Saturday, 30 May 2015

League Cup Final 2nd Replay

Gainsborough Trinity  (1) 3
Blyth Spartans        (0) 1

At last a winner, Trinity taking the cup with a fine win, hard-earned and richly-deserved against the valiant Spartans, who battled until the end and a two-goal deficit proved insurmountable.

For Gainsborough, runners-up in the League Championship, of course, victory also provides a passport into European competition next season, and a new adventure, in the inaugural Cup-Winners' Cup.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

European Cup Final 2014 - 15

(in Zurich)

Ferencvaros TC Budapest    2
RWD Molenbeek              1  (aet)

A pulsating European Cup Final, challengers Ferencvaros eventually prevailing over holders RWDM after extra time and a most highly-skilled, tense 120 minutes of top-class technical football, suitable revenge for the Hungarian maestros' 9 - 4 aggregate defeat to Molenbeek in last season's quarter-finals, the first real indication that the Belgian champions were a new continental force to be reckoned with, further evidenced by their impressive progress to this year's final.

For Ferencvaros, the win marks the fourth time they've claimed the trophy, confirming their place amongst Europe's elite, and provides entry into next season's competition despite the loss of their domestic championship to Vasas Budapest.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

League Cup Final Replay

Blyth Spartans        (0) (1) 2
Gainsborough Trinity  (1) (1) 2  (after extra time)

Still no Cup-winner this season, as Spartans and Trinity finish all-square for the second time, Blyth twice coming from behind to force another replay, scheduled for this coming Saturday - we just don't want this season to end!

Saturday, 23 May 2015

League Cup Final 2014 - 15

Blyth Spartans        (1) (3) 5
Gainsborough Trinity  (0) (3) 5  (after extra time)

Cup Final day, ending in a quite remarkable scoreline, even if the match failed to produce a winner. In a fabulous see-saw encounter, three times Blyth took the lead, each time Gainsborough pulled level and also gained the upper hand twice, before Spartans scored a last-gasp leveller in extra time.

The much-anticipated replay will be held on Tuesday evening, 26th May, the day preceding the European Cup Final between Hungary's Ferencvaros and holders RWD Molenbeek, of Belgium, the former seeking revenge over the latter for last season's quarter-final 9 - 4 aggregate pasting - it's going to be quite a week.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Stalybridge's Achievement (in Part) (Lightning Strikes Twice)

A glance over the grid of this season’s results in the Championship (see previous post) unearthed the fact that, amongst the facts of League-winners Stalybridge Celtic’s impressive victory campaign, they had achieved the not-inconsiderable feat of winning all six matches against the three clubs who, from around mid-season, with Celtic, established themselves as the effective challengers for the title and subsequently finished immediately below them in the final table, one of the decisive factors in Stalybridge’s deserved success.

This discovery then prompted a statistical analysis of the history of the results between the ‘top four’ in each of the League seasons since the inception of the national ‘Football Alliance’, based on this most recent campaign’s obvious distinction of four teams as championship contenders but allowing for the obvious fact that not every season follows a similar pattern, that, of course, sometimes fewer and on other occasions more than four comprise the would-be champions’ pack.

The findings of this analysis produced a most interesting and, indeed, remarkable fact – that, although the eventual champions have on quite rare occasion emerged unbeaten from the series of matches against their immediate rivals, Stalybridge’s six wins out of six achievement has been recorded only once before in 35 seasons…by Stalybridge themselves as they won their only previous championship, back in 1984-85.

On the opposite side of the coin, Liverpool St Helens’ return of a single point from the matches against their top four rivals this season is the joint second worst ever, and an obvious contributory factor in their failure to win the league: six defeats from six is a fate to have befallen only one team during the history of the regular league season - Blyth Spartans, even more coincidentally in the unique environment of 1984-85.
Such ignominy has occurred on one other occasion, albeit during one of the short-lived championship play-off series, the victims being, of course, Stalybridge Celtic, in 1986-87 (their regular season record was 5 points from W2-D1-L3, better but still the poorest of that particular four).
It might also be noted that Marine, who will rejoin next season’s Championship as winners of this term’s Second Division, are the only other club to have gained but one point from the six-game ‘leagues-within-leagues’, in 2004-05 (when Gainsborough Trinity gained 14 from the possible 15), and are also one of the few to have dropped no more than a point ('86-87 Play-offs), another curious coincidence.

