Saturday, 16 November 2019

Gainsborough Trinity 0 v Morpeth Town 1 - NPL Prem

Saturday 16th November 2019
Bet Victor Northern Premier League, Premier Division
at the Northolme/Martin & Co. Arena
Gainsborough Trinity (0) 0
Morpeth Town (1) 1
Joe Walton 34
Attendance 512
John Rudkin's excellent match photos: click HERE
My point & hope mobile phone pictures: click HERE
Having passed an 8.30AM pitch inspection earlier today, the Northolme pitch was deemed good to go, and Trinity's highest league crowd of the season, so far, made their way along to the former Football League ground, to check out the recently installed manager Curtis Woodhouse's work in progress, team rebuilding, which has already included seven new signings, arriving at the Lincolnshire club in a short space of time; which coupled onto the back of three encouraging away performances at: Dunston, FC United of Manchester and Tamworth, has created a real buzz and feelgood factor around the club.
And although this defeat against a very good Morpeth Town side, still leaves the 'Holy Blues' just one place and one point above the the bottom of the Northern Premier League table, the overall consensus pertaining to today's performance, among the Northolme faithful, seemed to be that the newfound levels of enthusiasm and optimism, are wholly justified and it appears that the team are on the verge of turning the current season around.
Based on what I've seen myself, first hand on the two occasions that I've watched Gainsborough in action this month, I'd be very surprised if they're not climbing the table any time soon.
That said, there is still a lot of work to be done, to kick-start this as of yet, very disappointing campaign for Gainsborough. But the signs are there, that the malaise and decline have started to be addressed and that the work rate and effort have begun to improve on the pitch too... and that progress, in a nutshell, was the main reason that Trinity were applauded from the pitch at the end of the game.
Mr Woodhouse thought that his side were 'bang average' and didn't warrant having the fans clap them off, but regardless of the fact that his side aren't the finish article and firing on all cylinders, as of yet, there was a marked improvement on many levels, from what has been served up thus far this season, and the fans responded accordingly. 
I didn't bother blogging about, or even listing the previous game that I saw at the Northolme, because it was so poor I actually left at half time. Figuring that there was little scope, or hope, that it was going to get any better after the interval... and I'd already wasted forty five minutes of my life, watching two seemingly disinterested teams, haplessly going through the motions. 
Unsurprisingly, that particular game (against Buxton) finished 0-0 and all but convinced me that I'd just seen two sides who were destined for relegation, gingerly tip-toeing on a creaky trapdoor, leading to oblivion.
Buxton, for their part, drew with fellow strugglers Atherton Collieries this afternoon, while Bamber Bridge went down 4-1 at Hyde United. 
So although Trinity are obviously going to have to let their own performances and results do their talking, at least the incoming news from the three clubs directly above them in the table, was all good. While their manager is demanding higher standards as the 'Holy Blues' begin to demonstrate signs of an imminent recovery.
In my humble estimation, this was a very evenly balanced game, that could've gone either way... and Morpeth certainly didn't look like a bottom-half of the table team on today's showing. 
They set up with a midfield that acted as a first wave of defence and for long spells of the game, that is exactly where two hard working sides met head on, looking to unlock each other's well organised defences.
Kingsley James in particular, stood out from the early exchanges onward, sweeping up and organising his back line to good effect, and proving to be a real stubborn cuss for any 'Dandy Highwayman' showing any inclination to stand and deliver in or around Trinity's goal area.
Both sides had chances around the quarter of a hour mark, but Gav Allot, the home side's captain,  and Joe Walton of Morpeth put their respective chances wide, on a rain-drenched pitch, that got wetter as the afternoon wore on.
Shane Clarke must've wished the visitors goal was two yards wider, when his rushed effort flew wide of the mark, while James Williams couldn't keeper his header on target as Trinity went close again.
The visitors conducted a dress rehearsal, when Stephen Forster got forward on the right and crossed to Walton who headed against the right hand upright.
Two minutes later the same Forster down the right, followed by a cross to Walton, beyond the Gainsborough keeper Lloyd Allinson, saw the prolific marksman net his ninth goal of the season, when he directed a header back across the face of the goal and just inside that very same right stick. Practice makes perfect!
