saw them lose at home to Stalybridge before a hostile crowd who saw a Celtic player sent off and their manager banished to the stands.

Harwood played the Yorkshiremen many times in their Unibond days and our supporters will no doubt recollect that the Throstle’s Nest is one of the most unfriendly venues that we played at.

In the Vodcat League, perennial whipping boys Daisy Hill are enjoying a great start to the season and currently find themselves in second place in the 1st Division. They produced the result of the season so far by defeating AFC Liverpool 5-4.

Jason Jones and Liam McManus helped Clitheroe to a fine 0-0 draw at Colwyn Bay while Jonathan Smith helped Leigh genesis to a 4-2 win at Ossett Albion before a crowd of little more than a hundred. James Dean was thwarted by the Lancaster City keeper on several occasions but his team Halifax Town still won 1-0 to stay top of the table and end the Dollyblues unbeaten start to the season.

One team who could have gone top of their league with a win was FC United and Simon Garner almost gave them the lead at top of the table Kendal Town but his terrific long-range effort just cleared the bar before the home side scored the only goal of the game.

Some good news for Andy Proctor and Accrington Stanley at the end of a turbulent week. They enjoyed a great 2-0 win at Bury with Robert Grant hitting both goals in the final 10 minutes and coming close to a hat-trick before the end. Almost 300 Stanley fans made the trip which saw the Shakers suffer their third home defeat in the league and have yet to score a goal.

Eric Whalley saw his Chester City side gain their first home win of the year after defeating Histon 2-0 at the Deva Stadium to leave them on minus 20 points.

Meanwhile over in Greece Olympiakos have started the season brilliantly getting through to the Champions League group stages and beginning their league campaign with a 2-0 win at Larissa, conquerors of the Rovers a couple of years ago. Still no sign or news of Matt Derbyshire though as he seems to have dropped off the radar.

Late August 2009

I’ve been saying for years that the supporters of FC United are the best in the land and they’ve backed up my claims by snapping up over 1,000 season tickets for this term which is amazing for a Unibond club.

In the league below FCUM, Rossendale United have strengthened their squad by adding two more ex-Harwood players, Neil Smith and Vassilis Theophanous, the Cypriot legend.

Jonathan Smith’s Leigh have enjoyed a mixed start to the campaign winning at Rossendale before losing at Curzon Ashton.

Harwood legend Pete Smith saw his Clitheroe side open with a 1-0 win at Warrington Town with Ryan Fisher, Liam McManus and Jason Jones all playing a part. A local derby against Chorley at Shawbridge was next up and despite a great volleyed goal by Jonesy the blues went down 3-2.

Russ McKenna was left devastated as his Squires Gate side lost in their FA Cup replay against Staveley. In the first game it was Gate who hit a late equaliser but in the replay the ‘Miners’ not only scored with the last kick of the 90 minutes to make it 1-1, they also scored with the last kick of extra time to make it 2-2 before taking the tie 5-3 on penalties.

If any of the FA Cup games was more exciting than that one, then it had to be the one between Winsford United and Flixton. United lead no less than three times before going down 6-4 in front of a paltry crowd of 60. The attendances at the Barton Stadium have dwindled since the hey-days of the Conference and the so-called fans of ten years ago should hang their heads in shame.

Kieran Fletcher has left Clitheroe to join Ramsbottom United. Meanwhile Ryan Fisher was one of several players to lose their places as Pete Smith brings in new players at Shawbridge.

The evergreen Paul Southward who always seemed to score against us for Holker Old Boys, is still banging them in and hit another hat-trick on Saturday. Eccleshall were the victims of his latest treble and the Old Boys completed a comprehensive 6-0 win in front of just 27 spectators. A few more-50-witnessed a fantastic game at Ashton Town where visitors Atherton Collieries were denied by a last minute goal which made the score 5-5.

Dennis Hill is recovering from an operation and his AFC Darwen side made him feel a little better after they scraped home against Garstang by three goals to two.

Jonathon Smith helped Leigh Genesis to another win, this time 2-1 at home to Garforth Town but they were made to work hard for the three points and were left hanging on at times.

No hanging on for James Dean and FC Halifax Town as they made it three wins in three, the latest against Trafford, to top the Unibond North. Once again Deano ran the opponents ragged and could have had several goals. After just three minutes he blazed over from 6 yards when he should have done better and a few minutes later stabbed wide of the near post when well placed. He eventually opened the scoring when he swivelled inside the box and shot home and the points were safe within a minute as Town scored again before another terrific crowd of 1,359.
Next up was a midweek trip to Chorley and Deano scored his fourth goal in as many appearances, this time with a great header, to help the Blues fight back form 2-0 and then 3-1 down to earn a draw.

Simon Garner’s FC United finally got a point on the board after a 1-1 draw at with Retford in a game played at Lincoln United. The Reds followed up their opening day defeat against Boston with a 3-2 reverse at Bradford Park Avenue.

No sooner has John Eastham signed for Rossendale than his name, along with several others, has been circulated to Vodcat League clubs in need of a class forward. Get ready for a stampede of interested clubs!

Midweek saw Andy Proctor and his Stanley boys more than hold their own at QPR and can count themselves unfortunate to have lost their 2nd Round League Cup tie. Only bad luck and great goalkeeping kept the hosts in the contest during the first half and Stanley were always in the contest until Rangers’ second goal in injury time. Talksport Radio reported that only 30 Reds’ fans travelled to the game but anyone who saw the highlights on T.V. will know that many more were present, certainly 100+.

* It was FA Cup weekend and Jonathan Smith must have been dreaming of a good run to the 1st Round proper and some cup glory but Leigh Genesis were surprisingly knocked out at the first stage by neighbours Warrington Town, 1-0.
* Rossendale United live to fight another day after coming back from two down at Trafford to force a replay.
* Ex-Darwen boss Steve Wilkes, a man that Harwood fans loved to hate, must be living on borrowed time at Runcorn after a 6-0 thrashing at Bamber Bridge with Black and Eastwood both registering hat-tricks.
* Their neighbours Witton Albion were also on the end of a shock defeat, going down 1-0 at home to Congleton Town before their lowest ever FA Cup home attendance of just 194.
* Our dear old friends from Flixton were up to their old tricks again and one really must ask the question as to why they haven’t been hit hard for their atrocious disciplinary record which stretches back years. They went to Sheffield FC and were soundly beaten 4-0 as well as having three players sent off.
* Our local clubs had a mixed bag of results with Clitheroe being held to a 1-1 home draw by minnows Staveley M.W. who saw off Squires Gate in the last round. Ryan Fisher was brought back into the side at the expense of Jason Jones. Chorley struggled against another miner’s team, Nostell, but came through 2-1 at Victory Park. Padiham lost 4-2 at home to AFC Fylde whilst Ramsbottom United lost 2-1 at Maine Road.
* Some of the teams who we’ve played in recent years were also involved in cup action and Norton and Stockton Ancients enjoyed a great 5-0 win at Chester-le-Street. Guisborough drew 0-0 at fancied Wakefield while Winterton Rangers thrashed St. Andrews 6-1. Top scorers were Enfield and Poole Town who both hit seven.
Halifax Town progressed without too much difficulty, winning 6-0 at Brandon. James Dean, as usual, was at the forefront of everything good that Town did, setting up the first, scoring the second and coming close on several more occasions.

In the League, Simon Garner helped FC United to their second win of the week and their second clean sheet to keep the Reds moving up the Unibond Premier League table. Two days later they beat Ossett to move up to sixth in the table.
Spare a thought for their League rivals Durham City who’ve been climbing the non-league ladder in recent years. Their main sponsor pulled the plug after it was announced that City could go no further whilst their artificial pitch was in place. That meant the sale of the whole first team and their replacement with youngsters. Like Weymouth last season, the inevitable heavy defeats have followed and almost certain relegation awaits them come April (or before!). Their last three away games have seen them concede six, seven, and on Monday, eight, at lowly Burscough. Even the last two home games have seen them hit for four on each occasion.

Dennis Hill’s Darwen appear to be coming to grips with the West Lancs. League and won their latest game 3-0 at Haslingden St. Marys.

James Dean FAILED to get himself on the scoresheet as Halifax won yet again, this time at home to Garforth. He did though come close twice before setting up the only goal of the game.

Mid August 2009

Dennis Hill’s newly formed AFC Darwen began their life in the West Lancs. League with a hard fought 3-1 win at home to Coppell. Ex-Boss Steve Wilkes, now at Runcorn, hasn’t helped the Salmoners cause by grabbing last season’s leading scorer, Roscoe, just three days before the beginning of the season. Den did manage to boost the squad though with the signing of Harwood old boy Gordon Watson. He was part of the defence that was almost unbeatable for the Robins although he played the opening game up front.

Harwood legend John Eastham has signed for Rossendale United and linked up once again with John Hughes and Mickey Graham, so expect their ‘goals for’ column to make a marked improvement. After last season’s epic finally, the Stags should have been competing in the Vodcat League but Newcastle Blue Star’s demise has given them a reprieve so let’s hope that they can stay away from the ‘wrong’ end of the table this time round.

Jonathan Smith has enjoyed a pre-season with Leigh Genesis which took in games against Bolton and the Rovers and his new side came out of those games with much credit, losing 4-1 and 2-0 respectively.

Matt Derbyshire wasn’t involved in Olympiakos’ pre-season friendly at Tottenham which might explain his side’s 3-0 defeat.

The Unibond League’s opening day saw James Dean produce a truly outstanding display to help FC Halifax Town to a great 3-0 win at Colwyn Bay. He scored a cracking volley to open the scoring and then doubled the lead with a fabulous individual effort before coming close on a couple more occasions, not least when he struck the bar in the second half. Although Deano has only recently joined the Shaymen, if his current form continues then a move up the ‘ladder’ is inevitable.

