Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Frickley Athletic 1 v MatlockTown 0 - Evo-Stik NPL Prem

Tuesday 28th February 2017
Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, Premier Division
at the SW Jackson Utilities Stadium,
Westfield Lane, South Elmsall
Frickley Athletic (1) 1 Joe Pugh 43
Matlock Town (0) 0
Admission £10 Programme £2
Attendance 235
Frickley Athletic
Seb Malkowski, Ross Barrows, Jack Waters, Bailey Gooda, Reece Fielding, Nathan Valentine, Luke Mangham, Sam Akeroyd, Joe Pugh, Noel Burdett, Tyler Williams (Waide Fairhurst 90) 
Unused subs - Julian Lawrence, Luke Hogg, Lee Morris, Josh Diggles
Matlock Town
Phil Barnes, Liam Marsden, Jake Green (Marc Newsham 81), Joe Doyle-Charles (Andy Wright 65), Adam Yates, Dwayne Wiley, Niall McManus (Paul Ennis 65), Michael Williamsd, Curtis Morrison Marcus Dinanga, Ted Cribley 
Unused subs -Jamie Yates, Callum Lloyd
Lee Morris, the Frickley manager, took over the reigns earlier this season, after Karl Rose stepped down, after the team hadn't picked up any points from their opening seven matches. 
Having led the Blues to their highest league finish since Joe Gormley was a lad, Rose found that his playing squad became targets for more affluent and glamorous clubs, and against the backdrop of the team he'd assembled breaking up and partaking in an exodus away from South Elmsall, Karl was unable to recreate last season's form and did the honourable thing, falling on his sword and resigning his position.
A decision that he took sooner rather than later, so that the club would have a chance to rebuild and recover over the remaining eight months of the 2016-17 term. 
I thought Karl Rose did an excellent job at Westfield Lane, where he exceeded all expectations... and he is a nice guy too. In my opinion it was a sad day for Frickley Athletic and local football in general when he moved on. But football can be a savage game that will chew anyone and everyone up and spit them out again. Usually when you're least expecting it.
But, although Rose was a popular character and his achievements last year always meant that he would be a hard act to follow, I am perplexed to hear the opinions those who are seemingly using the highs of last season to put a downer on the current efforts of Lee Morris and James Kay. 
Turning things round was never going to be easy (or pretty) after such an auspicious start.
Using tonight's game as a case in point, anybody who thinks their team selection and tactics against the promotion chasing Gladiators 100% correct, needs to give their head a good shake.
Possibly there are those among the Blues faithful who feel that they are entitled to a sustained spell of (relative) success, after being spoiled by unexpectedly reaching the giddy (nose bleed territory) heights of seventh last season, whose expectations outweigh the reality of the situation, inasmuch as, if last season's players hadn't scarpered, then the foundations were in place to make a challenge to become one of the clubs who are regularly challenging at the upper end of the table, rather than perpetually struggling to stay out of the drop zone as they have been doing for far too many years.
But Frickley hemorrhaged several pivotal players, and rather than having a springboard to launch another season of progression off of, both Rose and subsequently, the new management duo, found themselves dealing with a make do and mend scenario, from a hampered and handicapped starting position. 
A quick glance at the lower reaches of the Northern Premier League table, suggests to me that Morris and Kay actually deserve a lot of credit for rescuing a sinking ship and navigating it towards the safety of calmer waters. 
But, wherever you go in the  world, you will always find a top heavy quota of Private Frazer and Corporal Jones type characters, who can only see the doom, gloom and panic of each and every situation.
Momentarily heading off on a tangent, can I just put it on record, that the 2016 British war comedy film, based on the BBC television sitcom Dad's Army, was awful; a complete bastardisation of all that the many loyal devotees of the show, including myself, hold dear. 
The Evening Standard gave this travesty of a film one out of five, personally I found their rating to be overly generous; I gave it twenty five minutes and walked out of the Savoy Cinema in Worksop in absolute disgust.
It was great to catch up with so many of the mavericks, mainstays and characters who enrich the rich tapestry of non league football at Westfield Lane tonight. The photographers, bloggers, hoppers, bohemian eccentrics, warehouse rave survivors and duckers and divers were certainly out in force tonight.
