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GREAT HARWOOD TOWN FOOTBALL CLUB

Review of 2004/05

AUGUST


The pre-season games went better than anyone could have expected as new boss Dave Bradford made a host of new signings and began to assess the strengths and weaknesses of his squad. The first two warm up games saw the Robins score 11 goals against Barnoldswick and Langho before a strong Blackburn Rovers reserve and youth team left the Showground with a flattering 6-1 win. The remaining 3 warm up games brought Harwood 3 clean sheets as Old Blackburnians were beaten 1-0, Chorley 3-0, and Accrington Stanley 3-0 on penalties after a 0-0 draw in the Hyndburn Trophy. At the beginning of the League campaign, the lowest 1st Division crowd of the day, 45, saw the Robins go down 1-0 thanks to a below par performance at Abbey Hey. Ominously, the first goal of the season in the NWCL was scored by Fleetwood’s Lee Catlow after 4 minutes at Congleton. Two days later, a Mashiter brace and one from Eastham gave the Robins their first points of the season in a 3-0 home win against Curzon Ashton in front of over 100 fans at the Showground. The next visitors were Alsager Town who held us to a 1-1 draw. In the Second Division, newcomers Cammell Laird had made their intentions clear right from the start and a 6-1 win against Oldham followed up a 4-0 win at Ashton Town 4 days earlier. The Robins were then given a footballing lesson at Squires Gate who triumphed 4-1, with the youngsters struggling to cope with the higher standard of play in the 1st Division. In the next game, we travelled to Congleton to meet a side who had yet to gain a point. Eastham (2) and Mashiter had put us three up with only 15 minutes remaining, yet it was the Robins who were hanging on for a point when the final whistle blew. Meanwhile, Fleetwood were setting the pace and they disposed of Abbey Hey 7-0 at the seaside to go top.

SEPTEMBER

Another month and another disappointing result, as we lost 2-0 at home to Glasshoughton Welfare in the FA Cup, a result that lost the club much needed revenue. Things weren’t getting any better as the team lost confidence as well as leading scorer Paul Mashiter through injury, and a very average Glossop North End beat us 2-0 in Derbyshire thanks in no small way to a poor refereeing performance. ‘Mash’ was back a few days later as we took on 2nd Division New Mills in the FA Vase and a goal by him, and two from ‘Eastie’ had us strolling with under 10 minutes left, but two goals in 5 minutes left us hanging on as once again, a goal conceded had many of the players pushing the panic button. This worrying trend continued in the next game, at home to Colne. A cracking 1st half before a season’s best crowd of 189 (mostly from Colne), saw the sides separated by Mashiter’s goal a minute before the break, but a scandalous decision by the referee to award a penalty just a few seconds after the re-start, gave the initiative to the visitors and after their second goal on 74 minutes, we fell apart and were lucky to lose by only 4 goals to 1. The pressure was really building up on manager Bradford as lowly Atherton Collieries left the Showground with an easy 3-0 win before a poor attendance of just 58. Despite the dwindling support, the away following remained strong and a numerous and noisy band of fans tried their best to lift the team at Ramsbottom. Several more experienced players were brought into the team and it seemed to work as we never looked in trouble, but as is usually the case, the luck was against the struggling side and more ‘dodgey’ refereeing helped the home side to a 2-0 win. A trip to Humberside to meet Hall Road Rangers in the FA Vase was a welcome break and goals from Hamlin and Mashiter saw us through to the 1st Round Proper. Once again, the travelling supporters made it seem like a home game. There was no respire in the League though as we sunk to the bottom, and two days later, despite a fine 1st half performance, it was the same old story as an early 2nd half goal for visitors Skelmersdale, saw heads drop and a 3-0 defeat had Bradford assessing his position. One particularly worrying aspect of the performances was that we were being well beaten and after conceding, the games were usually one-sided affairs. It wasn’t helped by injuries to Mashiter, Eastham, Harris, Taylor , Coonan and Kennedy, all experienced players who could help the youngsters along. Whatever the reason, Dave Bradford had seen his side already begin to look stranded at the bottom after 9 defeats in the opening 12 League games, and resigned two days before the home game against Glossop.

