Thursday, 8 May 2014

2013-14 - Season review

SO A SEASON that started up at South Shields (well Peterlee to be precise) in August with a goal conceded inside the opening two minutes, was concluded at Norton in April with a goal scored with less than two minutes remaining. Here, we look back at what happened in-between.

PRE-SEASON - Before a ball had even been kicked, manager Peter Mulcaster hosted a question-and-answer night where he stated that his aim for the season was to equal or better last season's sixth place finish. With a smaller budget to work with and with a new squad to build could he achieve that ambition?

Mulcaster also announced that his assistant for the season would be Academy and Juniors secretary, Steve Cooke. Eyebrows were raised.

Pre-season saw many comings and goings, with much of the previous year's squad departing for pastures new. The pick of the early arrivals was former Darlington RA skipper Dale Elgie and much-travelled striker Jamie Clarke. Meanwhile, Darren Kokes, Danny McLachlan, Jason Brazauskas, Lee Newby and Paul Johnson also arrived.

The pre-season campaign saw a serious of tough games against sides from a higher level (and Nunthorpe). Striker Graham Caygill was promoted from the Academy side and scored five times in six pre-season games, including two at FA Vase winners Spennymoor. Unfortunately Town lost 8-2.

The highlight of the pre-season campaign however was the 2-1 win at Bishop Auckland which included a great free kick from Brazauskas.

AUGUST - Elgie and Clarke were both missing for the opening day trip to relegated South Shields (or Peterlee to be precise), as was Mulcaster himself, so Cooke took control. After going 2-0 down early in the second half, Town fought back with first Northern League goals from that boyband strike force of Caygill and McLachlan to grab a 2-2 draw.

The opening home match was a midweek visit of Tow Law Town and saw the debut of Clarke, who wasted little time in opening his account in the 4-2 victory. Grant Hickman, Colin Anderson and an own goal from Gary Anderson completed the scoring.

The FA Cup campaign began with Whitehaven the visitors to the Calvert. A dreadful start saw Town go 2-0 down inside the opening15 minutes but Hickman was on target again before the break while Kokes then equalised with his first goal for the club early in the second half. However two late goals, both blamed on young goalkeeper Dean Hudson, saw Whitehaven triumph 4-2 and it was another early cup exit for Town.

Mulcaster was back in the dug-out for the midweek trip to Alnwick in what turned out to be an eventful game. Goalkeeper Alex Kell was re-signed from Darlington RA and was back between the sticks for a match Town dominated for long spells but were unable to score. Then, after Anderson had been harshly sent off, the hosts won it with a late wonder-goal from Tony Brown.

But that was Town's last defeat for four matches. Esh Winning were brushed aside 6-0 at the Calvert in Elgie's full debut, where two goals each from Clarke and McLachlan were added to by Hickman and Kokes. Meanwhile, Kell saved a second half penalty.

August Bank Holiday Monday saw a 2-1 win at local rivals Darlington RA. Former Town player Steve Butterworth gave the RA an early lead but a penalty from Clarke and a strike from McLachlan gave Town the points in what was an exciting match.

Esh were then beaten 5-1 away in Anderson's last appearance before his three match suspension. He marked the occasion with two fine goals. Brazauskas, who had been impressing on the left wing, opened his account, as did former Crook Town defender Sean Davies. Kokes also scored against his old club.

SEPTEMBER - The midweek match with Stokesley attracted a crowd of 155 but Town were rather fortunate to escape with a 2-2 draw. Clarke put Mulcaster's side ahead deep into the second half but Stokesley deservedly turned it around with two late goals from Reece Kelly. However, Caygill stepped off the bench to equalise in the last minute.

Next up was the FA Vase and a tie at newly-promoted Willington. In case you need reminding this was the infamous match were Town led 3-0 inside half an hour with goals from Hickman, Brazauskas and Clarke, were then reduced to nine men and lost 4-3 after extra time. The less said about that one, the better.

A depleted squad then travelled to high-flying North Shields and somehow came away with a 2-2 draw against the side that would win the title, thanks to two second half goals from Clarke - the second of which was a thing of real beauty. It was just a shame the camera was not there to capture it.

A trip to bottom side Ryton & Crawcrook Albion brought a 3-0 victory thanks to a hat-trick from the returning Anderson, although it was the performance of York City loanee Chris Dickinson that really caught the eye.

A run of five home games followed, and with Town handily placed in the league, this was seen as a great opportunity to really make an impression in the promotion race. However, the first three games of that run, against Heaton Stannington, Whickham and Chester-Le-Street, brought just one point.

The early sending off of Brazauskas against Heaton for an alleged handball on the line (later proved to be incorrect by TV replays) helped the visitors to a 2-1 success - another goal from defender Hickman not quite enough this time -  while only an injury time strike from Clarke brought a 1-1 draw with Whickham. That proved to be Clarke's last involvement with the club however, as the much-travelled striker was on the move again; to Seaham Red Star. No one knew why.

Chester then left the Calvert with a 4-2 victory in what was another poor Town performance. Mulcaster was keen to play down the significance of Clarke's departure, especially as Dickinson was on target in the Chester game - along with Davies - but there was no doubt the predatory instincts of the 40-year old would be missed.

OCTOBER - Another departure was that of the maverick Brazuaskas. A great talent and a lovely lad, but the travelling was proving too much for him, being a non-driver, and he left after his one-match suspension.

But after all the doom and gloom came the light as Town put together their best run of form of the season. Brandon United were swept aside 4-0 in a classy display. Young Mikey Stevens, fresh from the Academy side, scored within 26 seconds and grabbed another before the break. Caygill, and a first Town goal for Stephen Banks sealed the win - all four goals created by the impressive Dickinson.

The 3-0 midweek victory over Seaham, Clarke and all, was arguably the best display of the season. Hickman, skipper Gav Parkin and Banks again - just like London buses, you wait two years for a Banks goal and then two come along at once - put the seal on a superb performance. This was the last match of Dickinson's loan before retuning to York. Everyone at the club wished him well.

The trip to Jarrow Roofing had started well, with Anderson putting Town ahead early on, but four Roofing goals in 20 minutes meant Kokes' late header was a mere consolation. But that 4-2 defeat was the only one in a run of six games that briefly took Town to the top of the table.

The midweek meeting with Birtley Town brought five second half goals, three of them for Town via Anderson, Kokes and McLachlan. McLachlan then scored from 40 yards in the 2-0 win over Washington - 'Everyone needed to stop panicking,' was the scorers reaction - where Kokes was also on target.

It meant a midweek win over Whitehaven would take Town to the top, although they had played several more matches than many of the teams around them. It may not have been a great display against the ten-man Cumbrians but Elgie's first goal for the club, a brace from Kokes - now top scorer with eight - and another from McLachlan, sealed a 4-2 victory and a place at the top.

But that would be about as good as it would get. As winter closed in, Town were caught cold as a 2-1 defeat at Stokesley - Christian Holliday with his first goal of the season - was quickly followed by a 3-0 reverse at a West Allotment Celtic side who would finish runners-up. Town actually played well at WAC; the match turning on a harsh penalty award early in the second half with the score at 0-0.

More new signings saw defender James Howlett and striker Freddie Huscroft both arrive from Darlington RA, but they would have contrasting fortunes at the club. Indeed, Huscroft was off again before even managing to find the back of the net.