To some, who I shall refer to in an intentionally derogatory manner as the 'uninitiated', the semi pro and grassroots game is merely a cheaper and inferior take on the monied version that people pay exorbitant subscription fees to watch on their tennis court sized plasma screen televisions. 
But to the the hordes of unselfconscious followers of the 'non league' subculture, i.e. an underground nether world that exists just below the surface of accepted convention, but only in the minds eye of those with enough nous and perception to want that little bit more out of their football watching experience, this is where the heart, soul, pulse and living breath of the game is. 
If your broad minded curiosity and search for the holy grail of the game led you here, well done, welcome and charmed to meet you. 
Chances are, you might have given up on finding the true meaning of football as a metaphor for life many moons ago, so it found you instead. 
However you got here, you'll know when you've arrived and be grateful that you did. I am.
But, if you're still missing the point, do not adjust your TV screen, or your satellite dish, just carry on along the road a little way, and there is bound to be a Sports Direct nearby, where you can spend £60 on a bri-nylon shirt that will mark you out as a disciple of a completely different sort of football.
To paraphrase and ever so slightly amend a quote by the late, great John Peel: "Apparently there are some people who out there who don't love non league football, I spurn them with my toe"
Image result for John Peel
Might I add, that the SW Jackson Utilities Stadium does seem to have a special kind of aura that attracts so many like minded seekers of the truth. 
Such as the keepers of the highly enjoyable Hip Hopping Yorkshire football blog, pictured here (below) filling in with the match reporting and cameraman duties at tonight's game, who were introduced to me before kick off by the Blues colourful resident press live wire Michael Johnson, an individual who I would have married, if I had been born a woman, or if he had. 
For the record, each to their own, but I'd never personally get involved in same sex civil matrimonial partnership. Your loss Mr Johnson ;-)
Judging by the content of the Frickley Athletic fans forum, not everybody always approves of his writing style, off the cuff narrative and opinions, but I really hope that doesn't discourage him. 
The world doesn't want any more tedious identikit match reports by numbers analysis, but it needs a more spontaneity, humour, flair and an injection of unhinged weirdness from time to time.
The home side started tonight's game with a spring in their step, but once Matlock got hold of the game, as the first half went on, they really must've been wondering how on earth they could have been a goal behind, when the teams left the field of play at half time.
After the break, the Blues were more open up and looked confident as they pushed forward, looking to consolidate their interval lead.
Non League Yorkshire, a website collated by James Grayson, is holding a poll that expires at the weekend, to select the non league player of the month in the county. Although Steve Hopewell of Maltby Main is obviously the odds on favourite to win this accolade. Frickley's Luke Mangham showed tonight why he is also among the contenders, as he probed forward in an attempt to open the visitors defence numerous times. You can add your vote to the poll here: Non League Yorkshire. Hopewell is the fifth choice on the voting list, but don't let me sway your choice ;-)
Treating my better half to yet another night out (I spoil her rotten some times) cuddled up on the back row, on seats that began life at the Olympic Stadium no less, we had a panoramic view of a very entertaining game. Although the floodlight stanchion slightly obscured our view when Matlock's Niall McManus appeared to be tripped inside the Frickley area. But the referee Luke Watson waved play on when he ought to have stopped the game, either to award a penalty or smack McManus' wrists for going to ground like a dying swan and attempting to influence the officials decision with a most convincing example of assimilation that I've ever seen.
In a nutshell, the home side rode their luck on this occasion, in my almost impartial opinion. And if I was Matlock Town supporter, I think that I would have justifiably felt aggrieved over this particular decision.
Gladiators are you ready!?
"Wolf! Wolf! Wolf!"
I lost count of how many times the Gladiators went close in the first half, when a combination of profligate finishing, Seb Malkowski's agility in goal for Frickley and some solid defending by the home side, in particular a very mature and convincing performance by the Reece Fielding, the Doncaster Rovers U18 player, who is turning out for the Blues on a work experience arrangement and was paying close attention to Marcus Dinanga, who had obviously been earmarked as Matlock's main threat and would probably have done better with several of the gilt edged chances the visitors created, had he been afforded the space to get onto the ball in the final third.
