2019/20: An Incredible Journey. Match Day 18 – Saturday 11 January 2020: Salford City v Northampton Town

Matchday programme cover

A New Year and 71 days since my last game. I’d had quite a dip in mood due to a number of issues that were going on in my personal life.

I think I am a strong person, I’m 57 years old, I have been employed all my life since leaving school in 1981, I have had a mostly comfortable life financially, strangely I find myself in a similar financial position now that I did when I was 21, but that’s a whole other story. I have lots of close friends and a wonderful family, I have been healthy all my life, with the exception of sporting injuries, I was still playing football up to the lockdown.

So why would I suddenly go from being primarily happy to become so sad that I was contemplating suicide at Newark Railway station in the space of six months? That was four years ago, and I had a complete breakdown and was under the care of a psychiatrist and diagnosed as suffering from severe depression and started on a course of anti-depressants. Shortly afterwards I had a further severe dip in mood and took myself to Leeds General Infirmary as I was feeling a danger to my welfare. I never made it to the hospital, instead I walked for miles along the canal and railway line, for some reason I have a fascination with trains when I am feeling suicidal, contemplating which would be the best way to go – instantly being hit by a train, or slowly drowning. I’d heard that drowning was a calming experience once the panic was over. Also it would affect very few people, possibly the person that found me. If I got hit by a train, I knew it would pretty certain to be over, but what about the trauma it would cause the driver? So I walked and walked from Leeds City Centre to Shipley Railway station, around 18 or 19 miles, and then caught the train home to Guiseley. I’d left the house around 6am, returned home at around 3.30 pm, my ex-wife got in at around 4:30 pm. Do you know, not once did she try to contact me at any time from waking to find me not in the house to returning home at 4.30pm.

I’ve analysed a lot in the past ten years and fortunately haven’t dipped as low as that again for a long time. But at the back end of 2019 something had caused me to go into a funk, and not the James Brown type of funk either. However, the New Year was a fresh start, so I began my football journey again with added verve.

Salford City were the team I had chosen to restart my journey. A fairly new team to the higher echelons of football pyramid, with 2019/20 being their first in the Football League. They are probably best known for their takeover in 2014 by some of the ‘Class of ‘92’ from Manchester United – Ryan Giggs, the Neville Brothers – Phil and Gary, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt, with David Beckham taking a stake in the club in January 2019. The Club also featured in a BBC documentary series, Class of 92: Out of their League which ran for two series. However, an abiding memory of one of the Class of ‘92 is Dennis Wise getting Nicky Butt sent off by pinching the hairs on his legs. I still find it funny to this day!

Following the takeover Salford had a meteoric rise to League Two, which saw them climb from playing in the Northern Premier League Division One North in 2014/15 to the Football League in just five years. Moor Lane has been their home ground since 1978 and is unrecognisable from those days having been substantially redeveloped and is now known as the Peninsular Stadium. Northampton Town were the visitors for my first game of 2020.

Goal-mouth action

Like my visit to York, the weather was not at its best and there were some sustained periods of torrential rain during the game. So to a brief summary of the match. The Ammies went ahead after twenty minutes when Jack Baldwin, on-loan from Sunderland, headed home Craig Conway’s corner to put Salford one-up. The lead though lasted just nine minutes, when The Cobblers levelled. Salford failed to clear the ball properly and Northampton swept the play from left to right via Nicky Adams to Sam Hoskins, who arrowed a great shot into the corner – it had a touch of the Carlos Alberto about it (circa 1970 World Cup Final – the fourth Brazil goal). Half-time, all square 1-1.

Northampton started the second-half brightly and had a couple of decent chances with Vadaine Oliver hitting the side netting, before Andy Williams went round Salford ‘keeper Kyle Letheren but was forced wide and was unable to get a shot in. Williams though made up for that just after the hour mark. The Cobblers broke from half-way and after Salford couldn’t clear the cross, the rebound dropped to Williams who volleyed it home much to the delight of the travelling Northampton fans behind the goal. Salford battled for an equaliser and created a good chance after some patient build-up with Thomas-Assante slicing the chance wide from the left edge of the six-yard box. Substitute Hunter then nearly made a name for himself as his cross caused chaos in the Town box, with ‘keeper Cornell grateful to cling on to the loose ball. He then had another effort as his curling cross was just kept out by Cornell as fellow substitute Adam Rooney just failed to get a touch that would have surely brought an equaliser. However, The Cobblers held on for a 2-1 win and three points in their promotion push.


