Sunday, 15 December 2013

Alnwick defeat overshadowed by horror injury to new goalkeeper

By Ricky Butler at the Calvert Stadium

Watch highlights of this match here

THERE was very little Christmas cheer for Northallerton on Saturday as Alnwick Town and their noisy band of supports left the Calvert Stadium with an unexpected three points.

The match however, was overshadowed by a nasty head injury to new Northallerton goalkeeper James Howarth just before half time that ended with the 21-year old being taken to hospital with concussion.

Town had only just gone ahead with a penalty from Danny Shoulder when Howarth took a kick to the face when diving at the feet of Tony Brown. Although he continued until just before half time, the new signing from Bishop Auckland then collapsed to the ground immediately after Dale Kennedy had headed Alnwick level and the game was held up for over 20 minutes as Howarth was treated by paramedics on the pitch.

And that proved to be the turning point of the match. With no substitute goalkeeper available, Steve Banks was forced to don the gloves for the second half and Brown, James Jackson and Kennedy all beat him to give the Northumbrians the points.

But Town manager Peter Mulcaster was not looking to use that an excuse for what was a below-par performance from his side. He said: "We had players who weren't up for it. We had players who did not seem bothered.

"The second half performance and the result is the worst since I have been here. It was diabolical. James [Howarth] made his debut and took a nasty kick before half time but I am not making excuses. When you put an outfield player in goal it doesn't help but in the second half they were better than us."

Mulcaster made three changes to the side that had beaten Norton & Stockton Ancients a fortnight earlier - Howarth, Banks and Dale Elgie replacing Jordan Aspinall, Grant Hickman and Mikey Stevens.

The hosts actually started quite well and while being far from being at their free-flowing best, they were the dominant force for much of the opening half-an-hour.

Graham Caygill, with goals in each of his last two appearances, fired over the top before Gav Parkin struck a post. But Town did go in front eight minutes before the break. Darren Kokes managed to squeeze through to Col Anderson inside the penalty area and he was brought down by Alnwick goalkeeper Dan Mullen.

Referee Kevin McKitterick pointed to the spot but produced only a yellow card for the stopper when it could so easily have been red, although Shoulder extracted the ultimate punishment by coolly stroking home from 12 yards.

At this point, Town looked comfortable but the injury to Howarth changed everything. The former Bishop goalkeeper had looked assured on his debut but he felt the full force of Brown's boot in the 41st minute as he bravely dived at the Alnwick man's feet and was left in a daze.

He battled on until just before half time but after Kennedy headed home at the far post in the final seconds of the half after a Jackson cross from the right, the Town goalkeeper collapsed to the ground. McKitterick immediately blew for half time and after a lengthy delay while the ambulance arrived, Howarth was finally taken to hospital with concussion.

Banks came out for the second half wearing the goalkeeper gloves - Hickman replacing him at right back - but his first job was the pick the ball out his own net. Some static Town defending allowed Brown the opportunity to slot past the replacement 'keeper within two minutes of the restart.

And it was game over for Mulcaster's side three minutes later. A corner from the right was flicked on at the near post leaving Jackson with a simple close-range header.

Town never looked like staging a comeback after that and it was the Northumbrians that added a fourth goal, 20 minutes from time - Kennedy chipping the ball over the stranded Banks after more good work from the impressive Brown.

"We had too many big players off form today," said Mulcaster at the whistle. "Dale, Gavin and Colin are three of the best midfield players in the second division but they had an off day.

"That is now six points we have lost to Alnwick. I am not being disrespectful and it's not sour grapes either, but they are not a very good side. However, they were the better side today."

Town now face a two week break before their next game against league leaders North Shields on 28 December. Looking ahead to that game, Mulcaster said: "We have had a habit this season of playing our worst games against lower teams and our better games have been against the better teams so you never know.

"North Shields are a very good footballing side and they will win the league I think so we'll just draw a line under today and see what Santa brings."

Hopefully a better performance than this will be in his sack.

1. Howarth - Looked assured on his debut until his unfortunate injury. 8/10

2. Banks - Not his best game at right back and was always going to find it tough in goal in the second half. 6/10

3. Hemingway - Probably the only outfield player to come out with any credit. Won every tackle and deserved better from those around him. Man of the match. 8/10

4. Shoulder - Converted the penalty with customary coolness but looked surprisingly shaky at the back. 6/10

5. Howlett - His unsure performance was typical of the team as a whole. 6/10

6. Parkin - Mr Consistency slipped way below his usual high standards. A late free kick that landed in the car park summed up his day. 6/10

7. Anderson - Although far from his best, Col still looked the only one likely to get Town back into it. 7/10

8. Elgie - Like midfield partner Parkin, Dale was off the pace. Did not shirk a tackle and worked hard but was far from his best. 6/10

9. Kokes - Probably his worst game in a Town shirt. Just nothing came off for him. One to forget. 6/10

10. Caygill - Came into the match in a rich vein of form but was struck by the same lethargy as most of his team-mates. 6/10

11. McLachlan - One of the better performers on the day, although that is not saying a lot. 7/10

12. Hickman - Was unable to have any influence after coming on at half time having missed the start due to working late. Perhaps wishes he had gone straight home now. 6/10

14. Stevens - Not an easy game to come on in and did not really have the opportunity to shine. 6/10

UNUSED: Porritt, Dacombe, Toman

ALNWICK TOWN - Mullen, Murray, Hogg(K), Lowes, MacPherson, Elliott, Jackson, Brown, Vickers, Makin. SUBS - Schiwaith, Hogg(S), Kidd, Atwell, Lowe.

REFEREE - K. McKitterick



Saturday, 14 December 2013

Peter Mulcaster on Alnwick defeat

Friday, 6 December 2013

Emerson Butler interview

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Reflection on the season so far

Monday, 2 December 2013

Grant Hickman post-match interview

Colin Anderson post-match interview

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Caygill and Anderson fire Town to crucial Norton victory

By Ricky Butler at The Calvert Stadium 

Highlights of this match are available here

TOWN withstood a strong second half Norton & Stockton rally to seal a vital victory in this promotion six-pointer at the Calvert Stadium on Saturday.

Having gone behind midway through a high-tempo first half to a strike from Nicky Martin, Peter Mulcaster's side fought back to lead at the break thanks to goals from Graham Caygill and Colin Anderson.

The second half saw the Ancients throw everything at Town but a combination of strong defending and assured goalkeeping from Jordan Aspinall in his final appearance before returning to the Academy ensured Town held on for a vital three points.

"That was probably the hardest game we have had all season," said a delighted Mulcaster at the final whistle. "I thought we shaded the first half if I am honest and the second half they must have had 75% of the play in our half.

"But defenders have to play well and they did today. They were absolutely tremendous. I don't want to take anything away from our lads but I think a draw might have been a fair result."

Norton, who had former Town man Marcus Laing in midfield and another ex-Northallerton player, Gary Mitchell, in attack, began the day one place and one point ahead of Town in the top six so it was a crucial game for both teams.

