2013/14: Pre-season friendly – Garforth Town v Farsley AFC

If the opening pre-season game against Carlisle United was all about a ‘new start’ for Garforth Town and a celebration of that fact, then the remaining friendlies to come, starting with the Farsley fixture would be a real indicator of what was in store for The Miners as they prepare for life in the Baris Northern Counties East League (NCEL).

First-half: Garforth defend a corner.

Of course there was a great ‘feel-good’ factor from the Carlisle game where on a sunny evening, with a crowd of over 200, a 6-0 defeat was met with hearty applause at the plucky efforts of a Garforth team who had trained only twice together. However, the reality is that there are weeks and months ahead this season in which there will undoubtedly be ‘highs and lows’ as the club finds its feet, on and off the pitch. Patience is not a virtue you often associate with football, but for Garforth it is vital this season. Fans have supported the club in a take up of season tickets that was better than the club had budgeted for and Premier Waste Recycling have come on board as a sponsor; indicative of the desire to create a stable and well run club with a future.

However, the progress behind the scenes has to be replicated in terms of the playing squad, but with a limited period of preparation for manager Graham Nicholas this is no easy task. For the Farsley fixture the Garforth squad was pretty much the same as that for the Carlisle game, with the exception of Paul Hagreen, Ben Sampayo, Liam Royles, Bobby Devine, Craig Tomkinson and Dougy Stevenson who were replaced by Senio Bubacar Cadsama Conte, Marko Baldelli, Connor Bower, Josh Hemingham and Brandon Dube.

Ryan Serrant: Farsley AFC

From the kick-off Farsley dominated the play, with Lee Ellington and Aiden Savory prominent up front for The Villagers. Ellington had an early chance from a Steve Mallory cross, but his contact wasn’t clean and it was an easy gather for Garforth keeper Smith. The other outstanding chance fell to Savory, who was found easily by a long ball with his resulting cross-shot hitting the post. As the half progressed, the Evo-Stik North team continued to create scoring opportunities, with Ellington putting a chance in the side-netting after rounding the keeper and later he turned provider for striking partner Savory; but with a resulting header that went wide. Then out of the blue, from a rare Garforth attack, a poor Farsley clearance the ball came to Connor Bower who sent a wonder volley from his left foot which sailed over Tom Morgan to give Garforth a lead on twenty nine minutes. The visitors though didn’t panic and continued to press and Savory’s turn and shot was tipped over by Dominic Smith. From the resulting corner James Riley bravely headed home from just inside the penalty box under a challenge from Senio Bubacar Cadsama Conte on thirty six minutes to level the match at 1-1.

Second-half: Garforth on the back foot.

In the second-half and Garforth were looking increasingly vulnerable to the long-ball over the top and also through the middle of the defence. Therefore it was no surprise when on fifty six minutes from a punt forward and despite the presence of four Garforth defenders, Ellington was able to stab home to give Farsley a 2-1 lead. The Miners were becoming more and more ragged at the back as Ellington was left unmarked on two occasions, but both headers went wide. However, the Farsley number nine did grab his second and the visitors third goal with ten minutes to go, when he converted a penalty after a clumsy challenge on Robbie O’Brien. From the kick-off Farsley nearly scored again, when Jarrod Smalley went through on goal, but Smith make a good save to deny the substitute. Indeed it was a busy last period for the Garforth keeper as he was left exposed again as he saved at the feet of Savory in another one-on-one situation. In truth Farsley should have won the game by more than the 3-1 margin and it showed that there is much to do in the remaining friendlies by Town manager Nicholas. He will have been particularly concerned by the defensive display of his team and by the fact that his players too easily gave possession away. However, this is a young group of players with little playing time together. Unfortunately, time is the one thing the players and manager don’t have as the league season is only two weeks away and they will have to learn quickly the lessons of the games to date and be prepared for the battles that the NCEL will unquestionably present.

2012/13: (Carlsberg) FA Vase – Second Qualifying Round: Pontefract Collieries v Cheadle Town

September seems to be saving its most sunny days for FA Vase weekends, as the third Saturday of the month is bright and warm for the Second Qualifying Round games. I’m spoilt for choice today and amongst the ties I consider attending include Silsden AFC v Northallerton Town, Nostell MW v AFC Blackpool, Pontefract Collieries v Cheadle Town, Selby Town v Formby and Yorkshire Amateurs v South Shields. I decide to make my game choice once I get into Leeds City Railway station.