Curtis Morrison, Ted Cribley and Adam Yates all went close for the Derbyshire side, with the latter seeing his effort cleared off the line by Ross Barrows, who I'd single out tonight as the man of the match, which was thoroughly warranted by his effectiveness all over the field of play and his vital input both in attack and defence for Frickley.
Both Jake Green and Dwayne Wiley couldn't keep good chances that fell to them on target and Michael Williams was thwarted by 'the Pole in goal', who did well to keep out his free kick.
The world famous, specially commissioned, Frickley
Athletic, centenary celebration 'no parking' cone.
Mangham, Nathan Valentine and Noel Burdett all had opportunities to break the deadlock for Lee Morris' side in a first half that had been pretty much dominated by Craig Hopkins and Glenn Kirkwood's promotion chasing Matlock team.
If Frickley had held on at 0-0 until the break and then upped their work rate, attack wise, in the second half, there was still a chance that they could take something out of a game that Matlock really ought to have been winning comfortably by now.
But as the clocked ticked down towards the end of forty five minutes, Joe Pugh fired a friendly warning shot across the visitors bows, that the vastly experienced Phil Barnes did really well to hold onto.
Two minutes before the break, Matlock got caught right on the chin with a harsh, but well planted, reality slap, when the ever lively Burrows broke free through the right channel and turned the ball across the face of Barnes goal, where it sat up slightly off of a defender on the line's outstretched foot and into the path of Pugh at the back post, who made no mistake from almost twelve inches out.
HT: The Blues 1 v The Gladiators 0
A score line that was in no way indicative a reflection of the balance of play in the first half, but if you don't take your chances against a side with Frickley's battling mindset and you let your guard drop, even for a moment, then you are going to get clobbered.
Crash, bang, wallop!
And if further proof that the Gladiators should've struck while the iron was hot was needed, the Blues came out for the second half and approached the game in a far more gung-ho and cavalier fashion, particularly down the left flank where Tyler Williams was exerting his influence on the game and scrapping for every ball.
It was no mean feat for Williams to be making such a good impression out wide on the left because he was in direct opposition to Matlock's versatile Liam Marsden, who can play at right back, wing back and in central defence, having started out with the Gladiators junior team, Marsden progressed well and moved on to join the Mansfield Town youth set up, where he picked up the club's 'Jack Retter Trophy' in 2013 as the club's  young player of the year and was actually chosen as the man of the match on his first team debut. Alas, he only featured in 14 games for the League 2 side, as well as playing on loan at Guiseley, Brackley Town and Mickleover Sports on loan, before he was released by the Stags at the end of last season. Although, at twenty two years of age, he is still very much on the radar of several professional clubs scouting networks. However, if any of them were checking him out tonight, they would probably have been on the phone enthusing about Williams instead.
Image result for the66pow frickley
FAFC in Lego.
From being in the ascendancy, possession and percentages wise if 'nowt else, the visitors were now having to field a number of Frickley attacks as the home side came desperately close to adding to their one goal advantage. Pugh shot fractionally wide of the post, while Mangham was denied by Barnes, but Matlock had a lucky escape, when Pugh delivered an inch perfect cross into their six yard box, that seemingly only needed a touch, but Williams somehow managed to skim the ball past the wrong side of the post, having made a well time run to meet the ball ahead of Barnes and his defence, In fact his effort was so narrowly wide that many of the Frickley faithful cheered because it looked for all the world as if the industrious winger had claimed the goal that his performance had deserved.
Meanwhile play switched to the following end and Michael Williams shot which flashed wide and Dinanga headed the ball straight at Malkowski.
Image result for frickley athletic the66pow
Paul Ennis, on as a second half substitute for Matlock, almost levelled things up, but Malkowski showed why he is such a crowd favourite at Westfield Lane, by twisting and superbly turning the ball over the crossbar
Williams (the Frickley one) then saw his goalbound strike turned onto the upright by Barnes, while Burdett fired over after Pugh had broken into the left hand side of the penalty area and squared the ball to him.
The final attack of the game saw Valentine encroach into Matlock territory from out on the left and try a snapshot towards the near post, while everyone was anticipating a cross to Burdett and Waide Fairhurst (a ninetieth minute replacement for Tyler Williams) but Barnes was equal to the audacious and improvised finished.
