Heath Hayes 4 Dunkirk 1

Tuesday 29th November 2011
Heath Hayes 4 Dunkirk 1
Baker Joiner Midland Alliance
At: Coppice Colliery Ground
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £5; Programme: £1 (28 pages)
Weather: dry, cold wind
Attendance: 62
Duration: first-half: 46:40; second-half: 49:00

Just my second visit to the Coppice Colliery Ground – and my first since 2002 – for what turned out to be a comfortable victory for Heath Hayes against Dunkirk. Leading by a single goal at the interval, Heath Hayes scored twice in a minute early in the second half to open up an unassailable lead. The visitors pulled a goal back from the penalty spot but Heath Hayes restored their three-goal advantage. I’ve got one referee amongst my Facebook friends and tonight’s ‘man in the middle’ was … Mat Randles, once a regular at Marston Road and now progressing up the pyramid as a match official.

Heath Hayes (blue and white stripes / blue / white): 1. Adam Jenkins, 2. Andy Tuck (capt), 3. Karl Wallis, 4. Andrew Davis, 5. Lee Stretton, 6. Tom Baggott, 7. Andre Gonzales, 8. Joe McNulty, 9. David Waple, 10. Ben Haseley, 11. Craig Hancox. Subs: 12. Luke Jones (not used), 14. Danny Owen (not used), 15. Stephen Allen (for Andrew Davis, 71), 16. Chris Geldart (for Hancox, 77), 17. Andy McMath (for Waple, 63).

Dunkirk (red/red/red): 1. Josh Hound-Lee, 2. Kevin Spriggs, 3. Ross McCaughey, 4. Joel Goodacre, 5. Robert McCormick (capt), 6. Graham Romaine, 7. Craig Meakin, 8. Darren Garmston, 9. Carl Westcarr, 10. Jarrod Westcarr, 11. Lavell White. Subs: 12. Lee Day (for Jarrod Westcarr, 34), 14. Andrew Frawley (for Meakin, 71), 15. Martin Lench (not used), 16. David Robinson (not used), 17. Martin Harbottle (not used).

Referee: Mat Randles.
Assistants: R. Cattell and S. King.

1-0 Andre Gonzales (12)
2-0 Ben Hazeley (50)
3-0 Joe McNulty (51)
3-1 Lee Day (81 pen)
4-1 Ben Hazeley (81)

Sidmouth Town 0 Exmouth Town 1

Saturday 26th November 2011
Sidmouth Town 0 Exmouth Town 1
Carlsberg South-West Peninsula League Division 1 East
At: Manstone Lane
Kick-off: 2-15 pm
Admission: £3 including 28 page programme
Attendance: 50 (headcount)
Weather: cloudy, dry
Duration: first-half: 48:47; second-half: 49:58

Back at ‘pitch-side’ following a seven-day break, and a real change of scenery with a match 180 miles from home in a relatively new league rarely sampled by me before. This local derby was keenly contested with a couple of Sidmouth red cards, decisions for the locals to debate and also something I can’t recall seeing before. One goal was enough to settle the game, a hotly disputed-penalty converted by Exmouth’s Alastair Sawyer in the 77th minute, the awarding of which had led to Sidmouth’s club linesman being sent-off.

As an added bonus, I enjoyed the company of four fellow football travellers during the second half – two from Liverpool (one wearing a Dundee United scarf and New Zealand cap), one from Leicester who supported Northampton and another from nearby Exeter.

A family visit to nearby Honiton took me 8 or so miles further south down the A375 to Sidmouth for just my second Carlsberg South-West Peninsula League game. Over the years I’d seen plenty of game in the old Devon League games, the league which merged with the South Western League in 2007, at places like Ottery St Mary, Alphington, Stoke Gabriel, Topsham Town, et al. Good memories.

The ground on Manstone Road was easy to find on the right travelling south from the B3175 and along the drive, a pay table was set up selling programme. I arrived early and picked up my copy from the bar. The pitch on the far side of a larger recreation ground was railed off on the far touchline and behind the right-hand goal with the other two sides roped off. Recently installed hard-standing ran the length of the far touchline, behind the dugouts, though the ground does not yet have any covered standing or floodlights.

