Non-league football mid-season review: Curzon in remarkable form as Hyde and Droylsden hope for nightmare to end
Non-league football mid-season review: Curzon in remarkable form as Hyde and Droylsden hope for nightmare to end
The non-league campaign has been a highly eventful affair so far with smoke bombs, half-time lockouts and a 10-0 drubbing.
Here MM take you through the ups and downs of each side.
Scott McNiven’s Tigers finished in 18th place in the Skrill Premier last season, recording only 16 victories from their 46 games. This campaign has been a frustrating one for both the players and the fans as the club has suffered defeat after defeat.
Their opening fixture in August proved to be a sign of things to come as they were hammered 8-0 by Forest Green Rovers. This was followed by a narrow 2-1 defeat to Southport and two 2-2 draws with Hereford United and Wrexham.
It was after those draws that their season really took a huge turn for the worse as they went on to endure a nine-game losing streak that had a mixture of narrow and humbling defeats. They were guilty in these games of not taking their chances and it is a trend which has continued.
It was during this run that they went six games without even scoring as the team’s top scorers Liam Tomsett and Tom Collins failed to build on the three goals they’d each scored earlier in the season.
They got their first win in their second to last game in October, beating Cheadle Town 5-0. But this came in the preliminary round of the Cheshire Senior Cup, a competition that was very much at the back of McNiven’s mind.
The point of that game was for the manager to give some of the youngsters a run out and to build the team’s confidence as they looked to finally get that first league win. Their next game saw them take on Skrill Premier rivals Wrexham in the FA Cup fourth qualifying round. Wrexham ran out 2-0 winners which gave the Tigers their 16th defeat of the season in all competitions.
Their run of nine straight league defeats would come to an end in their first game of November as they drew 2-2 with Nuneaton Town at Ewen Fields which gave them only their third point of the season. Scott Spencer, who was making his 16th appearance, scored the equaliser right at the death to save the Tigers from another loss.
In the following game they went down 2-1 to Chester and this proved to be assistant boss and ex-England midfielder Gavin McCann’s last match. The 35-year-old formed his partnership with McNiven back in the summer of 2012 and he left a team who failed to win any of their 17 league games and were 17 points from safety.
The rest of the month continued to bring disappointment but they did show signs of improvement, which included a 2-1 defeat to North Ferriby United that knocked them out of the FA Trophy. Following the postponement of their next game, the Tigers met Maine Road in the Manchester Premier Cup quarter-final at Ewen Fields.
This time they put in a dominating performance, winning 4-0 with goals from Tomsett, Connor Hughes, David Poole and Damase Kiwanda. They will now face New Mills in the semi-finals and this would hopefully spur them on to get their first league win of the season.
Lee Sinnott’s men were coming off an impressive Skrill North campaign having finished fourth, their highest football league placing since 1998. They missed the chance of competing for a place in the Skrill Premier after a heartbreaking loss to Brackley Town in the second play-off semi-final.
Despite this they achieved some impressive stats from number of victories to attendances as well as striker Damien Reeves netting 41 goals in all competitions. Falling at the final hurdle certainly spurred them on as they started this season in impressive fashion.
Their first game saw them beat Worcester City 3-1 with Reeves opening his account for the new campaign. This was followed by a mid-week win over Barrow at Moss Lane and then a second home win, beating Stockport County 3-0 which took them to second in the table.
They continued this fine form and finished August in second with four wins with only a 2-2 draw with Histon denying them their place at the top of the table. Reeves and strike partner James Walshaw were leading the line well, scoring seven goals between them and this was a trend that showed no signs of stopping.
The Robins continued their unbeaten run into September but suffered their first defeat three games in with a narrow 2-1 loss to North Ferriby United which sent them down to sixth. They then took a break from league action to play Trafford in the second qualifying round of the FA Cup but lost 2-1.
Back in the league, Sinnott’s side bounced back straight away going on a three game winning streak including a 4-1 home win over Guiseley which saw Walshaw score a superb hat-trick. The next run of games saw Alty on the receiving end of two straight defeats as they lost 3-2 to top spot chasers Boston United and 3-1 to league leaders Hednesford Town.