And that was that. Surely the doubters and doomsayers will now cut Morris and Kay some slack, won't they!?
FT: Frickley Athletic 1 v Matlock Town 0
Image result for evostik league
Frickley face Hednesford Town at home on Saturday, then travel up to the north east to take on Blyth Spartans on Tuesday. While Matlock are away at Stourbridge at the weekend, before entertaining Coalville Town at Causeway Lane on Tuesday.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Mansfield Town 2 v Newport County 1 - EFL League 2

Saturday 25th February 2017
SkyBet EFL League Two
at the One Call Stadium, Field Mill
Mansfield Town (1) 2
Krystian Pearce 17
Shaq Coulthirst 75 pen
Newport County (1) 1
Ryan Bird 5
Admission by season ticket
Programme £3. Attendance 3,824 (158)
A gap in the Stags Under 18 team's recent fixture schedule has afforded me the opportunity to 'do my thing' at four first team games in a row, culminating with this afternoon's visit of bottom club Newport County. 
Mansfield have had a proper mixed bag of results and fortunes this past month, while I've been in attendance, but at least I've had the opportunity to witness the full spectrum of what Steve Evans and Paul Raynor's rebuilt team have to offer.
I've seen them at their very best and by the same token, also witnessed a few things that the new(ish) management team will no doubt be working on in training to put right. 
Shaq Coulthirst and his ultra bright teeth
The roller-coaster ride Evans promised the Field Mill faithful, is definitely of the white knuckle variety, there is certainly never a dull moment. And the feelgood factor around the club, or the 'Evans effect' as some people are calling it, is clear for all to see. Well, most if not completely all.
It's even been an eye opening experience for a grumpy old cynical realist like me, who has seen so many false dawns and faux saviours passing through football clubs over the years, it is a wonder that I still bother leaving the house to attend matches and enthuse so positively about the game still.
As of yet, the playing system implemented by Evans and his assistant Paul Raynor isn't flawless, and the squad is still very much in a transitional phase and a work in progress, whereby certain individuals still need time to adjust to their new surroundings. 
The Stags are doing well this season; far better than anyone ever expected or anticipated to be fair, and they're heading in the right direction, while possibly getting a little ahead of themselves still at times.
But just watch them fly once some minor adjustments have been made and one or two of the newcomers reach full fitness.
Kinnel! It must've bee a tight squeeze getting them all in that
Nobody ever wins every single game, and often it's all about how players pick themselves up and respond to losing and the manner in which they learn from the mistakes that they have made along the way. 
Today Evans picks demonstrated that they have the nous and wherewithal to grind out a result when the need arises, or as the Stags manager himself said in the aftermath of this scrappy encounter: "We found a way to win". 
It wasn't very pretty at times, in fact it wasn't even mildly attractive any of the time. But we're now fast approaching the make or break business end of the season at ramming speed and even Dale Winton knows that 'points make prizes', however they come your way, especially on a sticky pitch with the wind howling across it, like it was all afternoon today.
With two awkward away games looming on the horizon, the Stags were faced with an all or nothing type scenario against Newport, where a win... and no other kind of result whatsoever, was imperative.
I won't be at the Stags League 2 game at Yeovil Town on Tuesday, because I have a hot date with Frickley Athletic's Dub Reggae loving, website admin cum match reporting wordsmith that night, so I will have to miss Mansfield Town's midweek long haul, which probably would have been a logistically impossible journey for me to undertake anyway, once I have finished my shift obligations connected to my proper job... y'know, the one that I have away from football. 
Or as the immensely popular Anne Matthews who does a great job in the club offices and shop put it: "You bloody part timer!"
Mark Peters and John Dempster. Feruary 2016
York City U18 0 v Mansfield Town U18 1
And next Saturday I will be travelling north to York City with the Mansfield Town youngsters for a morning kick off and hoping that the weather will be better than the last time we played there just over a year ago, while that nice Mr Evans and his team will be going in the opposite direction to take on Cheltenham Town in a League 2 game. 
