Boxing Day blow for Town promotion hopes



There was no festive celebration for Great Harwood Town, the table-toppers before the match, as they fell to a comprehensive defeat against derby rivals Rossendale United on Boxing Day and unless Town improve, with two clashes against promotion rivals to come today and on New Years Day, it could turn out to be a dismal holiday period for them.

For practically all of Thursday’s game, Harwood, who completed the double over Rossendale last season, were second best and were sent reeling by two goals in two minutes early in the first half, both of which came from corners by former Accrington Stanley assistant manager Mick Higgins.

Harwood struggled to find their form, had one real chance of note late in the first half when Mark Bennett shot over the bar and when Eric Geldard pulled a goal back for them 14 minutes from the end of the game, it was their first real goal attempt of the second half.

With Rossendale, who played some very attractive football, particularly early in the match, fading late on, it seemed a possibility-albeit a slight one-that Harwood might scrounge a point after Geldard had pulled the scoreline back to 2-1.

But with six minutes remaining, Wayne Haworth put the issue beyond doubt for the home side when his speculative low shot from the edge of the 18-yard box sneaked into the net past Harwood ’keeper Dave Mottershead’s outstretched left hand.

On the balance of play, it was certainly a fair result and after the game, Harwood manager Malcolm Darling, disappointed that his side had looked so inferior to their opponents for much of the game, intimated that there might be changes on the cards in forthcoming matches.

“We talk about how to tackle a game before the kick-off but just fail to do what we have talked about when we are out on the pitch” said Mr. Darling.

United took the lead in the 16th minute, when former Blackburn Rovers player Paul Round came late onto a right-wing Higgins corner and powerfully headed the ball home.

A minute earlier, Round had headed narrowly over the bar from a similar situation, when a corner was headed on to him by Steve Walker from a corner on the same flank.

Rossendale. Playing some delightful balls through from midfield and looking very sharp up front, continued to pile on the pressure and less than a minute after they had taken the lead, their pacy striker Jimmy Clarke brought a good save from Mottershead with a testing shot.

United made it two goals in two minutes when Mottershead failed to cut out an inswinging left-wing corner from Higgins and former Stanley striker Paul Beck had the easiest of jobs heading the ball over the line to make it 2-0.

Andy Grimshaw and Clarke both had good chances for Rossendale before Harwood had their first real scoring chance.

Ten minutes before the interval, Geldard broke free in the United penalty area, home ‘keeper Steve Hobson blocked his shot and Mark Bennett shot over the bar from the rebound.

Three minutes from half-time, Clarke hit the post for Rossendale with a great chip from the edge of the 18-yard box and within a minute, Harwood found themselves down to ten men when both central defenders-Alan Procter and Harold Martin-left the field in quick succession.

Procter complained of pains in his chest and went to hospital during the interval-replaced by substitute Simon Vercoe-while Martin, still hobbling with an injured ankle, played on in the second half.

Martin looked set to be replaced by Vercoe until Procter left the field with a problem that Mr. Darling felt might be down to ‘flu.

The second half continued in much the same vein as the first, with Rossendale having the lion’s share of the scoring opportunities.

Ten minutes into the second period, however, Paul Goldsborough created a good chance for the visitors when he broke clear and took the ball wide of Hobson.

He had gone too far to take the chance himself and laid it off to Geldard, whose tame effort went wide.

After 76 minutes, Harwood pulled a goal back, practically out of nothing when a blistering 25-yard attempt by Steve Benko hit the underside of the bar, rebounded back into play and Geldard slotted home the rebound.

A couple of minutes later, Geldard broke clear but was well tackled by home skipper Mick Gardiner and two minutes after that, Benko had the ball in the net for the visitors but the offside flag was already up.

Just when it seemed that Harwood might be in with a chance of snatching a point, United put the issue beyond doubt with Haworth’s goal and Harwood could have few complaints about the result.

Their form will certainly have to improve, if they are to maintain their promotion challenge in the New Year.

Playing his first game of the season in the Harwood first team in the Rossendale match was former Stanley assistant manager Ian Nugent, who played for the Showground side last season and used to be on Rossendale’s books.

