Year in review 2012: Non-league football – Hyde FC rise as Stockport County fall

By Matt Davies & John McDougall

It has been a highly eventful year for Manchester’s teams across the football pyramid and none more so than at non-league level.

Promotions, cup runs and high scoring encounters have all been in abundance and several players have made a name for themselves.

Stockport County defender Joe Connor edged out Altrincham’s prolific forward Damian Reeves to claim player of the season at the Northwest Football Awards.

Meanwhile Hyde’s Scott Spencer and Phil Jevons – once of Everton – and Trafford’s Michael Oates have all found rich veins of goal scoring form.


Stockport County began 2012 having not won a league game since the previous October, but edged out Barrow in a five-goal thriller on New Year’s Day thanks to a late Sam Sheridan penalty.

It would however take County until the last weekend of the month before they could register another win in the Blue Square Bet Premier League, when they hosted Kidderminster Harriers.

Hyde meanwhile started the year in the Blue Square Bet North, and overcame Mancunian rivals Stalybridge Celtic at Ewen Fields.

The Tiger’s form dipped in the rest of January, as they picked up just a further two points while Celtic picked up just one point in the month, drawing 5-5 with Hinckley United.

Droylsden defeated Altrincham and then Stalybridge to start the year before ending the month with a high-scoring draw against Eastwood Town.

Damian Reeves was in fine form for Alty, netting nine times in January, including four against Harrogate Town, as his side picked up ten points for the month.

FC United of Manchester began the New Year brightly with a 5-2 away victory over Bradford Park Avenue, but Ashton United lost 3-0 at home to Northwich Victoria.

In the Evo-stik Division One (North) Curzon Ashton went through January unbeaten in the league, defeating Wakefield and Garforth Town along the way.

Radcliffe Borough had an indifferent start to 2012, with victories over Woodley Sports, Ossett Albion and Skelmersdale United counterbalanced by defeats to AFC Fylde and Curzon Ashton.

Salford City had a January to forget after failing to register a league win, while Trafford made a brighter start to 2012, winning three out of four.

Ramsbottom United began the year in the North West Counties Football League Premier Division and won three out of four in January.

Mossley opened the New Year by appointing Steve Halford as player-manager, replacing Gareth McClelland who earlier resigned.


Danny Rowe was in fine form for County in February, netting three goals as the Hatter’s picked up four points from three matches.

Hyde played just one league game in the month, demolishing Droylsden 4-0 at Ewen Fields.

Meanwhile the Bloods played just three times in February, due to a number of postponements, picking up four points in the process.

Altrincham also took four points from the month, enough to consolidate seventh position in the BSB North.

Stalybridge continued to struggle, failing to win in February in a run of nine league games without a win, picking up draws with Harrogate Town and Blythe Spartans.

Ashton United had three league wins out of three in February, beating Stafford Rangers, Chorley and Chasetown.

Curzon Ashton’s unbeaten league start to 2012 came to an end after losing 3-1 to Witton Albion, while Radcliffe Borough ended the month with two successive defeats to Cammell Laird.

Salford City got their first league win of 2012 with a 2-0 victory over Wakefield, while Trafford experienced back-to-back defeats to Woodley Sports and Lancaster City. 

Ramsbottom’s charge for promotion hit a setback as they picked up only a point in February in the 2-2 draw with Bootle. 

Mossley’s winless league run in 2012 extended to seven games by the end of February. 


Jim Gannon’s Stockport had a mixed month, suffering heavy defeats to Alfreton Town and Southport, but won convincingly against Bath City.

The Hatters took nine points from six games while Hyde took 13 points from their fixtures, with Scott Spencer netting six times, including a hat-trick in his sides 5-0 win over Bishops Stortford.

The Bloods started the month with a 5-0 defeat to Stortford, but bounced back to finish the month unbeaten in five and scoring ten in the process.

Stalybridge beat Solihull Moors but back-to-back defeats against Altrincham and Boston United followed.

Celtic also recovered though, to end the month with two draws and two wins including a 4-1 demolition of Nuneaton Town.

Altrincham picked up 11 points in March, with Reeves adding a further five goals to his haul, including a double when the Robins visited Corby Town.

FC United’s seven game unbeaten run came to an end after going down 1-0 away to Rushall Olympic, but ended the month with a 4-0 thrashing of Mickleover Sports.

Ashton United were beaten 4-0 away by Bradford Park Avenue, while Curzon Ashton lost only one of their eight league fixtures in March as their charge for promotion gained pace.