Today’s game pitted newly promoted Sidmouth Town, the 2010/11 Devon and Exeter League Champions, with the league leaders Exmouth Town, neighbours from 10 miles along the coast. Sidmouth (13th with 15 points from 14 games) made an impressive start to life in Division 1 East by winning their opening four games. However, they then lost every league games in September and October, a run of eight straight defeats, including a 2-1 reverse at Exmouth. A 2-1 win at Teignmouth two weeks ago ended that run though last Saturday they went down 4-0 at home to Newton Abbott Spurs.

Visitors and league leaders Exmouth (31 points from 14 games) moved to the top of the table last Saturday with a 4-0 win over Ottery St Mary, their seventh victory in eight league games. As well as the mentioned league game, Exmouth hosted Sidmouth three weeks ago in the Devon Premier Cup and won 3-2.

Sidmouth (in all green and nicknamed The Vikings) got the game underway attacking the Manstone Lane end with rain-threatening dark clouds overhead. League leaders Exmouth (in all blue) soon started to create chances but found home keeper Luke Ashford in fine form.

The visitors were awarded a free-kick on the left which James Turner fired towards goal. Ashford got his boot in the way of the ball and produced a stunning reaction save to keep out David O’Connor’s follow-up.

The opening 20 minutes were certainly competitive to say the least and things finally boiled over right in front of me (positioned near to the dugouts). I got a good view of the incident and the referee had little choice other than to show a straight red card to tall Sidmouth central defender Mark Badcock. The only decision that Mr McGuffog had to make concerned the other central figure in the incident, Turner, and he chose not to even things up by showing just a yellow card to the Exmouth captain.

Now facing just ten men, Exmouth continued to dominate without success up to the half-time whistle. Ashford continued to impress and pushed over a dipping left-foot volley from Turner. Five minutes before half-time, Exmouth were urged to ‘step up another gear’ and Turner sent a glancing header wide from Jamie Moore’s right-wing cross.

Back into the clubhouse during the interval, I headed straight to the tea bar set up at the far end next to the skittles alley.

Looking skywards at the start of the second half, the earlier rain-threatening clouds didn’t look so menacing and indeed not a drop of rain fell during the entire match.

The second half started by following the same pattern as before – Exmouth threatening, Sidmouth resolutely defending and Ashton seemingly unbeatable. The keeper produced yet another save to parry a snap shot from O’Connor at the expense of a corner.

Discussion amongst the hoppers concluded that ‘Exmouth have goals in them as they have been scoring regularly’. Yet a 30-yard drive from Sidmouth’s Adam Whitty drew applause as it flew just over the bar. One of the hoppers was more keen than most for a goal, though not quite in a 'Tram' sort of way (those who know the man from Garstang will know what I mean).

Ashton tipped over a header from O’Connor before another key incident occurred which ultimately earned the three points from Exmouth. The referee spotted Kyle Bassett being manhandled inside the area and awarded a penalty which upset Sidmouth to say the least. Club linesman Kevin Trivett was sent-off for protesting the decision and after a delay of some three minutes, Ali Sawyer sent Ashton the wrong way from the spot. The goal was timed by me in the 77th minute.

As the ball went in, one of the Liverpool hoppers shouted “121” to announce his run of games with a goal had been extended to 121 games. For what it is worth, my run of goalscoring games was extended to a mere 23!

Exmouth almost quickly scored a second goal. O’Connor burst through only to see his shot kept out by Ashton’s outstretched boot.

Sidmouth lost another player in the 81st minute. Darren Thomas, booked for protesting the award of the penalty, picked up a second yellow card for a foul on Turner.

The Vikings’ nine men pressed for an equaliser and a 30-yard left-foot free-kick by Andrew Thomson was pushed over the bar by Sandy Allen who remained alert. Hugh Johnson lashed the ball wide from the resulting corner.

0-1 Alastair Sawyer (77 pen)

Sidmouth: Mark Badcock (RC, 21), Darren Thomas (YC/RC, 81)

Stafford Town 1 Brocton 2

Saturday 19th November 2011
Stafford Town 1 Brocton 2
FA Carlsberg Vase Second Round
At: Evans Park
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (36 pages)
Weather: mild, dry, became a bit misty
Attendance: 231
Duration: first-half: 46:14; second-half: 49:41

If I sit down in six or so weeks' time and think about my football-watching highlights of 2011, I’m certain this Vase derby between two clubs less than a mile apart in different leagues will be up there with 1FC Köln and Ascot United as a real occasion to remember.

Goalless at the interval in front of a big crowd at Evans Park, both Reds through Sam Agar and the Badgers through Dan Lomas found the net after the break to send the tie towards what looked like extra time. That was until David Berks, once of Aston Villa and Stafford Rangers, sent a stunning free-kick into the net in stoppage time to put Brocton into Monday’s Third Round draw.

