Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Late Smith goal ends Town's perfect away record


TOWN were left frustrated as a late equaliser from Jake Smith saw them make the long journey home from Whitehaven with just a point when it could, and perhaps should, have been all three.

Mark Fanning's side made their longest trip of the season with a 100 per cent away record to defend but were missing injury victims Danny Shoulder, Carl Chillingsworth and James Briggs, while Ian Smurthwaite was still on holiday.

Therefore the starting XI showed four changes from the previous week's win over Chester-le-Street. Steve Craggs replaced Briggs in goal, Stu Dunn came in for Steve Banks at left back, James Bowman replaced Chillingsworth in midfield, while David Alderson made his first start for the club at right back.

Despite the wintry overnight conditions, the pitch at Whitehaven was a good condition but Town nearly found themselves behind after just two minutes when leading scorer Matt Tymon headed narrowly wide from close range.

But it was the visitors who grabbed the lead three minutes later. Alderson sent over a great cross from the right and Steve Butterworth headed firmly past home goalkeeper Brian Miller from 8 yards.

Things looked to be going Town's way when Wayne Gredziak appeared to be brought down by Kevin Law when clean through on goal midway through the first half, but after consulting with his linesman, referee Steve Cavanagh did not even award a free kick let alone a red card for Law.

Buoyed by their stroke of good fortune, Whitehaven were level by the break when the lively Kevin Connolly beat Craggs from close range following a right wing cross from Stuart Shaw.

Town were given a lucky escape five minutes into the second period when Alderson appeared to handle the ball inside his own penalty area as he tried to shepherd it out of play, but Cavanagh waved away the home appeals.

That looked to be the turning point as Town regained the lead in the 66th minute. Marcus Laing sent Adam Emson clear and he coolly lofted the ball over the on-rushing Miller for his 16th goal of the season.

With time running out it appeared Town would hold on to make it five wins out of five on the road this season, but with just four minutes remaining Whitehaven grabbed a dramatic equaliser. Craggs did well to keep out a volley from Connolly but the ball fell to Smith who made no mistake from 6 yards.

The game really came to life after that as Town pushed on for the winner. The travelling fans behind the goal felt their team should have a penalty when Emson went down under a challenge from Miller as he rounded the Whitehaven goalkeeper, but Cavanagh awarded a corner instead. And from Parkin's delivery, Laing's header was cleared it off the line by Adam Johnson.

Then, deep into stoppage time, Alderson was denied a first goal for the club by a marvellous point-blank save from Miller and it finished with honours even.

"I was disappointed not to come away with all three points, especially leading so close to the end," said Fanning.

"A couple of big decisions didn't go our way but we should not have to rely on the officials. I am sure we will look back in time and consider it a decent point as its a tough place to come and win."

Town are next in action with the visit of Washington on Saturday as they look to continue their promotion push. Kick off at the RGPS is 3pm and entrance is £5 for adults and £2.50 concessions.

WHITEHAVEN - Miller, Brown, Johnson, Smith, Law, Lewis, Shaw, McRea, Tymon, Connolly, Robson. Subs - Donald, Lily, Roseby, Quayle, Taylor.

TOWN - Craggs, Alderson, Dunn, Hickman, Winter, Parkin, Butterworth, Laing, Emson, Grgedziak, Bowman. Subs - Roberts, Banks, Caisley, Colman.

REFEREE: S. Cavanagh.


