Season 2010-11 Latest News
Mid January 2011
* Another non-league club looks to have played their last game as Ryman North side Leyton FC resigned from the league.
* Plenty of exciting games took place up and down the country, not least amongst some of our recent opponents. The Evostick League Challenge Cup saw Bradford Park Avenue, who brought a terrific following to the Showground soon after their resurrection about 20 years ago, go down 3-0 at home to neighbours Halifax Town. Soon afterwards though, Town were thrown out of the competition for fielding a player who’d previously appeared in the competition for Woodley Sports. We suffered a similar fate after Dennis Hill appeared for Darwen before turning out for us in the NWCFL League Cup five years ago.
* The Tykes must have been one of the favourites to lift the Trophy but now they can ‘concentrate on the more important matters of the League and visiting Ossett Town received both barrels! The Blues completed their biggest ever League win, 8-1 though the score flattered them greatly, Ossett more than held their own before James Dean opened the scoring after 27 minutes but they were level just two minutes later and should have been leading after the opening third of the game. Deano then put Halifax back in front five minutes later and two more goals just before the break clinched the match. There was no let up on the visiting defence who conceded the 8th with 15 minutes still to play! To put the game into perspective, the home side had managed just 6 shots on target with the score at 6-1!
* Another club who’ve gone onwards and upwards since we last met just a few years ago, Fleetwood Town, travelled to ex-League club Mansfield Town and thrashed the hosts 5-2. They fought back to equalise in the final minute of the first half then hit four more in the opening 20 minutes of the second with Viera hitting a hat-trick. The Fishermen surely couldn’t have dreamed about such a rapid climb up the ‘Pyramid’ as they were outplayed for much of our last encounter at the Crown Ground.
* Leigh Genesis, under their former name Horwich RMI, were frequent opponents for us over the past 30 years but they look to heading back to the lower reaches of the Vodcat League as they sit bottom of the Evostick North and their latest defeat, 8-0 at home to mid-table local neighbours Witton Albion was witnessed by a miserable attendance of just 59.
* Another of our more recent opponents, Nantwich Town were involved in a fantastic Challenge Cup game against local rivals Northwich Victoria. They led 2-0 before an own goal by Whittaker, who opened the scoring, and a last minute goal from Ryan took the game into extra-time. Whittaker then looked to have made amends by putting the hosts back in front but Ryan completed a hat-trick and three further goals from Vics gave the visitors a 7-3 win.
* As we were on the way down, AFC Fylde (Kirkham & Wesham) were on the way up and they took on Chester at the Deva Stadium in front of almost 2,000 fans and fought out a creditable 2-2 draw. They then game from behind, once again, to win 3-2 at Harrogate Railway Athletic to consolidate third place, behind Chester and Chorley.
* Behind them in 4th spot are Pete Smith’s Clitheroe and they too came from behind to win 2-1 at Skelmersdale United. Those three points saw the Blues move up three places and once again into the play-ff positions. Next up was a trip to next to bottom Wakefield and although the Blues ran the show from start to finish, they failed to convert several chances and went down 1-0.
* FC United have used their great FA Cup run as a confidence-booster and are moving well away from the relegation area in the Evostick Premier League. Their latest win, 4-0 at bottom side Retford United, saw keeper Sam Ashton open the scoring after three minutes thanks to a huge 80 yard punt upfield which bounced over the Retford goalie.
* In the Evostick South, two middle of the table sides produced a classic at Loughborough where the Dynamos three times took the lead against Belper Town before going behind 4-3 in the 55th minute. The hosts then hit back to finally triumph 5-4.
* Andy Procter has been putting in some great performances recently and he helped the Reds to a fine 2-1 win at Cheltenham but just when they started to look towards to play-off spots, they surprisingly lost 3-1 at home to Shrewsbury despite dominating the majority of the game.
* Just as Matt Derbyshire helps Birmingham go goal-crazy, he’s then dropped for the League Cup semi-final 1st leg when the Blues totally dominated the second half but couldn’t convert the chances and ended up losing 2-1. He was brought back into the starting line-up for the massive derby versus Aston Villa and although he missed a good chance in the first half, he was named man of the match-just before being substituted!
* In the Vodcat League, Russ McKenna scored the winner for Squires Gate as they won 2-1 at Maine Road and then beat Bootle by the same score to move up amongst the pace-setters in the Premier League.
* Barnoldswick led 1-0 at leaders Winsford United with just a minute left on the clock but conceded at the death. They then lost 1-0 in the derby game at Bacup Borough in front of a very disappointing 63 spectators.
* Padiham earned a point at Congleton thanks to a late penalty while poor old Rossendale United had victory snatched from their grasp at St. Helens. Rossy led 3-1 with only 6 minutes left and the 3 points would have seen them move off the foot of the table but the Saints scored two late goals to leave the visitors deflated.
Early January 2011
* One game of note that actually took place at the end of December was in the Zamaretto Central and it’s certainly worth a mention. High-flying Slough Town hosted lowly Beaconsfield and were left shell-shocked after just 20 minutes as the visitors raced into an unlikely 3-0 lead but by half time Slough had drawn level. They then hit three more after the break before a last minute consolation made the score 6-4.
* The weather at the start of this month eased a little but many of our local sides still suffered from frozen pitches. A record Northern Premier League crowd of over 4,000 saw ‘giants’ Halifax Town take on FC United at the Shay and after United, now next to bottom, took a shock lead, Town hit back four times and move 9 points clear at the top.
* A Division lower down saw leaders Chester consolidate their top of the table position by beating Prescot Cables with a last minute winner in front of another huge four-figure attendance, despite the Merseysiders poor home support.
* Pete Smith’s Clitheroe were involved in a terrific game at Shawbridge but defeat saw them drop to 3rd place as Chorley moved up with a 2-1 win at Radcliffe Borough. The prolific Foster gave Salford an early lead but Ryan Fisher equalised and a minute later, the Blues were in front. Two minute later Foster hit his second before City re-took the lead with still less than 25 minutes on the clock. On 36 minutes Foster hit his hat-trick goal and worse was to come as just four minutes on, the Mancunians made it 5-2. Two second half goals gave Clitheroe hope of an equaliser but the visitors held on for the final five minutes.
* Another ‘Mancs.’ team was up next for the Blues but once again defensive frailties let them down. Once again they found themselves three down at the break and once again, two second half goals left them just short. If those games were disappointing for Smithy, he must have been pulling his hair out after the next match. The Blues cruised into a three goal lead against Cammell Laird at Shawbridge and with only 10 minutes left, the points were in the bag-or so it seemed. Laird threw caution to the wind and had the Clitheroe defence panicking as they scored three times to earn the most unlikely of points. Ryan Fisher returned to the side and Jason Jones was elevated to captain and also scored the Blues’ third goal.
* Two other high scoring games took place on the opening day of the month, our old foes Newcastle Town, made up for lost time by hitting 8 at struggling Market Drayton. Town led 5-0 at half time and although the Shropshire side pulled one back in the first minute of the second half, the visitors continued to press with their final two goals ensuring that they overtook neighbours Kidsgrove Athletic into 3rd place.
* The other high-scoring game took place in the Ryman South and what a thriller it was. Leaders Whitehawk travelled to mid-table Eastbourne Town and found themselves two down at half time. They hit back to equalise mid-way through the second period but Eastbourne soon got their noses back in front. Whitehawk looked to have earned a point with their 3rd goal in the 84th minute but went all out for maximum points and secured them with two further goals and leave the final score at 3-5.
* In the Evostick Premier Division, the top two met in North Wales and Colwyn Bay came out on top against Halifax Town. Simon Garner almost gave the Shaymen the lead but his brilliant long range shot flew narrowly wide and he then hit the post in the second half. With the score at 1-1 James Dean missed a sitter from 6 yards when he shot straight at the keeper. Both of our old boys were substituted with the score still at
1-1. A tricky game followed that at Northwich Victoria but the Blues brushed past Vics with the minimum of
fuss. Deano hit the opening goal and set up the second against one of his many former clubs and the visitors
won 3-0 with Simon also prominent throughout.
* In the Vodcat League, Padiham are on a roll since signing Martin Parkes and they enjoyed two great wins.
Firstly they beat local rivals Colne 3-0 at Holt House before an excellent crowd of 165 and then defeated top of
the table New Mills at the Arbories. Martin scored the second goal in a 3-1 win
* Russ McKenna scored an 87th minute winner for Squires Gate at Maine Road and Bacup Borough raced into a 3-0 half time lead at Alsager Town before eventually winning 4-2. Very sad to see the attendances haven’t improved for Town with a meagre 19 turning up for their latest game. At the wrong end of the table, Rossendale United slump further and further into the mire and their shocking season hit a new low at the weekend. They were hoping to build on a 1-1 draw against Silsden when they hosted bottom side Ashton Athletic but a last minute goal saw the visitors triumph and sent Rossy to the foot of the league.
* In the Second Division Darwen won 2-0 at Oldham Town while in the FA Vase, a crowd of 738 witnessed a strong Whitley Bay side thrash AFC Liverpool 7-1. Quite a collapse by the Reds who only trailed 1-0 at the break.
* Andy Procter has been in great form recently as have Accrington Stanley, and a 2-1 win at Morecambe, 2-2 draw at home to Chesterfield and a 1-0 home win against Bury have seen them climb the League Two table. The Reds hit an 83rd minute winner in the first game and were cruising at 2-0 in the second with only 6 minutes left but a 94th minute equaliser for the League leaders left the Stanley faithful disappointed. Still no sign of the Accrington public getting behind the team with each of the two attractive home games seeing little more than 2,000 turning up.
* Matt Derbyshire was finally given a starting place for Birmingham City as they travelled to Blackpool and he made the most of his chance as he teamed up with Cameron Jerome to run the ‘Pool defence ragged. In the opening minutes he missed a good chance from just a few yards out and on 6 minutes he set up strike partner Jerome who also missed from close range. He won a corner on 20 minutes when the Blues once again just failed to take the lead but they eventually did before the break. Matt made way after 76 minutes and City scored a last minute winner so two goals in one game saw a marked improvement for the struggling midlanders. Matt kept his place for the FA Cup 3rd round game at Millwall and once again, he showed that he should be starting more games. He tore the home defence to shreds and opened the scoring with a fabulous chip on 17 minutes. He was then fouled on the edge of the box which resulted in the second goal, almost scored a third but was denied by a terrific save from the home keeper, and then all but sealed the win a minute before the break when he mesmerised the Lions defence to score the third. He was substituted after 69 minutes to save the Championship from further embarrassment. That makes 6 FA Cup goals in just 6 appearances since leaving the Robins where he made just one appearance, and lasted about half an hour before being sent off! At this stage of his career, he really should be a regular first-teamer, whether it be in the Premier League or Championship and someone should get the cheque book out soon!
Mid & Late December 2010
* The funeral took place of our dear friend ‘Auntie Sheila’ and fittingly, the Church was packed to the rafters with not a spare seat and the back of the church also full of standing mourners-a great send-off for a great lady.
* Just as the weather cleared up and non-league clubs got back to playing, the snow and heavy frosts returned with very little football taking place anywhere in the country. One team that did play just after Christmas was AFC Wimbledon and they brushed aside visitors Eastbourne Borough 3-0 to move three points clear at the top of the Conference. We can also reveal that Dons and Harwood fan Don ‘Fitz’ Fitzgerald is the manager of GT Harwood Town (we think!) with Great Harwood Town, being the web-site’s team. ‘GT’ are in 285th place while ‘Great’ are in 333rd.
* Staying with Wimbledon, they were amongst the three English clubs who were involved in the Intertoto Cup back in 1995. The FA were threatened with the expulsion from all European Competitions should they fail to provide three clubs to take part, but despite inviting anyone and everyone from the Premier League, they unanimously turned down the offer. The FA then persuaded Wimbledon, Spurs and Sheffield Wednesday to take part with the Dons playing their home games at the Goldstone Ground in Brighton. The excitement of European football just 20 years after joining the Football League had the fans at fever pitch, so much so that less than 2,000 turned out to watch their Euro debut-and a third of those were followers of Turkish opponents Bursaspor. The Dons fielded a side made up almost entirely of youth team players and were hammered 4-0. Not surprisingly, two draws and another heavy defeat saw them exit the competition and to make matters worse, the club were then banned from all European Competitions for five years for playing an under-strength side! The FA appealed and the club was instead fined £60,000.
* As there’s so little news at the moment, we’ll have a look back to the end of December five years ago.
* Martin Parker left Harwood to join neighbours Padiham who were keen to shore up their defence. The Storks were fourth in the 2nd Division, mainly thanks to hot-shot Paul Fildes who’d already notched 15 league goals in just 16 games. At the other end they’d conceded an alarming 26.
Our leading scorer was the irrepressible John Eastham with 8 goals in all competitions with Ed O’Neil and Darren Rogers on 6 apiece.
*On the pitch there wasn’t too much action with many games being postponed but our good friends at Darwen beat the weather and visitors New Mills with ex-Robins Ricky Fogarty(2), and Neil Zarac amongst the scorers.
*Elsewhere, FC United travelled to Holker Old Boys and won 2-0 in front of a massive 2,303 at Barrow FC’s Holker Street. The Reds following game saw 4,328 at Gigg Lane for the game against Winsford United. Five games in our Division failed to attract three figures but 152 saw our first game for a couple of weeks at Nelson. We came from behind to win 2-1 with both goals scored by Cypriot Vaz Theophanous, the second just five minutes from time.
*We ended the year in 7th place with 8 wins and 6 defeats from our 14 games but did have games in hand on the teams directly above us. FC United looked to be running away with the title, fourteen points ahead of second placed Winsford United. At the other end of the table poor old Castleton Gabriels were already adrift on minus 2 points! They mustered just a couple of draws in the opening 16 games but had also been deducted 4 points for a breach of league rules.
Early - Mid December
* Very sad news this month with the passing away of a great friend and supporter of the club Sheila Ashcroft. Everyone at the Football Club knew her as ‘Auntie Sheila’ and she was universally liked. She always bought raffle tickets, sold programmes, pushed souvenirs and generally helped out where ever she could. On behalf of all the Harwood fans who had the great pleasure of knowing her, I’d like to offer my sincere condolences to husband Brian and son Dave, our thoughts are with you both at this sad time.
* Auntie Sheila will never be forgotten-God bless.
* The funeral will take place on Monday 20th December at the Church of the Saviour, Onchan Rd. Infirmary, Blackburn
* The football finally got going again after the big freeze and it was the end of the road for two of our ex-opponents. FC United went down 4-0 in their replay against Brighton in front of a record crowd for the club, beating the previous best when we played at Gigg Lane. At least we still hold the record for United’s best League crowd. Droylsden also took their Football League opponents to a replay and were involved in one of the most extraordinary FA Cup games in recent years. Winning 2-0 at Orient, well into the second half and playing against ten men, their progress to the 3rd round looked assured but the Londoners hit back with a last minute equaliser to force the game into extra time. That’s when the fireworks really began as Orient hit another six unanswered goals and the sides both finished with nine men! Not too many tears shed by ex-Harwood striker Martin Horsfield at that result. On our last visit to Droylsden, his face was involved in a nasty collision with a defender’s fist!
* The Vodcat League saw a couple of great results from our local sides. Silsden officially opened their refurbished Asda Foundation Stadium but the large crowd went home disappointed after visitors Bacup Borough won convincingly, 3-0. Ramsbottom United did even better by thrashing Runcorn Linnets 5-0 away from home, a similar scoreline to the one at the Riverside earlier in the season-can we play you every week?
* In the same Division, Padiham enjoyed an excellent win, 3-1 at Glossop North End. Ed O’Neil hit the 2nd, a scorcher into the top corner from around 20 yards, almost identical to one he scored at the Crown Ground for us against Daisy Hill about 5 years ago.
* Russ McKenna’s Squires Gate were involved in a thriller against bad boys Flixton. The visitors found them selves two up just before the break but a 44th minute penalty pegged them back. Just 15 minutes into the second half Gate hit their 4th, also a spot kick, and hit two further goals for a 6-2 win.
* Bottom of the table Ashton Athletic moved to within goal difference of John Hughes’ old boys Rossendale United and the decision to dispense with his services looks to have back-fired. Ashton thrashed Stone Dominoes 4-1 in front of just 20 fans but local rivals Ashton Town could muster just 14 as they let a one-goal lead slip to lose 2-1 to Holker Old Boys-Ashton isn’t the hot-bed of football that we all thought it was!
* In the Evostick League North, Clitheroe had the chance to go top of the table at promotion rivals Witton Albion but despite dominating the 1st half, Pete Smith’s boys went down 2-0.
* Their next game saw then exit the Lancs. Cup after a 4-2 home defeat against Bamber Bridge. Once again Ryan Fisher played and Liam McManus came on as a late substitute.
