Sunday, 29 July 2012

It's Chilli for Billi as Town fight back for a draw


A SUPERB second half strike from Carl Chillingsworth gave Town a fully deserved draw in their latest pre-season friendly at Billingham Synthonia on Saturday.

Winning the ball out on the left in the 69th minute, Chillingsworth strode forward before curling a wonderful shot beyond the reach of Synners goalkeeper Josh Moody into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.

And it was no more than Town deserved for a stirring second half display which was the best they have produced so far in this pre-season campaign.

After a slow start against Shildon on Wednesday evening -  where they had conceded twice in the opening nine minutes - Town were determined to keep things tighter this time, and they achieved that aim despite starting with a new-look back four.

Craig Winter was the only constant from the Shildon match, with Steve Banks starting at right back, James Bowman at left back and Grant Hickman partnering Winter in the centre. The midfield five saw Ian Smurthwaite alongside Gary Cook and Gav Parkin, with Marcus Laing and Nathan Hemingbrough supporting Chillingsworth in attack.

Town started well and almost got the boost of an early goal when Chillingsworth headed narrowly wide from a Cook set-piece delivery inside six minutes. But it was the Synners who went in front midway through the first half.

Andy Jennings, who has caused Town many problems in the past, beat the offside trap and broke clear down the left before pulling the ball back for the dangerous Shane Henry to finish from close range.

And it was nearly 2-0 moments later. Jennings beat Town keeper James Briggs to a through ball from David Hillaby, but Matt Crossen rolled the ball wide of an empty net from a tight angle.

That would have been harsh on a Town side who had dominated possession up until that point, but they came close to an equaliser twice in as many minutes soon after.

Laing released Cook down the left in the 23rd minute, but his effort from 20 yards was deflected harmlessly into the arms of Moody, while Parkin was then denied by the home keeper from a similar distance in the very next attack.

But for all their hard work, Town were saved only by the woodwork seven minutes before the break. Steven Huggins was given far too much space on the edge of the Town penalty area, and when his initial effort came back off the post, he was unfortunate to see the follow-up deflected over the top.

Town, however, finished the half on top. Cook fired a free kick down the throat of Moody before Chillingsworth was denied by the legs of the Synners keeper in the final attack of the first period.

After failing to have much influence on the game, Hemingbrough was replaced at the break by Adam Emson as Town began the second half - played in a torrential downpour - on the front-foot.

Parkin should have found the target after a great right-wing cross from Cook just past the hour-mark, before Chillingsworth came even closer three minutes later. Bowman did well down the left to find the veteran front-man just inside the penalty area, and he cut inside full-back Andrew Forester to make an angle for the shot. But with the travelling Town fans ready to rise as one in celebration, he somehow placed the ball just the wrong side of the right-hand upright.

He more than made amends for that miss, however, nineteen minutes from time. Pinching the ball from Synners substitute Curtis Collantine out on the left, Chillingsworth burst forward before curling an unstoppable shot into the same corner of the net he had just failed to find.

Either side could then have won it in the closing stages. Emson and Cook both came close for Town, whilst Briggs did well to deny Huggins and Crossen for the hosts. But a draw was probably the right result in the end.

Town manager Mark Fanning was delighted with the efforts of his team. "It was another good performance against a very good side, following on from the Shildon game on Wednesday night" he said.

"We knew we had to defend better and we did that. We restricted them to very few chances. (Andy)Jennings has caused us problems in the past, once scoring four against us for Stokesley, but we barely gave him a sniff here.

"We now travel to Norton on Wednesday before a return trip to Billingham to face Town next weekend, and we will be looking to go into the season with two wins."

More performances like this and you would not bet against them achieving it.

BILLINGHAM SYNTHONIA - Moody, Crossen, McWilliam, Forester, Horsman, Hillerby, Huggins, Henry, Richards, Blyth, Jennings. Subs - Cattermole, Collantine, Dowson, Wrath.

TOWN - Briggs, Banks, Bowman, Hickman, Winter, Smurthwaite, Hemingbrough, Parkin, Cook, Chillingsworth, Laing. Subs - Dunn, Caisley, Roberts, Butterworth(S), Emson.