Dan Lowson denied Allot and Clarke nodded the ball narrowly wide from Curtis Morrison's cross from the dead ball line... while Michael Turner saw a speculative long range shot fly narrowly wide of the hosts goal, right on the stroke of half time.
HT: Holy Blues 0 v The Highwaymen 1
Billy Chadwick put in a great shift for Gainsborough and probably ran James close for the man of the match award, with his link up play, while Simon Russell adapted well, filling in to protect his defence in whatever the modern day name is for the role that used to be known as a 'Libero', when football was still played in black and white and people took wooden rattles with them to the match and wore silky rosettes in club colours.
Trinity rode their luck... and probably several other people's sahre of good fortune too, ten minutes after the interval, when Liam Noble rolled a slide-rule pass forward, right in front of Jack Foalle, that saw the former Whitley Bay striker, take the ball around Allinson, before a last ditch intervention from the over-exposed keeper, saw him haul the visitors number nine down, just outside his penalty area. The match referee: Reece Davies, decided that the offence only warranted a yellow card, much to the disbelief of the Morpeth players, whose annoyance was further compounded, when Noble sent the resulting free kick over the bar.
Allinson struggled to hold onto a Michael McKeown strike from outside the area, and doubtless would have been mightily relieved to see the ball spin wide of his post.
Gainsborough pushed for an equaliser late on and were almost on level terms when Morrison's shot, as he cut in from the right, was deflected over the bar.
Clarke went close again and Allot was thwarted by a last ditch block as he cut into the Morpeth area from the left, while Dowson, the visitors goalkeeper, seemed to be involved in the thick of the action every few moments as the clock ticked down to full time, when the visitors celebrated hanging on for a hard won three points.
FT: Gainsborough Trinity 0 v Morpeth Town 1
Gainsborough have an away game in Third Qualifying Round of the FA Trophy, against Darlington, to look forward to next weekend, before Stalybridge Celtic arrive at the Northolme seven days later for an FA Cup tie. Trinity's next league fixture isn't until Saturday 7th December, when they face Scarborough Athletic at home. 
While Morpeth travel across to Bamber Bridge next Saturday for a NPL fixture, where they could do today's host a big favour, if they could win on the road again, for the second week running.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

England 7 v Montenegro 0 - UEFA EURO 2020 Qualifier - Group A

Thursday 14th November 2019
UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier - Group A
England (5) 7
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 11, 
Harry Kane 18, 24, 37, 
Marcus Rashford 30, 
Aleksandar Sofranac 66 OG,
Tammy Abraham 84
Montenegro (0) 0
Attendance: 77,277
I could elucidate at great length about the events that took place at Wembley Stadium tonight, but felt that the final score, which didn't flatter England in any way whatsoever, already tells the whole story, of it's own accord.
The hosts were completely in control and looked very comfortable, for almost the entire night, while Montenegro, well, err... they didn't!
Jordan Pickford did have a few saves to make, but on the whole, I have seen far more competitive pre-season friendly/warm up games that what unfolded out on the field of play, under the lights of the national stadium.
England have, of course, qualified for the Euro 2020 tournament... and as a consequence of their results in qualifying group A, they'll play their first three games in the competition proper, at Wembley.
You can't grumble at a seven goal win in international football... and you can only beat what's in front of you, when all is said and done. 
But f*** me! Gareth Southgate could've sent out his team without a goalkeeper for the second half and it wouldn't have made the slightest bit of difference to the final outcome, to what was the England team's 1000th game.
FT: England 7 v Montenegro 0
I did hear say, that some people (probably the plebs who write for the Birmingham Mail) had been lobbying for Jack Grealish to get an international call up, to the full England side.