NOVEMBER - Following the WAC defeat, Town beat Thornaby 3-2 at the Calvert in a rain storm of Biblical proportions, thanks to goals from Anderson, Holliday and Kokes, before the visit of Redcar Athletic in the North Riding Senior Cup.

With a trip to Middlesbrough awaiting the winners, this was a tie Mulcaster really wanted to win but his team put in a poor showing and lost 3-2, despite a rare effort from Danny Shoulder and an own goal.

The re-match was Willington was next, and in front of big and vocal crowd at the Calvert of 159, six goals were shared. Goalkeeper Kell was at fault for two of the Willington efforts and did not play for the club again. Strikes from Anderson and Parkin saw Town lead 2-1 at the break, but after Kell's howlers it needed a last gasp Kokes goal to rescue a point.

The Ernest Armstrong Cup has brought Town a lot of success in recent years, lifting the trophy in 2012 and finishing runners-up a year later, and this season's campaign began at a freezing South Shields (or Peterlee to be precise). Academy goalkeeper Jordan Aspinall and defender Mark Hemingway both made their debuts, while striker Ritchie Playforth, who had starred against Town for Redcar, scored in the 6-2 win. It would be his only appearance for the club. Hickman, Elgie, Anderson and two in six minutes from substitute Dan Baxter, another making his debut, sealed a quarter final meeting with Jarrow Roofing.

With confidence restored, Town produced a good display at Seaham Red Star - Anderson's 12th goal of the season bringing a 1-1 draw from a real end-to-end encounter.

It was back to cup action next with another midweek trip to WAC in the League Challenge Cup. A depleted squad lost 5-3 but a comeback from 5-1 down suggested better things lay ahead. Banks, Caygill and McLachlan were all on target on another freezing cold night by the North Sea.

Norton and Stockton Ancients were the next visitors to the Calvert and first half goals from Anderson and Caygill brought a 2-1 success, in the first match filmed with the new video equipment bought with the help of money raised from the club's fans. Anderson was the lucky one to be selected to do the first on-camera interview. The girls swooned.

DECEMBER - After a heavy schedule of 29 matches in just 17 weeks, Town had a week off when the match at Tow Law Town was postponed. Despite temperatures in double figures all over the North-East, Tow Law and its micro-climate, was frozen.

The following week's meeting with Alnwick would be the last for another three weeks as winter really set in. New goalkeeper James Howarth made his debut but ended up in hospital with concussion as Town lost 4-1 - a penalty from Shoulder the only highlight.

JANUARY - The New Year brought more new arrivals. Striker Chris Burton and winger Ritchie Dacombe made their debuts at Whickham - Burton marking it with a goal, along with Elgie, in a 2-0 win. But Town would play just once in the next six-and-a-half weeks as the wet weather took its toll.

The only match in that spell was the Ernest Armstrong Cup quarter final at Jarrow Roofing on a bog of a pitch. Another goal from Elgie was not enough as Town's bid for a third consecutive final ended with an unfortunate 2-1 defeat to the eventual winners of the competition.

FEBRUARY - Mulcaster's side was not in action again until mid-February and it could not have been a tougher return - leaders North Shields were the visitors. Town had no regular goalkeeper, a problem that would not be solved for a couple of weeks, so Hickman wore the gloves and was man of the match in the 3-1 defeat. Howlett opened his account with a goal of the season contender, while defender Craig Perry made his debut.

Chester-Le-Street completed the double over Town three days later in another eventful game. Both sides had a man sent off - Holwett rather harshly - stand-in Town goalkeeper Mike Colman saved a penalty, and after Anderson had given Town the lead from the penalty spot, a hat-trick from Damian Stevens and a goal from Tony Healer gave Chester a second 4-2 victory. Kokes grabbed a late Town consolation. This match marked the final appearance for the club of Banks, who was moving away to live in Shrewsbury. (Someone has to).

With promotion now looking less and less likely, attention turned to Mulcaster pre-season prediction of a top six finish. A trip to Birtley, who began the night just below Town, was therefore crucial. Caygill showed his recent improvement with two goals, the first of which was a great solo effort, while Anderson sealed a 3-1 victory. Steven Hubery, on loan from Hordon, made his debut in goal, while the returning Martin Butterworth also featured after re-signing from Darlington RA.

MARCH - Caygill was at it again as a wonderful chip brought a 1-0 win at Brandon, although that would to prove his last goal for the club as he left for a professional career in the Philippines a few weeks later.

No one was relishing a midweek trip to Whitehaven but it brought a hard-fought 0-0 draw, thanks, in no small part, to a man of the match performance from another new goalkeeper; Steve Walker on loan from Richmond Town.

Title-chasing Jarrow Roofing were the visitors the following weekend and it saw another new goalkeeper; Ryan Hodgson, who had signed from Stokesley earlier in the week. Michael Gunnell, another promoted from the Academy side, made his debut on the left wing and a late goal from Elgie looked to have earned Town all three points. But a spectacular equaliser from Liam McBryde saw Roofing seal a 1-1 draw.

But Town's good run was brought to an end with a late collapse in midweek at Tow Law Town. A great goal from Burton midway through the second half gave Town the lead but three goals conceded in the final 15 minutes saw a 3-1 defeat. And it wasn't even that cold. For a change.

A second consecutive defeat followed at a windy Washington (or Sunderland Nissan to be precise). Town were 2-0 down inside ten minutes and never recovered. A disallowed goal from Butterworth the only highlight of the 3-0 reverse.

The last thing Town needed now was a visit from high-flying West Allotment Celtic, but Mulcaster  had once again raided the Darlington RA piggy bank to bolster his squad as the Ramsbottom brothers - Andy and Aaron - both returned to the Calvert. Aaron marked his second debut with a great late free kick but it could not prevent a 3-1 defeat.

Anderson's return from injury coincided with a return to winning ways at Thornaby. Holliday was forced to play in goal in the absence of Hodgson but Elgie took the plaudits with another two goals to seal a much-needed 2-1 victory in the early spring sunshine.

APRIL - A second successive victory was achieved as bottom side Ryton and Crawcrook Albion were the visitors. But while two goals from Anderson sealed a 2-1 success, Mulcaster described it as the worst performance of the season. No one was arguing.

The performance the following weekend away at Heaton Stannington was better but the result was not; a late header from McLachlan only enough to bring a 2-1 defeat.

With just four matches left, Town needed to win at least three of them to guarantee that sixth place finish. South Shields arrived in midweek and were swept aside 4-0 as the new strike force of Anderson and Holliday scored twice each. It was the best team performance for quite some time.

A third meeting with Willington followed, but whereas the previous two had brought 13 goals and three red cards, this was a sterile encounter. However Town left with the points as goals either side of the break from McLachlan, his 10th of an impressive first season in the Northern League, and Aaron Ramsbottom, sealed a comfortable 2-0 victory.

The final home match of the season was against local rivals Darlington RA on Good Friday and marked the day when Town fans walked the 20 miles from Darlington to Northallerton, raising over £1,000 for the club. In front of the biggest league crowd at the Calvert in over 10 years - 223 - an 8th goal of the season from Hickman - the 100th scored by the club in all competitions - was only enough to bring a 1-1 draw. But with other results going their way, Town only needed a point from the final match at Norton and Stockton Ancients to fulfil Mulcaster's pre-season target of a sixth place finish.