Saturday 11 January 2020

Sky Bet League Two

Salford City 1 (Baldwin 20’) Northampton Town 2 (Hoskins 29’, Williams 63’)

Venue: Peninsular Stadium

Attendance: 2,919

Salford City: Letheren, Wiseman (Pond 86’), Hughes, Burgess, Touray, Jervis, Baldwin, Towell, Conway (Hunter 70’), Thomas-Assante, Armstrong (Rooney 70’).

Unused Substitutes: Neal, Hogan, Lloyd-McGoldrick, Doyle.

Northampton Town: Cornell, Goode, Wharton, Turnbull, Hoskins, Lines, Watson, Adams (Harriman 87’), Anderson (Warburton 77’), Williams (Roberts 90+4), Oliver

Unused Substitutes: Hall-Johnson, Pollock, Martin, Arnold.


Steve Blighton

Book Review: The Bottom Corner – A season with the dreamers of Non-League Football by Nige Tassell

“Everyone loves an FA Cup upset: a smug Premier League team being knocked out by plucky underdogs.”

The quote above is taken from the back of the book and highlights an interesting point, in that for some football fans and indeed the wider public, Non-League teams only come to their attention when the FA Cup takes place each season. And it that respect it can lead to a clichéd view of clubs where Non-League means games played in front of one man and his dog on pitches barely better than those found in your local park.

In The Bottom Corner Nige Tassell spends the 2015/16 season revealing stories from the Non-League pyramid to show the realities of life below the Premier League and the Football League. Format wise it covers the season from August to May, with each chapter looking at a different theme, various clubs, players, managers, volunteers and fans alike.

However, there are two teams which are constant threads which run through the book which tell the story of their respective seasons. The first of these is Tranmere Rovers who in the 2015/16 campaign found themselves in the National Conference (the top league of the Non-League pyramid), after 94 years in the Football League. The other is Bishop Sutton, a side from the Western League based near Bristol, from what Tassell labels as the ‘bottom corner’ of the pyramid.

Both can be classified as Non-League, but at very different ends of the spectrum. Rovers with a set-up and ground that wouldn’t disgrace League One, anxious to regain its status amongst the elite 92, whilst Sutton struggle to get a squad together and avoid the heavy defeats that have defined its recent history since being denied promotion due to being unable to meet ground standards. It perfectly illustrates that the Non-League structure mirrors that of the professional ranks and that of the ‘haves and the have nots’.

Besides the story of the ups and downs of Tranmere and Bishop Sutton, Tassell brings the reader interesting tales from other teams, such as Salford City, where some of the ‘Class of 92’ from Manchester United bring the club into the national conscious through a BBC documentary and an epic FA Cup run. Also, there is Hereford FC, born out of the ashes of Hereford United, and their incredible campaign which ends with a Wembley appearance in the FA Vase Final, as well as clubs doing things differently – such as eco-friendly Forest Green Rovers and the supporter owned FC United of Manchester.

It is a book rich with characters, such as those who referee, others who act as scouts or the many administrators of the game; all for the most part volunteers, playing their part in keeping football going beneath the professional ranks.

The Bottom Corner perfectly demonstrates that there is so much more to Non-League Football than its ‘fifteen minutes’ of fame that occurs during the FA Cup each season. It is a game that is a million miles from the bloated money sodden and hyped world of the Premier League, but it doesn’t mean that it is without quality or passion, or that the wins and losses are any less painful or that the fans are any less passionate and the managers and club staff any less committed. The dreams and emotions in the Non-League pyramid are as real as you can get.


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


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

Saturday 06 October 2012 (11:00)

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

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

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

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

Saturday 06 October 2012 (22:00)

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

Salford City on the attack.

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

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