Programme Review: 2022/23 Handsworth FC

Fixture: Toolstation  Northern Counties East League (NCEL) Premier Division

Date: Saturday 21 January 2023

Teams: Handsworth v Maltby Main

Venue: Express Worktops Stadium, Olivers Mount, Sheffield

Result:  Handsworth 1 (1) – (1) 2 Maltby Main

Programme cost: £2.00

Pages: 32

The freezing temperatures of December 2022 and January 2023 have heavily impacted the non-league fixture calendar this season. Take for instance Saturday 21 January. Of the scheduled twenty league fixtures in the NCEL, only two survived, those at Handsworth and Hemsworth Miners Welfare – the common denominator? Both clubs have artificial pitches. Love them or hate them, they do have their advantages and without doubt was the reason these fixtures went ahead.

Of the two, FBR took the option of a first visit to Olivers Mount in Darnall, Sheffield who as part of a decent crowd of 254 on a very cold, but bright day, enjoyed a local fixture against Rotherham based Maltby Main, with the visitors getting a last gasp winner to take all three points in a 2-1 victory.

The welcome at both the main bar (set a little way from the ground entrance) and entry to the playing area was as is usual in non-league circles, warm and friendly. Admission was paid at a hut with a 32 page all colour programme also able to be purchased. This edition covered both the midweek NCEL League Cup fixture vs. Ollerton Town and the league encounter vs. Maltby Main. Now I know that this divides fans and even some leagues, where double issues aren’t permitted. However, in the current economic climate it seems a sensible approach to save not only money but volunteers time in putting together two separate editions with little turnround time.

So what of ‘The Ambers Review’ as the Handsworth match programme is titled? Well the cover is an attractive one featuring a member of the Ambers squad and in the club colours of yellow and black. It contains all the usual detail you would expect with the date, opposition and competition displayed, the club badge and the logos of league sponsor (Toolstation), league benchwear provider (Macron), ground sponsor (Express Worktops) and shirt sponsor (HE Barnes).

Pages 2 and 3 have the club directory and history. Here there are a couple of observations. Firstly, the history is one solid block of text, which would be visually more attractive if broken down into paragraphs. The second point is that although the club badge has the date 1986 on it, the history within the programme only provides details from 2014/15. Now there maybe a reason of space which explains why the content as is. However, from a neutrals point of view it would have been interesting to read of the club from 1986. Page 4 is given over to all the various club sponsors, with page 5 ‘From the Dugout’ the notes of Aiden Spowage (‘Spow’) part of the management team, providing his review of results to date and a welcome to the opponents.

The next five pages are pen-pics of the Handsworth squad, especially useful for neutrals and away fans unfamiliar with the home team squad. Page 11 features the thoughts of Ambers skipper San Finlaw, who in addition to welcoming both Ollerton and Maltby Main, provided his views on Gareth Bale’s recent retirement and his choice of greatest ever Premier League player. Pages 12 and 13 provided a match report of their 1-1 draw with Eccleshill United, followed by a classic of many a programme, a Q&A with a featured player. Midfielder Morgan James features in this edition of ‘Meet the Ambers’ who in response to the question, ‘What would be your death row meal?’ responded ‘Nando’s simple as that!’ It must be decent in Sheffield!

The centrespread (pages 16 and 17) contain the seasons fixtures and statistics, with the results column dominated by red blocking highlighting that the Ambers have had a wretched recent league run which saw their last victory in the NCEL back in mid-November. The stats continue on page 18 with the squad appearances for this season and their Handsworth career. Page 19 is an advert for Macron who besides being a league sponsor, also provide the Ambers kit. Another match report features on pages 20 and 21, this time the 2-0 defeat at Goole, and you have to admire the honesty of the reporting, with the writer beginning the piece, ‘Another turgid performance on the road’ – candour to be admired.

Page 22 is a advertorial from The FA featuring the RESPECT campaign and message, which has come to be more relevant with a noticeable increase in behaviour problems in non-league football this season. This is followed by a page on Ambers league cup opponents, NCEL Division One, Newark based, Ollerton Town (who incidentally, the Ambers beat 2-0 with a brace from James Eyles). Page 24 is an advert for club shirt sponsor HE Barnes followed by an article from the Non-League Paper putting the case for a third promotion place from the National League to the Football League.

The next three pages are given over to Maltby Main with two pages of history and one of pen-pics, standard programme content but vital reading for home and neutral fans. As with the Ambers history, the formatting of that for Maltby would have benefited from splitting into paragraphs.