OCTOBER

Things couldn’t get any worse, although we’d be saying that on many occasions before the end of the season. Things could indeed get worse, and they did as a four goal blast from Gary Kharas of lowly Glossop, helped his side to dish out a 5-0 thrashing. Once again, the opening goal after 42 minutes revealed the Robins lack of ‘back bone’, as we folded with barely a whimper. At the other end of the table, Fleetwood were leading the way with Bacup in hot pursuit. The Fishermen had gained 25 points from their first ten games and were averaging three goals per game. In the Second Division, neighbours Padiham were doing even better, winning 8 of their opening 9 games to lead from Cammell Laird.
Next up was a daunting trip to Bacup who could have gone top with a win. A great performance by the lads looked like ending in yet another defeat until a dubious last minute penalty was converted by Mashiter to send the large following into raptures. Meanwhile, the Second Division provided one of the results of the season as Ashton Town came form behind at Darwen to win 7-1 with 6 goals form ace marksman Atherton. The Robins built on that draw in their next game at Atherton Collieries as they not only fought back from two down to earn a point, they were very unlucky not to take all three. Once again, the travelling Harwood contingent completely outshouted their counterparts. Dave Sharples, Bradford’s assistant, was then named as the new manager but he couldn’t prevent another home defeat, this time at the hands of Maine Road. The FA Vase was next up but a Saturday postponement meant a long mid-week trip to the North East to take on Northern League strugglers Thornaby. With key players not fancying the trek, we once again were forced to field a weakened team and went out of the competition 1-0. Another vital source of income ‘down the Swanee’. The month finished as it started with another League defeat, this time at Trafford, who, despite the 3-2 scoreline, defeated the Robins with consummate ease.

NOVEMBER

A visit to Wood Street by 2nd Division ‘whipping boys’ Castleton Gabriels, gave the Robins a perfect opportunity to register a handsome win and regain some confidence but despite goals from Mashiter and Osborne, we could only scrape home 2-1 in front of the one of the lowest attendances in our history – just 36. Four days later, we travelled to another 2nd Division club, Nelson, in the Marsden Trophy, and as usual, the meagre attendance of 60 was made up primarily of Harwood supporters. Those loyal fans left Victoria Park dejected and embarrassed as the home side ran out 4-1 winners, a score that flattered Harwood. Things couldn’t get any worse could they? Yes! With just 7 points on the board, the NWCL docked us four of them because an administrative mistake when registering a player. A trip to Colne had the fans wondering how many goals we’d lose by, rather than what the result would be. If the previous game was an embarrassment, then this was a total mis-match as Colne passed us to death. Some atrocious finishing saved us from conceding double figures in the first half alone, until the home side eased off in the second. More of the same was expected in the next game, at home to the new League leaders St.Helens, but a spirited performance, and goals by Mashiter (2) and Eastham saw us share the spoils. Harwood were in fact 2 goals up before going in at the break 3-2 down, and it was highly encouraging that the players stuck to their task.

DECEMBER

The following week saw the Robins hope to build on that morale boosting point when the visitors were Stone Dominoes. Twice in the first half Harwood took the lead through Paul Mashiter, until with 25 minutes left, Jones gave Dominoes the lead for the first time. But once again the players rallied and a John Eastham hat-trick in just over ten minutes had the small crowd in raptures. A short while after the game, morons drove a car into a perimeter wall and set fire to it, damaging several slabs of concrete and many plants. Third placed Newcastle were the next team in town and despite Harwood matching them throughout the 90 minutes, the Robins suffered a cruel 3-0 loss. The second half had in fact seen the visitors camped in their own half as Harwood battled bravely to overturn a 2-0 deficit. Thanks to some dreadful weather, those were the only two games of the month, and Harwood’s backlog of fixtures was already beginning to give concern. Despite the unexpected points, Harwood were now looking stranded at the bottom, 7 points behind Formby and 11 from safety.

JANUARY

It was the 15th before we played again as the eve of each game was greeted with torrential rain or a heavy frost. A trip to Fleetwood, who now looked to running away with the title, would surely mean another defeat and although another depleted team put up a good show, we found ourselves two down soon after the break. O’Neil and Rogers then scored to put us level and Fleetwood were on the rocks before a dubious late penalty saw them home. Next was a simply ‘must win’ game as next to bottom Formby arrived, but a tight game ended 2-2 to all but condemn us to the drop. John Eastham also broke his arm in an accidental challenge. Things couldn’t get any worse? Later that night, a car was driven into Monroe’s drugs club and set alight. The town of Great Harwood cheered at the loss of this den of inequity, which has blighted the town for many years. Tragically, it also destroyed much of the Football Club, leaving us homeless, kitless, and our very survival in doubt. Neighbours Accrington Stanley, Darwen and Colne stepped in with offers of help, ensuring that we could complete the season. The players then showed true grit when they travelled to Bacup in the League Cup and led until the last few minutes when a two-goal salvo left us devastated. Paul Mashiter left to join Fleetwood, and with Eastham out for the season, the future looked as bleak as could be.