Incidentally, the (reigning champions) Stags U18 side have recently been overtaken at the top of the EFL Youth Alliance on goal difference, by Tony Philliskirk's Oldham Athletic side, who scraped a 1-0 away win at Cheapside against Grimsby Town last Saturday morning, they also have a game in hand over the second placed Stags, as the run in for the title has become a two horse race..
Saturday 6th August 2016
Mansfield Town U18 0 v Oldham Athletic U18 0
Having already been held to a goalless draw by their title challengers, on the opening day of the season at Clipstone's ground, John Dempster's young Stags will know what is required of them when they travel to the Latics training ground on Saturday March 25th for a (high) noon kick off. 
Under 18 football is, in the main, about player development, not results. But at Chapel Road, they need to win, whatever else happens... and that will also provide the team with an important lesson too, for when they take the next step up.
"Yellows, yellows, knock the ball in, we really think you're fantastic!"
All of the details about the MTFC U18 teams results and remaining fixture can be found by clicking HERE
And while I (hopefully) still have your attention, the Under 21 side have two Central League fixtures remaining this season: one at home, AKA Rainworth Miners Welfare, on Wednesday 8th March v. Rotherham United Reserves in a game that kicks off at 2pm, and they then finish the season with an away game against Chesterfield Reserves on Tue 21st March, which once again is a 2pm kick off, and though it is still to be confirmed, that will probably be played on the 3G pitch at the home of Eastwood Community FC, which is where Eastwood Town used to play.
Oh, and for the record I will be Colchester United for the first team game on Tuesday March 14th.
"You know Mansfield town, will never let you down!2
It is highly unlikely that the guy who inputs the fixtures into the Football League computer ever peruses this blog, so if you see him around, feel free to ask why Notts County are travelling to Plymouth on the same night that the Stags are at Yeovil this coming week; while neither of the 'derby' games played between the high flying Stags and relegation threatened 'Pies, took place on a midweek night. And if you feel inclined to kick him in the shins (really hard) too, I would appreciate it.
I suspect that everybody else with a vested interest in any of the clubs affected, could find a better fixtures solution, that wouldn't inconvenience a whole lot of people, who want to attend these games but have to go to work instead. 
Just saying!
A minute's applause for two lifelong Mansfield Town supporters:
 Stan Barnes and Edgar Strouther RIP 
Prior to kick off, a minutes applause was observed for two Mansfield Town stalwarts who both sadly passed away recently. 
To their credit the Newport County supporters joined in with the tribute to Stan and Edgar. 
Thanks 'Port fans, your gesture was greatly appreciated and it didn't go unnoticed.
Newport arrived in Mansfield this afternoon anchored to the foot of the Football League, in ninety second place; but in spite of their precarious position, they had only lost once in their previous eight outings, picking up a lot of draws along the way, by being resilient and difficult to break down... and it certainly showed today too.
On a wet and windswept afternoon, conditions that were never likely to be conducive to tippytappyesque ball control and measured distribution (it's my blog and i will invent as many words as I see fit to deliver my narrative), against a side who were stretching the definition of the word battle to it's outer limits, with their overly physical approach, the Stags had to dig in, man up and front fire with fire. 
It was never going to be an easy ride, regardless of what the league table might have suggested.
In Graham Westley, the Exiles have a manager who would probably finish joint bottom in any managers popularity poll, conducted by supporters of the twenty two other League 2 clubs who weren't actually playing at Field Mill this afternoon, with the Stags very own cuddly, jolly, shy and reserved man in the hot seat (if he ever actually sits down) Steve Evans; but I'm damn sure that they would both laugh off that 'accolade' and join ranks to sing a few verses of "No-one likes us, we don't care!" in unison, to celebrate being recognised by their peers, for all of their efforts.
But, they aren't employed by their clubs to meet with the approval of their many critics, the job that they are paid to do is: win as many games and points as possible for Mansfield Town and Newport County respectively, any which way they can. 
And though they both need to amass points so for completely different reasons, that is exactly what they are doing and will continue to do.
Some people don't like their methods, but one must ask exactly how much of the apparent hostility aimed their way actually stems from a very deep seated envy, borne from the fact that they get results and are successful in their chosen field. 