Rossendale United: Hobson, Gardiner, Higgins, Walker, Yates, Round, Beck, Haworth, Clarke, Grimshaw, Miniero. Sub:Callan (not used)

Great Harwood Town: Mottershead, M Jones, Benko, Martin, Procter (sub. Vercoe 43mins) , Blackburn, Moran, Nugent, Geldard, Goldsborough, Bennett.

Referee: K N Maughan (Stockport)


March 30th 1985


Super Harwood turn tables on United
A tremendous second-half comeback saw Great Harwood Town bring their disastrous run of five successive defeats in all competitions to an end, by completing the double over derby rivals Rossendale United at Dark Lane on Saturday.
The very first goals of the season for Harwood striker Roger Walker and central defender Alan Procter – only very rarely finding his way onto the scoresheet – clinched victory over a side Harwood beat 3-2 when the sides met at the Showground in December.
Rossendale, who included in their side former Blackburn Rovers midfielder Stuart Metcalfe, took the lead after just six minutes when former Stanley striker Paul Beck crowned a great move he started himself in the centre circle and which also involved Mick Mineiro and Mick Gardiner, by rounding Harwood’s former Rossendale keeper Harry Stephenson and slotting the ball home from an acute angle on the right.
Twice in the next 12 minutes, Rossendale went close to adding a second, firstly in the 12th minute when Gary Haworth found himself in the clear but put the ball over the Harwood crossbar from just inside the 18 yard box, and five minutes later, Beck created space for himself well but Stephenson did equally well to block his effort on goal and the danger was cleared.
But as the first half went on, Rossendale, dominant from the outset, became progressively less effective and Harwood came more into the reckoning.
In the 21st minute, Phil Greenhalgh made space for himself well on the edge of the 18 yard box but his attempt on goal went narrowly wide of the target.
In the 41st minute, Harwood skipper Brian Moran did well to win the ball on the right but his cross into the 18 yard box was a poor one.
A minute later however, Town had their best chance of the first half when Greenhalgh beat Rossendale keeper Alan Slater – a late replacement for the injured Steve Hobson – after a back pass but his effort was fairly weak and cleared off the line without much trouble.
Harwood’s lively finish to the first half gave promise of even better things to come in the second half but they had to reshuffle their side after the interval when Kevin Dobson had to go off because of injury. Moran filled in for him at left back and substitute Dave Eastwood took over from Moran in midfield.
Nine minutes into the second half, Beck headed wide for Rossendale but a minute later Harwood were level when a great pass from Brian Foy eluded the Rossendale defence 20 yards out, the ball came to Walker, who slammed it past Slater from the edge of the box.
It was the least Harwood deserved for their efforts in the last 30 minutes of the first half and the opening section of the second and five minutes after the equaliser from Walker – standing in very capably for the injured Mick Marren – Rick Grogan’s side took the lead and the goal that turned out to be the winner came from one of the most unlikely sources, Alan Procter, a vastly experienced central defender whose goals are very few and far between, and even more rare with his feet.
But as Eastwood put over a great cross from the left, Procter showed a striker’s finishing power as he side stepped a Rossendale defender and skillfully slotted the ball past Slater.
Nine minutes alter, Rossendale brought on substitute Gary Dunford in place of Mineiro and Dunford injected renewed vigour into the side.
Ten minutes from time, he had the best chance of grabbing an equaliser for the home side when, put clear by a great ball from United player-manager Dave O’Neill, he saw his attempt on goal chested off the line by Ian Nugent, himself a former Rossendale player.
In the end, Town were good value for their victory and will certainly be relieved to have finally got back on the winning trail after their four successive defeats against top sides in the North West Counties second Division, which finally put paid to their own hopes of promotion.
Those four league defeats were followed by the home setback against Horwich RMI on Wednesday, but hopefully Harwood will now be able to build on their fine performance and result on Saturday over their hectic spell of matches coming up around the Easter period.
Harwood’s Moran and Rossendale’s Haworth were booked for fighting in the 59th minute.
Stephenson, Vercoe, Dobson (sub Eastwood 45 mins), Martin, Procter, Bowman, Nugent, Moran, Walker, Greenhalgh, Foy.

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©2009 J Fenton