November saw them play in an FA Trophy third qualifying round against Colwyn Bay going through by a 2-0 scoreline after the first game was abandoned. They finished the month with two league wins which took them back into second, level with the rest of the top four on 32 points.
Their next game saw them knocked out of the FA Trophy first round as they lost 2-1 to Evo-Stik side Leek Town. Back in the Skrill North they travelled to Harrogate Town and were narrowly beaten 3-2 which dropped them into third but they were very much in the hunt for top spot going into the Christmas period.
Last season, County were relegated from the Skrill Premier on the final day in a year which saw one manager sacked and another quitting after just two months. They finished four points from safety with the managerial merry-go-round ultimately proving their downfall.
They began this campaign taking only one point from their first four league games which led to manager Ian Bogie being sacked and Alan Lord taking over as care-taker boss. Bogie left them second from bottom with their opening fixture seeing them go down 4-1 to Boston United.
Lord guided them to their first win of the season in his second game in charge, beating Gainsborough Trinity 3-1 thanks to a double from Phil Jevons and a Kristian Dennis strike. This win was followed by two draws and a defeat leaving them with only six points from nine games.
Their next game saw them compete in an FA Cup qualifying round against Brighouse Town at Edgeley Park. This proved to be the perfect tonic for County with Kyle Jacobs scoring the only goal. This win gave them a much needed boost and it was the start of what would be a three game unbeaten run.
They faced Worcester at home a week later and hammered their rivals 4-0 with goals from Kyle Jacobs, Rhys Turner and a double strike from Jevons. They followed this up with another four goal haul, beating Barrow 4-2 to move up to 11th in the table thanks to two goals each from Jevons and Turner.
This run didn’t last long as they were knocked out of the FA Cup losing 1-0 to Evo-Stik Premier side Rushall Olympic. They then went two games without a win before beating AFC Telford 4-2 with Turner again on the score sheet.
The following weekend they were on the receiving end of a beating, losing 4-1 to Oxford City with Lord suffering the third defeat of his tenure. A 2-1 defeat to promotion chasers North Ferriby United and defeat in their FA Trophy replay with Barrow compounded a demoralising month for County which left them in 16th place, four points clear of the relegation places.
After nearly a three week break from league duties they returned to action against fifth place Brackley Town at Edgeley Park but again they failed to make an impact and lost 2-0. This result dropped them into 18th with only three points separating them from the drop zone.
After just two wins from ten matches in pre-season, questions were raised on whether Karl Marginson’s side were capable of a promotion push.
United started the campaign with a disappointing 2-0 defeat away to Worksop Town followed by a draw at Gigg Lane – their temporary home whilst work on their new ground takes shape.
However, the Reds got their season up and running at the third attempt with an emphatic 6-0 victory in front of their ecstatic fans against Stamford.
Tome Greaves was the star of the show after netting a hat-trick to kick-start the club’s season.
This result was followed by three wins on the bounce to spearhead Marginson’s men up the table but then the side suffered five losses from six including a narrow FA Cup defeat at the hands of Chorley.
A Greg Daniels header gave United a much needed win against Marine at Bower Fold before another poor run of results.
Just one win in five league games caused the Premier Division side to slide to mid-table yet they were still just a couple of wins from being in touching distance of the play-off spots.
The poor league run was accompanied by an FA Trophy defeat at the hands of Witton Albion at the third time of asking after torrential rain caused two postponements.
Following the cup anguish, United have been in inspired form – unbeaten in the league in 8 matches and into the last 16 of the Doodson Sport Cup.
It is this form which has put the side in fifth position, just nine points of leaders Skelmersdale United.
Despite the recent run of form, Marginson’s men will be keen to avoid any more high-profile incidents in their fixtures.
In recent encounters United experienced the use of flares and smoke bombs by home fans in their encounter at Droylsden as well as being locked out of the changing room at half-time versus AFC Fylde but they will be keen to ensure their football continues to do the talking.
Following Craig Robinson’s resignation as player-manager, club chairman Dave Aspinall wasted no time after appointing Paul Phillips as player-manager and Steve Halford as joint-manager in July.