In a busy March, Radcliffe Borough took 15 points out of a possible 24, while Trafford, despite winning two of their first three games, lost their next five fixtures.

Ramsbottom won seven out of seven as they put their February hangover behind them to get their promotion bid back on track.  

After an eight game winless run, Mossley won three games on the bounce to give them a much needed boost, while Trafford managed only one win in six March fixtures. 


County started the month in style with a 4-0 win over Lincoln City, and also won the final two games of the season to ensure a 16th place finish to their first season in the BSB Premier.

Spencer scored five more for Hyde in April to finish the season with 32 goals, as Hyde took 13 points from their final five games, securing the BSB North league title.

The Tigers won 27 games and scored 90 goals, finishing on 90 points and five points clear of second placed Guiseley who were beaten by Nuneaton in the play-offs.

Stalybridge finished a point outside the play-offs, with three wins and three defeats in April, and ten points ahead of fellow Mancunian outfit Altrincham.

Alty won just once in April, an impressive 6-1 defeat of Eastwood Town, and Reeves kept up his goal scoring form, scoring four in the month to finish the season with 44 strikes in all competitions.

Droylsden finished the season one place and two points behind Alty, with the Bloods picking up nine points in April including a 5-5 draw with Histon.

FC United finished the season in sixth place, but gained a play-off place due to Cheshire club Northwich Victoria’s relegation for losing control of their home ground, Victoria Park.

Ashton United meanwhile finished the Evo-stik Premier season in 12th place, ending it with a 3-0 defeat to relegated Mickleover Sports. 

Curzon Ashton qualified for the Evo-stik Division One (North) play-offs after finishing second.

The Robins beat Garforth Town in the semi-final on penalties, before losing 3-0 in the final to Witton Albion.

Radcliffe Borough ended their campaign with a 4-1 victory over Trafford – finishing in 15th place – while Trafford finished just above neighbours Salford City in 12th.

Mossley rounded off their league campaign with a 6-1 win over Harrogate Railway Athletic – Ben Richardson scoring a hat-trick – to finish the season in 14th place.

Ramsbottom won their last five games to be crowned champions of the North West Counties Football League Premier Division and gain promotion to the Evo-stik Division One (North).


May saw the resignation of Hyde manager Gary Lowe and his assistant Martyn Booty, who were replaced by Scott McNiven and ex-Aston Villa and Bolton player Gavin McCann.

The pair rejected the proposed playing budget for the season and therefore left their positions while McNiven had previously been Hyde’s caretaker manager in 2011.

Altrincham boss Lee Sinnott acted quickly to tie down Matt Flynn and midfielder Carl Rodgers ahead of the new season.

Meanwhile, Craig Hobson made the move from Stalybridge Celtic to Stockport.

It was heartbreak for FC United as they lost 1-0 to Bradfield Park Avenue in the penultimate minute of extra-time in the play-off final – their second successive play-off final defeat.

Despite finishing in mid-table, Ashton United did scoop the fair play award, giving manager Danny Johnson a five-year anniversary present.

Salford City meanwhile announced the appointment of Darren Sheridan as new first team manager.


Ex-Oldham forward Ryan Brooke made a move to Altrincham while Stockport snapped up goal-keeper Lewis King.

Midfielder Jerome Wright returned to FC United from Chester FC, as Red Rebels boss Karl Marginson looked to bounce back from their disappointing play-off final defeat.  

As long serving midfielder Ian Bennett departed Ashton United, Robins old boy Billy McCartney returned to the club as a first team coach.

Radcliffe Borough re-signed former Manchester United trainee goalkeeper Nick Culkin, while Mossley disbanded both their reserve and youth teams due to economic circumstances.


Damian Reeves ended several months of speculation regarding his future by resigning for Altrincham in July, a major boost for the Robins.

Droylsden saw both Dan Gardner and Dale Johnson depart for Halifax while July also saw the Bloods set up a reserve side for the upcoming season.

The brother of Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs, Rhodri, returned to FC United on a free transfer from Salford City, as boss Karl Marginson strengthened his squad.

Mossley boss Steve Halford signed four players – goalkeeper Martin Pearson, central defenders Dave Young and Keil O’Brien and striker Gavin Salmon – to reinforce his squad.


Hyde were busy in the summer ahead of the current season, with new manager McNiven adding several players to the squad that achieved promotion from the BSB North.

