Monday, 6 August 2012

Controversial Owen equaliser denies Town first pre-season victory


NORTHALLERTON TOWN concluded their pre-season campaign with a fully deserved draw at Ebac Northern League Division One side Billingham Town on Saturday.

A goal from Adam Emson inside the opening minute gave Town the perfect start - the first time they have led in a match this pre-season - and it led to a solid, confident display.

“Yes, it was great to finally get ourselves in front,” said manager Mark Fanning. “We have been criticised in some quarters for our results in pre-season but we deliberately wanted tough games, and that is what we have got.

It was a good performance today. We created plenty of chances, especially in the second half. We had 8 players missing for one reason or another but at least it gave the lads a good work-out.

We looked a little tired towards the end, and would have benefited from having another body on the bench, but we worked really hard again and are a little disappointed not to have won.”

The Town starting XI showed five changes from the unfortunate defeat up the road at Norton on Wednesday evening. Steve Craggs replaced James Briggs in goal, while Stu Dunn switched to right back with James Bowman on the left.

Grant Hickman was partnered in the centre of defence by Steve Banks, with a midfield four of Stu Hardy, Gav Parkin, Martin Butterworth and Gary Cook. That left Carl Chillingsworth and Adam Emson up front, with Anthony Roberts and Alex Caisley on the bench.
Billingham kicked off but it was Town who pressed the ball early. Parkin won it in midfield, fed Cook out on the left and his cross was spectacularly volleyed past home keeper Danny Molyneux by Emson from 8 yards – his first goal since signing for the club this summer.

But the hosts struck back quickly and were almost level moments later. Nicky Martin broke clear and chipped the ball over the advancing Craggs from the edge of the penalty area, but it landed on the roof of the net and the score remained 1-0.

Town played some good football in the first half, knocking the ball around confidently and enjoying some long spells of possession. However, it was Billingham who created the better chances.

The dangerous Glen Butterworth drilled over from the edge of the area after 20 minutes, while former Middlesbrough trainee James Cronesberry was only denied by a brave save from Craggs after beating the Town offside trap six minutes later.

But Town were fast out of the blocks at the start of the second period. Chillingsworth was close to doubling their advantage within two minutes of the restart with a shot from the right-hand edge of the area which brought the best out of Molyneux.

The hosts were almost gifted an equaliser three minutes later when a poor clearance from Craggs saw the ball fall to Cronesberry on the left. But just as it appeared Jamie Owens was about to tap home, Hickman appeared from nowhere to make a superb block.
It was 1-1 ten minutes into the second period, however, with a goal that had more than a hint of controversy. Fanning had just made two substitutions – replacing Chillingsworth and Cook with Caisley and Roberts and switching to a 4-3-3 formation – but before they had the chance to reorganise, Owens was allowed space to head home a free kick from Cronesberry.

“The referee allowed them to take the free kick quickly before Roberts had the chance to get into position,” said a disappointed Fanning. “And he may have been able to block the run of Owens.”

The game really opened up after that and both sides could have won it. Town's best chance fell to Emson who broke through the home defence on the hour and tried to round Molyneux, but the Billingham keeper just managed to deny him with an outstretched left hand.

Meanwhile, at the other end, Martin did round Craggs but rolled the ball wide of an empty net and it finished 1-1.
With the big kick off now less than a week away, when Guisborough Town visit the RGPS in the FA Cup on Saturday, the time for talking is over. The team may not have won a match in pre-season but the performances have steadily improved and it would not be a surprise if Town hit the ground running when it really matters.

BILLINGHAM TOWN – Molyneux, Garbutt, Gamble, Perry, Middleton, Gaston, Butterworth, Coussavilla, Martin, Owens, Cronesberry. Subs – O’Brien, Clarke, Arthur.
NORTHALLERTON TOWN – Craggs, Dunn, Bowman, Hickman, Banks, Parkin, Hardy, Butterworth(M), Emson, Chillinsworth, Cook. Subs – Roberts, Caisley.


  1. Thats right Ricky I'm sure we will progress to the next round of the FA Cup, Guisborough have played weak teams apart from Whitby all pre season and I think we will be to strong for them. They have also lost alot of good players so I will take the liberty of looking at who we will play in the next round after that one.

  2. Ricky, have the KGB been at you!

  3. Looking forward to the game. I'm not worried nor should you be!