Sunday, 21 May 2017

Cleethorpes Town 0 v South Shields 4 - FA Vase Final & Macclesfield Town 2 v York City 3 - FA Trophy Final

Rogues gallery
Sunday 21st May 2017
Non League Finals Day
at Wembley Stadium
Admission £25: combined ticket for both Wembley Finals.
'Club Wembley' freebies were available, but that wasn't where we wanted to sit.
Programme £5: covered both games, if you flipped it over there were two front covers that coordinated with which way up the content was 'til the middle pages.
Half and half scarves are a no, no, but half and half programmes will never hurt anybody.
Attendance: 38,224
FA Vase 2017 Photo Gallery Links: Page 1 & Page 2
You can read the Macc Town and York line ups while you're doing
your yoga exercises. Failing that, turn your monitor screen upside
down, FFS I'm doing my level best here to accommodate you all. 
It's early AM on Sunday morning and I'm up at the crack of dawn (but she doesn't seem to mind too much), melting a man sized slab of Red Leicester onto my toasted doorstep slices, before sliding into a deep filled hot tub, to soak away all of the aches and pains, that act as warning signs of my rapidly declining health, the deterioration of my arthritic limbs and muscle tissue, and the imminent onset of decrepitude and old age. 
I shaved off my beard, because I've finally come to realise that my facial hair has an uncanny resemblance to your grandmother's unkempt lady garden... you'll have to trust me on this one, photographic evidence is available, but I fear that it would be rather disturbing for some of you more delicate souls to peruse the evidence and that would also possibly violate my blog hosting company rules... and I was raring to go, ready to take on the world, the sun has got his hat on, hip, hip, hip, hoofunkingray. It's cup final day!
And today, I won't be sitting in front of the TV all day, switching between ITV and BBC1, absorbing every minute of the build up, right through from Noel Edmond's Multi Coloured Swap Shop's cup final special edition, with Keith Chegwin visiting the teams at their respective hotels, before Dickie Davis and Bob Wilson vye for my attention with wall to wall coverage on World of Sport and Grandstand, because this very morning, que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be. I'm going to Wembley. 
And I'm as giddy as a big kid making his first ever trip to the national stadium, even though I've been there zillions of times before, over the 42 years since my first visit.
The rest of the 'Maltby Massive' are boarding the train at Doncaster and I'm joining up with them at 8.51 when their train gets to Retford. 
There's hardly a soul out and about enjoying the bright start to the day as I park up near the station and walk onto the platform, at just after half past eight, which is just as well, because when I put my hand in my pocket in search of my train ticket to check which coach I'm travelling in and... 
A screech of tyres preempts a mad dash home to salvage my travel documents and Wembley ticket, which are still in the safe place that I put them last night, so that I wouldn't forget them. 
Old age and reduced mental faculties is fair galloping over yonder hill in my direction, I'll tell thee! But I got back to the station, with a whole 186 seconds left to spare, before the train pulled in, so all's well.
Platform 1 was awash with football supporters in blue shirts; probably Macclesfield Town fans making an early start, or so I assumed, but couldn't understand why they would have taken such a circuitous route. Yet on closer inspection, I discovered that they're all wearing Chelsea favours. 
WTF!? Chelsea!? There were always a few of them around town (hey oop! Chris, Johnno and Robin), but since when had East Retford upon Idle suddenly become an effing Chelsea stronghold!?
I boarded the train and received a text message from Maltby Main FC's head honcho 'Wild Wilf Race' "We're in coach G pal, sat opposite Judas Escariot", so I located my 'gang' and informed Mr Race that: "It's spelt Iscariot, note Escariot', but he was having none of it, so I looked it up on that there Google speller thing on my phone and typed in: 'Correct spelling of Judas Iscariot' and was amazed when the answer came back as: The correct spelling you require is... S-P-E-N-C-E-R F-E-A-R-N. 
Wow! What a bleedin' coincidence that was, that's exactly the same name as that treacherous manager who left Maltby in the lurch last week, when he legged it to Frickley Athletic. And blow me down, when I turned around to check out what Mr Iscariot looked like, there he was: the shameless traitor who recently took on the role of manager at everyone's favourite South Elmsall based football club himself. 
Only joking pal!
Jesting aside, it was good to catch up with Spen, the timing of any manager leaving a club is never going to be perfect, but I genuinely wish him and his back up team well in there new role and think it needs putting on record, that all of the negative stuff a few uninformed people have been posting about him on forums and social media of late, is a right load of bollocks. 