Love 'em or hate 'em (there doesn't seem to be any middle ground whenever either of their names crop up in conversation), the fact is, and the statistics back this up, they are actually good at their jobs. Very good!
Football circa 2016-17 is by and large, a squad game and today Evans rang the changes, four of them in fact, although Hayden White's absence as enforced following his red card at Grimsby last weekend. 
Paul Raynor was also sitting today's game out in the West Stand as punishment for being sent from the bench against Accrington, for making comments that the referee took offence to.
Starting with two up front,  Shaq Coulthirst and Pat Hoban, Evans selection caused a few eyebrows to be raised, when the team sheet came out, because apart from the substitute goalkeeper Scott Shearer, he hadn't got any defenders on the bench.
CJ Hamilton, who I must say put in a great shift for the Stags today, attacked down the left from the off and forced a corner, but the Exiles were defending in numbers and cleared the ball away.
As if the temperamental climate and the obvious dangers posed by coming up against a team who are fighting for their league survival, Mansfield's back line decided that they didn't have enough obstacles to climb yet and in the fifth minute, awarded Ryan Bird with the keys that would allow him to enjoy the freedom of the entire kingdom of Mansfieldshire and instead of clearing their lines from Craig Reid's left wing cross, afforded Bird with the time and space to open the scoring from close range.
A slight lull in the noise emanating from Q Block in upper West Stand, allowed the visiting supporters to make their voices heard, with a chorus of "One-nil, to the sheep shaggers!"
An angry voice boomed out, from a couple of rows behind me: "For f*cking F*cks sake Evans, what the actual f*cking f*ck, was that f*cker supposed to f*cking be!?"
I turned around, raised my right index finger to my lips to make a 'shush' gesture and said: "Mum! Shurrup!" 
There'll be no Ant & Dec for her tonight, I'll tell ya.
The noise soon picked up again as the Stags had a couple of nibbles at getting back on level terms, and finally showing their teeth for real on seventeen minutes, when Krystian Pearce took the ball down from Byrom's right wing free kick, before slotting it under the visitors keeper, Joe Day, from just outside the six yard box.
The Stags were level on 17 minutes. Byrom’s free kick from the right was knocked down by Krystian Pearce and with a second touch he fired under the keeper from 7 yards. A fine goal from Pearce, his third goal of the season. 
Jamie McGuire, who was obviously revelling at being in the starting line up, hooked a dipping shot towards the Newport goal from thirty five yards... and it was certainly worth a go in such a strong wind... but Day plucked the ball out of the air.
The former Stags player Mitch Rose, who moved to Newport last month, saw his shot blocked by Reece Bennett and play quickly switched from one end to the other, where Coulthirst played Hoban through with a well measured pass, but Day denied the Mansfield number nine and though the rebound fell kindly for Hoban to shoot again off the rebound, Mickey Demetriou had moved across smartly to cover his keepers back and blocked the follow up.
Sadly, Jake Kean picked up a knock after Alex Samuel had played a through ball into the path of Jaanai Gordon and the Stags keeper collided with him as he attempted to make a clearance. As Kean went to ground the ball broke loose to Gordon, but Bennett was on hand to make a timely interception. After receiving treatment, Kean attempted to carry on, but had to limp out of the game ten minutes later and was helped around to the bench by Brian 'the Beast' Jensen, while Scott Shearer took over in goal.
In the interim Day had done well to get down to his left  and keep out a downward header from Bennett, after Hamilton and Benning had combined to create the chance.
Samuel delivered the ball across the face of Mansfield's goal and Shearer allowed the ball to travel between his hands, but luckily, Ben Whiteman was on hand to divert the ball to safety into the Quarry Lane End.
On the stroke of half time Dan Butler picked out Bird with a cross, but instead of hitting the ball on target, with the goal at his mercy, County's number forty did a very passable impression of the legendary 'Mister Sitter' instead.
HT: Stags 1 v Exiles 1... a fair reflection of the opening forty five minutes IMHO. 
For what it's worth I thought that Hamilton and Coulthirst, both possibly had their best games so far this season for the Stags... in the games that I've seen anyway, though I do miss quite a few first team matches when I've been off radar from wherever the Stags first team are playing at some outpost or another with the youth team.