* In the Premier Division, the two best supported clubs met at Gigg Lane and visitors Halifax Town won 1-0 in front of a little under 3,000 fans. It was a sweet return to one of his former clubs for Simon Garner who hit the only goal of the game with a fine header. Full credit to Simon who didn’t celebrate. James Dean was denied by a good save early on before going off with an injured ankle.
* Next up for the Tykes was a derby game at Barnoldswick and an excellent crowd of 170 saw Simon Garner inspire them to a 5-0 win, four of the goals coming in the first half.
* Andy Procter could have scored for Accrington Stanley at struggling Barnet and his miss proved costly as the Bees won 2-0.
* In the Premier League, Birmingham City were under the cosh at Wolves, showing few signs of making an impact on the home defence-call for substitute Matt Derbyshire-NO! Despite using all three subs. Alex McLeish chose to leave Matt out and paid the consequences, losing 1-0.
* Colne were surprisingly knocked out of the League Cup, 2-1 at home to Glossop North End. The Reds dominated for much of the game but found themselves behind with just a couple of minutes remaining. Enter ex-Harwood star Steve Pickup who looks as though he’s going to playing as long as Stan Mathews! He popped up with a trademark scorcher to send the game into extra time but it was the visitors who scored the decisive goal after 98 minutes.
* Football at the end of the month was decimated by the freezing weather so there’s very little local news to write about. Not too much anywhere else in the country but one story that hit the news was the 55-0 for Cornish side Madron in the Mining League. High-flying opponents Illogan showed no mercy despite being 24 goals to the good at half time and despite their opponents only playing the game with 7 men. One of those was the keeper who apparently spent much of the game leaning against a goal post but as the manager explained on National Radio, if he’d dragged him off, the game would have been abandoned with possible severe implications for the club. The next game saw a new keeper in the firing line and he performed admirably to keep the latest defeat down to 22-0.
* FC United were the heroes of the month as they held League One leaders Brighton to a 1-1 draw at the Withdean Stadium. 850 fans made the long journey to turn the game into a ‘home’ one for the Reds and they took the lead before being pegged back and then reduced to ten men. A penalty in the 96th !!! minute looked to have ended the dream but a fantastic save by FC’s keeper Ashton sent the travelling hoards, and most of the country’s futty fans into raptures. The Seagulls will still be red-hot favourites but a huge crowd will turn Gigg Lane into a cauldron so anything can happen. Good luck United!
* One of Harwood’s long-distance fans, Don Fitzgerald was disappointed to see the real Wimbledon go out, 2-0 at home to Stevenage while one of our opponents from our Northern Premier days, Tamworth, put up a great show at Carlisle United. They twice took the lead before succumbing to two goals in the last five minutes.
* Another of our supporters, Nick Hancock from Devon, enjoyed his weekend rather more as his side Buckland Athletic came from two goals behind to beat visiting St. Blazey and now lead the South West Peninsula by four points.
* Of the few games to go ahead lately, there were a couple of thrillers in the Ryman Premier League. Two mid-table sides enjoyed a great game at Margate where Tooting & Mitcham fought back from a two-goal half time deficit to take the lead ten minutes from the end but they were denied the three points by a last minute equaliser.
* At Sutton United, visitors Wealdstone led 2-0 and then 3-1 but the home side threw caution to the wind to score three more goals including two in the last two minutes.
* The FA Vase saw most of the remaining Vodcat sides fall by the wayside. Formby made it through to the next round at the expense of our good neighbours Bacup Borough, 1-0 the final score. The two remaining sides both pitted their wits against a couple of our recent opponents in the competition with St. Helens emulating our success at Winterton Rangers, winning 2-0. Norton & Stockton Ancients continue to impress and ended the hopes of Irlam in a great game up in the North East. The home side were cruising 3-1 with only 6 minutes left but goals in the 84th and 86th minutes looked to have sent it into extra time but a last-gasp winner saw Ancients through.
* Also in Cup competitions, Ramsbottom United held AFC Fylde to a draw in the Lancs. Challenge Trophy at the Riverside but the visiting keeper stole the show in the ‘shoot-out’. He not only saved three spot kicks but for the second round running, hit the winner!
* That 2-1 defeat followed a similar one at Barnoldswick with the home side coming through despite being down to ten men. Town had taken the lead but a defender conceded a penalty and was dismissed to leave the Blues in pole position but against the odds Barnoldswick hit a late winner.
Rammy then got back on track with a hard fought 2-1 win over Maine Road at the Riverside.
Barlick then lost their 17 game unbeaten run when they surprisingly lost 4-2 at home to Flixton despite taking a fifth minute lead.
* Nearby Colne were shell-shocked to find themselves 3-0 down to Russ McKenna’s Squires Gate after only half an hour at Holt House but by the end the scores were level with Colne looking for a winner.
Next up was a trip to lowly Ashton Athletic and the Reds breezed it 3-1 to move up to 5th in the Premier Division. They followed that with a 4-1 home win against Atherton LR despite trailing at the break.
* Still no sign of a Rossendale revival although they did earn a rare point after drawing 1-1 with Squires Gate at Dark Lane. United almost claimed an even rarer win as Gate only equalised in stoppage time. That draw ended a dreadful nine game losing streak but followed yet another defeat, 4-0 at Maine Road with all the goals in the first half.
* Game of the day took place at Abbey Hey where the home side led 3-1 before visitors Oldham Borough hit back to win 5-3.
* Ed O’Neil has moved to Padiham, no doubt frustrated at his lack of starting appearances for Ramsbottom and he was at the heart of much of Padiham’s good play as they beat Alsager 2-0 at the Arbories. He delivered the corner that was converted for the opener then brilliantly set up the second. The clean sheet was also helped by another new signing and ex-Robin, Kieran Fletcher from Colne.
* Moving further up the ‘pyramid’ Pete Smith dropped Liam McManus from his starting eleven and how they missed him as they went down 3-0 at home to Curzon Ashton. The prolific Chris Curley hit the second and I seem to recall that despite his fantastic strike rate, he had little joy when playing for Oldham against Harwood.
* Ryan Fisher was brought back into the side for the local derby at Bamber Bridge and he helped Smithy’s boys to a 2-1 win although Brig also obliged by having two men sent off.
The Blues looked to struggling again in the next game at bottom side Leigh Genesis who took a 30th minute lead but they fought back to win 2-1 and move up into second place.
* Halifax Town took on bottom side Retford United and the only surprise was that there weren’t more than 3 goals. James Dean left his shooting boots at home and missed a sitter after 10 minutes that would have put the hosts 3-0 up. Simon Garner had already made the first goal after just two minutes and had an outstanding game throughout. Deano missed another great chance to add to his impressive season’s total near the end but once again was disappointed.
The two ex-Robins both started for the Tykes in their next game at highly-rated Matlock Town where they helped the Blues win their tenth League game in a row. Deano should have had a penalty early on before a great bit of skill ended with him crossing for Simon who just failed to connect with the score at 0-0. Town’s top scorer did break the deadlock when he capitalised on a mix up between keeper and defender before slotting in from a tight angle. He then made it 2-0 when he converted a cross from the left.
The Blues then lost their first home game for 18 months despite Simon and Deano setting up plenty of chances. North Ferriby won the three points thanks to a surprise 2-0 victory that also the long winning run.
* In the Football League, Accrington Stanley earned a good point thanks to a 1-1 draw at Southend. The Reds had taken a first half lead and only a fine save from the home keeper prevented Andy Procter from making it two. His low long range shot was pushed away for a corner and once Stanley had been reduced to ten men (again!) it was a case of hanging onto a point.
A dominant and powerful midfield display then helped the Reds to a 1-0 home victory over Stevenage which moved them into mid-table although they’re just five points from the bottom such is the tightness in League Two.
* One score from further afield worth mentioning was New Mills 11-0 demolition of Parkhouse in the Derbyshire Senior Cup.
* Matt Derbyshire is finding it difficult to break into the starting line-up at St. Andrews but as always, he’s hitting the target regularly when he does play. In his appearances for the Blues reserves he’s scored the winner against Coventry with a great curling shot from the edge of the box, scored in the 6-0 win against Wallsall, and played the 90 minutes against arch rivals Villa, a game which ended 0-0. His latest appearance saw him hit a goal in each half in a 5-0 friendly win against Cheltenham Town. He was once again an unused sub. in the magnificent 1-0 win against Chelsea.
* At the opposite end of the Pyramid, in the West Lancs. League 1st Division, Lee Sculpher’s Mill Hill St. Peters drew 1-1 at Wyre Villa and that’s now half of their 14 games that have ended all square. Poor old Croston wish that they’d drawn that many, their latest defeat was 11-1 at home to Hawcoat Park and they’ve now conceded 64 goals in just 15 games. In the 2nd Division, the ex-Harwood crew of McNally, Hill and Watson couldn’t prevent a 2-1 home defeat by Todmorden Borough but they still lie in 4th place.
* Great to see fans club AFC Wimbledon join FC United in the 2nd Round of the FA Cup, just a pity that MK Dons were beaten in their replay. The whole country (outside Milton Keynes) would have been rooting for the real Wimbledon Football Club.
* Next Sunday sees a memorial game for Keith Lord, a stalwart of Clitheroe FC. Admission is free and the game will see appearance from ex-Harwood stars Jonathan Smith, Simon Garner, James Dean and Lee Sculpher.
* Matt Derbyshire would have been hoping for more first team action when he went to Birmingham but he’s having difficulty in breaking into the starting eleven. He was once again an unused sub. for the Blues 3-2 defeat at Stoke City.
* Andy Procter returned from suspension to bolster the leaky Accrington Stanley defence as they travelled to Chesterfield but things went from bad to worse as they conceded five with Andy responsible for one of them. He then starred for the Reds as they beat League One Oldham Athletic 3-2 at the Crown in the FA Cup 1st Round. A. truly pathetic 800 Reds’ fans attended the game, much to the dismay of officials and players.
* James Dean was rested for Halifax Town’s West Riding Cup game at Ossett Town but Simon Garner did play and scored the opener direct from a corner (again) as the Blues ran out easy 5-0 winners. They then travelled to Marine for a League clash and went one better by scoring six unanswered goals. Deano hit the first and last goals in the 13th and 87th minutes, should have been awarded a penalty, and also made two other goals.
* Our Vodcat League clubs were in League Cup action with Padiham, Barnoldswick and Rossendale all going out. Martin Parkes got on the scoresheet for Padiham but visitors Formby ran out 2-1 winners while Barlick lost a thriller, 4-3 at home to Irwell. Poor old Rossy were hammered 6-1 at Russ McKenna’s Squires Gate and the Dark Lane club are showing no signs of getting out of the current slump.
* Colne drew 2-2 at Glossop while Bacup defeated visitors Chadderton 3-2. Ramsbottom eased past Daisy Hill 4-1 at the Riverside.
* In the League, Darwen drew 2-2 at Ashton Town.
* With a quarter of the season gone, were still languishing in 406th place, with 2,488 points in the Non-League Paper’s Fantasy League. Just some of our teams are Crawley, Fleetwood, Dover, Alfreton, Nuneaton, Cambridge City, Salisbury, AFC Hornchurch, Lowestoft, Halifax and Chester, all of whom are the top six of their respective leagues so it’s very disappointing to be so low in the current table.
* In the West Lancs. League, Whinney Hill are lying in 3rd place although recent results haven’t been the best, no doubt due the absence of inspirational midfielder Dennis Hill. Gordon Watson, who made the step up to NWCFL level with the Robins look effortless, is now scoring for fun back in the West Lancs. and he recently scored a hat-trick. After a 3-1 home win against Ulverston Rangers, they then lost 3-1 to Wyre Villa at the same venue.
* Also in that League, but a division higher, are Mill Hill St. Peters, managed by ex-Harwood star Lee Sculpher. They recently lost 2-1 at Norcross and Warbreck before going down to Premier League Freckleton in a 4-3 cup tie thriller at Queen Victoria Street.
One other score worth mentioning is the Division Two clash between Ambleside and bottom of the table Ladybridge which ended 12-5!!
* Matt Derbyshire came off the bench for the final 10 minutes of Birmingham City’s home clash with Blackpool.
* James Dean’s dream of FA Cup glory is over for another year after Halifax Town lost 1-0 at home to Mansfield Town. Deano caused problems for the Stags’ defence throughout the game and his 2nd half header brought out a match-winning save from the visitors’ keeper who pushed it onto the post. Another terrific crowd, this time a shade under 3,000 saw the Blues give as good as they got after Mansfield’s early goal.
* Town returned to League action with a home game against Burscough and a 3-2 win took them back to the top. Deano made the first and scored the third. They then travelled to Curzon Ashton for the third time in a month and the Mancunians finally came out on top thanks to a 2-1 win. Deano was rested-until half time-and Simon Garner returned to midfield. The ex-Harwood star immediately came into the action and should have scored with a header from about 6 yards but he then hit a scorcher into the top corner from outside the box only for the effort to be harshly ruled out for handball.
* One local side who’ve made it through to the FA Cup 1st round proper are FC United who easily brushed aside Conference side Barrow despite the narrow-sounding 1-0 scoreline. A magnificent 3,000+ crowd (despite Man United being on the box) turned out to see the game at Gigg Lane and the Reds now have a mouth-watering local derby at Rochdale to look forward to in the next round. Hopefully the ground will be big enough to cope with the United hoards.
* Harwood’s ex-Boss John Hughes played in the most successful Chorley side in living memory but it looks like the good times are back as they not only top the Evostick North but also drew more than 1,100 fans for their game with Leigh Genesis. With 2nd placed Chester also winning, in front of over 2,400 fans, and both clubs taking sizable followings, it’s also good news for the other members of the League, the majority of who draw about a tenth of the two leaders.
* Pete Smith’s Clitheroe remain in 4th place despite conceding a late equaliser to Trafford. They then lost 2-1 at home to Bamber Bridge in the President’s Cup before losing 3-1 at Whitby Town in the FA Trophy.
* Right behind the Blues are AFC Fylde and a game recently between the two saw Matt Walwyn’s late equaliser at Shawbridge earn a lucky Scottish chap £3m when it completed his 8 ‘high-score’ draws. It’s the biggest-ever Football Pools pay-out but Matt almost blew it when he narrowly missed scoring again at the end of the game.
* In the Vodcat League, Ramsbottom United won the latest derby, 2-0 at Colne while Russ McKenna saw his Squires Gate side produce a stirring comeback at Congleton Town. The Bears looked to have secured the victory when an 82nd minute goal gave them a 2-0 lead but Gate hit back with goals in the 85th and 87th minutes.
* Barnoldswick Town won 3-1 at Runcorn Linnets and now lead Rammy on goal difference towards the top of the table, both sides have already amassed 31 points. Town then made it 16 games unbeaten with a 3-1 home victory over Stone Dominoes.
* Bacup Borough took Glossop right to the wire before losing 2-1 and Padiham also lost, 3-1 at Winsford United with Martin Parkes, captain and ex Harwood star, being sent off in injury time after giving lip to a linesman. Borough then let a two goal lead-after just 4 minutes-slip to draw 2-2 with Bootle.
Colne meanwhile were hammered 4-1 at Winsford United.
* Padiham earned a point after a 1-1 draw at Runcorn but Rossendale United go from bad to worse, losing 4-1 at Formby.
In the 1st Division AFC Darwen’s discipline has gone completely and they had three men sent off during their 3-0 home defeat by Holker Old Boys with all the ‘action’ in the second half. Holker then thrashed Rochdale 8-0 so things are certainly looking up for the Cumbrians. Darwen then lost 2-1 at Blackpool.
* Ross Hannah, Matlock’s seven goal hero of the FA Trophy has gone into ‘Matt Derbyshire mode’ as he followed up with all three goals in a 3-2 win at Nantwich and both in the 2-0 home victory against Ossett.
* Two games from around the country stood out, Cirencester Town’s Cup clash with North Leigh being one of them. The visitors led 1-0 at the break but the second half was highly explosive and within 20 minutes they were 4-3 up. Town then scored a last minute equaliser and then two more in the second period of extra time to take the tie 6-4.
The other stand-out game involved Welsh League leaders Bangor City. They’ve won all 12 of their League games this season and travelled to second placed TNS for a cup game, and lost 9-0! TNS do play on a plastic pitch which must give them some advantage but nevertheless it was an extraordinary result. Both sides played what were essentially their second strings and Bangor almost took the lead with a shot that hit the post. Even more amazing than the score was the fact that the first goal didn’t arrive until the 37th minute.
*The month ended sadly for football fans around the world but especially here in the North West as ex-Harwood legend Ronnie Clayton passed away at the age of 76. He was a truly nice guy and when we featured him in the matchday programme, he didn’t hesitate to come down to the ground when we played Darwen. He stood on the terraces with the fans, signed autographs, had his photo taken with fans and spoke to everyone who said hello.