Referee - Michael Gillespie

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Late Johnson effort denies Town


TOWN'S pre-season preparations continued with this unfortunate defeat against Division One side Shildon at the RGPS Stadium last night. After working hard to come back from an early two-goal deficit, Town were denied a fully deserved share of the spoils by a late Adam Johnson winner.

Manager Mark Fanning, who was less than impressed with his sides effort in Saturday's defeat to Pickering Town, was far more satisfied this time, after seeing his troops more than match their top flight visitors for much of the match.

"That was much better," he said. " We were lethargic on Saturday but played with better tempo tonight. It was a good test for us against a very good side and was a good work out. This was more like the sort of performance I expect from us.

We have some more tough games up, but I would rather we were testing ourselves pre-season than winning games 4/5-0 against weaker opposition."

The Town starting XI saw six changes from that defeat to Pickering. New signing James Briggs was in goal, with Craig Winter, Danny Shoulder and Anthony Roberts lining up alongside Stu Dunn in the back four. Gary Cook made his first pre-season appearance in a five man midfield - alongside Marcus Laing and Steve Butterworth - with Col Anderson and Stu Hardy supporting loan striker Carl Chillingsworth.

But it was Shildon who got off to a flying start, scoring twice in the opening nine minutes. Johnson got the first with a shot from the edge of the penalty area that sneaked into the bottom right-hand corner of Briggs' net, before Robbie Briggs tapped home the second from a Chris Hughes cross soon after.

Town looked shell-shocked but slowly began to get a foothold in the match. They halved the deficit when Cook beat visiting goalkeeper Keith Finch with a 25 yard free kick in the 13th minute, and it was difficult to tell which was the first division side after that.

Hardy twice saw efforts blocked as Town went in search of an equaliser, while Anderson and Chillingsworth both came close before the break.

Town came out with all guns blazing at the start of the second period and were almost level within four minutes. Chillingsworth beat Finch with a neat chip from 20 yards, but the ball flew narrowly over the crossbar.

Shildon seemed content to play on the break now but it almost brought them a third goal in the 52nd minute. Chris Hughes, who was a constant threat, pulled the ball back from the right and substitute Daniel Richmond was only denied by a fine save from Steve Craggs, who had replaced Briggs in goal for the second half.

But Town were level four minutes later. A free kick from Cook found the head of Chillingsworth ten yards out but the ball bounced up and struck Shildon captain Justin Keegan on the arm. The visitors were unhappy with the award of the penalty and Chris Hunter was ordered to be substituted after arguing a little too vigorously.

Despite the delay, however, Shoulder took on the responsibility and sent Finch the wrong way from the spot to make it 2-2.

There only looked like being one winner now as Town pressed forward, but a flurry of substitutions twenty minutes from time turned the tide back in Shildon's favour.

Hughes had gone close to the goal his all-round play deserved before Johnson struck what proved to be the winner nine minutes from time - firing low past Craggs from 12 yards after a great through ball from Richmond.

So, another defeat, but the result was overshadowed by the performance. Recovering well from a slow start, Town were the better side for much of the night against what was a very strong Shildon side, and that augers well for the season ahead.

With three tough away trips to come before the big kick-off against Guisborough Town in the F.A Cup on August 11 - starting at Billingham Synthonia on Saturday - things are not about to get any easier. But that is just the way Fanning likes it.

TOWN - Briggs, Roberts, Dunn, Shoulder, Winter, Cook, Hardy, Butterworth(S), Anderson, Chillingsworth, Laing. Subs - Craggs, Coleman, Hemingbrouhgh, Bowman, Caisley, Banks, Bulmer.

SHILDON - Finch, Christenson, Brankstone, Clarkson, Hunter, Keegan, Hughes, Gardner, Briggs, Johnson, Wood. Subs - Garvie, Kane, Richmond, McCabe.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Rubbing Salt into the Town wounds


A LATE GOAL from Colin Anderson was not quite enough as Town slipped to a second successive pre-season defeat against Pickering Town on Saturday.

Anderson, who scored over 20 goals last season, slotted home a low, right-wing cross from Steve Banks ten minutes from time, but it proved to be no more than a consolation after an earlier brace from Pickering's Liam Salt.