That goal wasn’t the full story of the final five minutes which certainly provoked many talking points and I’m sure that opinions of the Reds and Badgers on the game’s two or three key issues will be vastly different.

With the 90 minutes just about up and stoppage time looming, Stafford’s Jordan Bloor pulled back Mick Fox just outside the area. Foul ‘yes’, booking ‘yes’, straight red card ‘not sure or even no’. But there was no debate about Berks’ free-kick.

Time, of course, was running out so Town threw everything forward in search of an equaliser. Down went Sam Agar inside the area under Matt Skinner’s challenge. Clear-cut penalty in my opinion – referee said ‘no’ and sent off Craig Hulme with a second yellow card for protesting which reduced Stafford to nine men. Was he actually showed a first yellow card? More on that in a bit.

An interesting article in the programme pointed out that Stafford Town and Brocton have rarely met over the years – just seven competitive games and two friendlies. The last competitive meeting was 11 years ago in the Staffs FA Vase Final. Their current grounds are less than a mile apart as the crow flies.

Stafford (20 points from 14 games) went into the tie in 13th position in the West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division table with an unbeaten record in cup competitions this season.

Like the Old Police Sports Ground on Tuesday, I won’t describe Evans Park again. Providing company this afternoon was the Newsletter’s Dave McLean and also at the game was Rocester Secretary Barry Smith.

Stafford Town (in familiar all red with black trim) got the game underway attacking the cricket/rugby end in the first half. A quickly-taken throw by Sam Agar set up Craig Hulme who hooked a shot over the bar.

Chances were scare during the opening 20 minutes of cagy football with neither side wanting to concede an early goal.

Brocton (also in familiar colours of green shirts, white shorts and green shorts) almost took the lead in the 28th minute. Sam Hollinsworth put Andy Bourne clear and keeper Paul Burn did well to keep out the resulting low shot with his boot.

The Badgers lost defender Sam Fleming to shoulder injury, pulled when he delivered one of his long throw-ins.

As the interval approached, Hulme ran towards goal down the left and hit a low shot which keeper Adam Whitehouse blocked at the near post at the expense of a corner.

Into the second half and nine minutes after the restart, Agar, tightly man-marked by Andy Chandler until Fleming went off, got free into the area, rounded Whitehouse and fired towards goal. Chandler got back to clear the ball off the line.

It was Agar who broke the deadlock three minutes later with his 28th goal of the season. Morgan Hurley crossed from the left for Agar to head home at close range. Town had their tails up and Hulme fired straight at Whitehouse.

At the time that Brocton made one of their substitutions in the 62nd or 69th minute, I recall noticing the referee writing something down in his book. I assumed it was this substitution but was it a first booking for Hulme? Saying that, no one I spoke to could remember a yellow card being flashed in front of anyone until the very end.

Brocton levelled things up in the 72nd minute. An initial corner from Berks was flicked on and cleared off the line by a Town defender. The resulting corner, on the left, was again delivered by Berks and this time powered into the back of the net from the head of Dan Lomas.

Hulme sent a dipping shot skimming the roof of the Brocton net and an effort by Hurley from an acute angle on the left was saved at the near post by Whitehouse – Agar headed wide from the corner.

I sensed several pairs of tiring legs and Skinner needed treatment for what looked like cramp. Neither side, though, had settled for extra time as Jack Milgate shot not too far wide of the Brocton goal and substitute Chris Beeston narrowly missed at the other end.

Personally, I think it is a shame that the final five minutes may well be remembered for a couple of crucial and debatable referering decisions I mentioned earlier.

In the 89th minute, Town left back Jordan Bloor impeded substitute Mick Fox and received a straight red card. Berks took the free-kick and thumped it low past the wall and into the bottom-left corner.

Up field went Stafford and Agar was brought down inside the area by Skinner but the referee waived away the strong penalty appeals. Hulme, supposedly already booked, was sent off with a second yellow, reducing Town to nine men.

There was time for one last Town chance. Mat Dockerty delivered a free-kick on the right to the far post where Agar headed wide.

Full-time, celebrations from the ‘Green Army’ and Brocton must wait to see who they will face in the Third Round. Full credit to Stafford Town for a gutsy performance that I think deserved a crack at extra time.

No replay but there will be ‘derby day part two’ as Brocton will host Stafford Town in the Staffs FA Vase Quarter Finals on Saturday 11th February.