Monday, 22 October 2012

Child's play for Town as Hickman and Gredziak sink Chester-le-Street

A GOAL in each half from Grant Hickman and Wayne Gredziak were enough to give Town all three points against Chester-le-Street on Saturday, as they closed the gap on leaders Ryhope CW to three points with a game in hand.
On 'Kids 4 Free' day, a crowd of 113 arrived at the RGPS to see if Town could continue their impressive recent run of form against an inconsistent Chester side who had lost 5-0 to Tow Law the previous week.
Town manager Mark Fanning was looking to start a busy week with maximum points, so added Colin Anderson and new signing David Alderson to the squad that had performed so well in the FA Vase replay at Consett in midweek. With Ian Smurthwaite unavailable, however, it meant a return to the starting line-up for Steve Butterworth in the only change from Tuesday night's narrow defeat.
Town almost got the perfect start when a slick passing move between Adam Emson, Gredziak and Carl Chillingsworth inside the opening minute freed Butterworth, but the visiting goalkeeper Matthew Crook did well to block his shot.
Then, six minutes later, the keeper could only stand and watch as Gredziak crossed to Butterworth and his first time volley flew past Crook but, unfortunately for Town, just the wrong side of the post.
An injury to Danny Shoulder after just 15 minutes meant an earlier-than-expected debut for Alderson, while the captain's absence saw Craig Winter take over free kick duties and it paid dividends with the crucial opening goal just past the half-hour mark.
Winter's well flighted set-piece was headed upwards by a Chester defender and Hickman waited for the ball to drop before nodding home, despite the best efforts of defender Matthew Smith on the goal line.
But Town had goalkeeper James Briggs to thank for preserving their lead, as he produced a stunning save to keep out a powerful cross-shot from Marc Nixon as half time approached.
Town pressed the visitors back at the start of the second half but it took 15 minutes for the pressure to result in a second goal.
Chillingsworth and Butterworth battled for a loose ball in the penalty area and as it ricocheted across the goal, Gredziak headed back across the keeper to make it 2-0.
The visitors sensed they were still not out of the game and Briggs again produced another crucial save, diving at the feet of Michael Hepplewhite who had broken clear. The loose ball was then fired back towards goal by Nixon but Hickman threw himself in front of it and the danger was cleared.
Town should have added a third late on when Butterworth headed across goal for Chillingsworth who hooked his shot over the bar from 8 yards.
Stuart Dunn replaced Steve Banks on 68 minutes and, with 15 minutes to go, James Bowman replaced Alderson, who is still building up to full match fitness.
"I'm starting to sound like a stuck record," said Fanning at the end. "But that is another clean sheet and another three points which keeps that gap between us and the chasing pack."
TOWN - Briggs, Shoulder, Banks, Hickman, Winter, Parkin, Laing, Butterworth, Chillingsworth, Emson, Gredziak. Subs - Bowman, Dunn, Alderson, Craggs, Anderson.

CHESTER-LE-STREET - Crook, Smith, Davison, Patterson, Robson, Henderson, Doyle, Pattison, Nixon, Hepplewhite, Lynch. Subs - Dukes, Weir, Scope, Forsyth, Wilkinson

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Heartbreak for Town as late Slocombe goal ends Vase dreams


An injury time goal from Consett substitute Matty Slocombe brought Town's FA Vase dreams to a heartbreaking end at Belle Vue on Tuesday night.

After a second half performance as good as anything they have produced all season, Town were caught out by a sucker-punch in the fifth minute of stoppage time at the end of a pulsating cup tie.

"Yes, we are disappointed to lose so late, but we can take the positives," said manager Mark Fanning.

"Last year we were 4-0 down inside half an hour in the League Cup here, so we were determined to keep ourselves in the game this time, and we did that.

"At half time we realised we had nothing to fear so we went for it a bit more. It could have gone either way in the end but we gave as good as we got," he said.

After heavy rain overnight and most of the morning, the match was in doubt until a 4pm pitch inspection deemed it playable, but the surface remained heavy.

The Town starting XI showed four changes from the original tie three days earlier. James Briggs returned in goal, while Steve Banks was preferred to Stuart Dunn at left back, Marcus Laing replaced Steve Butterworth in midfield, and Wayne Gredziak was back in place of James Bowman.

Town almost got the perfect start when Craig Winter met a Gav Parkin corner at the near post, but Consett goalkeeper Chris Elliott produced a marvellous save down to his left and Gredziak's follow up was blocked.

But that was a rare foray forward from Town in a first half largely dominated by the hosts. Mickey Mackay, Steven Aiston and Anthony Lund all tried their luck from distance, while Ian Smurthwaite did well to spectacularly clear an effort from Aiston off his own goalline.

The goal Consett had been threatening, however, finally arrived in the 24th minute, just as it had done on Saturday. Callum Smith created the opportunity with a ball in from the right and Aiston applied the coup de grace from 6 yards.

Town responded well to going behind and they were close to an equaliser twice in the final ten minutes of the half. Adam Emson was sent clear down the right by a lovely ball from Gredziak, but he dragged his shot wide of the far post, while Carl Chillingsworth then saw a powerful drive from 25 yards deflected behind for a corner.