Give over! That nice Mr Southgate knew that Montenegro would be poor... but not that poor.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Mansfield Town 4 v Rotherham United 2 - AET - FAYC R2

Wednesday 13th November 2019
FA Youth Cup 2nd Round
at the One Call Stadium/Field Mill
Mansfield Town (1) 2 AET: (2) 4
Josh Scott 45+2, Nathan Saunders 70, Ryan Ingram 116, Rio Molyneaux 118
Rotherham United (1) 2 AET: (2) 2
Jacob Grattan 9 pen, 85
Attendance: 189
Mansfield Town U18
Jamie Boyle, Ben Bayliss (Alun Jones 112), Kian Sketchley, Kyle Tomlin, George Cooper, Jordan Armsden (Nathan Saunders 57), Rio Molyneaux, Ethan Hill, Josh Scott (Issac Fisher 120+1), Jimmy Knowles, Shamar Lawson (Ryan Ingram 101)
Unused subs - Leon Philips, Jack Sadler, Nathan Caine
Rotherham United U18
Elliot Ellis, Bolton Makwedza, Charlie Smith, Joel Spence, Jake Hull, Harrison Beeden, George Scott (Robbie Gateshill 45, Haroon Salah 115), Jacob Gratton (Travon Wenham 120), Jerome Greaves (Sam Hanley 71), Ethan Kenny, Wilfred Peel-Evans.
Unused subs - ? Burnett, Josh Millen
Bring on the Rangers!
The third round draw, made well in advance of tonight's FA Youth Cup tie, decreed that the winners will face the U18 side of Championship club QPR, at home, next month.
The two Eskimos that I got chatting to on my way back to the car, following this riveting and absorbing contest, said that they wouldn't be at Field Mill when the level 2 academy youngsters from the west London side roll into town in a few weeks time, due to the fact that they were going back to the northern circumpolar region of eastern Siberia tomorrow, to spend the Winter months there... because, it's several degrees warmer than Mansfield is, at this time of year.
The Millers goal led a bit of a charmed life in the first half especially during opening exchanges, as the young Stags took the game to them from the off, while the visitors keeper: Elliot Ellis, made two reflex saves from close range chances inside his six yard box (although he probably knew very little about the shot that crashed off of his chest, during a frantic spell of Mansfield pressure), while the ball fizzed past the frame of his net, as the Stags started the game in a determined mood, against a side who have already beaten them twice this season.
Shamar Lawson was particularly unlucky not to have found the net (twice) for the home side, as they pressed forward, but it was the visitors from south Yorkshire who took the lead, in the ninth minute, when Jerome Greaves went shoulder to shoulder with George Cooper, just inside the hosts area, and tumbled to the ground as he got away from his marker. The referee, Jack Forder, decided that the contact warranted a penalty, which Jacob Gratton duly buried past Jamie Boyle.
Personally, I initially though that it had been a harsh decision against Cooper, but would have to concede that Mr Forder had a far better (and infinitely less biased) view of the incident than I did, from my perch in West Stand. Subsequent footage confirms that the referee was right and that I should wear my glasses more often. Greaves went down because, accidentally or otherwise, his trailing heel had been clipped.
And three minutes later, Greaves almost won another spot kick for the Millers, but the ref waved his claims away... and as my view was momentarily obscured ;-) I can't really comment any further on that episode. Phew!
Grattan, was a constant menace to the Stags defence... and though Mike Whitlow's side continued to push forward, the Rotherham number nine was still causing the home side problems, forcing Boyle into pulling off a great save at full stretch; before drilling a shot just inches wide of the upright with the midway point of the game rapidly approaching.
The versatile Jimmy Knowles, was playing in the hole between the Stags forwards and midfield to good effect, while Ethan Hill was dominating the middle of the park for Mansfield... and as the first half ran over into stoppage time, it was he (Hill), who delivered a well weighted pass, to pick out Josh Scott's run, and the prolific goal getter emphatically provided the finishing touch, to level things up for the Stags, just before the half time whistle sounded.
45 mins: Stags 1 v Millers 1
The two salient questions during the interval were: would Mansfield's high tempo pressing game, or the visitors resilience win a place in the next round. And, what temperature does human blood actually freeze at? It was getting fffffff...bloody cold, thank goodness the game had kicked off at 7PM.
Of course, the early finish, pre-empting a dash back to my warm car, never materialised, as the second half finished all square too... though the Stags were guilty of not finishing the opposition off, when the pendulum swung sharply their way.
