Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Review: Garforth Amateur Dramatic Society's Natural Causes

Pictured: the cast and director of Natural Causes

By James Grayson (Twitter: @jamesAgrayson)
Ever had a brush with death?
All the characters in Garforth Amateur Dramatic Society’s magnificent production of Natural Causes can say they have.
Eventually one did succumb to the cyanide that bumbling professional suicide merchant Vincent (both first and last name) had spent an hour-and-half trying to use on someone.
Arriving at the home of Walter Bryce (David Battersby) and his wife Celia (Lynda McCraight), Vincent (Mike Osborne) wrongly assumes he is there to poison Walter.
Vincent realises at the last second that the intended victim is Celia – resulting in the demise of a pot plant. Vincent then mistakes Walter’s secretary Angie (Kristen Limbert) for Celia and she is only saved by Walter’s reappearance.
Humour is prominent throughout and Osborne’s performance is delightful as he grows frustrated at the changing situation and not being able to administer the poison.
Martyn Drake also deserves a mention for his comical role as Withers the anxious Samaritan who tries to stop Vincent in his tracks, but ultimately fails.
The society deserves huge credit for a wonderful production. The cast were on top form and they were backed up by a fantastic set, which drew claps from the audience once as the curtain went up.
More information on the society can be found at http://www.garforthamdram.co.uk/

Non-League legend Mark 'Willy' Wilson deserves moment in spotlight ahead of 900th game

By James Grayson (Twitter - @jamesAgrayson)
Non-League Football legend Mark ‘Willy’ Wilson is set to make his 900th semi-professional appearance on Thursday night.
Wilson is due to appear for AFC Emley against Bottesford Town in the Northern Counties East League Division One.
Wilson, 42, has enjoyed a memorable career that started at Frickley Athletic in 1991 before moves to places such as Farsley Celtic, Bradford Park Avenue (three spells), Harrogate Town, Worksop Town, among others.
Arguably his finest moment came when he played in Emley’s famous FA Cup Third Round game at West Ham United in 1998 – during one of three spells with the team now known as Wakefield FC.
‘Willy’ went onto play for Worksop Town in Conference North, becoming a popular figure with the Tigers’ supporters.  
Wilson returned to the reformed Emley side this season to bring experience to Darren Hepworth’s young side.
But, Wilson has been a fantastic and ambassador for the local game.
He always has time to talk to supporters and those who have encountered him over the years have their own personal memorable ‘Willy’ story – whether that’s from a goal, a red card or a stand-up routine on the team bus on the way home from a game.
To reach 900 games takes some dedication and ‘Willy’ deserves his moment in the spotlight.
Sports Performer will be bringing coverage from ‘Willy’s’ big night on Thursday.
If you want to share your memories of ‘Willy’, either leave a comment at the bottom of the page or email jamesagrayson@yahoo.com.

Monday, 29 April 2013

John Reed's appointment at Scarborough Athletic is shrewd decision by Rudy Funk

By James Grayson (Twitter: @jamesAgrayson)
Photo courtesy of Ryan Clark of ClarkHirstPhotography
Veteran non-league football manager John Reed has joined the coaching staff of Northern Counties East League Premier Division champions Scarborough Athletic.
Manager Rudy Funk’s decision to bring him to the club means a return for Reed to the ground where he managed Bridlington Town at when he guided them to FA Vase glory in 1993.
Reed’s side, which included former Swansea City man Clive Freeman, beat Tiverton Town at Wembley.
Reed has since managed Goole, who took from the Central Midlands League and into the NCEL Premier Division – a similar achievement to what Funk did at Rainworth Miners Welfare.
Reed then guided Harrogate Town into the Conference North before moving to Stalybridge Celtic where against all odds, kept them in the Conference North.
After leaving Stalybridge Reed became manager of Buxton and in his four years at Silverlands reached the Evo Stik Premier Division play-offs final once.
Reed did briefly return to Goole at the start of this season, but after a poor opening few games, he left by mutual consent.
However, Funk’s shrewd decision to recruit Reed could be vital for next season. Reed has the experience and knowledge of the NPL structure and will open new doors for Funk.
If the money is there, Reed’s contacts book will bring quality players to Queensgate and ones that will make Scarborough promotion contenders next season.  

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Scarborough Athletic manager Rudy Funk is a wonderful ambassador for Non-League Football

By James Grayson (Twitter - @jamesAgrayson)
Photos courtesy of Ryan Clark of ClarkHirstPhotography
A week after winning the Northern Counties East League Premier Division, Scarborough Athletic players celebrated after their final game yesterday by throwing manager Rudy Funk in the air.
A 2-1 defeat at Glasshoughton Welfare, who gave them the guard of honour before the match, did not matter and Funk received the acclaim he deserves for a wonderful achievement.
Funk has an excellent CV and has created interest in his three clubs that he has managed on the Football Pyramid. He led Rainworth Miners Welfare from obscurity in the Central Midlands to Evo Stik Division One South football in the space of a few years.