FEBRUARY

Trips to Maine Road and Atherton LR provided the home teams with ‘doubles’, the latter being particularly difficult to stomach as we led 2-0 after 20 minutes. Dave Sharples was struggling to find 15 players for match days, especially when we travelled, and the strain was beginning to tell. Our first game at the Interlink Express Stadium saw lowly Nantwich leave with a 5-0 victory thanks to some terrible defending and individual mistakes. Despite a 5-0 scoreline suggesting otherwise, Nantwich were no better than Harwood on the day.

MARCH

Runaway leaders Fleetwood came to Accrington next but were soon under pressure as Harwood made a mockery of the respective League positions, but a goal just before the break and two more late strikes, gave a highly flattering 3-0 away win. A dreadful game on an even worse pitch at St.Helens saw the Saints become yet another club to complete the double over the hapless Robins. Meanwhile, in the 2nd Division, Cammell Laird were on course to break many records, especially for goalscoring. They hit 7 past Cheadle and 4 at Oldham during this week. After just 23 games, the Merseysiders had already notched up 97 goals. Three days later, Harwood entertained big spending Bacup Borough at the Anchor Ground in Darwen, and a tremendous display before the smallest ‘home’ attendance of the season, saw the Robins gain only their third League win of the campaign, 1-0, courtesy of a Karl Williams strike. The games didn’t get any easier and a trip to 2nd placed Newcastle was next up. Although a goal down after only 3 minutes, Harwood fought back to gain a much deserved point, leaving us 12 points from safety. The games were coming thick and fast and March saw us have to play 8 times. A midweek trip to the midlands to play Alsager had us struggling once again to raise 15 players and after we had eventually managed to get eleven of them onto the pitch, they must have wished they were somewhere else as the Daggers tore us apart from the outset and we were very fortunate to be trailing by just three goals at the break. The small band of loyal supporters backed the team from start to finish and they responded by coming back into the game in the second half and after McManus’ goal, the keeper needed to be at his best to stop the Robins from taking a point. Two days later, Sharples surprisingly threw in the towel, especially considering the backing which he’d received from the players, who stayed through the crisis, and the few remaining supporters. SURELY, things couldn’t get any worse, could they? Yup! Just 11 bodies travelled to another of the relegation candidates, Salford City, and the opening 25 minutes saw them hold their own, despite being down to 10 men after Prestige was badly injured and could hardly walk. Three goals in 10 minutes ended the contest and a further 5 after the break spelled a record club defeat. The first of many unwanted records to be broken? Colne F.C. were another local club to lend us their ground and our first fixture there, on Good Friday, ended in an exciting 0-0 draw against a talented Ramsbottom. The drop was inevitable but at least Harwood had restored some pride and were unlucky not to win. John Hughes was then appointed the new manager just a few months after having left us for Chorley. Easter Monday was gloriously sunny and despite yet another trip with only 11 players on duty, the team’s performance matched the weather and produced their best away performance of the season in winning 3-1. That win should have put us within 4 points of Formby but they produced the result of the season by beating Fleetwood 2-0 at Altcar Road. Even so, Harwood had narrowed the safety gap to just 7 points and Congleton, who had controversially refused to travel to Accrington on the scheduled Friday, arrived at Darwen the following day.

