Monthly Archives: April 2014

Evo Stik Division One North Playoff Preview

With the league campaign now over, four teams enter the playoffs this week hoping to join league champions Curzon Ashton in the Evo Stik Premier next season. Below I’ve just got a quick rundown of the four sides before the two semi-finals on Tuesday and Wednesday. The odds given are from BetVictor

Semi Finals

Tuesday Night

Warrington Town v Bamber Bridge

Wednesday Night

Darlington v Ramsbottom United


Darlington – Second place, Promotion odds – 10/11

Before the season started myself and the majority of Darlington fans would have settled for a place in the playoffs, in a division which was virtually unknown to any of us. A couple of months ago we still had faint hopes of catching Curzon Ashton, but I am more than happy to see us finish second and guarantee home advance in the playoffs.

We have had good and bad spells throughout the season, but have finished strongly winning six games in a row before the weekends defeat at home to Burscough in which the majority of the first team were rested. For virtually the whole campaign we have been in a playoff spot without ever really threatening to win the league.

The majority of players in the squad have been involved in high pressure games for us before, which should stand them in good stead. Having had a small squad for a lot of the season we have been able to strengthen in recent months and will have options on the bench for the playoffs if we are struggling. As much as we do rely on Stephen Thompson at times, he has proved time and time again he can turn it on when we need him to and I think how we will do, could well boil down to if he has one of his on/off days.

Our record against the other top sides is ok, but not great. We were able to beat both Warrington Town and Bamber Bridge home and away. However the side we meet in the semi-final, Ramsbottom United, beat us home and away, 3-0 and 1-0. The game at Heritage Park saw them play us off the park for the majority of the game, although it was in the middle of our worst run of the season.

Hopefully for the Quakers anyway, manager Martin Gray will get his tactics right on Wednesday and we can progress to the final.



Warrington Town – Third Place, Promotion odds – 5/2

Warrington are known for having a physical presence and it has proved very effective for them. They have been in the top three for the whole campaign and until the final month or so looked like they could stop Curzon Ashton from winning the league.

They went on a long unbeaten run in the first half of the season which lasted for seventeen games and they have recently regained some form, winning four of their five games in April, the one defeat coming at Ramsbottom.

In Ciaran Kilheeney and Ben Wharton they have two threats, who have scored 36 league goals between them.

Their two games against their semi-final opponents Bamber Bridge , saw them pick up four points as they won 3-0 away from home before drawing 1-1, however both games were before Christmas.

I did not attend either of Darlo’s games with Warrington, however they saw two good wins for the Quakers, 2-0 at Heritage Park and a 4-1 win in the reverse fixture.

Bamber Bridge – Fourth Place, Promotion odds – 9/2

Bamber Bridge have been in and around the playoffs for the majority of the league campaign and a good final few months saw them seal a playoff spot with a game to spare. In their last eleven league games they only lost once, a defeat away to Northwich Victoria and earlier in the campaign they had an eleven game unbeaten run which spread from October to December.

They have scored the fewest goals and have the worst goal difference of the sides in the playoffs, but still managed to scored 81 goals. 22 of those came from club top scorer Alistair Waddecar who will have to be on form for Bamber to win promotion.

Darlo’s trip to Bamber early in the season saw us win 3-0, before a 1-0 victory at home just before Christmas.

Ramsbottom United – Fifth Place, Promotion odds – 9/1

Ramsbottom story is arguably the most intriguing of the four playoff sides. They started the campaign in awful form as they only picked up four points from their opening seven games which saw them in the relegation zone. Their eighth game was the 3-0 victory over Darlington and this sparked them into life as they went on a fantastic run to push them into promotion contention. From October to January, Rammy only lost one league game, a 2-1 defeat to Bamber Bridge and in the whole of the campaign since October they have only lost four times in the league.

They were able to make the playoffs despite a three point deduction in the second half of the season for fielding an ineligible player.

Rammy are the league’s top scorers with a quite incredible 112 goals from their 42 games, but at same time they have conceded 57 goals, more than any of the other top five sides. They have the league’s top scorer, Lee Gaskell, who has netted 29 times this season, as well as Phillip Dean who has scored 19 goals.


As always with the playoffs it is a bit of a lottery and the odds given by the bookies aren’t that accurate in my opinion. However through my black and white tinted glasses, I think Darlington will gain promotion.

I expect Wednesday to be a very tough game against one of the most impressive sides we have seen at Heritage Park this season. However now in much better form I am confident we can get through.

The first semi should also be a tight affair, but I fancy Warrington to be too strong for Bamber Bridge.



Darlo beaten by Burscough

Darlo 1-2 Burscough

Darlo ended the regular season with a home defeat to Burscough after fielding a side which included fringe and youth players.