He was unable to keep the success going in the NPL and that disappointment will be probably be in his mind when he leads Scarborough next season. He will be out to prove a point.
In West Yorkshire, Funk is a bit of a mystery as no-one knows his football background pre-Rainworth. But everyone knows his name as his media relations appear to be excellent and he has a track record of success. I personally think he is a wonderful ambassador for Non-League football.  
The sight of him with his Scarborough scarf round his neck may be a sign of eccentricity, but it gets people engaged and talking about it.
The Evo Stik League are getting a treat next season. Darlington look set to arrive with their large band of supporters along with Scarborough who bring hundreds. Then we also have Funk, who as always will create headlines – which will be good for Scarborough and also the NPL.  
He will have a tough task continuing the success, but if he finds the right players, Scarborough will be a force. But, before he thinks about next season, Funk deserves a chance to bask in the glory that he has created.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Warrington Town earn deserved Evo Stik Division One North victory at Farsley AFC

Farsley AFC 0-3 Warrington Town
By James Grayson (Twitter: @jamesAgrayson)
Match Photos are HERE
Three goals in the final 20 minutes gave Warrington Town victory at Farsley AFC in the Evo Stik Division One North.
Two teams, who both had title aspirations at the start of the season, played out a dreadful match, but Warrington showed more desire and deserved the three points.
Farsley failed to create any meaningful chances, but stayed in the game until Ashley Ruane scored and then Ciaran Kilheeney bagged a brace.
The season ended weeks ago for both sides and in the first half Warrington, managed by Shaun Reid (pictured below) defended well and Farsley couldn’t break through. Gareth Grant went the closest with a weak close range shot.
The second half did liven up with Chris Walton blasting over a chance for Farsley. Former Droylsden striker Kilheeney then headed wide.
But, Reid’s decision to bring on Ruane proved the turning point. Within 12 minutes of the substitution, David Mannix’s cross found Ruane and the striker fired the ball into the back of the net.
Warrington soon scored their second goal. Ruane turned provider by playing Kilheeney through on goal and after teasing Farsley goalkeeper Ben Higginson, the striker put the ball into the net.
For a few weeks, Farsley have been out of luck. A lack of confidence, goals, combined with injuries have dogged them and that was summed when captain Robbie O’Brien was sent off for denying a goal-scoring opportunity for his challenge Chris Bandell.
And playing against ten men, Warrington inflicted more damage in the final minute. Kilheeney rounded Higginson and made the score 3-0.
The season’s end cannot come quick enough for Farsley who have endured a dreadful campaign – partly because of other factors beyond their control. But, the last few performances will have influenced manager Neil Parsley on the matter of who stays and who goes. He has been heavily let down.
Farsley AFC: Higginson, O’Brien, Serrant, Walton (Tiani 52), Jackson, Etherington, Priestley, Bambrook, Robinson (Dugdale 78), Grant, Harrison. Subs unused: Morgan, Tonkinson.
Warrington Town: Dibble, Coulter, Doran, Dogan, McCarten, Mooney (West 61), Newby (Bandell 81), Mannix, Kilheeney, Dawson, Fowler (Ruane 61). Subs unused: Glass, Biddy.  
Referee: Mr T Bramall
Attendance: 127

Friday, 26 April 2013

North Ferriby chairman Les Hare praises manager Billy Heath ahead of "biggest week in the club's history"

By James Grayson (Twitter: @jamesAgrayson)
North Ferriby United chairman Les Hare has heaped praise on star manager Billy Heath ahead of the “biggest week in the club’s history”.
With two games remaining in the Evo Stik Premier Division, Ferriby are the leaders, but only because of a superior goal difference over Hednesford Town.
Ferriby, who have started in the Yorkshire League before progression into the NCEL and then the NPL, host Chorley tomorrow (Saturday) before a final day home clash against Ashton United which will decide who wins promotion to the Conference North.
Manager Heath has been a revelation since his arrival at Church Road in October 2011 – the former Bridlington Town boss kept them in the Premier Division and also won the Doodson Sport Cup, which the club won again this week.
Hare, speaking before the penalty shootout victory over Curzon Ashton, spoke of his delight at the impact Heath has had on the club, who stand on the verge of a creating a glorious new chapter in their history.   
Hare, 60, has been chairman for 19 years and has overseen their rise from the Northern Counties East League and was in the role when the Villagers played at Wembley in the 1997 FA Vase final.
“Someone asked me the other week about what is the best Ferriby side because we had some corkers over the years,” he said.
“We’re plying our trade at the highest level ever. Therefore you have to turn round and say what Billy Heath (pictured above) is achieving at the moment as a manager is the greatest moments for the football club because of the sheer standard and level that we’re playing at.
“When he came in 18 months ago, his remit was to keep us in the Premier Division and from the moment he came in to the end of last season, he took us from third bottom to eighth, to the final of the Doodson Cup and got an ethic going that has been carried into this year.
“Team spirit is a huge part of it and everyone that knows Billy and the teams that he has managed knows the camaraderie and spirit is a key part of them.
“Yes you have to have some decent players, but the key has been able to get the chemistry. We also have some exceptionally good talented players with experience. Billy has done a wonderful job in getting the chemistry.”
Those players Heath has assembled have earned Ferriby 26 league wins with 16 of those coming away from home.
If they keep their nerve Ferriby will reach the Conference North and Hare, who claims Ferriby “set out to survive” in the Premier Division this season, says they won’t be overstretching themselves, should his club win promotion.
He said: “You can learn from other football clubs.
“One of the aspects I have learnt from my 35 years in football is keeping your feet on the ground. I’ve seen so many football clubs and people at football clubs do things that they would never do in business and I’ve never really understood that.
“You can’t go and get things that you can’t afford because effectively it is going to end in tears. Some people have said to me already, ‘can you afford to go up?’ The answer to that is ‘yes of course’. That’s because if you don’t intend to spend any more, you cut your cloth to suit. You don’t have to pay fantastic wages.
“If the wages we have got aren’t good enough to attract the players to keep us in that division, the very worst that could happen to us is that we go back down again.”
Hare, who works in the insurance industry, also insists Ferriby have the infrastructure to make the step-up.
“We’re always prepared, we’re a well-run club and always have been,” he added.
“I’ve always been a great advocate of doing as well off-the-pitch as on-the-pitch and in some respects we have been more successful off-the-pitch in recent years. So therefore, I think a lot of the planning and preparation that we have done in regards to our facilities over the years is now holding us in good stead.
“We do need to some work (if we go up), but only minor. We have hosted Hull City reserves for a number of years and when they were in the Premier League for instance, we had a lot of work done at the ground to bring us up to scratch. We’re certainly got a nice little ground now.”