I've been told by a couple of people whose judgement and opinion I respect and spend many a looooong hour in the company of discussing a whole myriad of football matters, that Coulthirst is a very skillful and competitive player, but his first touch lets him down and he can probably trap a ball and bring it under control for as far as most people can kick it.
However, in light of such an evaluation of the player, I have studied his technique very closely for a few weeks, and concluded that he has either been practicing really hard and working on this apparent shortcoming, or they were talking bollocks all along, because he hardly put a foot wrong all afternoon, in spite of being subject to some tight marking and close attention.
I'm glad that it was Coulthirst who scored the winner (though I would happily have taken a flukey own goal too, obviously) because he deserved it after the hard graft he'd put in today.
Krystian Pearce won today's man of the match award... and too be fair I could probably see why, but Coulthirst, along with Bennett and Hamilton couldn't have been far behind.
One person who I didn't think had a good game, if I'm being honest ,is the match referee, Ross Joyce, but I wouldn't have envied any official tasked with picking the bones out of what was going on all over the park and on the touchline, as the 'tackles' flew in... and the protests got louder and became more frequent.
Westley, running the clock down with an act of 'gamesmanship' and skulduggery that (the great) Don Revie himself would've been proud of, instructed the fourth official to put up the board to indicate that Gordon was being substituted and then instructed his replacement to take his time getting stripped for action, then told the official to put the board down because he'd changed his mind. 
But his devious caper monumentally backfired on him.
With the crowd chanting "Graham Westley is an anchorman" or something along those lines, the Newport manager looked on in horror as Gordon picked up two yellow cards, for fouls on McGuire and then Joel Byrom. 
Hmm, I think it is safe to say that during those crazy and very heated couple of minutes, Gordon had made Westley look very silly. Not that he'd really needed anybody's help.
It was pure theatre down on the pitch (and inside the technical areas and several yards either side of them) and though some of the sideshows and distractions on offer would've irked the purists, a quick glance around those sat nearby would suggest that most people were actually lapping up the additional entertainment.
Cheerio! Cheerio! Cheerio!
If the Newport manager was angry about apparent injustice of the sending off.... though lord knows why, it was Gordon he ought to have been annoyed with for his crass stupidity, then he must've had steam coming out of his ears when Mr Joyce awarded the Stags a penalty.
Y'know what? On reflection maybe the official had a decent game after all ;-)
Coulthirst tried his luck with a long range shot that was blocked by Craig Reid, who bravely put his body in the way, but the ball cannoned off of his arm.
A case of a clear goal scoring opportunity being blocked by the arm of a defender, or a blatant accidental and unintentional 'ball to hand' incident.
The referee blew and pointed to the spot and Coulthirst stepped up and netted the ball via Day's outstretched hand... having retrieved the ball twice beforehand as it blew away in the strong wind.
The picture is blurred, but who cares? It went in :-D
Harsh on Newport? 
Err... maybe.
Reason to celebrate wildly because the Stags were now about to narrowly (and possibly a bit fortunately) beat the league's bottom club? 
When your down near the foot of the table, these sort of things always go against you.
It is an unwritten rule... and Mansfield have certainly had more than their share of being on the receiving end of such 'turning points' over the years, so f*ck it!
No remorse, suck it up, move along, there's nothing to see here; apart from the Stags 'winning ugly'... hideously actually, but any kind of win is still a win
Newport launched a long free kick into the home side's goalmouth, but Shearer got a vital touch to push the ball away.
I'm told that there were actually only five minutes of additional time at the end of the ninety, but from my vantage point it seemed like an eternity as Newport poured forward in an attempt to force a draw.
They almost got one and it probably wouldn't have been undeserved either, when Mitch Rose picked out Marlon Jackson with a knock into the Stags area, that the 'Port number thirteen nodded into the path of Bird, who lofted the ball over Shearer but onto the roof of the net.
And that was that... Mansfield returned to winning ways, but Newport had made them fight all the way for the three points.