In the Premier League, Simon Garner and his FCUM team-mates found Boston United too hot to handle and they lost for the 3rd time in a row to the Pilgrims at Gigg Lane with Simon being substituted after a torrid time in defence.

In the Football League, Andy Proctor was made captain of Accrington Stanley for the coming campaign although he missed the opening day defeat at Rotherham through suspension. He returned for the League Cup tie at home to League One Walsall and then helped the Reds to another success at home to Lincoln City.

Surprisingly Eric Whalley’s new team are still alive and kicking as Chester City were finally given the go ahead to start playing again. They began their Conference season on minus 25 points so it looks as though they’ll be playing in the Conference North next year. Despite all of their problems and the lack of pre-season friendly’s, the Blues surged into a two goal lead after only 19 minutes of their home game against Cambridge United but the visitors hit back with two goals in a minute just before half time and another two in the second period to take the points.

In the Vodcat League, AFC Liverpool will surely make no mistake this time round and they won 4-0 to make it maximum points from their two games while Castleton Gabriels may have changed their name to Rochdale Town but the results are just the same. They followed up their 5-0 home defeat against Liverpool with a 7-3 loss at high-flying Wigan Robin Park to leave them on just a single point from their first three games.

Many of our local clubs were involved in FA Cup action and Ramsbottom United and Padiham made it through to the next round, Bacup forced a replay after a home draw on Friday night, and Colne going down 3-1 at Silsden.

Last season’s NWCL heroes Glossop have held on to many of their new found supporters and a crowd of well over 200 saw their opening game.
Another club who could do with a good Cup run to revive interest is Premier League Flixton who last season struggled to get any kind of attendance and this term looks like being more of the same with just 16 paying guests for their game with Newcastle Town. It does beg the question, how many supporters did Newcastle take? They’ve been one of the leading clubs in the NWCL for several seasons and surely should be taking more than 16 supporters to every away game.

Dennis Hill’s AFC Darwen are finding the going a little tough in the West Lancs. League. After their narrow opening day victory, they lost 2-0 at Stoneclough before drawing 1-1 against bottom of the table Freckleton at the Anchor.

Squires Gate appear to have parted company with ex-Robin Andy Clarkson but he’s been replaced by another-Russ McKenna, so we’ll be keeping tabs on their progress throughout the season. They were involved in FA Cup action this weekend and were very fortunate to force a draw at home to Staveley M.W., scoring right at the ‘death’ to make it 2-2.

Early August 2009

Our old adversaries Fleetwood Town show no signs of resting on their laurels as they go all out for promotion to the National Conference. They’ve recently signed Alan Wright, a former Premiership winner with the Rovers, and are currently favourites for the title.

James Dean gave a typical performance in last weekend’s victory over Conference York City. Deano caused havoc in the Minstermen’s defence, scoring yet again and also showing that he still suffers from the ‘red mist’, being booked for a late challenge on the keeper.

Things are still looking bleak for Eric Whalley’s new club Chester City. They attended a Football Association hearing at the beginning of the week after which, it was stated that an official press release would be made within 48 hours. That deadline passed with a deafening silence from the Deva Stadium and the City fans must now be fearing the worst.
The week ended with the club’s opening Conference fixture at Grays Athletic being called off and then breaking news that all of the other 23 Conference clubs would have to vote ‘Yes’ to allow Chester to fulfil their fixtures. The chances of that happening are just about zero despite the League recommending their admission and with a 25 point deduction already in place, relegation is a certainty either this season or next and the possibility of the club folding altogether is drawing nearer.

Meanwhile Eric’s old club continues to be dragged through the mud. Two players have been given suspended jail sentences for their part in the infamous Southport nightclub brawl and ex-captain Peter Cavanagh has been found guilty of illegal betting practices and has been banned from all football for 8 months.

Late July 2009

A real ‘first’ for FCUM as they will let their supporters decide how much to pay for their individual season ticket! The cost of an adult ticket last season was £140 and although many supporters will opt for paying substantially less, it’s hoped that others will pay more this time round-Well done United and let’s hope that the idea is a great success.

Deano was once again on target for Halifax and his headed goal gave the Shaymen the lead against Accrington Stanley, with Andy Proctor, surprisingly, still with the Reds.

Talking of Stanley, they’ve endured a week that usually only occurs in science fiction books. Their name has been dragged through the mud by the betting scandals with four of the five players involved being found guilty and subsequently fined and banned. Jay Harris, David Mannix, Robbie Williams and Andy Mangan have been banned from playing immediately while Peter Cavanagh’s case is to be heard at a later date. Mangan’s five month ban seems to be particularly harsh as although he broke the betting rules, he did actually put money on his own Bury side to win the game.
Just as astonishing was Eric Whalley’s departure from the Crown Ground after 15 years in charge. He said that the reason was because one of the new people who recently took over Stanley stated that he wouldn’t put a penny into the club if Eric was still involved! Eric Whalley, the biggest and most successful legend in the club’s history-truly mind-boggling!
You may think that he’d have a really difficult task to find another club in more turmoil than Stanley but he’s managed to do it-Chester City. He’s taken up the role of director of football at a club who’ve been stopped by the F.A. from playing any friendly matches, have a ten point deduction from the start of the season and may yet be expelled from the Conference before they’ve even kicked off the new campaign, although Eric insists that they will be O.K. in two weeks time. If that wasn’t bad enough, two of the before mentioned ‘bad boys’, Harris and Mannix, are currently on the playing staff at Chester who’ve said that if the players appeals are unsuccessful, they’ll be sacked immediately. Meanwhile Mangan’s current employers Forest Green Rovers, say that last year’s Conference leading scorer committed the offence before he joined them and not surprisingly will be taking no further action against the player.

James Dean continued his excellent pre-season form against his former club Stalybridge Celtic. He ran the home side ragged but missed the chance to add to his goal tally when he shot over from a spot-kick after 19 minutes. Halifax then missed another penalty in the second half with Lowe also shooting over the top.

The cream of non-league football, Boston United, are not surprisingly up in arms about the treatment of a couple of clubs who, although committed a similar offence to the Pilgrims, have been dealt with in differing ways. Boston were thrown out of both the Conference and two years later, the Conference North yet clubs such as Northwich Victoria have escaped such a severe punishment. Despite asking the authorities to explain their unfair decisions, the York Street outfit won’t be holding their breaths with a view to being re-instated!

Very sad news this week with the passing away of one of our past Great Harwood players. Arthur Metcalf lost his long battle with illness at the age of 71 and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Anne and all of the family. Arthur was a true gentleman and it was an honour to meet him at his home in Rawtenstall. He also played for Blackpool and a tribute will be appearing in their matchday programme at the first game of the season. (See the ‘legends’ section of the website).

July 2009

Many apologies for the lack of up dates-I’ve been away for a couple of weeks on missionary work in the Far East (see the latest addition to the World Wide Robins)

Still no news on the Harwood sell-on clause but I’ll try to get some information soon,
Ex-Robins hero Neil Zarac has decided to hang up his boots after a great non-league career with many North West clubs including Bamber Bridge, Rossendale United and Clitheroe. Neil enjoyed plenty of success with Harwood and scored many vital goals and his retirement will come as bad news for all of our local managers.

Dennis Hill’s Darwen began their pre-season with an emphatic 4-0 demolition of AFC Liverpool with Dave Anwar prominent.

James Dean has left Harrogate Town to team up once again with manager Neil Aspen at FC Halifax Town. Deano should enjoy playing in front of big crowds at the Shay and he’s made an immediate impact there. He terrorised the Oldham Athletic defence in a recent friendly match and helped Town to a 2-1 victory. Brighouse Town were next up and it took him just 8 minutes to settle the game. He set up the opener on 4 minutes before scoring with a delightful chip soon afterwards.

Simon Garner was preparing to play in front of 20,000 for FC United in South Korea on Saturday, a far cry from the 50+ crowds at the Showground.

June 2009

Northwich Victoria appealed against their demotion to the Unibond Premier after they went into administration and amazingly the F.A. backed them, much to the annoyance of the Conference. Vics were talking about going under but will now take up their position in the Conference North and our neighbours Clitheroe will be breathing a sigh of relief. The Blues have a sell-on clause relating to ex-player Joel Byrom who Northwich sold on to Stevenage Borough for £15,000, and with the sum said to be into four figures it’s not to be sniffed at.

We played Fleetwood Town just a few years ago but since then our clubs have gone hurtling off in different directions. They made their ambitions patently clear with the acquisition of Barrow forward Steve McNulty for a club record £17,000.

Meanwhile one of the big talking points in non-league football is the decision to place promoted Gloucester City in the Conference North while Worcester City, 40 miles further north, play in the Conference South! Needless to say Gloucester are not overjoyed at the situation with their travelling costs set to rocket next season.

The end of an era at Accrington Stanley as ex-Harwood legend Eric Whalley relinquished control of the club by selling his majority share holding to General Manger David O’Neil. Eric has been running the club for the past fourteen years and he’s going to be a difficult, if not impossible act to follow. The success he’s had at Great Harwood Town, Clitheroe and Stanley is truly astonishing and he’s surely the greatest manager/chairman that non-league football has ever known.
Another change next season will be the name of the ground, which will revert back to the Crown.

Matt Derbyshire’s on-off move to Greece has finally taken place with Olympiakos stumping up over £2m. with the fee rising to £3m. if they reach the group stages of the Champions League. When the Robins sold Matt to the Rovers, a substantial sell-on clause was written into the deal so will that clause now be activated? Will the Rovers be paying out to a club that no longer exists? Will it mean that Great Harwood Town will rise from the ashes?-Literally! Watch this space.

Someone who will be unknown to the vast majority of Harwood supporters was in the news this week as he attempted to reach the North Pole. Steve Shread, managing director of Academy Print in Altham made it to the South Pole twelve months ago and is currently halfway to the North Pole with his daughter Michelle in an effort to complete a magnificent ‘double’. Steve and his ‘Academy’ colleagues gave us fantastic service during our final couple of years, designing and producing our matchday programme covers, and they also printed the programmes for the FC United game.