1-0 Sam Agar (56)
1-1 Dan Lomas (72)
1-2 David Berks (90)

Stafford: Jordan Bloor (RC, 89), Craig Hulme (YC/RC, 90+2)

PS. This wasn't an easy blog to write, a game between two clubs less than three miles from home based at the grounds I'll probably visit the most this season.

Brocton 1 Bolehall Swifts 1

Tuesday 15th November 2011
Brocton 1 Bolehall Swifts 1
Athium Midland Combination Premier Division
At: Old Police Sports Ground, Silkmore Lane, Stafford
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (36 pages)
Weather: dry, cold wind
Attendance: 64
Duration: first-half: 49:50; second-half: 49:16

It was good to head down the Old Police Sports Ground especially on an historic occasion for Brocton as StaffordFM broadcast full match commentary of this Athium Midland Combination Premier Division clash. Good friend of mine and 'local legend' Gary Hazlehurst was the man behind the mic and he described an enjoyable contest that finished all-square.

Table-toppers Bolehall Swifts took an early lead through Simeon Smith but the Badgers bounced back to equaliser with an excellent header by Dan Lomas. Both sides played some decent football as they looked for a winner and Brocton survived the late dismissal of captain Matt Skinner to secure a deserved point.

I’ve described the Old Police Sports Ground before. At the game tonight, as well as Gary, were Rev. Jeff Reynolds (my old Minister at Berkswich and now Circuit Superintendant Minister), Peter Baker (wearing a Crewe Alexandra coat and who these days I normally see at Hednesford) and Steve (the WBA fan and football traveller from Chelmsley).

Since their 6-0 victory over Pelsall Villa three weeks ago, Brocton (18 points from 10 games) have won two of their subsequent three league games to move up to sixth position in the table. Visitors Bolehall (30 points from 12 games) are also enjoying a good season and arrived in Stafford at the top of the table some eight points clear of second-placed Castle Vale.

Bolehall (in all yellow) got the game underway attacking the ‘Mallard Avenue End’ and quickly took a third minute lead. Simeon Smith found space on the left inside the area and fired past keeper Adam Whitehouse. Sam Fleming attempted to clear the ball off the line but only succeeded in helping it into the net via the right-hand post.

However, Brocton (in green shirts, white shorts and green socks) levelled things up in the 17th minute. Sam Fleming propelled a long throw into the area straight to Dan Lomas who headed past Darren Acton (previously with Tamworth and Nuneaton).

While Bolehall dominated the opening minutes, play settled down to an even contest and Lomas fired over the visitors bar while David Berks also headed wide.

Swifts wasted a great chance to regain the lead in the 36th minute. Ben Minshull’s corner was cleared and played back into the area to the feet of Michael Swan barely six yards out. The striker tamely sidefooted into the hands of Whitehouse.

Smith tested Whitehouse at start of the second half and the keeper parried a well-struck shot. Another chance fell to Jordan Brown who fired wide of the right-hand post.

Brocton replaced ex-Kidsgrove midfielder Andy Bourne and Joe Pickering with Richard Greaves and Richie Miller, once of Stafford Rangers and AFC Wulfrunians. Whitehouse again excelled as he did well to keep out a swerving shot from Brown in the 79th minute.

Into the last ten minutes and it was the turn of Acton to produce a decent save to keep out a shot from Greaves. The Brocton substitute tried his luck from out on the left with a cross-cum-shot that almost caught out Acton.

Brocton were reduced to ten men in the 87th minute. Matt Skinner, already booked, brought down Smith giving Mr Simpson little choice about showing a second yellow card.

Next up for Brocton and probably me as well is Saturday’s intriguing local derby in the FA Vase at Stafford Town.

Brocton (green/white/green): 1. Adam Whitehouse, 2. Richard Jones, 3. Jamie Evans, 4. Matt Skinner (capt), 5. Sam Fleming, 6. Andy Bourne, 7. Sam Bell, 8. Dan Lomas, 9. Joe Pickering, 10. Dave Berks, 11. Chris Beeston. Subs: 12. Richard Greaves (for Bourne, 71), 14. Sam Hollingsworth (not used), 15. Richard Miller (for Pickering, 76), 16. Andy Chandler (not used).