The visitors, from the Northern Counties East League, arrived with a vibrant, young team, but Town matched them for much of a low-key opening period. Carl Chillingsworth twice came close with headed opportunities, while Steve Butterworth chipped an effort just over the top.

But Pickering would have felt a little unfortunate not to be ahead at the break as their front two of Salt and Carl Stewart both saw efforts come back off the woodwork.

Town began the second half on top, but their good approach play was all-too-often let down by a poor final ball and it was the visitors who grabbed the initiative with two goals in less than a minute on the hour mark.

Lyle Hillier did well down the right to create the opener for Salt, and the two combined again for the second moments later. Hillier was sent tumbling in the penalty area by Town keeper Steve Craggs, following a lovely dummy from Stewart, and Salt drilled home from the spot to make it 2-0.

It was all Pickering now and Hillier was at the heart of everything. He nearly found the target himself with a low drive before setting up Thomas Reid, who was only denied by the legs of Craggs.

Tom Fenwick and Ged Dalton then saw efforts cleared off the line as Town were desperately hanging on, but slowly they began to get a foothold in the match and gave themselves a lifeline with ten minutes left.

Stu Dunn combined well with Banks down the right, and new signing from Tow Low Town pulled the ball back for Anderson to roll home from close range.

Suddenly, Town sensed a comeback and they had the opportunities to draw level. Sam Vernalls, who had replaced Chillingsworth in attack, fired over from 18 yards three minutes later, before Marcus Laing somehow headed wide from 6 yards with the goal at his mercy.

So another disappointing result, although aspects of the performance were encouraging. The passing was, at times, very good, while Banks and Dunn impressed again, as did Nathan Hemingbrough down the left.

But once again it was lapses of concentration at the back that has proved costly, and these are mistakes which have to be eradicated ahead of the visit of Shildon on Wednesday evening.

Manager Mark Fanning, however, was not so forthcoming in his praise. "I was disappointed with the performance. I asked them to keep possession better than on Monday and at times they did, but overall not well enough.

I felt that too many were not at the races today against what was an average opponent. I expect much better on Wednesday night."

TOWN - Craggs, Dunn, Bowman, Banks, Hickman, Caisley, Colman, Butterworth(S), Anderson, Chillingsworth, Hemingbrough. Subs - Smurthwaite, Hardy, Laing, Vernalls, Bell, Cook.

PICKERING - McDowell, Readman, Craig, Hillier, Sturdy, Danby, Willstrap, Conner, Salt, Stewart, Shepherd. Subs - Dalton, Reid, Fenwick.

Referee; D. Coulson.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Northallerton Town 0 Darlington 1883 FC 3

A RECORD crowd of 710 at the RGPS Stadium last night saw Town beaten 3-0 by Darlington 1883 FC, but it was not really about the result for either side.

The proceeds from a record-breaking night will not only help Darlington get back on their feet, after it was agreed to split the gate receipts equally between both clubs, it will also give Town a massive financial boost going into the new season.

On top of that the whole event past off without any hint of trouble. Fans from both clubs mixed happily inside the stadium and, with Ebac Northern League Chairman Mike Amos in attendance, the night was a great advertisment for the league as a whole.

Yet the bad weather very nearly put paid to it before it had even begun. Having already seen the opening two friendlies postponed due to the wet conditions, heavy rain at the back end of last week had put this game in doubt as well.

But thankfully the sun came out on Town in time for the arrival of Martin Gray's new-look side and it helped swell the crowd to 15 more than the previous ground record - set in an FA Trophy tie against Farnborough Town back in 1992.

The hope now is that many of these first time visitors will want to return once the season kicks off in earnest next month.

Both managers selected their strongest available side for the first half, but with the atmosphere reaching fever pitch, there was very little to choose between the sides in the early stages and chances at either end were at a premium.

Darlington rarely looked troubled at the back, with the imposing figure of Gary Brown particularly impressive, but Town had their moments. Colin Anderson, plowing a lone furrow up front, and winger Stuart Hardy, often threatened with their pace and trickery but lacked any support and there was to be no end product.

So it was the visitors who opened the scoring midway through the first half. A free kick from Jamie Clarke was only parried by Town keeper Dale Hobson and Brown, up from the back, reacted quickly to stab home the loose ball from close range.

