at Bishop Burton College
Westella Hanson (1) 4
Mike Pecora 41, 85
Bobby Stevenson 65, 77
Harworth Colliery (0) 1
Tom Walker 90+
Admission ?, Programme £1
Curtis Alden, Rob Dodson, Jack Walters, Andy Bagshaw, James Atkinson, Matt Fyvie (C), AlexWood, Dave Gordon, Mike Pecora, Bobby Stevenson, Joe Norton
Subs - Garry Flounders, Mike Hewitt, Chris Plummer, Luke Metcalfe, George Inman
Mark Latham, Jordan Hardman, Jonny Bownes, Greg Fox, Martyn Gee, Gareth Sides, Greg Archer, Ollie Chappell, Dean Bonser, Tom Walker, Sam West
Subs - Makenzie Tomlinson, Lewis Hilton, Lee Edmondson
The Colliery travelled to Bishop Burton in a justifiably optimistic mood, on the back of 6 wins from their last 7 games.
An impressive run that includes 3 consecutive away victories at Kinsley Boys 3-0, Phoenix 5-0 and Brodsworth Welfare 5-0.
The only game they haven't won during that 7 game spell, was in the Floodlit Cup, where they went down 1-0 at home against today's opposition Westella Hanson.
A Chris Spinks penalty kick decided that one, on a night when Harworth will have thought they ought to have got more out of the game.
Westella also beat Harworth 3-2 earlier in the season, on a wet and windy October afternoon.
By way of a massive coincidence, a sentence from the match report to that game read thus: "If truth be told Harworth had given themselves too big a hill to climb during a couple of slapstick second half minutes when they gifted Westella a two goal advantage" ... hmm, enough said!
Interestingly enough, Bobby Stevenson hasn't scored for Westella since that CMFL North league game at the Rec either, he must save his best performances for when he comes up against Harworth.
That suited Westella more than Harworth on this narrow Bishop Burton pitch, because the home side are very good at absorbing pressure and closing the opposition down and then hitting them on the break.
The Colliery won't come up against a better drilled and more well organised side all season.
Their manager, Leon Sewell, is rigidly methodical in his thorough approach to tactics and Westella have a good number of players among their ranks, who will clinically take advantage of any slip, or scrap of an half chance presented to them in the final third ... as they showed today, even in the absence of their top scorer Chris Spinks.
I think that because of the way they grind teams down and then pounce after soaking up a wave of attempts to break them down, a lot of people fall into the trap of believing that 'Stella quite often win games against the run of play, or that they have got the rub of the green and luck on their side and to that end they probably don't get the credit they deserve.
Standing back and looking at the bigger picture, this is a team winning games week in and week out on their own terms, who could easily compete at a higher level than the CMFL by applying those same tried and tested methods.
AFC Mansfield, 3 points behind Westella, are still favourites for the title because of their two games in hand.
But the title challengers from East Yorkshire are bereft of the burden of expectation that is steeped on the shoulders of my pals from Forest Town and can relax and enjoy themselves that little bit more as a consequence.
It's going to be a very close run thing.
In the 19th minute, Harworth had the first real chance of the game, when Curtis Alden held onto a strike from Sam West.
Shortly afterwards West made himself busy again, laying the ball off to Gaz Sides, who in turn teed up the ball for male model (see below) Greg Fox, whose shot from the edge of the box was charged down.
Sides was the creator once more on 25 minutes, knocking the ball out of the Westella area to West, who caught Alden and his defence out with an audacious attempt from out on the left wing that crashed off the crossbar.
With just over half an hour on the clock, Chappell was unlucky to see his 18 yard pile-driver deflected wide of the goal.
It had been a good opening 30 minutes for the Colliery, but as they piled forward looking to make good their territorial advantage, you could sense that things were going to script for Westella and having withstood a spell of one way traffic, they began to get forward themselves.
Alex Wood broke away at pace and found himself through on goal in a one against one stand off with Mark Latham. The Harworth keeper did very well to get to the ball and deal with the situation.
