2013/14: Evo-Stik Division One North – Farsley AFC v Kendal Town

Farsley AFC, fourteen games unbeaten in the league, up against a Kendal Town team who were without a win in 2014. What could possibly go wrong for The Villagers. Well, prior to kick-off perhaps the omens were there to be seen. Farsley may not have lost in the league since mid-November, but they came into this game on the back of a 4-0 beating at Skelmersdale United in the Fourth Round of the (Doodson Sport) League Cup. Also throw into the mix that Kendal had already beaten Farsley twice this season – 3-0 in the league fixture in September and 3-2 in the FA Trophy in October – and maybe what seemed to be a routine three points for The Villagers suddenly wasn’t such a banker.

And so it proved to be.

In the opening forty five minutes, it was the visitors who dominated possession, prompted in midfield by the experienced Danny Coid and the dangerous front-line of Maison McGeechan and Danny Mitchley. Farsley too often went for the long-ball option, whilst Kendal threatened on the break. However, The Villagers were not without good chances. Midway through the half, Robbie O’Brien headed wide from a corner and later Ryan Serrant stormed forward and delivered a tantalising cross that eluded the Farsley forwards. Nevertheless for much of the half, Farsley manager Neil Parsley cut a frustrated figure and his mood was not helped shortly before the half-time whistle. From a quick throw Kendal number 10 McGeehan found his striking partner Mitchley. His first-time left foot effort was well saved by Tom Morgan, but the rebound fell kindly and Mitchley cleanly slotted home with his right foot. 1-0 at the break to Kendal and probably just about deserved.

Farsley came out better in the second-half and put the visitors under pressure. The turning point came just after the hour mark, when Kendal keeper MacDonald produced a stunning save from a close range Elllington header to maintain Kendal’s 1-0 lead. This was doubled on seventy five minutes, when McGeehan’s flick put through Mitchley, whose strike was well saved by Morgan. However, just as in the first-half the rebound fell kindly for Kendal and Callum Hoctor sweetly converted to put them 2-0 ahead. With just eight minutes remaining, Farsley at last had a slice of luck, when substitute Danny Hull’s intended cross found its way over MacDonald’s head and into the net. Farsley now went in search of an equaliser and near got it when a Matty Young half-volley was narrowly over the bar. However as the clock ticked-down, and despite plenty of pressure, there were no further scares for Kendal.IMG_0877

Whilst the loss will be disappointing for Farsley, in reality they are still well placed to claim a play-off berth. However, the remaining ten fixtures present some tough challenges, with home and away fixtures against promotions rivals, Curzon Ashton and Ramsbottom United and away games at play-off contenders Warrington Town, Lancaster City and Darlington 1883.

Neil Parsley has to galvanise his players for this final push towards the end of the season and the Farsley faithful will hope that the defeat to Kendal was just a one-off blip in the journey towards promotion to the Evo-Stik Premier Division.

2013/14: Evo-Stik League First Division North – Farsley AFC v Darlington 1883

After over forty years of watching football you’d think that making assumptions about the outcome of a particular match would be something that experience tells you is best avoided.

However, sometimes you just can’t help yourself. Take the game today for instance. Farsley had lost their opening game of the season away at Clitheroe 1-0 missing two penalties into the bargain and followed this up with a 3-1 home victory over Prescot Cables. Their opponents today Darlington 1883 had stormed to promotion taking the Northern League Division One title last season and had got off to a flyer in the new campaign not conceding a goal, as they dispatched Warrington Town (2-0) at home and Bamber Bridge (3-0) away. With Farsley seemingly still trying to bed in the summer signings and Darlington massive favourites to achieve a second promotion, the result seemed to be a bit of a foregone conclusion. Certainly this was the buzz from the travelling Quakers fans’ that swelled the attendance to a healthy 502 at Throstle Nest.