But the season ended in disappointment. Despite the hosts being reduced to ten men early in the second half, a goal from Anderson, his 20th of the season, came too late to pull back a two goal deficit and Norton finished sixth instead.

So that was the 2013-14 season. To sum it up in one word - frustrating. Too many points were dropped in matches that should have been won. Too many decisions went against the team. Apart from the goals of Anderson, no one else was able to score consistently enough, particularly from midfield where only Elgie was a regular scorer.

Over the course of the season, Mulcaster used 44 different players, 10 of which made two or less appearances. Here is a summary.

APPEARANCES (subs in brackets) GOALS (bold)

Parkin 45 2
Hickman 42(1) 8
Kokes 36(6) 11
McLachlan 34(12) 10
Anderson 34(3) 20(1p)
Elgie 34(1) 7
Porritt 33(3)
Banks 29 3
Kell 22
Howlett 21 1
Caygill 17(12) 8
Hemingway 15(4)
Stevens 13(11) 2
Brazauskas 13(1) 2
Shoulder 13 2(1p)
Butterworth 12
Davies 11(1) 2
Clarke 10 9
Hodgson 10
Holliday 9(10) 4
Ramsbottom (An) 8
Perry 7(3)
Burton 6(5) 2
Dickinson 6 1
Dacombe 5(1)
Gunnell 5(1)
Ramsbottom (Aa) 5(1) 2
Smurthwaite 4(4)
Aspinall 4
Huscroft 3(2)
Hudson 3
Howarth 3
Swankie 3
Colman 2(12)
Hubery 2
Newby 2
Johnson 2
Atkinson 1(1)
Cooke 1
Playforth 1 1
Toman 1
Walker 1
Baxter (1) 2
Lee (1)
Own Goals 2

*Special mention should go to Mike Colman, who was an unused substitute on 27 occasions, many of them away from home.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Exclusive Gav Parkin interview

Final day disappoinment as Town slip up at Norton

By Ricky Butler at Station Road

Highlights of this match are available here

NORTHALLERTON TOWN ended an up and down season with defeat at ten-man Norton & Stockton on Saturday to finish a disappointing seventh in the table.

Peter Mulcaster's side needed only a point to guarantee a second successive sixth place finish but despite the second half dismissal of Norton defender Michael Joseph, goals from Nicky Martin and Town old boy Marcus Laing saw the hosts finish sixth instead.

Colin Anderson did give the travelling Town fans something to cheer on the final day with his 20th goal of the season two minutes from time, but it came too late to prevent a 14th league defeat of the season.

In the absence of Mulcaster, his son Martin took charge of team affairs and he was pleased with the commitment of the players if not the result. He said: "I thought we battled very well, I thought we competed very well but if we're honest, we didn't we play particularly well.

"It's disappointing. I asked the lads this afternoon to put 110% effort, commitment and work in and I can't criticise them because I think they did that. Everyone in there is disappointed because we'd like to have finished sixth but it's unfortunate that we haven't done that."

Mulcaster's side showed two changes to the team that had drawn with Darlington RA last time out. James Howlett was missing so Craig Perry returned to the back three, while Dale Elgie replaced Michael Gunnell in midfield.

The two sides began the day level on points after 41 games and it was easy to see why. There was nothing to choose between them for most of the first half, although Town probably just shaded what few chances there were.

Elgie headed just wide of goalkeeper David Knight's left-hand post before Andrew Porritt perhaps ought to have done better when Elgie found him in space inside the penalty area.

Norton had their moments too as Town goalkeeper Ryan Hodgson produced a fine save to deny ex-Town striker Gary Mitchell, while Laing headed over the top.

Town had to reorganise midway through the first half when Martin Butterworth hobbled off with a dead leg - Darren Kokes replacing him in midfield - but in what has became a familiar tale in recent matches, Mulcaster's side were unable to find the breakthrough in a goalless first half.

But, just like at Heaton Stannington earlier this month, Town found themselves behind with a minute of the restart. Referee Kevin McKitterick may well have awarded Norton a penalty after a cross from Mitchell appeared to strike Perry on the arm, but the loose ball fell kindly to Martin who fired past Hodgson from 15 yards - his 25th goal of the season.

Mulcaster's men battled hard to find the all-important equaliser and things appeared to be going their way midway through the second half when Joseph pulled back Aaron Ramsbottom right on the edge of the penalty area. McKitterick had little option other than to produce a straight red card for the Norton defender for a professional foul and the hosts had more than 25 minutes to hold out with ten men.

But rather than take advantage of the extra man, Town found themselves 2-0 behind just four minutes later. A perfectly flighted free kick from the right by Michael Jameson found the head of Laing and the former Town midfielder sent the ball past Hodgson from 10 yards.

Town now had a mountain to climb and Mulcaster immediately threw defender Grant Hickman up front in a switch to a more attacking 3-4-3 formation. It almost paid dividends as Knight produced a world class save to deny Anderson before Town did finally get the goal they deserved two minutes from time.

A corner from Gav Parkin was only half cleared and when substitute Mark Hemingway recycled the ball back into the danger zone, Anderson smashed a volley past Knight from 8 yards - his 20th goal of an impressive season.

Suddenly a dramatic comeback looked on the cards as Town threw everything forward looking for the goal that would have sealed sixth place. Even goalkeeper Hodgson came up for a corner in one last desperate attempt to salvage a point but Norton, who had defended solidly throughout the game, held on for the points.

Mulcaster said: "We had the chances at the end but it was one of those where the ball just wouldn't go in. Everyone is disappointed but I can't fault the commitment, the effort that the lads put in today.

"It's games like the Alnwick's and Stokesley's where we have dropped points where we shouldn't have dropped points which is why we're in the position that we're in. But seventh. You've got to be positive and look forward. Hopefully next season we will push on."

So a season that promised much has ended in disappointment. 11 points less than last year have been won, 16 goals less scored. In many ways this game summed up much of the campaign. Plenty of hard work and endeavour but perhaps not enough quality in the final third when it really mattered.

But seventh place is not a disaster by any means and it is certainly something to build on for next season. If this squad can stay together, and with the addition of 2-3 new signings, then perhaps this time next year Town could have something to celebrate.

NORTON & STOCKTON - Knight, Andrews, Bell, Joseph, Mulligan, Laing, Seaton, Jameson, Mitchell, Martin, Charlton. SUBS - Farrington, Campbell, Hawkes.

TOWN - Hodgson - One of the signings of the season. An outstanding young goalkeeper who was once again assured throughout. 8/10

Ramsbottom (An) - Another great late-season signing. Has hardly made a mistake since re-signing in March was again strong and solid at the back. 8/10

Perry - Ended the match with another lump on his head, such is his commitment to the cause. 7/10

Hickman - Is there a better defender in the league? Showed he is not a bad striker either with a late cameo which almost helped bring the equaliser. 8/10

Porritt - Has finished the season in fine form. This was perhaps not his greatest game but he worked hard and was steady throughout. Had one or two chances to break his goal duck for the season. 7/10

Elgie - A great first season with the club. Returned to the side after missing the RA match but was unable to provide the goal-scoring threat that he has done in recent weeks. 7/10

Anderson - Was quiet by his high standards but was still a threat throughout and notched his 20th goal of the season - another superb finish. 7/10

Parkin - Popped up in a few more advanced positions than usual but could not end his five-month wait for a goal. 7/10

Butterworth - Limped off with a dead leg early on. Not the finale to the season he would have been hoping for. 7/10

Ramsbottom (Aa) - Always looked lively up front but was unable to find the goal that would have brought a much-needed point. 7/10

McLachlan - Drifted in and out of the game but produced some quality deliveries from wide areas at times. 7/10

SUBS - Kokes - Replaced Butterworth in the first half but struggled to find his best form. 7/10

Hemingway - Unfortunate to be only playing a bit part in recent weeks as his early performances were outstanding. Replaced Aaron Ramsbottom in the late tactical switch and helped created the goal. 7/10

UNUSED - Colman.