Within a minute, Wood had ghosted into Colliery territory unchecked again, but this time he put the ball wide of the target. Westella were buoyed up now and pushing forward and the small but very loyal Harworth contingent who had travelled over for the game, started checking their watches, hoping a half time respite and regrouping could turn the tide, while they lamented about the chances that had gone begging earlier in the half while the visitors were in the ascendancy.
Andy Bagshaw saw his goal bound effort turned away for a corner as the home side tried to break the deadlock before the half time.
Joe Norton put the ball wide from Stevenson's corner and it looked as though the teams would be going in level at the break.
But Mile Pecora had other ideas.
And when the ball sat up kindly for him 20 yards out, he let fly with a low shot at the Colliery goal that was moving and swerving about all over the place. It was a nightmare for Latham to deal with and though he instinctively spread himself, the ball cruelly dipped under him at the critical last moment. Bugger!
For the record, Pecora's strike was only the second goal that Latham has conceded from open play since the 4-1 win against Brodsworth on November 6th.
Right on half time, Jonny Bownes ran unchallenged towards the Westella box and let fly from 20 yards out, but his shot went straight to Alden, who gratefully gathered it, to keep his sides interval advantage intact
HT - Westella Hanson 1 v Harworth Colliery 0
The next goal would be crucial now and Harworth had to prevent the home side from getting it, or they could be in serious trouble.
Five minutes into the second half Tom Walker muscled his way into the 'Stella area and was stopped unceremoniously in his tracks by Rob Dodson.
An opportunity to level things up from the spot was just what Harworth needed at the time, but the referee Duncan Robertson waved away the penalty appeals.
Though I'm obviously *ever so slightly* biased, as it transpired, with hindsight, Harworth's comeback hinged on that decision ... and in my humble opinion, Westella got *ever so slightly* lucky with that one.
But there's no good crying over spilt milk I guess and the home side, completely unmoved by the incident, mounted a quick end to end attack that saw Stevenson clean through on goal. But Latham, for the second time this afternoon was alert to the danger and kept Harworth in the game by dealing with another one on one duel.
Sam West got away from his marker down the right and dropped a cross into the path of Tom Walkers run. Walker should've just hit the ball first time, but he took a couple of touches instead, which gave the defence a chance to block his route to goal and he ended up trying to bend the ball round them. It wasn't exactly Tom's best finish this season!
At 1-0, the game was still within Harworth's reach, but they couldn't afford to miss chances like the one Walker had just skied high and wide.
On 65 minutes a slip by Dean Bonser put Stevenson into a scoring position through the right channel, his shot across the face of goal beat Latham who had advanced to narrow the angle and Greg Fox put the ball over the line and into the back of the net via his outstretched leg, whilst vaingloriously attempting to clear the ball..
There are two schools of thought on this one:
1) Fox own goal
2) Stevenson's goal, because it was just about going to sneak in by the upright anyway.
I asked three separate witnesses for their opinion about who the goal should be awarded to and Stevenson won the ballot by two votes to one.
So you have the 'independent' voters, Leon Sewell (Westella manager) and an impartial Westella supporter (AKA Bobby Stevenson's dad) to thank for sparing your blushes Foxy ;-)
To his credit, Dean Bonser held up his hands and conceded that he deserved to be awarded stinker of the match for his momentary lapse that led to the goal ... so fair play to him for taking that 'honour' on the chin. As it happens, there were at least three other candidates who got narrowly got away with 'winning' that unwanted accolade today.
In the midfield, where today's game was won and lost, Greg Archer stood out for Harworth against a compact and crowded Westella formation, but there was only so much he could do against such odds.
And when they did their homework on the Colliery, the home sides management had obviously pinpointed Archer as a creative driving force and danger man, who they would have to keep on top of today ... which they did quite literally at times.
Club captain James Woodward is out of action for several months due to illness. Everybody at the club wishes him well at this difficult time and will be rallying around him, just as he would be them.
He's a top lad Woody, who deserves the respect he's earned from everybody at the club.
Get well soon Skip.
In Woodward's absence, the experienced Martyn Gee has taken over the armband and he seems to be relishing the responsibility admirably and his calm and assured approach instills confidence in those around him..
Westella could now sense that Harworth had been knocked out of their stride by the untimely second goal and they moved in for the kill.