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

North Ferriby retain Doodson Sport Cup after shootout win over Curzon Ashton

Curzon Ashton 1-1 (1-2 on pens) North Ferriby United
By James Grayson (Twitter - @jamesAgrayson)
Match Photos are HERE
Goalkeeper Antoni Pecora wrote his name into North Ferriby United folklore after saving four penalties as his side retained the Doodson Sport Cup following a penalty shootout.
Ferriby, who are top of the Evo Stik Premier Division, drew 1-1 with Division One North side Curzon Ashton after extra-time before a 2-1 victory on penalties.
Kristian Dennis had headed Curzon ahead inside the opening two minutes before North Ferriby striker Gary Bradshaw equalised.
Ferriby were then the better team as Curzon were happy to sit back and try and catch the Hull-based side on the counter attack – Dennis wasted two glorious chances in both normal and extra time.
With Ferriby approaching the biggest week in their history, Billy Heath (pictured above) chose to make seven changes from his starting eleven that beat Marine 3-1 on Saturday.
Ferriby need to win both their final two league games to secure promotion to the Conference North so Heath chose to play safe and rest his star players.
And within two minutes of the start, it looked like the Doodson Sport Cup was out of reach.
A corner from the right was met by top scorer Dennis and his powerful header found the net.
Curzon applied further pressure, but were unable to double their advantage and on 20 minutes, Ferriby levelled.
Long-serving striker Bradshaw was allowed time to control the ball in the box – a fatal mistake. The forward went for the overhead kick and delightfully the ball landed in the net.
In the second half, Ryan Williams went close for Ferriby. Dennis broke through on the counter attack for Curzon, but blazed wide.
Curzon, who made no substitutions, seemed tired as the game wore on, but Ferriby couldn’t break through so the game went to penalties.
And even then, the game looked like it was going to go on all night. The first six penalties were saved – Ferriby goalkeeper Pecora (pictured above) and Curzon stopper Josh Ollerenshaw saving three each.
Scott Metcalfe broke the deadlock for Curzon before Williams levelled. McDonagh’s spot kick was then saved so Rhuanduca Ombeni had the chance to win the cup for Ferriby – which he did with ease.
Curzon Ashton: Ollerenshaw, Woodford, Metcalfe, Hunt, A Watson, R Watson, Booth, Walker, McDonagh, Dennis, Kay. Subs unused: Purcell, Blackshaw, Lakeland, Hampson, Green.
North Ferriby United: Pecora, Bruce, Ridley, Fry (King 75), Foot (Belcher 45), Gray, Stokes, Kirk, Clarke, Bradshaw (Ombeni 105), Williams. 
Referee: Jonathan Hunt (Liverpool)
Attendance: 179
Man of the match: Ryan Williams (North Ferriby United)

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Leeds United: Time to give the youngsters a go

By James Grayson (Twitter: jamesAgrayson)
Leeds United cannot go up or down. Brian McDermott’s initial job of ensuring Championship survival is done. The final two games against Brighton and Hove Albion and Watford are meaningless from Leeds’ perspective.
So this is the time to blood the youngsters coming through the academy.
The Turner brothers, Nathan and Lewis along with Chris Dawson, who made his debut against Derby County earlier this month, are just three players that should be given chances to shine.
The experience of Championship football in a non-pressurised environment will leave them in good stead for the future.
Dominic Poleon is another player who deserves a moment in the spotlight. He showed glimpses of talent in his early season appearances before his loan move to Bury.
With Academy manager Neil Redfearn (pictured above) assisting McDermott as well, I’m sure the Leeds boss will be getting pushed towards using the young players for the final two games.
But these games are not totally meaningless because both Brighton and Watford are playing for something.
Brighton are looking to cement their play-offs place, while Watford could still have a chance of getting the second automatic spot on the final day.
So Leeds do have a duty to other teams to play their strongest squads.
That is what McDermott has to ponder.
But if I was him, I would think that there is no better time to give the youngsters a run-out in the first team.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Rainworth Miners Welfare withdraw resignation - good or bad decision?