I'd say to all Frickley fans... give the guy a chance, talk to him if needs be, I'd wager that you'd find fewer people in football who are more approachable.
The guy has done only good for Maltby Main, during his tenure there. Ask anyone there.
As an aside, a subsequent committee meeting following his departure, was a clarion call to arms for those who still work for 'the Miners', who needed to think quickly and on their feet, galvanise and clearly focus on solutions, to work through the impending short term future disruption at the club
A strategy was quickly implemented to minimise the impact and some very positive news about a very exciting appointment, will be made through the correct channels very soon. 
Maltby Main is a small club, but it's big, big heart is pumping like the clappers right now.
The banter flowed and we were soon in London and decided to visit Madame Tussauds and the Sherlock Holmes Museum en route to the national stadium, so we alighted at Baker Street tube station, like what the free tourist map we picked up and Kings Cross said we should do for these tourist attractions, but we got lost and ended up in a public house called the Globe instead.
It was only good manners to partake in some refreshment there and by way of a massive coincidence, we managed to board a train that dropped us off right at the end of Wembley Way ten minutes before our first game kicked off.
I've lost count of the amount of times that I have got lost on the way to cup finals and international matches and ended up in the Globe, or the Metropolitan on the opposite side of the road, but I would imagine that my missus, who quite often accompanies me, could provide you with an answer as to exactly how many times we have visited her two favourite drinking establishments over the years.
Inevitably ,the first person we bumped into outside the stadium was a fellow Retfordian, who asked me to pose for a photo with him, while he was brandishing some novelty shaped sex aid in his right hand. 
I was happy to oblige, because Paul Mayfield, the recently crowned EFL League 2 Supporter of the Year, is a genuinely nice bloke... but by heck! I know some bloomin' strange people.
The teams were just shaking hands as part of the pre-match formalities when we took our seats in the section of the ground that was put aside for the supporters of our very good friends Cleethorpes Town. 
To be honest, we thought, unanimously, that South Shields would probably be the favourites to win this game, but you can seldom predict the outcome of these one off games and big occasions.
Besides which, the Owls had arrived at Wembley off the back of ten straight wins in row and had already clinched the NCEL Premier Division title and the Lincolnshire FA Cup this season and were unbeaten since they lost to a mighty fine Maltby Main side, back on Wednesday 29th March at Muglet Lane.
South Shields, backed by around 13,000 fans today, have only lost three games all season and haven't tasted defeat since North Shield beat them 1-0 in a local derby fixture at Mariners Park, way back on 5th November.
The Mariners had already won three trophies this season prior to today, as they picked up the Northern League Cup and Durham Charity Cup while also winning the Northern League Division 1 title and the promotion to the Northern League Premier division that goes with it.
Cleethorpes had already beaten a Northern League team on their way to Wembley, when they won 2-1 away against Billingham Town, in the fourth round, while South Shields had already put paid to another NCEL clubs Vase aspirations, when they saw of Staveley Miners Welfare 3-0 when the Derbyshire club travelled up to the north east in the third round.
Northern League clubs have a very healthy history of success in  the FA Vase, while only two NCEL clubs have ever won it before, namely Guiseley in 1991, who won a replay at Bramall Lane after drawing their initial game with Gresley Rovers at Wembley Stadium, and Brigg Town, who've won it twice, in both 1996 when they beat Clitheroe at Wembley and 2003 when they beat AFC Sudbury in a tight game at Upton Park.
So now you know!
FA Vase Final
Kick off 12.15pm
Cleethorpes Town (0) 0
South Shields (1) 4
Carl Finnigan 43 pen
Dillon Morse 80
David Foley 86, 89
Cleethorpes Town:
Liam Higton, Tim Lowe, Matt Bloomer, Matty Coleman (Luke Mascall 70), Peter Winn, Liam Davis (Jack Richardson 73), Liam Dickens, Alex Flett (C), Jon Oglesby, Marc Cooper (Andy Taylor 61), Brody Robertson
Unused subs - Gary King, Kieran Wressel
South Shields:
Liam Connell, Alex Nicholson, Dillon Morse, Jon Shaw, Darren Lough; Andrew Stephenson (Robert Briggs 55), Julio Arca (C), Wayne Phillips (Barry Smith 83)  Gavin Cogdon, Carl Finnigan (Michael Richardson 70), David Foley
Unused subs - Louis Storey, Darren Holden
Carl Finnegan, who is referred to as 'Mr Poser' in  the matchday programme, got the game underway, sporting his new Wembley haircut, that gave him more of a look of Kenneth DuBeke (the hairdresser out of the comedy series Benidorm, in case you were wondering) than he'd probably intended, and it became fairly obvious early in the game, just how ominous a task it was going to be to keep South Shields at bay, as they looked to pick holes in the Clee defence down both flanks right from the off. But Tim Lowe and Peter Winn, the Clee full backs got straight into their stride from the off and calmly, but efficiently set about keeping David Foley and Gavin Cogden in check.