REFEREE - K. McKitterick


Mully Junior talks...

Saturday, 26 April 2014


Saturday, 19 April 2014

Exclusive Grant Hickman interview

Ton up for Town but RA leave with a point

By Ricky Butler at the Calvert Stadium

Highlights of this match can be viewed here

A FIRST half header from Grant Hickman on Good Friday was only enough to bring Town a point from their final home match of the season.

In front of a season's best crowd of 223, visitors Darlington RA led with a wonder-strike from Adam Sakr inside 90 seconds. But Peter Mulcaster's side hit back as Hickman rose to head home a Gav Parkin corner seven minutes later, Town's 100th goal of the season in all competitions, and that was the way it finished.

Mulcaster, however, was disappointed that his team could not produce a better performance for the bumper Easter crowd. He said: "I was a bit disappointed we didn't put on a better show with the great support we had today but I think at the end a draw was a fair result. I thought they had more play than us but we had quite a few chances in the last 20 minutes.

"Grant hasn't scored for a while so it was an important goal for us. We huffed and puffed at times and got the ball down and played very few times, and I thought [RA] played well I've got to say. But you've got to put your chances away, that's what it's all about."

The Town boss made two changes from the side that had won 2-0 at Willington the previous week. Dale Elgie was absent so Andrew Porritt returned in midfield, while Colin Anderson was back in attack looking for his 20th goal of the season. Darren Kokes dropped down to the bench.

On a day when a selection of the Town fans completed a 20-mile sponsored walk from the RA's Brinkburn Road ground to the Calvert Stadium, raising over £1,000 for the club, the team got off to the worst possible start, conceding inside two minutes.

The ball sat up nicely for former Willington striker Sakr, 25 yards out, but it still took some finishing, and finish it he did with a superb dipping volley that gave Ryan Hodgson no chance.

Sakr came close to a second soon after with a shot that flew wide, but that was the cue for Town to finally settle.

They were level after eight minutes with what was their first meaningful attack. The Ramsbottom brothers, two of several players playing against former colleagues, combined as Andy's cross from the right found Aaron who's effort was deflected wide for a corner.

In a combination that had worked so well for Town earlier in the season but had not bore fruit since November, Parkin's delivery found the head of Hickman who planted the ball into the top left-hand corner of the net - the big defender's 8th goal of the season.

Town perhaps had the better of it until the break as Parkin headed narrowly wide before Anderson somehow failed to covert a cross from Aaron Ramsbottom. Meanwhile at the other end, Hodgson had to be alert to keep out an effort from the dangerous Sakr.

Town had to reorganise early in the second half when first James Howlett and then Parkin limped off and the RA enjoyed far more possession, trying to utilise the pace of Sakr and strike-partner Mark Sims. But it was Mulcaster's men that carved out the better opportunities.

Aaron Ramsbottom would have loved to have scored against his former club and he came close on the hour - firing across the face of the goal after a mix up in the RA defence.

Ramsbottom then created the best chance of all with a cross from the left that found the head of Anderson and substitute Christian Holliday nodded against the base of the post from close range. Anderson himself was then denied by Matt Calvert in the RA goal.

Martin Butterworth, another looking to shine against his former club, thought he had won it when he chipped Calvert six minutes from time, but his celebrations were cut short by the assistant's offside flag; it looked a tight call.

So in the end this local derby finished with honours even and the point was enough to move Town into the top six on goal difference ahead of Norton and Stockton, who they meet in a final day shoot-out next Saturday.

"Realistically a draw would be enough," said Mulcaster. "But the team to watch now are Whickham. They have a couple of games in hand and could draw level with us, but if we win [next week] that will be enough."

With just one defeat from their last six matches, Town can certainly travel to Norton in good spirits as they look to finish the season in style.

TOWN - Hodgson - A fairly quiet night but once again demonstrated assured handling and produced a couple of good saves. 8/10

Ramsbottom (An) - Got forward well at times and was calm and assured at the back. The RA must be gutted to have lost him. 8/10

Howlett - Was having a very steady game until he was forced off in the second half with a nasty facial injury. Not the way he would have wanted his first match against his former club to end. 7/10

Hickman - Ended his five month goal drought in style although it was has been his work at the other end that has been capturing all the headlines. Another faultless display. Man of the match. 9/10

Butterworth - Unlucky to see his late effort ruled out for offside and another saved in the closing stages. Looked up for it against his former club. 8/10

Parkin - Limped off with an ankle injury just after the break and it will be a race against time for him to be fit for the last match. Superb delivery for the goal and almost scored himself with a rare header. 7/10

McLachlan - Unable to add to his recent goal-scoring exploits but once again worked hard down the right. 7/10

Porritt - Back in the side after missing the match at Willington and produced another all-action midfield display. 8/10

Anderson - Not his night in front of goal and was kept quiet by the RA back line, although one piece of magic almost won it at the end. 7/10

Ramsbottom (Aa) - No one wanted a goal more than him and he came close on several occasions. A constant threat. 8/10

Gunnell - Unable to really get into the game although he put in a good shift for the team before being replaced in the second half. 7/10

SUBS - Hemingway - Replaced the injured Howlett and slotted in seamlessly at the back. 7/10

Perry - Came on in a deep laying midfield role after Parkin's departure and added a calmness to proceedings. 7/10

Holliday - Came close to grabbing a late winner with a header that hit the post but was not really on long enough to make an impression. 7/10

UNUSED - Kokes, Colman, Stevens.

DARLINGTON RA - Calvert, Read, Muir, Whensley, Mitchell, Grainger, New, Webster, Sims, Sakr, Hanratty. SUBS - Johnson, Morrow, Upton, Dow, Allison.

REFEREE - M. Bunting.


Friday, 18 April 2014


Mully talks...about the draw with Darlington RA

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Exclusive Danny Mclachlan interview

Exclusive Aaron Ramsbottom interview

No drama this time as Town win at Willington

By Ricky Butler at Hall Lane

Highlights of this match can be viewed here

GOALS either side of the break from Danny McLachlan and Aaron Ramsbottom on Saturday secured a fourth win in five matches for a resurgent Northallerton Town at Willington.

McLachlan, who was sent off on his last visit here in September, headed home a Ramsbottom cross in the final minute of the first half before the two combined again for Ramsbottom to round goalkeeper David Moffatt and double the Town lead soon after the restart.

But a rather low-key encounter lacked any of the drama of their two previous meetings this season, which had seen 13 goals and three red cards, and manager Peter Mulcaster was just relived to come away with the points.

He said: "I think the best part of the game was the final whistle. It was a poor game to watch. The lads weren't happy with the way they played. We hardly strung any passes together but we won and that is the most important thing."

Mulcaster's team plans were ripped apart before kick off when Christian Holliday, who had scored twice in the midweek victory over South Shields, was stuck in traffic and had to replaced in attack by Darren Kokes. With top scorer Colin Anderson also unavailable, it meant a new-look front line as Ramsbottom was recalled, while Martin Butterworth replaced the absent Andrew Porritt in midfield.

