2011/12: Evo-Stik NPL Division One North – Garforth Town v Radcliffe Borough

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.

2011/12: FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round – FC Halifax Town v Tadcaster Albion

Back in August I started my FA Cup adventure at Hemsworth Miners Welfare and their Preliminary Qualifying tie against Tadcaster Albion. Whilst in the next two rounds I was watching Garforth Town beat Sheffield FC and then lose to Frickley Athletic, Tadcaster progressed with victories over Pontefract Collieries and Scarborough Athletic. The draw for the 2nd Qualifying Round had Albion make the trip to The Shay Stadium to take on FC Halifax Town, so I decided to take up my Cup trail with The Brewers once more.

Along with Staveley Miners Welfare, Tadcaster Albion were the last of the (Baris) Northern Counties East League (NCEL) representatives in the Cup. In terms of League form, Albion lost their opening two fixtures, but have been unbeaten in their other five games to date. Their last League game saw three points snatched away in the dying minutes of the game as Parkgate scored to grab a 3-3 draw.

For The Shaymen, it has been a bit of a bumpy ride since their promotion to the (Blue Square) Conference North Division. On the opening day of the season Town suffered a 3-1 home loss to Corby Town and their last home fixture was an even more emphatic home defeat as they lost 5-1 to ten-man Vauxhall FC. However, in their last couple of fixtures Halifax have shown what they are capable of when coming back from 3-1 at half-time to beat Guiseley 4-3 at Nethermoor and then securing a 0-0 draw at Harrogate Town.

It was hard to believe as I entered the ground that it was the first day of October. With blue skies and high temperatures, the unseasonal weather gave the stadium a feel of a venue about to host a preseason friendly rather than a Cup tie. Indeed, despite a crowd of 1,002, there was very little atmosphere. This may have been due to the apprehension of the home crowd at the prospect of a giant-killing act by the visitors, combined with memories of the mauling by Vauxhall in the last fixture here.

Tadcaster were certainly not over-awed in the opening exchanges and as early as the third minute forced a good save from Town keeper Simon Eastwood. Halifax began to settle into the game as they dominated possession, however, this was not really turned into chances that worked Albion custodian Arran Reid apart from one excellent double-save from the young keeper. With frustration evident in the crowd as The Shaymen failed to break down the visitors, the home fans were stunned on the half hour mark when from an Albion corner was headed home by Carl Stewart to put Tadcaster ahead. The remainder of the half saw Halifax continue their domination of possession without really stretching The Brewers defence. Half-time came and Town returned to the dressing room with a real air of discontent amongst the Shay faithful.

Home manager Neil Aspin responded by replacing Anton Foster with Scott Hogan at the start of the second half as Town continued to toil away in the Yorkshire sun. Further substitutions came on the hour as James Dean replaced Danny Holland up front. However, the visitors looked relatively untroubled and with seventy five minutes gone, Aspin threw on recent signing Jason St Juste. His introduction gave Halifax a real threat of pace, but with ten minutes remaining it looked like the visitors would still hang on to their lead. Then on 81 minutes St Juste got down the wing and his cross was headed home by fellow substitute James Dean, which at last brought some noise from the home crowd. This changed the whole complexion of the game and suddenly the home players and fans could sense that perhaps a winner was still possible. However, as the ninety minutes ticked away the visitors had a good shout for a penalty turned down and it seemed that Albion had done enough to earn a replay. Four minutes of added time were indicated and these were all but up when Town were awarded a corner. From it Scott McManus headed home and cue celebrations from relieved home fans and bench. As the Albion plays slumped in exhaustion and disbelief, keeper Reid remonstrated with the Assistant referee, claiming that the corner award was incorrect, but merely earned a booking for his troubles. The Brewers kicked-off and launched one final ball into the Halifax penalty area, but it was game over and their brave Cup adventure was over.

It was a fantastic effort by Tadcaster and certainly Halifax knew that they had been in a game. Tadcaster have the FA Vase to look forward to in November and will relish it after their FA Cup campaign. For Halifax, they go into the draw for the FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round on Monday (3rd October), knowing that it was a last gasp victory, but hoping that this might be the start of something special.

Postscript: At the Tech5 Stadium, Frickley Athletic were up against Harrogate Town. Visitors Town started brightly and took the lead through Will Turl. Frickley worked their way back into the game and just before half-time equalised through Grant Darley. The replay takes place at the CNG Stadium in Harrogate on Tuesday 4th October (kick-off 7.45pm).

2011/12: FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round – Garforth Town v Frickley Athletic


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.

2011/12: FA Cup Preliminary Qualifying Round – Garforth Town v Sheffield FC

The first Saturday of September and with an International Break for the Premier League and Championship, the second Non League Day and 2011/12 FA Cup Preliminary Qualifying Round take centre stage. I start the day with a dilemma. Do I go and watch Tadcaster Albion (who I saw emerge victorious at Hemsworth Miners Welfare in the last Round) at Pontefract Collieries or do I go to Garforth Town the nearest club to home? My decision is clinched by the fact that in going to the Genix Healthcare Stadium, I’ll be able to watch the Oldest Club in the World play in the Oldest Cup Competition in the World. So Garforth Town v Sheffield FC it is.

