Fixture:Toolstation Northern Counties East League (NCEL) Premier Division Division
Date:Saturday 06 November 2021
Teams:Garforth Town v Athersley Recreation
Venue:Bannister Prentice Stadium
Result: Garforth Town 4 (3) – (0) 0 Athersley Recreation
As the season enters the last couple of months of 2021, and with clubs moving towards having completed nearly half of their league fixtures, the tables definitely start to take shape. Take for instance the NCEL Premier Division, where ahead of this fixture Garforth Town sat in third spot, with 28 points from their fifteen games and visitors Athersley Recreation bottom of the table with just 8 points from their sixteen games. On paper a classic, ‘top v bottom’ clash which went with the form book as ‘The Miners’ raced into a two-goal lead within the opening ten minutes. When Garforth got their third after twenty-five minutes with the wind at their backs, it was game over and a heavy beating looked on the cards for ‘The Penguins’. However, thanks to the exploits of the visitors ‘keeper and some missed opportunities, Garforth were only able to add a fourth goal in the second-half to keep up their promotion challenge. All in all a professional job which provided the 216 crowd, who had braved the awful wind and rain of this autumnal Saturday with some decent entertainment.
Garforth’s programme remains fairly much unchanged since the 2019/20 season with an in-house produced edition, which whilst it is colour, it is not on glossy paper. The cover is dominated by ‘The Miners’ club badge, with the club sponsor and league logo and league sponsor’s logo also added, along with the standard match details – date, competition and visitors. Inside, page 2 is given over to the Club Sponsor, Bannister Prentice, who not only have the Stadium naming rights, but are the shirt sponsor as well. This is followed by details of the Club Honours and a ‘Who’s Who’ of Club Officials and Management. The ‘welcome’ to the game is on page 4 and comes from the Chairman and features a nice touch (and one that is always included in the programme) in acknowledging the match officials, with the following: “respect to today’s referee…and his assistant’s…we can’t do this without you guys. Remember no ref no game!”. The notes also detail that Town ‘keeper Toby Wells was due to make his 100th appearance for the club, and before kick-off the Garforth No:1 was presented with a memento to make the occasion.
Page 5 is given over to league sponsor Toolstation, with a double page spread following giving a brief history of ‘The Miners’, useful to any neutral or visiting fans. Pages 8 and 9 feature Garforth’s own fundraising and match sponsorship opportunities, with another two-page spread given over to more of Town’s sponsors. Pages 12 and 13 provide more focused matchday information, with features on ‘Haven’t we met before’ and ‘Previous Results’, always handy to jog memories of previous clashes between the teams. There follows five pages given over to pens-pics of the Garforth playing squad and management team, and then three pages given over to Club sponsors.
Pages 22 and 23 are about the opponents, Athersley Recreation, however, rather than any pen-pics, it details the social projects that the Club is undertaking within that part of Barnsley. And whilst that is to be commended, it would have been good to read about the visitors squad. The NCEL Premier Division table follows on page 24 with another page of Club Sponsors on page 25 followed by page 26 with the fixtures and results, a must in any programme. Strangely the inside cover (page 27) is blank, which either could have been a mistake, or down to a lack of contact. The programme is completed with the back page listed both squads, the details of the match officials and the respective club badges.
This is an example of where in order to keep work to a minimum, which could be down to resources or cost, as much content as possible remains unchanged from fixture to fixture. That is not a criticism, but a reality that makes sense for many clubs at this level. As mentioned earlier, on the day the addition of the visitors pen-pics would have been a good to have included and the blank page was a strange one, but overall it provided fans attending with some content to mull over pre-match.
footballbookreviews (FBR): What were you like at school? Were you academic, sporting or both?
Adam Priestley (AP): I was never the most academic at school, but I never failed in class. I would say I was the ‘middle of the road’ academically. I was always really sporting. I would take part in any sporting activity I could. I think my PE teachers probably got sick of me knocking on the door asking when the next fixture for my year group was.