After the immaculately observed minutes silence in tribute to the 96 football fans who died at Hillsborough 25 years ago this week, and against a Willington side who came into the match on the back of a five match unbeaten run, Town started well. Twice Grant Hickman came close while Butterworth, Dale Elgie and Gav Parkin all threatened.

But a disjointed first half looked to heading towards a goalless conclusion when Town grabbed a deserved lead with the final kick of the half. Ramsbottom beat the offside trap and his cross from the left was perfect for McLachlan to nod home from close range - his 10th goal of the season.

Missing players of the calibre of Adam Pinkney, Corey Nicholson and Adam Sakr, Willington looked a pale shadow of the side that had thrilled us all earlier in the season, but they did look far more dangerous at the start of the second half. Ryan Hodgson was forced into a fine save to deny Jason White while Liam Whitworth fired high and wide. But it was Town who doubled their lead 11 minutes after the restart.

McLachlan turned provider this time; winning the ball on the edge of the penalty area before feeding Ramsbottom with a clever flick, and the striker rounded Moffatt before slotting home his second goal since re-signing from Darlington RA last month.

Willington enjoyed far more possession after that but another solid defensive performance from Town kept them at bay and it finished 2-0. Mulcaster's side now need four points from their final two matches to secure a sixth place finish.

After a final home match of the season on Friday evening against neighbours Darlington RA, they face a final day showdown at Norton & Stockton Ancients, who currently sit sixth, one point ahead of Town but with just that one match remaining.

WILLINGTON - Moffatt, Goodey, Hillary, Lazonby, Weston, Cairns, Lee, Seymour, White, Cumby, Whitworth. SUBS - Patton, Clarey, Price, Milner.

TOWN - Hodgson - Did not have a great deal to do but was solid throughout. Made good saves in each half which proved crucial in the end. 8/10

Ramsbottom (An) - Limped off in the second half but had another steady game at the back. 7/10

Howlett - Has settled smoothly back into the side since returning from injury last week. 7/10

Hickman - Has been outstanding in recent weeks and was faultless once again. Won everything in the air and was unlucky not to add a goal of two to his tally. Man of the match. 9/10

Butterworth - Back from illness and worked hard in the middle of the park. 7/10

Elgie - In a midfield lacking its usual fluency, he failed to have his usual influence of proceedings. 7/10

McLachlan - One goal and one assist. Should be pleased with his day's work. 9/10

Parkin - Not his greatest game but did not stop working. Led by example. 7/10

Ramsbottom - Lively throughout. Played an important part in the opener and then took the second really well. 8/10

Kokes - A last minute replacement for Holliday and worked hard up front. 7/10

Gunnell - Another impressive display down the left. 8/10

SUBS - Hemingway - Replaced Gunnell and settled in quickly at left back. 7/10

Perry - Came on for Ramsbottom in an unfamiliar right back role and was cool and calm on the ball. 7/10

Holliday - Would have started had he not been stuck in traffic and found it hard to get into the match after replacing Elgie in the closing stages. 7/10

REFEREE - M. Hedley


Saturday, 12 April 2014

Mully talks...about the win at Willington


Thursday, 10 April 2014

Col Anderson post South Shields interview

Exclusive Ryan Hodgson interview

Bisto is different gravy as Town hit Shields for four

By Ricky Butler at the Calvert Stadium

Highlights of this match can be viewed here

TWO GOALS each from the new-look strike force of Colin Anderson and Christian Holliday on Wednesday evening gave Northallerton Town a third win in four games in what proved to be a comfortable victory over South Shields.

Anderson opened the scoring midway through the first half with a late contender for Goal of the Season, while Holliday, known as Bisto, doubled the lead before the break.

Holliday then sealed the points nine minutes into the second half, before Anderson put the cap on a fine team performance on the hour with his 19th goal of an impressive season.

With goals hard to come by in recent weeks, manager Peter Mulcaster was delighted with his new-look attack. He said: "The biggest difference tonight was that we had two lads up front who were scoring. It gives everybody confidence. You think you're going to get something out the game.

"[South Shields] are always a difficult team to play against because they are direct. For the first ten minutes or so we were all over the place, they were forcing the game. But then we broke away and scored and after that we settled down.

"It was one of our best performances for a few weeks so I am very, very pleased."

Following Saturday's 2-1 defeat at Heaton Stannington, Mulcaster was forced into three changes. Anderson returned up front following a hamstring injury and was partnered by Holliday in a new-look forward line, while Michael Gunnell was back in the left wing back position.

Against a big and aggressive Mariners side, Town were slow out of the blocks but they were given the boost an early goal. And what a goal it was. Andrew Porritt, again outstanding in midfield, found Anderson just inside the penalty area in the 17th minute, and his instant control with his chest set the ball up nicely to volley past Jak Wells.

Suddenly Mulcaster's men looked transformed. After lacking a forward threat in recent weeks, they were now attacking from all angles and the second goal was not long in arriving.

There was half-an-hour on the clock when Gav Parkin's corner from the right was headed onto the crossbar by Grant Hickman and when the big centre back forced the ball back into the six-yard box, Holliday had the simple task of tapping home.

Having gone in at half time 2-0 up the previous week against Ryton and then almost throwing it away in the second half, no one inside the stadium was taking anything for granted this time. But Town came out after the break looking determined to ensure a repeat was not on the cards and it took them just nine minutes to add the killer third goal.

Ironically against a side that are so dangerous from long throws, it was that very move which brought about Shields' downfall. Gunnell threw the ball into the heart of the penalty area and after Anderson flicked it on, Holliday arrived to head home his second from close range.

Town could now relax and they began to play the kind of football that makes you wonder just how they have not featured in the promotion race this season. The fourth goal on the hour illustrated this perfectly. Danny McLachlan skipped clear down the right and fed Dale Elgie on the edge of the penalty area. He in turn drilled the ball across the six-yard box for Anderson to slide the ball past Wells from six yards. Simple but oh so effective.

Town inevitably eased off after that and allowed Shields more possession, but with the back three of Hickman, Andy Ramsbottom, and James Howlett outstanding, Mulcaster's men were able to close the game out for a first clean sheet in eight games.

"We scored goals at the right time," said Mulcaster. "The confidence came back and it was nice to be able to relax after the third goal had gone in. We haven't been able to do that for a while."

Town will now look for a fourth win in five matches when they visit another in-form side, Willington, on Saturday. With 13 goals and 3 red cards from their two previous meetings this season, not to mention some national news coverage, that is a match not to be missed.

TOWN - Hodgson - Has settled in really well since arriving from Stokesley and gave another assured performance. 8/10

Ramsbottom - Has slotted in seamlessly in recent weeks. One of the (re)signings of the season. 8/10

Howlett - Had his hands full against some big, strong lads but was calm and assured all night. 8/10

Hickman - Unlucky not to score with a first half header that hit the bar but it was at the other end where he did his best work. Quite simply one of the best centre backs in the league. 9/10

Porritt - Outstanding in the middle of the park. Again. 8/10

Elgie - Bossed the midfield. One of the favourites for Player of the Season and this is why. 8/10

McLachlan - Perhaps did not see as much of the ball as he would have liked but his part in the fourth goal was superb. 8/10

Parkin - Back to his best. In a solid team performance, he once again played a captain's role. 8/10

Anderson - Goals win games and he once again delivered when it mattered. A fabulous opener and in the right place at the right time for the fourth. Joint man of the match. 9/10

Holliday - Two poachers goals and linked well with Anderson all night. Joint man of the match. 9/10

Gunnell - Back from injury and showed what a great prospect he is. A constant threat down the left. 8/10

SUBS - Burton - Worked hard after coming off the bench but was unable to find a much-needed goal. 7/10

Hemingway - Replaced Gunnell late on and helped steady the ship in the closing stages. 7/10

UNUSED - Kokes, Perry, Stevens, Colman.

