Tough at the bottom

Handsworth v  Askern . David  Cockerill celebrates his second
Handsworth v Askern . David Cockerill celebrates his second

The Kool Sports North Counties East League’s Premier Division table makes grim reading, with Hallam and Dinnington Town occupying the bottom two places but they both delivered a mid-week boost.

Hallam are firmly anchored at the bottom, although new manager Julian Watts was pleased with the way they played in last Saturday’s 4-2 defeat at Pickering Town. New signings Craig Getliff, from Maltby, and Matt Sykes, from Shepshed Dynamo, scored on their debuts but they remain two, three and 13 points adrift of the clubs above them and with eight homes games to play and six away.

On Tuesday night they faced a massive six pointer when Arnold Town were the visitors to Sandygate for Watts first home game and they duly obliged, winning 1-0 thanks to an 18th minute strike by Simon Asquith. It gave them their first league win in 17 attempts and it is the first time since August 28 that they have not conceded a league goal.

The coming week sees Hallam with two massive home games, against Nostell Miners Welfare on Saturday followed by Selby Town next Tuesday.

Dinnington also had a number of new faces on view in their 1-0 defeat at Long Eaton United but they did enough to have won the game easily as they wasted a number of clear cut chances.

Like Hallam, they faced a crucial game against fourth-bottom Liversedge at Phoenix Park on Tuesday and manager Steve Toyne knew that a defeat would almost certainly see them relegated for the first time in their 11 year history but a fighting display earned them a creditable 1-1 draw with Michael Trench hitting their deserved late equaliser.

They have no match for a week and it gives Steve a chance to recruit more players, although time is running out fast for the club with only seven matches remaining and only two of those are at home.

Maltby Main’s poor run continued when they crashed to a 2-0 home defeat to neighbours Armthorpe Welfare, who had Leo Fortune-West sent off for the second successive game but I was at Muglet Lane to watch them gain a 1-1 draw with visitors Winterton Rangers. Paul Lavender scored their goal but a shot shy forward line cost them a winning bonus.

They face a stiff test on Saturday when they visit fourth-placed Tadcaster Albion, who are having their best season for years.

One shining light in this division is Parkgate who came from back from 2-0 down inside 17 minutes at Selby Town to win 3-2 thanks to a stunning hat-trick from new signing from Maltby, Chris Wood. It leaves them eight points adrift of leaders Farsley but they have three games in hand.

Then on Tuesday night they faced another promotion chasing club Staveley, at Green Lane in the S&H Senior Cup quarter-finals and after a very entertaining game they won 3-1 with Worsfold, Swindells and Woods finding the net. The result was somewhat soured as the news filtered through that Bridlington had won 5-0 to move into second place in the table. It’s back to league business on Saturday when they welcome a strong Thackley side to Green Lane.

Staveley are running away with the Division One title. A superb Tahar free kick earned them a 1-0 win over Bottesford Town, their seventh on the bounce at home which saw them go 11 points clear at the top with eight games to play. I watched them beat Handsworth 3-2 the previous Wednesday after an excellent game in which Chris Fox scored a great hat-trick for Staveley while Tahar was on target against Parkgate in as game that proved they are ready to move up a division come May. On Saturday they visit Bottesford Town for a repeat of last week’s league game and entertain Pontefract Colliery in the Wilkinson Sword quarter-finals next Tuesday.

A first half hat-trick in just eight minutes from Dave Cockerill helped Handsworth to a 4-1 home win over Askern Villa - Scott Bates got the other. They now face two tough away-days at Hemsworth Miners Welfare on Saturday and at a strong Leeds Carnegie next Monday.

Two important wins under acting-manager Ian Whitehorne saw Sheffield FC sweep away any lingering relegation fears but they were rudely reminded that things must still improve when they lost 4-2 at Evo-Stik Division One South rivals Sutton Coldfield Town despite goals by Gascoigne and Lynam. Then on Tuesday I saw them dominate a very poor Frickley Athletic in the Senior Cup quarter-finals as they came through 3-0 with goals from Adams, Gregory and substitute Barnsley.

They return to league action on Saturday when they entertain Rushall Olympic and then host Stamford next Tuesday.

One of the most worrying aspects surrounds Stocksbridge Park who seem in grave danger of being relegated from the Premier Division. A strong squad under Gary Marrow have had another bad time with injuries which cost them a 3-0 defeat last Saturday at Bradford Park Avenue. They had two vital midfield players carried off but early chances went begging and it cost them dear.

Fellow strugglers Frickley call in at the Look Local Stadium on Saturday while next Tuesday they travel to top of the table AFC Halifax Town.