That confidence translated from the terraces to the Darlington players on the pitch, as they dominated the game from the off. The opening ten minutes belonged to Darlo as Stephen Thompson was the major threat to the Farsley defence. He was providing a dangerous outlet down the left and also had an early attempt on goal which Tom Morgan saved with his feet. Morgan was soon in action again, as he turned an Amal Purewal effort round the post. However, The Villagers held on during that early bombardment and on the counter won a penalty when Darlington skipper Leon Scott clipped the heels of Aidan Savory. Farsley skipper Rob O’Brien stepped up and scored to put the home side ahead with thirteen minutes gone. Darlington though took it in their stride and nearly equalised on the quarter hour mark, but Thompson fired wide after good work by James Moore provided the opportunity. If the expectation was that it was just a matter of time before Darlington equalised then this belief was dispelled as Farsley grew in stature as the half went on with Ellington and Savory coming more into the game. Bell in the Darlington goal had to make a finger-tip save from a Savory volley and suddenly the visiting fans were looking nervously at each other as their side was struggling at the back. Their concern was realised when on thirty one minutes Savory collected the box on the edge of the box before turning and firing home a low drive past Bell. The Farsley faithful were in raptures just three minutes later, when from a Paddy Miller free-kick, Bell tipped the ball onto the bar and with Darlington failing to clear the ball, Savory slammed home his second to make it 3-0. The Quakers players were shell-shocked and their supporters stunned at the shift in momentum of the game. However, they did get back in the game with Thompson providing the cross from which Andrew Johnson had a comfortable finish, just before the half-time whistle.

Many in the ground would have assumed that the visitors would come out all guns blazing in the second-half. However, it was Farsley who started the more positively. Darlington manager Martin Gray reacted by bringing on David Dowson and Craig Gott on fifty four minutes, but just two minutes later Farsley restored their three goal cushion as Savory raced onto a Mark Thompson through ball to smash home for his hat-trick. With the home side 4-1 up they seemed happy to sit back and allow Darlington possession. Whilst this allowed The Quakers plenty of the ball and despite the introduction of final substitute Paul Robinson, Darlington were unable to fashion a genuine chance as the game hit the seventy minute mark. Just as it seemed there would be no breakthrough for the visitors, Farsley backed off too far and allowed Stephen Thompson time and space to shot past Tom Morgan. Darlington continued to ‘huff and puff’ and with seven minutes remaining they were awarded a penalty after Matt Young was adjudged to have fouled Andy Johnson. Stephen Thompson took the kick, but blasted it high and wide and with it went The Quakers last chance to put Farsley under pressure and salvage anything from the game. At the whistle, Farsley had deservedly taken the points with a 4-2 score-line.

Given that it was only the third game of the season, the significance of the result can only really be viewed once the last kick of 2013/14 is taken. Farsley though will take heart from beating the title favourites as they attempt to put the disappointment of last season behind them. For Darlington it was probably a bit of a ‘reality check’ but in the long run will not do them any harm. On the evidence of today, these two sides will be amongst the promotion and play-off spots – blimey, now we’ve moved from assumptions to predictions.

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.

2013/14: Pre-season friendly – Garforth Town v Carlisle United

(Tuesday 16 July 2013)

It is a sporting cliché that the start of a new season brings fresh beginnings and a sense of optimism and nowhere will it apply more than at Garforth Town Football Club in 2013/14. Having finished the 2011/12 season in their highest ever position (fifth in Evo-Stik North First Division), the summer of 2012 proved to be a disastrous one. All but one of the playing squad left as did many of the significant people who ran the club and indeed a number of supporters. With chaos behind the scenes and on the pitch, the club lurched through the 2012/13 season to finish bottom with 16 points having conceded a staggering 157 goals and inevitable relegation to the Baris Northern Counties East League (NCEL) Premier Division. Thankfully the summer of 2013 has seen some stability restored to The Miners with the Richmond International Academic and Soccer Academy coming on-board and the return of many of those who left the club last season including Brian and Jane Close and Paul Bracewell. As well as ensuring that matters on the pitch are on a more stable footing, the new management team will work to get the club back in the consciousness of the local community and start attracting fans back to Wheatley Park.

A ‘new’ era at Wheatley Park

On the pitch, Graham Nicholas has been appointed as the new manager. He brings with him a wealth of experience having coached at a number of club academies including Leeds United, Nottingham Forest, Barnsley, Sheffield United and Rotherham United and in the 2012/13 season he worked with Athersley Recreation in the NCEL. In terms of pre-season fixtures, The Miners start tonight with a fixture against nPower League One side Carlisle United, with games to follow against Farsley AFC, Worsbrough Bridge Athletic and AFC Emley before the league action starts on 10 August.

The Miners are able to start their pre-season with such attractive opposition after reaching an agreement with Carlisle to allow the Cumbrian club to use Wheatley Park as a base to train when playing in and around the area. As part of the deal the team from Brunton Park agreed to play a friendly at Garforth.