Mulcaster was able to welcome back Mark Hemingway and Danny Shoulder to the back four in place of Stephen Banks and Craig Toman, while in the continued absence of Dale Elgie, Darren Kokes continued in midfield.

The game started at a frenetic pace with both sides looking to gain the early initiative. Anderson and Kokes both came close for Town with headed opportunities inside the opening 10 minutes, while at the other end John Seaton saw an effort blocked by James Howlett.

But it was the visitors, who were unbeaten in 9 games, a run in which they had kept 7 clean sheets, that grabbed a 24th minute lead. Christian Selby's deflected shot from the edge of the penalty area beat Aspinall but came back off the left hand upright straight into the path of Martin who had a simple tap-in.

However, the lead lasted barely a minute. The Norton defence only managed to half-clear a free kick from Gav Parkin and when Kokes lofted the ball back into the penalty area, Caygill brought it down before firing into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.

And the turn around was complete six minutes later. This time it was a corner from Parkin that was not cleared and after first Grant Hickman and then Danny McLachlan had headed for goal, Anderson was on hand to finish from 6 yards - his 13th goal of the season.

It might have been 3-1 before the break when Caygill seized on a poor clearance from Norton goalkeeper David Knight but after beating Matthew Bell, he fired over from a tight angle.

The second half became a war of attrition for Town as Norton threw everything they had at them. The visitors were close to an equaliser within three minutes of the restart when Martin rounded Aspinall but Hickman got back to make an heroic block on the line with his chest.

Michael Jamieson came even closer soon after with a free kick that deceived the entire Town defence and Aspinall was only just able to push the ball onto the crossbar.

The remainder of the match saw a Norton aerial bombardment but with Hickman and Shoulder commanding and Aspinall brave, Town were able to hang on to claim a very important victory.

"The second half was constant pressure all the time," said Mulcaster. "But Taffy, who played his last game for us today, has been magnificent and he had a great game again today.

"His positional sense is good, his talking, when you can understand him, is good so perhaps it was that which denied them too many opportunities.

"I signed a new goalkeeper today, James Howarth, who has had a spell with Blyth Spartans and recently had a trail with Brentford and he will be in the sticks next week. I have also signed Richard Dacombe from Billingham Town so we are looking a lot stronger now."

Mulcaster takes his troops to Tow Law Town next weekend for their penultimate game before Christmas.

1. Aspinall - Has been magnificent in his short spell in the team and went out with another commanding display. 9/10.

2. Shoulder - A typically committed performance. No quarter asked or given. 9/10

3. Hemingway - Back after missing the midweek game through illness and was not 100% fit but it did not show. Another superb display from the left back. 8/10

4. Hickman - Back to best after the midweek blip. Relished the battle with Mitchell and his clearance off the line proved crucial. Man of the match. 9/10

5. Howlett - Recovered from a shaky start to play a full part in what was a superb second half defensive performance. 7/10

6. Parkin -  The skipper once again led from the front and ensured that Town did not buckle under the second half onslaught. Came out on top in the battle with former team-mate Laing. Created both goals with his trademark set-piece mastery. 8/10

7. Anderson - Scored what proved to be the winner and produced another all-action display. Did his fair share of defending in the second half but was still a great outlet down the right. Ran Hickman close for the man of the match award. 9/10

8. Kokes - Covered every blade of grass and worked tirelessly to keep Norton at bay. 8/10

9. Caygill - Is developing into the complete centre forward. Defended from the front and scored another great goal. 9/10

10. McLachlan - No one works harder than Macca but it is not really happening for him in front of goal at the moment. Snatched at a first half effort but did not hide after that. The goals will soon flow again if he can regain his confidence. 7/10

11. Stevens - Wingers are not meant to work as hard as young Mikey and while his final ball can sometime let him down, his pace and energy more than compensate. 7/10

12. Holliday - Unused. N/A

NORTON & STOCKTON ANCIENTS -  Knight, O'Brien, Bell, Lambert, Mulligan, Laing, Selby, Seaton, Mitchell, Martin, Jamieson. SUBS - Joseph, Gaston, Woodhouse, O'Riordan, Hawkins.

REFEREE - K. Beckett


Exclusive Jordan Aspinall interview

Exclusive Ian Smurthwaite interview

Half time report Northallerton Town 2 Norton 1

Northallerton vs. Norton team news

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Depleted Town bow out of cup with their heads held high

By Ricky Butler at Whitley Park

Highlights of this game can be found here

AN under-strength Town side crashed out of the League Cup at West Allotment Celtic on Wednesday evening but they did so with their heads held high.

With eight players missing for one reason or another, Peter Mulcaster was only just able to scramble together a side but the lads who were there produced a performance of real quality which on another night may well have seen them through.

It looked like being a long evening for Town and their hardy band of followers when Sean Reid, who would go on to score four times, was gifted two early goals but Mulcaster's battlers recovered from that nightmare start to contribute to a thrilling tie.

Stephen Banks put Town back in to it midway through the first half but after Reid had completed his hat-trick with a superb free kick and Michael Bell added a fourth before the break, it looked all over when Reid was gifted another early in the second half.

However, Town are nothing if not resilient and they rallied in the final 15 minutes with goals from Graham Caygill and Danny McLachlan as Celtic were forced to hang on at the end.

But while Mulcaster was rightly proud of the performance of the players who did turn up, he was more upset with those who did not.

"The biggest thing for me was the non-appearance of people," said Mulcaster at the whistle. "I am really, really disappointed in two or three people.

"We turned up with a depleted squad. No, we turned up with just a team, 11 players, which is not good enough. I am sad and angry but the people that went out there tonight were absolutely magnificent.

"The five goals that they scored, four were mistakes. After going 5-1 down we were the better side I thought but we got beat and now we look forward to a big game on Saturday."

With eight players missing for one reason or another, some pulling out at the last minute, Town were always going to be up against it. Mikey Stevens was forced to start in an unfamiliar left back role while Craig Toman made his first start of the season in midfield.

With Dale Elgie at work, Darren Kokes dropped back into midfield with Caygill getting a start up front alongside McLachlan.

In front of the Sky Tyne and Wear cameras, Town could not have got off to a worst start. Just 52 seconds had elapsed when Connor Graham whipped in a cross from the left and Reid was left completely unmarked to nod past goalkeeper Jordan Aspinall from close range.

When the Celtic striker then scored an almost identical goal eight minutes later, this time heading home a cross from Marc Dummett, a heavy Town defeat looked on the cards. 

But when face-to-face with adversity, Mulcaster's side often come up with something special and they did just that to get back in to the tie six minutes later. Colin Anderson initially saw a header hacked off the line by Dummett but when Celtic failed to clear their lines, Caygill's shot was deflected into the path of Banks who drilled home.

Suddenly it was different game. Kokes shot narrowly wide after great work from Caygill while Stevens, who had now switched positions with Toman, should have equalised after a mistake from Chris Douglas. But with only goalkeeper Ryan Beal to beat, he blasted wide of the target and that proved to be the turning point.

Almost immediately Toman fouled David Henderson on the edge of the penalty area and Reid completed his hat-trick with a superb curling free kick that gave Aspinall no chance.

