What a start to the season with the headlines reading: 1,200 watch six games involving seven of our Baris North Counties East League clubs ... Brodsworth Welfare fold ... Staveley’s excellent striker Chris Coy gives up football ... a great stalwart beats cancer ... and Hallam suffer off- the-field troubles.
We have our two Evo-Stik clubs back in action, three cracking NCEL games and two great Division One derby clashes on Saturday, plus eight mid-week games.
Stocksbridge Park put their mixed pre-season behind them when Gary Marrow takes his much changed squad to one of the Evo-Stik Premier Division title favourites Marine where I suspect a point would be a blessing. They follow that up next Tuesday when I will be among the crowd for another tough test as Ashton United visit their Look Local Stadium.
A youthful looking Sheffield FC with Barnett, Higginson and Kelsey among the new signings, open their Division One South campaign with a home clash against Sutton Coldfield Town who finished sixth last season. A much sterner test awaits next Tuesday when they visit one of the title favourites Kidsgrove Athletic.
Maltby Main won the Team of the Week award after beating NCEL title favourites Bridlington Town 3-2 in a game they led throughout. Goals by Mellon, with a penalty, Man of the Match Lavender and a last minute strike by Clare, ensured the Miners a winning start in preparation for Saturday’s visit to Lincoln Moorlands and next Tuesday trip to Thackley.
Parkgate, another club expected to challenge for the title, crashed to a 4-2 defeat at Scarborough. They led 2-1 at half time thanks to Nathan Swindells double but lack of discipline cost them dear when substitute Turner came on for just 14 minutes after the break and was sent off for two yellow cards. Scarborough then scored three times in the last 14 minutes. The Steelmen entertain Retford United on Saturday.
I watched newly promoted Staveley win 1-0 at Brighouse Town courtesy of a Ryan Damms goal and they just about deserved their success after a gruelling game in which Man of the Match Chris Fawcus, Jones and Damms were outstanding.
Winterton Rangers are Saturday’s visitors while next Tuesday they visit Liversedge in the League Cup first round. In fairness though they will find it hard to replace Chris Coy up front, after one of last season’s top players quit this week because of work commitments.
The Division One derby at Olivers Mount attracted a 300 plus crowd and Handsworth had to work hard to beat Hallam 1-0 with substitute Sam Smith coming on at half-time and scoring the game’s only goal within three minutes of the restart.
To be fair Handsworth never looked a top-of-the-table side as they struggled to break down a strong Hallam defence but in the end deserved their success.
On Friday night I will be among another big crowd for their second derby clash, when a shell-shocked Dinnington Town who crashed to a 5-1 home defeat to Pontefract Colliery, are the visitors and then they host Pontefract Colliery in the League Cup first round next Wednesday. It was very pleasing to see their supremo Dave Wragg back in full flow again, after a torrid 18 months in which, hopefully, he is now fully recovered from cancer.
Hallam manager Julian Watts has put together a very strong side defensively with Lawrence and Wiley outstanding but their diminutive forwards missed four excellent first half chances and they paid the price, as the club’s off-field troubles were kept well away.
It didn’t get any better on Tuesday when they visited Teversal in the League Cup first round and were beaten 3-1 with Danny Wiltshire scoring their consolation goal deep into injury time.
Hallam have a free day on Saturday and visit Hemsworth Miners Welfare in another tough looking league game next Tuesday.
The outstanding Team of the Week in this division was Worksop Parramore, who crowned their league debut with a convincing 4-0 victory over a strong AFC Emley side. Goals by Mullen, Hindley, Davis and Thompson ensured them a top class start and on Saturday I will watch them at home to Worsbrough Bridge.