Ashton went into the league in high spirits after regaining the Willow Wood Cup against Halford’s former employers Mossley at Seel Park.
A Gary Gee penalty and Joe O’Neill strike gave the Robins opening day joy as they overcame Granthan Town 2-1 in front of their home crowd at Hurst Cross.
The side remained unbeaten throughout August after going on to earn a victory and three draws – scoring 10 goals along the way.
A hectic September fixture list followed but Halford’s side coped well after a point against Matlock Town on home turf followed by wins against Trafford and Buxton.
Progression to the FA Cup second qualifying round sustained momentum before a narrow 2-1 defeat at Blyth Spartans ended the club’s impressive unbeaten run.
Shortly after, results for the Hurst Cross outfit began to change dramatically.
Two league defeats on the bounce along with exits from two cup competitions in eight days, including an end to their FA Cup adventure, dampened the mood for the Premier Division side.
Victory over Marine and a well-earned point away to Matlock Town steadied the ship but three November league defeats in a row put Ashton just above the drop zone.
Despite losing out to FC United in the Doodson Sport Cup, the Robins have gone on a superb run of form with four wins in a row to go six points of the play-off positions in 11th place.
Halford said December would be a season-defining month and so far his team are producing the goods in what could be a successful season for the club.
Shambolic. That’s the word to best describe Droylsden’s season so far.
The opening day defeat at Stocksbridge Park Steels gave an indication of things to come as he visitors went down 3-1 after going down 2-0 inside the first 11 minutes thanks to a Nathan Joynes double.
Four days later the Bloods were beaten at the Butcher’s Arms Ground to Whitby Town but did pick up their first point of the campaign in their next match after a 1-1 draw against Buxton on home turf.
Things then started to become embarrassing for Dave Pace’s side as they suffered four defeats in a row – conceding 14 goals in the process.
In the next match the side did earn a hard-fought point against Blyth Spartans to double their points tally but then normal service was resumed as another four defeats finished off September.
A 5-1 thumping away to Marine was next, followed shortly after by successive 4-1 and 3-0 home defeats to Matlock Town and Grantham Town respectively.
Misery continued after being eliminated from the FA Trophy after a 3-0 defeat to visitors Nantwich Town before one of the darkest days in the club’s history at the end of October.
Droylsden slumped to a 10-0 defeat at the hands of AFC Fylde on a cold Tuesday night to the dismay of the home supporters.
But the commentator for the club’s Twitter account, Chris Rogers, made the headlines with his humorous view on the game including this tweet as the tenth goal of the game: “I’m going to have a few very, very strong whiskies!!!”
The following month saw disaster continue as fans saw their side slump to another six defeats – conceding another 23 goals in the process.
Pace’s side have since lost another four since so remain on two points at the foot of the table and are sure to be relegated for the second year running after last year’s exit from the Conference North.
John Flanagan’s side have been one of the finest sides in the non-league so far this season.
Curzon’s new look squad got off to a flyer in the First Division North with a dominant 3-1 victory at Ramsbottom United thanks to goals from Matthew Warburton and a Christopher Young double.
Another three league victories and FA cup qualifying triumph over Ashton Athletic rounded off August perfectly for the Nash.
Wins against Bamber Bridge and Padiham sustained the club’s 100% record before further progression on their dream bid to the FA Cup proper.
Northwich Victoria held Curzon in a hard-fought match but normal service commenced in the next encounter as Flanagan’s side swept aside Wakefield 5-0.
The Tameside Stadium club’s first defeat came in the County Cup at Abbey Hey but Flanagan’s men remarkably remained unbeaten in league action throughout October.
Two more wins and a draw in November extended the fine run but there was disappointment as the fairytale dream of reaching the FA Cup proper vanished after defeat to Chorley.
Earlier this month Curzon finally lost their 16-match unbeaten run at Ossett Town but Flanagan remained optimistic of another run after saying: “I think we will respond well, I think we’ll just push it aside and get back to where we were.”
His side have since beaten Prescot Cables and Lancaster City as they sit in third spot, four points adrift top spot, but with games in hand as they look to claim promotion.
Image courtesy of Iain Lees, with thanks.