THIS week I look back at The Baris North Counties East League, where our clubs fell well short of their true potential.
Christmas was again the turning point for our trio in the Premier Division, when Staveley and Parkgate were strong contenders for promotion, while Maltby looked odds on to be relegated.
Newly promoted Staveley, under the wily eye of manager Billy Fox, were surprising even their own supporters with a brand of football that was setting the league on fire. By the start of the New Year they had won 11 and drawn four of their 18 league games and were going well in the cups. Unfortunately their second half of the season saw them lose eight and draw another four and although their final placing of fifth was pleasing, it was short of what their fans expected.
The loss of their midfield star Tahar was a huge blow to the club and one they never quite got over while their superb run to the semi-finals of the FA Vase cost them dearly in the end.
Jones, Damms, for his 29 goals, Barraclough, again for his tally of 17 goals, and certainly their most influential player, Fawcus were the pick of the bunch but with Jones and keeper Deakin now gone, Fox has a lot of rebuilding to do.
It was a similar story at Parkgate, who after losing their opening two games, stormed back to win 12 of their 19 games by Christmas with three draws. However they won only eight in the second half of the season to finish seventh.
The jewels in their crown were up front where Swindells hit 29, Worsfold 25 and Woods 17 as they amassed 99 league goals but alas, for the second season in a row, manager Doug Shelley never got to grips with his defensive problems as they conceded 72 goals, the highest of the top 10 clubs. So it’s obvious he must tighten up his poor defence and hope his magical forwards stay at the club.
On a more positive note, their Green Lane ground was finally given an ‘E’ grade which means if they win promotion next season they can go into Evo-Stik Division One South. Fingers crossed.
In contrast Maltby Main looked down and out on New Year’s Day with just two wins and five draws from 23 matches and they failed to score in 12 of them. By March 3 they had won only one more game out of another seven and one could see no way back. But manager Stevie Adams and his backroom team gave their players a real roasting and in their final eight matches they dug deep to win four and draw three to finish four points clear of the drop zone which was quite remarkable.
Top scorer Branagan, with eight goals, Griffiths, Mellons and Wragg were all outstanding. However Adams will not be over confident and as well as recruiting new players he must look at his Under-19 squad to give some much needed staying power.
In Division One, there was a mixture of euphoria and gloom after a season that reversed the trend somewhat, with most clubs coming good after Christmas rather than before it.
Relegated Hallam had a mixed season and finished the lowest of our five clubs in 14th place. True they were busy building their magnificent new club house and while I fully endorse their decision not to pay players, it proved a very costly exercise. Manager Julian Watts did well to keep a fairly strong team together but the loss of leading scorer Liam Morris to Dinnington, proved a Bridge too far even for him to repair.
The highlight was the form of Getleff, Kistell, Willey and the fast improving Eckhardt from their Under-19 squad. Hopefully the summer will see Julian looking for new players and now the club house is complete, the directors may be able to help him a little more.
Relegated Dinnington Town turned over a new leaf in the New Year. At Christmas they were firmly anchored at the bottom of the table after winning only five of their 20 league games but manager Steve Toyne came good afterwards with a run of only four defeats in their final 18 games to finish eighth. Club spirit was the secret of their success as Andy Sykes completed 400 games, veteran striker Liam Cartledge hit 17 goals and Matt Smith was voted Player of the Year. Others who played a big part in their turnaround included keeper Hands, the Roper brothers and Trench, and if they can start as they finished last season they could gain promotion.
Worsbrough Bridge are our Cinderella club and finished a place higher than last season in ninth with two points more. Credit must go to manager Chris Hilton while the club were well served by Burkinshaw, Podmore, Ruthven and Jones.
Next week I will be looking at Handsworth and Worksop Parramore who were our shining lights in this division.