If anyone requires any printing, then please use the firm as the quality of their work is first class, and it would in some small way help to repay their generosity.

Good luck with the trek Steve!

End of May 2009

Accrington Stanley are struggling on and off the pitch again with H.M. Inland Revenue issuing them with a winding up order due to an unpaid £300, 000 tax bill. Despite the amount club officials appear to be more than confident that an agreement can be reached and the Reds will survive. Meanwhile, along with many other clubs, Stanley have had to cut their wage bill and a few players will no doubt be on the move this Summer, amongst them could be ex-Robin Andy Proctor who is considering his position after learning of a pay cut. Several clubs are reported to be interested in signing the midfielder including Rochdale.

Reports have been circulating that the Rovers have turned down a £3m. offer for Matt Derbyshire and that they’re holding out for nearer £5m. If the original offer is correct then it would appear to be a very fair one considering that Matt doesn’t seem to be in manager Sam Allardyce’s long term plans and he could be ‘priced out’ of any move.


The final week of the NWCFL saw Darwen FC officially resign from the league although to all intents and purposes little will change apart from the name-AFC Darwen. Now though, the new club will be unable to say that they were once in the Football League or that they’ve ever won any honours, that old club is dead and buried.

Bacup Borough had a hectic week beating Squires Gate 3-1 at West View on Monday, having Wednesday’s scheduled home game against Ramsbottom postponed due a waterlogged pitch, losing 6-3 at Congleton on the Thursday and thankfully taking on Rammy in the re-arranged game 24 hours later. I say thankfully because if the pitch hadn’t dried out, it would have meant Brent Peters’ side playing two games on Saturday-at 12.00 and again at 4.00!! Friday’s game was another nine goal thriller with Bacup claiming the three points thanks to a 6-3 win with Tommy Turner again on the score sheet before a pitiful ‘derby’ crowd of just 36. He hit two goals in the defeat at Congleton and one in the win against Andy Clarkson’s Squires Gate.
Saturday was a game too far and the 4-0 home defeat by Newcastle Town can’t have been too much of a surprise.

Another prolific striker from our NWCFL days is Paul Southward and like Turner, is still banging in the goals. He hit two in Holker Old Boys superb 7-3 home win against Oldham Town. The goals have also been flying in at our old ‘friend’ Steve Wilkes club Runcorn. They finished the season with a 5-0 defeat at St. Helens to go with several other heavy defeats during the past couple of months and his job must now be on the line.

Despite a poor finish to the season, Pete Smith’s Clitheroe achieved their highest ever finish in Non-League football, 12th in the Unibond Division One North. Our final season’s player of the year Ryan Fisher has proved his capabilities at that level and was awarded the Manager’s player of the year.

Long distance Great Harwood Town supporter Mike Barry of Sussex has helped to boost the Robins Revival Fund to £443 thanks his purchase of a sweatshirt. Wife Jean is sure to be a little miffed when Mike wears it and has a bevy of beauties following him round!

Darwen FC was wound up this week to end a long and interesting history. It’s highly likely that a new club, AFC Darwen, will take their place as the town’s non league representative next season although it’s still uncertain at which level they’ll compete at.

Our last manager John Hughes is back in the area after taking charge of Rossendale United with another Harwood old boy, Mickey Graham assisting him. If his past record is anything to go by then Rossy will soon be back in the Unibond League.

Matt Derbyshire has been headline news this week as first rumours of an imminent £3 million bid from Olympiakos was published before being amended to £2m. Several other Championship and Premier League clubs are also said to be interested but it appears that Matt favours a move to Greece and Champions League football next season.
If and when he goes, will a sell on clause be activated to enable GHTFC to re-form?


*In the Conference South play-offs there was an extraordinary two-legged tie between Eastleigh and Hayes & Yeading. After 70 minutes of the 1st leg at Hayes, it was as good as over with Eastleigh four goals to the good and the home side down to ten men but they fought back with two goals to give themselves a glimmer of hope. In 1st half injury time the visitors pulled the tie back to 4-3 and another goal in the second half took it to extra time where they scored two more to win 6-4 on aggregate and complete one of the most amazing come backs in play-off history.

*The Conference North saw Southport go down 2-1 on aggregate to Gateshead but the other contest was a real thriller with AFC Telford United overcoming Alfreton Town 5-4 after the two games. Telford won 2-0 at home but that lead had been wiped out during a fantastic first half in Notts. but by the break the visitors had hit back to level. It was end to end throughout the 90 minutes and Town retook the lead only for Telford to redress the balance within minutes. Town refused to give in and made it 4-3 on the afternoon and despite all out attack couldn’t get the all important fifth goal.

The Unibond Premier League play-off final saw Ilkeston Town defeat our old foes Nantwich Town (widely acknowledged as the best team in the Division) 2-1 after extra time while Newcastle Blue Star beat Curzon Ashton 4-1 in the Division One North play-off Final before a surprisingly low crowd of just 307.

A couple of weeks ago we were looking at clubs who were really struggling in their respective divisions, amongst them our previous cup opponents Glasshoughton, and their final two games of the season failed to bring their first win, losing both and conceding another 12 goals in the process.

*Midlanders Brache Sparta finished a little stronger only conceding 10 goals in their final two fixtures but that did make it 182 for the season.

*Poor old Hertfordshire club Bedmond finished the season as they began it-conceding too many goals. Their last three game of the campaign saw the defence shipping in another 32 (thirty two) to make it-wait for it-225 goals in just 30 games!

*After losing their opening 23 games in the Welsh Alliance, bottom of the table Amlwch Town are showing true grit with two draws in their next 6 outings although they too have defensive frailties conceding a further 32 goals. They still have three to play so that illusive first win could still come.

*At the other end of the scale, Blackburn Rovers boss Sam Allardyce must be regretting the six month loan deal which took Matt Derbyshire to Greece because if he was still at Ewood, he would be the number one striker thanks to injuries and loss of form of the front players. Still, he’s having a great time out there and at the weekend, things got even better.

*His Olympiakos side took on Athens rivals AEK in the Greek Cup Final and with the Reds two down at half time, like a caged lion he was released from his shackles to cause mayhem in the AEK defence. It took him about a minute to reduce the deficit and 25 minutes later parity was restored when Dudu, possibly a relative of Kaka, hit the equaliser. Matt’s boys then went behind in the final minute and in the mayhem that followed Kiriakos of AEK was sent off.

*Unfortunately for the Reds that didn’t mean that they were down to ten men as the player had been substituted 30 minutes earlier! That looked like curtains but Matt’s second headed goal of the night, 6 minutes into stoppage time, sent the crowd bonkers and the game into extra time. Olypiakos then went in front for the first time during the opening period of extra time thanks to Nikopolidis, but two minutes later it was they who found themselves down to ten men when Galletti was sent off for his second yellow card. Worse was to come as in the final minute of the first period, Papadopoulos was shown his second yellow and the Reds were down to nine. More bad news as Matt had to go off with an injury but against the odds no more goals were scored so it was down to penalties. Each side took ‘about’ 16 penalties each and the score stood at 14-all before Olympiakos keeper saved one then hit the winner himself to clinch the domestic double.

*Matt’s future will now be discussed in the summer and there can’t be much doubt that Olympiakos will be keen to sign him on permanently but the ball will be firmly in the Rovers hands. Throughout the difficult last few months at Ewood, Rovers supporters have been keen to see Matt back in the fold as his effort and finishing ability can’t be matched by any of the current forwards.

*The next few days saw the Press full of speculation about him with Birmingham City said to be amongst those keen to secure his services.

Darwen finished their fixtures with a home clash against Padiham and it was disappointment for the ex-Harwood contingent as they went down 2-0. The three points sealed second place and promotion for the Storks while Darwen finish in 13th with a sigh of relief that were able to complete the season at all. A rather disappointing turn out of less than a hundred but the dreadful weather and live football on T.V. no doubt had much to do with it.

APRIL 28th

Sunday saw the final Conference League fixtures and what a finale it turned out to be. Last month Burton Albion were 19 points clear at the top and some Bookies had already paid out on them winning the League. But an incredible finish saw Cambridge go into the last day just three points adrift and four goals worse off. Burton travelled to Torquay hoping to end a shocking run of four defeats in five games, needing just a point to secure a place in the Football League. Goodfellow gave them an early lead but Torquay hit back to win 2-1 meaning that if Cambridge won by four goals, they’d go up. Despite scenes similar to the Alamo, and being cheered on by over 7,000 fans, Cambridge could only draw 0-0 against Altrincham and now go into the play-offs.

Going down a division to the Conference South, Great Harwood Town and AFC Wimbledon supporter Don Fitzgerald was on cloud nine as the Dons reached Non League’s top division with a 3-0 win against St. Albans City. In truth, they were already up as the two teams chasing them needed a mind-blowing adjustment of goals. Hampton were 13 behind while Eastleigh needed to win by fifteen goals and hope that Wimbledon lost by a similar score! Over 4,700 witnessed a momentous occasion that saw the home side come within one promotion of a Football League ‘return’.

In the Conference North, James Dean set up Harrogate Town’s opening goal at Gainsborough and was prominent throughout but he couldn’t inspire his team to a win as they ended the season with a 3-2 defeat, and a very disappointing mid-table position.

In the Unibond Premier League, Jonathan Smith helped his already relegated Leigh Genesis side to a great 1-0 win at Hednesford Town.
At the top though it was heartache for Simon Garner, FC United and Harwood supporter Phil O’Dell, who now watches the Reds. For the first time in their short history, they haven’t won promotion but how close they came. In a top of the table clash with Bradford Park Avenue, both sides realistically needed to win and with five minutes left United led 1-0. Then Bradford scored but the Reds were still on course to take the final play-off spot as 5th placed Kendal Town had let a two goal half time advantage slip at home to Buxton. Tragically for Simon, Phil and the magnificent 3,500+ FCUM supporters, Kendal scored an 88th minute winner. The consolation is that all the remaining UPL clubs will enjoy another good pay day next season.