After a reserved first half display, Town really came to life after the restart. Gredziak fizzed an effort just wide of the right-hand upright within a minute of the resumption, while the former Durham City man then seemed to be caught in two minds after a lovely ball from Emson six minutes later. With just Elliott to beat, Gredziak elected to square the ball to Chillingsworth when a shot may have been the better option, and the chance was gone.

It was not all out-way traffic, however, as only a smart save from Biggs denied the lively Lund soon after.

But Town were deservedly level just past the hour-mark. A free kick from Parkin was not cleared by the Consett defence and Smurthwaite hit a stunning volley from 25 yards that gave Elliott no chance - reminiscent of his strike at Brandon last season.

Parity, however, lasted barely two minutes. A cross from Lund struck Banks on the arm from point-blank range and, after some initial hesitation, referee Paul Brown pointed to the spot. It did seem a very harsh decision.

But after the Town protests had died down, former Hartlepool striker Mackay stepped up and confidently dispatched the kick past Briggs.

That led to a thrilling final twenty minutes as the game really opened up. Grant Hickman, who had been the Town goalscoring hero on Saturday, thought he had repeated the trick with a stunning strike from 10 yards, but Elliott produced an even better save to tip it over the top.

Town then thought they should have had a penalty of their own fifteen minutes from time when Chillingsworth appeared to be pushed in the back by Carl Piecha, but Brown was unimpressed.

"I didn't think it was a penalty if I'm honest," said a candid Chillingsworth afterwards. "The officials got that one right to be fair."

Fanning's side really stepped up the pressure after that and Hickman headed narrowly wide before Emson, usually so deadly in such positions, fired inches wide of the far post after a lovely ball from Gredziak.

But Town looked to have rescued themselves in the final minute of normal time when Winter rose to head home another Parkin corner and send the travelling fans into ecstasy.

Despite so little time remaining, neither side was content to just hang on for extra time. Chillingsworth was denied by the outstanding Elliott again as Town sensed a dramatic winner, but it was the hosts who won it in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

Substitute Ryan King was initially denied by Briggs but the loose ball fell to fellow-replacement Slocombe who smashed it back past the beleaguered Town goalkeeper and into the net to leave Fanning frustrated.

"We didn't get what we deserved, but that's football," he said. "I'm not sure where the five minutes of stoppages has come from but we didn't really want another period of extra time after Saturday, which was why we pushed on to try and win it.

"It's more important we pick up three points on Saturday anyway as the league has always been our priority."

Town will look to do just that when Chester-le-Street are the visitors on 'Kids 4 Free' day. All under 12's will be admitted free with a full paying adult.

CONSETT - Elliott, Pearson, Davison, Cuthbertson, Scorer, Piecha, Smith, Robson, Aiston, Mackay, Lund. Subs - King, Jameson, Thompson, Slocombe, Martindale.

TOWN - Briggs, Shoulder, Banks, Hickman, Winter, Parkin, Smurthwaite, Laing, Emson, Chillingsworth, Gredziak. Subs - Craggs, Butterworth, Bowman, Colman, Dunn.