Sadly, just before that happened, Jordan Armsden had been in the wars and had to limp out of the game having taken a knock just before the hour mark... hopefully his injury isn't going to be too serious.
Luckily, Rio Molyneaux, who had been tormenting the Millers out on the right all night, didn't need to share the treatment table with Armsden, after Harrison Beeden arrived like an express train to wipe the Stags number seven out with a shocker of a challenge, which saw the Millers player receive a straight red card... and to be fair to the referee, he had no other option to dismiss Beeden for such a crude lunge.
As the players from both teams reacted to the incident, the Millers keeper Ellis, deserves a lot of praise for steering two of his teammates away from the heated stand off that was developing, telling them not to get involved and stay focused on the job in hand. Not only had the visitors stopper played well on the night, his maturity and attitude also caught the eye.
After receiving treatment, Molyneaux was able to continue... and would go on to have the last laugh over his assailant, who was sat in the stand in time to see the extra time, that the Stags finally saw off their stubborn and well organised opponents in.
Four minutes after Rotherham went down to ten men, they also fell behind for the first time in the game too, when Mansfield finally made their lions share of the attacking play count for something, when Nathan Saunders picked his spot, as cool as you like, after Lawson's delivery into the area found its way through to him.
The Stags were in the ascendancy now and with their their numerical advantage, looked to see the game out against Ciaran Toner's determined and resilient team, who were now relying more on graft than craft, in an effort to salvage something out of the game. 
But the Millers still had an ace up their sleeve, in Grattan, who showed some great instincts to chase down a seemingly lost cause, while gambling on the outcome of Cooper attempting  to break up an attack, by trying to roll the ball back to Boyle... the Stags defender miscued his pass and the Rotherham striker pounced, seizing a free gift of an opportunity, to drill the ball into the back of the net inside the final five minutes of the scheduled ninety.
Mansfield should have killed the game off, but now the game would be decided, either in extra time, or via a penalty shoot out. And, to be fair to Rotherham, they very nearly snatched a win deep into stoppage time, when Jake Hull almost scored from a header.
90 mins: Stags 2 v Millers 2
So at 8.54 PM precisely, the start of an extra period of thirty minutes of football, coincided exactly with the onset of the next ice-age. Shiver mi 'timbers, 'twas getting proper parky by now... not that it seemed to bother the Stags U18 manager Mike Whitlow, who was stood pitch-side wearing shorts.
Both sides went close to breaking the deadlock, as the ten man Millers steadfastly refused to lay down and take their punishment.
Half time of extra time came and went, with the score still locked at two apiece... and when Danny Ingram missed from close range and Hill shot over from the edge of the area, it looked as though the tie was going to penalties.
Ingram atoned for his miss with just four minutes remaining, when he belted an angled shot past Ellis to make it 3-2 on the night. With Rotherham still reeling from conceding Ingram's late strike, Molyneaux cut inside from out on the right flank and curled a quality strike into to top far corner of the net. Game over!
FT: Mansfield Town U18 4 v Rotherham United 2
A cracking game all told, and a great night, spent in the company of Malc Storer and Peter Craggs Jr.
Both teams played their part in what was a proper contest, as games between these two sides tend to be. 
Weather permitting, the Millers U18 side have an away game at Grimsby Town on Saturday morning, while Mansfield's youngsters have a blank weekend, before facing an away trip to take on Notts County on 23rd November.
Right! Where did I put that bloody de-icer? 

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Birmingham City 0 v Fulham 1 - EFL Championship

Saturday 9th November 2019
SkyBet EFL Championship
at St. Andrew's Stadium
Birmingham City (0) 0
Fulham (0) 1
Aleksandar Mitrovic 52
Attendance: 21,334 (inc. 1,505 away fans)
Birmingham City:
Camp, Colin, Roberts, Clarke-Salter, Pederson; Crowley (Gimenez 62), Bellingham, Sunjic, Villalba (Montero 79); Mrabti (Bela 61), Jutkiewicz (C)
Unused subs - Harding, Davis, Maghoma, Trueman (GK)
Rodak, Odoi, Mawson, Ream, Le Marchand (Christie 34); Johansen, Reed, Knockaert; Decordova-Reid (Kamara 81), Mitrovic (C), Cavaleiro (Onomah 65)
Unused subs - McDonald, Kebano, De La Torre, Bettinelli (GK)
We were warned in advance, that owing to flooding across the rail network, there would be numerous train delays and cancellations en route to Birmingham today.