(Wednesday 17 July 2013)

My last visit to watch Garforth Town was back in March this year on a grey cloudy day, when The Miners were bottom of the Evo-Stik North First Division and facing league leaders (and eventual Champions), Skelmersdale United. On and off the pitch it was obvious that the club was struggling. Despite being up against the top team in the division only 137 fans witnessed United take all three points with a comfortable 3-0 victory as Garforth were pushed closer to relegation. The ground itself both in terms of the pitch, the bar, the surroundings and the stand looked neglected and the players had kit on that was cobbled together from different seasons, all illustrating the problems at the club.

First-half action

Last night (just four months later), it was a very different situation at Wheatley Park as a good crowd of 216 witnessed a new start for Garforth Town in their first pre-season game of 2013/14. The pitch, whilst dry (unsurprising given the recent temperature), looked tidy and can only improve once there is a bit of rain and cooler days ahead. The clubhouse and stand have been cleaned and it’s amazing what a lick of paint can do to a place. On the pitch the players donned a new playing strip which featured yellow and blue stripes with blue shorts and yellow socks, adding to the ‘feel-good’ factor on the night. However despite all this no-one is getting carried away and there is a sense of realism at the club as new manager Graham Nichols reflected in his programme notes that “this season is about bringing stability to the club…”

Second-half: David Symington about to take a corner.

Of the game itself, Carlisle brought a strong squad and made all their professional class tell as they secured a 6-0 win, but in which Garforth played their part. Lee Miller coolly side-footed home after eight minutes to give United the lead and despite plenty of possession and chances only grabbed a second goal three minutes before half-time, when Mike Edwards fired home from a corner. Both sides introduced a number of substitutes in the second period and Carlisle scored four more goals. The first of these came from Danny Emerton with an easy header just before the hour mark and was added to by a sixteen minute hat-trick from Mark Beck, the pick of which was a clinical finish on eighty five minutes. At the whistle both sides left to generous applaud. A new era for Garforth Town has begun.

Final Score: Garforth Town (0) 0 – 6 (2) Carlisle United

Miller (8), Edwards (42), Emerton (59), Beck (73, 85, 89)

Garforth Town: Dom Smith (Paul Hagreen 46), Moise Misambu, Ben Sampayo, Nick Allen, Ben Jackson (Jack Kirk 30), Josh Greenhaigh (Chris NDukura 46), Alex Booker, Liam Royles (Taran Jheeta 46), Nick Black, Bobby Devine, Craig Tomkinson. Substitutes (Not Used) Victor Balis, Dougy Stevenson, Jack McMurrough.

Carlisle United: Mark Gillespie, Brad Potts (Brandon Gwinnutt 59), Reece James, Mike Edwards, David Livesey (David Symington 59), Paul Thirlwell (Danny Emerton 46), David Amoo (Graham Kavanagh 59), Jack Lynch (Josh Gillies 59), Lee Miller (Mark Beck 46), Lewis Guy (Alex Salmon 46), Matty Robson (Jordan Deacey 46).

Attendance – 216

2012/13: Evo-Stik League First Division North – Farsley AFC v Prescot Cables

As with 2012, my first football outing of 2013 is to Throstle Nest the home of Farsley AFC. Last year it was to see The Villagers take on West Yorkshire neighbours Garforth Town. A year on and it’s my third visit of the 2012/13 season to Farsley AFC, having seen them draw 1-1 with Ramsbottom United in September and then suffer a 3-1 reverse against Cammell Laird in October. Today the visitors are Prescot Cables who are struggling at the wrong end of the table having secured just 14 points from 21 games so far. The Tigers have only taken two points at home to date but have won three on the road against Goole AFC, Garforth Town and Wakefield, as well as three draws. However, coming into this game they had lost their last five fixtures. Farsley were unbeaten in their last four league games, but had only drawn the last two outings against Harrogate Railway (2-2) and Ossett Town (3-3). The Villagers have already taken three points against Prescot, having won 1-0 on Merseyside with a first-half Ryan Watson goal. Farsley are once again in the play-off ‘mix’, but have played more games than the teams around them and therefore a victory today was an absolute must in order to maintain their position.

The supporters pre-match talk in the clubhouse centred on the performance in midweek of Farsley whilst overcoming Whitby Town 3-1 in the Doodson Sport (League Cup); praise that was reflected in the match programme notes of manager Neil Parsley who said the players deserved “…a pat on the back…” after the victory.