He’d shame many of today’s so-called superstars with his humility and isn’t it amazing that someone like Wayne Rooney-who’s not fit to lace Ronnie’s boots-almost certainly earns more in a week that our hero earned in his whole career. The programme piece we ran about Ronnie can be found under the ‘Legends’ section of the web-site.
r.i.p. Ronnie clayton-true legend
* Accrington Stanley’s rock-solid defence has collapsed in recent weeks and they were hit for three twice in a week, firstly 3-0 at Bury. The Reds already looked well beaten before Andy Procter was sent off after 75 minutes and he was soon followed by a colleague to leave them grateful of conceding just the three.
* Next up was a home game against fancied Rotherham United and a large away following ensured a 2,000+ crowd. Stanley’s poor discipline continued and they were down to 10 men after only quarter of an hour and with Procter suspended, United broke through the midfield too easily and recorded a 3-2 win.
* After missing the start of the season, James Dean is making up for lost time with Halifax Town.
* The Blues restored another former Great Harwood Town star, Simon Garner, to the starting line-up at Burscough and he and Deano were the two best players on the pitch. Simon provided numerous pin-point crosses into the box and he even secured the 2-0 win with a goal direct from a corner, his third strike of the campaign.
* The FA Cup then provided Deano with another opportunity to add to his tally but despite the 4-0 home win over neighbours Harrogate Town, and another great individual display, he failed to hit the target.
* The Blues then travelled to Durham City and Deano made the first goal with a stunning long pass and scored the second himself to make it 9 goals from just 7 full and 3 substitute appearances.
* Next up was the eagerly anticipated derby against Bradford Park Avenue at the Shay and a dominant display saw Town win far more easily than the 1-0 scoreline suggests. Deano was mis-firing for once and was replaced just past the hour mark and about the same time Simon, surprising dropped to the bench, entered the fray. It was the first time for 40 years that the sides have met in a competitive match and over 2,000 fans turned out.
* Burscough was the scene of one of Harwood’s best games in recent years when we outplayed seemingly unstoppable Skelmersdale United before having to settle for a 2-2 draw and another former player enjoyed his trip there last week. Pete Smith took his faltering Clitheroe side there more in hope than expectation but they produced a tremendous display to knock their higher-placed opponents out of the FA Trophy. The 2-0 win also meant a very welcome £2,200 was added to the club kitty. Liam McManus and Ryan Fisher starred in the success. That followed their 5-2 hammering at Lancaster City who were 4-0 up at the break.
* We have fond memories of our trip to Norton and Stockton Ancients who’ve really moved onwards and upwards since we thrashed them a few years ago and their latest FA Cup match saw them take on the mighty FC United. Despite twice leading, the Ancients finally bowed out 5-2 in front of a mind-blowing 1,526 with a certain player named Norton, scoring a second half hat-trick for the Reds who now take on Barrow in the next round. Having hit Ossett Town for four, and Newcastle Town for five in their last two games, United will fear no one and if they make it to the 1st round proper, the media interest will be massive.
* Our FA Cup game up in the North East saw us run out 4-0 winners with Ryan Fisher amongst the scorers. That followed a penalty shoot-out win against Guisborough after a 3-3 home draw (James Dean 2,) and another stale-mate in the mid-week replay. Oldham Town were then dispatched before our final-ever FA Cup game at Harrogate Town where we lost 3-0.
* In the Vodcat League, Rossendale United’s slide towards the bottom continues unabated despite the sacking of ex-Harwood hero John Hughes. The middle of the month saw them lose all four games, the first 2-0 at Alsager which saw them sink to 4th bottom. Next up was the big ‘Valley’ derby against Bacup Borough at Dark Lane and although the scores were level at the break, Brent Peters’ boys hit three without reply in the second half. A similar scoreline followed at Congleton before a sound 4-1 thrashing at neighbours Colne before a very disappointing attendance of 94.
* Padiham also continued their poor run of results with a 3-1 home defeat to St. Helens and a 3-2 loss at Barnoldswick but the seven game win-less run came to an end with a 4-2 win at Russ McKenna’s Squires Gate, with all the goals coming in the second half. That defeat for the seasiders followed a 3-2 success at Flixton.
* Barlick meanwhile continue to impress in their debut season at Premier League level and they came back from a 3-1 deficit at Bootle with only 17 minutes left, to gain a point before beating Maine Road 2-0 at home. The next game saw them travel to Silsden and they looked to heading for defeat but two goals in the final 6 minutes made it another maximum haul.
* Colne’s long unbeaten run continues and they beat visitors Alsager 3-2 although they almost let a 3-0 lead disappear. They then led leaders New Mills 1-0 in Derbyshire until an 86th minute equaliser spoiled things before another fine crowd of 160. The afore mentioned 4-1 win at Rossy kept them right on the heels of the leading pack.
* Ramsbottom United are also amongst the title hopefuls and they enjoyed a terrific 1-0 win at Glossop North End in front of a cracking 256. Bottom side Ashton Athletic were then brushed aside before the good run came to an end with a 3-2 home defeat by lowly Silsden. Rammy fought back from 2-0 down at the break but a last minute penalty, which resulted in the sending off of the Rams keeper, sealed the win for the Yorkies. A win would have put Ed O’Neil’s side 2nd but they’re still well-placed. Another local derby followed that game but once again the Rams were pointless after a 2-1 defeat at Padiham. They’d led until goals from Parkes and Walker won it for the Storks. Could those players be the ex-Harwood duo Martin Parkes and Paul Walker? I’ll try to find out.
* Bacup complete a host of our local sides in the top half of the table and it’s nice to see them getting some home games in-by this stage of the season they’re usually called off because of the weather! They drew 1-1 with Winsford at West View before beating bottom side Formby 3-1 at the same venue. The visitors had led 1-0 at the break and showed their fighting spirit a week later in a classic at St. Helens. Two penalties had helped give them a 4-2 lead before Saints hit back to equalise in the 89th minute courtesy, believe it or not, of TWO own goals! The Squirrels must have been gutted but hit back with a last minute winner to win 5-4 and move off the bottom.
* Bacup then played their third home game in a week when they took on struggling Ashton Athletic but before a disappointing crowd of 46 they were held 1-1.
* Darwen enjoyed a rare two wins in a row, 1-0 against Ashton Town in the Vodcat League Cup and a 4-2 win at Chadderton, this after trailing 1-0 at the break.
* It’s been a great couple of weeks for goalscorers, non more so than last season’s Unibond League top scorer Ross Hannah at Matlock Town. He hit seven in the 10-0 FA Trophy demolition of Bedworth United. The visitors were just two down with only 20 minutes left before the late onslaught with Hannah notching four in the final 9 minutes.
* Leatherhead hit 11 the previous week in their Ryman League game at Horsham YMCA, or maybe it was the YWCA who turned up on the day!
* Grantham Town trailed Loughborough Dynamo 2-0 at the break which soon became 3-1 but they stormed back to win 6-4 with their final two goals coming in the last 3 minutes. The game at Mickleover Sports was even more exciting as they came from behind to lead 3-1 at the interval. Visitors Nantwich Town pulled a goal back on 58 minutes but Sports scored three more in the next 8 minutes and looked to be heading for double figures. Nantwich replied immediately but were still 6-3 down with 6 minutes left before Aspinall, Sedgemore and a 90th minute strike from Lennon earned Town a magnificent point.
* The Lancashire Challenge Trophy began and there were early exits for Padiham (0-2 at home to Wigan Robin Park), Bacup Borough (4-5 to AFC Fylde on pens. after a 1-1 draw at West View), Colne (0-1 at home to Lancaster City) and Rossendale United (1-2 at Squires Gate). Ramsbottom United made 9 changes from their previous Vodcat League game and it looked to have backfired after visitors Holker Old Boys fought back from one down to lead 3-1. But inspired by the returning Ed O’Neil, the Rams hit back to force penalties. Holker then had the chance to win it by scoring their 5th penalty but missed it, and then again with their 6th, to send the home side through.
* Like Great Harwood Town a few years ago in the same competition, Colne must have been expecting a fair gate for the visit of Lancaster City but just like the Showground game, few or no visiting fans made the journey and the crowd was a disappointing 68. We played the Dollyblues in November 2003 and lost 2-0 before 81 fans.
* Liam McManus will be hoping for more playing time after his first appearance of the season for Clitheroe. He came on from the bench and set up the 5th and final goal in the Blue’s 5-0 success against Leek Town in the FA Trophy which gave Pete Smith’s boys an away tie at Burscough in the next round.
* Great finish to the local derby between Barnoldswick Town and Bacup Borough. The visitors came from behind to take the lead in the 89th minute and looked set to take home the spoils but Town hit back at the death with a penalty to secure a point in front of a three figure crowd.
* Despite the sacking of Steve Wilkes at Runcorn Linnets, results continue to be poor and the latest was probably the worst. Cheered on by a crowd of just under 300, they succumbed 2-0 to lowly Ashton Athletic and now find themselves perilously near the foot of the Premier League table. To put the result in context, Ashton had gained just four points from eleven games this season.
* Not quite as many turned out for Russ McKenna’s Squires Gate’s latest game, just 39, but they were treated to a goal feast as Silsden were thrashed 5-0.
* Darwen’s Lancs. Trophy tie with Chorley, postponed last week after a floodlight failure, put plenty of much-needed cash in the coffers despite the game having to be switched to Chorley because of ongoing problems with the lights.422 turned out to see the ‘home’ side Darwen, take a first half lead before the Magpies hit back to win 3-1.
* The month ended with several of our local sides enjoying success. Ramsbottom United lie in 2nd place after a great 5-3 win at Winsford United and they’re level on points with Colne who beat Congleton Town1-0 at Holt House.
* There were also good wins for Barnoldswick, 4-0 at home to Formby, and Bacup Borough who won 3-1 at bad-boys Flixton.
* John Hughes, famous for his defensive heroics when he was at Harwood could certainly do with some of our old defenders as they let in four at home to Stone Dominoes.
* In the 1st Division, Darwen suffered another defeat, this time 2-1 at Norton United.
* Higher up the ‘pyramid’ Pete Smith’s Clitheroe moved up into 3rd place in the Evostick Division One North after a 2-0 success against Radcliffe Borough at Shawbridge.
That Division is currently reaping the rewards of having Chester placed in it. Their opening game at the Deva drew an incredible 3,000+ crowd and Saturday’s trip to Salford City saw an amazing 690 attend. For all of us Great Harwood supporters who’ve been to Salford in recent years, a near 700 crowd seems incomprehensible-the place must have been packed! Meanwhile, committees of all the Vodcat League clubs must be tearing their hair out thinking about what might have been.
* The last big club to hit the North West, FCUM, made it through to the FA Cup 3rd qualifying round after a 2-1 home win against Conference North big-spenders Gainsborough Trinity.
* The last Vodcat League side exited the competition when New Mills lost 2-0 at home to Harrogate Town and we know just how they feel having lost to the Tykes twice in the FA Cup in recent years.
* One side who we breezed past recently, Norton & Stockton Ancients, had a cracking win, 2-1 at home to Leigh Genesis.
* Matt Derbyshire was an unused sub. against Wigan Athletic but with Birmingham failing to score, maybe Alex McLeish should have brought him on.
* Andy Procter’s Accrington Stanley finally lost their unbeaten run, 2-0 at League Two leaders Port Vale. Things could have been different if Edwards had converted the early chance that Andy created.
Next up was a trip to Edgeley Park to take on struggling Stockport County and after the ex-Harwood star had given Stanley the lead with a 30-yard screamer into the top corner, the points looked to be safely in the bag when they went two up but for the second game in a row, County hit back from a two-goal deficit to claim a point.
* James Dean was missing from the Halifax Town line-up for their 2-1 FA Cup win at Ashton United due to illness, but Simon Garner was at the heart of most good things from the Blues. Surprisingly, the next game at home to Hucknall Town saw Simon making way for the returning Deano, who scored in the 49th and 56th minutes. When Town were awarded a penalty just 10 minutes later, the crowd called for him to complete his hat-trick but he wasn’t allowed and despite a couple of worthy efforts, he had to be satisfied with a brace. Simon came on 10 minutes from the end and hit the 4th and final goal, a brilliant half-volley from outside the box.
* The Non-League Paper’s Fantasy Football League is up and running and our team ‘GT Harwood Town’ have made a steady start, lying in 307th place but ‘Great Harwood Town’ are flying high in 49th place-who are you? Please get in touch with the web-site.
* I recently wrote to the Accy Observer ‘having a go’ at the Showground’s owner Ian Jackson who is still trying to build on the ground and is offering cash to Great Harwood Rovers in return for the ‘thumbs up’. Thankfully the council have refused his application but the Observer must have thought my comments were a bit ‘iffy’ legally, and didn’t print my letter.
* Accrington Stanley’s amazing defensive record continued at Torquay with yet another goal-less draw. It goes without saying that Andy Procter was again outstanding and the ex-Robin almost won it near the end when his header was brilliantly saved by the Gulls keeper.
* The 1st qualifying round of the FA Cup saw our area’s three remaining clubs all exit. Bacup Borough lost 2-0 at Bamber Bridge with both goals coming in the last seven minutes. Ramsbottom were beaten by the same score at home to Skelmersdale while John Hughes’ Rossendale United lost by the odd goal in seven at Dark Lane. Hughesy’s men battled back from 3-1down to level before a 96th minute winner saw Leigh Genesis go through.
* Just one Vodcat League side remain in the competition, New Mills and they just about made it through against visitors Curzon Ashton. Trailing 2-1 with 86 minutes on the clock, an own goal put them level before a last minute winner gave them a crack at our old cup foes, Harrogate Town in the next round
* Our opponents from not so long ago, Norton & Stockton Ancients made it through thanks to a 2-1 home success over Chester-le-Street Town.
* Simon Garner was behind much of the good work that helped Halifax Town draw 1-1 with high-flyers Northwich Victoria. James Dean was an un-used sub. but he was back in the groove for the next game, an FA Cup tie at home to Whitby Town. The Blues gained revenge for a shock Cup defeat 27 years ago and Deano was the key to the victory. With the game goalless after 70 minutes, he was brought on from the bench and within 3 minutes his side had taken the lead. Four minutes later he headed the second to clinch a 2nd Round game with Ashton United.
* FC United won 3-0 against their local rivals Radcliffe Borough and that ended a terrible week for the Reds in which they lost 5-1 at home to Matlock Town and 4-1 at Bradford Park Avenue.
* The most exciting game of the week came at Marine where the home side raced into a five goal lead in just 36 minutes but the Stocksbridge Park Steelers manager certainly knows how to deliver a half time team-talk as the Yorkshire side stormed back with three goals in the opening 15 minutes of the second period before finally going down 5-4.
Matt Derbyshire made the bench as Birmingham City took on Liverpool at St. Andrews. Maybe if Alex McLiesh had brought him on the deadlock could have been broken.
* Pete Smith’s Clitheroe lost their unbeaten record, 3-1 at Cammell Laird with both Jason Jones and Ryan Fisher on the bench but they both returned to the starting line-up for the 4-1 victory at Harrogate RA to move into 2nd place in the Evo-stik Division One North. Talking of Jonesey, the Jason Jones who held the record of the fastest ever goal in the FA Vase, for Nelson against Flixton two years ago, is a different one! That record goal after just 7 seconds, was beaten by Luke Walker of Whitchurch United who managed it in five against Newport IoW.
* Accrington Stanley moved their game with Lincoln City to Friday night and just like Harwood, they were rewarded with a far bigger gate than the usual Saturday afternoon, over 1,800. They moved up into the play-off places with a very comfortable 3-0 with ex-Robin Andy Procter enjoying another great game although he missed a good chance to make it four.
* Matt Derbyshire started the game for Birmingham City as they cruised into the next round of the League Cup courtesy of a 3-1 win against MK Dons. Matt didn’t get on the score-sheet but led the line well throughout the 90 minutes. Maybe after the Blues capitulation against West Brom. at the weekend, he could be in line for his first League start soon.
* Halifax Town took on Whitby Town at the Shay for the second week in a row and the outcome was the same-a home victory-this time in the League. James Dean made his first start of the campaign and didn’t he make the most of it. He set the bal rolling mid-way through the first half with a stooping header, finished off a great move 10 minutes after the break to make it 3-1, then notched his hat-trick with a simple tap in 5 minutes from time to clinch a 5-1 victory.
* Like the previous week, Stocksbridge P.S. were involved in the week’s most exciting game, this time against Deano’s Halifax. Around 500 fans followed Town for the mid-week game and were rewarded with another five-goal haul. Behind after 3 minutes, the Blues hit back to lead just 7 minutes later with Deano heading in the second. He then saw a great shot superbly saved before Stocksbridge re-took the lead by half time. For the 3rd game running Town emerged from the dressing room with all guns blazing and blew the home side away with three more goals. With the game finely balanced at 4-3, the Steelers Ludlum was sent off for a dreadful tackle on Simon Garner and it was Simon who put the final nail in the coffin when he superbly chipped in the fifth from the corner of the box. There was still time for the home manager to join Ludlum in the changing room after he was sent off for ‘man-handling’ the linesman!