By James Grayson (Twitter - @jamesAgrayson)
After a new backer appeared out of the hills, Rainworth Miners Welfare have withdrawn their resignation from the Evo Stik League. But is this a good or bad decision?
Rainworth are yet to reveal the identity of their ‘moneyman’ and the Nottinghamshire-based team claim that “they are in it for the long haul’.
Now such a statement looks good, but what are Rainworth going to do if something suddenly happens to their backer. In the NCEL Premier Division, Staveley Miners Welfare have had to finish the season playing a youth team after Terry Damms pulled the plug on the funding.
If you read their resignation statement from nearly two weeks ago, Rainworth say they don’t receive profit from the bar and rely simply on gate receipts and the odd sponsorship deal. So next season, are Rainworth planning to basically fund an Evo Stik Division One South campaign from their mystery investor’s back-pocket?
The other thing I can’t get my head round is that if they don’t make money from the bar, how were they able to fund their promotions into the NCEL and out of it in a sustainable manner.
No-one had heard of Rainworth five years ago.
The club appeared on the scene out of nowhere, shouting from the rooftops about how they were going to set the football world alight – behaving like they had won the lottery. Every week you would see a new statement on either the NCEL or Evo Stik League website.
And now in 2013 when it all goes wrong, they want sympathy. The chairman Kim Wright complained about rising players wages, but I’d be intrigued about how much his club paid players in the NCEL and how they compared to other clubs.
I hope the Evo Stik League has Rainworth on probation. If their backer pulls out at any point next season, the League has another Durham City situation on their hands. Because with the sound of their resignation statement that without a backer, Rainworth don’t have much money – certainly not enough to compete in the Evo Stik Division One South.

Shocks in store as 'Ghosts' comes to Adel

From L to R: Regina (Helen Duce), Engstrand (David Pritchard), Oswald (Chris Andrews), Mrs Alving (Dianne Newby), Pastor Manders (Rob Colbeck)

What is a woman to do? Seek love and self-fulfilment by abandoning a rotten husband, or obey society’s rules and devote herself to her family?
Mrs Alving, in Henrik Ibsen’s classic drama, follows the call of duty only to find the cost in human terms is cruelly high.
Poignant, laughable and very moving, ‘Ghosts’ touches nerves that are as sensitive today as they were a century ago.
'Ghosts' is performed at the Adel War Memorial Hall, LS16 8DE, from Wednesday 24 to Saturday 27 April (7.30pm).
Ibsen's masterpiece attacking the rigid social conventions of the time is the third and final play in Adel Players' 2012-13 season.
Alan Ayckbourn's 'Bedroom Farce' sold out its four-night run in January, while the October production of Arthur Miller's 'All My Sons' was described as "superb" by amateur theatre magazine Sardines.
Tickets for 'Ghosts' cost £7 and bookings can be made on (0113) 275 5585, or via the website at www.adel-players.org.uk.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Scarborough Athletic will be welcome addition to the Evo Stik League

By James Grayson (Twitter: @jamesAgrayson)
After six years of trying, Scarborough Athletic finally reached the Northern Premier League after a 2-0 win over Retford United secured the NCEL Premier Division title.
Once their promotion is confirmed by the FA, Scarborough will join a league that desperately needs a team like them.
Rudy Funk’s team follow in the likes of Chester FC and FC Halifax Town who have been in the NPL following their creation as a reformed club.
The key to it all is that Scarborough have a huge fanbase and there will be large crowds for every Scarborough game next season, regardless of whether it is home or away.
They will be a big loss for the NCEL, but for NPL clubs, they will get a big payday next season.
This year in the Evo Stik Division One North, there is no-one with huge travelling support. When the 22 teams in the league saw that Scarborough were chasing promotion, they were probably praying that Funk’s men won the title.
Brighouse were the team that pushed them all the way, but with no disrespect to them, compared with Scarborough, their support is just one man and his dog – something that could be said for a lot of clubs in the NPL and NCEL.
Scarborough’s promotion is brilliant news and it brings a club with gravitas and an interesting history into the NPL structure. Scarborough will also be looking to progress rather than sitting still and happy to compete in the bottom half of the table so a second promotion must surely be on the agenda. Just like Farsley, who won the NCEL Premier title in 2011, Scarborough have ambitions to go further up the pyramid.
Welcome to the NPL, Scarborough. We’re happy to have you.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Champagne flows as Skelmersdale United celebrate winning Evo Stik Division One North title

Skelmersdale United 4-0 Farsley AFC
By James Grayson (Twitter: @jamesAgrayson)
Match Photos are HERE
Skelmersdale United are the 2012-13 Evo Stik Division One North champions.
They only needed a point and Mark Jackson’s goal on the stroke of half-time set them on their way to complete an eight-year-old long project.
Tommy Lawson’s men missed out on the title in 2011 to Chester FC, who recently promoted to the Blue Square Premier, by just two goals on the final day of the season.
Last year Skelmersdale also failed to reach the play-offs on the last day.
But, Skelmersdale and Lawson were determined to rest those demons and they have cruised to winning the title, having lost only three league games.
Farsley played really well in the first half in an attempt to spoil the party, but Neil Parsley’s men fell apart at the start of the second half.
Farsley were pathetic and gifted three poor goals after individual errors.
Matthew Hughes struck two minutes into the second half and he got one more after the ball hit him on the back and fell into the bottom corner – Joshua Hine scored the other goal.
Late-on, Sam Robinson went close for Farsley, but this was Skelmersdale’s day and the champagne flowed after the final whistle.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Match Report: Leeds United 1-0 Burnley