Page 29 contains two adverts, one for league sponsor Toolstation and the other for BMW Construction. Pages 30 and 31 details the squads for both games, with the final (and back) page providing the NCEL Premier Division table. All useful for fans on the day.

All in all this programme is well worth the £2 with plenty of material to see fans through their pre-match and half-time read. It only contains five pages of adverts (approximately 15%) and is a well written, edited, produced and printed programme.



Programme Review: 2022/23 Yorkshire Amateur AFC

Fixture: Toolstation Northern Counties East League (NCEL) Premier Division

Date: Tuesday 28 September 2022

Venue: Roxholme Road

Result: Yorkshire Amateur 0 (0) – (1) 3 Hemsworth Miners Welfare

Programme cost: £2.00

Pages: 20

Front cover

Leeds may have only one professional football club but has a host of clubs playing in the non-league system. Among them, is Yorkshire Amateur, a club based in the north east part of the city and less than three miles out of the centre.

The Ammers as they are nicknamed, were founded in 1918, but didn’t start playing matches until the following season. The club played at Elland Road after Leeds City FC were dissolved in 1919 due to financial irregularities. However, Yorkshire Amateur’s decided in 1920 to sell the lease to the newly formed Leeds United for just £250. The clubs have since has driven down very different paths, with Leeds United one of the best clubs in the country in the 1960s and ‘70s and now back in the Premier League. The Ammers meanwhile were founders of the Yorkshire League in 1920 playing in it until 1981/82 when it was merged with the Midland League to form the Northern Counties East League (NCEL).

Following the disrupted seasons in 2019/20 and 2020/21 due to the global pandemic, The Ammers were promoted to the Northern Premier League, East Division (Step 4 of the National League System), their highest ever playing level. Despite a respectable mid-table finish, the club was relegated back to the NCEL due to failing ground grading. This led to major changes to the club both on and off the pitch.

With so much upheaval it has not been an easy start to the 2022/23 campaign for the Roxholme Road team. Coming into this fixture they were bottom of the league after nine games, having won just one game, drawn one, with seven losses and suffered early exits in both the FA Cup and FA Vase. Despite all this and with crowds averaging just 77 from their five home games, it was great to see that The Ammers produce a physical programme (and it should be noted provided a link on their website to a free pdf version).

Back cover

The 20 page offering is as most non-league programmes tend to be A5 size and printed on glossy paper and in colour throughout. The cover is of a thicker material to the inner pages and has the club nickname splashed large across the front with the usual match details – opposition, club badges, date, league logo and additionally the FA club accreditation badge. It also has the image of one of the Ammers players.

Inside, page 2 provides a “Welcome to Ammers” with a brief mention of the recent defeat to Barton Town and the standard greeting to the visiting players, fans and officials. It is unfortunate that it contains a couple of typos including opening with “Good afternoon” despite this being an evening fixture. Page 3 is taken up with the league sponsor’s advert, leading into a double page spread (pages 4 & 5) dedicated to the “Club History”. It is in the main an interesting read for those unfamiliar with the Ammers story, but once again contains typos and provides no real update of the Club since 2007/08 which is a real shame. Pages 6 & 7 contain headshots of the current squad, with the manager allocated pages 8 & 9. Page 8 is completely taken up with a picture of Mark Maspero, with page 9 “Ammers Challenge” notes from the manager with an honest appraisal of the teams current plight acknowledging, “we have a very young side with an abundance of technical ability, but very little league experience.” The centrespread (pages 10 & 11) are given over to the fixture list and results, with the next two given over to a history of the visitors Hemsworth Miners Welfare. This material is provided by the opposition and suffers from a lack of proofreading as a number of typos are evident. Pages 14 & 15 are given over to the NCEL Premier Division table, with page 16 advertising the next home game and page 17 providing brief details about the club set-up. Page 18 is a simple “Thank You for Your Support” and the penultimate page is given over to an advert for the Football Foundation. The back cover is dominated by the club badge, with additional details including the ground address, club twitter details and logos for league sponsor Toolstation and FA club accreditation.

The club is to be praised for producing a physical copy, which is well designed, has some cracking graphics and is in full colour. However, where it falls down is that it suffers from a number of easily avoided typos and a lack of content with too many pages just large graphics simply describing the facing page (i.e. fixtures and league table). Eradicating these typos will help improve the read as well as the addition of more content, which can be provided by for instance the Non-League Paper (and can be requested by contacting who will produce a free weekly column, as well as sites like ourselves who are happy to provide free content.