In the Unibond Division One North, Pete Smith’s Clitheroe finished with another poor result-a 4-0 thrashing at Trafford-with Scott Barlow hitting all four to take his seasons tally to 40. Jason Jones, Liam McManus and Ryan Fisher all started the game for the Blues who’ll need to strengthen their squad next season if they’re to make an impact on the league.
There’s a cracking interview with Smithy on the Lancashire Evening Post web-site.

The unfolding story that we’ve been following recently was the relegation battle in that league and what a finale! Rossendale needed a win or to match Salford’s result, but before a crowd of double the norm. 243, visitors Mossley had won the game after just eight minutes. By that time they were three up but half time brought renewed hope with the news that Garforth lead Salford 1-0. Of course Salford would also have been buoyed by the score from Rossy and it was they who took the initiative scoring three times in the opening 11 minutes of the second period. Two more followed before a late Garforth consolation and with no more goals at Dark Lane, our old adversaries were down.

In the NWCFL Premier Division, all of our local rivals are well clear of relegation although none of them have troubled the leading positions with Bacup Borough the highest placed team in 10th.
In the 1st division Padiham are in pole position to finish second to Bootle after a fine 5-2 win at Rochdale. It looks like a three-way battle with AFC Liverpool and Stone Dominoes also in contention, and they both won on Saturday, the latter beating Dennis Hill’s Darwen 2-0. Another of our ex-stars, the ever reliable Dave Anwar has signed for the Salmoners recently recently but even his presence couldn’t prevent them losing 6-1 at Norton United during the week and Ed O’Neil also suffered another heavy loss as Ramsbottom went down 4-0 at Newcastle Town. Padiham meanwhile won 2-0 at close rivals Wigan Robin Park and barring a catastrophe should be playing Premier League football next season.


Matt Derbyshire completed 90 minutes for Olympiakos in their latest game but unfortunately his side lost their unbeaten home record as they lost 1-0 to Larissa, conquerors of the Rovers a couple of years ago in the UEFA Cup, so something of a bogey side for Matt.

The chancellor Alistair Darling looks like he’s about to throw the non-league game into chaos with his plans to implement a minimum wage into the game. He’s insisting that clubs must pay players for travelling and training times as well as time spent actually playing for their clubs. Therefore, whereas a semi-pro club such as Great Harwood Town were paying £20 per match or week, they would now have to ‘fork out’ £5.73 per hour. Two or three games a week plus a two hour training session, plus travelling = going bust!!
If this is implemented then expect many clubs to go completely amateur.

Darwen had an excellent 2-1 win at high-flying Wigan Robin Park with Dennis Hill setting up one of the goals. Den must be missing the superb Harwood followings he enjoyed whilst at the Showground as Darwen’s must be quite pitiful if the attendance of 24 is anything to go by.

James Dean is helping Harrogate Town to complete the season in style with battling performances against second-placed Gateshead and Droylsden, both at home. Gateshead were beaten 1-0 to severely dent their Championship ambitions before the Mancunians were held 1-1. Sadly it’s all in vain as Town have blown their chances of promotion due to their post new year slump.

Pete Smith needs to take stock at the end of the season as his Clitheroe side are finishing poorly. An Easter Monday 5-0 home drubbing at the hands of neighbours Lancaster City ended their home fixtures on a low and that made it three defeats in a row before Smithy brought back Ryan Fisher into the line up and he and fellow ex-Robin Liam McManus helped the Blues to a 1-0 win at Curzon Ashton.

Jonathan Smith and Neil Zarac have finally suffered relegation with Leigh Genesis as they lost at home to fellow strugglers Matlock Town. Their new found supporters have quickly ‘jumped ship’ with just over a hundred turning up for the ‘last rites’.
Going down with them will be Cammell Laird who have been expelled from the Unibond Premier League. At the start of the season Laird were told that they must improve facilities at their ground by December 31st or face expulsion. That deadline passed but they were then given until the end of March to carry out the work but once again the deadline passed and this time the League told them of their demotion.

Who’ll they be playing next season? The battle at the bottom of the Unibond Division One North gets more exciting each week. With Rossy not in action, Salford took full advantage, beating Harrogate Railway 2-0 to move within one point of their rivals although they still have an inferior goal difference.

At the top of the non-league pyramid, it couldn’t be more nail-biting as Burton Albion continue to wobble while Cambridge United are hot on their tails. With the leaders losing a massive 19 point lead during recent weeks, it will all go down to the final game with Burton travelling to third placed Torquay on Sunday and Cambridge hosting lowly Altrincham.

Ben Haworth and Colne’s great post-Christmas defensive record seems to have gone out of the window with a third heavy defeat in a row. St. Helens smashed four without reply, taking the lead in just 17 seconds!
Dennis Hill’s Darwen lost to three late goals at the Anchor to a Wigan Robin Park side who they’d beaten just three days earlier.
In the Unibond Division One North, the battle to avoid the drop will go to the final game of the season after both Salford city and Rossendale United suffered midweek 4-1 defeats against high-flying opposition. Rossy were well beaten by Newcastle Blue Star but Salford’s 4-1 reverse at Championship favourites Skelmersdale United was far from academic. Salford had led at half time thanks to the prolific Foster but two goals in three minutes-an own goal and a penalty-put the hosts in front before two late strikes gave the scoreline a rather flattering look. On Saturday, Salford must win to have any chance of staying up, and if they do, then Rossy must win as well. Both face mid-table teams in Garforth and Mossley respectively.


Ed O’Neil can’t stop scoring for Ramsbottom and he hit yet another as the Rams beat Alsager Town 2-1 at the Riverside on Tuesday. They followed that up with a fine goalless draw at team of the moment Glossop.

Poor old Flixton were one of the area’s top non-league clubs not so long ago and although they’re still in the NWCFL Premier Division, the owners must wonder if all the hassle of running a football club at that level is really worth it. Their latest game drew another shocking ‘crowd’ of just ten. Despite taking the lead, Flixton were hammered 4-1 by Formby to send-dare I say it-the majority of the fans home unhappy.

In the Unibond League, Salford continued with their stunning relegation fight when they completed the double over Rossendale United, this time 3-1 at home but it could and maybe should have been all over for them after this tight affair. Rossy took the lead and then Eastwood saw his penalty saved in the first half before City came back with a stirring second half comeback. On Saturday Salford picked up a good away point but Rossy really produced the goods when they had to, winning 4-2 at Trafford.

Leigh Genesis are another club hoping for a ‘miracle’ escape and like Salford are producing some great results thanks in no small way to Jonathan Smith. They came from behind at North Ferriby United to win 2-1 courtesy of a last minute winner.

Clitheroe continued with their poor form losing to lowly Radcliffe Borough 2-1 at Shawbridge, Ryan Fisher scoring the Blues goal.

James Dean is finishing the season in style and let’s hope that he can complete it without seeing any more red cards. He was on target for Harrogate Town in their midweek defeat at AFC Telford and Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Hucknall Town all but ended their play-off hopes. Deano came close to getting the winner on a couple of occasions and the point was of no use to the hosts either as they were relegated on the strength of it.

Same old Matt Derbyshire, always scoring! He hit the equaliser for Olympiacos as they came form behind to win their latest League match against Levadiakos. A bit of a scrambled effort knocked in at the second attempt with the home defenders quite justifiably claiming offside.


In the NWCFL Andy Clarkson’s Squires Gate are fading as the season ends and they lost yet again, this time 4-0 at AFC Fylde before a terrific attendance of 284.
If that turn-out was good then what can you say about the one at the New Mils v Glossop North End game. We played there recently and a crowd of around 200 made it pretty much full but Monday’s gate of 701 must have created a fantastic atmosphere and the home side triumphed 2-1 against their Wembley-bound local rivals.

Moving up into the Unibond League, Simon Garner’s FC United of Manchester drew almost 3,000 to Gigg Lane to see the Reds take on play-off rivals Nantwich Town but the 0-0 draw leaves both of them no better off.

At the bottom of that league, the excitement is reaching fever pitch. After Saturday’s results it looked as though Rossendale had saved themselves at the expense of the vastly improved Salford City who are producing Championship form but after Monday’s results it’s all back in the balance. Rossy could only manage a 1-1 draw against play-off chasing Lancaster City but Salford beat Warrington Town 3-1 to set up a Grandstand finish. City are now 8 points behind Warrington with a game in hand but more crucially are just 4 behind Rossy, also with a game in hand. The incredible Stuart Rudd was, needless to say, once again on the scoresheet for the Ammies.

Moving up a league, Leigh’s great escape attempt looks to have all but ended after their Easter Monday game against lowly Buxton. Because of Leigh Rugby Football Club’s game, at the home venue, Genesis had to move the game to Warrington Town’s Cantilever Park and ‘home’ advantage counted for little as the visitors ran amok winning 7-0. At least Leigh will have the best ground in the Unibond Division One North next season.

If Eric Whalley had more hair, then he’d almost certainly be pulling it out as Accrington Stanley hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. A great Andy Procter inspired win at Grimsby just about ensured their Football League survival but the club was hit by a betting scandal when some current and ex-players were charged by the League after large sums of money were allegedly placed on Bury to beat Stanley last season with one player betting £4,000 on the outcome. Bury did in fact win the game and not surprisingly some Stanley fans are extremely unhappy about the revelations. Bank Holiday Monday saw some bumper crowds and Eric must have been hoping for one at the Crown Ground with a large following expected from Chester but it was the same old story as the game attracted a paltry 1300, easily the worst League crowd of the day.