Lewis Hilton threw the away side a temporary lifeline, when he cleared Wood's header off the line with Latham beaten. Play switched quickly from end to end and within moments West was through on goal with just Alden to beat from close range, having left the defence for dead with his pace.
You'd back Westy to score from there nine times out of ten, but on the increasingly boggy surface, all he could do was knock the ball straight into the keepers arms. Hardly a 'stinker' moment, but along with the penalty appeal, Walkers miss and Bonsers slip, that was a pivotal incident that indicated that things just weren't going Harworth's way this afternoon.
Westella have a penchant for punishing individual errors in the last third and when Jordan Hardman stumbled and made a mess of getting the ball away in the right back berth, as quick as a flash, the home side had the ball across the face of the goal where Stevenson put it away from close range, all by himself, without any help whatsoever from Greg Fox.
THREE NIL DOWN AT WESTELLA NOW :-( , read the tweet that didn't upload onto the @HCIFC Twitter feed, due to a distinct lack of any 3G signal on this remote corner of the college campus.
I suppose that, if you're going to suffer due to individual mistakes being punished, then you might as well get them all over and done with at the same time.
But at least they still kept attempting to shore things up, via a concerted damage limitation rearguard action, as the game headed towards full time.
However, upon realising that his path to the Colliery goal was crowded out by a packed and belatedly rigid defence, Mike Pecora opted instead to hit a sublime strike over them all from 25 yards out ... a quality goal that was worthy of clinching any game.
Though, in truth, this one was already a lost cause for Harworth by now anyway, given that they had unwittingly entered into the Christmas spirit a few days early, by gifting their opponents a couple of goals, during a disjointed 12 minute second half spell.
It looked as though things had gone from bad to worse inside the final minute, when Alex Wood 'fell over' an outstretched leg as he homed in on Latham's goal. But thankfully, just like the penalty appeal at the other end on 50 minutes, Mr Robertson didn't have a clear view of that one either. Pardon my closing ranks siege mentality at this juncture, but I'm not going to grass the culprit up. It was a definite penalty though.
I was informed by an enthusiastic 'Stella supporter that this incident had balanced the one out at the other end.
But I won't dwell on that, because it would be churlish to do so.
Deep into injury time, Tom Walker prodded the ball past Curtis Alden inside a crowded goalmouth to claim a consolation goal ... and then the full time whistle sounded and we could all get out of the biting cold and away from the scene of Harworth's biggest defeat of the season.
Even though I was disappointed with the outcome of the game and Harworth's second half performance in particular, I don't want to be too critical, because it's been a good season so far and this same team have played some great stuff to date, especially away from home over the last month or so.
On the day, the Colliery were well beaten, even if truth be told they had contributed to their own downfall at both ends of the pitch at times, but they don't need me to tell them that and I'm sure the players will make amends next time out.
This was genuinely just a case of you can't win 'em all.
Bouncebackability is now the key word. Bring on the next game ... it can't come quickly enough and I'm damn sure that this set of players will be chomping at the bit to show that they are a much better side than today's result suggests.
FT - Westella Hanson 4 v Harworth Colliery 1
Harworth's next first team game is away at Askern on Boxing Day, kick off is at 1pm.
The 'Sat Nav' details for Askern's ground are DN6 0AJ.
Treat yourself, you deserve it!
Two days later, they're on their travels again to Station Road, Collingham, where they face Newark Town. The kick off for that one is 3pm.
The Reserves are also in action on the 28th, when they face Belper United at home, in a game that kicks off at 2pm.
I'll stick my neck out and predict that despite this afternoon's mediocre showing and 4-1 defeat (and with all due respect to the opposition), the Colliery will pick up four points (possibly more) from those two games. But never mind my optimism and the confidence of the supporters that today was just a one off, the players to a man will know that they owe themselves a couple of better performances than todays lacklustre showing.
It doesn't pay to underestimate any team that you are coming up against, but I'm honestly not doing that ... I'm merely affirming my genuine belief that on the evidence of what I've seen so far this season, I know this side are still a force to be reckoned with.
There is still a long way to go, don't write us off just yet.