The Bootiful Game presents its weekly preview feature with yet another pivotal week in both Divisions. In the Toolstation NCEL Premier Division, there’s an huge – and potentially decisive -clash at the top of the table, with the chasing pack looking to pounce on any slip ups; and at the bottom, all of the teams battling to survive the drop are in action in a full ten-game programme on Saturday; and in Division One, leaders Grimsby Borough will be tuned in to Craig Kendall’s score updates, as all of their nearest challengers are in action, while at the other end, Harworth Colliery will look to narrow that gap to safety with a little help from elsewhere. Just your usual mundane NCEL Saturday, I hear you say, writes Colin Muncie.
Word has it that a drop of red wine is the favoured tipple in the Denton household, and whilst Worksop Town Manager Craig won’t be taking anything for granted until mathematics supersede possibility, he might just treat himself to a quiet glass of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or Rioja if his players stretch their outstanding winning run to a fabulous 12 with a win at Sandy Lane over their nearest rivals, Ian Richards’ Penistone Church. It should be a fabulous game in front of a terrific crowd. Penistone have been without a game for three weeks since that narrow win at Maltby Main, but they’ll be ready for this massive collision, not least because of the incentive to avenge the Tigers’ last-minute penalty win at the DSM at the end of November.
Third-placed Bridlington Town could be the biggest beneficiaries whatever the outcome in Worksop if they can get past 16th-placed Albion Sports at Throstle Nest tomorrow. The Seasiders went down narrowly to Barton Town in their game in hand last Saturday, so will want to stay in close contention, but the Lions won at home last time out and will want to maintain their upward flight path. Staveley Miners Welfare, in superb form, now sit fourth after that midweek 1-0 win at home to Bottesford Town in midweek, and have a cracker of a local match up at Muglet Lane when they go up against seventh-placed Maltby Main. Brett Marshall Trojans have two games in hand on leaders Worksop, but will need to be near their recent best to take a positive result in South Yorkshire. By the way, twenty-eight Feyenoord supporters will be the principal sponsors at the game, so we’ll be hoping that Wilf Race and his brilliant band of volunteers introduce our friends from the Netherlands to TBG – and to Henderson’s Relish.
Hemsworth Miners Welfare (fifth) will look to maintain pressure on the leaders after the disappointment of that home defeat to Worksop on Tuesday, but face a tough ask when Sean Regan’s eleventh-placed Eccleshill United visit the Distant Futures Stadium in Fitzwilliam. The Eagles lost at Thackley two weeks ago. Yorkshire Amateur sit in sixth, twelve points off top spot, and host Athersley Recreation (14th) at the Southerns Stadium. Ammers will be keen to resume their fine early season form after two consecutive defeats away from home, while the Penguins lost at Harrogate three weeks ago.
It’s nip and tuck at the other end of the table. Garforth Town, in 17th, are seven points clear of the bottom three, but won’t want that gap to narrow any further when they welcome twelfth-placed Barton Town to the Bannister Prentice Stadium at the weekend. The Swans will have been encouraged by that home win over Bridlington last Saturday, but the Miners are always dangerous, and will be out to put a disappointing recent run behind them.
Basement club Goole AFC head to Thackley (13th) knowing that Patrick McGuire will want a response from the Dennyboys after a heavy defeat at Maltby. The Vikings have swapped wins with Liversedge either side of a loss at Penistone, and could move off the bottom with a win if other results go their way. They’ll have an eye on events at Station View, where 19th-placed Harrogate Railway Athletic host 15th-placed Liversedge. Jon Rimmington’s Sedge followed up an away win at Goole by moving into the semi-finals of the NCEL League Cup with an extra time win over Hallam, but Craig Ogilvie’s Rail will be desperate to atone for that damaging loss to Albion Sports two weeks ago.
Hall Road Rangers host inconsistent, tenth-placed Bottesford Town at Haworth Park. Rangers won at home two weeks ago, and Bottesford have suffered two narrow, successive defeats to top four sides in recent weeks, so it’s a tough one to call.
Finally, in mid-table, and following Jonathan Froggatt’s move to join Mark Ward’s management team at AFC Mansfield – good luck to both from TBG – Steve Istead will be in sole charge of ninth-placed Handsworth Parramore for the first time when they travel to Manse Lane and an attractive-looking match-up with Knaresborough Town, in eighth. Town lost away in their last League game, but Handsworth won in theirs – both, coincidentally, at Hall Road.
In Division One, the action starts tonight at New Crofton, when third-placed Nostell Miners Welfare – fresh from a convincing away win at Skegness Town last time out – continue their successful Friday night experiment when Glasshoughton Welfare (10th) come calling. Glassy lost at Harworth last time out, so will want to resume their recent revival in front of what’s sure to be a big crowd.
Grimsby Borough have a Saturday off, so second–placed Campion can close the gap on the leaders to just three points with a win at Ryan Hindley’s Rossington Main. Campion beat Shirebrook Town in midweek, but will be wary of a 15th-placed Main side who don’t seem too far away from a run of wins; and any side with Lee Holmes in the line-up is always going to be a threat. A big end to March for Campion, though, who travel to Winterton Rangers at the end of the month.
Hallam are fourth, and travel to thirteenth-placed Skegness Town. A sold-out coach will be running from Sandygate to the Vertigo Stadium, so look out for live updates en-route from the travelling Countrymen. The Lilywhites enjoyed a day trip of their own last week when they travelled to Ollerton Town and bagged all three points, and will want to impress against the South Yorkshire side, who saw off Swallownest in their last League game. Fifth-placed Winterton Rangers welcome ninth-placed Parkgate to West Street, with Albert Dudill’s Steelmen coming off two convincing, high scoring home wins. Rangers went down late-on at AFC Emley last weekend, and are ten points off the leaders with two games in hand, so can’t afford a slip up against the Roundwood outfit, who are enjoying their fiftieth birthday this year.
Worsborough Bridge Athletic sit in sixth, and host a fixture with implications at both ends of the table when they welcome East Yorkshire Carnegie (18th) to Park Road. Both sides need a win, and are in good nick too; the Briggers have enjoyed consecutive five–star wins, while EYC saw off Dronfield two weeks ago.
At the other end of the table, Harworth Colliery battled their way off the bottom with that 2-0 home win over Glasshoughton last Saturday, and will be hoping for another big crowd when they host 14th-placed Shirebrook Town on Scrooby Road. Levi Owen has been in magnificent form in goal for Town, and may need to be again as Craig Spink’s men look to narrow the gap to safety.
Sixteenth-placed Ollerton Town sit eight points clear of trouble, but face dangerous visitors in Chris Millington’s Dronfield Town, who’ll be out to protect their top eight position when they arrive at the Fast Frame tomorrow, not least because seventh-placed Selby Town have the day off.
Finally, the Bootiful Game will be watching NCEL League Cup Semi-Finalists and eleventh-placed Swallownest who play host to AFC Emley , one place, but seven points behind Jordan Stocks men, after a trip to the earlier National League clash between Chesterfield and Sutton United.
So, the scene is set for another terrific afternoon of NCEL Football. Reports, views and interviews here at the Bootiful Game, or on your own club’s Twitter feed, with live scores from our Craig from a shopping precinct – Mrs K permitting – near you after 4.30pm. (editors note – wife is working tomorrow so full systems go from 3pm – cheeky writer 😜)
As usual, if you’re off to a game this Saturday, buy a programme, get something to eat and drink, travel safely and enjoy your afternoon; and don’t forget the volunteers who make it all happen.