Leeds United 1-0 Burnley
by James Grayson (Twitter: @jamesAgrayson)
Cries of ‘Brian, give us a wave’ rang out at Elland Road as new Leeds United boss Brian McDermott continued to ride the crest of a wave as the Whites beat Burnley 1-0.
Rodolph Austin’s second half goal was the difference in a dreadful game – but most importantly Championship football was all but secured for next season.
The win moves Leeds onto 58 points and completes a dream start for McDermott, whose side beat Sheffield Wednesday last week in his first game in charge.
Leeds looked organised and deserved to win as Burnley seemed to be happy to take a point.
In a first half that was played at the pace of a pre-season friendly, defender Jason Pearce had a header cleared off the line before the rebound from Luke Varney hit the crossbar.
Burnley ended the half in better shape as Martin Paterson was unlucky with a chance that found the side-netting.
The crowd was subdued and desperately needed a spark.
Fortunately Leeds upped their tempo for the second half as within 17 seconds of the restart, the Whites had fired a warning shot.
El-Hadji Diouf somehow found space down the right-wing and his cross found Varney, who had the perfect chance to score his third goal in four days.
However, with the goal-gaping, Varney failed to properly connect and the ball went harmlessly wide.
The Whites had to take advantage and they did on the hour mark.
Former Liverpool forward Diouf created space for himself on the left-wing and with the ball at his feet, moved into a central position.
Upon seeing Austin making a darting run into the box, Diouf delightfully chipped the ball towards him and it only needed the slightest of touches from Austin to open the scoring.
The decibels inside Elland Road were raised and apart from one minor scare late-on, Leeds were able to hold-on without too much hassle ahead of a trip to Birmingham City tomorrow.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Rainworth Miners Welfare resignation is bad for NPL

By James Grayson (Twitter - @jamesAgrayson)
The club, who were promoted to the NPL in 2010, have cited financial costs as the reason. However, the news exposes the unsustainability of teams who get promoted out of the NCEL and into the Northern Premier League.
Rainworth are the third club that have been promoted from the NCEL to the Evo Stik in the last seven years and then dropped out. Retford United reached the Evo Stik Premier Division before being relegated two divisions because they could not finance themselves in the NPL. Glapwell also made a similar decision and are now not even in the Football Pyramid.
Should the FA and NPL be more thorough with NCEL clubs that want promotion? The glaring thing with the promotions that Rainworth and Glapwell achieved is that they were promoted as runners-up because the champions turned down promotion because of the costs involved in the NPL, namely Bridlington Town and Winterton Rangers.
At the moment, the NPL have at least three clubs in their three divisions that are struggling to stay afloat. To have a club, who are not in relegation danger, resign is simply embarrassing for that level of football. It is not park football. The NPL is a serious level of football.
There needs to be a tougher stance of clubs coming out of the NCEL. Brighouse Town could get promotion this season. This is a club with a small support base. It has an average attendance of 106 for this season, which is just over 7% down from last season. Should they get up, extreme pressure will be applied to their finances.
There are at least ten games that would need coach transport at around £400 a time. It is not something Brighouse have to worry about in the NCEL. Players wages will increase because of the level of football and the extra burden of travelling. If I was running Brighouse and they won the league, I would turn down promotion. Brighouse Town in the NPL is not sustainable.
After Rainworth’s decision, the NPL need to ensure all their new clubs are sustainable or at least make sure they know the perils of promotion. There needs to be a strong and robust stance. Relegation should be decided on the pitch, not by a club realising that after three years they should not have chased the dream.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

GFH right to bring Brian McDermott in as next Leeds United manager

By James Grayson (Twitter - @jamesAgrayson)
After the departure of Neil Warnock, there was no rush to appoint a replacement. But, the 2-1 defeat at Charlton Athletic last Saturday obviously triggered alarm bells in GFH’s heads.
The Whites are five points above the Championship relegation zone. While the situation is not desperate yet, it is concerning because Leeds are playing like a team that doesn’t look like winning a match.
Leeds have two crucial home games coming up – Sheffield Wednesday visit Elland Road on Saturday and then Burnley arrive on Tuesday night. United have to get something from both games.
With Brian McDermott set to be confirmed as the Leeds manager tomorrow (Friday), it does give everyone a huge boost.
Although the timing of the appointment, considering GFH claimed they were in no rush when Warnock left, does smell of a panic decision. However, it is the right type of long-term appointment and in the short-term, it brings stability back instantly. So GFH cannot be criticised.
McDermott has the pedigree of taking a team to the Premier League so he fits the bill. But in the short term he has to lead Leeds to safety before planning for the Premier League can be even thought about. Hopefully he can galvanise the dressing room to finish the job.
GFH should be applauded as well for reacting decisively to a potential disaster situation. They could have stuck with Neil Redfearn, but they saw the problem emerging and brought McDermott in.
McDermott must have also been given assurances over the long-term ambition of the owners and that there are funds available in the summer. That debate is for another day though – the priority is Championship survival and hopefully the new manager will ensure it.
And his first task is to revive a dressing room and get a winning team on the pitch and quickly – preferably on Saturday when the Owls visit.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Michael Oates winner nets Trafford FC victory over Farsley AFC