Here below is the full season-by-season record of top-four results, from 1980-81 to 2013-14, which, as an additional point of interest, of course allows an overview of the teams to have been champions and contenders, consistently and occasionally (sometimes only once).

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Matchday 30 Results & Updated Tables


Audenshaw Dynamo  4   Hungaria  3
Blyth Spartans  2   Marlow   0
Gainsborough Trinity  8   Matlock Town   1
Hartlepool United  5   Red Star Sunderland   0
Liverpool St Helens  5   Burnley   0
Oxford Excelsior  3   Northwich Victoria  1
Stalybridge Celtic  2   Manchester City   2
Wrexham  5   Mossley   3

Second Division

Atletico Espanol  1   Hendon Hotspur   2
Bradford City  1   Marine   0
Crystal Palace  2   Merthyr Tydfil   0
Gateshead Dynamo  4   South Liverpool Red Star   3
Inter-Italiano  4   Crewe Alexandra   4
Newcastle United  2   Newcastle Blue Star   1
Sheffield Wednesday  5   Manchester Newton Heath   1
Spartak-Slavia  2   Nelson CBR   2

With the league championship already decided in Stalybridge Celtic's favour, attention was focussed on the other end of the table today, with Matlock Town needing to win at potential runners-up and Cup finalists Gainsborough Trinity, a squad motivated by the fight for a starting place in the final, and hoping that Marlow wouldn't prevail at faltering Blyth Spartans (the other Cup finalists next weekend) in order to leapfrog the deposed champions and escape the clutches of relegation.
Alas for them, although Marlow duly lost in Northumberland, a fitting end to a truly miserable campaign, Matlock failed spectacularly to capitalise, victims of an 8 - 1 trashing by Trinity - who thus confirmed second place and moved a point closer to Stalybridge after Celtic, in celebratory mood, were held by Manchester City - and will therefore accompany Oxford Excelsior, who enjoyed a valedictory victory over Northwich Victoria, down into next season's Second Division.
Elsewhere in the top flight, more goals flowed - eight at Wrexham as they beat hopeless travellers Mossley 5- 3, seven at Audenshaw as the Dynamo edged Hungaria 4- 3, and five each for Hartlepool United and Liverpool St Helens as they both signed-off in fine style with thumping to-nil victories.

The nerves again afflicted those jostling for promotion from the Second Division, all of which meant that, despite losing by a single goal at Bradford City, Marine still finished top of the pile and go up, while Spartak-Slavia's draw at home to Nelson CBR enabled them to accompany Marine in second place, staying that crucial point ahead of Crewe Alexandra after the latter could only earn a share of eight goals at Inter-Italiano, running out of time after at one stage being 1 - 4 behind.
At the opposite end, Newcastle United, controversially elevated to the second tier before the season kicked-off, beat city neighbours Blue Star but that ultimately wasn't enough to save them from finishing in last place, and demotion back to the regional leagues, as Crystal Palace rescued themselves with a vital 2 - 0 victory over Merthyr Tydfil, also enabling them to climb and finish above the South Walians.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Matchday 29 Results & Updated Tables


Audenshaw Dynamo  2   Stalybridge Celtic   2
Burnley  1   Hartlepool United   2
Hungaria  2   Liverpool St Helens   2
Manchester City  3   Oxford Excelsior   1
Matlock Town  5   Marlow   3
Mossley  4   Gainsborough Trinity   2
Northwich Victoria  1   Wrexham   1
Red Star Sunderland  2   Blyth Spartans   1

Second Division

Atletico Espanol  3   Sheffield Wednesday   1
Crewe Alexandra  2   Gateshead Dynamo   3
Hendon Hotspur  3   Inter-Italiano   2
Manchester Newton Heath  6   Newcastle United   0
Merthyr Tydfil  2   Marine   2
Nelson CBR  4   Crystal Palace   1
Newcastle Blue Star  3   Spartak-Slavia   1
South Liverpool Red Star  3   Bradford City   2

Stalybridge Celtic confirmed as Champions, gaining the point they required at neighbours Audenshaw Dynamo, whilst the only team who could have overtaken them at the start of play, Gainsborough Trinity, were blowing their last chance with defeat at Mossley, who would never knowingly do Celtic a favour, of course - a thoroughly deserved triumph for Stalybridge, consistently the best team in the league and impressive winners of the title, their second but first in 30 seasons.
At the bottom, Matlock Town have given themselves a chance of avoiding relegation, even if they remain in the bottom two, by beating closest rivals Marlow in a 5 - 3 thriller, rendering Hartlepool's surprise win at Burnley critical to their hopes of survival too. Oxford Excelsior's virtually-certain demotion was confirmed by their defeat at Manchester City.