FT: Mansfield Town 2 v Newport County 1
The Stags now face the two aforementioned away trips to Yeovil and Cheltenham, while Leyton Orient travel to Newport next Saturday. And while all of the Exiles remaining fixtures are now vital for them, this particular game holds even more significance for Westley's side, because the O's are only one place above them in the table.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 v Birmingham City 2 - EFL Championship

Friday 24th February 2017
SkyBet EFL Championship
at Molineux Stadium
Wolverhampton Wanderers (0) 1
Nouha Dicko 73
Birmingham City (2) 2
Maikel Kieftenbeld 27, David Davis 32
Admission £15.00. Programme £3
Attendance: 27,541
And you thought your club's programme cover was weird
Wolverhampton Wanderers:
Ikeme, Coady, Batth, Stearman, Doherty, Price, Saville (Dicko 46), Helder Costa, Edwards, Weimann, Bodvarsson
Unused subs - Lonergan, Enobakhare, Saiss, White, Williamson, Marshall
Birmingham City:
Kuszczak, Dacres-Cogley, Shotton, Robinson, Nsue (Stewart 78), Davis, Tesche, Kieftenbeld, Keita, Gardner (Bielik 55), Adams
Unused subs - Legzdins, Gleeson, Frei, O'Keeffe, Sinclair
This win for Gianfranco Zola's side, saw them edge up the table into thirteenth place, still fifteen points behind Sheffield Wednesday, in the nearest play off position (which is well out of reach for Birmingham now), but also thirteen points above the drop zone, which was starting to loom ominously closer (and closer) as Blues recent slump in results continued.
I promise that this is the very last time that I will mention the name of their previous manager, but ironically, tonight's win came from the sort of performance that you would have associated with Gary Rowett's reign in the St Andrew's hot seat, in as much as, flair was sacrificed by the need to grind out a  result with a backs to the wall performance that saw the visitors grind  out a result, while absorbing a lot of pressure as Wolves attempted to stage a second half comeback against a ten man Blues side, who played out the last forty minutes a man short, after their captain Paul Robinson had allegedly raised his arm to Dadi Bodvarsson.
As of Friday 24.2.16
Birmingham opened the scoring after twenty seven minutes, when Carl Ikeme completely misjudged the flight of  Craig Gardner's right-wing cross and could only divert the ball into the path of Maikel Kieftenbeld, who slid in to nudge the ball into the unguarded net. Dame Fortune, for one night only, smiled on Gianfranco Zola tonight and his relief was clear for all to see.
Five minutes later, Che Adams ball into the area was deflected into the path of David Davis who curled a shot past Ikeme to double Blues advantage. And while the sold out visitors section in the lower tier of the Steve Bull stand celebrated wildly, the former Wanderers player raised his finger to his lips towards the South Bank, from where he had been receiving a fair amount of stick on his return to Molineux and beckoned the 'Yam army' to shush.
Just to rub the home fans noses in it that little bit more, Davis was also awarded with the man of the match award tonight.
In the second half and especially after Robinson's dismissal, Blues had to withstand a fair amount of pressure, especially from a string of set pieces in their final third and Nouha Dicko set up a grandstand finish to the game, when he turned in a low cross from Helder Costa, who had taken advantage of  Emilio Nsue's misplaced pass in the seventy third minute.
The stop/start nature of this encounter and a whistle happy referee, broke up the flow and momentum of the game somewhat, which added to the frustration of those among the visiting support who weren't enjoying the very real possibility of a  Wolves comeback.
Ryan Shotton and  Krystian Bielik, both made vital interceptions as Blues rearguard began to creak under the pressure Wolves were applying, but they held on, right until the end of nine minutes of stoppage time, to claim the bragging rights against the Black Country side.
FT: Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 v Birmingham City 2
Please excuse the brevity of this overview, this roving reporter is currently sat on Derby railway station, waiting between train connections on my way home. On my way here I have seen first hand how desperate the West Midlands police force are to reclaim their crown as the worst behaved towards football supporters in the whole country... no further comment!
The sights and sounds of the kind of people who frequent such places at this unearthly hour are akin to what you'd expect if you wandered inadvertently into the epicentre of a Zombie apocalypse. I probably fit into all of this far more readily than I'd care to contemplate.
Tonight's result saw Wolves slip into twentieth place in the table, after Burton Albion drew at home to Blackburn Rovers to ease (ever so slightly) their own relegation worries.
Don't wait up!