* Mixed bag of results for Pete Smith and his ex-Harwood boys Ryan Fisher and Jason Jones. The two players appeared for the Blues in their 2-0 home defeat by Chorley-in front of a 400+ crowd-but were dropped for the next game, a 2-0 win at Woodley Sports, and were also absent from the disappointing 2-2 home draw with AFC Fylde when the visitors fought back from two down.
* Not too many of our local sides still involved in the FA Vase, in fact only Colne made it through, thanks to a 2-0 win at Holker Old Boys, although at least one more side will make it through after Padiham and Bacup fought out a 1-1 draw at the Arbories.
The most ‘local’ local derby in the land took place at Jepson Way as AFC Blackpool ended Russ McKenna’s Squires Gate’s hopes of Vase glory, beating their rivals 3-2 in front of just 90 spectators.
Barnoldswick Town meanwhile lost 1-0 at Maine Road.
* They say that a game is never over until the fat lady sings, especially in cup games, and that was never more apparent than the Vase game between Abbey Hey and Oldham Borough. The first match ended 0-0 after extra time but the replay, which also took place at Abbey Hey, was somewhat different. 89 minutes gone and Abbey Hey were leading 2-0 when Oldham scored what looked to be a consolation. One minute later they hit the equaliser to take the game into extra time again and just two minutes in they hit what proved to be the winning goal. I wonder how many people left with the result seemingly decided two minutes from the end?
* In the Vodcat League, John Hughes took his Rossendale United side to New Mills and returned to the valley with a point after a creditable 1-1 draw. Ramsbottom United came from a goal down at home to Bootle to win 3-1 with Ed O’Neil an unused sub. They then won 1-0 at Squires Gate to keep the pressure on the leading sides.
* Colne surrendered the lead against bottom side Ashton Athletic at Holt House and ended the game all square at 2-2 with the visitor’s equaliser coming in the 87th minute.
* In the 1st Division, Irlam would have gone top with a home victory over lowly Eccleshall but the Staffs. side produced a fantastic display to win 6-0.
* Although Nelson, like Harwood, cease to exist, they were listed in the results page of the FA Vase where scheduled opponents Abbey Hey received a ‘walkover’.
* Elsewhere in the same competition, three sides hit eight goals including the Vodcat’s St. Helens who whooped visitors Brodsworth Welfare 8-1. As the break drew nearer there was little sign of the massacre to come with the score at just 2-1. Sadly just 34 hardy souls witnessed the excitement thanks to the game taking place at Atherton Collieries. Quite a week for Saints as a few days earlier they looked set for the next round of the FA Cup as they led 1-0 at Glossop North End with 90 minutes on the clock but a late equaliser then two more goals in extra time saw the Derbyshire outfit go through.
* Brent Peters’ Bacup continued their good form to beat Nostell Miners Welfare 3-1 at West View after extra time.
* Plenty of excitement in the League not least at Colne where lowly Formby took a two-goal lead in only 13 minutes before the Reds fought back to win 4-3 and move up to 3rd place in the Premier League.
* Padiham followed up their 2-1 win at neighbours Ramsbottom, watched by 169, by winning an eight goal thriller at the Arbories against Flixton in front of another very impressive turn out of 159, and those three points saw them move into 5th spot.
* Two places below them are Ramsbottom United who enjoyed a 3-0 victory at Maine Road.
* Sandwiched in between the Storks and Rammy are Russ McKenna’s Squires Gate and an 84th minute equaliser by Russ himself earned a share of the spoils at Glossop North End. The previous week’s evening match had seen Gate lose 3-1 at home to Colne.
* Result of the day must go to John Hughes’ Rossendale United who won 1-0 at top of the table Winsford United. That win followed a fine 1-1 draw at Barnoldswick where 152 fans turned out.
* In the 1st Division, Darwen could only draw 0-0 with visiting Oldham Borough in front of a poor crowd of 27.
* Andy McNally’s Whinney Hill beat Ladybridge 6-1 in the Lancashire Amateur Shield with Dennis Hill pulling the strings in midfield. Another ex-Robin, Gordon Watson, who is equally at home at the back or up front, showed his striking prowess with a brace.
* Accrington Stanley conceded their first League goal of the season but maintained their unbeaten start with a 94th minute equaliser. Andy Proctor once again showing his class in midfield.
A few days later it wasn’t such good news when it transpired that Stanley had played a player who was under suspension from the Liverpool FA and the Reds must now await their fate which could possibly mean expulsion from the Johnstone Paints Trophy and even worse, a points deduction.
* Non-League clubs seem to be falling by the wayside almost weekly and another ‘Robins’, Ilkeston Town have been would up HMRC. The club were competing in the Conference North and plan to appeal against the decision. Amazingly they only owe just over £50,000-a week’s wage for many Premier League players- but have been unable to find the cash.
* Cup fever hasn’t reached Ashton yet with just 16 turning out for their excellent 2-1 Vase win over Maltby Main.
* Atherton Collieries were perennial strugglers when we were in the League but this season the club has shot to the top of the 1st Division and Darwen were their latest victims, 7-0 the score.
* In the top Division, Colne could have gone 2nd but were held 0-0 at home by strugglers Silsden despite being cheered on by well over 100 fans.
* Ramsbottom United drew 155 to the Riverside as they took on Runcorn Linnets but the game proved to be a ‘no-contest’ as the Rams won 5-0 with Ed O’Neil hitting the final goal 2 minutes from time.
* Squires Gate and Barnoldswick fought out a 1-1 draw at the seaside.
“ Bacup Borough beat Atherton LR 2-1 but the biggest surprise of the season so far occurred at Padiham where the Storks too on Ashton Athletic-no points from six games-and lost 3-2.
* Steve Wilkes, much despised by all Harwood supporters, has ‘bitten the dust’ at Runcorn Linnets which seems a strange decision at this stage of the season and with optimism sky-high since moving back to their home town.
* The Bacup Borough players were slammed by manager Brent Peters after the heavy defeat at Bootle but his words failed to have the desired effect as they went down again, 1-0 at home to Colne.
* Padiham also suffered a home defeat, losing 2-1 to Squires Gate, while Ramsbottom finally included Ed O’Neil in their starting line-up but they still went down 2-1 at home to Premier League leaders New Mills in front of a cracking crowd of 175.
* John Hughes’ Rossendale United travelled to Yorkshire for Silsden’s opening home game at their new ground but the 200+ crowd were stunned when Rossy took the lea after 23 seconds. They added a second before the break but the home side fought back to take a share of the spoils.
* Barnoldswick entertained bottom side Ashton Athletic and it looked as though the visitors were about to pick up their first point of the season in their fifth game but a last minute winner saw them travel home disappointed.
* Andy Procter has helped Accrington Stanley to a three-game unbeaten start to the season and his deeper midfield role has seen the Reds achieve three clean sheets. The defence was finally breached by Newcastle United in the League Cup although the Premier League side were made to fight all the way before scraping through 3-2 before a crowd of over 4,000.
* Matt Derbyshire started his first game for Birmingham City and inevitably, he scored. City took on Rochdale in the League Cup at St. Andrews and he hit the all important third in a 3-2 win, his first goal in this country since he scored for the Rovers in the quarter-final of the same competition in 2008. It has to be said that it was probably the luckiest goal he’s ever scored. He was set up for a simple tap-in but miss-hit his shot and it bounced back off the keeper before hitting Matt’s ankle and rolling just over the line!
* Simon Garner was surprisingly left on the bench for Halifax Town’s game at Chasetown the Blues paid the price as they went down 2-1. They next entertained Colwyn Bay, and missing Simon and Jonathon Smith, they were held 1-1. The biggest cheer of the afternoon came when James Dean was brought on from the bench after 70 minutes.
* Clitheroe hammered Mossley 5-0 at Shawbridge with Jason Jones scoring the 5th, but he following week saw them travel to Bacup Borough for a vital FA Cup game and without the influential Ryan Fisher, lost 5-3 before a very poor turn-out of 101. Jonesey was the only ex-Robin involved in that game but after heated exchanges in the visitor’s dressing room, the captain was dropped for the following game at Salford City. A last minute winner saved the Blues blushes but manager Pete Smith appears to have washed his hands of all the ex-Harwood players-BAD MOVE PETE!!
* In the Vodcat League, Bacup Borough failed to build on their cup win as they lost 1-0 at home to Colne.
Meanwhile, Colne lost 3-1 at Sheffield FC in the FA Cup before winning by the same score at Squires Gate.
* Padiham lost 2-1 at home to Squires Gate but improved to draw 2-2 with Winsford United and then go on to win 2-1 at neighbours Ramsbottom United.
* The FA Cup produced a mixed bag for local clubs with Colne going out but Ramsbottom triumphing 3-1 at Cheadle Town and John Hughes’ Rossendale United pulling out the result of the round by beating higher-placed Cammell Laird 5-2 at Dark Lane.
* Barnoldswick continued their impressive start to the season drawing 2-2 at Flixton and 1-1 at home to Rossendale United before a fine attendance of 152.
*In the 1st Division, Darwen, not involved in the FA Cup, lost 1-0 at Irlam.
* The highest score in that division was at Ashton Town where visitors Runcorn Town ran riot to win 8-0 but how on earth does a game which is basically a local derby, attract just 15 supporters!!
* The Vodcat League kicked off on the first Saturday of the month and nowhere was it more anticipated than at the Anchor where AFC Darwen returned to the 1st Division after their year in the West Lancs. League. AFC Liverpool provided the glamorous opposition and their following swelled the attendance to 102. The Salmoners won the game 1-0 to give them a real confidence boost for the coming season.
* Sadly the next two games were rather different as they suffered two 4-0 defeats, at Holker Old Boys and Runcorn.Town.
* Ed O’Neil was surprisingly on the bench for Ramsbottom United as they kicked off their season with a 3-0 win at bad-boys Flixton. That was followed up by a 1-0 home win against new-boys Barnoldswick before a fine crowd of 185. The FA Cup saw them paired against fellow Vodcat League side Winsford United and after an even first third, Rammy ran out comfortable 4-1 winners. Ed came on with twenty minutes remaining and soon had the ball in the net only to flagged offside.
* Bacup Borough enjoyed a mixed first couple of weeks, going down 3-2 at Stone Dominoes, drawing 1-1 at home to Padiham, before progressing in the FA Cup courtesy of an easy 3-0 win at Flixton. The Padiham derby game drew 98 to West View which is certainly one of the bigger attendances in recent years and with Clitheroe the visitors in the next FA Cup game, a three-figure gate is guaranteed.
* Rossendale United started life in the Vodcat with a 4-3 home defeat by Bootle and things got even worse for the next game at neighbours Clone as they were hammered 4-0.
The FA Cup finally saw them up and running as they progressed thanks to a 3-1 victory over Formby at Dark Lanebut their progress could very well come to an end in the next round as they face Cammell Laird.
* Colne have signed Keiran Fletcher who performed heroically for us during our final two years in the NWCFL and he’s helped the Reds to a good start this term. The 4-0 win against Rossy followed an opening day 2-2 draw at Runcorn Linnets and Ashton Town proved to be a minor obstacle in the FA Cup, Colne winning 2-0 at Holt House. The game saw Keiran sent off for bringing down an Ashton forward as he homed in on goal. They now have a very difficult task in the next round against the country’s oldest club, Sheffield FC.
* Padiham strolled past Glossop North End in their opening fixture, winning 3-0 at the Arbories but the draw with Bacup was followed by a 5-0 humbling at Staveley M.W. in the Cup.
* Two all Vodcat ties produced the day’s highest scores. New Mills hit Alsager Town for TEN even though the game was tightly poised at 3-2 just before the interval. Daisy Hill welcomed Congleton to the New Sirs or at least the defence did! The Bears made it through to the Preliminary round thanks to an 8-0 win.
* Dennis Hill turned in a man-of-the-match performance as Whinney Hill hit Furness Rovers for four with gordon Watson amongst the scorers. It was then over the Yorkshire border to Crosshills and a 3-2 defeat.
* Simon Garner has left Clitheroe to join up with another ex-Robin, James Dean at Halifax and he wasted no time in endearing himself to the Town faithful, scoring the second goal in a 2-0 friendly win at Trafford.
* The big football story of the month came on the 16th when Premier League Birmingham City announced the year-long loan signing of Robins’ legend Matt Derbyshire. The Blues found it difficult to score goals at the top level last season despite finishing in 9th place but Matt has already proved that he can ‘hack-it’ at that level and will no doubt become a St. Andrews favourite with his goal-scoring exploits. He hit the back of the net 11 times in 26 appearances for the Greeks.
* Starting at the top, Matt Derbyshire made his Birmingham City debut against the team he supports, Blackburn Rovers. He came on as a 67th minute substitute with the scores level at 1-1 and although he didn’t score, he helped the Blues to go and win 2-1.
* Our old friends at Fleetwood Town haven’t had the start they would have wished for but the Conference is a whole new ball game with plenty of ex-Football League clubs. One of those, Luton Town swept aside the Fishermen 3-0 in front of a near 3,000 crowd.
* Still no sign of James Dean at Halifax Town but Simon Garner helped to set up the first goal as the Tykes beat Buxton 2-1 at the Shay in their opening game of the campaign.
* In the same league, just Ryan Fisher and Jason Jones were the only ex-Robins who appeared for Clitheroe in their opener at relegated Durham City, but it was Jonesy who set up the equaliser for Danny Williams.
* In the Vodcat League, it was mixed week for almost all of our local clubs. Rossendale United twice came from behind to gain a point at Flixton and then won their first game of the season, 2-0 against Glossop North End at Dark Lane.
* Bacup Borough brushed aside Ramsbottom United 3-0 at West View before a fine attendance of 151. They then lost by the same score at highly-placed Bootle. Meanwhile Rammy fought back from a goal down at Formby to earn a point.
* The local derby between Padiham and Colne ended 1-1 in front of a fantastic crowd of over 200. The Storks then made the long trip to Stone Dominoes where a late goal sealed a 2-1 win for the home side.
* Colne were surprisingly beaten by visitors Winsford United and even more surprising was the scoreline, 3-0.
* Barnoldswick Town continue to impress, winning 3-0 at fancied St. Helens, while in the 1st Division, Darwen were held 1-1 by Leek CSOB at the Anchor.
* Alsager Town, hit for ten the previous week, must have had a feeling of ‘deja-vu’ as they found themselves two down after only 7 minutes at Runcorn Linnets but against all the odds, they fought back to earn a 2-2 draw much to the annoyance of the near 300 home supporters.
* In the West Lancs. League, Whinney Hill moved up to 2nd with a 6-1 home win against Kendal County.
* Elsewhere, Boston United supporters may have thought that a season of consolidation was the order of the day when the team moved up into the Conference North but the management and players appear to have no such thoughts. They travelled to Worcestershire to take on Redditch United and came away with an incredible 9-0 win, much to the delight of their 200+ travelling supporters. That makes it three wins from three games without conceding a goal.
* One of the great comebacks of the day came in the same division as Hinckley United fought back from two down in the second half to beat visitors Stalybridge Celtic 5-2.
* The other fantastic fight back was in the Evo-Stik Premier League where one of last season’s ‘whipping-boys’ Ossett Town found themselves three down after 52 minutes at Hucknall Town, but an unbelievable burst of three goals in the next four minutes gave them a share of the spoils.
* Runcorn Linnets have returned to their home town after a four year exile which is great news for their supporters and our old adversary, manager Steve Wilkes. ‘Corn are one of the most famous non-league clubs in the country and really shouldn’t be languishing in the Vodcat League. This move will hopefully see them back amongst the Conference elite within the next few years. The opening game at the new ground saw over 1,000 turn up for a ‘derby’ friendly against ex-landlords Witton Albion who won 3-1.
* Good news also for Ashton Athletic as Nelson’s demise meant that they were spared relegation in order to preserve the correct number of clubs in the Premier Division.
* Andy McNally’s Whinney Hill began their pre-season with a trip to Freckleton and a re-union with Andy Clarkson who’s now in charge there. The visitors stormed into a 2-0 lead before Clarkson’s boys fought back to earn a draw. Gordon Watson, Matt Woods, ‘Tricky’ Ricky Fogarty and Dennis Hill will all be turning out for the Hyndburn side this season.
* Ramsbottom United warmed up with a 2-0 win in Wales against Prestatyn Town with Ed O’Neil setting up the second with a superb cross from a free kick. He then forced a tremendous save from the home keeper whose acrobatics kept the score down. The Blues then travelled the short distance to Oldham Boro where once again Ed was in the thick of the action. He provided the cross for the second goal, sent a scorching shot just over the bar, and generally led the Oldham defence on a merry dance throughout the game as the Rams won 6-1. Back to North Wales and another 2-0 victory, this time against Buckley Town with Ed setting up yet another goal.
* Next up was a home game with local rivals Radcliffe Borough and despite Ed scoring to bring the Rams back into the game at 1-2, the visitors ran out comfortable 4-1 winners.