Martin Gray rested the majority of his first team ahead of the playoffs this coming week. Thompson, Dowson, Purewal, Scott, Galbraith, Hunter and Tait all were not involved and watched from the main stand.

It gave the opportunity for fringe players such as Fisher and Hopson a run out against a Burscough side who only named two substitutes.

The game had an end to season feel about it, but the first half was full of incident if not much quality. The female referee was at the centre of three key decisions, as she awarded two penalties and a red card.

Inside the opening minutes Burscough took the lead from the penalty spot when young keeper Pete Jameson brought down the away sides striker. Jameson was down for five minutes following the incident, but was able to carry on.

Burscough were then reduced to ten man after an awful tackle on young left back O’Connor who made his first start for the club.

Darlo levelled from the penalty spot following a shirt pull on striker Ian Ward. Dale Hopson stepped up and confidently levelled.

The second half in contrast was not a great watch, with neither team doing a lot going forward. The ten men though were able to give the away supporters behind the goal something to cheer about, as they scored the winner mid way through the second half.

Following a cross hitting the woodwork striker Mark Beesley scored his second at the second attempt as Burscough won the game 2-1.

They were two injury concerns for the Quakers as captain Gary Brown, in his more natural centre back role, overstretched and was down for a few minutes, but he should be ok for Wednesday. Sadly Dale Hopson was taken off near the end of the game with rumours of a potential break, which if true would rule him out of the playoffs.

Overall it was a good run out for the youngsters in front of a decent crowd, however a few of the fringe players struggled to make an impact on the game. Walker at right back had another solid game and looks a good find by manager Martin Gray. Adam Mitchell again looked good in midfield and he could play a key role in the playoffs, looked like the only player today capable of doing something out of the ordinary going forward.

Both strikers Ward and Fisher will be disappointed with their displays as neither looked like scoring today, I am guessing Gray plans to start with Dowson and Purewal on Wednesday.

Jordan Robinson got some crucial game time in his recovery from injury and he will keep his place in the starting line up in midweek.

MOTM- Mitchell – Always looked threatening no matter which flank he was operating on.

Team – Jameson, Walker, O’Connor, Robinson, White, Brown, Hopson, Cocks, Fisher, Ward, Mitchell

So onto the playoffs and after Ramsbottom drew with Bamber Bridge today the playoff line up is complete and we will host Ramsbottom on Wednesday at Heritage Park. Ticket sales are already flying and the game is likely to be a sell out. Bring it on!

Burscough Preview, Playoffs, Coming Home and the Monkeyhangers

Just thought I would stick up a post before the game today, previewing the game and some general rambling from me.

Today we host Burscough in our final game of the regular season before the playoff semi final on Wednesday night. We had a great bank holiday weekend, picking up comfortable victories over Farsley and Wakefield and hopefully we can continue this momentum today and into the playoffs.

We have an almost fully available squad for the visit of Burscough, barring Johnny Davis. Davis broke his foot during the Wakefield game and will miss the remainder of the season. Despite being in and out of the team this year, he could have started the remaining games if he had not picked up the injury and he will be a miss for the side.

It is unclear which way Martin Gray will go with his team today, he will either carry on from the Wakefield game and rest a few players or he could use the side he wants to start with in the playoffs. My preference would be to play the side he intends to play on Wednesday to make sure everyone is match fit and no one has had a long break without a competitive game. On the other side of the coin if he chooses to rest people we wont pick up any injuries and will be at full strength for the games that matter, it also will hide from the opposition which formation/players Gray intends to use.

For me as above I would go with our strongest side, which for is one of the following.



Walker Tait Hunter Galbarith

Robinson Brown Scott


Ward Dowson



Bell Walker Tait Hunter Galbraith

Mitchell Robinson Scott Thompson

Ward Dowson

For me I would start with the 4-3-2-1 formation and switch to the 4-4-2 if we were struggling as Mitchell offers a great outlet and can cause any defenders at this level problems. As much as he is a fan favourite I am not convinced by Gary Brown in midfield and haven’t been since his return to the side, but if we play 4-3-1-2 we are struggling for options for out and out central midfielders.

Up front I am happy which ever way Gray goes out of the four strikers, except Ward and Purewal together. In the two games they have started together we have struggled to create much and prefer the tall striker/small striker partnership every time.

Which ever formation we go with though, it should be a comfortable victory against a very average Burscough side who have nothing to play for. I did not attend the away game, but the score line spoke for itself, 7-0. They have sat in the middle of the table throughout the league campaign.