And if early impressions were to prove anything to go by, the lines had already been drawn for what were shaping up to be some of the key battles of the afternoon.
Liam Higton the Cleethorpes keeper, was called upon to act as an emergency sweeper a couple of times, while his teammates tweaked their strategy to deal with South Shields player rotation and diagonal runs across the Owls back third.
But having weathered an early storm and fended off the threat posed from a string of corner kicks the NCEL champions belatedly began to ask questions of the South Shields defence.
Brody Robertson, the prolific Owls striker put on a burst of pace that put him within shooting distance of the South Shields goal, but Liam Connell managed to get across to his left and push the ball away at the expense of a corner.
Liam Davis, forty yards from the Mariners goal threaded a defence splitting pass into the feet of Marc Cooper, but just when he needed the ball to fall a foot in front of him, or bobble up in the manner that he has become accustomed to on any number of non league pitches on a weekly basis, it got caught up between his feet and in spite of having made such a great blind side run to meet Davis' slide rule delivery, the Clee number nine was unable to get his shot away.
Wayne Phillips attempted to catch Higton out with a speculative long range effort that cleared the cross bar and DuBeke, whoops! Sorry, I meant to say Finnigan (easy mistake to make) had a close range shot blocked by Matt Coleman.
Winn put a firm but fair tackle in on Finnigan just inside the Owls penalty area, but the referee, Mr Darren England was well placed to make a decision and ignored the Northern League side's claims for a spot kick.
But within a minute, Cogdon tried to some space between him and Lowe and the Cleethorpes right back clipped his heel with his trailing leg and this time Mr England had no option but to award a penalty, which Finnigan calmly slotted past Higton as he sent the Owls keeper the wrong way.
Right on the stroke of half time, Cogden broke free and cut in towards Higton's goal from the left hand side of the area, but the diminutive keeper contorted his frame in mid air and pulled off a remarkable save as he turned the ball against his right hand post.
HT: Owls 0 v Mariners 1
Cleethorpes probably had their keeper to thank for only going into the break a goal behind, but they came out in the second half looking eager to get back into the game, but Connell got his bearings right and was well placed to gather Cooper's long range effort.
David Foley, a veteran of over 100 first team appearances for Hartlepool United, before he ended up at South Shields via a brief spell at Barrow and stints in both Puerto Rico and the USA, had seemingly put his side two goals ahead as he launched a rasping shot towards the top left hand corner, but Higton, who must surely be a relation of Stretch Armstrong managed to tip the ball against his bar and against the odds too.
Seconds later, Higton proved that he didn't only make spectacular saves, when he made a routine stop as he blocked Cogdon's close range effort after the lively Shields number 9 had forced a channel through the Owls defence.
Clee forced a corner out on the right that Winn delivered into the mix, where the previously infallible Connell failed to take a claen catch, but he was surrounded by teammates who collectively got the ball away.
Winn was soon back in his defensive role and did well to stop Foley from getting a clear view of Higton's goal with a timely interception.
With ten minutes left to go, Marcus Newell had used all three of his substitute options from the bench and went for a more attacking formation, which left the Owls more vulnerable in defence... and to be fair, with time running out there was very little else he could do.
But his Clee side were dealt a hammer blow from the Mariners next attack, when Dillon Morse met Rob Briggs left wing free kick at the back stick and nodded the ball just inside the right hand upright despite Higton's frantic efforts to keep the ball out.
With four minutes remaining and the Owls having to commit men forward, Foley ran towards Higton's goal and slotted the ball past the advancing keeper, to put the final outcome of the game beyond doubt.
Winn was suffering badly with cramp and seemed to tweaked a muscle in his leg, which restricted his mobility has he bravely struggled to finish the game, while Foley smashed the ball past Higton inside the final minute to make it four nil to South Shields.