FBR: Did you play up front in your academy stints at York City and Leeds United?
AP: When I was at Leeds I was a midfielder, but I was so young I don’t think I really had a set position I just played wherever I was told to play. When I was at York I was a striker – very raw though, due to not having much coaching throughout my career at the age of 13.
FBR: What are your memories of playing for Sherburn White Rose?
AP: All my memories of playing with Sherburn are great memories. I still visit the club now all the time as a lot of my close friends still play for them. If I sat here and talked about all my memories we could be here an awfully long time. I only have good things to say about the club and I hope to see them succeed on all levels.
FBR: How did the move to Garforth Town come about?
AP: The move to Garforth came on the back of a really successful season for me at Sherburn. I had scored 44 goals in 42 games in all competitions and I felt it was the right time to leave Sherburn and look for a fresh challenge playing higher up the footballing pyramid. I spoke to a few clubs and they invited me down to train with them on trial. Garforth held an open trial day in Leeds which I attended and was invited back to train with the first team squad for preseason. Then after doing the whole of preseason with them the manager said he wanted to talk to me and asked me to sign and it went from there really.
FBR: What were your highlights from your time there?
AP: My own personal highlight would be scoring the goal that secured the last play-off spot on the final day of the 2011-12 season. Unfortunately we were beaten on penalties in the semi-final.
FBR: The 2011/12 season at Garforth was a terrific one for the club, but ended with that loss in the play-offs and the summer seeing turmoil at the club off the pitch. Were the players aware at any stage during that season that something was amiss?
AP: At no point did I have any idea anything was wrong off the pitch. As far as I am aware nor did any of the others players and if they did then they kept it hidden well and they shouldn’t have kept it from the other players. It was a shame really, because we had such a good side down there that had the potential to achieve a lot, but these things happen in football and you have to look forward and look for new challenges.
FBR: What is your view of artificial pitches bearing in mind the knee injury you suffered whilst at Garforth?
AP: I don’t mind artificial pitches. I think if it means less games being cancelled then they’re good for the game. In terms of injuries I feel that you’re just as likely to get injured playing on grass as you are on artificial pitches. People will have different views to myself I know that, but if you get injured in an unfortunate event that could happen anytime. I prefer playing on grass but I’m certainly not against artificial pitches being used.
FBR: How did the move to Farsley AFC come about?
AP: One of the players I played at Garforth with had moved to Farsley and when he learnt about the happenings at Garforth he contacted me. He said he was going to speak to the manager at Farsley as he was aware they were looking for a striker, so he would let them know I was interested in a move. From there I spoke to the manager and assistant manager and I chose to move there over other clubs that were interested.
FBR: 2012/13 was an incredibly successful season for you; did you consider staying at Farsley for the following season?
AP: Leaving Farsley never crossed my mind really. There had been interest from clubs higher up during the season and I chose to stay at Farsley because I was enjoying my football there. Then when the season had finished I got calls from two teams in the Conference and it was too good to turn down the chance to go on trial at those clubs. So I spoke to Farsley and told them about the interest and they said they wouldn’t tell me to turn down a great opportunity, but they would have to look for other players to replace me in case I didn’t return. Things didn’t work out on those trials and then I went to Guiseley AFC on trial and the manager told me he wanted to sign me so I signed. I didn’t expect to leave Farsley, but due to offers from clubs higher up I chose to leave as I wanted to progress in my career.
FBR: How do you reflect on your time at Guiseley? Was it a case of ‘wrong place, wrong time’?
AP: You could say it was ‘wrong place wrong time’ with the manager being under a lot of pressure to achieve similar to what he had done previously. However, I also know that in my time there I didn’t perform up to the standard needed and the standards I expected of myself. For the manager to get sacked after six games made things tougher, because it meant a new manager who will have wanted to bring in his own players.
FBR: Do you have any regrets about moving there?