Myself and thousands of other regular Saturday travellers, merely shrugged our shoulders at this not entirely unexpected news... such disruption is par for the course on any given weekend, regardless of the weather. Kudos and respect is due to the on the ground staff, who have worked around the clock to keep the trains moving, but the horse bolted a long time ago, as regards getting the right sort of people to run the franchises of the train operating companies in this country.
The last time that Fulham played at St. Andrew's, it was a joyous occasion for the Birmingham City faithful, when a 3-1 victory, on what was dubbed as 'Survival Sunday', saw Garry Monk's Blues side preserve their Championship status, while the visitors slipped out of the automatic promotion spots and into the play-offs, from where they won promotion by virtue of beating another west Midlands club in the final at Wembley.
The Cottagers began the afternoon in eighth position in the Championships, four places above Blues, but just a single point ahead of Pep Clotet's team... with both sides looking to put defeats last weekend behind them, after Blues went down 4-2 at Cardiff City and Fulham lost 0-3 against Hull City at Craven Cottage.
An eye-catching team rebuilding programme, continues to pick up pace at Birmingham City, who've made a massive statement of intent, by signing long term target, the French striker Jeremie Bela on a three-year deal, after he became a free agent, following a contract dispute with his previous club, Spanish side Albacete, who've subsequently released the player. Bela is the ninth signing made by Pep Clotet, since he was given the title of caretaker head-coach, back in June.
He joins Blues, to add even more firepower to the squad, following the arrival of the eight summer signings, namely: Croatian midfielder Ivan Sunjic, on-loan defender (from Chelsea) Jake Clarke-Salter, Spanish goalkeeper Moha Ramos, former England Under 19 international Dan Crowley, two more Spaniards: the striker Alvaro Gimenez and attacking midfielder Fran Villalba, Ecuadorian winger Jefferson Montero and the former Chelsea and Brentford midfielder Josh McEachran.
Some of these new  recruits are yet to make their presence felt on the first team stage at St. Andrew's; while those that have, have made a massive impact and are an integral part of the high tempo and aesthetically pleasing style of play that the team are currently adapting to.
As well as offering different options to the presently available (and reliable) talent pool already in situ, which includes a growing number of home-grown talents.
It is going to be interesting (and exciting) to see if Bela can add the extra proliferate edge, that Blues require inside the opposition goalmouth(s), to add the finishing touches to the new direction that the match day tactics have been taking of late, while sharing the extra workload and burden that the established players at the club have taken on board, as Blues look to move the season up a gear.
FIFA listed Jarred Gavan Gillett, who acted as today's match referee (and I mean acted in every context of the word), is a former A League official, of Antipodean origin, who was imported this year to take charge of EFL fixtures. Isn't it bad enough that their are already plenty of poor referees in the Championship, without flying even more of them in?
Surely there are plenty of competent British referee's rising up through the ranks who are more than capable of making the step up, instead of handing out the responsibility of  managing games in this country to yet another official, who is seemingly of the same ilk as several others who continue to ruin games in this division, with an often unfathomable lack of clarity and consistency, to a point that borders on them looking as if they have an agenda of sorts, whereby, never giving certain clubs the rub of the green, might just curry favour within officialdom of the EFL. 
There wouldn't be such a thing as football without the match officials... and I'm always one of the first to lavish praise on anyone who has handled a game really well.
But, by the same token, I could provide quite an extensive list of decisions that I've witnessed this season, that step well over the line, that are bordering on handicapping certain teams, by making unfavourable decisions to disadvantage them. As well as citing a whole load disproportionate punishments, handed out to un-favoured clubs, while others get away with similar 'indiscretions' altogether.
Birmingham City, do appear to be high on the victims list, though they're not alone in this respect (ask any Leeds United supporter about it too, for example), even though I'm quite sure that there would be strenuous denials that such a thing even exists, and find myself accused of having a blinkered and biased overview of the situation, to go with my Conspiracy Theorist t-shirt.