*Looking around the country’s non-league scene, Glasshoughton Welfare who we played in a Cup game just a few years ago, completed the season in the Northern Counties East League with a 3-0 home defeat against AFC Emley. That meant that their record read; Won 0 Drew 6 Lost 28 and conceded 106 goals into the bargain.

*In the South Midlands League, Brache Sparta conceded 11 to mid-table Harpenden Town to make it 172 goals against in just 38 games and if that wasn’t bad enough, they still have two games to play!

*Still, that defensive record isn’t the worst-in the Hertfordshire Senior League, bottom of the table Bedmond Sports and Social lost 9-0 on Saturday to make it 193 goals conceded in 27 games but at least they’ve only lost 26 of those!

*In the Welsh Alliance League, Almwch have lost all 23 games this season, scoring 15 and conceding 130.

*Pride of place though goes to Kent League Premier Division Sporting Bengal United. They have completed their fixtures, losing all 32 games, scoring 26 and conceding 160-things can only get better!!

Ed O’Neil hit yet another goal for Ramsbottom United on Tuesday but his first minute strike failed to inspire the Rams who lost 2-1 to Winsford.
On the same evening Matt Derbyshire was promoted to the starting line-up for England under-21’s but the lone striker role wasn’t to his liking and he failed to add to his impressive International goals tally.


The week’s honours go to Glossop North End who we’ve enjoyed many encounters against over the past 15 or so years. They made it through to Wembley in the FA Vase after a dramatic penalty shoot-out against Chalfont St. Peter with the scores locked at 2-2 (5-5 on aggregate). An early lead looked to have settled any nerves but the visitors fought back to take it into extra time then took the lead 10 minutes from the end of the added 30. With time up the Referee then played a further four minutes and in the final one of those North End scored to set up the penalties. Teenage keeper Ashlea Gotham then made up for his less than convincing efforts with the two Chalfont goals to save the vital kick and become an instant hero.

James Dean returned from suspension and his goal against table toppers Tamworth was enough to earn Harrogate a fine point.

In the NWCFL Nelson gained a disappointing point at bottom of the table Atherton Colls and with just one win in their last thirteen outings, they’re far from clear of relegation.
Colne meanwhile continue to move up the table after a great run of form. Their last five games have produced five wins with only Winsford managing to break through the excellent defence which includes Ben Haworth. Their last three games have all ended 2-0.

Pete Smith’s Clitheroe resembled Harwood not so long ago but the team that played at top of the table Durham on Saturday included just the one ex-Robin. Ryan Fisher made his presence felt though with an excellent strike form a narrow angle to give the Blues a half time lead. The second half was a different story as the wind assisted home side took complete control and hit in three goals without reply.
One of the players to leave Clitheroe, Jonathon Smith, is helping Leigh in their quest for Unibond premier League survival and he starred in the creditable 1-1 draw at Boston United on Saturday. That point followed up their midweek win against Cammell Laird when they finally played at the new Sports Village ground before a crowd three times bigger than average. Neil Zarac has also joined Garry Flitcroft’s ‘Leigh revolution’.

The GHTFC website has had over 21,000 hits over the last year so thanks to all of you. It may not be many compared with some sites but considering that we haven’t ‘currently’ got a football club it’s not bad-there again, if we could incorporate the words ‘naked lady’ into the web-site address…….hmmm….there’s a thought!

MARCH 27th

Robins legend Matt Derbyshire continues to bring pride and glory to Darwen, Blackburn Rovers, England, and more importantly, Great Harwood Town and tonight he scored England under 21’s last two goals in the 5-0 defeat of Norway.
Matt came on as a second half substitute and had the ball in the net after just two minutes although the strike was ruled out for offside. Causing havoc in the home defence, he gained his reward in the 78th minute before hitting the fifth England goal two minutes later.

It was announced that another Harwood legend, Eric Whalley, would be leaving Accrington Stanley because of health problems and he’ll be sadly missed at the ‘Crown’ ground.

Jonathan Smith has left Clitheroe to join Gary Flitcroft at Leigh Genesis in the Unibond Premier League.
Meanwhile boss Pete Smith has kept up the number of ex-Robins at Shawbridge by bringing in Jason Jones and he played in the midweek home defeat by Halifax Town in front of a season’s best crowd of 488. Sadly it was a losing start for Jason with the Yorkshiremen winning 2-1 but the Blues then had a cracking result at promotion chasing Newcastle Blue Star where a late equaliser prevented them from taking home all three points.

We reported the relegation of Crowborough last week and they made great improvements for their next game at home to Kingstonian, losing by just three goals to one and the form continued well into the second half of their home game with Folkestone before the visitors ‘cut loose’ to win 8-2.

Result of the weekend and indeed of the season in the NWCFL was Daisy Hill’s 3-2 triumph over AFC Liverpool. They took a 2-0 lead into the break and held it until just 8 minutes from the end. Two goals in a minute from the Scousers had Daisy Hill hanging on but they came up with an 88th minute winner to stun what must have been a record crowd of 175.

Another great attendance at Padiham where Champions-elect Bootle continued their great form with a 2-0 win. 219 spectators turned up and most left disappointed but the Blues are still in a great position to overtake Liverpool and claim second spot.

One of the teams they’re looking to replace in the Premier Division are St. Helens Town and they did a good impression of Crowborough this week losing 6-0 at home to Glossop North End in midweek before going down 6-3 at Ramsbottom United on Saturday. Ed O’Neil once again on target for the Rams.

Talking of Glossop, their Wembley dream is still alive after a great 3-3 draw in the FA Vase semi-final first leg at Chalfont St. Peter. They came back from two down to draw level and despite going behind again in the second half, they hit the final goal of the game to set up an exciting 2nd leg next week. Another tremendous crowd is expected to go with the 1,185 at Chalfont.

A meeting of the NWCFL this week decided on the ‘ups and downs’ and the upshot was that up to three clubs could be relegated from the league if the champions of the feeder leagues want to progress, and their grounds meet the criteria.

Great Harwood Town legend John Eastham, speaking exclusively to the GHTF web site, updated us on his season so far in the local amateur football scene. He’s been turning out regularly for the 7-a-side league team Grampus 7 and has so far hit about 40 goals-so many in fact that he’s not sure of the current tally!. Since February, he’s been playing for the Station in the Blackburn & District Football League and not surprisingly has been causing havoc amongst opposing defences with 7 goals in 7 appearances. The Station were recently knocked out of the LFA. Cup at the Quarter Final stage and next week they play in the semi-final of the Rosebowl Cup at Pleasington so all Harwood fans are welcome to go on and cheer one of the finest players to have graced the Showground. Two other ex-Robins, Liam McManus and Lee Sculpher are also regular fixtures in the Station’s line-up.

March 22nd

Pete Smith’s Clitheroe enjoyed a better week with a 1-0 success over Curzon Ashton and a 2-2 draw at local rivals Rossendale United. No ex-Robins on the scoresheet but full back Liam McManus hit the post early on in the game at Dark Lane.

In the 1st Division of the NWCFL, a fantastic crowd of 541 turned up for the Merseyside derby between AFC Liverpool and Bootle and the vast majority went hope disappointed as the visitors triumphed 1-0. With the Reds in Cup action this weekend Bootle knew that a three goal victory against Dennis Hill’s Darwen would take them to the top of the table and they duly managed that without too many difficulties and ran out 4-0 winners. Also in Cup action were our neighbours Padiham but a 5-0 home defeat by New Mills in the Vodcat League Cup semi-final 1st leg just about killed the tie.

Ed O’Neil was on the scoresheet again for Ramsbottom as the Blues drew 2-2 at Atherton LR.

Further afield Matt Derbyshire has really settled in at Olympiakos. He was introduced as an 81st minute substitute in the game against Iraklis and within a minute he’d converted a left wing cross and 6 minutes later a great individual effort, cutting in from the left, beating a defender and lashing the ball into the bottom left hand corner, made it 5-0 to the Reds of Athens. Surprisingly he was on the bench again for the next game, the 1st leg of the Helenic Cup semi-final but he replaced the Reds’ two goal hero in the 75th minute and almost got the winner with a shot against the crossbar.

It was also a great week for our old landlords Accrington Stanley as they won both of this week’s home games against Port Vale and Exeter City. Andy Procter was on target against Vale and the Reds have now gone four games undefeated almost certainly ensuring their Football League survival.

If a team manages to get themselves relegated then the fans would like them to go down fighting and Ryman League Crowborough Athletic look to have done just that. Barring a mathematical miracle, Athletic bit the dust on Saturday and how! They lost 8-0 at middle of the table Godalming Town and also had two players sent off in a highly memorable match for the 84 spectators. That’s over a hundred goals conceded in just 35 games.
Another ‘Athletic’ in a similar position are crisis club Fisher of the Blue Square South. With just 18 points to play for and currently lying 18 points from safety, it looks like curtains for a club who’ve lost 28 of this season’s 36 games.

Nearer to home, Salford City seemingly doomed just a few weeks ago are battling against overwhelming odds to stay in the Unibond North. The last three weeks has seen a remarkable turnaround in form starting with the 5-3 win at Lancaster. Next up was a game at mid-table Wakefield where the Ammies were hit for eight, (Salford getting a taste of their own medicine as they hit eight past Harwood about four years ago). That 8-1 defeat didn’t tell an accurate story though as the scores were level at half time and indeed, City were unfortunate not to be leading. Three goals in 11 minutes at the start of the second half knocked the stuffing out of them but the final count of 17 shots from Wakefield and 14 from Salford tells just what a freak result it was. Still on the road, Salford then took on runaway leaders Durham City all the way before a late goal gave the home side a 2-1 win.