AP: I wouldn’t say I regret going to Guiseley, because I feel I learnt a lot about football and a lot about myself in my short time there. Nevertheless you have to live with the decisions you make and for me it turned out to be a bad decision that I had to learn from.
FBR: Was it an easy decision to return to Farsley?
AP: After speaking to the new manager at Guiseley he told me I was in his plans, but he could guarantee me sufficient game time so I told him I would like to leave the club. He told me that he could help me find a club if I wanted his help, but I knew that the only place I wanted to go was back to Farsley so I made the call to find myself a club. I spoke to the manager and assistant manager and within no time at all I was a Farsley player again. I had calls from other clubs higher up, but I knew where I wanted to be.
FBR: What was it like getting the call-up and then representing Gibraltar? Has this feeling altered as you’ve played in subsequent games?
AP: Any game for your country is a massive occasion. I feel so honoured to have been selected for all the squads so far and if I am selected for any in the future this feeling will not change. It is a feeling that is hard to describe really because it’s such a big thing for me but it’s a feeling that I would never change and I hope it can continue.
FBR: If selected for the Germany game, will this have a different feel to it?
AP: It’s hard to say really until you get there and start training and get on the pitch. Obviously it’s not every day you get to play the world champions, but we need to see it as another game for our country in which we need to go out and make our country proud like we do every time we play.
FBR: You said you ‘need to see it as just another game’, but is that possible knowing who the opponents are and that there will a huge television audience and associated media attention?
AP: Personally I don’t think about the media attention on the game. We’re all there to do a job which is to play football. Whether it is against the world champions or other minnows we need to make we take it as another game and do our job rather than focus on the less important things.
FBR: In your quieter moments during the day does your mind wander to think about that game – do you have a ‘Roy of the Rovers’ moment when you think about scoring against the world champions?
AP: Thinking about scoring against the world champions seems crazy, but if selected then it’s something that could potentially happen, but right now it’s not something I think about
FBR: Do you know if any Farsley AFC fans will make the trip to Germany?
AP: It would be nice if some fans could make the trip to the Germany game, but we know no matter what they will do us proud and make some noise for us.
FBR: Will your family and friends make the trip?
AP: I don’t think any of my family will make the trips,but there are a few friends who may make the trip if I get selected. They came to Ireland and hope to make as many games as possible.
FBR: Do you get nervous playing before games (club or international)?
AP: I don’t really get nervous before football games at all. Occasionally I might get butterflies on the way to a big game but that goes right away once the warm up begins
FBR: Do you think you’ll be nervous on the night of the Germany game?
AP: As said before I doubt I’ll be nervous the night before the Germany game, but in the coach to the stadium there might be some butterflies, but as soon as the warm up starts the focus is on the game and the job at hand and nerves quickly go
FBR: Do you have any pre-match rituals/habits that you follow?
AP: Pre-match rituals I have are to put my left things on first. So my left sock then my right – followed by my left boot then right boot and then left shin pad before my right shin pad. Other than that nothing.
FBR: Do you prepare any differently for internationals – i.e. your dietary regime or mental preparation?
AP: When away with Gibraltar we have our nutritionist who sorts all the team meals out so my diet is slightly different but other than that I’ll prepare for the games in the same way.
FBR: Who would you swap shirts with against Germany?
AP: I will swap with any German player as they are all great players but any of the world cup winners will be good.
FBR: Has playing international football brought greater pressure playing at Farsley?
AP: I don’t think that it’s brought any greater pressure, but I know that my club will always demand the best from me and they know what I can do. So if I am underperforming then they will drop me like any other player. That’s how it has to be.
I don’t put any extra pressure on myself because I don’t believe in putting pressure on myself. I do demand the best from myself at all times though but that hasn’t changed from a young age with me as I’ve always strived to achieve the best I possibly can.
FBR: How do you think opponents view you now you are an international?
AP: I don’t know if opponents take me any differently because of me playing for Gibraltar.
