Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Dormand at the double as Town surrender cup to 10-man Celtic

At Billingham Synthonia

TOWN'S bid to become the first club to retain the Ernest Armstrong Cup ended in disappointment on Monday afternoon as 10-man West Allotment Celtic left the Gamal Stadium with the trophy.

Peter Mulcaster's side failed to play with their usual verve and vigour, even after the dismissal of Stephen Little nine minutes from time, and they were punished by a strong and well organised Celtic side.

Town fans in good spirits before kick off
A penalty from Sean Reid at the start of the second half was followed by a late brace from David Dormand as Paul Stoneman's side sealed a fully deserved victory.

Town, who briefly drew level with James Bowman's 68th minute looping header, were off the pace all afternoon and they surrendered their trophy in rather tame fashion.

"We never really got going," said a disappointed Mulcaster at the whistle. "It was a flat performance but we'll draw a line under it and move on.

"I'm disappointed for the fans as much as anything as they have once again travelled and given us great support as always."

After much speculation in the build up to the final, the starting XI did not offer too many surprises. Carl Chillingsworth, with 5 goals in his last two appearances, was given the nod ahead of Mickey Dunwell to partner Adam Emson up front, while Marcus Laing was preferred to Steve Butterworth in the centre of midfield.

Elsewhere, Grant Hickman returned to the squad after missing the last two matches and he was joined on the bench by Dunwell, Jon Burton, Ian Smurthwaite and Butterworth.

Emerson Butler, centre in orange, leads Town out with skipper Danny Shoulder
Led onto the pitch in the warm spring sunshine by mascot Emerson Butler, Town were confident of retaining the trophy they had won so impressively last season. But it was Celtic who started the stronger and they could have scored twice in the opening ten minutes.

David Henderson was denied by a goal-line clearance from Craig Winter inside five minutes, while the impressive Reid saw a header come back off the crossbar before Danny Shoulder was able to scramble the ball to safety.

Town rarely seemed able to get out of second gear in the first half and the only real opportunity they created in a poor performance was a header from Andrew Porritt which flew harmlessly over the crossbar.

And Town's day got a whole lot worse when 38-goal leading scorer Emson was forced off with a groin injury after just 33 minutes, with Dunwell coming on to replace him.
The Town faithful trying to inspire their heroes to cup glory
Having made a habit of performing better in the second half of matches this season, Town's large contingent of fans were hoping for a repeat this time but it never really materialised. In fact only a superb save from James Briggs prevented Dormand giving Celtic the lead two minutes after the restart.

But that merely delayed the inevitable. Just a minute later, Steve Banks fouled Reid inside the penalty area and referee John Matthews had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Reid, who was the best player on the pitch, got up and confidently drilled the kick beyond Briggs.
Sean Reid gives Celtic the lead from the penalty spot
Having come from behind in the previous three rounds, Town were not out of it yet and they finally began to exert some pressure on the Celtic back line. However, their best chance of getting back into the final was always likely to come from a set-piece, and indeed it was the delivery of Gav Parkin which created the equaliser twenty-two minutes from time.

Laing was fouled 25 yards from goal and Parkin's free kick was met with a looping header by Bowman from 15 yards. The ball initially appeared to be going over the crossbar but it dipped at the last minute, deceived goalkeeper Ryan Beal and landed in the roof of the net.

Suddenly Town had the momentum but parity lasted barely five minutes. A corner from the right by Marc Dummett caused confusion in the Town defence and Dormand arrived unmarked to score with simple header from 6 yards.
James Bowman, number 3, heads Town level
And it was nearly all over moments later when only another terrific stop from Briggs denied Dormand a second after a lovely through ball from Michael Bell. But with their grip on the cup slowly slipping away, Mulcaster's side were given a boost nine minutes from time.

Chillingsworth was brought down right on the edge of the penalty area by Little and Matthews produced a second yellow for the unfortunate Celtic defender. Had the challenge been a yard or so further forward it may well have put a whole different complexion on the tie, but as it was Dunwell's free kick clipped the top of the crossbar and that proved to be Town's last chance of saving their cup dream.

Even against ten men, Mulcaster's side never really looked like getting back into the final and it was Celtic who sealed the cup four minutes from time. Substitute Kallum McGlen, who had only just replaced Chris Douglas, whipped in a great ball from the left and Dormand was on hand to fire past Briggs from 15 yards.

Town players collect their runners-up medals
"They seemed to want it more than us," said skipper Shoulder at the whistle. "It is difficult to explain but we were second to every ball. We cannot really blame tiredness as they have played as many games as us recently. It is just very frustrating."

Parkin was equally downbeat. "We only looked dangerous from set pieces and that is not like us," he said. "I don't think their goalkeeper has had a save to make. It was such a disappointing performance."

So not the finale everyone was hoping for. However, it should not overshadow what has been a great season for the club and Mulcaster can now set about the task of rebuilding his squad for a promotion push next year.

TOWN - Briggs, Banks, Bowman, Shoulder, Winter, Parkin, Anderson, Laing, Chillingsworth, Emson, Porritt. Subs - Dunwell, Smurthwaite, Butterworth, Hickman, Burton.

WEST ALLOTMENT CELTIC - Beal, Pendlebury, Dummett, Allen, Stoneman, Little, Bell, Henderson, Dormand, Reid, Douglas. Subs - McGlen, Findlay, Ford, Hudson, Johnstone.

REFEREE - J. Matthews.