The signing of goalscoring legend Stuart Rudd from Bradford Park Avenue galvanised the Mancunians and a ‘must win’ game at second bottom Rossendale United was next on the agenda. Once again it was a nine goal thriller with the Reds coming out on top 5-4 in a game which could have ended 10-10! Rudd made it 5-3 in the second half despite his team being reduced to ten men for much of the final 45 minutes. On Saturday Salford played away for the fifth game in a row, this time at Harrogate Railway Athletic and once again it was all out attack. Steve Foster, scorer of all five at Lancaster and two at Rossendale, this time scored all three as the gap between Rossy and Salford was reduced to 10 points with nine games to play.

Another team who we’ve met on a regular basis over the past twenty years is Nantwich Town and they look to be going onwards and upwards. They currently lie second in the Unibond North 9 points behind leaders Eastwood Town but with a game in hand. They enjoyed an incredible week, winning 8-0 at Leigh Genesis and 4-0 at Frickley Athletic.

Latest rumour on the Darwen FC front is that Matt Derbyshire may be interested in rescuing the club, he of course was signed by Harwood from the Salmoners.

On the playing front, Matt started his first game for Olympiakos at Panionios and what a start it was. He opened the scoring on 22 minutes and despite the hosts coming back to lead 2-1, Olympiakos ran out 3-2 winners to secure their 37th League title and their 12th in the last 13 years. Matt’s goal came after a great move down the right which ended with a shot which the keeper managed to parry, before our hero dived in where the boots were flying to head into the net.

Dennis Hill must have been very disappointed by the midweek attendance at the Darwen v Irlam game. Plenty of calls for ‘we can’t let the club die’ and ‘let’s all rally round’ but only a hard core of 22 fans braved the cold weather to see the 1-1 draw.

Ben Haworth continues to impress with Colne and they moved up to 17th place in the NWCFL Premier Division after beating Ed O’Neil’s Ramsbottom 2-0 at Holt House.

March 15th – Midweek

Things got considerably better during the week as Stanley won 2-0 at Macclesfield with the second coming from Andy Procter, and the following day fellow strugglers Grimsby Town lost.

Ed O’Neil scored again for Ramsbottom United in the 3-1 win at St. Helens and also came close to adding a fourth.

Andy Clarkson’s Squires Gate went down 2-1 at home to Bacup Borough with the irrepressible Tommy Turner netting again.

James Dean was sitting out Harrogate’s home game with Southport thanks to another suspension and how they missed his physical presence. Port ran out 3-0 winners before a very poor crowd of less than 300 and that’s just one win in eight for Deano’s boys.

Pete Smith’s Clitheroe once again resembled Great Harwood Town with four former Reds in the starting line-up, but despite leading twice lost 3-2 to Woodley Sports at Shawbridge. The ex-Robins’ certainly made a telling contribution with

Jonathan Smith on the scoresheet again and Ryan Fisher, recalled to the starting eleven also on target, and Liam McManus being sent off near the end.

Ben Haworth is starting to have an impact at struggling Colne. He was a key figure in what was probably the best defence in Harwood’s history and he helped hi current team to a clean sheet against visitors Formby. Meanwhile at the other end the Reds really got their act together by hitting the net five times before a very disappointing attendance of 62.

Just down the road at title-chasing Padiham, the home side were cruising for an hour of their game with Holker Old Boys but in a scene reminiscent of the legendary Harwood-Old Boys game, the evergreen Paul Southward started a remarkable recovery which earned the Cumbrians a point.

Bad news for one of the many clubs ‘on the brink’ as a proposed takeover of Weymouth fell through at the eleventh hour leaving the Terra’s future in grave doubt. The man who was about to save them found that the debts he’d inherited from the previous owners were far greater than he’d been led to believe causing him to withdraw his offer.
That scenario was similar to the one currently being played out at our local rivals Darwen. Secretary Derek Slater told the GHTFC website that an offer made to the creditors had been accepted but a few days later the AIG subsidiary and Thwaites Brewery who are allegedly owed £9,000 and £13,000 respectively, have not accepted and will press for the folding-up the club. Nevertheless, Darwen will be hoping to complete the season although their long term future is far from secure. Many clubs struggling in recent years have had the Bailiffs enter the ground and remove anything of value as in the case of Newbury, who even had footballs taken away and Northwich who had safety equipment removed.

March 15th

The Lancaster City Chief Executive Mick Hoyle, speaking on Radio Lancs. said that manager Barrie Stimpson had left the club by ‘mutual consent’ but a few minutes later Stimpson came on and said quite categorically that he’d been sacked!
The decision was made after three second half goals brought Salford City from 3-2 down to win 5-3 with all five coming from Steve Foster.

Our old rivals Fleetwood Town had an eventful week with their mascot Captain Cod been escorted form the ground and told to ‘lose the fish suit’ by an over-zealous steward at Hinckley United. Town lost the game 2-1 after going down to ten men but seven days later they were back with a bang to thrash promotion chasing Stalybridge Celtic 5-0 at Bower Fold.

Lancaster City’s decision to sack their manager backfired big style as their promotion hopes took a nose-dive after a 4-1 defeat at Colwyn Bay.

Plymouth Argyle were one of several league clubs who sent scouts to watch Matt Derbyshire at Harwood but while they dithered the Rovers stepped in and how Argyle must have rued their indecision. Recently they’ve been eying George Donnelly the Skelmersdale hot-shot and this time they got their man but only after Donnelly had turned down the chance to join Scunthorpe United.

Great Harwood Town old boys AKA Clitheroe FC came down to earth with a bump and the decision to drop defender Liam McManus proved to be costly. The Blues lost 6-0 at home to Skelmersdale despite the visitors losing the afore mentioned star player George Donnelly. Skem took the lead after one minute and although Ryan Fisher twice came close to equalising, the visitors soon took control before a better than average crowd of 250. Clitheroe’s cause wasn’t helped by the returning keeper Fearon being sent off and Keiran Fletcher also joining him for an early bath. Keiran and James Dean certainly have racked up a few red cards during their careers and it seems that some players will never learn. The other ex-Robin at Shawbridge, Jonathan Smith, also had an eventful game and filled in between the sticks after Fearon’s dismissal.

Attendances hit rock bottom this weekend despite the much warmer weather. Not one of the five NWCL 1st Division games drew more than 50 and only one, the Manchester derby between Chadderton and Irlam, drew more than 30. Darwen’s new found supporters who looked to be rallying round recently, disappeared with only 30 turning up for their 2-1 win against Stone Dominoes.
The atmosphere at the Anchor must have seemed like Old Trafford compared with Flixton’s Valley Road as our old ‘friends’ attracted 10 (ten) for their game with St. Helens.

Matt Derbyshire didn’t make the squad for Olympiakos’ latest League game which saw them take on PAOK once again, and maybe he’ll be glad he missed it. The Reds players were bombarded with missiles form the home crowd and even the home players joined in the assaults. Nine bookings and two sending offs tells its own story!

March 2009

March 8th

* Friday evening’s non-league show on Radio Lancashire, which featured Harwood legend Pete Smith, must have brought a smile to the faces everyone who’s had the ‘pleasure’ of seeing their team suffer at the hands of Flixton. Their dreadful disciplinary record continues year after year with the thuggish behaviour continually tolerated by League’s weak leaders. Their latest victims were Andy Clarkson’s Squires Gate and the Radio Lancs. guests were pretty appalled by the Mancs. club’s shocking bully-boy tactics. Clarky’s boys had the last laugh though as they ran out 2-0 winners against the remaining ten men. I myself called for them to be expelled from the NWCL after our last two games against them.
Gate’s next game saw a 1-0 home defeat which left them slip 17 points behind the leaders and the end of their slim chances of promotion.

* Meanwhile Flixton were drawing 1-1 at home to Ramsbottom United with Ed O’Neil making sure that he had a 1st aid kit in the back of his car! Rammy certainly haven’t got the kind of following that was enjoyed by the Robins and judging by the attendance of 20, they haven’t got a following at all!

* Ben Haworth’s Colne suffered yet another defeat and relegation is now looming for the Holt House club who find themselves 5 points adrift at the bottom of the Premier Division.

* Bacup Borough are on the up with just a single defeat, to leaders AFC Fylde, in their last nine games. Their run-in will be helped by the returning Tommy Turner who hit the winner at Alsager as Brent’s boys came from behind to win 2-1. Despite all the trouble FC United went to to land the ace marksman, he soon found himself out of the starting line-up and jumped at the chance of returning to West View.

* Dennis Hill was suspended for Darwen’s biggest game of the season against AFC Liverpool but saw his side take the lead before the visitors hit back to win the game 2-1 before a healthy crowd of 172.

* The league’s FA Vase semi-finalists Glossop North End were involved in the day’s most exciting game as they hosted Formby. A fantastic attendance of 238 witnessed a seven goal thriller which saw the visitors go three up before four goals in five minutes-three to Glossop- midway through the second half had them hanging on for a narrow victory.

8 In the Unibond League, Clitheroe took the honours in their Lancashire derby at Chorley with Jonathon Smith netting both goals in a 2-0 win before a fine crowd of 370. Both were headers, one in the last minute of each half. The back four was made up of three ex-Harwood players, Smith, Keiran Fletcher and Liam McManus but Ryan Fisher was replaced by new assistant boss Kenny Myers who seems to have been around the non-league scene for ever. Maybe manager Pete Smith will be making a comeback soon!

* James Dean scored for third game in a row, and his seventh of the season, as Harrogate Town came from behind to draw 1-1 at home to Redditch United. Not surprisingly Town finished the game with ten men but very surprisingly, it wasn’t Deano who was sent off!

* Eric Whalley’s Accrington Stanley lost for the seventh time this season at the Fraser Eagle Stadium, this time 2-0 to promotion chasing Gillingham. Despite the scoreline Stanley created several good chances but some wayward finishing and inspired goalkeeping by the Gills Simon Royce ensured that the Reds left empty handed. Andy Procter had Stanley’s first chance but Royce pulled off a fine save and the defeat leaves them just five points above second bottom Bournemouth.