The big-name signing came in the form of former Everton, Grimsby and Hull star Phil Jevons, a striker who has featured in all five divisions of the football league.

Defender Luke Ashworth made the step up to the Premier division having previously been without a club since leaving Halifax and midfielder Alex Brown joined the Tigers from Chester.

Hyde also signed winger Stefan Cox from Fleetwood Town, as well as a host of other players with football league experience ahead of their debut in the BSB Premier.

Altrincham’s Scott Phelan departed Moss Lane for a coaching role at Everton just before the new season was due to commence.

Stockport began the season with two consecutive wins, but failed to record a win in the three games that followed.

Scott Spencer scored twice on the opening day for Hyde but they picked up just two points from their first five games as the Tiger’s had a difficult start to life in the Premier division.

Altrincham went down heavily at home to Brackley and Chester in August winning just one of their opening four fixtures, although Reeves did net three times for Sinnott’s side.

Stalybridge also struggled at the start of the new campaign, losing 4-1 to Workington in their first game before tasting their first victory after coming from two goals down in their fourth game against Colwyn Bay.

Droylsden lost 7-1 in their seasons’ second fixture, before bouncing back to beat Vauxhall Motors 5-2, as the Bloods took four points from their opening four games.

FC United kicked off the new season with a 4-2 away victory over Grantham Town, following it up with a 4-0 thrashing of Matlock Town at Gigg Lane.

Ashton United began off their campaign by beating Worksop Town 5-3, ending August with 12 points out of 12 from their opening four fixtures.

Curzon Ashton got over their play-off final defeat by beating Garforth Town 6-0 in their second league fixture, while Radcliffe Borough kicked off their league season with two successive draws.

Ramsbottom United opened with a 3-3 draw with Cammell Laird, while Trafford star striker Michael Oates hit five past Ossett Albion in an 8-0 win.

Salford City were slow starters, drawing 1-1 with Curzon Ashton but Mossley hit the ground running, winning their first two league games against Bamber Bridge and Cammell Laird. 


County had to wait until the last game of the month to taste victory, with Craig Hobson’s double part of a 3-1 win Edgeley Park win against Ebbsfleet United.

Jim Gannon’s side earned four draws but were on the wrong side of a seven goal thriller against Macclesfield.

Hyde suffered four defeats in September but Jevons scored his first goals for the Tigers with his hat-trick part of a 5-2 win against Hereford United.

Altrincham went unbeaten in the league throughout the month, winning three of five games and scoring 15 goals, ten via the prolific Reeves.

The Robins front-man netted all four as his side overcame Gainsborough Trinity and both goals in Alty’s 2-2 draw with Oxford City.

Stalybridge started the month with a comfortable 4-0 win over Hinckley and beat a Manchester United XI in a friendly, but lost 6-2 to Chester at the end of the month.

Droylsden suffered four defeats on the bounce in September before picking up a 1-0 victory against Gloucester City courtesy of an Adam Evans strike.

FC United began their FA Cup campaign in style with a 5-0 battering of Cammell Laird, following it up with a 3-2 defeat of Salford City in the next round. 

However, Ashton United’s seven game unbeaten league run came to an abrupt halt after being routed 6-1 by Buxton.

Curzon Ashton had a month of cup action, bowing out of both the FA Cup and FA Trophy to Bradford Park Avenue and Worksop Town respectively.

Ben Wharton scored a hat-trick as Radcliffe Borough kicked off September with a 4-0 thrashing of Wakefield, while Trafford progressed to the next rounds of both the FA Cup and the FA Trophy.  

Salford City had three league wins out of three, but bowed out of the both the FA Cup and the FA Trophy to FC United and Skelmersdale United respectively. 

Mossley proved difficult to beat, losing only one of their six league games in September.


County took seven points from four games in October, as did Hyde with Phil Jevons adding a further three goals to his tally for the season.

The Tigers played Harrogate Town in FA Cup Qualifying but lost out in the final minutes of extra time of a replay, after the sides drew 1-1 at Ewen Fields in the first encounter.

Jim Gannon’s County side defeated Stalybridge in the FA Cup, winning 5-3 in the fourth qualifying round of the competition.

Altrincham defeated Corby 5-2 in their first league game of the month, but lost three on the bounce afterwards including an injury time turn around against Solihull Moors.

Droylsden won just once in October, defeating Cowyn Bay and lost 5-0 to Corby as the Bloods struggled in the lower part of the BSB North.

Stalybridge recorded just one league victory in October, a 2-1 win over Worcester City after coming from a goal down.