Sunday, 14 October 2012

Late Hickman header keeps Town's Vase dream alive

A late header from Grant Hickman earned Town an FA Vase replay against Division One side Consett after an epic 1st round battle at the RGPS on Saturday.
Manager Mark Fanning had been on a scouting mission to Consett recently and made four changes to his starting XI in a switch to a 4-4-2 formation to nullify the danger of former Hartlepool striker Mickey MacKay.
So Wayne Gredziak, Marcus Laing and Anthony Roberts all dropped to the bench, with James Bowman, Ian Smurthwaite and Stu Dunn coming in to replace them, while Carl Chillingsworth returned in place of the absent Col Anderson.
After a tight opening twenty minutes, it was Consett who took the lead when defender David Scorer  was given far too much time to fire home an unstoppable shot from 25 yards - the first goal conceded by Steve Craggs this season.
Town were playing some good football in the first half but they failed to seriously test visiting goalkeeper Chris Elliott, and Consett were close to doubling their advantage just before the break when MacKay struck the post.
With half time approaching there was more concern for Town when Smurthwaite required lengthy treatment after a clash of heads, but thankfully the damage was not as bad as first feared and he was able to continue.
Town knew they were still in the tie and they came out looking far more dangerous at the start of the second period. They were close to grabbing an equaliser within five minutes when Adam Emson got to the bye-line and cut the ball back for Steve Butterworth, but his shot was well saved by Elliott.
Fanning introduced Gredziak soon after as Town looked to keep their Vase dream alive. The game opened up after that, with Consett being frustrated by Town's excellent defence and Town themselves creating a number of half chances. But with less than ten minutes to go, the Division One side still led.
Town, however, dug deep and they were rewarded on 83 minutes with a fully deserved equaliser. Gav Parkin's corner from the right reached the back post where, reminiscent of his Ernest Armstrong Cup winning goal, Hickman ghosted in unnoticed to head past Elliott.
In fact Town almost won it in stoppage time when Gredziak's cross eluded both Emson and  Chillingsworth in the centre sending the tie into extra time.
The extra half an hour saw both sides have chances to win the game. Twice Consett got in behind the Town defence but both times the danger was cleared, while at the other end Gredziak's through ball freed Emson, only for his shot across goal to be scrambled to safety.
"It was a much better performance than we have produced in recent weeks," said Fanning at the end. "And a draw was a fair result. We'll just have to do it all over again in the replay now."
Consett manager Kenny Lindoe said: "It was a tale of missed chances at one end, and a goalkeeping error at the other that has cost us the game, but at least we have another crack at it."”
The replay is this Tuesday evening at 7.30pm, meaning Town's league match at Ryton & Crawcrook, scheduled for the following night, has been postponed.
NORTHALLERTON TOWN - Craggs, Shoulder, Dunn, Hickman, Winter, Parkin, Smurthwaite, Butterworth, Emson, Chillingsworth, Bowman. Subs- Briggs, Roberts, Banks, Laing, Gredziak.

CONSETT - Elliott, Pearson, Davidson, Smith, Scorer, Piecha, King, Robson, Sullivan, MacKay, Lund. Subs - Aiston, Slocombe, Davies, Stanger, Jameson
REFEREE: D. Storrie

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Emson again the difference as Town overcome Whickham


A SECOND half goal from leading scorer Adam Emson was just enough to give Town another important three points against a battling Whickham side at the RGPS on Saturday.

Manager Mark Fanning made three changes from the team that had won at Stokesley SC the previous week - Anthony Roberts replacing Stuart Dunn at left back, Craig Winter was back in place of the absent Steve Banks at the back, while Colin Anderson come in for Ian Smurthwaite in midfield.
The first half was an even contest with possession shared and neither side creating many clear cut chances. Town's best two openings both fell to Wayne Gredziak. In the 18th minute he glanced Danny Shoulder's cross narrowly wide of the post before he then took a pass from Steve Butterworth and turned his defender before shooting narrowly over the bar.
Town started the second half on the offensive, but while much of the game was played in Whickham territory, they defended well and allowed Town very few openings.
But Fanning's side were close to making the breakthrough just past the hour-mark, Colin Anderson burst into the box and hit a powerful shot that Whickham goalkeeper Scott Cresswell did superbly to keep out. Steve Butterworth hooked the loose ball back towards goal and, with Gredziak waiting to apply the finishing touch, the ball was cleared from under the bar by a defender.
The all-important breakthrough, however, was not far away. Carl Chillingsworth replaced Anderson three minutes later, and within a minute he had helped create goal. Emson's initial shot was blocked but the ball fell to Chillingsworth, who's mishit shot reached Emson 8 yards out and he lifted the ball over Cresswell to give Town the lead - his 15th goal of the season.
The visitors went in search of an equaliser with most of their attacks coming through the impressive Jordan Lartey, but every cross that came into the box was handled cleanly by Town goalkeeper Steve Craggs and the defence held firm to keep a second successive clean sheet.
"We are still struggling to hit top form," said Fanning at the whistle. "But we are looking solid and keep picking up three points. Long may it continue.”"
TOWN - Craggs, Shoulder, Roberts, Hickman, Winter, Parkin, Butterworth, Laing, Emson, Gredziak, Anderson. Subs - Dunn, Smurthwaite, Chillingsworth, Colman, Bowman.