* Clitheroe took on Huddersfield side Shelly and although they only led 3-0 at half time, the floodgates opened up after the break with the Blues knocking in another 11(eleven) goals!
* Whinney Hill could be the place to watch a host of ex-Harwood players next term as they currently boast six men currently enjoying pre-season training. Matt Derbyshire has backed the club with cash and equipment and the club could well be ‘going places’ during the next few years.
* Shocking news from Nelson as the club have resigned from the Vodcat League and appear to have folded in much the same way as we did, with the Chairman pulling the plug. The Blues have a long and illustrious history dating back 129 years and unlike Great Harwood Town, were a successful Division Three North side in the past. Derby games between the two clubs have always been exciting affairs but like Harwood, the Victoria Park outfit have had difficulty attracting gates of more than 50 or so.
That doesn’t surprise me too much for I remember the first time that I visited Victoria Park. I travelled to the town centre and asked several people including a petrol station owner and a policewoman, and not one had even heard of Nelson FC never mind know the ground was!!
Our area has certainly suffered in recent years with ourselves, Darwen and Nelson all finding it impossible to continue at Vodcat League level.
* The draws for the FA Cup and FA Vase were made with Nelson already in the hat and the ties and they must have made sad reading for their followers. They should have played at home to Atherton LR in the cup and at home to Abbey Hey in the Vase. They were also due to play the following rounds of both competitions at home if successful.
* Also in the FA Cup, Colne have a home tie against Ashton Town, Bacup Borough travel to bad boys Flixton, Ramsbottom United host ‘fallen-giants’ Winsford United, Padiham travel to Staveley MW, while newly relegated Rossendale United take on Formby at Dark Lane. Rossy had some good news recently as their appeal against excessive rates was successful and they even received a rebate.
In the FA Vase Bacup meet Nostell MW at West View and have the incentive of a derby game at Padiham if they can overcome the miners. Colne will be hoping that Chadderton can overcome Holker Old Boys as the winners host the Reds in the following round and the long trip to Cumbria isn’t to everyone’s liking. Finally Barnoldswick Town travel to Maine Road with a host of new players, including three from Padiham, who’ve appointed ex-captain Craig Chadwick as manager.
* I met Dave sharples recently and was surprised to hear that he’s not involved with any club at the moment which is a shame as his knowledge of non-league football, especially in this area, would be of great value to any side. Instead, he’s concentrating on his running and he recently took part in the latest East Lancashire 10k run for charity. Even when he was coming to the end of his playing career, he was still running around like a human dynamo and his latest effort deserves special mention as he came 5th from a field of around 2,000.
* Ex-Harwood star dennis hill appears to be a modern-day ‘Jonah’ as he played for all three clubs shortly before their resignations!
* West Didsbury & Chorlton looked set to become the latest Vodcat League side, joining re-instated Darwen, but the League’s Committee has rejected the move after an objection from the Manchester League.
* Bad news for the Vodcat League, especially all of our local sides in the Premier Division, as Chester have successfully appealed against the decision to be placed there. Instead, the Blues will begin life in the Unibond North which seems strange as the new club is, just that, a new club, and should surely start lower down the Pyramid. It was obvious from the start that another new club, FCUM, would bring crowds that many NWCFL 2nd Division clubs would have difficulty catering for but that’s where they were placed, and everything went very smoothly then.
* Fleetwood Town once again showed their intentions of making their stay in the Conference as short as possible by signing Accrington Stanley’s John Miles. Miles had apparently agreed to stay with Stanley but the lure of more money at Highbury caused him to change his mind and to make matters worse, manager John Coleman only heard about the defection when the player texted him the day before pre-season training started. Miles joins Symes, Grant, Kee and Kempson through the exit door at the Crown and our ex-landlords will be hard-pressed to achieve last season’s mid-table finish this time around.
* Matt Derbyshire’s Olympiakos side ended the season in disappointing fashion with another defeat in the Greek Super League play-offs, this time 2-1 at city rivals AEK. Matt didn’t feature in the game and speculation that he could soon be on his way out of Athens could be true.
* FC Halifax Town received a great boost when ex-Robin, and 40 goal hero from last season, James Dean, pledged his future to the club by signing a new contact.
* Great Harwood Rovers and Great Harwood Town legend Dave Smith may be gone but he’s certainly not forgotten and the latest Dave Smith Memorial Tournament was, as usual, a great success. Over 60 teams of youngsters, ranging in ages from under-7’s to under-14’s, took part and they, added to parents, spectators and officials, meant that around 1500 people were present at the event played at the Lynden House playing fields, next to the Showground.
* Not surprisingly, the Showground is still suffering from vandalism thanks to local hooligans. A fence was set on fire and it took firemen around half an hour to get the blaze under control.
* Bad news for a few non-league sides recently. Combined Counties League Bedfont have folded, Zamaretto Premier League Methyr Tydfil have been axed after failing to guarantee that they’d be able to complete their fixtures, although a new club, Merthyr Town will begin life in the Western League. Wealdstone were due 20% of the fee that Leeds received if they sold star forward Jermaine Beckford, but he saw out his contract to it’s finale and so left on a free transfer which denied the Stones a healthy bonus.
* In the Non-League Paper Fantasy League, the GHTFC web-site performed hopelessly with the Blackburn Robins in 895th place, and Gt Harwood Town in 754th. How about some of our readers having a bash next season and help to keep GHTFC in the spotlight.
* The newly formed Chester FC now have a membership of over 2,000 so they should make a similar impact on the Vodcat League that FCUM had although their away following surely won’t be able to match that of the Reds.
* Talking of FCUM, they’ve just signed the Unibond League’s top scorer, Michael Norton, from neighbours Curzon Ashton.
* Our friends at Highbury added more silverware to their Trophy Cabinet when ex-Rovers hero Alan Wright won the Blue Square North player of the year award, despite being 38.
STOP PRESS !!!
Unbeknown to the web-site, Councillor Dave Mason has been fighting to save the Showground from the bulldozers. It appears that most members of Hyndburn Council reckon that there’s no interest in Great Harwood Town Football Club. They obviously haven’t visited our site which puts most Vodcat League clubs to shame and is updated a darn site more often than many.
The number of hits that we’ve had shows that there is interest and the fact that two parties have done their best to re-start the club during the past few months back that statement up.
Please write or e-mail to the council so that we can show them that there are people interested.
The man to get in touch with is:
Planning and Transportation Services
*I’ve recently received a letter from Hyndburn Borough Council informing me of the withdrawal of the latest planning application to turn our historic football ground into a residential development.
Many thanks if you got in touch with the council after the request on the web-site.
* Things still aren’t going to well for Matt Derbyshire and his Olympiakos team-mates and their latest Greek Super League play-off game against Aris Salonika ended goal-less. As usual the game was somewhat ‘firey’ with the Reds having one man sent off and four booked (including Matt-again!) and Aris clocking up seven bookings and a sending off.
* James Dean scooped the Halifax Town player of the year and the supporters’ player of the year awards, as well as the Golden Boot award.
* Warren Peake, who gave years of loyal service to Harwood over a couple of spells at the Showground, is amazingly still playing, and still picking up trophies, the latest one for an Orphanage Cup win with his works side, Red Rose Dry Lining.
* The pain of Rossendale United’s relegation has been cushioned by the news that Chester FC have been recommended by F.A. for a place in the Vodcat Premier League, and that’s also a great boost to the host of local clubs plying their trade there. Not such good news for the 1st Division sides who must have been looking forward to Chester being placed in their Division.
* Fleetwood Town are showing no signs of consolidating their position in the ‘Pyramid’. They showed their intentions by signing ex-Stanley man Ian Craney from League One Huddersfield Town.
* The rise and rise of Fleetwood bears a striking resemblance to Colne’s success when Chalky White bankrolled them a few years ago, but Chairman Andy Pilley has improved beyond recognition, every aspect of the football club, not just the playing side and the future looks very bright indeed. The competition in the Conference next year will be far tougher than last season’s and a top half finish would be a great achievement.
* The next game for the Greek League runners-up was an away game at PAOK, put back a few days because of the political unrest in the country. Once again Matt led the line but once again away form let them down and the Reds suffered 1-0 defeat.
* Back in this country, Andy Procter was hoping that his Accrington Stanley side could finish on a high with three wins on the trot as they travelled to lowly Cheltenham for their final game of the season, but an uneventful contest ended 1-1, leaving Stanley on a 15th place finish after vying for a play-off place for most of the campaign. It was nice to see a better than average following at Whatton Road but some heavy-handed stewarding spoiled the day for many of the loyal Reds supporters.
* On the non-league scene (but maybe not for much longer) Fleetwood Town made it into the Conference after scraping home 2-1 against Alfreton Town at Highbury before a capacity crowd. The Chairman has really put his money where his mouth is and the pitch is Premier League standard, the ground is unrecognisable from the last time that the mighty Robins played there-and the improvements are continuing into this summer-and the playing staff has also improved year on year.
* Vodcat League, Ramsbottom United ended the campaign with a 3-2 home defeat by Eagley in the Bolton Hospital Cup before a magnificent crowd of 200+. The visitors ply their trade in a League two rungs down from the Rams but they fully deserved the win, aided by a first half sending off for the Blues and the absence of ex-Harwood star Ed O’Neil. Despite the loss, United enjoyed a fantastic season which included an incredible 14 away wins.
* Bacup Borough lost 3-0 at Formby before drawing 1-1 at home to 2nd placed New Mills and then 2-2 with fallen ‘giants’ Winsford United.
* Padiham ended the season disappointingly with two home defeats. 2-0 against Glossop North End and 4-2 against St. Helens.
Neighbours Colne earned a fine point at Bootle after a 0-0 draw.
* Nelson gave their supporters cause for optimism when they defeated Glossop 2-0 at Victoria Park while Russ McKenna’s Squires Gate also ended on a high after a tremendous 0-0 draw at New Mills.
* In the 1st Division, Barnoldswick Town finished with a flourish, winning 5-2 at Atherton Collieries and 4-3 at home to Ashton Town.
* The final Vodcat League game of the season took place at West View (where else?) and everyone left happy as Bacup Borough and Colne played out a 2-2 draw. The home side twice led, but an equaliser 5 minutes from time preserved Colne’s terrific run of form and consolidated their 8th place finish. Bacup could have finished 11th with a win but 12th is a great effort considering the number of games which they had to squeeze in before the end of the season.
* Accrington Stanley’s season is ending in chaos with their latest defeat, a 5-1 thrashing at Crewe Alexandra. They also had their keeper sent off and assistant manager Jimmy Bell had ‘seven bells’ kicked out of him by four Crewe ‘stewards’!! No doubt the Football League will be having plenty to say about that incident which occurred at the end of the game.
* Next up for Stanley were two home games in week and just as it looked as though the Reds would end the campaign with a string of defeats, they beat lowly Barnet 1-0 who now need a win from their final game to stay in the League.
* Chesterfield arrived at the Crown next and once again, their hopes were dashed as Stanley ran out 2-0 winners. That just about ends the Spirites chances of making the play-offs-bad news for the hoards of fancy-dressed supporters who tuned up at the Postal Order pub in Blackburn on Saturday morning.
* The Conference North title was settled as both Southport and Fleetwood won their games meaning that the Sandgrounders took the honours. That should have been enough for the Champions but manager Liam Watson felt the need to ‘put the boot in’ by having a right go at the Fishermen in the local and national press. If, as hoped, Fleetwood win promotion via the play-offs, the meeting of the two clubs next season will be feisty affairs.
* Fleetwood lost the first leg of the play-off semi-final, 2-0 at Droylsden but turned it around at Highbury by winning 3-1 and then taking the tie on penalties before a near 3,000 crowd.
* The Unibond Premier League title was also settled after Boston United blew their chance by drawing at Marine despite being cheered on by a shade under 1,000 travelling supporters. Guiseley overtook them at the final hurdle by winning their last game 2-0 and with Bradford P.A. also winning, the Pilgrims finished in third place.
Both they and 2nd placed Bradford Park Avenue won their semi-final games to set up a thriller at the Horsfall Stadium. United’s fantastic away support saw Avenue’s crowd rise from 600 for the semi-final, to well over 2,000 for the ‘winner-takes-all’ game, and at the same time turned it into what seemed like a home game for them. Bradford took a first half lead before the Pilgrims forced it into extra time where they scored the winner.
* Sorry to keep mentioning them but FC United fans deserve it. Nothing to play for, poor run of form and their worst season to date, yet almost 3,000 attended Gigg Lane for their final game of the season.
* One Division down, Halifax Town ended the campaign with a 1-1 draw at home to Skelmersdale United in front of over 3,000 fans at the Shay, while runners up Lancaster won 1-0 away at Warrington Town. The Shaymen then took on Unibond South winners Mickleover Sports in the Chairman’s Cup and found themselves 2-0 down. James Dean went off injured after just 17 minutes and he was replaced up front by first choice keeper Hedge, who duly hit the equaliser 10 minutes from time. Sports took the honours by winning on penalties.
* A penalty also settled the play-off final which ended in heartache for Lancaster and ex-Robin Jonathan Smith. The game looked to be going into extra-time at the Giant Axe before Colwyn Bay struck the only goal, from the spot, after 88 minutes.
* At the other end of the table, John Hughes’ Rossendale United ended the season in bottom place for the second year running, and a final day 4-1 thrashing at Mossley showed just why.
Clitheroe scraped home unconvincingly, beating lowly Ossett Albion 2-1 at Shawbridge, the winner being set up by a terrific cross from Simon Garner.
* In the Vodcat League Premier Division, the games came thick and fast with Ramsbottom United the pick of the local teams. They beat Bacup Borough 3-1 at the Riverside with former Harwood favourite Ed O’Neil netting the 2nd. A disappointing 2-2 home draw with lowly Ashton Athletic followed before a six goal thriller, also at home, to Congleton Town. Rammy were 3-1 down but fought back to level and even had the chance to win the game but a missed penalty cost them the extra two points.
* Colne lost their 14 game unbeaten run when they lost 3-1 at Alsager Town but they came back to beat Flixton and Winsford and also earned a creditable 1-1 draw against Glossop North End.
* Padiham lost 2-1 at Runcorn, 3-1 at Bootle but enjoyed a great 2-1 home win against New Mills. Meanwhile, their reserve side won 14-0 against Chadderton.
* The other East Lancs. club, Nelson, didn’t fare too well losing 5-0 at home to New Mills and 3-0 at Alsager Town.
* Bacup Borough continued to rack up the games and on the whole their results have been tremendous. They played three home games in the week beating St. Helens 2-1, Runcorn 1-0 and losing 2-0 to Silsden with Brent Peters naming himself on the bench!
* In the 1st Division it’s been a memorable season for Barnoldswick Town in their first campaign at this level. They were on a 17 game unbeaten run before losing 2-0 at AFC Liverpool and were then beaten 1-0 at Daisy Hill, but a 2-0 home victory against leek CSOB in front of a healthy crowd of 133, saw them clinch promotion. Steve Pickup setting up the second goal.
* In the Greek League, Olympiakos finished second and they now compete in the ‘Greek Super League play-offs’. Their first game saw them beaten 2-0 at Aris with Matt Derbyshire coming off the bench at half time. Just the six bookings for Matt’s boys, five in the second half and four in the last ten minutes-you can just imagine the players rolling about all over the place at the slightest contact!
* Matt was promoted to the starting eleven for their next game at home to AEK Athens and although he failed to score, he helped his side to a valuable 2-0 win.
* Newcastle Town had amassed over 100 points this season and still not made certain of the Championship but they finally clinched it after beating Silsden 2-0 while their only rivals New Mills lost by the same score at Maine Road. Just 116 supporters turned up for the title party which must be hugely disappointing for the Town officials.
* Ramsbottom United followed up their derby win against Nelson with a fine 3-2 success at Runcorn and our old ‘friend’ Steve Wilkes, the Linnets manager, was sent off-some things never change!
* One of our greatest nights came at the home of Bolton Wanderers when we defeated Southport in the ATS Trophy Final and although we played at Burnden Park, it was a case of ‘deja-vu’ at their current home, the Reebok Stadium, when Clitheroe took on the Sandgrounders in the final of the same competition. Manager Pete Smith has happy memories of when he helped lift the Trophy back in 1991. Harwood defeated Bamber Bridge (3-1 at home aet), Blackpool Mechanics (3-0 at home), Horwich RMI (2-1 at home aet), and Blackpool (Wren) Rovers (1-0 at home) before thrashing Southport 3-2 in the final at Burnden. Smithy scored in the semi-final and final and was part of the all-conquering team of that era that Eric Whalley built up. This time round no less than three ex-Harwood players started the game and all completed the 90 minutes but the Conference North leaders proved far too strong and ran out comfortable 4-0 winners. Cheered on by around half of the 1200+ crowd, the Blues gave it their best shot with both Simon Garner and Ryan Fisher having efforts on goal but the gulf in class told as ‘Port surged into a three-goal half time lead.