I don't think that anybody could dispute that South Shield warranted their win, which took their trophy count for their all conquering season to a most impressive four pieces of silverware. But by the same token, you'd have to ask; did Cleethorpes Town... and in particular their goalkeeper Liam Higton... really deserve to be on the end of a four goal trouncing?
I may be biased here, but I genuinely don't reckon so.
FT: Cleethorpes Town 0 v South Shields 4
Commiserations to the Owls, but hey you guys! Two trophies and a promotion is an excellent haul of honours to end the season with... and good luck to their matchday secretary Matt Jones in his new role on the NCEL committee next season, a body of men whose collective Intelligence Quota just rose by a considerable percentage in one fell swoop.
And congratulations to South shields on their phenomenally successful four trophy 2016-17 campaign.
After the FA Vase had been presented to South Shields, there was a a two hour gap until the next game: the FA Trophy Final between Macclesfield Town and York City.
Understandably, some time had to be factored in to accommodate for the possibility of extra time and penalties at the end of the first half and a quick once over of the pitch by the Wembley ground staff, but was there really any need for the Stadium authorities and FA to implement a no re-entry ruling to the days event?
Obviously, if they could hold all of those who had chosen to watch both games captive for two hours, their food and beer takings would go through the roof, but it could also deter people from attending next years two game event having suffered the off putting experience of having to kill time between the two finals by either hanging around aimlessly in the foyer under whichever section of the Stadium you happened to be seated in, or sitting in an almost empty ground watching the groundsmen in action. I would imagine the situation would've been even more of a ball ache if the weather hadn't been so nice.
The synchronised lawn-mower team display got boring after a while,
Though I am not a smoker myself, Wembley offers the following options to nicotine addicts: 1) No smoking in the Stadium, & 2) You can go outside for a cigarette at any time, but you can't come back in again.
The FA emails surveys to everyone who purchased tickets on line, where they can comment on their experience, if enough people express their concerns about the 120 minute lock in, they might have to take notice and alter this policy. Though I doubt it, given that it is a ruse to maximise their bar takings and fleece a captive crowd with their overpriced wares.
But thankfully, I was in good company which made the time pass less painfully and there were a good number of people around who we knew from  around the local(ish) football circuit
Anyway, finally, the moment arrived and it was time for game number two to get under way.
Macclesfield Town finished the season in a respectably steady yet unspectacular ninth place in the Nationwide League, some thirty one points between champions Lincoln City and eighteen points ahead of the highest placed of the relegated sides, namely today's opponents York City, who dropped down a division for the second year in a row.
It is difficult for me to watch any football match, anyway, ever, as a complete neutral and there is usually some tenuous reason that I will clutch too like a straw, to favour either one side or the other.
So even though I thought that the Silkmen would win the Trophy Final, by quite a comfortable margin. I was actually rooting for Gary Mills York side.
After all, it's in our national sporting psyche to get behind the underdogs.
The captain's and match officials shake hands, while a stray
Millwall fan who was still on the pitch from yesterday looks on
Macclesfield Town (2) 2
Nathan Browne 13
Ollie Norburn 45
York City (2) 3
Jon Parkin 8
Vadaine Oliver 22
Aidan Connolly 86
FA Trophy 2017 Photo Gallery Link: Here

Macclesfield Town:
Scott Flinders, Andy Halls (C), Neill Byrne (John McCombe 67), George Pilkington, David Fitzpatrick, Rhys Browne, Kingsley James, Ollie Norburn (Anthony Dudley 89), Danny Whitaker, Mitch Hancox (Luke Summerfield 87), Chris Holroyd
Unused subs - 13 Craig Ross, Danny Whitehead
Kyle Letheren; Daniel Parslow, Yan Klukowski (Adriano Moke 45), Hamza Bencherif, Simon Heslop (C), Sean Newton, Asa Hall (Aidan Connolly 69), Danny Holmes (Shaun Rooney 75), Amari Morgan-Smith, Vadaine Oliver, Jon Parkin
Unused subs - Luke Simpson, Scott Fenwick
In the eighth minute, York gleefully open the scoring with their first chance of the game, when Jon Parkin got his head to Danny Holmes cross and flicked past Scott Flinders. The Minstermen are the third club that Parkin has visited Wembley with, having previously graced the hallowed turf with Fleetwood Town and Forest Green Rovers.
The Miners chairman, turned to me with a big beery grin on his face and asked: "Do you reckon Maltby Main could be at Wembley next season Rob, it would be great wouldn't it?", I replied "Yeah, definitely 100%!", he smiled even more, "And if you let me know early enough I could probably get all of the players seats where they could sit together!", he called me a "Yekkunt!", I think it is a Sanskrit word for a buttered pikelet (not a crumpet you understand) but he saw the funny side.