SOUTH SHIELDS - Wells, Clarke, Riding, Holliday, White, Locke, Berhen, Richardson, Ramsey, Sweeney, Feasey. SUBS - Greenwell, Kwalangan, McLean, King.

REFEREE - L. Robinson.


Mully talks...about the South Shields victory


Monday, 7 April 2014

Exclusive Andrew Porritt interview

Danny McLachlan exclusive interview

Another Wright mess for Town

By Dan Pinder and Ricky Butler at Grounsell Park

Highlights of this match can be viewed here

NORTHALLERTON TOWN’S run of two consecutive victories came to an end at Grounsell Park on Saturday despite a late header from Danny McLachlan.

Jon Wright, who had scored both goals in Heaton's 2-1 success at the Calvert in October, had put the hosts 1-0 up again just after half time with a lob over Town goalkeeper Ryan Hodgson, before Dean Deagle sealed the points after 66 minutes.

Town manager Peter Mulcaster said: “You’ve got to give credit to the players because at that point I thought we could have just gone, but we didn’t. We forced the game, we got a goal back and we finished strongly.”

McLachlan grabbed his 9th goal of the season 11 minutes from time, however the home side held on to claim all three points.

Goal-scorer McLachlan, in reference to a near miss in midweek, said: “It was nice to get on the end of [the cross] to be honest, nice to see it not hit the crossbar. It got close to it though."

Mulcaster made three changes to the team that had beaten Ryton & Crawcrook 2-1 on Wednesday evening. James Howlett returned to the side after injury, replacing Craig Perry in defence, while Dale Elgie was back in place of Colin Anderson. Elsewhere, Chris Burton dropped to the bench in place of the recalled Aaron Ramsbottom.

Wright has proved to be one of the sharpest strikers in the league this season and he looked a threat from the start. The 34-goal marksman headed wide after just five minutes before almost finding strike-partner Lawrence McKenna at the far post, only for McLachlan to clear the ball.
Mikey Stevens then cleared a Joe Wear header off the line, while moments later Paul Mills picked the ball up in his own half before driving forward and unleashing a shot from 20 yards which produced a fine save from young Hodgson. The ball was not sufficiently cleared however, and when it was recycled back into the area, midfielder Paul Blakey hit the base of the post.

It was all Heaton at this stage and Ben Telford nearly put the home side 1-0 up after Elgie’s clearance fell straight to him. However his shot went just wide, although Hodgson appeared to have it covered.

Town’s first shot on target did not arrive until the half hour mark when Aaron Ramsbottom and Stevens linked up down the left before the latter found Elgie on the edge of the penalty area. However, the midfielder, who has been in great recent goal-scoring form, could only produce a tame effort which was comfortable for home goalkeeper Shaun Backhouse.

Wright started his team’s next meaningful move, switching the ball from right to left to Mills, who found McKenna in the box. He then laid the ball off to Wright who unleashed a fizzing shot that flew just over the top.

But in the dying moments of the first half, McKenna really ought to have put Heaton 1-0 up. Wright again created the problems with some good work down the left and his low cross found his strike-partner in front of an open goal. However, McKenna somehow managed to fire over the top from two yards.
With a lack of goals in recent weeks, it was always looking to be a tough task for Mulcaster's side when the impressive Wright opened the scoring just seconds after the restart. A goal kick from Backhouse was flicked on by McKenna, finding the striker clean through on goal and he calmly lobbed the stranded Hodgson.

Captain Wear was lucky not to gift Town an equaliser soon after as his header back to the 'keeper nearly looped over Backhouse for what would have been a calamitous own goal.
But that was as close as Mulcaster's side came to pulling themselves level and it was The Stan who doubled their lead after 66 minutes. A corner from the left by Mills found Blakey, who headed the ball back across goal to Deagle at the far post; the defender taking a touch before smashing it beyond Hodgson from close range.

With the game quickly slipping away, Town at least showed their character to find a way back. Substitute Christian Holliday had an effort from distance saved with 20 minutes left to play before McLachlan found the goal nine minutes later with a fine header from a left-wing cross by Gav Parkin.

It was too late for Town to mount any real threat of a comeback though, despite Aaron Ramsbottom coming close after linking up with Burton and Holliday two minutes from time.

“We dominated the last twenty minutes, it just didn’t drop for us. It hasn’t done all season when it comes to things like that,” said McLachlan. “I thought we battled well, played well.”
Andrew Porrit said: “I thought we worked very hard, put them under pressure at times. We were probably the better team [in the final twenty minutes], and a bit more quality and we would have maybe been in for better chances.”

However, the late flourish should not disguise a continued lack of quality in the final third. The free-scoring team which briefly led the table earlier in the season has been replaced by a workmanlike side who remain difficult to beat but are becoming far too easy to defend against. What would Mulcaster would give to have a player like Wright leading his attack?

Town now find themselves in seventh place as they welcome South Shields to the Calvert Stadium on Wednesday evening before a trip to old foes Willington next weekend. A return to winning ways is essential if Mulcaster’s men are to remain on course for a top six finish.

HEATON STANNINGTON: Backhouse, Telford, James, Blakey, Wear, Deagle, Mills, Johnson, Wright, McKenna, Dixon. SUBS: Smith, Hoggins, Carr.
TOWN: Hodgson - Could do nothing about the goals that beat him and made one or two decent saves. 8/10
Andy Ramsbottom - Struggled at times against the pace of movement of Wright but stuck to the task well. 7/10
Howlett - Not an easy match to come back in to following a three match injury lay-off, and he looked a little off the pace at times. 6/10
Hickman - A difficult afternoon against a lively Heaton attack but he refused to shy away from his responsibilities. 7/10
Porritt - Looks so much more comfortable in midfield and was neat and tidy in everything he did. Man of the match. 8/10
Elgie - Quiet by recent standards but went about his work with customary coolness. 7/10
McLachlan - Took his goal very well and it was just reward for another hard-working display. 8/10
Parkin - A great cross for the goal but was unable to really stamp his authority on proceedings. 6/10
Kokes - Succumbed to an early injury. 6/10
Aaron Ramsbottom - Never got a sniff in front of goal until the final few seconds and then almost grabbed a dramatic late equaliser. 6/10
Stevens - Always a threat down the left with his pace but was unable to produce enough quality with his final ball. 6/10
SUBS: Holliday - Replaced Kokes up front in the first half but was kept quite by a strong Heaton defence. 6/10
Burton - Unlucky to be dropped to the bench and came on too late to have any real influence. 6/10
Unused: Butterworth, Colman.
REFEREE - S. Dial.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Mully talks...about the Heaton defeat


Thursday, 3 April 2014

'Unacceptable' Town hang on for scrappy Ryton victory

By Ricky Butler at the Calvert Stadium

TWO first half goals from Colin Anderson, his 16th and 17th of the season, were just enough to give Northallerton Town a first home victory of 2014. But the performance against bottom side Ryton & Crawcrook Albion will not live long in the memory.