FC United’s FA Cup run continued with a 3-1 defeat of Kendal Town, but the Red Rebels crashed out of the competition after losing 2-0 to League Two side Hereford United.

Curzon Ashton had a mixed month in the league, but got through to next round of the Manchester Senior Cup after beating Glossop North End 4-1. 

Radcliffe Borough failed to register a single league win in October, responding by releasing Ally Brown, Nick Culkin, Chris McDonagh and Tom Brooks from the club.

A loss to New Mills aside, Ramsbottom United had an unbeaten October in the league including five wins.

Meanwhile, despite being knocked out of the FA Cup by Marine, Trafford’s Michael Oates scored another four and Shelton Payne scored five to keep their side’s momentum up. 

Salford City ended the month with back-to-back draws, while Mossley continued their positive run, losing only one of their six league fixtures. 


Danny Hattersley scored a double as County overcame Barrow but they lost two league games in a row afterwards.

Jim Gannon’s side also went down 3-0 to League Two side Southend in the First Round of the FA Cup.

Hyde defeated Grimsby and high-flying Newport County in the BSB Premier moving the club away from the relegation zone, but exited the FA Trophy following a replay against Barrow.

Altrincham played just one league game in November, and put eight past Hinckley, including five in the second half, with Shaun Densmore and Duncan Watmore both grabbing two each.

Alty lost 5-2 to be dumped out of the FA Trophy by Halifax, but forced a replay with League Two side Burton Albion in the FA Cup First Round after a 3-3 draw away from home.

Lee Sinnott’s side went out of the FA Cup in front of more than 2,400 people in the replay, eventually going down 2-0.

Celtic exited the FA Trophy at the hands of Matlock Town while they responded from a heavy defeat to Brackley with a 1-0 home win over Harrogate Town.

Droylsden also crashed out of the FA Trophy against Rushall Olympic before losing 4-1 to Harrogate Town, as they played only two fixtures in November.

FC United bounced back from their FA Cup exit by beating Eastwood Town 4-1, but were brought back down to earth with a 4-0 home defeat by Rushall Olympic. 

Despite starting November brightly with three successive wins, Ashton United faded with two losses on the bounce as their charge for promotion lost some momentum.

Curzon Ashton started November with two back-to-back defeats, but ended it with a thrilling 4-3 victory over Ramsbottom United.

Radcliffe Borough ended the month with a thrilling 5-4 defeat to Clitheroe in the Doodson Sport Cup, while Ramsbottom experienced three losses on the bounce.

Michael Oates continued his red-hot goal scoring form with a hat-trick in Trafford’s 5-1 victory over Goole, as the North had an unbeaten November.

Salford City announced the signing of Enoch Balotelli, younger brother of enigmatic Manchester City striker Mario.

Mossley meanwhile put seven past Garforth Town in the league, but were put to the sword by Warrington Town, losing 7-1 in the Doodson Sport Cup. 


County have lost both league games in December so far and have dropped to 20th in the BSB Premier division.

Jim Gannon’s side have lost four league matches in a row and will be hoping his side can improve in the second half of the season.

Hyde started December in style, condemning Woking to a 7-0 defeat, with striker Phil Jevons scoring four to become the league’s joint-top goal-scorer.

A narrow defeat to Macclesfield was followed up by a win against AFC Telford as the Tiger’s climbed up to 16th in the league with three games to play in this calendar year.

Stalybridge began the month with three consecutive defeats and have scored just 12 goals since the start of October.

Celtic currently sit in 16th position, nine points above the drop zone and ten points from the play-off positions.

Altrincham have six points in the month to date, and are in tenth, well placed to make charge for a promotion spot in the second half of the season.

Droylsden are without a win in December and have amassed 12 points and are third from bottom in BSB North, six points adrift in the relegation zone.

In their only fixture so far this month, Ashton United lost 5-1 away to Worksop Town, while Curzon Ashton routed Garforth Town 6-1 to keep their promotion charge alive.

Radcliffe Borough responded to a 1-0 defeat to Warrington Town by beating Prescot Cables by the same score-line.  

Ramsbottom ended their run of three league defeats with a 6-1 hammering of Ossett Albion, while Trafford beat Warrington Town 3-2 to get into the third round of the Doodson Sport Cup.

Mossley’s sole December fixture has been the 2-2 draw with Bamber Bridge, as they face going into Christmas as top of the table. 

Image courtesy of Blue Square Bet Premier, with thanks.

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