However, The Villagers looked anything but comfortable in the opening minutes against Prescot as the visitors opened the scoring on five minutes. Farsley failed to deal with a long ball into the box and as the defence hesitated, The Tigers forward Ryan Grattan finished clinically past the helpless Ben Higginson. Indeed The Villagers keeper was the only player who seemed to be have any focus in the opening quarter of the game with a couple of early saves, as Farsley generally wasted possession too easily. Liam Dawson was leading the line well for Prescot with Owens also dangerous in midfield. Gradually though the home side worked their way into the match and David Stead had an effort on goal well saved by Martin Campbell. From the resulting corner the Prescot keeper was again in action, this time clawing away a header from Matt Dempsey. With half-time approaching and Cables still leading, David Stead pulled a hamstring as he tried to keep the ball in play after chasing down a through ball. With Stead unable to continue, Gareth Grant replaced him.

In the second-half, Farsley started brightly and Grant found himself free on the right in a one-on-one with The Tigers keeper Campbell. Grant was able to skip past the Prescot stopper, but was forced wide and was only able to shoot into the side netting. However, on sixty two minutes he made amends with a magnificent strike to level the scores at 1-1. The battle lines were then very much set for the remaining twenty eight minutes as Farsley looked for a winner and Prescot endeavoured to hang-on for a point. However, The Villagers in all honesty never really created a decent chance to win the game, something which irritated manager Neil Parsley, who became increasingly frustrated and animated as the half went on. The manager shuffled his pack in search of a winner, with Owen Davies and Sam Robinson making substitute appearances in the last ten minutes, alas to no avail. Despite a lack of possession, Prescot continued to cause problems as they broke out through Liam Dawson. Indeed, The Tigers might have won it as late on Ben Higginson misjudged a couple of Prescot efforts on goal. In truth a draw was probably a fair result. As the Farsley players and management left the pitch, their bowed heads told the story of a game that they knew they should have won, but never did enough to take the points.

So what now for Farsley? The Villagers have just sixteen league games remaining and whilst they have the ‘points in the bag’, all the other promotion chasing clubs around them have games in hand. That is not to say that Farsley are out of the running for a play-off place, but they can’t afford to drop too many more points like they did today against opposition lower down the table. It also means that when they take on the likes of Mossley, Trafford, Skelmersdale United and New Mills in the coming weeks, these fixtures have to be won. The reality this season for Neil Parsley is that his team has suffered with a number of injuries and suspensions leaving the squad looking thin and inexperienced; which has resulted for the most part in The Villagers been inconsistent in the league, with too many games drawn. Despite all this, Farsley are unbeaten in their last seven league and cup games and a win at leaders Mossley next week could make it a very interesting run-in for The Villagers. Football? It’s a funny old game.

2012/13: Evo-Stik League First Division North – Farsley AFC v Cammell Laird


Programme Cover: Farsley AFC v Cammell Laird

On my last visit to Throstle Nest back in September for the fixture between Farsley AFC and Ramsbottom, in a game which ended 1-1 and continued the home teams run without a win in the month, I commented that “…on this evidence, Farsley will have their work cut out to get amongst the play-off places, but their cause will be helped once the suspensions and injury situation improves…”

Well they certainly proved me wrong. After that game, The Villagers went on a run of six consecutive league victories, with home victories over Ossett Town (4-0) and Clitheroe (3-0) and four wins on the road at Garforth Town (3-1), Prescot Cables (1-0), Wakefield (5-0) and Goole AFC (3-0).

This impressive run took Farsley to second in the table prior to today’s home fixture against mid-table Cammell Laird. The Camels came into the game on the back of consecutive away wins after a 2-0 victory at Kendal Town in the FA Trophy (First Qualifying Round Replay) and a league victory at Radcliffe Borough (3-0). Therefore, Farsley knew that they were in for a game.

Given the form that Farsley were in, it was no surprise that they started confidently and in the opening ten minutes looked comfortable in possession and forced an early corner. However, The Villagers were caught cold on ten minutes when hesitancy in the Farsley defence allowed a through ball to fall to Jamie Henders who finished clinically past keeper Tom Morgan. This was only the second goal in seven league outings that Farsley had conceded and the players looked genuinely stunned and shell-shocked as they returned to the centre circle to restart the game. Worse was to follow for the home side when on seventeen minutes they found themselves 2-0 down. Steven Ferrigan fed Jamie Henders, who was lucky when his miscued shot ran through to Aaron Bowen, who slotted home. There was a half-hearted appeal from the Farsley defence for offside, but in reality they had been lethargic once more and were punished for it. It was not turning out to be a kind opening half for The Villagers, when experienced defender Mark Jackson was injured  and had to be replaced by Sam Robinson on twenty five minutes. Farsley huffed and puffed to try and get a foothold into the game, but never forced Laird’s keeper Atherton into a serious save. Just when Farsley thought it couldn’t get any worse, on the stroke of half-time Aaron Bowen got his second when he skilfully headed in a strike from Mike Grogan. The home crowd was stunned as the teams went off at the end of the first-half with Cammell Laird 3-0 up and cruising.