FBR: From Allen Bula (Gibraltar national manager) and the squad’s perspective, what is the target for Gibraltar in the qualifiers?
AP: We’re not here just to make the numbers up. We’re in this to compete as much as we can. The group is hugely difficult though, but we have to take one game at a time and see how well we can do and hopefully we can get some positive results.
FBR: What is your personal goal for the qualifiers?
AP: Personally if I can get into as many squads as possible throughout the campaign and then hopefully get as much game time as possible I would be happy. It would also be nice to get a goal or two.
FBR: Have you watched club football in Gibraltar? What is the standard like?
AP: I haven’t watched any of the league games in Gibraltar, but obviously I’ve played with a lot of players that play in the league there in the national team, so I know the standard is good and that there are a lot of good players.
FBR: Would you consider playing in Gibraltar?
AP: I would never rule out playing in Gibraltar or anywhere abroad. It would be difficult though as I have a good job and enjoy what I do, so to leave it all would be a big decision, but as I said I would never rule it out if I felt it was the right decision.
FBR: What prompted you to take up teaching?
AP: I always said when I was younger that I wanted to be a teacher if I wasn’t a footballer and then the opportunity came up to work as a Teaching Assistant and I’ve worked my way up from there.
FBR: Can you compare the satisfaction gained in teaching to football?
AP: It’s hard to compare anything to playing for your country right now. The feeling in indescribable. I love teaching and really enjoy my job but it’s hard to compare the two when they are so different.
FBR: How do you manage the commitments of playing and teaching?
AP: I have no choice but to manage them alongside each other and it’s what I’ve become used to really, so it’s just the norm for me to manage my life that’s a little bit of a rollercoaster.
FBR: What’s your routine when teaching at Morley and playing for Farsley?
AP: As I said before you learn to get into a routine with them all and when you need to fit things in around work and playing football, but it’s what I’m used to now.
FBR: How does this differ when playing for Gibraltar?
AP: When I play for Gibraltar it can be difficult at times, but I keep in contact with people at work to ensure I keep up to date with anything that’s going on and arranging fixtures etc.
FBR: In five years time what is Adam Priestley doing?
AP: Who knows what I’ll be doing. Hopefully I’ll still be involved in the Gibraltar squad and I can make positive strides in my career whether that be stepping into the professional game or whether that be in my profession of teaching, but you never know what might happen in life. Let’s see!
After watching three friendlies this pre-season, it was at last time for some competitive league action and so a trip to Garforth Town for their fixture against Parkgate. I didn’t realise until I checked my records, that this is the third season running that I have attended The Miners opening league fixture.
Back in 2012/13 Garforth lost 2-0 to Clitheroe in the Evo-Stik League First Division North in what was to prove a disastrous season for the team, as turmoil on and off the field threatened the very existence of the club. Last season, with a new management structure in place, Garforth hosted Thackley, but went down 2-1 in a game that had a dramatic finish.
So to today and this season, which this will mark the 50th Anniversary of the clubs history; an achievement given the chaos at Garforth just two years ago. Great credit must go to Chairman Brian Close, Manager Graham Nicholas, the committee and the army of volunteers that have worked hard to stabilise and start to take the club forward.
At the beginning of the season there is always that air of optimism for players and fans alike and at Garforth it is no different as they look to secure the title and promotion back to the Evo-Stik League. That task began today with a visit from South Yorkshire team Parkgate, who last season struggled finishing in 19th position.
Despite the heavy rain and flooding that occurred in the area on Friday night, the playing surface looked immaculate and at kick-off there were blue skies overhead Wheatley Park. However, even though it was a warm day, there were significant winds throughout the game which meant that in the opening quarter of an hour both sides struggled to judge the strength of their passing. Indeed the conditions had a part to play in the opening goal on twenty three minutes. An over hit ball out of defence by Garforth looked to be easily gathered by Parkgate keeper Daniel Morton, but he somehow managed to spill the ball giving Dominic Hackney the simple task of walking the ball into the net. However, Morton made up for his error later in the half when he superbly tipped over a deflected shot from Sam Akeroyd. 1-0 to The Miners at the break a lead they deserved.