In fact so poor were Town in the second half that manager Peter Mulcaster described the performance as 'unacceptable' and 'the worst since I returned to the club.'

Yet things had started so well. Twice in the opening 25 minutes, Anderson was the beneficiary of quality deliveries into the box; first from Chris Burton and then Gav Parkin. But after having to reorganise following a nasty head injury to Craig Perry, Town never got going in the second half and they were forced to hang on at the end after David Backhouse's fine 65th minute strike.

Despite a second successive victory, however, Mulcaster could not hide his disappointment. He said: "To be honest we were garbage. That is the worst second half performance since I came to the club. There was no quality there, there was no willingness to win anything, and all round it was not acceptable.

"It was the lack of willingness to work hard that was the first and foremost thing. I am just thankful we were able to hold on."

Mulcaster was without Saturday's two-goal hero Dale Elgie, while Martin Butterworth and Mark Hemingway were also both unavailable. So Andrew Porritt, Darren Kokes and Mikey Stevens all returned to the side, while Ryan Hodgson was back in goal having missed the weekend victory at Thornaby. Meanwhile, Aaron Ramsbottom returned from illness to take his place on the bench alongside Mike Colman.

After a bright start from bottom side Ryton, Town soon took control and they were unfortunate not to go ahead inside 10 minutes. Stevens did well down the left and Danny McLachlan saw his effort from close range come back off the underside of the crossbar.

But the opening goal was not long in arriving. Just four minutes later, Parkin sent Burton clear down the left, he beat full-back Alex Robinson before crossing for Anderson to score with a spectacular diving header.

And it looked set to be a comfortable evening when Town doubled their advantage 10 minutes later. Parkin whipped in one of his customary corners from the right and Anderson, who had scored a hat-trick in the reverse fixture earlier in the season, arrived to flick home a header at the near post.

But that was about as good as it got for Mulcaster's men. An injury to Craig Perry, who was left with a nasty lump on his head that required hospital treatment following a clash with Ryton's Josh Holland, led to a re-organisation and a switch back to 4-4-2 for the second half. However, Town just never got going after the restart.
It has been a difficult season for Ryton but they are a young side with bags of pace and energy, and they finally began to enjoy themselves. A comeback that had appeared so unlikely in the first half suddenly looked possible midway through the second period.
Following a sustained spell of Albion pressure, Backhouse drilled home a fine effort from 25 yards and for the second time in four days Town were forced to hang on for a win they really ought to have seen out far more comfortably.

In the closing stages Albion enjoyed a lot of possession and a succession of corners but they were unable to create many clear-cut opportunities and it finished 2-1.

Mulcaster said: "Give credit to [Ryton}.They are just local footballers, no disrespect to them, but they stuck at it and they were the better side in the second half, there is no two ways about it.

"Yes, we won and every now and again you say we played well and lost, and I've felt happier than I do tonight because it's the performance that matters."

Next up Town is a tough trip on Saturday to promotion-chasing Heaton Stannington, where the performance will need to be much better that this if they are to come away with a third consecutive victory.

TOWN - Hodgson - One of the few to come out of the night with any credit. His handling was generally sound and made one or two decent saves. 8/10

Ramsbottom (An) - Another solid game at the back for Ramma. 7/10

Stevens - Started well down the left but faded in the second half along with many of his team-mates. 6/10

Perry - Looked solid at the back again until a nasty head injury forced him off just before the break. 7/10

Hickman - Two wins since he returned to the side says a lot about his influence. Rarely put a foot wrong throughout. 8/10

Kokes - Back in the side in midfield but failed to find any rhythm. Hobbled off in the second half and that really summed up his night. 6/10

Anderson - Still not 100% fit but once again got the goals that mattered. Man of the match. 8/10

Parkin - Started well but like many others he hardly got a kick in the second half. 6/10

Burton - Played well in the first half, and his part in the first goal was crucial, but was largely anonymous after the break. 7/10

McLachlan - Did not get any kind of service up front and seemed more effective in a wider role in the second half. 7/10

Porritt - Outstanding in midfield in the first half and was solid and strong at right back in the second. Ran Anderson and Hodgson close for man of the match. 8/10

SUBS - Ramsbottom (Aa) - Replaced Perry at half time but struggled to make any impact. 6/10

Colman - Came on for Kokes late on, and on a difficult night for the forwards, never got into the game. 6/10

RYTON & CRAWCROOK - Gillespie, Robinson, Shickle, Backhouse, Christowski, Turnbull, Holland, Shanks, Sinclair, Gunn, Hodges (P). SUBS - McGill, Peacock, Phillips, Brown, Hodges (J).

REFEREE - K. Beckett


Wednesday, 2 April 2014


Mully talks...about the Ryton victory

Monday, 31 March 2014

Exclusive Gav Parkin interview

Exclusive Dale Elgie interview

Exclusive Gav Parkin interview

Mully talks...about the Thornaby victory

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Elgie at the double as Town end winless run

By Ricky Butler at Teasdale Park

Highlights of this match can be viewed here

NORTHALLERTON TOWN ended a run of five matches without a win at Teasdale Park on Saturday as two goals from the returning Dale Elgie secured three points against Thornaby.

Elgie, who had missed last week's defeat against West Allotment Celtic through suspension, scored either side of the break to put Peter Mulcaster's side in control, although they suffered a late scare when David Wells pulled a goal back for the hosts four minutes from time.

A happy Mulcaster said: "The overall performance was quite good. Towards the end after they scored it was nippy bum time but I think overall we deserved to win.

"Until we got the second goal my concern was Tow Law again. We were in total control of that game and all of sudden threw it away. But Grant [Hickman] and Dale [Elgie] came back into the side today and they are both massive for us."

With  Hickman, Elgie and Colin Anderson all returning to the starting XI, the Town boss again went with the same 3-5-2 formation that had worked well the previous week. The big news however was in what has become a problem position in recent weeks. With young goalkeeper Ryan Hodgson unavailable, winger Christian Holliday, recently re-signed from Willington, became the 10th different player to don the gloves for Town this season.

The hosts came into the match on a good run of only three defeats in 12 games and they started brightly. Former Town striker David Onions threatened early on while in-form Ged Livingstone, with 14 goals in 20 appearances this season, also came close.

But slowly Town grew into the match. Chris Burton was unlucky again when his effort came back off the crossbar for the second week in a row while Anderson and Gav Parkin also threatened.

However, the goal Mulcaster's side had been threatening finally arrived four minutes before the break and came from what is now becoming a familiar source. After failing to score in his first 14 appearances for Town this season, Elgie made it six in his last 14 with a fine strike from 20 yards that nestled nicely into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.

Thornaby came out at the start of the second half with all guns blazing, although Town's three-man back line of Hickman, Craig Perry and Andy Ramsbottom kept them at arms length and Holliday did not have a clear save to make.

Mulcaster's men may have lacked the same fluency going forward after the break but they were able to add a crucial second goal 20 minutes from time to take complete control. Like so many of Town goals in recent years, this one was created by the set-piece delivery of skipper Parkin, and Elgie made another well timed third man run to head home from 8 yards.