Farsley AFC – The only way is up?

It would have been interesting to have heard what Farsley manager Neil Parsley said to his side at the interval, but he made no changes as the teams emerged for the second-half. However, with an hour gone and little being created by his charges, Parsley substituted substitute Sam Robinson with Tom Dugdale. As in the first-half, there was plenty of endeavour from the home team, without a great deal being created in the way of chances. Finally on seventy eight minutes, Farsley scored when Adam Muller got wide and pulled the ball back for Adam Priestly to score from close range. This lifted the home crowd and they nearly had another goal to celebrate soon afterwards, when Muller lobbed The Camels goalkeeper Kevin Atherton, but Chay Dysart, made a spectacular over-head clearance on the line to retain the visitors two-goal lead. That was pretty much the last serious threat for Farsley and as the whistle went, Cammell Laird celebrated a third consecutive away win, whilst Farsley’s unbeaten run had come to a dramatic end.

2012/13: Evo-Stik League First Division North – Wakefield v Salford City


The Raipd Solicitors Stadium – home to The Wildcats and The Bears

Saturday 06 October 2012 (11:00)

Wakefield v Salford at Belle Vue (or The Rapid Solicitors Stadium, in its sponsored form), will for some mean I’m here for a rugby league fixture between two Super League teams. However, today it is the football clubs of these locations in Yorkshire and Lancashire that are doing battle.

Wakefield returned to the city after playing last season at the home of Ossett Town and to date this season has been something of a struggle for The Bears. In August they played four fixtures and failed to score in them all. There were league defeats against Skelmersdale United (2-0), Trafford (7-0) and Ossett Town (3-0) and a FA Cup exit to Garforth Town (1-0). September continued in depressing fashion as Radcliffe Borough beat Wakefield 4-0 in the league, but was followed a week later with a first victory 2-1 at Lancaster City in the FA Trophy – Preliminary Round. Despite this first win, New Mills came to Belle Vue and took the points with a 5-3 victory; leaving Wakefield rooted to the bottom of the league with the dreaded Eurovision nil points. However, two away trips in their next league outings saw The Bears grab their first league points of the season with a 2-2 draw at Clitheroe and a 2-1 win over fellow-strugglers Goole AFC, condemning West Yorkshire neighbours Garforth Town to the bottom spot. That game at Goole on 25 September was the last league action for Wakefield as they ended September with a FA Trophy (First Qualifying Round) loss at Burscough. In midweek another cup exit was endured as a second-string Wakefield team lost 5-1 to Ossett Town in the West Riding County Cup – First Round.

Salford City currently sits seventh in the table, with ten points from the five league games they have played. The Ammies started the season slowly with an opening day home draw against Curzon Ashton, followed by a 5-3 defeat at Farsley AFC. However, they have turned this around with three successive league wins against Bamber Bridge (2-1), Goole AFC (3-0) and Lancaster City (1-0). In the FA Cup, City enjoyed a mini-run with victories over Hemsworth Miners Welfare (5-1) and Lancaster City (4-0), before losing 3-2 to FC United of Manchester. Exit from the FA Trophy (Preliminary Round) came at the hands of Skelmersdale United.

The league table suggests that Salford must be favourites to take the spoils, but Wakefield have got league points on the board in their last away two outings, and will be hoping to pick up their first points at home. Fingers crossed for a cracking “War of the Roses” clash…

Saturday 06 October 2012 (22:00)

Wakefield fans must have guessed it was going to be a difficult day when the first two clearances of the match by The Bears keeper Neil Bennett, were nervously dealt with. The first was sliced and the second was sent direct into touch, which brought hoots of derision from the travelling Salford fans. Wakefield never really recovered from this tentative start and in the opening forty five minutes were always on the back foot. The home team conceded the midfield area, which allowed Salford time on the ball to set up attacks at will. Osebi Abadaki was getting down the wing for The Ammies and from one of his crosses the resulting shot from Steve Yarwood was well saved by Bennett in the Wakefield goal. Indeed in the opening forty five minutes, Yarwood and Abadaki were the main threats for Salford, keeping the Wakefield defence on the back foot. However, despite all their possession, Salford were unable to turn their dominance into goals and the teams went in at the break all level at 0-0.