The Steelmen though started the second-half the better of the two teams, and got their reward on forty nine minutes. Poor defensive play by Garforth enabled Scott Whittington to work his way into the box where he was crudely brought down by Andy Hawksworth. The Miners skipper was thankfully only shown a yellow card, when on another day a less lenient referee might have sent him off. Scott Lowe confidently scored in the top left hand corner from the spot and it was all square at 1-1. Both sides then had periods of possession although without creating a clear cut chance and as the game entered the last ten minutes it looked as though it was going to be a point apiece for both sides.
However, it all changed on eighty three minutes. Substitute Simni Oyebanji despite being marked by two Parkgate players managed to get the by-line and provide a cut-back pass which was superbly finished left-footed into the far corner by Luke Managham. It was 3-1 just three minutes later, when a well worked free-kick was brilliantly flicked in by Managham for his second of the afternoon.
Perhaps 3-1 was a bit harsh on Parkgate, but Garforth deserved the win and had got the season off to the best possible start. The remainder of August will see The Miners travel to Retford United, and home games against Heanor Town and Bridlington Town in the League and an FA Cup tie at Newton Aycliffe. Fingers crossed that today is the start of something special as they celebrate 50 years of existence.
If anyone was under any illusions about the task that faces Garforth Town in the coming season, then Saturday’s result against Thackley certainly focused the mind. Yes it was only the opening fixture of a forty four game league campaign, but it proved to be a real eye-opener for the players and coaching staff of The Miners.
Manager Graham Nicholas has to be applauded for getting together a team from ‘scratch’, but it will take time before the squad settles and gels as a unit, as more players sign-on and Nicholas is able to impart his vision for how he wants Garforth to play. In the case of the Thackley fixture, The Miners were up against a side used to the rigours of the Northern Counties East League and it showed. The opening twenty minutes of the game were pretty cagey as both teams tried to play passing football when in possession without really threatening or creating a scoring opportunity. However, the visitors started to dominate and Karl Martens had to react smartly to stop an effort from Thackley’s Chris Davey, before another Davey effort went wide shortly afterwards. The pressure from The Dennyboys finally paid dividends on thirty minutes and it was the dangerous Chris Davey who made the breakthrough, firing home after a Matt Morgan cross. The last fifteen minutes of the half were all about Thackley as Martens made excellent saves from Matt Morgan, Mike Garrod and Lewis Morgan, and efforts cleared off the line. The Miners were grateful to hear the half-time whistle and lucky that they weren’t two or three goals down at the break.
However, Garforth came out fighting in the second period and nearly scored immediately as Nick Black’s long-range shot hit the post. They were level though on forty six minutes when Josh Greenhalgh headed home from a free-kick and were the team in the ascendency. Lyle wasted a chance for Town when through on goal and Thackley were struggling to get back in the game. Their frustration showed when goal scorer Davey was booked for a crude late tackle which earned him a booking and the game became a little niggly as further yellow cards for Hall and Obeyami followed. Garforth were creating chances with Nick Allen bundling an effort against the post from a free-kick and Tawanda Rupere wasting a good opportunity. It looked all up for the visitors when they were reduced to nine men for the last fifteen minutes of the game. First Davey collected a second yellow for a lounging challenge on Stoher and was followed minutes later by Matt Morgan in an off-the-ball incident involving Tawanda Rupere. Garforth sensed blood but couldn’t make the numbers advantage count. With just three minutes left, Thackley broke and Josh Eastwood collected and turned before curling home a shot despite keeper Martens getting a hand to the ball. Garforth though continued to press and despite the addition of five minutes of time added on, were unable to take advantage of the chances that feel to Greenhalgh, Lyle and Moise Misambu. At the whistle Thackley celebrated what was an incredible win for nine men.