Town looked for a response but they lacked any real cutting edge and it was the Quakers who finished the half on top. They doubled their lead three minutes before the break when a cross from the left by Shaun Reay was turned home by the unmarked Adam Nichols at the far post.

And it was 3-0 moments later. Referee Tony Peart harshly penalised Ian Smurthwaite for a foul on Darren Richardson right on the edge of the penalty area and Clarke curled the free kick around the wall into the bottom left-hand corner of the net. A little harsh on Town, who had more than matched their more illustrious opponents for much of the opening 45 minutes.

The second half saw numerous changes from both sides and it led to a far more scrappy encounter. Town had the better chances, with Marcus Laing and James Bowman both going close while Carl Chillingsworth's spectacular overhead kick would have brought the house down had it gone in towards the end.

So while it was a disappointing result for Town, there were many positives to take from it. New signing Sam Vernalls and young trailist Damon Reaks showed promise in the second period, while Academy graduates Alex Caisley and Stuart Dunn both caught the eye with impressive performances.

"I thought we contained them well in the first half," said manager Mark Fanning. "I would have been happy to have gone in at half time 1-0 down but we conceded two soft goals and that was that.

I thought we deserved something in the second half as we created the better chances, but Darlo were a strong side and this was a good work out for us."

Next up is another tough test against Pickering Town on Saturday, which is followed by the fans match at 5.15pm and then a BBQ. Not to be missed, I am sure you will agree.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Northallerton Town v Darlington 1883 FC match preview

AFTER  a delayed start to their pre-season campaign due to bad weather, Northallerton Town will kick off with a friendly against neighbours Darlington 1883 FC on Monday night.

It has been a dreadful summer for Darlington, of course - losing their appeal against relegation to the Ebac Northern League Division One and having to change their name - but thanks to the hard work of the fans consortium, led by Denis Pinnegar, the club have at least managed live on.

Ground-sharing with Bishop Auckland this season, Darlington have sold in excess of 400 season tickets so far, which shows just how important the club is to the local community. A shame, then, that the local council does not feel the same.

Instead of wasting money on new bus lanes and wheelie bins, perhaps they could have followed the example of Swansea City Council by building a new stadium in the town for the football and rugby clubs to share? But that is a debate for another time.

So while it has been an awful summer for the club and their long-suffering fans, there is no doubt Darlington's presence will be a massive boost for the Ebac Northern League. Interest will be higher than ever and attendances are set to rise again.

This is why Northallerton Town is pleased to welcome them to the RGPS Stadium on Monday evening. It will be our first match since lifting the Ernest Armstrong Cup with victory over Team Northumbria in May, so excitiment within the club is still high.

Manager Mark Fanning has done a great job over the last few years - completely rebuilding the squad that was relegated to Division Two in 2009 - and the next aim is promotion back to Division One so these matches with Darlington can become a regular occurrence. Assuming, of course, they do not get promoted themselves!

Fanning has brought in three new faces so far this summer to strengthen the squad. Marcus Laing has arrived from Thornaby, while Michael Colman, from Darlington RA, and Stephen Banks, from Tow Low Town, have also been recruited. It is unlikely they will be the only new arrivals by the time the real business begins with an FA Cup tie against Guisborough Town on 11 August.

The Darlington squad that will arrive in Town on Monday night will be very different to the one that completed their Blue Square Conference Premier fixtures in May. Phil Gray is now the only player remaining at the club as new manager Martin Gray has been forced to recruit from the Northern League.

Twin brothers Arjun and Amar Purwal have arrived from Durham City, while Shaun Harrison, from Bedlington Terriers, Darren Richardson, from Bishop Auckland, Adam Nichols, from West Auckland and Danny Mellanby, from Newton Aycliffe, are some of the new faces the Darlo faithful will see in the famous black and white hoops this season.

So while this marks a fresh start in the history of Darlington FC, it could see a new beginning for Northallerton. The club are moving in the right direction, both on and off the field, and with the ambitious backing of local businessman David Kerfoot, there certainly appears to be exciting times ahead at the RGPS Stadium.

And it all starts on Monday. With entrance on the night just £5 for adults and £2.50 for children, and a special 40-page commemorative programme for just £1.50, you really do not want to miss it.