Trafford 3-2 Farsley AFC
By James Grayson (Twitter: @jamesAgrayson)
Match Photos are HERE
Missed chances were again to blame as Farsley AFC suffered an undeserved defeat at play-offs chasing Trafford, who completed the double over Neil Parsley’s men.
Michael Oates’ goal two minutes from time somehow won the game for Trafford, despite Farsley being the better side over the course of the game. Farsley also had to play the last ten minutes with ten men after goalkeeper Ben Higginson was sent off.  
On a flat surface, Farsley showed why they had beaten Ramsbottom United last week and could have easily scored twice in the opening 20 minutes. The Trafford defence, marshalled by captain Nia Bayunu, a player that League Two outfit Fleetwood Town are rumoured to be scouting, could not cope.
Adam Priestley was the first Farsley player to be put through on goal, but he blazed over. Farsley legend Simeon Bambrook was then unfortunate when he found himself bearing down on goal. The ball took a bobble as he was about to shoot and his shot went well wide of the target.
Further chances followed with Farsley goalkeeper Higginson relatively untroubled at the other end. Farsley finally took the lead three minutes into the second half. It was Gareth Grant that broke clear and he delayed his shot so he could pass to Priestley who had the easiest of finishes. It was the striker’s 27th goal of a glorious campaign.
However, Trafford soon scored an undeserved equaliser. Danger-man Oates (pictured above), with 31 goals to his name this season, was brought down by Rob Etherington. It was a soft penalty award. The referee had a decent game and on a scale of ten, probably scored 7.5. However, he should have been better positioned for the foul and how he could give from his position on the 18-yard-line is beyond me. But, it was given and Paul Ashton rolled the penalty home with ease.
Grant, who worked extremely up-front on his own, then missed a close range chance before Farsley went ahead again. Steve Mallory’s corner wasn’t dealt with and Matty James (pictured above) was on hand to scoop the ball into the top corner.
Farsley looked on course for victory until the 76th minute when a scramble allowed former Bradford Park Avenue player Ally Brown to bring Trafford level for a second time.
And then came the game-changing moment. Higginson was deemed to have handled the ball outside the area and within two seconds of the linesman flagging, the referee pulled the red card out. It was an extremely poor decision from the referee as he didn’t allow himself any thinking time. There were at least four defenders around Higginson so it was not a goal-scoring opportunity. It is the second time this season when Farsley have been let down by a referee’s rush of blood – the 0-0 draw at Clitheroe is the other when Josh Radcliffe was dismissed.
Tom Morgan was brought on and Farsley survived the free kick from Higginson’s dismissal before Oates struck to keep Trafford on course for the play-offs. On the day, Farsley deserved to win, but Trafford’s style of football should be admired. Manager Garry Vaughan has a clear football philosophy – his team passes from the back and works forward. It should be applauded. Whether it works on uneven pitches is a different matter.
Man of the match – Gareth Grant (Farsley AFC)

Friday, 5 April 2013

Harrogate Railway boss Billy Miller looks back on a successful season

By James Grayson (Twitter: @jamesAgrayson)
Manager Billy Miller has challenged his players to write their own piece of Harrogate Railway history by creating a new club Evo Stik Division One North points record.
Miller wants his men to reach the half-century mark and 52 points would break the record and complete a memorable first season at the helm for Miller and his assistant Lee Ashforth.
Former Liversedge boss Miller, who earlier this week called for a winter break to be introduced, was named as the permanent successor to Nigel Danby last summer.
Danby had been sacked with six games to go with Railway staring at relegation back to the Northern Counties East League. Denis Metcalf junior and his management team were unable to save Railway from finishing second-bottom and Harrogate only survived because of a reprieve.
Miller kept a number of last season’s squad and brought a handful of new faces to Station View and has steered them into a mid-table position with 41 points with seven games remaining – much to his delight.
He said: “I live in Harrogate myself so I have followed the club for ten years and knew what it was capable of. It has a new clubhouse, great facilities and has a good playing surface. I know we have a slope on it, but the pitch is in generally good condition. We knew that if we could attract the right players (we could reach our targets), and I think we’re done that.
“We have got a bit of budget, but it is not a big budget by any stretch of the imagination. People would be quite shocked at just how low the budget is. But we came into it knowing what we had and thought we could do a job.
“The priority was to make sure we weren’t fighting relegation at the end of the season and we’ve done that. We are nowhere near the relegation zone at all.
“The target is interesting now because we have given the lads a target of 50 points for the season and for the first season here would be a phenomenal return.”
Railway, who are in partnership with Askern Bryan College, did get off to a slow start and had won only five league games by the turn of the year.
But, Railway got moving and wins over Trafford, leaders Skelmersdale United and Farsley AFC helped them up the table and Miller claims to have used a limited amount of players this season.
“If you go back to our early games, I think we played Trafford, Skelmersdale, all the top teams in the first ten games so we always knew it was going to be difficult,” he said.
“But, we knew once we had found our rhythm, we would have half a chance of picking points up. All we have done is take each game as it came and ticked them off.
“We have probably used 21 players all season which is phenomenal. The physio Rachel (Davis) has been absolutely superb. She has kept an eye on players, monitoring them. We make them come in once a week to train because of the budget.
“I think sometimes when you can get a group of lads together who have a little bit of raw ability, but an abundance of enthusiasm, which is what we have got, then you have got a great opportunity to mould them into a team.
“That is what we have done. We don’t scream and shout at the players, we don’t isolate anyone, we never blame anyone. We’re in it together from management, all the way to young Daniel Openshaw, who has come in from the college to help us out. If he has a point then we all listen. We try and respect each other’s views.”
But what does next season hold for Harrogate? At this moment in time, Miller is unsure of targets, but said: “A lot depends on the budget and we do have a lot of people working really hard behind the season.
“It will probably be very similar to this year, but what we hope is that because of the environment we are building, players want to come for us because we play the right way rather what they will receive for playing.
“If we can add one or two to the squad then we will go again. It will be harder next year because teams will go down, teams will come into the league. Teams will get more money so we have to re-access it in August.”
Railway have a rich FA Cup history having reached the second round on two occasions in 2002 and 2007 and asked on whether he wanted to write his own chapter Railway history, Miller said: “I always say when you look at this club who have been to the second round of the FA Cup twice in ten years, it is unbelievable.
“As a club you want to get there once, but to get there twice in ten years is phenomenal. Paul Marshall, who is still local with Tadcaster and Vinnie Brockie who is with Thackley are brilliant lads and they deserved it at the time.
“If we can get through the first couple of rounds, I’d be happy with that.”