The Ammers are going through a tough transition after the trauma of relegation and the impact on the club, but one can only hope that there are better times around the corner in this part of Leeds.


Programme Review: 2021/22 Garforth Town

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

Programme cost: £1.50

Pages: 28

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.

Website: Garforth Town AFC (



Programme Review: 2021/22 Selby Town

Fixture: West Riding FA County Cup – First Round

Date: Wednesday 05 October 2021

Teams: Selby Town v Ossett United

Venue: The Fairfax Plant Hire Stadium

Result: 2-2 (Ossett United won 4-2 on penalties)

Programme cost: £1.50

Pages: 24

Who would have thought that the global pandemic COVID would have an impact on that staple of the football matchday, the programme? Well with concerns about maintaining social distancing and people having to handle money etc. some league’s allowed their clubs to produce a digital version rather than a physical edition. This has been met with some resistance by fans, with reports of a number of groundhoppers refusing to attend a fixture if the home club only provides an on-line edition.

Another victim of COVID has been the playing of County Cup’s, with some cancelled during the last two or three seasons to free up midweek dates for league fixtures and the FA’s three competitions, FA Cup, Vase and Trophy. Over the years the County Cups have become pushed further and further down the lists of many of the senior clubs in the National League System, with teams from the National League often fielding no more than a Reserve/Academy XI simply to fulfill the fixture. This lack of enthusiasm for the competition has also been reflected in attendances for these games and so clubs have tended not to produce a programme, with a teamsheet often the only offering available and sometimes not even that.

Given this fairly gloomy picture of the state of the County Cup, it was therefore a treat to attend the West Riding FA County Cup First Round game at Selby Town. Not only did ‘The Robins’ produce a programme, but on a night of heavy and continuous rain, 152 hardly souls witnessed a cracker of a cup-tie. Selby, who play in the Northern Counties East League (NCEL) Division One, sit two divisions below Ossett United (Northern Premier League, East Division), but belied their position with a spirited display. Indeed ‘The Robins’ were twice ahead, only to be pegged back each time, with Ossett’s second equaliser coming in the final minutes. With no extra-time, the game went straight to penalties, with United winning 4-2 to take their place in the Second Round.

COVID meant that the last time the competition was completed was in 2018/19 with Ossett United in their first season, lifting the West Riding trophy after beating Guiseley 2-1 in front of a 1,118 crowd, and therefore still the holders after the loss of the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons.

So to the programme designed and printed by Footie Print & Digital, a 24 page colour offering on a good quality glossy paper with 10 pages given over to adverts including that of the league title sponsor Toolstation, ground and shirt sponsor of Selby, Fairfax Plant Hire and a very worthy cause in a local mental health support group, It’s Ok Not to be Okay – Talk Tonight Selby CIC.

The cover is in the club colours of Selby, red, featuring a colour photo of the players celebrating a goal and also features all the usual information you would expect to see such as club crest, date, opposition, competition and venue. It is topped with the Clubs nickname the ‘Robins’ with a nice design feature of the bird sitting amongst the letters and which is used again throughout the programme. The figure ‘08’ is also prominent on the cover, indicating the eighth programme of the season and adorned with a robin. Page 2 is given over to an advert to the club sponsor with page 3 containing a Welcome from Chairman David Haddock, offering his view on the teams disappointing two last league defeats, but balanced by positive news about the clubs expansion of their junior section. The page is completed by an “Officials & Information” block providing standard but useful details about the Yorkshire club.

Pages 4 and 5 are an informative and balanced match report from Phil Dearnley from Selby’s home defeat against Glasshoughton Welfare, which includes team line-ups, and scorers. Page 6 is an advert, with page 7 a useful one detailing the NCEL Division One table and forthcoming fixtures for October. The next two pages are given to more adverts before a two-page spread on the Selby squad with pen-pics and playing stats for the season to date. It’s a feature of non-league programmes that clubs often include pen-pics of the home side although is rarely seen in the programmes of Premier or Football League clubs.

The centre spread (pages 13-14) are the programme ‘classic’ of the results and fixtures grid, detailing date, opposition, competition, result, attendance and line-ups, with notes provided as to the various additional information such as bookings, sendings-off and scorers. One interesting thing to note from the grid is that in the NCEL Division One players can be sin-binned and ‘The Robins’ look like they have had a few! Where the fixtures are yet to be played, the space is cleverly utilised with a story and photo about the Under 9s participation in a recent tournament at Worksop Town.