Essentially though, while today's win for Fulham, will go down as the fruits of an opportunist strike by Aleksandar Mitrovic, who ceased his opportunity to pounce when Lee Camp appeared to misjudge the flight of a cross from Cyrus Christie, and dropped the ball right at the feet of the Serbian striker, who turned and hooked the ball into the net from a yard out.
So ask yourself, what the effing hell was such a potent force as Mitrovic doing there, unguarded, in the first place? The answer is, he wasn't?
Marc Roberts had Camp's back covered, but the Fulham captained had quite clearly and blatantly pushed the Blues defender out of the way, and into the back of his keeper, to get into that hole in the first place. The next question is then: how didn't Mr Gillett and his assistants see what happened?
Mitrovic is a handful for any defence, and Pep Clotet had even gone so far as to earmark him as Fulham's main threat, in his pre-match press call.
But Blues caretaker head coach (as he is still known), probably hadn't reckoned on the Cottagers prolific hit-man being aided and abetted by the referee.
Of course, in the aftermath of defeat, numerous Birmingham supporters flooded onto social media to hang, draw, quarter and crucify Lee Camp for his error and pile loads of criticism and blame on the Northern Ireland keeper.
For sure, he should've held onto Christie's dipping cross, as the ball moved about in the wind and the rain, even though modern day coaching encourages keepers to punch modern lightweight balls away, But, Camp usually has defensive back up in such situations... and today, that belt and braces safety valve, had been tossed out the way.
I'm not suggesting for a moment that Blues deserved to win this game, because, in my humble opinion, they didn't... and ultimately they paid for not being able to force the issue in front of the visitors keeper Marek Rodak, especially in the first half when he thwarted Kristian Pedersen, Kerim Mrabti and Fran Villalba.
If you don't take your chances, then you're always running the risk of allowing the opposition to capitalise on any given opportunity to nick the lead, be it by fair means or foul.
So while people are queuing up to have a pop at Lee Camp, they might also like to consider that Blues also featured fourteen outfield players during the course of the afternoon, who collectively didn't manage to breach Fulham's rearguard.
And, as I might have already touched on earlier... the referee was a contributing factor in the home side's downfall too.
Of course, Fulham fans could counter that claim, by pointing out that Mitrovic had a goal ruled out for offside during the first half from Anthony Knockaert's right wing cross, but hey ho! Have a look at the replays on TV tonight... Mitrovic had the ball in the net twice, neither goal was legit, but he got away with one of them.
The statistics show, that Birmingham created more goal scoring opportunities than Fulham... they also illustrate that the visitors had considerably more possession of the ball, but everybody knows that there is only one sort of data analysis that counts for anything once the dust has settled... and that is the bloody great big banner headline at the top of this post that says: Birmingham City 0 v Fulham 1.
There is a school of thought, that Mitrovic shouldn't even still have been on the pitch when he scored, after he'd confronted Jude Bellingham in an off the ball incident just before half time, but to my way of thinking that was part of a big learning curve for the sixteen year old Blues player, who stood his ground and was completely unfazed by the whole saga... and was quite obviously not frightened in the slightest of the Fulham captain.
Knockaert shot over and Denis Odoi steered a shot wide of the post, as Fulham pushed forward in an attempt to double their lead, while Mitrovic, having lost control of the ball in the area, took a dive... the referee waved away the fatuous penalty appeals and saw the incident for what it was: assimilation... but failed to show the Cottagers forward a second yellow card.
Hmm, maybe I should get myself on eBay and look for one of those Conspiracy Theorist t-shirts after all.
Blues introduced Giminez, Bela and Montero into the action to try and force the issue and the latter showed good feet to set up a chance for Jutkiewicz, whose header was saved by Rudak at full stretch, moments after Giminez had headed wide from Villalba's cross.
Montero and Jutkiewicz combined again, but this time Alfie Mawason was on hand to make a last ditch block to deny Blues.