Bolehall Swifts (yellow/yellow/yellow): 1. Darren Acton, 2. William Holyland, 3. Dave Haywood, 4. Adam Wood, 5. Todd Perry, 6. Daniel Hales, 7. Benn Minshull, 8. Conor Fulwood, 9. Simeon Smith, 10. Michael Swan, 11. Jordan Brown. Subs: 12. Tom Starkey (for Holyland, 87), 14. Lee Millard (not used), 15. Michael Chetwynd (for Minshull, 74), 16. Anthony Juxon (not used), 17. Dominic Colson (not used).

Referee: Scott Simpson.
Assistants: Brian Rowley and Brian Heath.

0-1 Simeon Smith (3)
1-1 Dan Lomas (17)

Brocton: Matt Skinner (YC/RC, 87)

Peterborough Northern Star 1 Cogenhoe Utd 3

Saturday 12th November 2011
Peterborough Northern Star 1 Cogenhoe United 3
ChromaSport & Trophies United Counties League Premier Division
At: Chestnut Avenue
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £5 including 40 page programme
Weather: mild, dry
Attendance: 125 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 46:53; second-half: 49:50

Once again I let someone else chose my destination today and the game pulled out the hat by my daughter proved to be a real cracker with the feeling at full-time that I witnessed a ‘league-game giantkilling’. Division leaders Peterborough Northern Star, looking to record their 20th consecutive league and cup win, fell behind to two first-half goals from visitors Cogenhoe before halving the deficit just before the interval. Star pushed hard for an equaliser until the visitors added a vital late third goal to claim the points to end an amazing run.

0-1 Perry Wells (11)
0-2 Matty Gearing (26 pen)
1-2 Adriano Steffieri (43)
1-3 Sam Heavey (85)

Rocester 3 Chasetown 1

Tuesday 8th November 2011
Rocester 3 Chasetown 1
Staffordshire Senior Cup Second Round
At: Hillsfield
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £5; Programme: £1 (24 pages)
Weather: mild, damp, occasional drizzle
Attendance: 110
Duration: first-half: 45:40; second-half: 48:16

Just like Saturday, I let someone else play a part in choosing tonight’s match and the outcome of the toss of a coin sent me heading north up the A518 for something of a first at Rocester – instead of down the A449 to the postponed match at Wolverhampton Sporting Community!

Rocester, who gave plenty to be encouraged about when I saw them in pre-season, continued their excellent season with a thoroughly deserved victory over 10-man Chasetown who had keeper Ryan Price harshly sent-off for a professional foul around the midpoint of the second half. Mensah Kinch, Chris Sterling and Paul McMahon all found the net for the Romans before Linden Dovey bagged a consolation goal for the visitors.

My 'first' at Rocester was watching a game at Hillsfields played entirely under floodlights. Normally my trips to the ground (eight out of the previous nine) have been for pre-season games in July or August. My only previous competitive game, a Bank Holiday fixture against Blakenall in 1989, took place before lights were installed.

Rocester (amber and black stripes / black / black): 1. Richard Froggatt, 2. Ashley Justin, 3. Rob Perks, 4. Dan McLeod, 5. Chris McComisky, 6. Darren Bullock, 7. Mensah Kinch, 8. Jack Langston, 9. Chris Sterling, 10. Paul McMahon (capt), 11. Chris Owen. Subs: 12. Chris Milner (for Dan McLeod, 72), 14. John Littler (not used), 15. Pete Martin (for Kinch, 79), 16. Ryan Knight (McMahon 84), 17. Karl McLeod (not used).

Chasetown (blue/blue/white): 1. Ryan Price, 2. Jack Farmer, 3. Chris Peel, 4. Chris Slater (capt), 5. Jimmy Turner, 6. Matty Cohen, 7. Danny Smith, 8. Darren Stride, 9. Linden Dovey, 10. Dean Perrow, 11. Levi Reid. Subs: 12. Gary Birch (not used), 14. Mark Hands (for Smith, 52), 15. Theo Robinson (not used), 16. Andrew Westwood (for Reid, 79), 17. Lee Wright (for Farmer, 62).

Referee: L. Sinclair.
Assistants: D. Ferneyhough and M. Murfitt.