It was a real cup tie now as only a great save from Beal denied Kokes as Town again looked for a way back. But it was more poor defending that gifted Celtic a fourth goal just two minutes before the break.

Again Graham was allowed to get a cross in from the left and this time it was midfielder Bell who was granted the freedom of the Town six-yard box to nod past Aspinall. The score perhaps flattered the hosts as the teams left the pitch at half time but it would get worse before it got better for Town.

Just six minutes had elapsed in the second half when Hickman, having an unusually shaky game at the back, was robbed by Reid on the edge of his own penalty area and there was only going to be one outcome - the Celtic man coolly lifting the ball past the exposed Aspinall. 5-1 and game over. Or maybe not.

The final half an hour was as well as Town have played all season. They passed the ball with purpose and created numerous opportunities. Anderson, who had been hoping for a rest, began to take the game by the scruff of the neck and only the heroics of Beal prevented him adding to his 12 goals this season.

However it was Caygill who was the real star of the show, producing the complete centre forward's display. And the 23-year old was rewarded 15 minutes from time. A long clearance from Aspinall was flicked on by McLachlan and Caygill showed great strength to beat Beal on the edge of the penalty area before scooping the ball into the net from 15 yards.

Speaking about his goal, Caygill said: "I've been out of the side for while, trying to make an impact from the bench, but tonight I managed to put a good shift in and got a goal to cap it off.

"The keeper came out but you have to go big or go home with those ones and I won the ball and managed to dink it in over the defender's tackle."

If Town were keep their cup dream alive they needed another goal quickly and it nearly arrived as first Kokes headed an Anderson cross just the wrong side of the left-hand upright before Beal somehow kept out another effort from Anderson. But the resulting corner, whipped in by Gav Parkin, was only half-cleared and McLachlan headed home from close range.

The comeback was nearly cut short moments later when Celtic substitute Dean Lee smashed a shot against the crossbar but it may well have been a different story had Hickman placed his headed a few inches either side of Beal or if the Celtic stopper had not produced a magnificent save to deny Anderson again.

But it was not to be for Town and right at the death it should have been 6-3. Lee, who had looked lively after coming on, rounded Aspinall but he only succeeded in finding the side-netting from a tight angle and the final whistle blew moments later.

Mulcaster will now hope his team can take this second half performance, minus the defensive mistakes, into Saturday's big promotion six-pointer against Norton & Stockton Ancients.

"We should have eight players back (on Saturday) and if we play like this we will have a massive chance. It will not be easy but we look forward to the game. It will be a good test."

WEST ALLOTMENT CELTIC - Beal, Douglas, Dummitt, Gordon, Pendlebury, Ford, Bell, Borley, Reid, Henderson, Graham. SUBS - Dormand, Bernat-Roca, Lancaster, Lee, Oliver-Bergan

1. Aspinall - Made some good saves but was let down by those in front of him for 4 of the 5 goals. 7/10

2. Banks - Recovered from a shaky start to score his 3rd goal of the season and was far more solid after the break. 7/10

3. Stevens - Started in an unfamiliar left back position but soon switched to his usual role on the wing. Should have equalised midway through the first half and failed to really spark after that. 6/10

4. Hickman - Probably made more mistakes in the first hour here than he has done all season. Has enough good performances in the bank to get away with this one, but only just. Best to put this down as one of those days. (A generous) 6/10

5. Howlett - Struggled at times against the impressive Reid, as did the whole of the back four, but stuck to the task well. 6/10

6. Parkin - Drove the team forward after that dreadful start. Demanded the ball and demanded more from those around him. Another captain's display. 8/10

7. Anderson - Such a joy to watch at times. Might not have scored this time but is worth the entrance fee alone. 8/10

8. Kokes - You know what you get from Kokesy and he did not disappoint. Worked hard along side Parkin in the middle of the park. Unlucky not to score on a couple of occasions. 7/10

9. Caygill - His best performance in a Town shirt. Worked tirelessly up front, looked after the ball well and was rewarded with a well taken goal. Man of the match. 9/10

10. McLachlan - On the periphery of the action for much of the night but made an assist and then scored a much needed goal. Hopefully this will give his confidence a much-needed boost. 7/10

11. Toman - First appearance of the season and playing out of position so it was always going to be a big test but worked hard throughout. 7/10

REFEREE - K. McKitterick.



Exclusive Graham Caygill interview

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Peter Mulcaster on the cup defet at West Allotment

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Anderson on target again as Town produce a (Red) Star performance

By Ricky Butler at Seaham Town Park

Highlights of this game can be viewed here

A SECOND half strike from in-form Colin Anderson saw Town pick up a hard earned point on Saturday against fellow-promotion challengers Seaham Red Star.

Anderson, with five goals from his previous eight appearances, struck in the 51st minute to give Town a lead they had fully deserved. But Star skipper Chris McCabe headed an equaliser 15 minutes later and it finished with honours even.

"That is one point gained without a shadow of a doubt," said Town boss Peter Mulcaster at the whistle. "It was an absolutely brilliant game between two good sides and it could have gone either way.

"The last ten minutes was very nervy. We missed a chance, they went up the other end and missed a chance. It was a great game to watch."

Mulcaster made three changes to the side that had won well in midweek. Stephen Banks and James Howlett both returned to the back four, with Mark Hemingway switching from centre back to his preferred position of left back.

Meanwhile captain Gav Parkin reclaimed the armband in midfield with Darren Kokes moving up front to replace Richie Playforth, who has decided to go back to his former club Redcar Athletic.

There was drama off the pitch before kick off as referee Peter Osgood deemed that Seaham's red and white shirts clashed with Town's burgundy number, so after a mad dash to Hebburn for the Star secretary to collect a white kit, the game finally started five minutes late.

Seaham, who began the day two places and two points better off than Town, started well and with former Northallerton striker Jamie Clarke leading their attack, they threatened early on.

But Town began settle and probably just shaded a tight first half. Twice Kokes came close to making the breakthrough while Mikey Stevens then tested home goalkeeper Shaun Newbrook from 25 yards.

Seaham came close with a Michael McKeown free kick midway through the half that Jordan Aspinall did well to tip over the crossbar, before the Town 'keeper then denied David Palmer.

The best chance however, fell to Anderson in the 42nd minute. After wriggling clear down the right his low shot was deflected onto the outside of the post by the legs of the sprawling Newbrook.

But in first half stoppage time, Seaham might have gained the initiative. Clarke broke through from halfway and looked odds-on to score but he took his shot early and Aspinall was able to save.

Town were not supplied with any refreshments during the interval, the second away game in a row where this has happened, but it did not seem to affect them too much as they could have scored twice in the opening two minutes of the second half.

Kokes was denied by Newbrook after a lovely ball over the top from Anderson within 30 seconds of the restart, while the Seaham 'keeper then did even better to shovel a Banks' drive over the top.

But the goal was not long in coming. Just six minutes of the second half had elapsed when Parkin's rather scuffed effort from 20 yards fell to Anderson who made no mistake with a low drive to Newbrook's right.