APRIL

A poor run of form had seen the Bears drop to 19th, just 12 points ahead of the Robins. The 1st half was a nervous affair with Congleton pulling the strings, but a goal against the run of play, saw us lead at half time. The second period was a different affair as we tore into them to win 3-1. Two days later it was back to the Interlink to take on lowly Squires Gate but a goal after an hour by new signing Neil Smith proved to be insufficient as the visitors hit back with two late goals. Smith was again on target as we led at the break in our next game at Stone. Sadly, the second half saw the hosts hit back with two goals in 10 minutes. With games running out, it seemed like the end, but at least the players had gone down fighting. Two days on and yet another game in a hectic schedule saw Salford come to Accrington in a game which was all about pride for the Robins, and ‘how many can we get this time?’ for the visitors. A tremendous performance by the players gave them a 1-0 win in a closely fought contest. The next evening produced an even more amazing scoreline than the 8-0 defeat at Salford, as Skelmersdale hammered Colne 9-0. At the end of the week, Trafford arrived with a reputation for good football but they seemed more interested in kicking the Harwood players than the ball. A point would take us off the bottom for the first time in six months and although McDonald’s goal put us one up, Trafford soon equalised, and it looked as though that would be the final score. Enter substitute Ed O’Neil who scored just 3 minutes from the end to send the home fans home in raptures. One point from safety with a game in hand, the excitement was unbearable. That game in hand came at free scoring Skelmersdale during the following week. Yet another performance full of skill and endeavour saw the Robins twice come from behind to lift themselves out of the bottom two. In the 2nd Division, it was a case of ‘anything you can do’ from Cammell Laird, as they hit nine goals AWAY at Cheadle Town. At the top of our division, Newcastle Town trailed Fleetwood by just two points. Harwood’s 3rd win in a row at Accrington came three days later as Abbey Hey were despatched 3-1. The Robins were now almost safe with Formby and Atherton looking at very difficult remaining fixtures. Atherton, with just 4 away games to come, looked destined for the drop, and Formby hosted the mighty Skelmersdale, who promptly played a weakened team at Altcar Road and lost 1-0! Formby had in fact already arranged for Skem to use their ground for their final home fixture! Colls 3-0 win at L.R. was a little less surprising. The game of the season took place at Newcastle where Fleetwood were the visitors. An astonishing attendance of 674 saw Fleetwood score their 100th league goal of the campaign and in doing so, won the title. It seemed as though every game for the Robins was more important than the last, and it was definitely the case 4 days on as we travelled to Formby knowing that a draw would almost certainly guarantee our 1st Division status, and a win meant that we could start to celebrate. Two 2nd half goals left the large travelling support devastated as the Squirrels deservedly took the 3 points. Even Colls were hanging on in there and gained an excellent point in a 4-4 draw at Alsager. The final Saturday of the season arrived with Harwood knowing that a point for Formby at Alsager would put them down, and at the same time, we would need to win at high-flying Curzon Ashton. Our game was a late postponement as was Atherton’s, leaving all eyes on Formby. Thankfully, their players lost their heads and after having two sent off, they lost narrowly to give the Robins and Colls a fighting chance. Fleetwood were presented with the Championship Trophy before a record breaking 704 at Highbury, and they celebrated in style by beating Maine Road 7-0.

MAY

Atherton Collieries were hanging on by a thread, and achieved their 3rd fine result in a row, this time 2-2 at St. Helens. The following day saw the Robins arrive at the magnificent Bower Fold, Stalybridge with their fate back in their own hands, but a similar performance to the one at Formby, produced a similar result, this time thanks to a 1-0 scoreline. Despite their best efforts, the boys never looked like winning after Curzon’s goal around the 30-minute mark. The game was the biggest in years for Harwood but the fixture failed to get a mention on local radio, or in that evening’s local newspaper! There was still hope that with Spennymoor’s demise in the Unibond League, the number of relegated club’s could be affected right down to our level of the ‘pyramid’. The final ‘relegation’ game of the season had Atherton travelling to West View to take on a vastly underachieving Bacup Borough, knowing that a single point would lift them off the bottom. In the event, they took all three thanks to a 2-0 win to leave the Robins with no hope of escaping a swift return to the 2nd Division. The players had given their all and stuck with us until the end, and the season did have many fine moments. At one stage, it looked as though every unwanted record in the club’s history would be broken, but the only one that was, was the record defeat. We enjoyed some incredibly exciting games during the last two months, when the lads had to play 16 times. This season in the 2nd Division should see the gates hold up well as we look forward to several ‘derbies’ as well as many other trips within 20 miles or so. We also won’t have to play Cammell Laird who broke many records of their own during a magnificent campaign, and if they can keep together the nucleus of the squad, should be a good bet for another promotion push.