Late February 2009

* As the ‘hot weather’ hit the North West this week the tempers also rose and Tuesday evening saw no less than three of our local teams reduced to 9 men. In the Unibond League Clitheroe and Chorley both fell to single goal defeats while in the NWCFL Padiham managed to gain a point at AFC Fylde despite the sending offs.

* It was musical positions for Clitheroe as Liam McManus replaced Jonathon Smith at centre back for their game at Woodley Sports but that lasted just 12 minutes when the keeper was dismissed for handling outside the box. Liam took over in goal and Ryan Fisher took over at centre half.

* Chorley introduced Gordon Watson as a substitute for their game with Curzon Ashton at Victory Park but he couldn’t help the Magpies save a point.

* Ed O’Neil put Ramsbottom United ahead at Ashton Athletic but two second half goals for the hosts sent Rammy home pointless.

* AFC Liverpool hosted Chadderton in the Division One Trophy but the tie failed to capture the imagination of the locals as a disappointing 121 filed through the turnstiles.

* At the other extreme, poorly supported Formby drew a fantastic 565 for their Liverpool Senior Cup game with….Liverpool, despite the absence of any well known players.

* Further up the Pyramid, Harrogate Town provided another great comeback on their long midweek trip to Kings Lynn. They found themselves 2-0 down with just 16 minutes to play before ex-Robins star James Dean started the ball rolling with a fine goal. Town hit two more before Deano managed his third red card of the campaign and the fans must be wondering if he gets more goals or red cards by the end of the season.
Olypiakos lost 1-0 to Ergotelis of Crete thanks to a 1st half strike from someone with about 50 letters in his name! Matt Derbyshire made his longest appearance for the Greeks when he came on after 46 minutes but he really could do with a goal to get his season up and running.

* Rumour has is that Dennis Hill is being lined up as ‘penalty-taking’ coach at Tottenham. While the Spurs players were struggling to hit the target from 12 yards, Dennis was notching up two more for Darwen at Leek CSOB which made three in two games for the ex-Harwood star. Unfortunately his strikes were only good enough to earn the Salmoners a point.
Ed O’Neil’s arrival at Ramsbottom seems to have galvanised the Blues and they gained a creditable point in a 1-1 draw at AFC Fylde.

* In the Premier League, under-achievers Runcorn won 1-0 at Maine Road despite having two players sent off and although manager Steve Wilkes has been in the game for many years, his teams show few signs of displaying sporting behaviour.

* Clitheroe included all four ex-Robins for their home game with promotion seeking Ossett Albion and although none managed a goal, they still helped the Blues to a great 4-2 win. The joint managers are also ex-Harwood players but Lee Sculpher quit the club at the weekend and Pete Smith will now be in charge for the remainder of the season.

* James Dean was again on song for Harrogate Town and he gave them the lead in the home game with mid-table Hinckley United. He also hit the bar shortly afterwards but the Leicestershire outfit hit back to earn a 2-2 draw. Town are just outside the play-off places and Dean’s suspensions could prove costly.

* The NWCFL last remaining representative in this year’s FA Vase, Glossop North End made it through to the semi-finals with a brilliant 5-2 home win over Marske United before a magnificent attendance of 1,120. The gate was enhanced by a tremendous away following from Yorkshire and many Harwood supporters who will have visited Glossop in recent years will be able to imagine the fantastic atmosphere created by a gate ten times bigger than the norm.

* Matt Derbyshire failed to make the Olympiakos squad for the home game with Panithinaikos as the Champions-elect once again drew a blank during a 0-0 draw. As usual the referee was the busiest man on the pitch dishing out no fewer than ten yellow cards.

* Next up was the Hellenic Cup quarter-final second leg at home to PAOK with the visitors holding a 1-0 advantage from the first game. Matt came on for the 2nd half and helped to level the game which then went into extra time. Ten minutes from time he became the hero of Athens when he headed in a deflected shot from one yard after out-jumping a defender and goalkeeper. Amazing scenes followed that strike which proved to be the winner, with red flares, flags and thousands of Greeks going crazy. Never before can any of the hundreds of goals that he’s scored, have caused a reaction like that and a video of the goal may be viewed on the Olympiakos web-site. Another great memory for the Harwood legend to treasure.

* Russ Whalley made the headlines this week for reasons that we won’t go into but it was good to hear that he’s got himself back on track thanks in no small way to his close-knit family. Russ represented us many times, in defence, midfield and towards the end of his career, in goal. Like his brother Paul, another Harwood old boy and Dad Eric, he was, and still is, a tremendous all-round sportsman so it’s good luck for the future Russ.

Mid February 2009

* Neighbours Padiham moved into the last four of the Vodcat League Cup after a 2-1 win at Premier League Stone Dominoes with Martin Parkes hitting the opener. The North West Counties last representative in the FA Vase, Glossop North End, made it through to the quarter finals with victory over Bitton.

* In the league, game of the day was at Flixton where the home side were cruising 3-0 at the break only for visitors Atherton Collieries to hit back with five goals in the second period. Pity that there were only 21 hardy souls there to witness the great fight back. In the Premier League, Andy Clarkson’s Squires Gate cemented their place in the top six with a 1-0 win at Abbey Hey.

* As expected, Keiron Fletcher left Chorley and has teamed up once again with his ex-Harwood colleagues, Liam McManus and Ryan Fisher. His debut came in the 1-1 home draw with his previous club and his next game was another ‘derby’, this time at Bamber Bridge. The Blues pulled off what was probably their best result of the season, 5-0 with four of the goals coming in a devastating opening 45 minutes. McManus appears to have made the right back spot his own while Fisher had to be content with a substitute’s appearance.

* After going in and out of the side in recent weeks, Bamber Bridge’s Neil Zarac has been missing form the line-up for the last three games.

* Dennis Hill and his ex-Harwood boys at the Anchor have been given a two-week reprieve after an offer was made to their creditors last week and the club is now awaiting a reply. The team got back on the winning trail at the weekend after a fine home win over Chadderton. One player who wasn’t hanging around though was Harwood old boy Ed O’Neil who’s moved to Ramsbottom United. He made his debut in Sunday’s fortunate 1-0 home victory over bottom club Colne and came within a whisker of netting in the second half.

* Matt Derbyshire has his work cut out trying to force his way into the Olympiakos team as they continue to dominate the Helenic League. They made short work of third placed Panithinaikos with a 2-0 away win to leave themselves running away with the title. Unfortunately Matt didn’t even make the bench for the game.

* Bad week for Eric Whalley’s Stanley as they lost a crucial game at Bournemouth 1-0. At 0-0 Andy Procter blasted a penalty over the bar and the Reds are now looking nervously over their shoulders towards the bottom of the table. Not quite sure how many made the long trip to the south coast but a recent game at Shrewsbury saw a measly 28 Stanley fans in attendance which isn’t many more than the Robins were taking to game sin the Midlands. The last two games at the ‘Crown’ have seen less than 1000 home supporters and Eric must be wondering if all of the hassle is worth it.

* Matt Derbyshire made two substitute appearances for his loan club with mixed results. In the League, Aris were beaten 2-1 with Matt coming on 10 minutes from the end with score at 1-0, and he appeared after 65 minutes in the next game against St. Etienne. Olypiakos had just pulled a goal back to make it 1-2 and Matt was brought on as the home side went all out for the equaliser but sadly it didn’t come and the Greeks were hit by a last minute third making the second leg almost a formality for the French.

* James Dean was a prominent figure for Harrogate town as they got their play-off hopes back on track with a 2-0 midweek win over Burscough.

* Darwen gained a second successive win in the NWCFL as they came from two down at the break to beat bottom of the table Ashton Town. Manager Dennis Hill scored the spot kick equaliser 7 minutes from time and McCarty hit the winner three minutes later. Darwen will find out later this week if their offer to the creditors has been accepted and whether they’ll be finishing the season in the NWCFL.

* In the same league Padiham came within a minute of beating AFC Liverpool in a top of the table six-pointer played before a tremendous crowd of 386.

* In the Unibond League Clitheroe included no less than four ex-Harwood players in their team to face Durham City at Shawbridge. Jonathon Smith came back into the starting line-up in a defence that also included Keiran Fletcher and Liam McManus but they couldn’t hold the rampant visitors who sealed a 3-1 win with a last minute goal. Earlier Ryan Fisher had netted the equalise rafter coming on as a sub.

* More bad news for Harwood old boys Eric Whalley and Andy Procter at Stanley. John Coleman was featured on the radio bemoaning the poor attendances and explaining why the Reds had to let their goalkeeping coach go to make financial cut-backs. Clubs can only spend 60% of their income on wages, so given the size of attendances at Accy, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that they can’t compete for the better players in League Two. This weekend they had the opportunity to edge further away from the drop zone when Dagenham arrived in town but despite a one-sided game the Reds had to settle for just a point after a 0-0 draw. Once again ex-Robin Procter was the ‘villain’ as he missed another penalty, this time in the last minute. Daggers 39 year-old keeper Roberts making a great save on his 400th appearance to keep Stanley near the foot of the table.

* Ben Howarth and his Colne team-mates are in need of a morale-boosting win as they lost 3-1 at Ashton Athletic to make it nine league games since their last victory. The last three results, 3-1, 4-1 and 5-0 have really knocked the stuffing out of the team and relegation looks like a distinct possibility for the east Lancs. Side languishing next to bottom of the N.W.C. Premier League.

* Andy Clarkson’s Squires Gate missed both their goalscoring chances and their hopes of closing the gap on the leaders as they lost 2-0 at Congleton Town. Ed O’Neil did his best to inspire Ramsbottom United in their clash with high-flying New Mills but in spite of a fine performance the Blues went down 3-0 at the Riverside.