But Seaham, who had won their previous five matches, responded well and enjoyed a good 15 minutes spell midway through the half to haul themselves level. Carl Thorp saw a header saved by Aspinall on the hour but the Town goalkeeper was helpless to prevent the equaliser just six minutes later.

Substitute Shaun Reay was initially denied by Welshman but when McCabe's follow up header came back off the crossbar, the Seaham skipper reacted quickly to nod past Banks on the line.

Town were rocked back on their haunches and Star sensed victory but some superb defending from Mulcaster's men saw them ride the storm and it was in fact the visitors that finished the game strongly.

Grant Hickman had the ball in the net 20 minutes from time but referee Osgood had already blown for a push, while Dale Elgie and Danny McLachlan also came close to a late winner.

Meanwhile at the other end, Clarke would have loved to have got one over on his former teammates and he almost did so right at the death only to see his acrobatic attempt blocked by Dale Elgie as it finished 1-1.

"Seaham are one of the favourites for promotion so it is a fantastic result for us and a great performance from one to eleven," said Mulcaster.

"The young goalkeeper played his second game for us today and did exceptionally well. Mark Hemingway came in at left full back and was man of the match for me. But from one to eleven they were absolute stars today.

"In fact I am so delighted with the lads that I might even go and buy them a drink!

"After this week we only have one more night game which is great as it means we can get on the training pitch. There are one or two things we want to have a look at but it also means we can relax a little bit."

The busy schedule continues with that midweek League Cup trip to West Allotment Celtic before another promotion six-pointer at home to Norton & Stockton Ancients next Saturday.

SEAHAM RED STAR - Newbrook, Maltby, Short, Thorp, McCabe, Donnelly, Palmer, McKeown, Clarke, Winter, Richmond. SUBS - Reay, Allen, Gray, Laidler, Graham.

1. Aspinall - Another solid display between the sticks. Made some good saves and could do nothing about the goal that finally beat him. 8/10

2. Banks - The boss calls him Mr Consistent and it is easy to see why. Does his job with the minimum of fuss and produced another solid display. 8/10

3. Hemingway - After a great debut at centre back in midweek, Mark produced an even better performance at left back. Won his tackles and his use of the ball was exceptional at times. Possibly the best player on the pitch. 9/10

4. Hickman - Kept Clarke quiet throughout and still managed to look dangerous from set pieces. Unlucky to see a late effort ruled out. 8/10

5. Howlett - In a defence that was excellent throughout, Jagger typified it with a solid performance. Made very few mistakes and kept things simple. 8/10

6. Parkin - Perhaps not at his best but still played a captain's role with a hard working performance that inspired those around him. 7/10

7. Anderson - A full back's nightmare. Never gives defenders a minutes' peace. Took his goal well and was threat throughout. If Town were going to get a late winner, Col certainly looked the most likely to get it. 8/10

8. Elgie - Ran Hemingway close for man of the match. One of his best games in a Town shirt and even came close to winning it at the death. 9/10

9. Kokes - May not have got on the score-sheet but must have covered every blade of grass. Unlucky twice in the first half and then denied by the goalkeeper early in the second. 8/10

10. McLachlan - Another who worked his socks off but it is just not happening in front of goal for him at the moment. Only denied by a great last-ditch tackle in the second half.  Needs one to go in off his backside. 7/10

11. Stevens - Has settled in to life in the Northern League really well and used his pace to great effect at times. Certainly offers a great outlet down the left and is not afraid to track back and help out his full back. 7/10


12. Caygill - Was brought on for the final 10 minutes in the hope of grabbing a late winner and stretched the Seaham defence on a number of occasions. Like Macca however, it is not happening in front of goal for him although no one can question his endeavour. 7/10

14. Colman - Was again unused. N/A

REFEREE - P. Osgood



Exclusive Mark Hemingway interview

Peter Mulcaster on the draw at Seaham Red Star

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

South Shields - post-match analysis and player ratings

TOWN'S love affair with the Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup shows no sign of losing its spark as last night's superb 6-2 win at South Shields illustrated.

Having reached the final of this competition in each of the last two seasons, Town are clearly determined to make it a hat-trick judging by the commitment shown by what was a much-changed side.

With big players like skipper Gav Parkin, Danny Shoulder, Stephen Banks and Freddie Huscroft all missing, it looked like being a long night for the small army of Town followers who had braved the freezing conditions.

But the side, with six Academy lads in the squad, showed exactly what they are all about with a performance of great character to come away with a thrilling victory and a place in the quarter finals.

Three of the starting XI were making their debuts. Goalkeeper Jordan Aspinall and defender Mark Hemingway both stepped up from the Academy while striker Richie Playforth was playing for the first time following his switch from Redcar Athletic last week.

But while all three produced exciting performances, it was the debut of substitute Dan Baxter that really caught the eye. The 25-year old striker, who has struck over 20 times this season for the Academy, scored with his first touch after coming off the bench and then added a second with his next. The stuff of dreams.

In fact he could have had a hat-trick with possibly the least amount of touches ever recorded in a game had he converted a late Colin Anderson cross, but after missing the easiest of the 3 chances, redemption was afforded by Playforth who followed up to complete the scoring.

With the side perhaps feeling the pressure of challenging at the top of the league in recent weeks, it was refreshing to see them play with a freedom that has been missing lately.

South Shields offered a stern test. Colin White must have the longest throw in the Northern League and he used it to great effect. But Town defended well, with young Hemingway impressive alongside stand-in skipper Grant Hickman against the giants in the Shields team.

Aspinall also shone on his debut. An early save to deny Kyle Houshby settled any pre-match nerves and it led to a dominate display from the Welshman. He may have been slightly disappointed to have conceded two goals from set-pieces but when you take into account the height difference between the sides and the fact that the Mariners had around 25 corners and throw ins throughout the match, it was a good effort.

Manager Peter Mulcaster had complained of a lack of cutting edge after Saturday's 3-3 draw with Willington, but he could have no such worries here. Playforth not only scored one and helped create three others, he was a constant threat and linked the play extremely well.

He had been impressive in Redcar Athletic's 3-2 victory at the Calvert Stadium 10 days ago and he appears to have settled in to life at Northallerton very smoothly.

But the most pleasing aspect of the performance was that once again the goals came from all over the pitch. Anderson moved clear of Darren Kokes as the club's leading goal-scorer with his 11th of the season while Hickman scored for the 7th time.

It has been a criticism that not enough goals have come from midfield, but after Parkin scored at the weekend, Dale Elgie did likewise here to show an improvement in that area. But with the likes of Graham Caygill and now Baxter coming off the bench, goals are certainly not a problem for this side; 68 in just 26 games emphasises that point.

So all-in-all a very good night's work. While promotion clearly remains the priority there is little doubt that another good cup run will keep the season ticking over nicely. And who knows, another cup final appearance could well be on the cards come May. Judging by the performance last night, you certainly would not bet against it.