Prediction Darlo 4- 0 Burscough


Onto Wednesday and as I have said on the forums I think the club have handled the ticket issues as well as they possibly could. They will always be problems whenever there is sudden demand for a limited amount of tickets and those in charge were never going to be able to please every single supporter. I will be at the game for 2ish today to get a hold of a ticket and it will hopefully encourage a few extra fans to get themselves along. Not sure really which other way it could have been done, priority has been given to season ticket holders, then those at the game today then open to everyone online or in the shop. If we get to the final the ticket situation could be interesting, but I am sure the club have something in place. If I am honest i’m not 100% sure the semi final will sell out, I hope it will, but not convinced.

Which brings me onto Blackwell Meadows, hopefully such ticketing problems as this week will not be possible in a few years, back in our own town and with a higher ground capacity. Hopefully once the season has finished more will come out to the fans about progress regarding the stadium, the work that needs to be done and rough timescales. As we have seen over the years there is a huge number of people involved with our club who are prepared to give their own time to do their bit and this will happen again with Blackwell ,so as soon as people know how they can help the better.


Finally our oldest rivals up the road the Monkeyhangers from Hartlepool had a scare this last week and it was quite amusing seeing the panic on the pooliebunker. However they escaped relegation from the football league after coming from 1-0 down with ten men on Monday. It will be interesting to see how they get on next season with the IOR seemingly losing a bit of interest in the club, don’t wish what has happened to us on any club but you never know…..






Darlo build momentum before the playoffs

Darlington 3- 0 Farsley FC

Barring a 25 goal swing Darlington will finish the league in second place thanks to their latest victory at home to playoff chasing Farsley.

Second place means Darlington will be at home in the playoff semi final and final if they progress to this.

Darlo lined up as they did last weekend, Alan White did not make the squad with Dale Hopson replacing him on the bench. Jordan Robinson, who has returned from his injury, was on the pitch with the rest of the side before the game and at half time but did not feature, I would except him to play a part on Monday at Wakefield.

Farsley arrived at Heritage Park needing a result in the race for the final playoff spot and in the first half looked a useful side. Darlo were poor in the first half with keeper Mark Bell rescuing the side on two occasions. However Farsley were unable to capitalise and we took the lead through the best move of the game. Jonny Davis delivered a first time cross from the right wing which was met by a volley from striker Ian Ward. Aside from the goal the only other chances of note for the Quakers both fell to Amar Purewal, a header and a one on one which he should have done better with.

The second half saw two changes within the first ten minutes, Adam Mitchell and David Dowson replacing Davis and Ward. The changes improved the side as we took control to dominate the second half. One advantage when Dowson is on the pitch is his link up play between him, Purewal and Stephen Thompson. This paid dividends almost immediately when Dowson was taken out by the last defender, before Purewal latched onto the loose ball and finished well past the goalkeeper to make it 2-0.

It was shortly 3-0, with Leon Scott claiming his first goal in months after a goalkeeping howler from the Farsley keeper. Scott won the ball just outside the Farsley box and fired a shot straight at the keeper, only to see him fumble the ball over the line.

The game petered out with Farsley not causing any further trouble to Bell. Late chances fell to substitute Nathan Fisher and Thompson, but we were unable to add to the score as the game finished 3-0.

Overall we were poor in the first half, but were still able to go in at half time with the lead. The second half we were much improved and at times not far from our best. I rate Ward and Purewal, but playing the two tall strikers together did not lead to pretty football and for the majority of the first half it wasn’t effective.

The second half was easier to watch, as we got the ball down more and tried to play football which Farsley were unable to defend against. Mitchell looked great when he came on and he like Thompson has that extra bit of skill which could win a tight game in the playoffs.

MOTM – Hunter, solid at the back and very glad to have him return to fitness in time for the playoffs.

We next move on to Wakefield on Monday as we look to keep our momentum going in time for the playoffs. I would not be surprised to see a couple of changes to the side on Monday with second place secured. Brown and Hunter both could possibly be rested after long term injuries this season and Stephen Thompson has so far played every game this season.

Liverpool’s time to regain place at the summit of English football ?

Following Liverpool’s dramatic victory over Manchester City on Sunday at Anfield, they are now firm favourites to win their first English league title since 1990.

The emotion around the ground leapt out from sky’s coverage, not just because of the importance of the game, but more importantly the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. This emotion was on show for all to see on Liverpool’s captain Stevens Gerrard’s face, as he struggled to hold it together upon the final whistle.

Gerrard more than anyone else embodies Liverpool as a club and it will be fitting if he caps off a fantastic career by adding the one club trophy that has eluded him so far, the Premier League title.