* Elsewhere, Northwich Victoria, Hertford Town, Grays, Fisher, Weymouth and a host of non-league clubs teeter on the brink with the latter seemingly just days from the end of the line. Saturday saw all of the established first-teamers pull out of the game as there appeared to be no insurance cover for them. That resulted in the youth team lining up to take on Rushden and Diamonds with the inevitable outcome although the scoreline was anything but. Almost a thousand fans witnessed a record equalling Conference defeat as the visitors ran out 9-0 winners with Weymouth lucky to concede so few with Rushden totting up no less than 26 shots on target! The next couple of days will see almost the entire playing squad leave after the non-payment of wages and if the club goes into administration, as is expected, a large points deduction will kick in.

Early February 2009

* James Dean scored for Harrogate Town but it wasn’t enough to secure victory as they were held at home by Stafford Rangers. A dreadful attendance of 338 saw Deano hit the second to put Town ahead but in the end it took a last minute goal to salvage a point for the Yorkshire side in a 3-3 draw. Next up was a trip to Blyth Spartans and like Matt Derbyshire had done two weeks before, James came away with a victory, but unlike the Rovers game, this one was a thriller. Harrogate took the lead only for the home side to hit back with three goals to secure what seemed to be a straight forward victory, but three second half goals kept Harrogate pushing for a promotion spot.

* Matt Derbyshire has made a surprise move to Greece. He’s gone out on loan for the rest of the season to the top Greek club Olympiakos who look certain to take the title and are also involved in this season’s UEFA Cup. Having already experienced the amazing passion of Greek supporters when Larrisa dumped the Blues out of the UEFA Cup last season, Matt must be excited at the prospect of playing in front of huge, ultra-partisan crowds during the next few months. Our best wishes go out to Matt and hopefully we’ll be able to see him in action soon. Last season’s European exit for the Rovers saw him score the club’s last goal in the competition.

* A heart-warming story from Great Harwood this week as it was revealed that a bench dedicated to long-time Great Harwood Town supporter Peter Birtwistle is to be unveiled at the Cricket Club. A collection was made at the club and added to from the Great Harwood Town ‘lucky-six’ fund and I’m sure that Bertie will be looking down with pride when his bench is placed at the Cliffe.

* Neighbours Padiham were dealt a severe blow when they were robbed of vital equipment from their Arbouries ground. A total of £9,000 worth was stolen leaving the club in dire straights in these troubled financial times.

* James Dean’s Harrogate Town are another club with big problems. The Chairman Bill Fotheringill has been trying for years to re-locate which would enable Town to move up the ‘pyramid’ and also, more importantly, generate more cash from improved facilities. Despite assistance from the local council (are you reading Hyndburn?), the government has stepped in to delay a quick move. Mr. Fotheringill has found a piece of land which would be shared with the local Rugby club and by all accounts the Council would be happy to see it developed for that purpose. The site is owned by a land developer who is keen to build houses but that, according to the council is a non-starter and permission has been refused. Meanwhile, the Football club is continuing to struggle on the pitch and Stalybridge Celtic were the latest to take 3 points from them. Deano was prominent throughout and came close to scoring but his former club ran out 1-0 winners. After the game, the manager put the whole squad up for sale due to the lack of investment and uncertain future of the ground move. The Chairman, like at many non-league clubs, has had to fork out considerable amounts of his own cash and must be congratulated for his loyalty in these difficult times and has stated that he has no intentions of leaving.

* Matt Derbyshire watched his new club Olympiakos take on AEK in the Athens derby at the weekend and it was his team who took the three points thanks to a 1-0 win. AEK remain in fourth place while Olympiakos stay 11 points clear of the pack with Matt having to wait a little longer for his debut.

* It looks like the end of the line for one of the oldest and most famous football clubs in the country as a winding up order for Darwen FC is going to the courts next week with the current owner not contesting the decision. Darwen have a long and famous history and were absolutely brilliant with Harwood when we had problems with both foot and mouth and arson attacks. Unless someone can come up with a rescue package in the next few days, manager Dennis Hill and the players, including several ex-Robins, will be looking for new clubs.

* Amazingly, despite the freezing weather, Darwen managed to play their weekend game with AFC Blackpool (Mechanics) and a larger than average attendance turned up (77) but the Salmoners went down 1-0. The officials and supporters will now be nervously awaiting the outcome of this week’s winding up proceedings.

* Once again the local non-league scene was devastated by the cold weather.
Just a couple of days to spare and the remaining officials at Darwen have now said that the winding up order will be contested and an offer will be made to the parties owed money by the club. Dennis Hill is hopeful that they can fulfil the remaining fixtures and take stock of the situation in the summer.

* Matt Derbyshire made his debut for Greek giants Olympiakos when he came on as a substitute after an hour of the cup game at third placed POAK. Sadly he couldn’t find the equaliser as his side went down 1-0. If Matt had any doubts about the passion displayed both on and off the pitch, then the game’s TWELVE bookings will have put him right!

January 2009

* The FA Vase reached the 4th round stage and holders AFC Fylde managed a 0-0 at Needham Market in a repeat of last year’s semi-final. Only one NWCFL club made it through to the next round, Glossop North End, who triumphed 2-1 against Stewarts and Lloyds thanks to a 90th minute goal in front of almost 300 fans. Bootle and Stone Dominoes were the other two representatives both of whom lost narrowly. Stone’s game at Stratford Town went into extra time and a 30 yard screamer looked to have put them through but the referee insisted that the ball had hit the bar and soon afterwards Town got the winner. Bootle took the lead against Whitley Bay before a crowd of 272 but the visitors hit back with three second half goals. Game of the round came in the North East where Dunston Federation Brewery lost 6-5 to Chalfont St Peter in a real classic. The home side had taken the game into extra time after an injury time equaliser made it 4-4 and despite going behind again, they looked to have forced a replay before Chalfont’s late winner.

* Despite the best efforts of James Dean, Harrogate Town’s shocking run of form continues and they were soundly beaten 4-1 at Alfreton Town. An early shot from Deano was well saved before he set up the opening goal but despite leading at the break, the team fell apart afterwards and the game ended with the home side well in command.
Another Harwood old boy is having a much better time of it lately as Simon Garners’s FC United made it three wins in a row without conceding a goal. Simon set up the decisive second goal for Carden as the Reds coasted to a 2-0 win over Prescott Cables at Gigg Lane.

* Andy Procter is about to start his seventh year at Accrington Stanley after his transfer from Harwood and he was instrumental in helping the Reds gain a valuable point at high flying Bradford City in front of over 12,000 fans at Valley Parade.

* A mixed bag for two of our old boys now managing in the NWCFL. Andy Clarkson enjoyed a 1-0 home win over lowly Abbey Hey but Dennis Hill will have been very disappointed to see his charges go down 2-1 at perennial strugglers Rochdale Town. The result saw the teams change places in the table with the Salmoners third from bottom.

* Berkhamstead are the latest club to fold after being wound up with debts of £ ¼ m. and another who could follow them are Northwich Victoria. The club appear to have gone from one crisis to another over the past ten years or so and the latest twist saw the ex-owner removing fixtures and fitting making the ground unsafe and therefore unusable. Creditors are owed more than £1m. and the administrators are trying to sell the ground to pay off those debts. The club also owes the taxman almost £ ½ m. Things didn’t get ant better at the weekend when Vics had to play their home game against Histon at Altricham. They took the lead, had a player sent off, lost their goalkeeper to injury, conceded an equaliser in the last minute and lost the game in injury time! Meanwhile Leigh Genesis had to play their latest ‘home’ game at Shawbridge.

* Dennis Hill’s Darwen look to be in dire straights with the current owner Kevin Henry insisting that the clubs debts are as a result of the previous owners mistakes. The club was issued with a winding up order from a Surrey based subsidiary of ING with the sum of £9,000 being quoted. There’s also been a problem recently with Thwaites Brewery who were allegedly owed £12,000. Mr. Henry appears to be downhearted by the pitiful attendances at the Anchor, a problem that many of the area’s non-league clubs have endured for years.

* Ex-Harwood star Lee Sculpher has joined Clitheroe as joint manager along side Pete Smith.
Andy Procter is hot property at the moment and Macclesfield Town have had a five-figure offer turned down by Accrington Stanley which is good news for all Reds fans.

* Robins’ legend John Eastham is to marry long time sweetheart J.B. in August and what a handsome pair they make, knocking spots off Brad and Angelina. You couldn’t wish to meet a nicer couple and they were surely made for each other. On behalf of all Harwood fans I’d like to wish them the very best for a long and happy future together.

* A great story from the North East this week as 86 year-old Tommy Farrer, the ex-Bishop Auckland legend was given a minutes silence before the latest home game. An obituary was placed in the local paper and a moving tribute was written in the programme but when a club official phoned the family home in Kent to pass on their condolences to his widow, she told him that her husband was alive and kicking and had only just nipped out to get a newspaper! Tommy wasn’t upset by the mistake and was particularly happy at being described in the article as a ‘legend’. He won eight Amateur caps and played in three Wembley finals at a time when the Bishops were the cream of non-league football in this country. Maybe Tommy needs to make a comeback as his team lost 4-0 to Newcastle Benfield.

* Lee Sculpher made a winning start as Clitheroe manager as the Blues defeated neighbours Rossendale United 3-2 at Shawbridge despite the absence of Jonathon Smith and Ryan Fisher. Liam McManus once again starred at full back. Andy Clarkson’s Squires Gate hosted the FA Vase replay between AFC Fylde and Needham Market but sadly, the ‘home’ side and current Vase holders, bowed out of this year’s competition. More bad news for Eric Whalley as Stanley pulled in the lowest Football League attendance for six years. A paltry 1,056 turned up for the home game with Barnet and the ex-Harwood hero must be gutted by the town’s apathy.

* Get well soon wishes go to Harwood supporter Phil O’Dell who’s been none too well over the holiday period. Despite having to rely on the erratic public transport system, Phil and daughter Sian were a common sight at both home and away games. He’s now taken to watching FC United and is enjoying the atmosphere down at Gigg Lane.

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