Both teams play in the Evo-Stik League structure, with Garforth in Division One North and Sheffield in Division One South. Prior to this game, both sides have played six League games, with Garforth in 17th position  and a total of 6 points with a solitary victory against Durham City so far. Sheffield have started more strongly sitting in 6th place with 10 points. This has been due to their excellent home form which has seen three wins against, Carlton Town, Grantham Town and Sutton Coldfield Town. Are the defeats of three “Town’s” a positive omen for Sheffield?

Last season these teams had very different experiences in the FA Cup. The Miners went out at the Preliminary Qualifying Round losing 1-0 to Tadcaster Albion. Whilst Garforth were exiting the competition, Club beat Colne 3-1 at home to progress. In the 1st Qualifying Round, Sheffield were drawn away at Woodley Sports and emerged 3-1 winners in a replay after drawing 2-2 in the game at Woodley. The 2nd Qualifying Round draw brought Northwich Victoria to Sheffield’s ground in Dronfield. Club must have thought their chance of progressing were over when they could only draw, but a 2-1 victory away at the Vics saw Sheffield through to the 3rd Qualifying Round and a home tie with Frickley Athletic. Once again Sheffield were unable to win the fixture at home, but as in the last Round again triumphed 2-1 in the replay. The 4th Qualifying Round draw brought Tipton Town of the Midland Alliance Division One to Dronfield. A bumper crowd of 1,026 attended a game that would see history made, as neither Sheffield or Tipton had ever reached the 1st Round Proper. The home side looked to be heading into the draw with the professionals of League One and League Two, but a Tipton equaliser left the game all square at 2-2. With Sheffield having emerged in Replays away from home in the previous Rounds, the game was by no means a formality for Tipton. However, in front of 1,420 Town emerged 2-0 winners. Their reward was a 1st Round tie at Brunton Park, where Carlisle United were ruthless in dispatching Tipton 6-0. Does a long run await either of these team today?

In truth, the opening 15 minutes were pretty scrappy. In windy conditions, neither side kept the ball on the ground and so it was a somewhat disappointing start to the Cup-tie. However, Garforth did take the lead on 19 minutes, when Matt Mathers put The Miners ahead. Further chances fell to the dangerous Paul Walker to increase the home lead, but Sheffield were coming more into the second period of the first half, with Garforth keeper Ben Higginson keeping Club at bay. However, on 37 minutes a Sheffield free kick was not dealt with by the home defence and Tom Burgin levelled the scores from close range. The visitors were now dominating the game, but couldn’t make a further breakthrough before half-time.

Sheffield started the second half as they had finished the first and continued to create chances. Matt Varley, Andy Gascoigne and Steve Woolley went close, before the visitors took a deserved lead. Having been awarded a free-kick and Garforth seemingly still sorting out their wall, Callum Higginson took the kick quickly to score on 64 minutes. This brought protests from the Garforth players, which the referee waved away. There followed a tetchy five minutes or so, as the home team showed their frustrations by committing a number of fouls which killed the flow of the game and brought a number of bookings. However, once they settled down again, The Miners worked their way back into the game. On 72 minutes Chris Howarth’s cross was headed goal-ward by Ben Thornton, only to be denied by a fine save by Dan Whatsize. However substitute Adam Priestly was first to the rebound to put Garforth back on level terms at 2-2. The Miners comeback was complete when just two minutes later, Chris Fisher drove in a free-kick to give Garforth a 3-2 lead. Rather than sit back on their lead the home team continued to press and Sheffield were grateful to Dan Whatsize for a couple of excellent saves that kept the visitors in the game. Even with five minutes of added time, Sheffield couldn’t forge a real chance of an equaliser as Garforth ran out 3-2 winners.

It was a really topsy-turvy affair and both sides had periods of domination and therefore could equally make a case for winning the Cup-tie. However, Garforth showed their spirit to come back from 2-1 down in the last quarter of the game and rather than hanging on to their lead, created further chances and therefore finished the stronger. So no repeat for Sheffield of last seasons Cup adventure, whilst Garforth have a home fixture against Frickley Athletic to look forward in the 1st Qualifying Round in two weeks.

Postscript: Elsewhere in the Preliminary Qualifying Round, Tadcaster Albion came through away from home 3-2 against Pontefract Collieries. Albion held a lead 1-0 at half-time after an early Karl Stewart goal. However, the game exploded into life in a seven minute second half spell in which four goals were scored. Ryan Poskitt levelled the game at 1-1 on 74 minutes, but goals from Graeme Whitehead (78 mins) and Jamie Hopcutt (80 mins), gave the visitors a two goal cushion. Back came The Colls to reduce the deficit as Ryan Poskitt scored his second and set up a tense last nine minutes. Albion held on and will have a home tie against Scarborough Athletic or Barton Town Old Boys in the next Round.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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