Down the years travelling to a game has been as much part of the day as the actual ninety minutes itself. Travelling by car up and down the motorways was always an interesting event as you looked out for other fans heading off to watch their respective teams. These days my journeys are confined to trains, but is no less of an opportunity for fan “spotting”. As I wait for the train into Leeds from Cross Gates, on the opposite platform a Hull City fan, resplendent in amber and black stripped shirt, is about to board the Selby service and his journey on to see The Tigers take on The Lions of Millwall. As my train pulls in, I spot a Barnsley fan studying the sports pages of a tabloid, his red hat struggling to contain his mass of black curly hair. Once on board I check my iphone and receive a message on Facebook from an old school friend and fellow Fulham fan. He asks how I think the game will go today as he will watching it live on television in Canada later. I pessimistically  predict a 2-0 win for WBA.

The train now draws into Leeds and it is decision time. Without any apparent reason, I opt for a trip to Pontefract and so head for the Nottingham train as I need to get to Wakefield Kirkgate to make the connecting train to Pontefract Tanshelf station. Having bought a ticket, I make my way to the platform where a dozen or so Blackpool fans are gathered as the Nottingham service stops at Barnsley, where The Tangerines take on The Reds. It’s a fifteen minute journey to Wakefield, so time for some music and  80’s nostalgia from one of my favourite albums, The Icicle Works. I’m still listening as I change trains to Pontefract and the final leg of the journey.

Welcome to Pontefract Collieries

Once off the train it is a very short walk to the ground of about a quarter of a mile, with the ground at the end of Beechnut Lane. Pontefract Collieries are a relatively young club having been founded in 1958 (as their club badge proudly states), although football has been played in the town as far back at the 1890’s. The Colls were one of the founder member clubs of the Northern Counties East League (NCEL) which was founded in 1982/83 and currently play in Division One. Their opponents today, Cheadle Town are also a young club having been founded in 1961. Town play in the North West Counties League (NWCL) in Division One, having joined in 1983/84. These two teams are at a comparable level in the Football Pyramid structure, so on paper at least there is no gulf in levels.

September started brightly for Pontefract as after successive home wins against Clipstone Welfare and Worsborough Bridge Athletic, they moved into second place in the table. However, their next two fixtures (both at home) were lost 2-1 to Hallam FC and Bottesford United and meant The Colls were coming into this game having had their confidence severely knocked. Cheadle Town have no such worries and come into this game on the back of a three game winning streak in September. Town began the month by beating West Didsbury & Chorlton 3-1 in the FA Vase First Qualifying Round and followed this up with League victories over Northwich Villa (2-1) and Leek CSOB (5-3). Would Pontefract return to winning ways or would Cheadle continue their unbeaten run?

Main stand

In the early stages of the game, The Colls looked low on confidence as Cheadle made the brighter start of the teams. The first chance of the game fell to the visitors as Pontefract stood off Town number seven Arron Carroll to allow a strike on goal that went wide. Cheadle were dominating the space in midfield with Josh Taylor looking to get the ball to the dangerous Alex Monde-Leke. Pontefract did create an early chance of their own, when James Hicks headed over. However, it was the visitors who were more threatening and on twenty minutes from a free-kick, an unmarked Monde-Leke headed wastefully over. Therefore it was no surprise that Cheadle took the lead on the half-hour mark. Josh Taylor had time and space on the ball on the edge of the Pontefract box and was able to slot in with Simon Kemp in goal rooted to the spot. Worse was to follow on forty one minutes when in an almost similar situation to the opening goal, Monde-Leke was the player this time unchallenged as he shot past the static Kemp into the corner of the net to double the Cheadle lead. There was much frustration in the playing ranks of the home team as the second goal brought a very heated and public exchange between Craig Robinson and Rob Oldham. The home support too were demonstrating their frustration with the match officials who they believed were favouring the visitors with any 50/50 decisions.

