Surprises galore from the New Year games as five of our clubs won in big style while one gained a creditable draw and only two lost.
Although the Montague Cup semi-final and Sheffield FC’s big holiday game were called off due to water logged grounds, that apart, it was a great way to start 2012.
In the Evo-Stik Premier Division, Stocksbridge Park gained a terrific boost in their relegation fight with a 4-1 win at fellow strugglers Buxton.
Even going a goal down early on didn’t deter Chris Willcock’s players and after Brian Cusworth had equalised before half-time, Matt Telling put them ahead and new signing Scot Hogan then hit two more on his full debut.
It was, however, just as well they did win, as four of the bottom five all took maximum points on this day of shocks to leave Park still two points away from safety.
They return to their Look Local Stadium on Saturday to face in-form Marine who come looking to comoplete a winning double.
Fellow promotion hopefuls took full advantage of Sheffield FC’s ‘match off’ against Goole with only one of the top five in Division One South suffering a defeat,
Sheffield remain fourth and manager Mark Shaw now has to build up his players for two very tough away games, at a much improved Hucknall Town on Saturday and then next Monday I will be at the Manor Ground where they face the team above them in the table, Ilkeston Town in what should be a great game.
Our clubs in the Baris North Counties East League’s Premier Division enjoyed a great start to their New Year, particularly next-to-bottom Maltby Main who celebrated their best win of the season against Armthorpe Welfare.
They rattled in four goals before half time thanks to a hat-trick by Stan Foulds and a penalty from Greg Mason, and though Armthorpe pulled one back after the break, the Miners were full value for their 4-1 win, in what was the shock result of the day.
Maltby must now do it all again on Saturday, when they face another tough derby test at home to sixth-placed Staveley who also enjoyed their best league win of the season, a 4-0 romp over Long Eaton United.
Two goals in each half by Tahar, Fox, Thornton and Barraclough brought them the points and they’ll be looking to make it a hat-trick of wins over the Miners. Next Wednesday they’re at home to Lincoln Moorland who are only a place above Maltby with the same number of points.
Not to be outdone Parkgate gained a valuable promotion point when they drew 1-1 at Cannon Park against top-of-the-table Retford United.
The Steelmen got off to the worst possible start when they had Liam Davis sent off after 26 minutes and a minute later went a goal down. But as so often happens, the 10 men dug deep and more than held their own and with just four minutes remaining substitute Joe Leesley hit a great equaliser.
It moved Parkgate up two places to fifth, nine points behind the leaders but with three games in hand and they now face two matches in four days that could make or break their season. On Saturday they entertain Nostell Miners Welfare and next Tuesday they travel to Eagle Valley to face Arnold Town.
The biggest shock came in the Division One derby at Phoenix Park where a struggling 16th-placed Dinnington Town beat fourth-placed Worksop Parramore 1-0. It was a scrappy game spoilt by the strong wind and rain but take nothing from Town who thoroughly deserved their best win of the season thanks to a goal by Matt Smith on 65 minutes. It extended their unbeaten run to three games but that could all end on Saturday when they visit top-of-the-table Pontefract Colliery.
As far as Parramore’s was concerned it was their third league and cup defeat in a row and they failed to score for only the second league game this season. They need to get the right result at AFC Emley on Saturday to get back into the title race.
Worsbrough Bridge missed out on the big holiday programme and without a game since December 17, they start again on Saturday at Park Road against title favourites Glasshoughton Welfare.
I was at Sandygate for the day’s other big derby clash and it was visitors Handsworth who turned in a superb performance to beat Hallam 2-0. Inspired by Johnson, Patterson, Roebuck, Smith and Man of the Match Cockerill, they were always in command with Cockerill hitting a first half penalty and Smith converting a dreadful defensive error in the second half, which leaves them both on 13 goals for the season so far.
It put Handsworth back into fourth place and they should add to their points tally against visitors Yorkshire Amateurs on Saturday. Hallam simply never got going, and were fortunate to finish only losing by two goals, with keeper Naylor, and defenders Wiley and Carnall the only ones to show any sort of form. It drops them to 11th after a three match run without a win but it could all alter on Saturday when they visit bottom, club Appleby Frodingham. The one highlight for the club, was that in two holiday games they attracted over 300 spectators.
Indeed, I have said many times that with our professional brothers charging more and more for admission, our non-league clubs will reap the benefits and over the two holiday dates the Evo-Stik Premier Division attracted 19,333 at 22 games, with an average of 879 a game while in Division One South 5,726 watched 21 games at an average of 273.
In the NCEL’s Premier Division, 3,237 attended 18 games at an average of 180, and in Division One the figures were 1,711 at 16 games with an average of 107 per game.
So with just over 30,000 watching our two holiday programmes, you see it pays to charge reasonable prices for good football, and at a time of recession our clubs are reaping the rewards of our professional clubs errors.