Michael Brown's new Leeds United contract is staggering

By James Grayson (Twitter: @jamesAgrayson)
Leeds United midfielder Michael Brown must have one of the best agents in the business after receiving a one-year contract extension.
This means he will be with Leeds until the end of next season. The deal was signed because Brown had triggered a clause in his contract which said if he reached a certain number of appearances for this season, he received an automatic one-year extension.
The 36-year-old has been with Leeds since the summer of 2011 and is known for his poor disciplinary record.
But, the news will hardly go down well with Leeds supporters who must see it as a waste of funds on a player that will be likely to be unwanted by Neil Warnock’s successor.
Quite how Brown, who was 35 when his initial contract was negotiated last August, was quite able to do the deal is incredible. Why would a club aiming to reach the Premier League agree to such a deal.
Brown has been a bit-part player at times this season and will be even more so next season so Leeds have wasted money on him.
No-one in the Championship will want Brown and League One and Two clubs won’t be able to afford him so Leeds are stuck him with.
He has been a liability this season, his tackle on Scott Parker in the final minute of Leeds’ shock 2-1 over Tottenham is a prime example.  
Fortunately he probably won’t be making them sort of tackles next season as he will be watching from the stands, but he will be paid to do that.

Garforth Amateur Dramatics' production of Natural Causes preview

By James Grayson (Twitter: @jamesAgrayson)
Come and see judge whether it’s funny for yourself – that is the message from Garforth Amateur Dramatics Society for those thinking of coming to see their upcoming play Natural Causes.
Written by Eric Chappell, Natural Causes sees Vincent (Mike Osbourne), a professional suicide merchant, hired for his services by Walter (David Battersby).
Walter is in an unhappy marriage with Celia (Lynda McCraight) and at first, it is clear that Vincent’s ‘target’ is Celia.
However, confusion then reigns over who the client actually is and as director Erica Nicholls (pictured right) says, “there is a mix-up about who actually needs to take the poison so there are several times when the poison gets put into the wrong person’s glass”.
Natural Causes, a black comedy, follows on from last year’s production of Out of Focus and Erica claims the Society wanted an alternative type of play in 2013 and says they are looking forward to hearing the audience’s reaction to the jokes.
“How much humour there is difficult for me to say because when you have been rehearsing it week after week as we do, you get to the point where the jokes aren’t funny anymore and you need someone else to hear them,” she said.
“When we first read it, we laughed. So that is the best I can say at the moment. (When we choose a play) we sit down as a society and read as many plays as we can. We do two plays a year, but we have a quiet time during the summer and during that time we meet every week to read.
“(We chose this one) because of the difference to it. It isn’t a farce, it isn’t overtly hilarious, which the last one that we did was a very funny play. (Natural Causes) had something different to it that we liked.
“It has a bit of atmosphere and we could also cast it. We needed a play with a smallish cast with more men in it than women and from the ones we read, this is the one we chose.”
Natural Causes also stars Martyn Drake as Withers and local girl Kristen Limbert as Angie and Society chairman Mike Nicholls (pictured left) claims Kristen has made a major impact on ticket sales.
He said: “Ticket sales for this play are going fairly well mainly because we have a new member in Kristen who is at Garforth Academy.
“She has sold a lot of tickets. She has got all her classmates coming and has also got quite a few of her tutors coming as well. Her mother works at Ninelands Primary School and she has some staff coming.
“Hopefully we are going to get quite a lot through her because sometimes we do suffer as we are a small cast. You generally find that the people who are in the play sell the most tickets as their friends want to come and see them in the play.”
Natural Causes runs from Wednesday 24th April to Saturday 27th April at 7.30pm at the Garforth Miners Welfare Hall.
Tickets cost £6 and £5 for concessions and there will be a bar available.
Tickets can be bought from Garforth Book Shop and the society can be contacted on info@garforthamdram.co.uk

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Gardner strike secures point for FC Halifax Town at Guiseley