1-0 Mensah Kinch (32)
2-0 Chris Sterling (46)
3-0 McMahon (72 pen)
3-1 Linden Dovey (75)

Barton United 1 Clements 83 0

Saturday 5th November 2011
Barton United 1 Clements 83 0
Athium Midland Combination Division 2
At: Holland Sports Club, Barton-under-Needwood
Kick-off: 2-00 pm
Admission: none; Programme: none
Weather: mild, dry
Attendance: 15 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 47:35; second-half: 50:02

I needed to say local today and a 37.6 mile round trip from mid- to east-Staffordshire fitted the bill perfectly. So perfectly that I was back home before this afternoon’s 3 pm kick-offs had finished! Midland Combination newboys Barton United came out on top of this tight encounter against Clements 83 with Robert Houston’s 31st minute goal separating the sides at full-time.

1-0 Robert Houston (31)

Irchester United 6 Thrapston Town 2

Friday 4th November 2011
Irchester United 6 Thrapston Town 2
ChromaSport & Trophies United Counties League Premier Division
At: Alfred Street
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £5; Programme: £1 (12 pages)
Weather: mild, dry
Attendance: 105
Duration: first-half: 46:04; second-half: 48:32

“We’ve got groundhoppers galore tonight,” was one comment I heard coming from the direction of the paybox on Irchester’s first Friday night home game of the season. What the crowd of around 100 saw was a goalfeast with Irchester retuning to winning ways with an emphatic victory over Thrapston Town that included a hat-trick from captain Dan Rogers.

I can’t say I enjoyed the drive, particularly the stretch in heavy rain between Rugeley and Coventry along the A51, A38, M42 and M6. However, a quick stop near Rothwell at the McDonalds on the eastbound A14 dubbed my ‘lucky McDonalds’ – recommend the spicy vegetable wrap – as I normally seem to see a decent after stopping there. Tonight was no exception!

Tonight’s game was switched to Friday night following the success of the FA Cup meeting between the sides back in August at Thrapston which attracted a crowd of 198. The return league game just before Christmas will also be played on a Friday evening as well.

The 2011/12 season is Irchester’s second in the Premier Division after they gained promotion as Division 1 champions in 2010. Alfred Street, a three-sided ground shared with cricket, boasts new two seated stands behind the goal nearest the entrance with an older area of covered standing near to the clubhouse. It wasn’t possible to walk around the entire pitch with the touchline next to the cricket square and half of the far end out of bounds.

A quick glance down the ‘1st team fixtures’ chart in the programme shows that 2011/12 has so far been a season of two halves for Irchester. They lost their opening ten league and cup games, then have lost just two of their next games prior to this evening’s visit of Thrapston. In the table Irchester (14 points from 14 games) were in 14th position in the 21-team division, three places and three points better off than Thrapston (11 points from 11 games) who did have three games in hand.

There was little sign of what was to follow during a ‘cat and mouse’ opening 10 or so minutes after Irchester (in all blue) got the game underway attacking the far (north) end in the first half. Having survived a scare, Irchester got forward to take the lead in the 16th minute. A long ball forward was headed clear to the lurking Jake Gillingwater who drilled a low shot into the bottom left corner with a sweet strike.

Another defensive clearance led to the second goal 11 minutes later. Joe Hopeswell’s free-kick delivered forward into the area from the right was headed out and emphatically smashed into the back of the net by Daryl Lawman.

Thrapston briefly got back into the game with a goal just after the half-hour mark. A mistake by Hugo Fernandes presented a chance for Cavell Jarvis on the left who drove towards goals and the ball ended up in the net off Ryan Neville attempting a goalline clearance.

But, the next goal was never far away and it did indeed come in the 33rd minute to quickly restore Irchester’s two-goal lead. Daryl Lawman’s low cross from the left was swept home at the far post by Dan Rogers off the hands of the diving keeper Chris Jones.

Irchester went in 4-1 up at the interval thanks to a spectacular four goal scored by Stuart Reid in the 43rd minute. Craig Lawman found Reid on the right who latched on to the pass to the cry of “linesman”. The offside flag stayed down and the striker honed in on goal to smash a right-foot shot from an acute angle into the far side of the net. I don’t think the visitors were impressed.

Amongst the groundhoppers at the game were Paul Kingston and ‘media celebrity’ Brian Buck watching his second game of the day and fast approaching his 10,250th lifetime game in total. Both along with their two mates provided good company during the second half.

The question on some lips was: ‘would the goalfest continue after the break?’

Irchester almost scored again seven minutes after the restart. Following a cleared right-wing corner, Daryl Lawman chipped the ball back into the area when unchallenged Chris Gell headed over.

However, home fans didn’t have to wait for another goal which came in the 61st minute. Craig Lawman and Reid combined on the edge of the area before the latter fed Rogers who walked the ball into an empty net. Where was the Thrapston keeper and quite frankly Irchester didn’t care as they were now 5-1 up.