Page 14 is an advert, with the return to content on page 15 with the scores from previous West Riding Cup encounters with Ossett United’s former parts, Albion and Town. The page though is dominated by Player Sponsor and Ground Sponsorship opportunities. A match preview and history of Ossett United feature on the double-page spread of 16 and 17 from Phil Dearnley, with the club badge and an advert for Selby’s next home game part of page 17. The next three pages are all given over to adverts, with page 21 detailing a condensed history of the club, which was formed in 1919, providing an informative read for visiting and neutral fans alike. Page 22 and 23 are adverts, with the back cover (page 24) once again the staple of programmes down the years, with the team squads, details of the match officials and next game, as well as the useful information that, “If tonight’s game ends in a draw after 90 minutes we will have a penalty shoot-out to decide the winner”.

Overall a decent programme and good value at £1.50 providing enough reading pre-game and at half-time, with all the essential information included. The use of the robin logo throughout is a nice touch, with useful detail like the clubs social media details in the page footer also welcomed. There were some minor typos, but they were so few that they didn’t detract from the read. Useful additions? Well, maybe the inclusion of pen-pics for the visitors and possibly an expansion of details around the previous County Cup games. However, if you find yourself at a game at Selby be sure to pick up a copy.

Website: Selby Town FC


Magazine Review: The Bootiful Game (Issue 2)

The Bootiful Game is a magazine dedicated to the Northern Counties East League (NCEL). The league was founded in 1982 with the merger of what were the Yorkshire League and Midland League. There are currently 44 teams within the NCEL split over two divisions, the Premier Division and Division One. These divisions are at the ninth and tenth levels of the football pyramid respectively (and step five and six within the non-league structure).

This particular issue contains 80 pages and is a mix of feature pieces, club related articles, match reports, a results service as well as a club directory. Amongst the highlights of this particular edition is the well-researched article on the record of NCEL clubs (past and present) in the FA Cup, an interview with Norman Whiteside, a history of Clipstone FC and the photographs of ‘The Saturday Boy’.

Overall this is a well-constructed publication, with well written articles and plenty of colour photographic content and a credit to the positive promotion of the NCEL. Given that the magazine is dedicated to a particular league, it is no surprise that the content is focused on the member clubs of the NCEL. However, that should not put off anybody interested in football at whatever level from purchasing The Bootiful Game.

The magazine can be bought from member clubs of the NCEL and

You can also follow on Twitter: @TheBootifulGame

2014/15: Toolstation NCEL Premier Division – Garforth Town v Parkgate

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.

A break in play.

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.

2013/14: Toolstation NCEL League Cup Final – Eccleshill United v Knaresborough Town

Last weekend saw the 2013/14 league programme in the Premier and First Division of the Toolstation Northern Counties East League (NCEL) completed. However, there was one last game before the curtain came down on the NCEL season, and that was the League Cup Final at Bradford City AFC.

The two finalists were Eccleshill United and Knaresborough Town, both from the NCEL First Division. Eccleshill’s route to the Final was as follows:

First Round v Cleethorpes Town (H) Won 2-1
Second Round v Albion Sports (A) Won 3-1
Third Round v Tadcaster Albion (H) Won 2-1
Fourth Round v Nostell Miners Welfare (A) Won 1-0
Semi-Final v Heanor Town (A) Won 4-3


Knaresborough Town reached the Final through the following games:

First Round v Rossington Main (A) Won 6-0
Second Round v Hemsworth Miners Welfare (A) Won 2-1
Third Round v Garforth Town (A) Won 2-0
Fourth Round v Bridlington Town (A) Won 1-0
Semi-Final v Long Eaton United (A) Won 1-0


In the league fixtures between the two teams, Knaresborough took four of the six points. The first meeting was in October at Eccleshill. After a goalless first-half, the game burst to life in the second period, with Colin Heath opening the scoring on fifty minutes for Borough. However, the lead lasted just two minutes as Marcus Edwards levelled for the home team. But it was the visitors who took the points with a second goal for Heath and one for Steve Bromley to seal a 3-1 win. In the return game this February at Knaresborough, it was honours even as the game finished 0-0. However, Eccleshill finished higher of the two teams in the NCEL First Division, ending the campaign in fourth, with Knaresborough in sixth.

Today was the second Cup Final of the season for Eccleshill, after they triumphed 1-0 against Harrogate Town in the West Riding County Cup (also at Bradford City) and so were hoping to secure a Cup-double. For Knaresborough, it was the opportunity to secure their first silverware since coming into the NCEL in the 2012/13 campaign.