* Andy Procter’s Accrington Stanley lost their fifth home game in a row and that made it eight games without a win as they went down 2-1 to Hereford United.
* In the Conference North, the title is almost Southport’s after they won 4-1 at home to Hyde United and they now need a single win from their final two games. Fleetwood also won, coming from behind to win 3-2 at Blyth Spartans but they lie one point behind the Sandgrounders having also played a game more. As well as moaning about Farsley Celtic’s record being expunged, the Fishermen are now complaining that Southport are playing their game in hand this week! The Town Chairman/Board certainly aren’t taking defeat like men and they ought to concentrate on their own team.
* The Unibond Premier looked to be a two-horse race a fortnight ago with Bradford Park Avenue and Guiseley in pole positions. A ‘three-day’ double by Guiseley over Avenue appeared to have made the title a formality and with a long unbeaten run behind them, no one could have foreseen the turnaround within little over a week. Boston United, the cream of non-league football, found themselves 6 points behind, having also played a game more, and with only four games to play but their victory over the leaders, plus a 5-1 victory at Worksop and a 4-1 rout of FC United, having come from behind with only 20 minutes left, coupled with two more defeats for Guiseley and two draws for Bradford, means that a final day win Marine will give the Pilgrims the title.
* Jonathan Smith’s transfer to Lancaster City has hardly co-incided with a run of good form as they’ve gone from Unibond North title favourites to rank outsiders. Their poor form continued with a 2-0 defeat at Trafford and a 1-1 home draw with Colwyn Bay. They found themselves 9 points behind Halifax Town with just three games left as Town head towards the title in style. Three games in a week brought nine more points after wins at Curzon Ashton (5-0 on Monday), 2-1 at home to Radcliffe Borough (on Thursday), and 4-2 at Ossett Albion (on Saturday). The Blues took the lead in the first half thanks to James Dean’s header but Albion fought back to lead. Town then stepped up another gear to score three more and send the 1,000 visiting supporters home happy. Deano also scored at Curzon and to date has hit 37 goals in just 43 appearances.
* Clitheroe, like Accrington Stanley are hardly finishing the season in style and they lost again, this time 2-0 at Wakefield.
* At the bottom, it’s also a case of ‘if we win all our remaining games, and they lose all theirs, we’re OK.’ Rossendale United fell to another defeat, 2-0 at home to Garforth Town after a very poor performance where they were never in the game after the opening goal.
It’s back to the Vodcat League for manager John Hughes, providing he keeps his job!
* In that League, Bacup Borough are wading through some of their games in hand and it doesn’t appear to having an adverse effect as they beat Alsager Town 3-2 and Ashton Athletic 1-0 this week, both at West View.
* Ramsbottom United are also finishing well, their latest victory a comfortable 2-0 at Winsford United thanks to two fist half goals.
In the 1st Division, Barnoldswick Town have a battle on their hands in the fight to become Champions in the debut season. They dropped two points after a 0-0 draw with Eccleshall, while Stone Dominoes moved to within a point of them after their victory.
* The West Yorkshire side failed to lift the West Riding Cup despite a valiant effort. They found themselves 3-1 down against Garforth Town but hit back to make it 3-3. Garforth then scored what looked to be the winner in the 88th minute but Barlick refused to let their heads drop and found a last minute equaliser. The score remained 4-4 until the 120th minute when a fantastic long-range shot gave keeper Billy Carrington no chance and made it 5-4.
* Also still in with a shout of promotion to the Premier Division are Leek CSOB but amazingly their latest game, a 6-3 home win against Daisy Hill, drew a paltry crowd of 20 and three days later the same number(probably the same people) turned up to see them defeat Rochdale Town 2-1.
* As the final week of the season arrived, Halifax Town clinched the Unibond North title but were made to struggle against Pete Smith’s Clitheroe. Considering the respective form of both sides, this should have been a cake-walk for the Tykes but they needed two goals in the final 15 minutes to gain the vital point, sending the near 2,000 crowd home happy. Just two ex-Robins in the Blues starting line up and one of them failed to see out the 90 minutes, with Liam McManus seeing a late red for two yellow cards. Clitheroe could have had the game sewn up well before the end after scoring two, hitting the woodwork and seeing a penalty, given by the linesman, overturned by the Ref. James Dean failed to score but ran the defence of one of his former sides a merry dance throughout.
* Lancaster City finally got back to winning ways with a 1-0 win at Radcliffe Borough thanks to Jonathan Smith’s injury time winner-his first strike for the Dollyblues.
* At the bottom, John Hughes’ Rossendale United also halted a poor run when they won 1-0 against Wakefield at Dark Lane. They not only need to win their final game, Ossett Albion have to lose and there needs to be a FIFTEEN goal swing in the process.
* In the Unibond Premier League, it’s the most exciting final day in living memory with just one point separating the top three after this week’s results. While Boston United added the Unibond League Cup to their Lincolnshire Cup, Bradford Park Avenue and Guiseley knew that they had to win to stay in the title hunt. On Monday, Bradford won 1-0 thanks to a ‘Fergie-time’ 94th minute goal against Whitby Town, and the following evening saw Guiseley win 2-1 at Frickley, thanks to two penalties!
Boston travel to Marine needing to win or equal the results of the other two.
* Once again well done to the fantastic FCUM supporters. The Reds have had a woeful season and have never once looked like joining the promotion race but their home crowds have held up and the away followings have outnumbered home supporters at almost every game-FANTASTIC! Over 1,600 turned up for their latest defeat, 3-2 at home to Ashton United.
* Quite a contrast with AFC Liverpool whose latest attendance was just 95.
* At the top of the Vodcat Division One, Barnoldswick still hold the aces after a 1-0 win at Irlam but Stone Dominoes aren’t giving up and they won again, this time 1-0 at home to Oldham.
* In the Premier League, New Mills drew a crowd of 410 as they entertained Glossop North End in the Derbyshire ‘derby’, with the visitors taking the honours after 1-0 win.
* Bacup Borough continue with their incredible run of home fixtures, beating Padiham 2-0 and drawing 1-1 with Atherton LR.
* Nelson won 2-1 at Formby while Ramsbottom United beat Winsford United 1-0 at the Riverside.
* Accrington Stanley’s hopes of making the League Two play-offs were blown away during the Easter period after two bad defeats. They took the lead at Dagenham & Redbridge but ended up on the wrong end of a 3-1 defeat and worse was to come when they entertained relegation threatened Grimsby Town a couple of days later. For the second time in two weeks the Reds lead 2-0 but fell to pieces after the break to present the Mariners with a rare away win. Three goals in less than 10 minutes blew Stanley away with Andy Procter once again failing to have any impact, and the season is ending with a whimper.
* The race for the Conference looks to be heading for the ‘wire’ with Southport and Fleetwood Town swapping places at the top after the Easter weekend results. Our old foes Fleetwood consolidated their 1st place position after beating Droylsden 3-0 at Highbury in front of over 1800 fans but then went down 1-0 at Workington on the Monday. Meanwhile Southport took maximum points with a hard fought 3-2 win at struggling Harrogate Town then a thrilling 2-1 victory over Northwich Victoria at Haig Avenue. That win was the Sandgrounders first against the Vics. in 8½ years but they had to come from behind with the equaliser coming in first half stoppage time. They then missed a penalty before being awarded a second which was put away before having substitute Steve Daly sent off in the third minute of injury time.
* Fleetwood have appealed against the League’s decision to have Farsley Celtic’s results expunged from the records because that would mean the Fishermen lose the 6 points gained against the Tykes. Surely the decision was the only one open to the League yet the Fleetwood Chairman insists that the club have a strong case-don’t hold your breath!!
* The Unibond Division One North, is also turning into the most exciting for years with James Dean’s Halifax Town in hot pursuit of Jonathan Smith’s Lancaster City.
City enjoyed a 3-1 win at another of Jonathan’s former clubs, Clitheroe, on Easter Monday before a great crowd of 351. Meanwhile Halifax travelled to Dark Lane where Deano helped to put another nail in his old boss John Hughes’ coffin. Town ran out 3-0 winners leaving Rossy 3 points adrift at the bottom after Ossett Albion gained a point from their game. A consolation was the attendance, a staggering 745.
Next up for the Shaymen was a derby at Garforth Town and what a night it was. The home side led 3-1 with just a couple of minutes plus added time to go but Blair was sent off for the home side giving the visitors hope. Firstly he over-celebrated when scoring that 3rd goal, and moments later was booked again for kicking the ball away. Despite not scoring himself, Deano inspired his side to score in the 88th, 91st, and 94th minutes to send the huge majority of the large crowd home happy.
* That comeback was in fact eclipsed a couple of days earlier by a game at the scene of one of our greatest triumphs. Morecambe were trailing Crewe 3-1 as the game reached the final few minutes. Then a Morecambe defender was sent off for bringing down an ‘Alex’ player through on goal. The resulting free kick was handled to present Crewe with a penalty to make it 4-1. A great save from the Shrimps’ keeper looked to have kept the score down but with just a few minutes left Morecambe made it 3-2. Into the final minute and incredibly they drew level before the ten men made it 4-3 in the 4th minute of stoppage time and that proved to be the last action of one of the most thrilling games ever to be seen at the soon to be demolished Christie Park.
* Back to the Unibond North and poor old Rossendale, after facing Halifax, next took on Lancaster City and the outcome was the same as it was two days previously. The Blues did in fact fight back to draw level after going two behind but City won 4-2 in the end.
* The only other club who can now go down are Ossett Albion as the teams just above continue to pull away.
* In the Vodcat League, 1st Division Barnoldswick Town are in pole position as they look to go up into the Premier League at the first time of asking. They won 2-1 at Norton United before beating Holker Old Boys 3-0.
* Should they go up as expected, they’ll have plenty of derby games next season with all local sides sure to be playing in the top division next term. Colne continue with their great unbeaten run beating Squires Gate 3-1 and ex-Harwood star Steve Pickup turned back the clock with a masterful display at the back.
* Accrington Stanley’s season has fizzled out miserably with even Andy Procter suffering from a loss of form. They finally halted a run of defeats with a goal-less draw at rock-bottom Darlington, when a win would have relegated the North-Easterners.
* In the Unibond Division One North, it was a bad day for John Hughes’ Rossendale United. Things had looked rosy for half an hour as the Blues took a 2-0 lead at Prescot Cables but a penalty put the hosts back in it. After the break Cables were awarded another spot kick and although the keeper saved it, the rebound was slammed home. Even worse was to follow when Hughesy saw the other result affecting them at the foot of the table. Ossett Albion the only team that they can realistically catch, beat Chorley 2-1 to leave Rossy 5 points adrift.
* Pete Smith will no doubt be looking to next season as his Clitheroe side, with four ex-Robins in the squad, once again showed their soft side going down 3-1 at Woodley Sports.
* Quite a few of our ex-players are set for an exciting climax to the season, none more so than James Dean. His Halifax Town side entertained Jonathan Smith’s table-topping Lancaster City and an astonishing 3,000+ fans turned out, better than any other non-league crowd that day and several Football League attendances. What should have been a tight affair was anything but and Deano was back to his match-winning best. He not only scored the 3rd in a 4-0 win but also supplied passes for the first and last goals. The second goal was also partly down to him as a great effort was superbly saved by the keeper who turned it away for a corner from which the Tykes scored! Not surprisingly, Smithy was substituted after being given the ‘run-around’ for the first hour. Town will join the Unibond Premier League if they hold on to top spot and that Division also saw 2nd host 1st. Boston United came from a one-goal half time deficit to beat Guiseley 2-1.
* The other team in the trio vying for the Championship, Bradford Park Avenue, were involved in a remarkable local derby at Ossett Town. The hosts look to be fighting a losing battle in their efforts to stave off relegation but raced into a 4-1 lead before Avenue hit back with goals five without reply to keep alive their own dreams of glory.
* Much maligned Durham City- widely described as the worst side in the country-not on this web-site!-have been overtaken by Zamaretto South & West Division side Bracknell Town. Both sides have won two games and drawn none but Bracknell have lost 36 games to Durham’s 33, conceding 164 against Durham’s 159. City lost 2-0 at Whitby but Town were thrashed 7-2 at home to 3rd bottom Cinderford Town.
* Moving up into the Conference North, leaders Southport and second placed Fleetwood Town both had difficult away games but they both took maximum points, the Sandgrounders courtesy of a tremendous 3-0 win at 5th placed Droylsden, and the Fishermen thanks to a 1-0 success at Ilkeston Town.
* In recent years we’ve enjoyed a couple of very enjoyable FA Cup days out at Harrogate Town but Saturday’s 5-2 home capitulation at the hands of Blyth Spartans all but sealed their relegation. They need to win their last seven games(they’ve only won 6 all season) while Redditch(3rd from bottom) have to lose their last two. Let’s hope that they steady the ship and are back up in the not too distant future.
* A great comeback in this league, Alfreton Town were losing 2-0 at home to Northwich Victoria, down to ten men and with only 13 minutes left to play but incredibly they turned it around to win 3-2 thanks to a last minute own goal. Whether it’s Southport or Fleetwood in the play-offs, they have to be on top form to overcome the Midlanders.
* In the Vodcat League, Colne made it 12 games unbeaten after a 2-1 home win against Abbey Hey courtesy of a last minute goal and they now move up to 7th in the Premier Division. Russ McKenna’s Squires Gate gained much needed morale booster as they won 2-1 at home to Glossop North End.
* The big local derby saw Ramsbottom United come from behind to beat Nelson 3-1 at the Riverside. Ed O’Neil should have put Rammy ahead early on before Nelson scored, but after the equaliser, his cross was turned into his own goal by an unfortunate defender to put the Blues ahead just before half time. Another tremendous effort from Ed nearly made it three but he then supplied the cross from which the 3rd goal came.
* In the First Division, it’s Barnoldswick Town who look to heading for the title. They won 2-0 at Oldham and although nearest and only rivals Stone Dominoes also triumphed 2-0 at Holker Old Boys, Town lead the way by three points and also have a game in hand. Our old adversary, keeper Billy Carrington is enjoying an exceptional season along with James Coonan.
* Several people have asked me recently what happened to the huge ‘sell-on’ clause which was written into the contract when Matt Derbyshire was transferred to the Rovers. Well I don’t know as I wasn’t privy to any of that information while I was involved with Great Harwood Town but if anyone who reads this is a shareholder at the Rovers, then I’m sure you could ask the question for us at the next shareholders meeting. We await with baited breath!
* Despite the best efforts of Andy Procter, Accrington Stanley still can’t make it into the play-off positions. Hopes were high after a midweek win over Rotherham and the Reds built up a two goal lead with only 25 minutes left before leaders Rochdale cut loose with four goals of their own-the last one a magnificent shot from near the half-way line.
* After checking the ‘stats’ of Unibond Premier Durham City, it appears that their two great recent wins came just too late to put off their relegation as the 4-1 home defeat against Boston sealed their fate. Stephenson’s rocket at FCUM was followed by not one but two 35-yard screamers in the home win against Whitby. The goal at Gigg Lane and all the highlights from the game can be viewed on the excellent FCUM web-site.
* The fight for the Unibond 1st Division North title is hotting up and Jonathan Smith’s Lancaster City went three points clear of James Dean’s Halifax Town after a 2-1 home success over Trafford. Town meanwhile, were held 2-2 by AFC Fylde although Deano did cross for Wilde to open the scoring for the visitors.
* At the other end of the table, a great 2-0 home win lifted Rossendale United away from the basement. John Hughes met up with several of his ex-Harwood colleagues as Clitheroe travelled to Dark Lane. Neighbours Bamber Bridge did Hughesy a favour by beating Salford City 4-3 despite trailing with just 3 minutes left on the clock. Ossett Albion drop to the foot of the table after a late goal gave Leigh a 1-0 win. One disappointment for the Stags was the crowd of just 111.
* Bad week for Nelson in the Vodcat Premier Division as they lost 2-0 at home to basement side Ashton Athletic and in the return a few days later could only draw 1-1 before 24 spectators. That was exactly twice the crowd that turned up to watch the game between Alsager Town and Flixton which the Bullets won 3-1.
The Mancunians have 7 games to play while mid-table rivals Bacup Borough still need to fit in 18 games before the end of the season.
* The league leaders Newcastle haven’t suffered a hangover from their 4-1 mauling at Bacup, winning 3-2 at Runcorn before thrashing Russ McKenna’s Squires Gate 6-0 at the sea-side.
* Padiham made hard won of beating next to bottom Atherton LR at the Arbories, eventually running out 5-3 winners.
* Some very disappointing attendances in the 1st Division with AFC Liverpool’s visit to Daisy Hill drawing the day’s best of just 57. By logging onto the Daisy Hill web-site, you can see highlights from last season’s amazing game between the sides when the attendance was double this season’s.
* Yet another prominent non-league club are in dire straights, this time it’s Forest Green Rovers who need to raise £100,000 very quickly and that’s despite the success on the pitch in recent years including a couple of fine FA Cup runs.