Soon, 5-1 amazingly became 6-1 two minutes later. Daryl Lawman delivered a perfect left-wing corner for Rogers to power home a close-range header to complete his hat-trick.

That wasn’t the end of the scoring. The visitors got on the scoresheet again in the 77th minute. Jarvis crossed from the left for substitute Mike Houghton to fire home at close range.

With Irchester not letting up, I did wonder when I’d last seen a game finish 7-2, assuming the home side would score a seventh goal. They almost did in the closing stages as Gillingwater. sent a first-time shot over the bar and Reid couldn’t direct a shot on target from Rogers’ pass

Irchester United (blue with a navy blue chest hoop / blue / blue): 1. Hugo Fernandes, 2. Ben Reece, 3. Joe Hopewell, 4. John Bowden, 5. Chris Gell, 6. Ryan Neville, 7. Dan Rogers, 8. Jake Gillingwater, 9. Stuart Reid, 10. Craig Lawman, 11. Daryl Lawman. Subs: 12. John Tite (for Daryl Lawman, 75), 14. Phil Lawrence (not used), 15. Mark Dudley (for Reece, 86), 16. Liam Bright (for Bowden, 70), 17gk. Andy Flatles (not used).

Thrapston Town (white/white/white): 1. Chris Jones, 2. Matt Harris, 3. Adam Randall, 4. Stuart Goosey, 5. Lee Gotch, 6. Michael Cirelli, 7. Dave Townsend, 8. Callum Ridgway, 9. Deven Ellwood, 10. Charlie Fowler, 11. Cavell Jarvis. Subs: 12. Dan Grainger (for Harris, ht), 14. Connor Durkin (not used), 15. Joe Chubb (not used), 16. Mike Houghton (for Ellwood, 69) 17gk. Dan Waters (not used).

Referee: P. Hodgson.
Assistants: K. Emanuel and C. Rath.

1-0 Jake Gillingwater (17)
2-0 Daryl Lawman (27)
2-1 Cavell Jarvis (31)
3-1 Dan Rogers (33)
4-1 Stuart Reid (43)
5-1 Dan Rogers (61)
6-1 Dan Rogers (63)
6-2 Mike Houghton (77)

Irchester: Ryan Neville (YC, 80)
Thrapston: none

Stafford Town 4 Goodrich 3

Tuesday 1st November 2011
Stafford Town 4 Goodrich 3
West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division
At: Evans Park
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (28 pages)
Weather: mild, dry
Attendance: 50 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 46:21; second-half: 50:27

Goals have often been plentiful whenever I’ve headed to Evans Park (45 in 8.25 previous visits) and, of late, Stafford Town have been the side putting the ball in the back of the net whenever I’ve turned up. Tonight was no exception – another seven added to the tally– as the Reds produced a gutsy performance to claim the points against Goodrich by the odd goal and move back into the top half of the Premier Division table. Trailing at the interval, the Reds scored twice early in the second half to move ahead for the first time and held their lead until the final whistle.

6/3/10 Stafford Town 7 Shenstone Pathfinder 0
21/9/10 Stafford Town 1 Tividale 6
29/1/11 Stafford Town 2 Goodrich 3
15/3/11 Stafford Town 1 AFC Wulfrunians 2
19/3/11 saw last 23 minutes after the goal was scored of Town 0 Gornal 1
16/8/11 Stafford Town 0 Shawbury United 2
30/8/11 Stafford Town 3 Shifnal Town 3
24/9/11 Stafford Town 5 Pelsall Villa 0
18/10/11 Stafford Town 7 Stone Old Alleynians 3
1/11/11 Stafford Town 4 Goodrich 3

The first day of the November marks the start of a busy month for Stafford Town with no fewer than nine league and cup fixtures including the big FA Vase derby against Brocton. Mind you, the month will be busy for all Premier Division clubs with plenty of midweek games coming up over the next few weeks. Perhaps the league’s Fixture Secretary has had one eye on the forecasts of an impending ‘big freeze’ and decided to get as many games played sooner rather than later – who would blame them?

In two previous meetings this season, both at Goodrich Sports Ground, honours have been even with Goodrich winning 3-1 in the league and Town successful in the FA Vase by the odd goal in 13 after extra time.

Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Bewdley, admittedly with a depleted side, left Stafford in 14th position in the table with 17 points from 12 games. As the programme editor pointed out in his notes, Goodrich (in 7th position with 25 points from 16 games) have made a good start to the season after finishing second-from-bottom in 2010/11.

Both sides looked to get forward during a lively opening after Goodrich (in a change kit of white shirts with navy blue shorts and socks) got the game underway attacking the south end of Evans Park.

Stafford (in familiar all red) had the first effort on target when Craig Hulme’s low shot beat Goodrich keeper Paul Fryer but defender Liam Evans booted the ball clear for a corner.

Paul Burn, in ‘outstanding form’ at Bewdley on Saturday, produced a superb one-handed reaction save in the 20th minute to keep out a close-range header from Daniel Forrest.

The Stafford keeper, however, could do nothing to prevent Goodrich taking a 26th-minute lead. Nick Pugh got down the left and crossed low into the area when Levi Chambers stroked the ball home at close range.

Hesitancy in the Goodrich defence allowed Town to equalise within two minutes. Carl Morris rifled an unstoppable rising drive past Fryer and into the net.

The visitors struck the woodwork just after the half-hour mark from Forrest’s angled shot and continued to keep Burn busy who produced a decent diving save from Chambers who had got clear of his marker down the right.

But, Burn suffered one of those rare nightmare moments in the 44th minute when he allowed a rising long-range shot from Ryan Molesdale to slip through his hands and into the net.

Whatever ‘Doc’ said in the changing rooms saw Stafford start the second half in determined mood and within four minutes of the restart they had transformed a 1-2 scoreline into 3-2 with two quick goals.

They levelled things up in the 47th minute at the end of a delightful move. Tom Smith fed Jack Milgate who in turn set up a chance for Craig Hulme who stroked the ball home into the bottom left corner of the net. “That was a great goal, wasn’t it?” said someone in the crowd and I couldn’t disagree.

Less than two minutes later, Morgan Hurley got clear of his marker on the left and finished with a low angled shot into the far right corner of the net to put the Reds in front for the first time.

With their tails up, Town continued to cause problems for the Goodrich defence. Hurley again showed a great turn of pace to run towards goal before unselfishly finding Hulme who saw his shot cleared off the line by Kieron Payne.

Town opened up a vital two-goal cushion in the 76th minute to make it 4-2. Hulme on the left squared a pass to Tom Smith who curled a perfect shot from 12 yards out into the left side of the net.

However, Goodrich bounced back by scoring their third goal in the 80th minute to set up a tense finale. Nick Pugh forced the ball home at close range after the Stafford defence failed to deal with Scott Stevenson’s cross which the injured Burn failed to hold.

With just a one-goal advantage and Andy Heal in goal for Burn, Stafford were forced to defend in depth to repel Goodrich pressure and survived a penalty appeal for handball. The visitors had one last chance during over five nervous minutes of stoppage time which Nick Pugh fired high and wide.

With three wins on the trot of Town in front of my eyes (following seven games home and away without seeing a win) I think I’m no longer the bad omen I thought I might have been.

Stafford Town (red/red/red): 1. Paul Burn, 2. Mat Dockerty, 3. Luke Gough, 4. Wayne Bailey, 5. Tom Betts (capt), 6. James Price, 7. Carl Morris, 8. Jack Milgate, 9. Morgan Hurley, 10. Craig Hulme, 11. Tom Smith. Subs: 12. Dom Ward (for Betts, 85), 14. Adam Price (not used), 15. John Kirby (not used), 16gk. Andy Heal (for Burn, 83). Manager: Steve Dockerty.

Goodrich (white / navy blue / navy blue): 1. Paul Fryer, 2. Jack Johnson, 3. Scott Stevenson, 4. Kieron Payne, 5. Liam Evans, 6. Daniel Forrest, 7. Ryan Molesdale, 8. Nick Pugh, 9. Levi Chambers, 10. Sean Pugh, 11. Tim Jackson (capt). Subs: 12. Scott Embrey, 14. Chris Smith (for Chambers, 64), 15. Michael Allen (not used), 16. James Machin (not used), 17. Giles Harvey (not used). Manager: Danny Watson.

0-1 Levi Chambers (26)
1-1 Carl Morris (28)
1-2 Ryan Molesdale (44)
2-2 Craig Hulme (47)
3-2 Morgan Hurley (49)
4-2 Tom Smith (76)
4-3 Nick Pugh (80)

Stafford: Tom Betts (YC, 10)
Goodrich: Daniel Forrest (YC, 77)