MOORE & CO. NORTH WEST COUNTIES LEAGUE DIVISION ONE RESULTS GRID

SEASON 2004/05

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22
ABBEY HEY 1 X 1-3 3-0 3-2 0-1 2-1 1-1 0-1 1-3 0-1 2-1 1-0 1-0 0-0 1-2 0-1 0-0 3-2 1-1 3-0 0-0 1-0
ALSAGER TOWN 2 1-1 X 4-4 2-1 0-1 3-1 0-1 1-0 2-2 2-1 2-1 3-1 1-1 2-3 0-1 3-1 1-1 0-1 0-1 0-2 0-0 2-1
ATHERTON COLLS 3 4-2 0-2 X 0-1 2-4 1-2 1-1 0-1 2-6 4-2 0-2 2-2 1-3 2-0 0-3 0-3 1-3 2-3 N/k 0-3 N/k 0-0
ATHERTON L.R 4 2-3 0-3 0-3 X 0-2 3-0 1-1 2-1 1-4 2-1 0-4 5-2 2-4 0-1 1-2 3-4 3-0 1-0 0-0 3-0 0-1 1-1
BACUP BOROUGH 5 4-1 1-0 0-2 3-0 X 2-1 0-2 0-0 0-3 4-1 0-3 1-1 1-1 1-1 0-2 0-0 2-1 0-2 2-0 0-0 3-2 1-0
CONGLETON T. 6 2-0 0-2 5-0 1-1 2-1 X 2-0 0-2 0-1 3-3 1-5 3-3 0-2 3-0 1-2 0-2 6-1 4-3 1-2 1-4 0-0 1-1
COLNE 7 4-1 1-1 3-2 6-0 2-1 4-1 X 0-1 0-1 3-1 4-1 3-0 1-3 3-0 1-2 0-1 2-1 3-4 4-2 0-1 1-2 1-0
CURZON ASHTON 8 1-2 3-2 0-2 1-0 0-2 2-1 2-2 X 0-1 5-0 1-1 1-0 3-1 3-1 1-2 1-1 2-1 2-0 4-1 1-2 2-0 2-0
FLEETWOOD T 9 7-0 2-1 3-2 6-2 1-0 4-0 1-0 2-0 X 5-0 6-2 3-2 7-0 2-1 0-2 1-2 2-1 1-1 2-1 3-0 1-0 1-1
FORMBY 10 0-3 0-3 3-0 1-2 0-3 2-1 0-2 1-1 2-0 X 2-3 2-0 2-5 1-1 3-3 0-3 1-2 1-0 1-1 2-5 2-2 1-5
GLOSSOP N.E 11 1-2 2-3 3-1 0-1 0-2 3-0 2-2 2-2 5-5 1-1 X 2-0 1-1 2-0 0-0 1-1 1-0 1-3 1-0 2-4 4-3 1-1
ROBINS 12 3-1 1-1 0-3 0-3 1-0 3-1 1-4 3-0 0-3 2-2 0-5 X 0-1 0-5 0-3 0-0 1-0 0-3 1-2 3-3 5-3 2-1
MAINE ROAD 13 3-2 0-2 2-1 1-0 1-3 4-1 0-1 1-2 3-2 3-1 1-0 2-1 X 5-3 2-2 0-0 1-2 0-2 1-1 2-1 4-1 3-1
NANTWICH T. 14 1-2 1-2 4-4 2-2 4-0 1-1 2-2 1-3 1-4 5-1 3-2 1-3 2-1 X 1-2 2-0 2-0 2-4 1-0 2-3 0-2 4-1
NEWCASTLE T. 15 2-0 2-1 4-1 4-0 1-0 2-0 2-0 2-1 1-2 3-0 5-1 1-1 3-2 5-2 X 4-1 3-2 1-2 4-0 3-3 2-0 1-2
RAMSBOTTOM U. 16 2-0 1-3 3-1 3-3 4-0 2-1 2-1 0-1 1-0 3-0 0-2 2-0 2-3 3-2 2-0 X 5-0 3-3 4-0 2-1 0-2 1-1
SALFORD CITY 17 5-2 0-0 5-1 3-6 0-0 0-0 2-5 1-2 1-3 1-0 3-3 8-0 2-2 3-3 3-1 1-0 X 0-2 2-3 0-2 4-4 1-0
SKELMERSDALE U. 18 1-0 1-2 3-1 4-1 3-4 2-0 9-0 2-1 1-1 4-1 2-3 2-2 4-2 4-0 2-3 1-1 4-1 X 1-1 3-1 3-1 1-1
SQUIRES GATE 19 0-3 1-0 1-0 1-6 2-1 3-2 1-1 1-1 0-1 0-1 1-0 4-1 1-0 1-2 3-3 0-1 1-2 1-1 X 0-0 0-1 0-1
ST. HELENS TOWN 20 5-1 1-1 2-2 1-0 0-0 1-2 3-0 2-3 0-1 1-1 3-2 1-0 2-0 5-0 1-1 2-1 2-1 0-0 1-0 X 3-3 2-0
STONE DOMINOES 21 0-0 1-1 5-1 1-0 0-2 7-1 1-0 1-4 1-1 1-0 2-1 2-1 0-2 4-2 1-2 4-1 7-2 2-2 1-0 0-0 X 1-4
TRAFFORD 22 2-0 2-3 5-2 2-3 1-0 2-1 0-0 1-2 1-2 1-2 5-2 3-2 4-3 3-2 5-0 0-1 4-2 2-0 2-0 0-1 2-3 X


   
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