1. Jordan Aspinall - A solid debut. A good early save settled him down and he made very few mistakes. Communicated well with his defence even if they probably did not understand a word he was saying. 8/10

2. Andrew Porritt - Looks far more comfortable at right back. Put in a good shift, made some important tackles and used the ball well. Last game for a while before flying to America at the weekend. He will be missed. 7/10

3. Christian Holliday - Not able to utilise his pace going forward as much from the left back position but worked hard throughout. 7/10

4. Grant Hickman - Is there a better centre half in the league? The stand-in skipper led by example, winning more than his fair share of headers and popping up with a trademark headed goal. Standard. 9/10

5. Mark Hemingway - Brought in from the Academy in an unfamiliar centre back role and was outstanding. Despite his height disadvantage against the big Shields attack, he was impressive in the air and showed great tenacity in the tackle. Impressive debut. 9/10

6. Dale Elgie - Doesn't always get the credit he deserves. Worked extremely hard in the middle of the park, breaking up the play, but also passed the ball well at times. Scored the all-important opening goal. Should be happy with his night's work. 8/10

7. Colin Anderson - The most naturally gifted player in the league can be frustrating at times but when on song he is simply unplayable. Not his best game perhaps but still a constant threat, scoring one and created numerous other opportunities. Picked up a silly booking early on but has clearly learned from the sending off at Alnwick and did not react after that. 7/10

8. Darren Kokes - Not as effective in midfield as he is in attack, although he stuck at the task well and worked extremely hard, as always. Took over set-piece duties in the absence of Gav Parkin and helped to create two of the goals. Took a knock early on and was substituted in the second half. 7/10

9. Richie Playforth - A very impressive debut. Scored, helped create three of the other goals and looked a threat throughout. Held the ball up well to relive the pressure and added that little bit of quality in the final third. Looks a great addition to the squad. 9/10

10. Danny McLachlan - Seems to be suffering from a lack of confidence in front of goal at the moment but put in another hard working display. Unlucky not to score with a fine curling effort in the first half and was instrumental in many of the best attacking moves. 7/10

11.Mikey Stevens - Lively in the first half but got very little change from the right back all night. Faded slightly after the break and was substituted. 7/10

Subs -

14. Graham Caygill - A difficult night to come off the bench but once again made a positive impression. Always looked a threat and worked hard to create opportunities for himself, although he will perhaps be disappointed not to score in the move that led to the 4th goal. 7/10

13. Dan Baxter - What can you say? Pure Roy of the Rovers stuff. Scored with his first touch after coming on and then scored again with his second. A natural goal-scorer, Dan showed no nerves when the chances presented themselves and could even have had a hat-trick before the end. But as debuts go, they do not come much better than this. 10/10

12. Mike Colman - Was once again unused. N/A

Debutants shine as Town make progress in the cup

By Ricky Butler at Peterlee Newtown

Town, in orange, prepare for kick off at South Shields last night

TOWN'S bid to reach a third consecutive Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup final gathered pace at Peterlee on Wednesday evening as they swept aside South Shields to move into the quarter finals.

On a freezing cold night on the banks of the North Sea it was the performances of the Town debutants that really warmed the hearts.

Striker Richie Playforth, signed from Redcar Athletic at the weekend, capped a fine display with a late goal, while Academy graduate Dan Baxter struck twice in three minutes after coming off the bench. Meanwhile defender Mark Hemingway and goalkeeper Jordan Aspinall also impressed on their first starts for the first team.

"I just can't make football out sometimes," said Town boss Peter Mulcaster at the whistle. "We came here with a greatly depleted squad and we come out 6-2 winners. We rode a little bit of luck at times but I am pleased for the lads.
"Dan (Baxter) only got the call this afternoon as players were pulling out and he had a slight hamstring injury. But we asked if he could do 20 minutes and we could not have asked for much more from him."

A much-changed Town side had begun the night well with an early goal from Dale Elgie, but while Ben Riding soon had the Mariners level, Colin Anderson and Grant Hickman saw Town lead 3-1 at the interval.

Riding added another midway through the second half which threatened a Shields comeback, but it was the introduction of Baxter, replacing his brother Mikey Stevens 11 minutes from time, that sealed Town's progress. The substitute scored with his first touch after coming on and then, incredibly, scored again with his second, before Playforth completed the scoring in the final minute.

Mulcaster was forced to make several changes to the side which had battled back for a draw against Willington on Saturday as Danny Shoulder, Stephen Banks and Gav Parkin were all unavailable. With Freddie Huscroft and James Howlett also unable to make the trip, Town were down to the bare bones and Mulcaster drafted six Academy players into the squad.

Hemingway was called up to partner skipper-for-the-night Hickman in the heart of the defence, with Christian Holliday returning at left back and Andrew Porritt on right. Stevens started on the left side of midfield, Darren Kokes partnered Elgie in the centre, with Playforth joining Danny McLachlan in attack.

The big news however, saw Academy goalkeeper Aspinall called up to replace the rested Alex Kell in goal, and the Welshman was soon in the thick of the action with a great save to deny Shields full back Kyle Houshby after just four minutes.

But it was Town that opened the scoring three minutes later. A corner from the right by Kokes found the head of Playforth at the far post and when Mariners' goalkeeper Jak Wells could only push the ball out, Elgie was on hand to knock it home from close range.

The biggest threat posed by the hosts was clearly the long throws of Colin White and it was no real surprise that one such missile produced the equaliser 10 minutes later - Riding profiting with a fine header from 10 yards.

But Town were back in front just 45 seconds later. Playforth, who was already showing what a very great addition to the squad he will be, sent Stevens clear down the left and when his shot was saved by Wells, Anderson followed up to tuck away the rebound - his 11th goal of the season.

And it was 3-1 moments later. Again it was corner by Kokes, from the left this time, that created the opportunity and Hickman, as he has done so often this season, rose highest to power home a header that brushed the underside of the crossbar on its way in.

The second half began with a series of long throws and corners from Shields but Town defended well, with Hemingway in particular looking assured in an unfamiliar position. But it was very much game on just past the hour when Riding headed home his second from a left wing corner by Cameron Foster, despite Aspinall claiming he had been fouled.

But Mulcaster held all the aces and it was the introduction of Baxter in the 79th minute for his debut that finally sealed Town's place in the last eight. The striker had only just entered the field when fellow substitute Graham Caygill was denied by Wells and Baxter drilled home the rebound with the confidence of a man who has scored over 20 times this season in the Teesside League.

If that was good, then even better was to follow. Just two minutes later Playforth broke down the left and his low cross found Baxter who chipped past Wells with his right foot before firing into the empty net with his left.

The striker should then have completed an incredible hat-trick with his next touch, but when he failed to find the target from close range the ball fell to Playforth 15 yards out who got the goal his all-round performance deserved to make the final score 6-2.

"I'm pleased as it keeps out interest in the cup going and we'll have a go at it and see who it brings up," said Mulcaster.

"But we have a massive, difficult match this weekend so we'll have to see who is fit, willing and wounded. Seaham are a very good side and will be wanting to get one over on us after last time."

After the performance of the debutants here however, Town can travel full of confidence.