In summarising the game for Garforth from the side-lines it appeared that the players still need a great deal of direction from manager Graham Nicholas during the ninety minutes in terms of ‘who does what’ and where players should be positioned. At the moment the team seems to lack a leader as it is apparent that on the pitch they are a quiet side and also lack a bit of bite. That is not to say that The Miners should be going out intimidating sides and kicking lumps out of them, but teams need passion and the ability to make their presence felt. Garforth have showed in the pre-season and enough against Thackley that they want to play the game the right way through possession and passing football, but they need to add some steel to that to ensure that it is not another season of struggle.
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).
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.
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.
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. TheMiners 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.
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.
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.
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…”
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).
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.
(11.00am) Welcome to 2012! In football terms a year which includes the Africa Cup of Nations later this month in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, the European Championship Finals in Poland and Ukraine (starting in June) and the much debated return of a Great Britain football team at the London Olympics – quite a year.
Today though is a cracking West Yorkshire derby at Throstle Nest between Farsley AFC and Garforth Town. Both teams have had good seasons to date, with Farsley in third spot and Garforth in eighth. However, they know that there are teams around them with games-in-hand and therefore the pressure is on to keep winning and hope that teams around them drop points. Farsley have been on a great run recently in which they have won seven of their last eight League games. Garforth had a decent December winning three out of four games, so today is set up as an intriguing game.
(11.00pm) Farsley AFC (2) 2 – 3 (1) Garforth Town
When a game finishes 3-2 you assume that it has been a bit of a cracker. However in truth the bumper crowd of 399 witnessed a pretty scrappy affair, due in part to the windy conditions and a pitch that had endured some heavy rain in the previous couple of days.
The game started badly for The Villagers, when in the opening five minutes, Mark Jackson was forced to leave the field with what looked like an ankle injury. However, this didn’t seem to unsettle Farsley and just a couple of minutes later, a through ball put Gareth Grant clear on goal. He kept his cool to round Garforth keeper Higginson to give the home side the lead. The Miners responded positively and it was no surprise when they levelled the score on twenty three minutes with Dempsey heading home for the visitors. Farsley were struggling to impose themselves on the game and even with the wind at their backs there was a lack of fluency to their play. Whilst it would be unfair to say the home team looked disorganised, they appeared to be missing the influence of the injured Mark Jackson. With half-time looming, Simeon Bambrook swung in a corner which found the net to give Farsley a somewhat fortunate 2-1 half-time lead.
As in the first half, Farsley were forced into an early substitution, this time Ben Jones pulled up with a hamstring problem. However, Garforth were soon into their stride in the second-half and were level within seven minutes of the restart. A corner from Oliver Hotchkiss found its way directly into the Farsley net, although there were protests from the home team that keeper Antoni Pecora had been fouled. Farsley continued to struggle in the second half and lacked cohesion all around the pitch. Garforth continued to chase every cause and never allowed The Villagers to settle. The visitors nearly took the lead from an effort by Tom Greaves, when a straightforward looking shot was badly handled by Pecora, who was grateful to grab the ball at the second attempt. Indeed, this incident reflected a Farsley side that looked apprehensive and had no answer to a Garforth side who looked more eager and ‘up for it’. The Miners persistence paid off when with three minutes to go, Paul Walker latched onto a mistake from David Briggs to clinically slot home the winner for Garforth. Farsley had no way back and at the final whistle the visitors celebration showed that not only was this a victory in a local derby with bragging rights at stake, but was a win that well and truly put Garforth into the play-off picture.
Farsley must dust themselves down and look forward to their remaining League fixtures in January with games against Mossley (away), Radcliffe Borough (home), Warrington Town (home) and Lancaster City (away). Garforth will start 2012 with confidence as they take on, Cammell Laird (home), Durham City (away), Curzon Ashton (away) and AFC Fylde (home). Then just as January 2012 started with The Villagers v The Miners fixture, so will the end of the month, as in the West Riding County Cup Quarter Final, Garforth host Farsley on 31st January. It’s going to be an interesting start to the year!