* Merthyr Tydfil are also on the brink thanks to the clubs current debts.
* Matt Derbyshire scored the only goal of the game as Olympiakos won 1-0 at leaders Panathinaikos. That put them four points behind their fiercest rivals with three games to play. Matt hit the winner after 67 minutes after his first effort was saved and was then promptly booked for his celebrations in front of the home fans. Sadly, their title dreams all but ended the following weekend and they were held 0-0 by second bottom FC Xanthi while Panathinaikos were winning 3-0 at Atromitos. With a much better goal difference, the leaders look set to clinch the title in their next game.
* Another ‘hot’ local derby saw one of Great Harwood’s most famous ‘sons’, David Dunn, score the only goal of the East Lancs. version.
* Accrington Stanley’s promotion hopes look to disappearing after another defeat, this time 2-0 at Bournemouth with even the normally reliable Andy Procter struggling to make an impact.
* James Dean was also strangely subdued at Trafford and despite hitting a post, he was replaced mid-way through the second half of Halifax Town’s 3-0 win, two of the goals coming in injury time.
* They remain three points behind Jonathan Smith’s Lancaster City who are looking unconvincing going into the final few weeks of the season. A midweek 2-1 reverse in the Lancashire derby at Bamber Bridge, was followed up with a 2-1 win at home to at home to Mossley, with the winner coming in the final minute.
* Pete Smith must be frustrated at Clitheroe’s inconsistency for following the Blues’ poor showing at Rossendale, they came storming back to thrash AFC Fylde 7-1 at Shawbridge with Simon Garner hitting the fourth with a fine 12 yard shot. They then returned to their poor away form at Skelmersdale United and were well beaten despite the scoreline of only 3-1. Just two ex-Robins in that starting line-up, Ryan Fisher and Simon Garner.
* John Hughes saw his Rossendale side go down 2-1 to Woodley Sports at Dark Lane with the visitors scoring both goals in the first few minutes. Rossy fought back but despite Woodley going down to 9 men, the Blues failed to get back on level terms.
* In the Vodcat Premier League, all of our local sides are now in or around mid-table with Ramsbottom United leading the way in 7th despite their 4th defeat in a row.
* Bacup Borough, the only side to beat Newcastle Town, travelled for the return fixture and were holding them to a 1-1 draw at half time before two more home goals saw them off.
* A few days later, Newcastle made short work of their trip to the Riverside, triumphing 4-0 over Ramsbottom with Ed O’Neil unable to stop the rampant leaders and eventually being substituted. That took them to the amazing total of 100 points, 29 clear, but they haven’t clinched the title yet as New Mills keep winning and have five games in hand. The Millers latest victory saw them come from two down at home to Bootle before running out 3-2 winners.
* Padiham lost 3-0 at fallen ‘giants’ Winsford United and had ex-Harwood star Martin Parkes sent off after just 23 minutes following his ‘last-man’ foul on a United forward.
* Bacup beat Abbey Hey 2-1 after coming from behind at half time to win 2-1 with all three goals coming from the penalty spot and they weren’t the only ones to show some fighting spirit. Colne managed it twice in the week, firstly overturning a 2-1 deficit to win 4-2 at Formby, and then to come back from one down at the break at Maine Road, to win 2-1.
* Russ McKenna saw his Squires Gate side go down yet again, this time 2-1 to Nelson with the Seasiders missing a late penalty. The visitors were reduced to ten men after that incident but held on gallantly.
* In the 1st Division, Barnoldswick Town lead the way by 3 points after Stone Dominoes were beaten. Also in the title race are perennial strugglers Leek CSOB but the locals are far from impressed with only 25 turning up to see them drop two vital points against AFC Blackpool.
* The month ended with most local games being lost to the wet weather but Bacup Borough’s home game with Padiham lost out to snow! Brent Peters’ boys now have to cram in 16 games before the scheduled end to the season on May 8th.
* Some football was played though and that was bad news for ex-Harwood boss John Hughes because his Rossendale side slumped back to the bottom of the Unibond North after Ossett Albion staged a great comeback against Radcliffe Borough. The visitors stormed into a 2-0 lead which they held until half time, but Albion returned from the break with all guns blazing and hit four without reply.
* At the other end of the table, it was back to ‘advantage Lancaster City’ after Halifax Town could only take a point from their game at Woodley Sports. The home side led 2-0 but Town salvaged a point thanks to second half substitute James Dean’s last minute equaliser. Deano dribbled his way past a couple of defenders on the edge of the box before firing in off the post to send the 4-500 Town supporters into raptures.
Ex-Harwood star Dennis Hill is about to sign up as assistant manager with Rossendale United. He'll team up again with John Hughes who managed the Robins in their most successful spell in the last 20 years, so it's good luck to both of them.
* Matt Derbyshire’s Olympiakos lost the first leg of their last 16 Champions League game at home to Bordeaux. He came on as a 77th minute substitute and helped the side to what looked like an injury time equaliser but the strike was controversially ruled out by referee Howard Webb, citing a foul by Matt in the build up. Bordeaux’s goal, which came in the 2nd minute of first half injury time, was also contentious as what seemed to be a fine tackle was penalised and from the resulting free kick, the French side took the lead.
* The official also made some baffling decisions the following week as Matt’s old team Blackburn Rovers suffered a 3-1 defeat at Spurs. He denied them a clear penalty and also ruled out what appeared to be a perfectly good goal by Kalinic.
* James Dean scored the second in Halifax Town’s 3-0 defeat of high-flying Colwyn Bay at the Shay. He received the ball with his back to goal before turning his marker inside out and delivering a left foot drive into the bottom corner of the net. He was excellent throughout, almost scored another, and gave ex-Tranmere Rovers player Dave Challinor a torrid time for the whole 90 minutes.
* Next up was a game against some of his old Harwood team-mates at Clitheroe and once again Deano came up trumps, scoring an injury time winner. He almost scored on 17 minutes but his effort was brilliantly blocked by Liam McManus and then maybe should have done better with a header just before the break which went straight at the keeper. Pete Smith’s boys took the lead in the second half but were soon pegged back after a wayward back-header from Ryan Fisher went over the keeper who then brought down an attacker and received the inevitable red card. Liam took over between the ‘sticks’ but was beaten by the spot kick and then again by Deano’s winner when Town’s leading scorer burst into the area and rifled a shot into the bottom corner of the net to send the majority of the huge 650+ crowd into raptures.
* The result of the month, the season, and probably the decade, came at Gigg Lane where Durham City not only avoided defeat for the first time this season(as predicted recently on this web-site) they managed all three points with a fantastic 2-1 win against FC United. An early goal for the Reds failed to dampen the enthusiasm of the League’s whipping boys who struck twice before keeper Rhys Jobling saved a penalty. The Northumbrians then despatched Whitby 4-3 during the week for their first home points of the campaign and actually led 3-0 and then 4-1 before two late Town goals had the home supporters biting their nails.
* Another club who recorded a famous victory was Barnoldswick Town who took on Unibond Premier League high-flyers Guiseley in the West Riding Cup and forced a 1-1 draw before winning the ‘shoot-out’ 4-2.
* Bacup Borough also produced an incredible result against unbeaten leaders Newcastle Town, winning 4-1 at West View before a paltry 35 spectators.
* John Hughes’ Rossendale United continued their improved form but had to settle for a point from a 1-1 draw against lowly Salford City.
* Matt Derbyshire was once again involved in Champions League action and what an eventful game it turned out to be for our hero. Needing the overturn a one goal deficit from the first leg in Greece, Matt was blatently pushed over in the penalty area for what appeared to be a stonewall spot kick. The referee was having none of it at even booked Matt for either diving or back chat. In the second half he thought he levelled the tie when he scored but the goal was disallowed for offside. Minutes later a slightly late challenge saw him receive another yellow card and a very harsh sending off. Despite then taking the lead, Olympiakos were beaten 2-1 on the night to end Matt’s dream of European glory.
* Yaqoob Khan who enjoyed some memorable times playing for Harwood, has signed for Nelson. His skill and speed proved far too much for opponents whilst we played at the Crown Ground and he built up a terrific partnership with the great John Eastham.
* The month began with the very sad news of the death of former Showground favourite Adam Blacklaw who passed away after a long illness. Adam also played for Scotland, Blackburn Rovers and Burnley.
* Accrington Stanley once again had the chance to put pressure on the play-off contenders in League Two but the Reds were well beaten 3-0 by Notts County at the Crown. Andy Procter set up what appeared to be the opening goal but after disallowing the strike, then allowing the goal, then disallowing it again, it was all downhill for John Coleman’s boys.
* Quite a battle for the Blue Square North title and as soon as Southport become the bookies favourite, they drop two points against lowly Gainsborough. Meanwhile Fleetwood travelled to high-flying Hinckley and came away with all the points after a great 2-0 win.
* James Dean failed to score in Halifax Town’s two big wins in the first week of the month, but he did set up the opening goal in the 5-0 demolition of Ossett Albion, and the final goal in a 3-0 home win against Prescott Cables.
* Jonathan Smith’s Lancaster City appear to be cracking under the strain and now lie just three points ahead of the Shaymen after a poor few days. They could only force a goal-less draw at Curzon Ashton before a shock 3-1 defeat at next to bottom Harrogate R.A.
* Jason Jones hit the back of the net twice in the week, the first proved to be decisive in the 2-1 home win against Warrington Town and his next, Clitheroe’s second, finished off Salford City, a game in which Simon Garner was particularly outstanding.
* That win was also good news for John Hughes and his Rossendale United side, who took full advantage by coming from behind to record a tremendous 3-1 home win over Curzon Ashton.
* In the Vodcat League, Colne followed up their great draw at Newcastle with a 5-1 thrashing of visitors Silsden and a 4-0 home win against Atherton LR.
* Those scorelines were also recorded by neighbours Bacup Borough but unfortunately they were both defeats!
* Ramsbottom United ended a run of four games without a win by beating Russ McKenna’s Squires Gate 1-0 away from home.
* Barnoldswick Town recorded another away win to go top of the table, if only for 24 hours but were then surprisingly held 2-2 at Ashton Town. Quite an eventful game for James Coonan’s side as they hit the bar with a 2nd half penalty and also had a player sent off, with our old adversary Billy Carrington excelling in goal to make sure that Barlick took home a share of the spoils. Nevertheless, Stone Dominoes lost 1-0 at much-improved Atherton Collieries to leave both title-chasers level on points and with an almost identical goal difference.
* Comeback of the week was in the Blue Square South where home side Weston-Super-Mare built up a three goal lead before Bromley hit back with three goals in the final 17 minutes to rescue a point.
* Another month and another club in trouble-or several as the case might be. Blue Square North Farsley Celtic look to be doomed after a second fixture failed to take place, this time against Workington. Two offers have been made to buy the club and both have been dismissed by the administrators who insist that 100% of the debts must be paid off.
* Northern League Billingham Town have been issued with a writ after Hartlepool United demanded an unpaid bill be settled immediately.
* Ashton United could fold if they’re unable to pay compensation to an injured opponent and costs of the case brought against them.
* Weymouth are in trouble (again) and their debts appear to be mounting by the day as more problems are discovered about their recent past.
* Matt Derbyshire has put some financial backing into West Lancs. League side Whinney Hill where his mate and ex-Harwood colleague Andy McNally is the manager. Ex-Robins Dennis Hill and Anthony Snape are also rumoured to have signed on.
* I can now reveal that two recent attempts to re-launch Great Harwood Town FC are now ‘dead-in-the-water’. In the summer, an ex-Premier League player, together with various other parties, spoke to the owner of the Showground who refused all reasonable requests for a long term lease.
* Just before Christmas, a Blackburn businessman also tried to revive the Robins and even had sponsors, a manager, players and builders lined up to get the Showground back into Vodcat League condition. He too failed to make any headway in discussions with the ground’s owner Jackson.
* Halifax Town won yet again, this time 3-1 at Warrington Town with James Dean ending his three game goal-less run. A brilliant performance throughout was capped with a magical third goal when, from out on the right, he chipped the keeper to clinch the win. The attendance of 505-over 300 higher than the last home game-was Warrington’s best ever Unibond attendance.
* Also in the Unibond North, Jason Jones made it three goals in three games as Clitheroe won 3-0 at AFC Fylde. Liam McManus, Ryan Fisher and Simon Garner all started the game for the Blues.
* John Hughes’ Rossendale United earned a point in a 2-2 draw with Bamber Bridge at Dark Lane and with several new signing recently, down write off Rossy’s chance of survival just yet.
* Nelson and Padiham both suffered 3-2 defeats while Colne’s good form continued with a 2-1 win at St. Helens.
* Russ McKenna scored Squires Gate’s goal in a 1-1 draw at Silsden.
* The big 1st Division ‘derby’ at Rochdale failed to capture the imagination of the Greater Manchester football fans and just 20 turned up to see visitors Oldham take the points with a 2-0 win.
* Matt Derbyshire, back to full fitness after his long absence through injury, is making up for lost time and scored again in Olympiakos’ 2-0 home victory over Atromitos. Matt finished off a flowing three man move with a neat side-foot finish from just inside the six-yard box to give the Reds an 18th minute lead, and leave them just two points from the top of the Greek League.
* Poor old John Hughes saw things go from bad to worse for his rock-bottom Rossendale United side. They had two players sent off in the first half of the home game with Trafford before eventually going down 8-1 and a return to the Vodcat (NWCL) seems inevitable.
* One fantastic record ended on the last weekend of the month and another almost did. Our neighbours Colne ended Newcastle Town’s wonderful run of 27 wins this season when they gained a 1-1 draw in Staffordshire. The Reds took the lead but the real hero of the day was Great Harwood Town’s ex-keeper Bobby Harris. Bob broke every defensive record in the club’s history while he was at the Showground and a string of great saves on Saturday halted the Newcastle bandwagon. Colne’s goal was only the 9th conceded in 28 games for the runaway leaders.
* The record that was almost broken was Durham City’s in the Unibond Premier League. Despite losing every game this season, they travelled to promotion chasing Guiseley and held on until the second half when two goals made it 27 League defeats in a row. More performances like this and their first point must surely be just around the corner.
* The attendance was only 101 and there were some other poor turnouts including 56 at 1st Division leaders Stone, who saw their side squander a two goal advantage against Rochdale Town, and just 28 at Eccleshall to see Barnoldswick Town close in on the Dominoes after a 2-1 win. The big East Lancs. derby between Nelson and Padiham drew just 81, who saw a 1-1 draw at Victoria Park.
* Eric Whalley’s Chester City have finally been expelled from the Conference and look set to fold with the most likely outcome being the formation of a fans club, who would probably play at the Deva Stadium in the Vodcat League. If that happens it will another great addition to the Competition, following on form the likes of FC United, AFC Liverpool and Runcorn Linnets.
* Fleetwood Town look to be in danger of missing out on the one automatic promotion spot as they lost 3-0 at home to Northwich Victoria in the Conference North, while their only serious rivals Southport picked up a point at Corby. Two wins from their three games in hand would see the Sandgrounders re-take top spot.
* Great day for Jonathan Smith and Lancaster City. They pulled further away from main rivals Halifax after winning 3-0 at home to Harrogate RA while the Tykes lost 3-2 at Radcliffe Borough.
* Pete Smith’s Clitheroe led 2-0 at Mossley but a late second half onslaught saw the Mancunians win 4-2. It was a weekend of great comebacks with FC United scoring twice in the final 11 minutes to salvage a point in a 3-3 draw with high-flying North Ferriby United at Gigg Lane. Even better was Worcester City’s three goals in the final 17 minutes to earn a point at relegation rivals Lewes in the Blue Square South. In the Ryman League, Horsham YMCA were trailing 2-1 at home to Leatherhead with just four minute left but hit the net three times to claim the points. One comeback that wasn’t quite enough was Tilbury’s at Ilford. The home side led 3-0 but Manlee Brown scored four times for the visitors during a sensational second half. Alas it wasn’t enough as his side went down 5-4.
Mid February 2010
* Pete Smith’s Clitheroe travelled to Leigh hoping to carry off from the mid-week win against the same opponents but defensive slip-ups resulted in the Blues going down 2-0.
* Fleetwood Town cemented their place at the top of the Conference North with a fine 3-1 home win against Gloucester City while main rivals Southport, kept up the pressure with a 2-0 victory at Farsley Celtic.
* Halifax Town got back to winning ways after their Unibond Cup exit at Boston with a comfortable 3-0 home success against Harrogate Railway Athletic. Nothing surprising about that but what was surprising was that James Dean, despite being prominent throughout, failed to get on the scoresheet.
* Poor old Durham City, after losing every game so far this season, you’d think that things couldn’t get much worse-but they have. The manager played a player under a false name and the club has been hit with a six point deduction and a £2,000 fine which they can ill afford, even though £1500 is suspended.
* Meanwhile on the pitch, another great effort at Matlock Town saw them hold the Gladiators for 38 minutes before the first goal and they eventually went down 6-0. Three days later they were just 2-1 down in the second half at home to Stocksbridge PS but two very late goals gave the Steelers a flattering win.