SOUTH SHIELDS - Wells, Houshby, Turnbull, White, Fraser, Olebode, Richardson, Riding, Ramsey, Logan, Foster. SUBS - McLean, Feasey, Crutwell, Locke.

TOWN - Aspinall, Porritt, Holliday, Hickman, Hemingway, Kokes, Anderson, Elgie, Playforth, McLachlan, Stevens. SUBS - Colman, Baxter, Caygill.

REFEREE - W. Finnie



Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Exclusive Jordan Aspinall interview

Peter Mulcaster post-match interview at South Shields

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Football the winner as Town and Willington share 6 goals

By Ricky Butler at the Calvert Stadium

Highlights of this match can be viewed here

A LAST gasp Daren Kokes equalizer earned Northallerton Town a point on Saturday in a thrilling match against old rivals Willington at the Calvert Stadium.

With the previous meeting between these two sides producing 7 goals, 3 red cards and national news coverage, this time the headlines were for all the right reasons - it was just a good old fashioned game of football.

Willington, who arrived at the Calvert Stadium on the back of a run of only 1 defeat from 10 matches, were seconds away from securing an impressive victory thanks to a first half header from Jason White and a second half brace from David Pinkney. But after Colin Anderson and Gav Parkin had struck for Town before the break, Kokes ensured the spoils were shared.

In fact Peter Mulcaster's side might even have snatched all three points at the death as Danny McLachlan beat the visitors offside trap, but with just goalkeeper David Moffatt to beat he elected to pass to Kokes instead of shooting himself and the chance was gone.

However, that dramatic finale was not enough to please a frustrated Town boss Mulcaster. He said: "I think it is two points dropped. A draw was a fair result I've got to say, but it is two clangers again for their 2nd and 3rd goals.

"We came back at the end and then had a great chance to put the game to bed, but we had no cutting edge today. We were sluggish and it has taken us going a goal down to wake us up.

"We talk about it in the changing room beforehand; the lads were saying lets get at it, but it just doesn't work, it doesn't happen, which I am disappointed in.

"Willington played well to be fair to them and they are a vastly improved side (from the last time we met) so a draw was probably a fair result in the end."

Mulcaster made three changes from last week's disappointing North Riding Senior Cup defeat at the hands of Redcar Athletic. Stephen Banks returned from injury at right back, while Graham Caygill replaced the absent Freddie Huscroft up front. Meanwhile, McLachlan started on the left side of midfield in place of Mikey Stevens, who dropped down to the bench.

But Willington, who had beaten Town 4-3 in the FA Vase back in September, started well and White had already fired over the top when he headed home at the near post following a left-wing corner from Adam Sakr to give the visitors a 16th minute lead.

However, the goal merely served as a wake up call for Town and they had turned the match around before the break. They were level in the 28th minute when Anderson was brought down on the edge of the area by Aiden Goodey and when Parkin's free kick came back off the wall, the Northallerton winger fired past Moffatt from 10 yards.

Parkin then scored the second himself just five minutes before the break - timing his run into the box to perfection to get on the end of Banks' long throw from the right and finishing with a volley from 18 yards. 'You're not singing anymore,' was the cry from the Town faithful behind the goal towards their opposite numbers from County Durham, although the visiting fans would find their voices again later.

Town took that improvement into the early stages of the second half and with Anderson causing mayhem down the right, they could have sealed the points. It was a ball fizzed across the six yard box by the winger that almost brought the cushion of a third goal, three minutes after the restart, while Anderson should then have scored after rounding Moffatt, but fired wide from a tight angle.

Then, from out of nowhere, Willington were gifted two goals in less than a minute, both scored by the dangerous Pinkney. After being put through by Liam Whitworth on the hour, the Willington midfielder's weak shot should have been kept out by Town goalkeeper Alex Kell but the ball bobbled agonisingly from his grasp and rolled over the line. But if that was bad enough, worse was to follow.

Straight from the restart, Pinkney, who nearly joined Town earlier in the season, tried his luck from fully 35 yards and the ball bounced in front of Kell, spinning into the far corner of the net. Now it was the Willington fans, who travelled in great numbers and helped to create a unique atmosphere, that were doing all the singing.

But credit to Kell who then kept Town in the match with two superb saves as Willington went for the jugular. First, the Town stopper was down quickly to his right to smother a shot by Whitworth from the edge of the penalty area before racing from his line to block from the same man moments later.

With potential disaster averted, Town regrouped and the stage was set for another dramatic finale between these two sides. Kokes thought he had equalized twelve minutes from time when his superb shot was met by save of equal quality from Moffatt, before Dale Elgie brought another fine stop from the Willington 'keeper as the clock ticked down towards the 90-minute mark.

But it was from the resulting corner that Town did grab the equalizer they deserved. Parkin's set-piece from the right was met with a towering header from Grant Hickman but when Moffatt could only push the ball up into the night sky, Kokes arrived to force it home from virtually right on the line.

Rather than settle for a point, however, Mulcaster's side came close to a winner in stoppage time. A swift counter-attack from a Willington corner saw McLachlan put clean through on goal but as Moffatt raced out to meet him, the Town man decided to square to Kokes rather than go for goal himself, perhaps the result of a lack of confidence, and the Willington 'keeper saved at his near post.

That would have perhaps been harsh on the visitors who certainly did not deserve to go back to County Durham empty-handed. But Mulcaster is more concerned that events off the pitch are conspiring against his team. He said: "We seem to have hit a brick wall in a lot of respects. We can't get on the training ground, we can't get any new faces in but over the next couple of weeks we will be working on these things."

Town now travel to improving South Shields on Tuesday evening in the Ernest Armstrong Cup looking to get back to winning ways in a competition where they have reached the last two finals. The next league game is a big one too, away at promotion rivals Seaham Red Star next Saturday.

TOWN - Kell, Banks, Porritt, Hickman, Shoulder, Elgie, Anderson, Parkin, Kokes, Caygill, McLachlan. SUBS - Stevens, Hemingway, Holliday, Colman, Aspinall.

WILLINGTON - Moffatt, Nicholson, Goodey, Lazonby, Howe, Weston, Whitworth, Seymour, Sakr, Pinkney, White. SUBS - Oldfield, Marshall, Cairns, Collinson, Comby.

REFEREE - R. Taylor

ATTENDANCE: 159 (49 from Willington)

Northallerton Town 3 Willington 3

Exclusive Gav Parkin interview

Peter Mulcaster on the draw with Willington

HALF TIME - Northallerton Town 2 Willington 1

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Redcar riding high after shock win at the Calvert

North Riding Senior Cup 1st Round
By Ricky Butler at the Calvert Stadium

NORTHALLERTON TOWN crashed out of the North Riding Senior Cup on Saturday as they were unable to recover from a poor first half performance against Wearside League high-flyers Redcar Athletic.

Peter Mulcaster's side trailed 2-0 at the break to strikes from Kieran Stares and James Kesterton within four first half minutes, and although they rallied in the second period with the help of an own goal from James Smuk and an effort Danny Shoulder, it was the Teessiders that went through thanks to James Swann's 54th minute strike.