Salford City on the attack.

Salford started the second-half in the same vein as the first and it was no surprise that the visitors took the lead on fifty five minutes. Osebi Abadaki again got wide and this time his cross was converted by substitute Rob Kinsella, after a scuffed effort with the cross reached him. The lanky Kinsella was making his presence felt, although the Wakefield faithful were unhappy with the way he ‘put himself about’. Undoubtedly the visitors deserved their lead, but as the second-half continued they were unable to add to it, despite chances falling to Steve Yarwood, Jimmy Holden and Danny White. Salford were nearly made to pay for their profligacy when Wakefield had an excellent opportunity. However, The Ammies killed off the game with just less than ten minutes to go. Having only just come on, substitute Gavin Salmon was presented with a chance after a defensive mix-up which allowed him to slot home, following an initial save by Bennett. Salmon seems to be a bit of a cult figure with the Salford fans, who loudly saluted the goal with a chorus of “…feed the fish and he will score…” Salford weren’t done though and on eighty six minutes, defender Andrew Heald scored from a corner to complete a 3-0 win.

It was a poor display from Wakefield which leaves at the wrong end of the table. The Bears just never seemed to get into the game at all and allowed the visitors all the room and possession. Given that, Salford had enough quality in the team to take advantage and record a third away win which moved them up to sixth place. Wakefield have yet to register a point at home and today certainly tested the patience of the home fans – difficult times for The Bears.

2012/13: Evo-Stik League First Division North – Farsley AFC v Ramsbottom United

Saturday 22 September 2012 (10:00)

Last season Farsley finished fourth and made it into the play-offs, only to lose 3-0 in their Semi-Final game at Witton Albion. Having been so close to promotion and boosted by a number of summer signings, there would have been plenty of optimism around Throstle Nest that another decent challenge to make the next step up the football league ladder was on the cards. However, so far the season has never really got going for Farsley.

Their league campaign opened with a creditable 1-1 draw at Lancaster City, followed by a 5-3 home defeat of Salford City and Farsley ended August unbeaten after a 3-2 win over Jarrow Boldon Roofing CA in the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round. However, so far September has been a miserable month for Farsley. It started with a 4-0 home drubbing by Mossley and was followed by another league defeat 2-0 at Ossett Albion. Farsley faced Ossett again just four days later at Throstle Nest, in the FA Cup First Qualifying Round, where the teams played out a 1-1 draw. In the replay Albion won 1-0 and Farsley’s participation in the FA Cup was over. Another Cup exit followed swiftly as after a draw with Radcliffe Borough, the replay at Stainton Park saw Farsley slip out of the FA Trophy with a 1-0 loss.

Today Farsley return to league action against Ramsbottom United hoping to kick-start their season. Their opponents are new to the Evo-Stik League First Division North, as Ramsbottom were promoted as Champions from the North West Counties Football League Premier Division. The Rams have had a steady start to this season, which began with an opening day 3-3 draw in the league against Cammell Laird and was followed by a 1-0 win at Ossett Town. August ended on a high as Brigg Town were dispatched 3-0 in the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round. September started with a second away league win, this time 2-0 at Goole. There then followed a first league loss of the season, at home to Skelmersdale United. The Rams then exited the FA Cup after a 3-1 defeat at AFC Fylde, but bounced back last weekend with a 1-0 win over Brigg Town in the FA Trophy. United have been good on their travels so far this season and this will be a test of character for Farsley, who have struggled for goals, scoring just two in their last six matches.

Saturday 22 September 2012 (22:00)


First-half: Farsley on the break

On a sunny September afternoon, Farsley started brightly despite the poor month they were so far encountering. Up front Gareth Grant was posing the main threat for the home team and he had an early chance well saved by Ramsbottom keeper Grant Shenton. The positive start by Farsley was soon rewarded though on fifteen minutes, when Adam Muller played in Gareth Grant whose scuffed effort crept into the goal with Shenton wrong-footed. This spurned on the home team and further chances were being fashioned. The Rams keeper Grant Shenton was in inspired form as he kept out Muller with a full length save. On the half hour, Muller was again close as great control on his chest created a volleyed opportunity which just went wide. Farsley’s dominance was such that central defender Mark Jackson was increasingly venturing forward as they pressed for a second goal. It was not until shortly before half-time that the visitors created their first real chance, when Lee Gaskell had an effort comfortably gathered by Tom Morgan in the Farsley goal. The home side were worth their 1-0 lead, but really should have been further ahead.