With time running out, Aboubakar Kamara got clear and advanced on the hosts goal, but Camp did well to get in the way of the incoming shot and deflected the ball against the post. I bet that doesn't get a mention later, when the critics turn up on t'internet (angry) mob handed tonight.
Footnote: I just checked after I got home... and as of yet, it still hasn't, just saying.
FT: Birmingham City 0 v Fulham 1
Apologies for not mentioning it before, but Jake Clarke-Salter did a great job at the back for Blues today, in the place of the suspended Harlee Dean, so credit where it's due, well played that man.
It's yet another international break for the Championship sides next Saturday. But the following weekend, Fulham face local rivals Queens Park Rangers in a Friday night fixture at Craven Cottage, while Blues travel up to Huddersfield Town the next day, for the first instalment of a Yorkshire double-header that continues a few days later when they have a Wednesday night game at Hillsborough, against that team who are currently managed by a certain Garry Monk.
A great balance of articles herein, and
 a recommended bloody good read too.
So then, it needs to be asked: Aleksandar Mitrovic, is he a decent footballer or not? 
A hero or a villain?
An opportunist with an eye for an opening, or a cumbersome, cheating shit-house?
To answer all of that, requires more than a few simple yes or no responses, but shall we just settle for: he's one of those players, who is a nightmare to come up against, whose physical approach will always mark him out as a hate figure for opposition fans. 
However, Mitrovic is also probably the first player that you would want on the team sheet, if he played for your own club of choice, instead of against them. Either way, he was the main difference between the two sides today, even though the hapless Jarred Gillett, ran him very close for the title role of 'Birmingham City's nemesis' this afternoon.

Saturday, 2 November 2019

FC United of Manchester 2 v Gainsborough Trinity 2 - NPL Prem

Saturday 2nd November 2019
Bet Victor Northern Premier League - Premier Division
at Broadhurst Park
FC United of Manchester (1) 2
Jordan Buckley 30, Tunde Owolabi 74
Gainsborough Trinity (2) 2
Gavin Allot 21, Ross Hannah 43
Attendance: 1,614
THE66POW mobile phone pictures: click HERE
John Rudkin's GTFC match photos: click HERE
Mark Lee's FCUM match photos: click HERE
Samantha Coates' FCUM match photos: click HERE
A 2-2 draw, on the road, against their fifth placed hosts, was a very credible result for second to bottom Trinity, who arrived in Moston, on the back of a 0-4 win at Dunston in the FA Trophy on Tuesday night, in a game that marked the 'Holy Blues' new manager Curtis Woodhouse's first game in charge of the Lincolnshire club.
The visitors enjoyed the best of the first half today, and deservedly led 1-2 at the break, but they had to withstand a torrent of United pressure after the interval... and just about hung on for the draw in the end, after doggedly withstanding everything that Neil Reynolds side could muster to throw at them.
It's been a long time coming for me personally, but today finally marked my first ever visit to Broadhurst Park, which the 'Red Rebels' moved into in 2015.
However,  I had seen them play 'home' games at Gigg Lane (Bury FC), Moss Lane (Altrincham FC) and Bower Fold (Stalybridge Celtic), previously... while they've also used: Ewen Fields (Hyde United), Stainton Park (Radcliffe Borough) and the Tameside Stadium (Curzon Ashton), before they relocated to their own ground, a decade after their original formation.
If you were wondering why there are two different badges on the signage at the entrance to the club car park, because I know what an inquisitive and nosy lot you all are: Moston Juniors FC also play here.
The home side knocked the ball about well during the opening exchanges, without ever looking too threatening, but Trinity soon got into their stride, using the whole width of the pitch well, while Gav Allott, fresh from scoring a hat trick on Tuesday night, was doing what he does best, in his own inimitable style... i.e. making a damned nuisance of himself and letting his presence be known/felt.
But it was Simon Russell who almost put the visitors ahead, when he spotted that Cameron Belford had strayed off of his line, and lofted an audacious long, dipping lob towards United's goal, that bounced away to safety, off the top of the crossbar.
But in the twenty first minute, Gainsborough's attacking approach, reaped rewards, when James Kingsley pushed up on the right flank and delivered an angled ball into the path of the visitors captain Allott, who took a great first touch and steered the ball around the advancing figure of Belford, before calmly rolling the ball into an unguarded net.