Whilst the football community in the United Kingdom was still coming to terms with the tragic death of Gary Speed, another legend of the game passed away in Brazil. Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira (or as the football world knew him “Sócrates”), died in Sao Paulo aged 57 on 04 December 2011. It is a strange and sad fact of life that only in death are the lives of people often told. Away from the football field Sócrates’ was a qualified medical doctor and he practised once he retired from football. In addition, he was very interested in politics and economics and was a co-founder of The Corinthians’ Democracy, which was set-up to challenge the dictatorial way football clubs and indeed the Brazilian Military Government operated. He had his vices too and enjoyed a drink and a smoke (quoted as a two packet a day man), even during his playing days.
Like another famous footballing-smoker, Johan Cruyff, Sócrates was considered one of the greatest players in the world and as with the Dutchman never won a World Cup. Sócrates played in two World Cup tournaments (Spain 1982 and Mexico 1986) and counted amongst his clubs Botafogo, Corinthians, Fiorentina, Flamengo and Santos. However, Sócrates came out of retirement in November 2004 and at the age of 50, in a blaze of publicity, turned out for Garforth Town against Tadcaster Albion. The Brazilian played for 12 second half minutes in a 2-2 draw in a season which saw Garforth promoted from the Northern Counties East League (NCEL) Division One.
During his very brief time with The Miners, Sócrates made his mark on the West Yorkshire club and at the fixture against Radcliffe Borough today, Garforth paid their respects to the Brazilian. The players warmed up in yellow t-shirts featuring a picture of Sócrates and before kick-of there was a minute’s silence/applause as a wreath was laid. In the match-day programme, Garforth Chairman Simon Clifford paid tribute to Sócrates, saying that the Brazilian had, “…brought a kind of magic. The club was almost bankrupt, but he (Sócrates) became part of our crusade for promotion. He was the most intelligent man in football I’ve ever met…We have lost a unique man and a unique footballer…”
Sócrates would no doubt have chuckled today at the freezing and squally conditions in which the game took place today. He struggled badly with the cold temperature back in 2004, and he would have done so again today. Both sides came into this game on the back of decent runs. Garforth had won three of their last four League games to move into seventh in the table. Whilst Radcliffe Borough had won their last three League fixtures, including an incredible 10-3 victory at Harrogate Railway Athletic. With two sides in confident mood it made for an open first half. Both sides had good chances to score, with Garforth keeper Jack Lonergan in outstanding form to deny Radcliffe striker Ben Wharton on a couple of occasions. Wharton led the Borough line well, although he didn’t endear himself to the home fans with his no-nonsense battling centre-forward display. Indeed the Radcliff number nine was booked for one such tangle with Darren Kelly, much to the delight of the Town fans. Despite the better chances for the visitors, Garforth took the lead just before the half-time whistle. From an Oliver Hotchkiss corner, Rob Pacey rose to head in and send The Miners in at the break with a 1-0 lead.
Garforth started the second-half more impressively than the visitors, but were unable to increase their lead. Their best chance was a breakaway in which Town had a three-on-one situation, but they contrived to delay the killer ball and the resultant Hotchkiss shot was high and wide. Radcliffe took advantage of this miss and on fifty seven minutes levelled the scores after Garforth conceded a free-kick just outside the box. Up stepped Dave Sherlock who curled it delightfully into the net. Wharton continued to give the home defenders problems and on seventy minutes he showed great skill with a lovely pass which sent Steve Burke through to finish coolly past Lonergan for a 2-1 lead. The Miners responded with concerted pressure as the game went into its final quarter and it looked like it had paid off when Town were awarded a penalty with two minutes to go. As a result Radcliffe had Kris King sent off for hand-ball, but Paul Walker could only hit the post from the penalty spot. Garforth had one more chance to snatch a point, but the resultant shot from Darren Kelly cleared the Borough bar. At the whistle, Radcliffe celebrated a fourth successive League victory, whilst Garforth were left with their memories of the day that Sócrates graced this part of West Yorkshire.