* * * * * * * * *

Prior to kick-off there was an immaculately observed minutes silence for the Leeds teacher, Ann Maguire, who was killed at Corpus Christie College last week. It was a chance to reflect on the cruelty that life can sometimes inflict, and that when people talk of ‘tragedy’ or ‘disater’ in terms of the outcome of a football match, it should be remembered that it is ultimately only a game.

* * * * * * * * *

Cup Finals can be very tense games often settled by a single goal. Thankfully this was far from it and was a tremendous advert for the NCEL and non-league football in general.

From the outset it was a fast paced and open game, with Knaresborough shading the opening few minutes. Borough made this count on ten minutes, when Eccleshill United fullback Ish Mills was beaten by Blaine Hobson and from the subsequent cross, Colin Heath clinically finished to put his team 1-0 ahead. Eccleshill responded immediately and were only denied an equaliser by good saves by Weston Murau from Connor Shefte and Doug Stevenson. However, their pressure brought its reward on twenty five minutes. From a corner, there was a melee in the box which saw the ball end up in the net and Charlie Flaherty credited with the goal. Borough keeper Murau indicated to the referee that he thought he had been impeded, but his pleas were ignored by referee Jason Knowles and the game was level at 1-1. The Eagles now had their tails up and were soon ahead. From a free-kick, the ball was delivered to fullback Tyler Tarango at the far-post, who out jumped the cover to head the ball back across the goal, where Marcus Edwards headed home at the near-post just two yards out. Knaresborough though held their nerve and didn’t panic and got a foothold back in the game, as Eustance and Heath had chances, but on each occasion their efforts were dragged wide, without troubling Ryan Smith in the Eccleshill goal. The Eagles too continued to look for more goals, with Marcus Edwards a constant threat. However, there were no further score and it remained 2-1 to Eccleshill at the break.

Borough were quickest out the blocks in the second-half and were level at 2-2 on forty eight minutes. From a cross, Colin Heath stooped to head goal-wards and Smith was only able to push the effort against the post before the ball nestled into the Eccleshill net. Now Knaresborough had the initiative, but as the game moved towards the hour there was a ten minute spell when the game became scrappy and niggly, which required referee Knowles to brandish a number of yellow cards to take the heat out of the situation. On sixty five minutes Borough made their first substitution with fullback and assistant manager Paul Stanfield being replaced by Dave Thomas. With twenty minutes remaining the game settled again and as the second-half progressed, genuine chances were at a premium. Eccleshill made a change on seventy four minutes with midfielder Reid Harbach replacing Aaron Sanchez as The Eagles went in search of a winner. And they nearly got it, when in the closing minutes they were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box. Marcus Edwards curled it towards the top corner, but somehow Murau climbed to claw away the effort. With the game entering time added on and extra-time looming, Borough brought on ex-Brighton and Leeds United player Seb Carole for George Eustance.

With both teams now tiring, the extra thirty minutes unsurprisingly lost some of the bite and intensity of the first ninety minutes. Carole looked threatening as he ran at The Eagles defence, but was unable to create a genuine opportunity for his side. For Eccleshill, their one major chance was created by the ever willing Marcus Edwards. His run down the by-line, through a fatigued Knaresborough defence was only halted by a brave save at his feet by the outstanding Borough keeper Weston Murau. At the whistle and after 120 minutes, players from both sides sportingly shook hands and congratulated the match officials on what had been a draining, but enjoyable Cup Final. They knew though now it was down to the lottery that is penalties.

In front of an empty Kop, Borough took the first penalty and Seb Carole put them 1-0 ahead. Up first for Eccleshill was the dangerous Marcus Edwards, but his penalty was brilliantly saved by Murau as he dived to his right. Murau didn’t watch as his teammate Dave Thomas stepped up to take the next penalty, but the keeper must have heard the ball smack off the post and away as Eccleshill celebrated the miss. The Eagles tied the penalties at 1-1 as Ryan Jones scored from the spot. Jim Bradley took the score 2-1 to Borough and the pressure swung back again to Eccleshill. Charlie Flaherty had the job of levelling the scores, but his penalty was high and wide and The Eagles were now struggling. Substitute Danny Wright scored for Borough to make it 3-1, which meant that Connor Shefte had to net to keep Eccleshill in with a chance. Shefte slotted home to reduce the deficit to 3-2, but the players and fans of The Eagles knew that if Borough converted their next penalty then it was game-over. Byron Littlefair was handed the responsibility of the spot-kick and he drove it home to clinch the NCEL League Cup 4-2 for Knaresborough. With the game won, Man of the match Weston Murau was swamped by the players and rightly so, as the keeper had been outstanding.