It may well have been a different story had substitute Graham Caygill not seen a late effort harshly ruled out of a foul on Redcar goalkeeper Matthew Berry but Town were made to pay for a lacklustre first half display.

"We lost the game in the first half," said a disappointed Mulcaster at the whistle. "We were shocking. We pressed and pressed in the second half and had probably 90% of the play but we have lost the game and that is really, really disappointing.

"We are not too sure why he disallowed the goal. From where we were it looked as though the 'keeper had ran into his own player but the referee said it was foul. Sometimes you get them, sometimes you don't."

Mulcaster made just one change from last weekend's victory over Thornaby - Mikey Stevens replacing the absent Christian Holliday down the left - while Andrew Porritt was named captain for the day against his former club, but Town just never got going in an opening 45 minutes ruined by heavy rain.

Gav Parkin and Dale Elgie both tried their luck from distance while Freddie Huscroft was denied a first Town goal by a smart save from Berry, but it was the Wearside Leaguers that grabbed the lead just prior to the half-hour mark.

Alex Kell had done well initially to deny the impressive Richard Playforth but Sam Webster's corner from the right was headed home by defender Stares.

And it was 2-0 just three minutes later. Kell again denied Playforth with a fine full-length stop but the ball fell kindly to Kesterton who had the simple task of tapping home.

It could have been even worse for Town too as Swann fired narrowly wide from 25 yards before Stares came close to a second as half time approached.

Town had to improve after the break, and as the weather brightened up, thankfully they did too. It looked like being game on when Colin Anderson's right cross was turned past his own 'keeper by Smuk just six minutes after the restart, but the comeback lasted barely four minutes.

Kell, who has been virtually faultless all season, misjudged a long ball over the top on the wet surface and Swann could not believe his luck - rolling into the empty net from 18 yards.

However, Town dug deep and dominated the remainder of the tie. They pulled another goal back on the hour when a free kick from the right by Parkin led to a scramble in the Redcar penalty area which Shoulder finished from close range - his first goal of the season.

The pressure on the Seasiders goal intensified after that as Darren Kokes twice saw efforts cleared off the line while Berry did well to deny Stevens.

A double change in the final quarter of hour - Caygill and Danny McLachlan replacing Huscroft and Stevens - added some urgency to the Town play and it was Caygill who appeared to have sent the tie into a penalty shoot-out.

Chasing a through ball from Kokes, the substitute profited from a collision between Barry and his team-mate Jamie Lee to slot home from 10 yards but referee Sam Parker harshly ruled it out for a foul on the Redcar 'keeper.

As the clock ticked down towards the 90th minute-mark, Caygill got clear down the right but with Kokes screaming for the ball in the centre, he fired over the top. Then, in stoppage time, Kokes saw a header saved by Berry as the underdogs held on to book their place in the second round.

"We had too many big players off form today," said Mulcaster. "But fair play to Redcar. They stuck at it, did the right things at the right time and they won the game.

"I am disappointed as I wanted to do well in this competition. It is a big cup, the chance to play against a professional club and we might have got a few bob out of it, but it wasn't to be."

Skipper-for-the-day Porritt was equally downbeat after defeat to his former team-mates. He said: "Yes, I am gutted really. We lost it in the first half. They pushed high up the pitch and put us under a lot of pressure at the back. The conditions didn't help but credit to them for pushing up and being brave."

After a week off to regroup, Town return to action next Saturday with the eagerly awaited encounter with in-form Willington at the Calvert Stadium. A much improved performance will be needed if Mulcaster's men are to remain in the promotion places.

TOWN - Kell, Porritt, Howlett, Shoulder, Hickman, Parkin, Anderson, Elgie, Kokes, Huscroft, Stevens. SUBS - Caygill, McLachlan, Colman.

REDCAR ATHLETIC - Berry, Wood, Lee, Marsey, Smuk, Stares, Swann, Woodhouse, Kesterton, Playforth, Webster. SUBS - Skelton, Morris, Parker, Preston.

REFEREE - S. Parker


Peter Mulcaster on the Redcar Athletic defeat

Exclusive Andrew Porritt interview

Northallerton Town 2 Redcar Athletic 3

HALF TIME -Northallerton Town 0 Redcar Athletic 2

Northallerton Town vs. Redcar Athletic team news

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Storm-clouds averted as Town see off Thornaby in the rain

By Ricky Butler at the Calvert Stadium

TOWN remain in second place in Ebac Northern League Division Two after completing half of their league fixtures with a hard-fought victory over Thornaby at the Calvert Stadium  on Saturday.

Having lost twice in the previous seven days, Town could ill-afford another defeat against the struggling visitors but things appeared to be going against them again when former Town man Craig Winter headed Thornaby ahead.

However, Town showed great character to fight back and lead at the break thanks to quick-fire strikes from Christian Holliday and Darren Kokes. Colin Anderson then headed a spectacular third in the final quarter of an hour, and although David Wells immediately reduced the arrears for Thornaby, Town hung on for the win.

"I was pleased with the performance," said Town boss Peter Mulcaster at the whistle. "To be fair I think every player out there on the pitch deserves a medal because of the conditions which were absolutely atrocious.

"Thornaby scored first and played quite well but we got back into it and when we got the third goal I thought we would go on from there. But as is the norm for us, we gave a daft goal away and they had a few chances but we hung on."

Mulcaster was forced into two changes from the side that was unlucky to be beaten at West Allotment in midweek. Steve Banks was missing for the first time this season due to a back injury so his place in the back four was taken by Danny Shoulder, while Dale Elgie returned in midfield in place of Danny McLachlan who dropped down to the bench.

Town had won the corresponding fixture here last season 7-1 and a similar score-line may well have been on the cards had an early strike from Anderson not been disallowed for offside. But after a fast start from Mulcaster's men, it was the visitors that slowly began to get a foothold in the game.

Christopher Burton, who was looking dangerous down the Thornaby right, brought a smart save from Town goalkeeper Alex Kell in the 16th minute before Kell was then forced to race from his line to deny Bradley Wright.

But the goal they had been threatening duly arrived just past the half-hour mark. It is an odd statistic in football that players often score against their former team-mates so it was no real surprise when ex-Town defender Winter headed home from close range after a cross from Lee Bythway was nodded back across goal by Ian Bishop.

But in worsening conditions, Town turned the match on it's head with two goals in two minutes just before the break. Holliday equalised in the 43rd minute with a repeat of his fine header from the previous Saturday at Stokesley - this time getting on the end of a fine cross from the right from Anderson to beat goalkeeper Michael Duff from 10 yards -Town's 50th league goal of the season.

Then, in first half stoppage time, Kokes fired past Duff from 15 yards following a good work from Holliday and Gav Parkin on the edge of the penalty area.

Much of the second half was played in strong wind and driving rain which made good football difficult for both sides but Town looked to have sealed the points with sixteen minutes remaining. Skipper Parkin delivered another superb free kick delivery from the left and Anderson dived full-length to power a header beyond Duff.