In the Second Division, things remain tight and the promotion places still undecided going into the final round, with only Marine of the top four picking up a point, although Sheffield Wednesday's defeat at Atletico Espanol rules them out of the equation now, whilst the bottom two were hammered.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Matchday 28 Results & Updated Tables


Blyth Spartans  2   Burnley   3
Gainsborough Trinity  1   Northwich Victoria   0
Hartlepool United  2   Hungaria  3
Liverpool St Helens  1   Stalybridge Celtic   2
Marlow  3   Red Star Sunderland   1
Mossley  1   Matlock Town   1
Oxford Excelsior  0   Audenshaw Dynamo   2
Wrexham  3   Manchester City   2

Second Division

Bradford City  3   Crewe Alexandra   2
Crystal Palace  2   Newcastle Blue Star   2
Gateshead Dynamo  3   Hendon Hotspur  2
Inter-Italiano  3   Sheffield Wednesday   3
Marine  4   South Liverpool Red Star   2
Nelson CBR  1   Merthyr Tydfil   0
Newcastle United  4   Atletico Espanol   2
Spartak-Slavia  3   Manchester Newton Heath   2

A massive and probably decisive result at the top of the Championship today, with leaders Stalybridge Celtic's hard-fought  but thoroughly-deserved 2 - 1 victory at the home of closest challengers Liverpool St Helens putting them 5 points clear of now-second-placed Gainsborough Trinity, who leapfrogged the Saints courtesy of a single-goal win over Northwich Victoria, and eliminating St Helens from the title race - only if Celtic lose both of their final two fixtures and Trinity win theirs (the next of which is at unbeaten-at-home - and close neighbours of Stalybridge of course - Mossley) will the latter be able to pip the former to the post, by the slenderest of margins, and Stalybridge's consistency in meeting the season's major challenges as they've presented themselves (not least beating each of Gainsborough, 4th-placed Blyth Spartans and now St Helens both home and away) suggests this is unlikely.

At the bottom of the table, Audenshaw's win at Oxford gives the Dynamo an excellent chance of avoiding the drop now, pulling them 4 points clear of Matlock, despite Town's valiant draw at virtually impregnable Mossley, and all but consigns the vanquished Excelsior to relegation, five points adrift of Hartlepool United and safety as they are.
A rare win in a season of increasing strife for reigning but soon to be deposed champions Marlow has given them the relative luxury of a three-point cushion over Matlock ahead of the teams' potentially-decisive meeting next Saturday, and might have gone a significant way to saving them from the ignominy of the drop, a fate that has only once previously befallen the defending title holders (Mossley back in 1997, although their form that season was more in keeping with the manner in which they'd begun their championship campaign, with 7 defeats from the first 8 games, only to miraculously revive. For the record, only the merger of the then two Nottingham clubs, and a consequent hastily-arranged play-off, had reprieved Mossley from relegation the season prior to that, so the three quarters of a season that resulted in the title was the real anomaly over that period of the club's history).

In the battle for promotion from the Second Division, previous leaders Crewe's narrow and contentious 2 - 3 defeat at Bradford City drops them out of the top two for the first time since round 11 back in mid-November, a potentially ruinous slip at this late stage, to be replaced by Marine - who emerged triumphant from a pulsating Scouse derby with South Liverpool Red Star - and Spartak-Slavia, last-minute victors over Manchester Newton Heath in a five-goal thriller.

At the opposite end of the table, Newcastle Blue Star's draw at second-bottom Crystal Palace allowed their city neighbours United, who beat Atletico Espanol 4 - 2, to gain within a point of Palace in their quest to avoid the wooden spoon and demotion back to the regional leagues - it's all set to go to the wire at top and bottom.