Liverpool’s progression under Brendan Rodgers has been nothing short of remarkable and it has been refreshing to see them back pushing for the league title. While Suarez has grabbed a lot of the headlines, rightfully so, the English core of Liverpool’s team has played a huge role in their success. Aside from Gerrard, Englishmen, Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson have all had stand out seasons, none of which were particular expected.

For me Henderson is  the one who has most surprised me. As a youngster at Sunderland he looked a very promising talent and since Rodgers has come to the club he has started to show more of his potential. For me I would start him for England in Brazil alongside team mate Gerrard.

Despite the victory over City, two problems have arose from the weekend  for Liverpool. Daniel Strurridge and Jordan Henderson. Despite Strurridge looking out of sorts the last few weeks, he has still been a crucial part of their success this season and it is unclear what the extent of his injury is. Jordan Hendersons last minute red card was deserved for a late lunge brought on by the pressure of the game and he will now miss three of the final four games including the fixture vs Chelsea. At the start of the season I would never have believed Henderson would have had such a good  campaign, however he will be a loss as he has been one of the key parts to Liverpool’s success this season, Joe Allan or Lucas will come into his place.

All that stands in the way of Liverpool from capturing the league title is four games, four wins will see them lift the trophy, but as Gerrard and Rodgers stated in post match interviews the job is far from over yet.

First they travel to a Norwich side next weekend, who are looking more and more likely to be playing Championship football next season. Chris Hughton recently was relived of his post as manager and following the sides defeat at Fulham at the weekend ,they are now only two points off the relegation zone.  Norwich should not pose any problems to a Liverpool side at the height of their confidence.

Then comes  the last major hurdle, the visit of Jose Mourinho and Chelsea to Anfield. Like yesterday if Liverpool approach the game positively they can win the game and remain in the poll position to regain the title.

After Chelsea the last two games on paper should be ok for the Reds, Crystal Palace and Newcastle. Both could provide tough opposition on their day, but now neither have anything to play for, hence a upset would be extremely unlikely from two sides likely  thinking of the summer and sunny beaches rather then stopping Liverpool’s march to the title.

I think that this is Liverpool’s time, they may not get as good a chance at the title again in the near future, next season will bring the added impact of the Champions League on a side which currently at least does not have the biggest squad.

Despite the pressure they will now be under as clear title favourites, I think they will get across the line and for a neutral, such as myself, I will gladly enjoy seeing Steven Gerrard lift the Premier League Crown his career deserves.


Darlo secure playoff place with win. Darlo 3-0 Padiham

Darlington secured a playoff place with a comfortable 3-0 victory which included two goals from striker Amar Purewal. Without being at their best the result never looked in doubt for the Quakers against a poor Padiham side.

Darlo reverted to a 4-4-2 formation today which including starts for Jonny Davis, Ian Ward and Purewal. Alan White was on the bench, but there was no place in the squad for Dale Hopson.

We played well in the first half and could have scored more than the one goal we did get, another fantastic solo run and finish from Stephen Thompson. Apart from the goal we also hit the bar and other chances came and went for Ward, Davis and captain Gary Brown. Can’t remember Brown shooting more! Think he had four shots in a ten minute spell.

The second half saw changes as Nathan Fisher, David Dowson and Adam Mitchell were all brought on, however it was Purewal who would break  his streak without a goal.

Darlo’s second came from a corner in which Purewal was free to head home from close range. He doubled his tally in the last few minutes as he fired underneath the Padiham keeper, after being set up by Chris Hunter.

Overall today we never reached top gear, but did more than enough to win the game. At the back we looked very comfortably and keeper Mark Bell was never tested.

I was pleased to see us revert to four in defence, as i wouldn’t be comfortable with us playing three at the back against the better sides in the division in the playoffs. Pretty sure we won’t start with Ward and Purewal together in the big games, as both play pretty similar, but i was glad to see Amar given some game time to hopefully regain some confidence against one of the weaker teams.

Tommo as normal had a decent game and unlocked the deadlock with a trademark moment of class in the first half.

It is good to see Chris Hunter back and comfortable in defence for me it’s him +1 at CB for the playoffs.

MOTM – T. Galbraith, never put a foot wrong defensively and got forward to put some fantastic delivers into the box. After Tommo he is the next player who i could see getting picked up by a side in a higher league, very promising player.

Elsewhere in the division Warrington surprisingly won at Curzon Ashton, so we will need another couple of victories to guarantee second place. Next up we host Farsley on Saturday, a side who are now in serious trouble of missing out on a playoff place so hopefully the game should be a good test for us before the playoffs.


Darlo team – Bell, Galbraith, Walker, Tait, Hunter, Brown, Scott, Thompson, Ward, Purewal, Subs, Dowson, Fisher, Mitchell, Unsused – White, Jameson.