However, straight from the restart Thornaby reduced the arrears. The Town defence stood off Wells as he approached the penalty area and he made them pay the ultimate price with a low shot past Kell from 20 yards to set up a grandstand finale.

Neil Radigan's visitors from Teesside now sensed a comeback and Wright fired over the top before Bishop fizzed a shot just past Kell's left-hand post. But Town could have sealed the points on the break in the dying moments. Anderson hit the post with a fine effort while McLachlan then somehow headed the rebound wide from close range.

But it did not matter in the end as the whistle blew seconds later to signal a very important three points for Mulcaster's men.

"We said before the game that we did not want to lose three on the trot," said the Town boss. "We know we are not going to win every game but had we lost today people would have wondered what was going on.

"Our home form has been very good. We haven't always played well but I thought we did here against a good Thornaby side."

With next Saturday's league trip to leaders Heaton Stannington postponed, Town now face a rearranged North Riding Senior Cup tie against Wearside League outfit Redcar Athletic at the Calvert Stadium. Kick is at 3pm.

TOWN - Kell, Porritt, Howlett, Hickman, Shoulder, Parkin, Anderson, Elgie, Kokes, Huscroft, Holliday. SUBS - Stevens, Caygill, McLachlan, Colman.

THORNABY - Duff, Wright, Morrison, Bishop, Winter, Wilson, Burton, Bythway, Melvin, Murphy, Wells. SUBS - Johnson, Blyth, Simcox, England, James.

REFEREE - P. Charnock.


Skipper Gav Parkin speaks exclusively following the win over Thornaby

Exclusive Peter Mulcaster interview post Thornaby

Northallerton Town 3 Thornaby 2

HALF TIME Northallerton 2 Thornaby 1

Today's team news

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Town pay the penalty for missed chances

By Ricky Butler at Whitley Park

NORTHALLERTON TOWN were on the wrong end of more refereeing controversy at promotion rivals West Allotment Celtic on Wednesday evening as they lost back-to-back league games for the first time this season.

Having been the better side for much of the first half, Peter Mulcaster's troops were rocked by a very harsh penalty awarded against them by local referee Ray Cushing within three minutes of the restart and things quickly went from downhill from there.

In a very tight game between sides who both began the night in the top four, the opening goal was always going to be crucial and to lose it in such a manner left a bitter taste for Town. Celtic forward Liam Hudson appeared to slip as he tried to turn defender James Howlett in the penalty area but Cushing, from down the road in Newcastle, pointed to the spot and Sean Reid made no mistake.

It was harsh on a Northallerton side who had looked every bit promotion contenders for much of the evening. But as they chased the game in the closing stages, the hosts were able to pick them off with further goals from Hudson and substitute Lawrence McKenna to give the final score a rather flattering look.

"I thought the referee was poor tonight," said Mulcaster at the whistle. "We were the better side in the first half, we played as well as we have done since we beat Seaham Red Star a few weeks ago. But they got what we would call a dubious penalty to give them the edge and then we should have had a stonewall penalty which wasn't given. But I was very, very pleased with our performance tonight."

Defender Grant Hickman, who was booked for his protests at the penalty award, went even further. He said: "I thought it was a dreadful decision. It always seems to be the case when you come to places like this. You get a local referee and every little decision goes against you. It's disappointing but it happens."

Mulcaster was forced into several changes to his starting XI following Saturday's disappointing defeat at Stokesley. With Dale Elgie and Danny Shoulder both missing, Andrew Porritt was switched to left back, James Howlett to centre back while Freddie Huscroft came in for his first start for the club alonside Danny McLachlan up front.

Elsewhere Colin Anderson returned from injury on the right side of midfield with Darren Kokes dropping back to partner skipper Gav Parkin in the engine room.

But despite all the changes it was Town that started strongly. They almost grabbed the lead after just 11 minutes when the front two combined well only for Huscroft's shot from the inside left position to roll agonisingly wide of the far post.

Anderson then came even closer ten minutes later. Having rounded Celtic goalkeeper Rob Rogerson, the winger was only able to fire against the foot of the post from a tight angle.

Town were playing some great football at this point and they continued to create the better chances. Kokes and Christian Holliday, impressive once again down the left, both saw efforts deflected narrowly wide with Rogerson beaten, while Huscroft headed over the top following a right-wing corner from Parkin.

It was only as half time approached that the hosts, who began the night with just 2 league defeats all season, finally began to threaten and Town goalkeeper Alex Kell had to be alert to deny Liam Hudson and David Dormand.

But just as they had done in the Ernest Armstrong Cup final in May, Celtic were awarded a very soft penalty early in the second period to edge ahead. Hudson was already on his way down after appearing to lose his footing before Howlett could challenge him but referee Cushing decided it was a penalty and Reid, as he had done in the cup final, fired home from the spot.

Town were thrown out of their stride by that injustice and it was nearly all over three minutes later as Kallum McGlen fired against the post, but slowly Mulcaster's battlers regained their composure and should have been level within ten minutes.

Only a fine save from Rogerson denied McLachlan after Holliday had pulled the back from the left, while moments later Anderson somehow failed to head home another superb delivery from Holliday at the far post - the slightest of touches from Rogerson perhaps putting off the Town man at the crucial moment.

And Town paid the ultimate price for that profligacy as Celtic broke out to double their advantage just three minutes later. There appeared to be a communication breakdown at the back between Kell and Howlett which allowed Hudson the opportunity to lob the ball into the net via the left-hand upright.

But rather than feel sorry for themselves, Town set about trying to right the wrongs. They felt they should have had a penalty of their own in the 71st minute when a shot from Kokes appeared to strike the arm of defender Ian Dunn but Cushing continued his Halloween horror show by waving away their appeals.

However, Town should have been given a lifeline fifteen minutes from time. Another ball in from the left by Holliday fell kindly to McLachlan 12 yards out but with only Rogerson to beat he somehow headed over the top and that was that.

With a little under three minutes left on the clock the hosts grabbed a third to really give the score-line a flattering look. David Henderson did well down the left and substitute McKenna was left with the simple task of beating Kell from 6 yards.

"We have been beaten by a very good side," said Mulcaster. "But they will never have another 3-0 like that again. When you look at what happened in the game I have got to be pleased with my players tonight."

Although still second in the table, Town have now completed almost half their fixtures and you have to feel that they cannot afford too many more results like this in the coming weeks if they are to remain in the promotion race.

WEST ALLOTMENT CELTIC -  Rogerson, Pendlebury, Douglas, Dunn, Stoneman, Little, McGlen, Henderson, Dormand, Reid, Hudson. SUBS - McKenna, Dummitt, Gordon, Lee, Graham.

TOWN - Kell, Banks, Porritt, Hickman, Howlett, Parkin, Anderson, Kokes, McLachlan, Huscroft, Holliday. SUBS - Stevens, Caygill, Colman.

REFEREE - R. Cushing.


West Allotment Celtic 3 Northallerton Town 0

New signing Freddie Huscroft speaks exclusively about his first start for the club at West Allotment Celtic