Pontefract captain, Dean Twibey

At the half-time break the players left the pitch to almost silence from the home support. It would have been interesting to have been a fly on the wall in the Pontefract dressing room during the team talk given by Colls manager Brendan Ormsby. He acted by substituting Robinson and Oldham who had clashed late on in the first-half, with Liam Ormsby and Will Ramsay. However, these changes did little to spark a revival from Pontefract as the visitors held on comfortably to their lead in the opening fifteen minutes of the second-half. Indeed Cheadle were still creating chances and although Alex Monde-Leke was not as threatening as he had been in the opening half, on sixty seven minutes, he was allowed to drift across the home defence and slipped in a shot to put the visitors 3-0 ahead. To their credit Pontefract didn’t give in and did create chances as the game drifted into the last quarter. They seemed mightily unlucky to have a header from Will Ramsay ruled out for offside, and skipper Dean Twibey had an excellent chance but fired wide with a volley. On another day, when things are going your way, these opportunities go for you. However, Pontefract did grab a consolation goal in time added-on, when the tireless James Hicks finished well past the advancing Cheadle keeper to make the score 3-1. Even the most die-hard Pontefract fan would have admitted that the better team had won, but it will be a worry that they have lost three home games on the bounce. Brendan Ormsby has to galvanise his squad now for three consecutive away trips (Louth Town, Appleby Frodingham and Albion Sports) and get The Colls back on track. For Cheadle their unbeaten run continues and advance to the FA Vase First Round Proper with a home tie against Wigan Robin Park.

On the return journey it dawned on me that the first two games I had seen in this FA Vase this season had followed an identical pattern. In both games the visitors had established a 2-0 half-time lead, gone on to lead 3-0 in the second-half before the home team got a late consolation goal to leave the final result 3-1. Incredibly the second and third goals in both games were also scored in identical minutes (41 and 67). I could be an unwelcome visitor to a ground in the First Round. You have been warned…!

2011/12: FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round – Hemsworth Miners Welfare v Tadcaster Albion

It has been an unusual start to my “watching” season so far. I’ve already seen a Europa League Qualifying game in July and now in August, I’m about to see a game in the FA Cup! For the first time, I’ll be attending a fixture at the very beginning of the competition, the Extra Preliminary Qualifying Round. 763 teams will enter this years (Budweiser Sponsored) FA Cup, a little bit different to the 15 teams that entered the tournament for the Cup back in 1871. Wanderers were the first Cup Winners, beating Royal Engineers 1-0 at The Oval.

Budweiser marked their new sponsorship by streaming via Facebook, the Ascot United v Wembley FC game last night. The away team securing a 2-1 win with virtually the last kick of the game. My chosen destination today is the Fitzwilliam Stadium, home of Hemsworth Miners Welfare FC.

The Wells were formed in 1981, after Hemsworth Colliery FC was disbanded in 1980 after 60 years of existence. The new club began life in the 1981/82 season in Division Three of the Doncaster & District Senior League. The mid eighties saw the club have a significantly successful period with promotions beginning in 1985/86 and leading to reaching the Premier Division in 1987/88. In 1995/96 The Wells joined the West Riding County Amateur Football League and achieved a League and Cup “double” the following season. Hemsworth’s next change of League came in 2008/09 when they started life in the Northern Counties East League (NCEL) Division One, with the club finishing 10th on 50 points. 2009/10 saw The Wells finish 7th (55 points) and last season 16th (42 points).

So to the new season and Hemsworth’s opponents today in the FA Cup are Tadcaster Albion. Albion play in the league above The Wells in the Baris NCEL Premier Division. Yet, despite the difference in league status, there was a hint of an upset in the air, as Tadcaster came into the game having lost their opening two league fixtures, whilst Hemsworth had taken a maximum six points from their start to the campaign in Division One.

However, the Giant-killing act never looked likely to happen as Tadcaster pretty much dominated the game from start to finish. Albion hit the post midway through the first half and were further frustrated by a couple of excellent saves from Wells keeper Dale Walstow later in the half, which meant that the game was 0-0 at half-time.

The second half brought no respite for the home team and the inevitable happened on 67 minutes when Carl Stewart beat the offside trap and put the visitors into a 1-0 lead. Stewart killed off Hemsworth’s Cup dream less than 10 minutes later, when he unleashed a long range effort that evaded the despairing dive of Walstow. The Wells continued to press and did get a consolation goal with 7 minutes remaining from Andrew Hayward. However, an equaliser didn’t materialise and in truth Tadcaster deserved their 2-1 win to progress to the FA Cup Preliminary Round and a tie away to Pontefract Collieries in the first week of September.