Thursday, 2 May 2013

Ton-up Town end the season with a flourish

Gav Parkin leading Town to a comfortable victory
TOWN brought the curtain down on the league campaign with their biggest win of the season to see off struggling Thornaby at the RGPS on Wednesday evening.

Peter Mulcaster's side knew a win would guarantee them a top 6 finish and the match was over as a contest within 12 minutes as goals from Gav Parkin, Carl Chillingsworth and Adam Emson eased any tension.

Chillingsworth, back in the side with two goals on Monday, went on to complete his hat-trick while Emson added a second before substitute Col Anderson was also on target as Town warmed up for Monday's Ernest Armstrong cup final in fine style.

"It was a comprehensive victory," said Mulcaster at the whistle. "We did what we had to do and we did it very well. Now we can focus on Monday."

With the cup final in mind, Mulcaster made three changes to the side that had scored four against Whitehaven 48 hours earlier. Ian Smurthwaite was back in the heart of defence while Jon Burton, who had been used as a substitute on Monday, started at left back with Steve Banks at right back. That meant James Bowman moving to centre half with Andrew Porritt back on the left side of midfield.

Meanwhile, Mickey Dunwell returned to the bench alongside Danny Shoulder, Craig Winter and Anderson.

On the clubs annual 'Respect' day, it was great to see so many of the Juniors on the pitch before kick off and they led the players out at the start, helping to create a real party atmosphere.

That reached a crescendo when Town scored within two minutes. Captain-for-the-day Parkin played a lovely 1-2 with Chillingsworth on the edge of the penalty area before rolling a superb shot beyond goalkeeper Lewis Yates into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.

And it was 2-0, six minutes later. Emson's cross from the right was only half-cleared by Philip Horsman and Chillingsworth smashed the ball home from 10 yards.

Carl Chillingsworth, centre, celebrates his first goal with Steve Butterworth and Gav Parkin
The crowd had barely finished celebrating when Town scored again. Chillingsworth tried his luck from 20 yards and when Yates was unable to hold his effort, Emson arrived to knock home the loose ball.

Mulcaster's side were now in complete control and it was 4-0 with less than 25 minutes on the clock. Emson's pace sent him clear down the right and he rounded Yates before turning the ball home from a tight angle - his 38th goal of a phenomenal season.

Inevitably Town's intensity dropped after that - especially following a six minute delay as Lewis was replaced in goal by Paul Edwards having suffered a broken finger - and goalkeeper James Briggs had to be alert to deny Christopher Burton and Jamie Blyth before making a terrific double stop to keep out Gav Symcox and Horsman.

Adam Emson, 10, and Chillingsworth celebrate another goal. The pair have scored 65 times between them this season
Thornaby took that improvement into the early stages of the second half, and Briggs was once again called upon to deny former Town striker Gary Mitchell, but the introduction of Anderson seven minutes after the resumption saw the hosts reassert their earlier dominance.

And it was inevitably Anderson who grabbed the 5th just nine minutes later. Cutting in from the right, the winger ran past full back Adam Murphy before drilling an unstoppable shot beyond Edwards from 10 yards.

Thornaby did score the next goal, a fine effort by Michael Murray from 25 yards, but that was a rare attack for the visitors in the closing stages as Town threatened to reach double figures playing some lovely football.

Twice Emson came close to completing his hat-trick with clipped efforts that went just too high before departing on the hour, replaced by Dunwell.

The striker, testing his fitness ahead of the cup final, almost scored with his first touch before Chillingsworth did make it 6-1, fifteen minutes from time. Anderson created the opportunity with another powerful run down the right and Chillingsworth applied another assured finish - the clubs 100th goal in the league this season.

Chillingsworth fires home the 6th on the night and the clubs 100th league goal of the season
Then, in the final minute, Town ended their league campaign in the grand manner. Marcus Laing was denied by a deflection off Horsman but Parkin's corner from the left was headed home by Chillingsworth to complete his hat-trick.

The match ended with oles from the home crowd after some great footwork from substitute Winter on the halfway line - moves last seen by John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever - a fitting way to conclude a thrilling season.

More Town celebrations as Chillingsworth, second from right, completes his hat-trick
"We have finished sixth which I am pleased with," said Mulcaster. "Of course it is disappointing to miss out on promotion by such a small margin but we have scored 11 goals this week so no one can say we do not entertain.

"I now have to go away and make some tough decisions for Monday. I think I will speak to the missus and see what she thinks."

Although not required this time due to an on-going knee injury, captain Danny Shoulder was keen to praise his teammates. So keen in fact that he could not wait until the whistle to say: "It was a great way to finish the season and all the lads can now have a few days rest before the cup final."

A repeat performance will surely be enough to bring the cup back home, although West Allotment Celtic will provide a much sterner test than Thornaby did here. But whatever happens it is sure to be a great day out and a great way to round off another successful season for Town.

TOWN - Briggs, Banks, Burton, Smurthwaite, Bowman, Parkin, Butterworth, Laing, Chillingsworth, Emson, Porritt. Subs - Winter, Anderson, Dunwell, Shoulder.

THORNABY - Yates, Ramage, Murphy, Horsman, Hardy, Murray, Burton, Symcox, Mitchell, Morrison, Blyth. Subs - Stephens, Aimi, Edwards, Radigan.

REFEREE - M. Andrews.


*Pictures courtesy of Paul Gaythorpe at PK4 Images. Not to be reproduced without permission.