And before any of you pedantic lot say there isn't any difference between a pikelet and a crumpet, let me explain: Essentially, the main difference is that a pikelet is not cooked in a ring like a crumpet, hence it is thinner and more free form in shape.
'Macc' went close to drawing level almost immediately, when Ollie Norburn rolled a low corner into the path of Kingsley James, but although he struck his shot well, through a crowd of legs inside the York penalty area, Kyle Letheren spread himself well to make a save,
But shortly afterwards, Letheren should have heeded his mother's advice about keeping his legs shut when he's out and about in the big city as Rhys Browne latched onto a poor clearance on the right hand side of the Minstermen's area and his shot found it's way into the back of the net, between the City keepers feet.
For the record, Browne is one of three young Antigua and Barbuda international players that I know personally from my globetrotting footballing lifestyle, that has taken me to such exotic places as Waltham (near Grimsby), Arnold (up t'road from Nottingham) and Clipstone (the epicentre of the known universe).
I am only in it for the glamour... obviously!
The Macc Lads are having a party
York were ahead again in the twenty second minute, when Vadaine Oliver slid to meet Sean Newton's knock across the face of the Macclesfield goal and scored from close range.
The pace of the game was frantic at times, 'Macc' were mapping out some great passing moves towards York's defence, while the Minstermen's approach was far more rudimentary, yet evidently more effective in front of the opposition goal.
Danny Whittaker had two chances to even the score, one from thirty yards and the other from close range, both saved by Letheren.
And after Browne had done the hard part, weaving his way through the York defence to create himself a shooting opportunity from six yards out, he blazed the ball over the bar.
As York appeared to have shut up shop to protect a half time advantage, Ollie Norburn took the ball under control, five yards outside the Minstermen's area and launched an unstoppable drive into the top right hand corner of the net, that swerved all over the place and gave Letheren no chance of getting to the ball.
HT: York City 2 v Macclesfield Town 2
Three minutes after the restart, York were almost back in front in a bizarre and slightly comical fashion, though I wouldn't imagine that Vadaine Oliver saw the funny side, as Flinders put his foot through the ball to launch it towards the far end of the pitch and it hit him full on in the face and rebounded back over the Silkmen's keeper and dropped just wide of the right hand upright.
Brown forced a great save out of Letheren who did superbly to get down to his left and get his hands behind the ball at full stretch and Whitaker shot just wide when he latched onto a half cleared ball.
It would be fair to say at this point that York were weathering a storm and it looked for all the world as if the engraver could start writing Macclesfield's name on the trophy.
Mitch Hancox was denied by yet another Letheren block after Chris Holdroyd had combined with Brown to set him up and when Kingsley James beat the York keeper with a sweetly struck volley, Hamza Bencherif, who scored sixteen goals during a sixty game spell at Macclesfield, was well placed to head the ball off the line to deny his former club.
James punctured the York defence again as he slipped the ball through to Browne in Browne, but Letheren (who else!?) was on hand to block his effort.
Extra time beckoned, and Macc must've been wondering how on earth they hadn't finished the job off inside ninety minutes, given how busy they had kept Letheren for most of the afternoon.
But don't nip off for a quick slash just yet folks.
York's prop forward Parkin, with all the finesse of a uncompromising doorman barging his way through a crowded bar to break up an outbreak of fisticuffs, made himself the room to shoot and looped the ball over Flinders who was committed to coming off of his line. As the ball dropped over the line Aidan Connolly got a touch, 'just to make sure' and the Minstermen had snatched away the Trophy from their Cheshire based opponents, with a late smash and grab raid.
You really can't beat football as a form of live theatre and high drama.
Talking of smash and grab, I would've grabbed Connolly and smashed him if he'd just nicked a Wembley goal final off of me the same way as he just had Parkin, but hey ho!
FT: Macclesfield Town 2 v York City 3
Goals win games and 'Macc' had enough chances to have won this game looooong before the Parkin/Connolly combination struck.
If you ask me (and I know you won't) YorkCity's keeper Kyle Letheren was the man of the match and in my opinion he deserved two winners medals for his performance today.
A great day out, goodly companions and two cracking games of football.
What more could you want? Apart from a decent phone signal for all networks inside the stadium and a a more relaxed policy on where paying spectators could spend their time during the two hours in between both finals.