* In the Unibond North, Jonathan Smith’s Lancaster City went 6 points clear at the top after another home win, this time 4-0 against Radcliffe Borough.
* In the same Division, Clitheroe twice came from behind to win 3-2 at Harrogate Railway Athletic with Liam McManus hitting the second for Pete Smith’s boys.
* In the Vodcat Premier League, Newcastle Town made it 27 wins from 27 games with a comprehensive 4-1 victory at Ashton Athletic. They followed that with a 6-0 home win against Rocester in the Staffs. Cup. The Newcastle public don’t seem to be overly impressed with the football club’s great achievements, with only 45 spectators turning up at Ashton and 65 at the home game.
* Elsewhere, there were wins for Bacup, Colne and Padiham while Nelson lost.
* In the 1st Division, Barnoldswick Town’s season shows no sign of faltering as they won 3-0 against Wigan Robin Park to move within 3points of leaders Stone dominoes.
* What a week for Matt Derbyshire! He started the game at Panionios, scored the only goal and was voted man-of-the-match. Next up was a home game with Levadiakos and once again he took the honours. First he scored to make it 2-0 in the 36th minute, and when the visitors threatened a comeback at 2-1, he finished them off with the third just after the break, taking Olympiakos to within three points of leaders Panathinaikos. As usual, the crowd was incredible and hopefully we’ll be able to see plenty of them and Matt in the latter stages of the Champions League.
* Another ex-Rovers ‘Matt’, this time Jansen, scuppered any hopes of Rossendale United climbing off the foot of the Unibond North table when he hit a hat-trick in a seven goal thriller at Chorley. Rossy’s opponents Leigh Genesis burst into a two goal lead but John Hughes’ boys fought back to lead, before two long range shots from the ex-Ewood legend sealed the win for the ‘home’ side. Not too many Leigh fans could be bothered travelling the few miles to Victory Park with only 61 in attendance.
* In the Vodcat League, the newest club AFC Liverpool, who many thought would be another FC United, lost again, this time 3-1 at home to Daisy Hill. Sadly for the Merseysiders, the crowds have also failed to impress with the latest game being viewed by just 120.
* Jonathan Smith gave a masterly performance for Lancaster City as they won 2-1 at Chorley before a 400+ crowd in the Unibond North. Smithy also had a ‘goal’ ruled out after his shot hit the crossbar and appeared to be well over the line before it was cleared but the officials disagreed.
* Halifax Town look like the Dollyblues main rivals for the title and they won again, this time 4-2 at home to Mossley Surprisingly, ex-Robin James Dean failed to get on the scoresheet but he was again excellent throughout and set up numerous chances including the second goal.
* In the big Lancashire derby at Shawbridge, it was a battle between two Great Harwood Town legends, home boss Pete Smith and visiting manager John Hughes. Hosts Clitheroe included Harwood old-boys Ryan Fisher, Liam McManus, Jason Jones and Simon Garner, and they helped the Blues to a narrow 2-1 win that keeps Rossendale United firmly rooted in relegation trouble.
* In the Vodcat League Premier Division, it proved to be a disappointing weekend for most of our local sides with defeats for Padiham, 3-1 at Maine Road despite taking a 1st minute lead, Nelson, 1-0 at home to Flixton, and Bacup Borough, 3-0 at St. Helens. Colne were the only winners, beating Ashton Town 2-0 before a pitiful crowd of 40. Also in the Premier Division, 3rd placed Congleton won 2-0 at Atherton LR before just 15 fans so their away following must be somewhere around the ‘nil’ mark.
* The other local side in action was 2nd placed Ramsbottom United who left Ed O’Neil on the bench and were made to pay. They led 2-0 against Russ McKenna’s Squires Gate who hit back in the 2nd half and had Rammy hanging on for a point in the last fifteen minutes.
* Bottom of the table Abbey Hey aren’t about to go down without a fight and they produced the score of the season when they won 5-1 at Winsford United to move up two places.
* Barnoldswick Town exited the 1st Division Trophy after losing 2-0 at Stone Dominoes.
* Memories of the famous thriller at Wood Street when Rochdale Town met Holker Old Boys. Not quite the 13 goal extravaganza but it was excitement all the way as the Cumbrians won 5-3 before a paltry 20 spectators.
* At the other end of the ‘Pyramid’, top of the Conference North Fleetwood Town travelled to joint bottom Gainsborough Trinity and left with a stunning 2-0 defeat, leaving the way clear for Southport to take top spot- if they win their three games in hand.
* In the Conference South, quite a game at Eastleigh where visitors Thurrock raced into a 6-0 half time lead before easing off after the break and winning 8-2.
* In the Unibond Premier League, our old friends FC United may have nothing to play for but their brilliant supporters still turn up in their hundreds, even for away games. Poorly supported Frickley drew over 700 to Saturday’s game which United won 2-0, that’s around 550 up their last home game.
* ANDY PROCTER enjoyed the weekend despite sitting out the Lancashire derby with Morecambe through suspension. He watched his Stanley side twice come from behind to beat their fellow promotion hopefuls 3-2 at the Crown ground. With the kind of form that the Reds are on at the moment, even an automatic promotion place is on the cards.
* A huge crowd a Wakefield saw JAMES DEAN put Halifax ahead and despite coming close on several other occasions, Deano's Blues had to settle for a point after a 1-1 draw.
* JONATHAN SMITH has left crisis club Leigh and joined top of the table Lancaster City, while another ex-Robin on the move, SIMON GARNER, has teamed up with the huge ex-Harwood contingent at Clitheroe. Smithy's new team-mates stayed top of the table as they beat Simon's side 2-1 at the Giant Axe after coming from behind. They cemented their strong position by winning 3-0 at Garforth at the weekend. Simon then joined LIAM McMANUS, RYAN FISHER, JASON JONES, and manager PETE SMITH, who saw his side win 2-1 at home to Radcliffe Borough. Simon's back pass was sliced by keeper Hanford which presented Radcliffe with the equaliser but Jason Jones hit the winner after good work by Ryan Fisher.
* Just the mention of DENNIS HILL'S name inspired JOHN HUGHES' Rossendale United to a great 2-0 win at Salford City, only their third league win of the season. Despite that, Rossy are now within touching distance of the other Unibond strugglers.
* Not sure if ERIC WHALLEY is still involved with Chester City but the club will surely fold within days. They failed to fulfil the fixture at Forrest Green Rovers after unpaid players had finally had enough and there were reports of them refusing to travel, leaving City with too few players to put out a side. One thing is for certain, the driver of team coach did refuse to set off until his company had been paid. Also unpaid are the police and they refused to attend any more games at the Deva Stadium causing the postponement of the derby game with Wrexham. Next week's fixture at Kidderminster is already off after the Conference suspended the club for seven days.
* Eric's former club Accrington Stanley came crashing down to earth after their great recent run. Even ANDY PROCTER couldn't inspire the Reds as they went down 4-0 at Northampton Town.
* Another former Robin, legend PETE SMITH, fared rather better, seeing his side make it through to the Lancs. Trophy final after beating Leigh 3-1. LIAM McMANUS sealing the tie with the third goal.
* JOHN HUGHES nad DENNIS HILL saw their Rossendale United side fail to build on the win at Salford. they went down 2-1 at home to Lancashire neighbours Chorley in front of a shocking crowd of 101.
* JAMES DEAN and his Halifax side travelled to York Street to take on the mighty Boston United in the Unibond Cup and were soundly beaten 5-2. With his side 3-0 down, Deano was introduced from the bench and scored within minutes but the Pilgrims stepped up a gear and hit two more, plus two disallowed goals, before an own goal gave the scoreline a little more respectabibilty.
* The Vodcat League's last representative in the FA Vase, New Mills, went down 2-0 at home to Norton and Stockton Ancients before a terrific attendance of over 400.
Late January 2010
* I took in two non-league games, the first saw Boston United entertain Durham City and the mighty Pilgrims came out on top 10-0 despite the best efforts of the young visiting team. Hopefully City will soon pick up their first point of the season and if they show the same effort and commitment then it's only a matter of time.
* Next up was Accrington Stanley versus Aldershot and the excellent Andy Procter inspired the Reds to three more points. Playing like Stevie Gerard, Andy was everywhere and scored the opening goal and Stanley will do well to keep him at the Crown for the foreseeable future.
* Mr. Accrington Stanley, Eric Whalley, must surely be regretting getting involved with Chester City, as they lurch from one crisis to another but how they still exist is a mystery. The winding up order against the club has been adjourned until March 12th and the saga, which should have been resolved 12 months ago, goes on and on and on.........
* The footballing side isn't going much better and the 4-0 defeat at Mansfield made it 657 minutes without a goal and more heavy defeats are inevitable as they hurtle towards the Conference North-if they're very very lucky!
* Another club in turmoil is Leigh RMI. Their main sponsor has pulled then plug from the end of the month and the local council, who I presume own the Leigh Sports Village Stadium, have told the club that they won't be playing there too much in the future. The move from Hilton Park should have been the start of a brave new dawn but it's been beset by problems from the start and there's every chance that this season could be their last. The directors have indicated that they'll be paying to make sure that the season is completed and the supporters will be travelling long distances for even the home games for the rest of the season. We at Great Harwood Town know exactly what it's like after two spells of having to play 'home' games away, losing much needed revenue.
* The club was originally Horwich Railway Mechanics Institute but the move to Leigh and the subsequent dropping of the 'RMI' for the ridiculous 'Genesis' means that Leigh are really a 'new' club. Maybe one day Horwich, like Harwood, will rise again.
* The sub-zero temperatures were back again at the weekend causing the postponement of most non-league games in the area. In the Vodcat League Premier Division, Ramsbottom United were one of the few clubs to see action and they beat lowly Atherton LR 3-2 at the Riverside with former Harwood favourite Ed O'Neil scoring Rammy's second, his fifth goal of the season. The game was played before a fantastic crowd of 249, the biggest for 3 years. Keiran Fletcher was surprisingly dropped from the line-up.
* Padiham gave a good account of themselves at runaway leaders Newcastle Town before a last minute goal sealed a 2-0 win for the home side.
* There's no stopping Accrington Stanley as they won yet again, this time at fellow play-off rivals Shrewsbury Town. A big crowd saw Bobby Grant score the only goal of the game but ex-Robin Andy Procter saw red for a second booking late on and his future absence could be crucial. For anyone who missed the game, the bookings were nothing short of ridiculous, an both 'offences' combined were hardly worth a yellow card.
Mid January 2010
* The Vodcat League finally saw football when AFC Blackpool (Mechanics) hosted high-flying Irlam and the home side were rewarded with a 1-0 win at the weekend. The following few days saw many more clubs in action and the quarter-finals of the Lancashire Co-op Trophy allowed Clitheroe and Leigh Genesis to take the field. Jonathon Smith helped Leigh to overcome a one goal half time deficit to win 3-1 at Colne before a dreadful crowd of just 46, while Ryan Fisher was the only ex-Robin to appear for Clitheroe as they enjoyed a terrific 4-0 win at Marine. The two clubs will now meet in the semi-final.
* Halifax Town also played after several postponed games, and James Dean showed no signs of rustiness as he hit a second half hat-trick-his third of the season-which helped beat Bamber Bridge 4-1. he opened the scoring with a 'sitter', set up the second for Gray, scored the third, put Hanley through to hit the post with the score at 3-1, before finishing Bridge off with the final goal in front of an attendance of just below 1,000.
* Andy Procter captained Accrington Stanley to a well deserved 1-0 win over Gillingham in the FA Cup to set up a home tie against Premiership Fulham, a far cry from his days with Harwod playing before a few dozen hardy souls.
* In Greece, big changes at Olympiakos where Zico and his coaching staff have left the club despite their progression in the European Cup and lying 2nd in the Greek League.. A change of management is always followed by a nervous few days for the players and Matt Derbyshire will be wondering if the new man has the same faith in him as the Brazilian legend had.
* Sensational news from the Anchor as ex-Harwood star Dennis Hill was sacked on Friday 22nd January. Dennis was instrumental in setting up the new club, AFC Darwen, in the summer, but a row over training arrangements led to his dismissal by a majority 3-1 vote by the 'Directors'. Expect to see Den back in football soon, probably at a much higher level than West Lancs. League. He'll need a little time for the knife wounds in his back to heal first!
* Andy Procter found himself in the spotlight again on Saturday as the Millionaires of Fulham rolled into the Crown ground. Stanley more than held their own in the first half which ended 1-1, but having a man sent off just before the break proved to be decisive as the Cottagers made the extra man count and ran out 3-1 winners.
* Pete Smith's Clitheroe lost their long unbeaten run when Prescott Cables won 2-1 at Shawbridge. Ryan Fisher had an eventful 2nd half, clearing off the line early on before seeing his late shot being saved, denying the blues a deserved point.
* In the FA Vase, the last two Vodcat sides enjoyed differing fortunes. New Mills reached the 5th round for the first time in their history and could emulate their Derbyshire neighbours Glossop North End by reaching the final. They came from behind to beat Witney United 2-1 before 260 fans, with both goals coming from ex-Bacup striker Tommy Turner. Meanwhile, Bootle travelled to Norton and Stockton Ancients, scene of our 4-0 FA Vase win a few years ago. Sadly for the Merseysiders, Norton have improved greatly and won 4-2 before an excellent crowd of 144.
* In the Vodcat Challenge Cup, the top two in the Premier League met at the Riverside and visitors Newcastle Town came through comfortably 3-1. Bacup also went out thanks to a 2-0 defeat at Winsford United.
* After the long break Colne appeared to be a little rusty, losing two games in the week. On Saturday they led 1-0 at the break before going down 4-1 at Congleton Town and that defeat followed their 3-1 home defeat by Leigh Genesis which saw their interest end in the Lancs. Trophy. Again the Reds were leading at the interval.
* In the 1st Division, the big game involved Barnoldswick Town who entertained leaders Stone Dominoes. A three figure crowd witnessed an entertaining 0-0 draw which left Stone 6 points clear but pushed Town into 2nd place and looking a good bet for promotion.
* James Dean followed up his mid-week hat-trick with another goal as Halifax Town completed the double over Bamber Bridge at Irongate. His 2nd half strike was his 29th goal of the season and it set the Shaymen on their way to a 2-0 win.
Early January 2010
* The new decade brought the same old weather which decimated the non-league world. For the third weekend running the
* Vodcat League was a total wipe-out and that’s the first time that’s happened to the either the Vodcat or NWCFL.
In the Conference North, Fleetwood Town were again one of the few clubs to host a game in the North West over the past month or so. They entertained Southport and produced an astonishing nine goal turnaround from the fixture at Haig Avenue last week. Town led one-nil at the break and the Sandgrounders cause wasn’t helped with a sending off during that period, but the second 45 minutes saw one-way traffic in which Fleetwood scored three more before a cracking season’s best of over 2,500.
* With a complete ‘white-out’ save for non-league game in Cornwall, all the news was coming off the pitch and Eric Whalley’s Chester City are back in the news for all the wrong reasons. Players who’ve been unpaid for the past two months have now been told in no uncertain terms to clear off and find other clubs! If the club can continue with their fixtures, they will no doubt be forced to play youngsters like Durham City, with the inevitable consequences. The Conference is also sure to come down heavily on the Blues for the unpaid football-related debts and it could spell the end for the club who’ve been on the ‘critical’ list for many months.
* The Unibond League has come down like a ton of bricks on Pete Smith’s old club Kendal Town. Manager Lee Ashcroft has been suspended for three months after being dismissed during the home game with Kings Lynn in October. Not quite sure what his crime was but judging from the length of the ban, homicide must have been involved!
* Kettering Town chairman Imraan Ladak has resigned after problems with the Conference and the local council. Already suspended from all football activity by the conference, he’s failed to get the backing from the council for a new stadium, vital if the Poppies are to progress. The lease on their current Rockingham Road ground runs out in three years therefore making promotion impossible due to the competition rules. Ladak has reportedly been subsidising the club to the tune of around £5,000 a week but with no prospect of promotion, he’s not surprisingly decided to cut his losses. No doubt some of the better players will shortly be leaving but the club is at least debt-free for the moment.
* Poor Lewes of the Blue Square South haven’t got that luxury and they’ve got just a few days to pay off £48,000 or follow Kings Lynn to the wall.
* Locally, Kelham O’Hanlan, formerly of PNE amongst others, has been appointed manager of AFC Fylde as successor to long-serving Mick Fuller. After 15 years as number one, Fuller has been instrumental in Fylde’s (Kirkham & Wesham’s) rise and rise, and his sideways move must have come as quite a shock to him. For the moment as least, he’ll assist O’Hanlan.
* At Last! Matt Derbyshire has finally returned from injury and came on as a substitute after an hour of Olympiakos’ fine 2-1 win against AEK Athens. Hopefully he’ll be involved in the latter stages of the Champions League.