There was to be no Cup-double for Eccleshill, but they had played their part in a stirring occasion and their efforts and those of winners Knaresborough were acknowledged by the appreciative crowd. 2013/14 has proved to be a good season for both sides. What will 2014/15 bring?


Eccleshill United: Ryan Smith, Ish Mills, Tyler Tarango, Jermaine Springer (captain), Ryan Jones, Tyson Newell, Aaron Sanchez (Reid Harbach 74), Doug Stevenson, Marcus Edwards, Connor Shefte, Charlie Flaherty. Subs unused: Brendan Roslund, Daniel Mann, Zack Le Casse.

Knaresborough Town: Weston Murau, Paul Stansfield (Dave Thomas 65), Nick Radcliffe, Matt Duerden (captain), Will Lenehan, Jim Bradley, George Eustance (Seb Carole 90), Dominic Wilson, Colin Heath (Danny Wright 80), Blaine Hobson, Byron Littlefair. Subs unused: Tom Osborne, Liam Gray.

Attendance: 390

2013/14: Toolstation Northern Counties East League Premier Division – Garforth Town v Thackley

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.

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

2011/12: NCEL Premier Division – Selby Town v Thackley

If you were asked to name the location which was formerly a Viking settlement, was also the birthplace of Henry I, and is a market town home to an Abbey established in 1069, what would your answer be? Well, a point to you if you said Selby. The town may have a rich history, but in the present its football team is struggling.

Selby Town FC (nicknames ‘The Robins’) have had a season to forget and before the game today were bottom of the Baris NCEL Premier Division. Going into the game, Town’s league record was played 29, won 3, drawn 3, lost 23, with a total of just 12 points. Therefore it is probably no surprise to learn that The Robins have had three managers this season. Leon Sewell started the campaign in charge, but was sacked in September 2011. David Heard lasted under January 2012 before departing and now Graham Hodder is the man trying to bring about a miracle and save the season for Selby.

With nine league games remaining, of which only three are at home, The Robins knew that they had to win today to have any chance of avoiding relegation. Maltby Main were only two points ahead, and Lincoln Moorlands Railway with twenty points sat in the position above the bottom two. Thackley were the visitors to The Rigid Group Stadium, who were comfortable in the top half of the table, with an outside chance of breaking into the play-offs spots.

It was a bright and breezy day that welcomed the teams onto the pitch and a crowd of 67 was in attendance to see if Selby could spring a surprise. The opening ten minutes were pretty scrappy, with neither side able to maintain possession. Suitably unimpressed, Thackley manager Vince Brockie was soon handing out the ‘hairdryer’ treatment to his players, as his dulcet Scottish tones reverberated around the ground. To be fair it brought a response from his team and Thackley gained the upper hand and began to win a number of free-kicks in and around the Selby Town penalty area. A couple resulted in half chances although neither tested Daniel Graves in the Selby goal. On 34 minutes the momentum firmly swung in favour of Thackley when they took the lead through Kris Hargreaves. Opinion around me in the crowd was divided as to whether this was an attempt on target or a cross that went in. Regardless, the visitors were in front. Thackley continued to dominate and their lead was doubled on 41 minutes, when Keenan Ratcliffe got behind the Selby defence and skipper Mark Bett headed comfortably home. So 2-0 at the break to The Dennyboys and no doubt a few choice words from the manager.

Thackley started the second half positively and had chances to increase their lead, before Bett’s got his second goal on 50 minutes. From a corner, Selby failed to clear and the ball fell to the Thackley captain who neatly finished to take the score to 3-0. The goal failed to spark a response from the home team, who despite enthusiasm and endeavour didn’t create a decent chance throughout the ninety minutes. Both sides brought on substitutes to try and inject some urgency to proceedings, but all it did was disrupt what flow there had been. Keenan Ratcliffe was a constant threat from fullback for Thackley, but often his good work getting forward come to nothing. Still there was one last goal to come for the visitors, when with two minutes remaining, Delroy White headed to seal a 4-0 win.

Thackley undoubtedly deserved to win, in a game which they dominated without looking like they were going to overwhelm Selby. Of their last eight fixtures, The Dennyboys have five against teams above them, so could if results go their way, get in the play-offs. They will though have to play better than the performance today. For Selby, the trapdoor is well and truly beckoning and the prospect of relegation an unfortunate reality.