Second-half: Ramsbottom defend

In the second-half, Farsley were again on the front foot in the opening period with Shenton saving brilliantly from a Ryan Watson shot. The dangerous Muller had another opportunity to increase the lead, but could only put his effort over the bar. With the visitors on the back foot, changes were needed and on the hour Phil Dean was replaced by Grant Spencer. The substitution proved to be inspired as within a minute The Rams were level. With almost his first touch, Spencer provided a perfect through ball for Gaskell, who lobbed it past the advancing Tom Morgan to score. The Rams and their fans sensed that the tide had turned as Gaskell went close on a couple of occasions with the game entering the final quarter. However, Farsley did have an excellent chance to win in near the end, as with a couple of minutes to go Gareth Grant was played in on the right, but instead of nestling in the back of the net, his shot just went wide. Ramsbottom though didn’t settle for a point and substitute Ryan Moore was denied twice in time added on, first by a brave save from Morgan and with seconds to go by the assistant’s flag.

Full-time: Farsley 1 – 1 Ramsbottom United

At the whistle the players left to good applause from the crowd for what had been an entertaining encounter. Farsley have still yet to win in September, but will entertain Osset Town on Tuesday and visit struggling Garforth Town next Saturday, in search of three points. Ramsbottom continue unbeaten on the road in the league and now look forward to a home tie to end September, against Northwich Victoria in the FA Trophy 1st Qualifying Round. On this evidence, Farsley will have their work cut out to get amongst the play-off places, but will be helped once the suspension and injury situation improves. For Ramsbottom, they looked to have enough battling qualities to ensure this is a season of consolidation in the league.

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.

Evo-Stik First Division North – Harrogate Railway v Trafford

Geographically Harrogate is a town in North Yorkshire situated 12 miles from Leeds. It is best known for its Spa facilities and Betty’s Tea Rooms – a town also immortalised by Alan Bennett in the television programme, Dinner at Noon (BBC, 1988) which portrayed the staff and guests at the Crown Hotel in Harrogate.

Given this, Harrogate is not a town people associate with football, yet it is in fact home to two clubs, Harrogate Town and Harrogate Railway Athletic. Harrogate Town is the elder statesman having been founded in 1914, whilst Railway came along in 1935. Town also have the edge in terms of League status over their rivals in that they play in the Blue Square Conference North, whilst Railway ply their trade in the Evo-Stik First Division North.

I’ve never been to either of the grounds, but had the choice this weekend to visit one of them, as both Harrogate clubs were at home. Town hosted AFC Telford United in the FA Trophy whilst Railway had a League fixture against Trafford. In the end I opted for a visit to Station View to watch Harrogate Railway v Trafford.

In terms of history the club was formed by workers at the Starbeck LNER depot, initially joining the local Harrogate League. The 1950’s saw the club progress through the West Yorkshire League to the Yorkshire League winning the West Yorkshire Football League Division Two Championship in 1950–51. In 1953 they made the Second Round proper of the FA Amateur Cup going out 3-2 at Harwich & Parkstone. Further success was achieved in 1957-58 when Railway were promoted from Yorkshire League Division Two.

However, in 1959 the locomotive sheds closed which affected finances as many of the workers and players, had to leave the area. Nevertheless, the club battled on through the sixties and they almost repeated their FA Amateur Cup exploits of the fifties when they made the First Round proper in 1961 only to lose 4-2 at Whitley Bay. The 1963-64 season Railway won promotion to the First Division of the Yorkshire League, which back then was just three steps from the Football League and got through to the Yorkshire League Cup Final, only to lose to Farsley Celtic after a replay.

The late sixties and the seventies became a real struggle and Railway had to pull out of the Yorkshire League and return to the Harrogate League in 1973. This gave the club time to re-group and they were back in the Yorkshire League in 1980 becoming founder-members of the newly created Northern Counties East League (NCEL) in 1982. In 1983-84 Railway won the NCEL Division Two North title and the League Cup with a 5-0 victory over Woolley Miners Welfare.

In the 1990-91 season Railway made their first major impression in the FA Cup when they reached the Fourth Qualifying Round, going out 3-1 at Chorley. As with many clubs at this level the nineties proved to be difficult times financially. However, in 1998-99 Railway won the NCEL First Division under David Fell, however he departed at the end of the same season, taking most of the side with him. New Manager Paul Marshall kept Railway in the Premier Division and was to mastermind two amazing back-to-back FA Cup adventures.