Game over. Or so it seemed. But Town rarely do things the easy way and with four minutes remaining Richard Walker's shot was flicked neatly past Holliday from close range by Wells.

Suddenly it was completely different game. Thornaby threw everything forward in a late attempt to grab an equalizer but Town would not be denied. Hickman threw his body on the line not once but twice in stoppage time as Town held on to finally give their travelling fans, who made the journey in large numbers, something to cheer.

Mulcaster said: "We defended well today. We got blocks in when it mattered. Any defence with Grant Hickman in it has a chance and I've got to say Andrew Ramsbottom was tremendous today as well. All round its pleasing."

Town now face bottom side Ryton & Crawcrook Albion at the Calvert Stadium on Wednesday evening looking for a first home win of 2014.

THORNABY - O'Rourke, Pearson, Burton(J), Bythway, Morrison, Wells, Wilson, Walker, Onions, Livingstone, Melvin. SUBS - Woodhouse, Winter, Rowbotham, Edwards.

TOWN - Holliday - Was well protected by his defence but showed good handling and distribution throughout. 8/10

Ramsbottom - Another superb display at the back. Won every challenge and header. 8/10

Hemingway - In a slightly unfamiliar wing-role, he adapted well and once again gave a strong, solid performance. 7/10

Perry - Played his part in what was a very solid defensive display. 7/10

Hickman - Back after missing the last three matches and it was like he had never been away. Simply superb. 9/10

Elgie - Has added goals to his midfield artistry and proved to be the key figure again. Man of the match. 9/10

Anderson - Not 100 per cent fit and it showed but was still a handful for the Thornaby defence who resorted to literally kicking him off the park in the end. 7/10

Parkin - Seems to be enjoying the new three-man midfield and once again played a captain's role. 8/10

Burton - It is just not quite happening for him in front of goal at the moment but his all round game was once again very impressive. Needs a goal though. 7/10

McLachlan - No one works harder for the team but like Burto, it is not happening for him in front of goal. Must have covered every blade of grass ten times over. 8/10

Butterworth - The deeper role seems to suit him better and he produced another all-action display in the middle of the park. 8/10

SUBS - Porritt - Replaced Hemingway in the second half and helped see the team over the line. 7/10

Dacombe - Came on for the injured Anderson at the end but it was too late for him to have any real influence. 7/10

Colman, Kokes - unused.

REFEREE - C. Gilbraith


Saturday, 22 March 2014

Exclusive Andy Ramsbottom interview

Another WAC in the face for Town

By Ricky Butler at the Calvert Stadium

Highlights of this match are available here

NORTHALLETON TOWN slipped to a third consecutive league defeat on Saturday as bogie side West Allotment Celtic once again left the Calvert Stadium with all three points.

The South-Tynesiders had won on all six previous league visits to Northallerton and first half goals from Stephen Little and David Dormand put them on course for another. Despite a battling performance from Peter Mulcaster's side, Tony Lancaster added a late third meaning Aaron Ramsbottom's 84th minute free kick was no more than consolation for Town.

But Mulcaster was pleased with what he described as another good display from his side. He said: "I thought the team performance was good, I was pleased today. I brought the two Ramsbottoms in who did extremely well, and young Mike Lee came on in the second half and did very well. But overall it was a good performance and I think 3-1 flattered them."

The Town boss was forced into several changes with eight players missing for one reason or another. Having signed Andy and Aaron Ramsbottom from Darlington RA this week, both started; Andy as one of three central defenders and Aaron up front alongside Chris Burton.

With Dale Elgie serving a one match suspension, Martin Butterworth was dropped into a three man midfield alongside Darren Kokes and Gav Parkin, with Ritchie Dacombe starting wide on the left.

The new formation appeared to have worked in the early stages as a terrific effort from Burton inside ten minutes came back off the crossbar with goalkeeper Chris Bannan beaten, and had that gone in it may well have been a different story.

But that seems to be the way things are going for Town at the moment as promotion-chasing Celtic took full advantage to score twice in six minutes midway through the first half.

The opening goal arrived in the 26th minute. Marc Dummett's corner from the right led to confusion in the Town area and Little's header found its way into the net via a wicked deflection off Butterworth.

Mulcaster's side had barely recovered from that blow when the visitors scored again. This one was created with a neat ball in from right by Michael Bell, and Dormand guided a header into the far corner of the net.

With goals hard to come by in recent weeks, it was always going to be a tough task for Town now but they are nothing if not resilient. Burton came close again when he his initial effort was blocked before his follow-up was somehow kept out by the legs of Bannan as Town finished the first half on top.

The hosts took that improvement into the early stages of the second period and Burton was unlucky to see a lovely chip disallowed for what appeared to be a foul on Bannan that was seen only by referee Geoff Marr.

But Celtic are a talented side and with forward players of the class of Sean Reid, David Henderson and Dormand, they always posed a threat. And so it proved. With just 12 minutes remaining, Dormand drilled in a low cross from the right and winger Lancaster had the simple task of tapping-in at the far post.

Mulcaster immediately threw on talisman Colin Anderson, still struggling with a long-term Achilles injury, and it did not take him long to show exactly what Town have been missing. With five minutes to go, the 15-goal top scorer was brought down on the edge of the penalty area by Little, and Aaron Ramsbottom marked his return to the club with a wonderful free kick that curled into the top corner of the net.

Suddenly Town were transformed. Driven on by Anderson, they felt they should have had a 88th minute penalty when Dummett, who had already been booked, appeared to handle inside the area, but Marr waved away the penalty appeals and it finished 3-1.

Mulcaster said: "We had eight players missing today, five of which would have played. That is not an excuse but it the way it has panned out at the moment. Hopefully next week we will have everybody back.

"The atmosphere in the dressing room is good and we will bounce back. I am happier today than I was last week anyway."

Town travel to in-form Thornaby next Saturday looking to end of winless run of five matches, their worst spell of the season.

TOWN - Hodgson - Not really troubled apart from the goals, although he did produce one fine save in the first half. 7/10

Ramsbottom (An) - A superb performance on his return to the club. Did not deserve to be on the losing side. Man of the match. 8/10

Hemingway - While results have been going against the team in recent weeks, Mark's performances have been a real plus. Outstanding once again. 8/10

Perry - Punished for his only two mistakes of the game but other than that was strong and solid throughout. 7/10

Butterworth - Looked far more comfortable in a deeper midfield role. 7/10

Parkin - Unlucky not to score with a long range effort and covered every blade of grass. 7/10

McLachlan - Some poor deliveries from the right spoilt what was otherwise a fine, hard-working display. 7/10

Kokes - Like Butterworth, looked happier in a deeper role as he saw far more of the ball then in recent weeks. 7/10

Ramsbottom (Aa) - A great free kick to cap a lively all-round performance on his return to the club. 7/10

Burton - Really unlucky with a great early effort that came back off the crossbar and also with a second half effort that was harshly ruled out. 8/10

Dacombe - His best game for the club. Worked tirelessly for the cause. 8/10

SUBS  - Lee - Promising debut for the youngster signed from Stokesley SC this week. 7/10

Anderson - Has been badly missed. His return to full fitness can not come quickly enough. 8/10

WEST ALLOTMENT CELTIC -  Bannan, Pendlebury, Dummett, Dunn, Stoneman, Little, Ball, Henderson, Dormand, Reid, Lancaster. SUBS - Douglas, Ball, Ford, Lee, Chapman.

REFEREE - G. Marr.