2012/13: Evo-Stik First Division North – Garforth Town v Clitheroe

Last season was the most successful in the history of Garforth Town when they achieved their highest ever position in the football pyramid, finishing fifth in the Evo-Stik First Division North. As a result they played Curzon Ashton in the Semi-Final Play-off. It was a valiant effort by The Miners which unfortunately saw them lose 4-2 on penalties.

Back then it seemed that a base to build-on and an opportunity to have another crack at promotion in 2012/13 had been established. However, it has been a turbulent summer in this part of West Yorkshire. Of the sixteen players involved against Curzon Ashton, only Andrew Villerman remains at the club. Manager Steve Nichol departed along with members of his backroom staff as well as Committee Members, the Club Secretary, groundsman and General Manager. Rumours spread that owner Simon Clifford had departed to South Africa and no longer had any interest in the club and the situation was not helped by the fact that the club website remained devoid of any details. In the end it took the involvement of a local councillor to get a statement from the new management on what was happening.

Despite this background of turmoil Garforth has made it to the start of the new season and faced a home game against Clitheroe to begin their League campaign. I was interested to see what had changed at the club. After a pleasant stroll up to the ground, from the outside little appears to have changed. The bar was open for a pre-match pint and had available free team-sheets, as with my previous visits to Garforth. Admission (£7.00) to the game was the same as last season, as was the price paid for the programme (£1.50). However, it was evident from the content and design that there is a different team (and perhaps cost model) involved with it and its production. This seasons 28 page (12 pages of adverts – 43%) programme is predominantly black and white, compared to the 40 page (13 pages of adverts – 33%), all colour production last season. It maybe unfair to compare at this point given that this is the opening game of the season, so it will be interesting to see how this develops. Inside the programme, Simon Clifford was still detailed as club owner. However, what was missing in the programme was any sponsorship advertising by Genix Healthcare, who became a major sponsor in 2006/07, which then included naming rights of the ground. However, the various signs around the ground still make reference to Genix, as do the players shirts and indeed does the official website. However, given that the last update on the website was June, it is evident there are still things behind the scenes that have yet to be resolved. Physically the stadium itself looked much the same, although the pitch did look dry.

The visitors today were Clitheroe, who after finishing a lowly nineteenth last season, also had a summer of transition, with a new manager in Paul Moore and a host of new signings. At kick-off there was a reasonable crowd (110) with a good number of visiting fans, to witness a completely new-look Garforth team. Clitheroe gave League debuts to their summer signings Hakan Burton, Rob Flint, Louis Edwards, Simon Nangle, James Gardner and Jordan Williams, with two more, Will James and Danny Bell on the bench. In the opening ten minutes, Garforth had plenty of possession, looked fairly comfortable on the ball and created the first real chance which Jadey Ibrahim put over the bar. However, on thirteen minutes it was the visitors who went ahead, when two of the debutants combined, as Simon Nangle’s right wing cross was converted by Jordan Williams. As the players returned to the halfway line, there was a curious moment when a spectator brought it to the attention of the referee that a Garforth player was wearing a watch! With watch removed by the offending player, the spectator also questioned as to whether it was right that the Garforth keeper was wearing a maroon shirt, with Clitheroe wearing red. Nothing was done with that request and the game continued. However, it did raise the question as to what checks had been carried out by the officials prior to kick-off. Despite conceding, Garforth continued to dominate possession, but Clitheroe were solid as a unit and restricted The Miners to long-range efforts that were dealt comfortably by keeper Hakan Burton. Clitheroe though were looking dangerous on the break and on thirty minutes the industrious Alex Johnson found himself through on goal. However, his shot was blocked in a melee of keeper and defenders and from the loose ball Jordan Williams curled his effort against the bar. Undeterred Garforth continued to play with effort and enthusiasm up to half-time, but were lacking a cutting edge in the final third of their play and so went in at the break 1-0 down.

Garforth manager Vernol Blair made a change in his attacking options at the beginning of the second-half with Dom Blair being replaced by Darrell Kendall and Daniel Sherrife giving way to Daniel Redfern. It seemed to spur on The Miners in what was a lively opening fifteen minutes in the second period. Garforth had an effort from Daniel Sherrife cleared off the line and Josh Greenhaigh also wasted a good effort when put through. However, Clitheroe were a constant threat on the break and the visitors had excellent chances through Devenney and Johnson to increase their lead. On the hour they took that chance when from the left Connor Smith crossed and Jordan Williams was on hand to tuck home his and the visitors second of the game. Looking to consolidate that lead, Clitheroe manager Paul Moore made two changes soon after the second goal with Connor Smith being replaced by Ross Dent and James Gardner making way for Danny Bell. Garforth threw on their last substitute in an effort to turn the game around with defender Bernard Williams replaced by forward James Burgess. To their credit both sides continued with a good tempo to the game on what was a warm and humid day. Garforth never gave up and keep plugging away, with Burgess proving to be a handful for the Clitheroe defence. He typified the Garforth spirit, in his willingness to chase and battle for ever ball played up to him. However, he also summed up their lack of finishing ability, when late on he was put through, but screwed his effort horribly across goal. Before the whistle there was one final effort for The Miners, when the tricky Redfern had a shot well saved by Burton in goal for the visitors.

At the whistle, Clitheroe had taken all three points with a 2-0 win. The visitors had looked a useful unit and will surely finish better than last seasons nineteenth place. For Garforth it was a disappointing start, but given the summer of turmoil endured by the club, this new squad had showed that they have ability, determination, effort and enthusiasm. On the evidence of today, they had little luck in front of goal and that is something for manager Vernol Blair to work on. Who knows what is in store for these two sides over the season? On Monday Garforth travel to Curzon (who drew 1-1- today against Salford City), whilst Clitheroe are at home on Tuesday night against Harrogate Railway Athletic (who lost 4-1 at home to New Mills). 2012/13 is underway.

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Posted August 18, 2012 by Editor in category "Football Features

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