 In 2001 Railway reached the Fourth Qualifying Round before a 3-2 defeat at home to Morecambe. Just a year later and Railway went even further. The Harrogate club gained a 2-1 win at Slough Town in the First Round proper and history beckoned. The draw for the Second Round produced a fairy-tale tie. Railway as the lowest-ranking club ever to reach this stage were drawn at home to Bristol City, then top of the Second Division and the highest-ranking club in the Second Round. Railway chose to host the game and with temporary stands erected at Station View, Sky TV broadcast the game around the world and the club was the focus of the football universe in December 2002. However, the dream ended there and Bristol City ran out winners 3-1. The season did bring silverware however; as the NCEL Presidents Cup was won as Railway beat Bridlington Town 7-2 on aggregate.

Success came again to Station View in 2005-06 as Railway won promotion to what was the UniBond Northern Premier League. In 2007–08 the town of Harrogate was gripped by FA Cup fever as Town and Railway met in the Fourth Qualifying Round. Railway emerged 2-1 winners, only to lose 3–2 to Mansfield Town in the Second Round proper, a fixture which was televised live on Match of the Day.

This season has been a strange one to say the least. Railway opened 2010-11 with a scoreless draw at home to Prescot Cables and three days later a thumping 6-2 away at Garforth Town. September was a terrible month as the Railway took just 1 point (at Ossett Albion) from 7 League games and found themselves bottom of the table. This dreadful run continued at the start of October, as two further home defeats occurred against strugglers Leigh Genisis and League front-runners Chester. Fortune turned with a 2-1 FA Trophy First Qualifying Round win at Ossett Albion and October ended with three more games unbeaten. A League point was won in a 2-2 draw at Witton Albion, followed by progress in the Presidents Cup (3-2 away at Durham City) and another away win at Romulus in the FA Trophy Second Qualifying Round. November and Railway simply couldn’t stop winning as League victories were obtained against Chorley, Durham City and Mossley, and a Cup double against Wakefield in the West Riding County Cup and Presidents Cup. The only blimp was exit from the FA Trophy at the hands of Nantwich Town.

That game took place on 20th November and proved to be the last action for Railway for three weeks. The heavy snow and wintry conditions hit the North hard and despite the thaw in the week beginning 6th December, the club was not confident the Station View Ground would be fit for play. However, incredibly the game against Trafford did take place.

If people are unsure of the financial struggles at this level of the football pyramid then the following should provide some enlightenment. Just 68 hardly souls braved the weather to watch this fixture. Every penny is crucial and so the recent postponements hit clubs hard. Given that Railway didn’t believe the fixture would go ahead they didn’t order any programmes for the game. They calculated that if the fixture went ahead it would cost less to suffer the League fine for not producing a programme on the day, than to go ahead with the expense of printing and then be stuck with them if the game was cancelled. It also impacted on the catering, as the crowd was informed before kick-off over the tannoy that there were no pies on sale, as they hadn’t been ordered as a precaution against the match being cancelled.

So to the game itself. The pitch was in remarkably good condition given the snow that had fallen in and around North Yorkshire in the proceeding weeks. The opening ten minutes were somewhat frantic as both sides struggled to get rid of the rustiness of not having played for three weeks. Railway settled first and took the lead in the 13th minute when Michael Duckworth broke down the right past his defender and crossed to the near post where Jon Maloney headed home. However, the lead lasted just three minutes as a stunning Chris Baguley strike ripped past Railway keeper Craig Parry to level the scores at 1-1. The score changed again in the 19th minute as the Trafford defence was split by a mis-hit pass from Liam Gray which fell to Andy Jackson, who lobbed the advancing Aaron Tyrer to restore Railway’s lead. Once again Trafford responded and just four minutes before half-time, were level at 2-2 with a goal from Jamie Baguley. So honours even in what was an entertaining opening forty five minutes.

Railways were quick to start in the second half and within a minute of the restart were back ahead, as Michael Duckworth drilled one past Parry to give the home side a 3-2 lead. Trafford fought back, but Railway looked the more likely to score as the game went on. Wayne Harratt thought he has sealed the points with a header, but was ruled out for off-side. So a win for the home team which see Railway in 12th position and continues their recent revival.

On my way out of the ground I noticed the club flag displaying the Railway badge which features not trains, but a beaver. A symbol representative of all those who worked so hard on the railways down the years, but also a fitting tribute to those today who work so tirelessly to keep Harrogate Railway Athletic going, both on and off the pitch.

The official website of Harrogate Railway Athletic FC can be found at: http://www.pitchero.com/clubs/harrogaterailwayathletic/