Guiseley AFC 1-1 FC Halifax Town
By James Grayson (Twitter: @jamesAgrayson)
A second half strike from Dan Gardner earned FC Halifax Town a point from their local derby with Guiseley AFC at a packed Nethermoor in the Blue Square Bet North.
The goal cancelled out former Shayman Mark Bower’s ninth minute header which gave the Lions a dream start to the match in front of 1137 spectators.
But after failing to increase their lead, Steve Kittrick’s (pictured below) Guiseley paid the price as Halifax hit back and the visitors were unlucky not to take all three points having hit the crossbar three times.
Halifax will be ruing their poor start. It was Andy Holdsworth’s cross from the left-wing which Bower met with power which left Matt Glennon helpless to react and stunned the travelling support.
Guiseley continued to cause problems for Halifax. Forward Kevin Holsgrove looked menacing and Halifax’s defence seemed unable to cope. A disallowed Jack Rea goal triggered more alarm bells for Halifax. Bower then went close when his header was pumped off the line by former Lion Ryan Toulson.
That’s when Halifax got their act together. Defensive midfielder James Knowles, a recent signing for Halifax from Bradford PA, was replaced in the 27th minute by winger Adriano Moke. Whether it was forced or not, it breathed a new lease of life into Halifax as Moke took his place on the right-wing and used his flair to cause Guiseley problems.
He was involved as Chris Worsley’s volley cannoned off the bar as Halifax signalled their presence in the match. Then just as half-time approached, some Halifax fans thought their team had scored. Inside the six-yard box, ex Harrogate Town defender Danny Lowe looked to have scored and some Town started celebrating wildly. However, his effort somehow hit the crossbar and the ball was cleared – much to the amusement of some Guiseley supporters.
However, the warnings for Guiseley were there and they did not take heed as Halifax took control in the second half. Sean Williams’ spectacular long range strike needed an excellent save from Guiseley goalkeeper Steven Drench who turned the ball onto the bar before conceding a corner.
Further pressure followed and it obvious that the equaliser was coming. It arrived on 64 minutes. A Danny Lowe quickly-taken free kick found Gardner in the penalty box and he simply hammered the ball past Drench from 12 yards to send the Halifax support crazy.
Halifax looked favourites now, but they struggled to create many more opportunities and that will have been the disappointing factor having been in control. Guiseley themselves couldn’t get out of their own half. The introduction of former Leeds United man Seb Carole did add some creativity for Guiseley. Carole replaced Halifax pantomime villain James Walshaw who was heavily booed on his exit due to his controversial move to Guiseley last season after a loan spell with Halifax.
But that was it apart from another disallowed Guiseley goal in the final minute – given because of a foul on the goalkeeper Glennon.
Halifax will be disappointed to have only earned a point, but despite picking up just four points out of the last three fixtures, Neil Aspin’s (pictured above) men are fourth in the table with games in hand of the teams around them.
Halifax are four points ahead of sixth-placed Harrogate Town who lost 1-0 at Bradford (Park Avenue) ahead of their home game with Altrincham on Saturday.
Guiseley travel to third-placed Brackley Town this weekend.  
Guiseley: Drench, Hardy, Meynell, A Pearson, Ellis, Bower, Rea (Marsh 77), Holdsworth, Wilson, Walshaw (Carole 74), Holsgrove. Subs unused: Giles, Lawlor, McWilliams.
FC Halifax Town: Glennon, Toulson, McManus, M Pearson, Knowles (Moke 27), Lowe, Worsley, Williams, Gregory, Gardner (Glover 84), Worthington. Sub unused: Senior, Titchiner, Bolton.
Referee: R Wigglesworth
Attendance: 1137
Man of the match: Mark Bower

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Departed Leeds United manager Neil Warnock deserves credit

By James Grayson (Twitter: @jamesAgrayson)
He swept into Elland Road in February 2011 to hero’s reception and was promised funds to take Leeds United into the Premier League. But over 12 months on, is it a wasted year?
Admittedly the foundations have been built. Leeds have a decent goalkeeper in Paddy Kenny and solid defenders in Tom Lees and Jason Pearce. He deserves credit for spotting the potential of Sam Byram and using him week-in-week-out. But Warnock was never able to bring the quality that is needed for an attempt to gain promotion.
Previous owner Ken Bates sold Warnock the club on basis that money was there to be spent. The manager then went away and drew up a shopping list. He got Pearce, but when Joel Ward slipped through the net the holes in Leeds’ promotion aspirations began appearing.
Warnock admits he thought about walking away then and only stayed out of loyalty to the fans so he deserves credit for staying put. With a different manager, Leeds may have been in a relegation battle for the whole season. Until the last few weeks, Leeds have been hard to beat and that mentality has ensured a good base of points which Neil Redfearn should be able to build on and secure safety with ease.
The arrival of GFH Capital meant Warnock could bring Jerome Thomas from West Brom. Thomas, a quick winger, added a new dimension and wins over Crystal Palace, Leicester City, Huddersfield Town, Ipswich Town and Middlesbrough were partly because of him. Five wins out of five league games with Thomas shows the difference he made. Had Thomas stayed at Elland Road, could the play-offs have been reached?
While there no is doubt Warnock has been let down by the two boards, at times his tactics have been suspect. Warnock is a big fan of route one football and when Leeds were in a losing position, the appeared to be no plan B. And once as the play-offs began to slip away, it was clear that his interest was fading so the time was right to walk away after the defeat to Derby.
But, for all the negatives, Warnock does deserve credit for a handful of achievements. The League Cup run brought one of the most anticipated fixtures at Elland Road and in the city of Leeds for a long time. The Tottenham Hotspur FA Cup victory was a fabulous achievement so Warnock can leave with his head held high.
The real assessment of Warnock’s reign will be in a year’s time when his successor finishes his first season. If his team is added to with quality, Leeds will be a force to be reckoned with.
But while some will criticise him, Warnock should be applauded for creating a stable team and for providing memories Leeds fans won’t forget. He will feel he has done his best and there is probably no-one out that could have done a better job.
He knew how to take Leeds to take the next step, but he was held back by two boards unwilling to spend. Leeds themselves have missed a chance to reach the Premier League this season by not backing him.