Allott went close again, when Kingsley instigated another attack, feeding the ball out wide to Curtis Morrison, whose right wing cross skimmed off of the Trinity striker's head and wide of the target.
The opening goal, acted as an alarm call to the home side and within ten minutes, they were back on level terms, when Alex Curran's free kick, glanced off of Trinity's defensive wall and fell kindly for Jordan Buckley, giving him the easiest of chances to knock the ball past his former United teammate Lloyd Allinson, who was making his first team debut for the visitors today.
Allinson put in a decent shift all told, even though it did look as though he was still getting used to his new defensive colleagues at times, as regards communicating with them, but he seemed to be a fast learner to that end.
Allinson (a dual registration player) is among a number of new signings that 'the Driffield Destroyer' (to give the new Trinity manager his boxing nickname), has recruited in the short space of time, that he has been at the Northolme; who include: Billy Chadwick (on loan from Hull City), Mitch Dunne and Michael Williams (both from Sheffield FC) and defender Will Thornton, another dual registered conscript, who has been enlisted to beef up the 'Holt Blues' defence, which was a role that he evidently revelled in today, especially during the second half.
Four of those 'newbies' made the starting line up at Broadhurst Park, although sadly, Dunne limped out of the game after taking a knock in the fortieth minute, but as he hobbled round towards the bench, with a little help from his manager, when his relacement: Ross Hannah pounced on a momentary lapse by Belford and steeered the ball into the goal from close range, after only having been on the pitch for less than half a minute.
HT: FCUM 1 v Trinity 2
You can always rely on FCUM to provide some decent tunes during the interval... and today was no exception to that end, but their efforts were nowhere near as amusing (for some people) as the pre-match entertainment provided in the car park, when a big clumsy lump lost his footing while getting off of the Gainsborough Trinity Supporters' Club coach, before sliding down a muddy embankment on his bum, and coming to an very undignified and painful halt.
I would have laughed at this (very) sticky predicament too, if I wasn't actually yours truly who was covered in mud and bruises, as a consequence of my part in this messy escapade.
I do my best to provide you all with these slapstick comedy moments, but I'm on the lookout for a stunt double for future performances.
The second half had a bit of an Alamo feel to it, as the home side swamped forward with wave upon wave of attacks... Trinity's foundations were creaking, as they sat deep and repelled their opponents while taking a right old battering.
A United goal was inevitable, but even so, when it eventually arrived, it needed something a bit special to final find a way through the visitors rearguard... and I guess it helps when your number nine just happens to be the league's top goalscorer; because it was he: Tunde Owolabi, who battle his way along the bi-line, towards Allinson's goal, before crashing an unstoppable shot into the net, just inside the far post. Suffice to say: you don't stop those!
While Allott plundered the United defence with a couple of counter attacks towards the end of the game and forced two corners into the bargain, right at the death, Allinson pulled off a great save to thwart the United captain Mike Potts.
This was a hard fought, but well deserved point for Gainsborough, on the strength of their attacking prowess in the first half and defensive toughness in the second.
FT: FC United of Manchester 2 v Gainsborough Trinity 2
After the game, two United fans mistook the Trinity supporters coach, for one of the shuttle buses that runs to and from Broadhurst Park... fortunately for them, somebody pointed out the error of their ways pretty quickly... and they dashed off before the driver headed towards the M62 and Lincolnshire.
Next Saturday, these two sides will be in FA Trophy Second Qualifying Round action, with Basford United heading to Moston, while Trinity are on their travels again, with a trip to Tamworth.
Good luck these respective teams next Saturday, I met some smashing people connected to both clubs today.
I wouldn't imagine that anybody is expecting Gainsborough Trinity to win any actual silverware this season; not unless they've entered a Christmas raffle that has got a set of posh cutlery as one of it's prizes... but if they show the same kind of effort, application and fortitude that they did today on a regular basis, they'll be climbing the table towards safety any time soon, as a direct result of appointing Curtis Woodhouse, into the position of first team manager... a shrewd bit of business indeed, I reckon.