Having witnessed Garforth Town come through the last round against Sheffield FC, I returned to the Genix Healthcare Stadium for The Miners Budweiser FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round tie against Frickley Athletic.
Frickley are a division above Garforth in the Evo-Stik structure, playing in Northern Premier League and came to Garforth on the back of 2-0 midweek victory over Stocksbridge Park Steels. Garforth fared less well during the week going down at home 1-0 to Mossley. Therefore, the Cup today was a welcome distraction with Town struggling at the wrong end of the table.
Garforth were aiming to match their best progress in the FA Cup by winning today and entering the 2nd Qualifying Round. The only time this was achieved was back in 2008/09, when after coming through ties against Tow Law Town and Ossett Town, Garforth were drawn at Guiseley. The Miners drew 2-2, but couldn’t finish the job at home and were beaten 3-1 in the replay. By contrast Frickley have a good FA Cup pedigree having reached the 1st Round on 11 occasions, the 2nd Round on 2 occasions and the 3rd once, when in 1985/86 they hosted Rotherham United, losing 3-1.
Given Frickley’s Cup tradition and their higher League status, you would have expected them to dominate the game from the off. However, it was Garforth who got into their stride quickest and bossed the game for the first 25 minutes. In truth, they could have been 3-0 up by then. Within the first 10 minutes The Miners forward Paul Walker had an excellent chance as he found himself unmarked in front of goal, but he blazed badly over. Not long after, Frickley keeper Adam Billard had to be at his best to palm away another Garforth effort on goal. With The Miners dominating, the visitors then cleared off the line from a Darren Kelly effort. They say you need a bit of luck in the Cup and the visitors were certainly getting more than their far share. So it was to prove further when on 27 minutes and with their first real attack, Frickley won a corner and in a bit of a melee, David Cyrus gave the visitors the lead. Lady luck was again with the visitors when just five minutes later Garforth had a goal disallowed for what appeared to be a foul on Frickley keeper Billard. What was also to prove significant later in the game was the yellow card for Darren Kelly as he contested the referee’s decision to strike off the goal. The visitors finished the half in more composed fashion and Alex Callery had a decent chance, but fired wide.
Garforth would have hoped to come out firing for the second half, but the tone for the remainder of the game was set early when a defensive mistake allowed Bradley Grayson to cross for Frickley winger Leon Henry. However, his weak shot was gathered easily by home keeper Higginson. Henry was starting to get more chances to run at the Garforth defence and on 55 minutes Darren Kelly fouled the Frickley forward. The subsequent second yellow reduced Garforth to 10 men and the game was effectively over as James Ashmore beautifully struck home the resulting free-kick. Now deflated so soon in the second half, Garforth huffed and puffed, but had little to show in the remainder of the game. The nearest the home side came to a goal was a Paul Walker effort which grazed the bar midway through the half. However, with the man advantage, Frickley remained in control and never looked likely to relinquish their two goal advantage.
So Frickley Athletic made it into the hat for the 2nd Qualifying draw. For Garforth, they will feel that this is another performance that has typified their season to date. There is a sense of something not being quite right currently at The Genix. Results aren’t going their way and the air of frustration is apparent. One article in the club programme hinted as much when pointing out, “…the apparent lack of players in the squad seeing as yet again we failed to fill the subs bench…” Indeed, today The Miners filled only four of the five available slots. Congratulations to Frickley for making it through, but it was certainly not a Cup of cheer for Garforth. It could be a long and hard season at The Genix.
Postscript: Tadcaster Albion featured on FATV with highlights of their home tie against Scarborough Athletic. Danny Gray opened the scoring for The Brewers on 14 minutes with a header, and got a second after a double-save from the Scarborough keeper on 63 minutes. Carl Stewart completed the 3-0 victory with a free-kick 2 minutes from time.