HARROGATE TOWN (Wetherby Road)

Saturday 24th January 2009
Conference North
Harrogate Town 3-3 Stafford Rangers
Attendance: 338

Cracking match played on a very heavy Wetherby Road pitch.

Harrogate went in at half time 2-0 up, courtesy of two stunning strikes, the first a 20 yard dipping volley from Danny Holland on 27 minutes and the second on 40 minutes, a shot from just inside the penalty area which was curled beyond the keeper into the bottom corner by James Dean. There were numerous other chances for Harrogate as they dominated possession and Stafford rarely got out of their own half.

The second half started as if it was going to be a continuation of where the first half left off, but on 56 minutes Stafford won a free kick on the edge of the box, which was curled over the wall and into the top corner by Chris Flynn. Stafford then seem to have the edge for a few minutes and missed a good opportunity to level, but the Harrogate keeper saved well.

Harrogate stepped it up again and it looked like they were going to extend their lead and kill the game off, but failed to do so. Then would you believe in the 85th minute Stafford won another free kick on the edge of the box and Flynn only went and repeated the trick! Even more unbelievable was a minute later when Stafford got themselves in front. A defender failed to control the ball 35 yards from goal and knocked it straight to Dorryl Proffatt, who, on seeing the keeper off his line, proceed to lob to ball over him and into the net to give Stafford what looked like an unlikely three points.

However in the third minute off stoppage time Stafford conceded a free kick on the edge of their box and it was Nathan Peat who fired it home, via a big deflection, to salvage a point, which was the very least Harrogate deserved.

I suspect that both teams will reflect on this game afterwards and think, how the hell did we draw that? but for entirely differing reasons, but for the neutral a fantastic afternoons entertainment.

ST IVES TOWN (Westwood Drive)

Saturday 17th January 2009
FA Vase 4th Round
St Ives Town 0-0 Stanway Rovers
Attendance: 598

The choice of tie today was a no-brainer for me. Having had a great visit to Stanway in the last round, I simply had to go and see them take on St Ives in their quest for Wembley glory.

There is no way I can do this cup tie justice in a few words but I will try my best.

An absolutely cracking cup tie which somehow ended goalless. There were loads of clear cut chances but a combination of poor finishing, great saves and the woodwork meant both teams have to do it all again next week.

After a pretty even first 20 minutes in which both teams had opportunities, St Ives upped their game and had the better of play missing a hatful of chances, including a one-on one with the keeper.

In the second half Stanway came back into it and looked dangerous on the break, they had the better chances but once again poor finishing and great saves kept St Ives in the game but again they too were without chances, with best one forcing the Stanway keeper into a great save at his near post.

In extra time Stanway looked the stronger and should really have wrapped up the game. A one-on-one beat the keeper but came back off the post, another one-on-one was put wide when it was easier to score and in the last minute the St Ives keeper pulled off a fantastic save to take the game to a replay.

It's anyone's guess as to who will win the replay but after such an enthralling match it's a shame one of these sides will have to go out.

WOODLEY SPORTS (Lambeth Grove)

Saturday 10th January 2009
Northern Premier League
Division One North
Woodley Sports 2-0 Rossendale United
Attendance: 245

This ground is one i'd been putting off until it was absolutely necessary. With all options being postponed, today is when it finally became necessary!

I wasn't the only one in this predicament, as there were loads of other hoppers present, even a United fan from Rotterdam (insert your own gag).

This was the only game on in the area because Woodley have an artificial 3G pitch, and I think it caught the club on the hop, excuse the pun!  The crowd was double their normal gate and they had a run on everything from Programmes to Pies to Bovril. At least it was a welcome boost to the clubs income.

The game itself was a pretty drab affair with goals in each half from Sam Walker (28) and Gavin Salmon (60) giving the home side a comfortable win. I can't complain too much as in todays circumstances I was just grateful to see a game of footy.

Ground has been re-named in memory of coach Neil Rourke, who recently passed away


Monday 5th January 2009
FA Cup 3rd Round
Blyth Spartans 0-1 Blackburn Rovers
Attendance: 3,445

Well would you believe it? My FA cup run now stretches into the third round courtesy of the TV moving this game to the Monday and Blackburn's inability to sell 1,000 tickets (they barely sold 400).

The game itself wasn't a classic and it didn't help matters the Blackburn made 11 changes to the team that played the previous week. Blyth dug deep and defended pretty well against a team 5 divisions above them but if Rovers could've finished better the game may have been over by half time.

The only goal, which settled the game in favour of the visitors came on 58 minutes when Carlos Villanueva curled a stunning free kick into the top corner to break Blyth hearts. Spartans kept plugging away and Blackburn could not kill the game off. Their best chance came with 5 minutes left when Andy Wright fired wide from six yards when really he should've buried it and give Blyth an unlikely, but deserved, replay.

Even though most of the 3,445 crowd went home disappointed they can take comfort in the fact that their team never disgraced themselves and did everyone proud.

and it was after this photo was taken that my camera quite literally froze!


Sunday 4th January 2009
Scottish Premier League
Inverness Caledonian Thistle 0-3 Rangers
Attendance: 7,056

What should have been a long distance "double" ended up as just the single as virtually every Saturday game in the Highlands was wiped out. Ross County v St. Johnstone should have been the main event, but that was called off on the Friday along with the back-ups of Elgin City, Clachnacuddin, Buckie Thistle and Inverurie Locos.

The only football seen was courtesy of the TV in the pub where on offer was the insipid Edinburgh derby (0-0) and the laughable Celtic v Dundee Utd (2-2) game. However, having nae game did allow more valuable drinking time in the tremendous Anderson pub in Fortrose.

On the Sunday it was a visit to the Caledonian Stadium to witness a comfortable 3-0 win for Rangers, who never really needed to break sweat in order to turn over a very poor ICT side. Pedro Mendes (why is such a class act playing in the SPL?) scored a sublime goal 40 seconds after half time before two late Kris Boyd settled the game.

Decent enough ground and from a personal point of view just happy to get a game in after the disappointment (hey! hey! Walter alert!) of yesterday's postponements.


Thursday 1st January 2009
Southern Premier League
Halesowen Town 1-3 Stourbridge
Attendance: 1,273

With the Siberian type weather playing havoc with the fixture list, it was a relief to start 2009 with any sort of game. The fact that it was a tasty Midlands derby at a ground that has been on my "to-do" list for a while made it even better. The locals certainly agreed and the huge crowd of 1,273 weren't disappointed.

If either team had their shooting boots on it could have ended up 6-6 as the game was a fast flowing end to end encounter with loads of chances but great saves, the woodwork and appalling finishing meant there was only the four goals scored. Unfortunately for Halesowen three of them were in their net.

Stourbridge took the lead on 32 minutes through Leon Broadhurst and held on to that until half time. Ashley Langford made it 2-0- within 3 minutes of the re-start but Halesowen hit back within a minute through Nuno Baretto and it was game on. They had their chances but could not force an equaliser and it was Langford with his second on 73 minutes that wrapped up a famous victory for Stourbridge, one they had waited 16 years for in fact.