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Sheffield FC 3 A4e All Stars 1
Charity Match @ Old Trafford
Sunday, 30/05/04
 
Club wrapped up the season with a light hearted friendly at Old Trafford, home of Manchester United, earlier this afternoon. Playing as the finale of the Festival of Football weekend, an event staged primarily as a charity fund-raiser (a joint venture by A4e and the NSPCC Full Stop campaign), Sheffield FC came out winners in a game played against the "A4e All Stars" who consisted mainly of other Sheffield Club players. Making appearances for Club this afternoon were the Manager, Mr McCarthy, and the legendary Steve "Snowy" Naylor. Also making a welcome comeback in the "Theatre of Dreams" (not that he's played there before to my knowledge, I actually mean to the football field) was Jon Pickess, who started the game for the All Stars outfit.
 
As expected Sheffield adapted to the sub-standard playing surface the better, and at long last Old Trafford saw some quality football from a proper team and not a bunch of over-paid prima donnas. The star of the show was undoubtedly Snowy Naylor, who looked a cross between Ferenc Puskas and Fabrizio Ravanelli, and dazzled the opposition with his pace and skill. Dave McCarthy on the other hand rolled back the years with a vintage performance at right-back, unfortunately his memory played tricks on him as he appeared to forget how to pass to players in the same coloured shirt (only joking Macca!). The All Stars nearly opened the scoring when Darren Holmes dispossessed the usually reliable Tom Jones; unfortunately Holmes tried to be too fancy with his finish and chipped over. Sheffield opened the scoring however just before the break, Ryan O'Carroll credited with the goal after the ball was deflected off a defender and beating Ferraby. The lead was doubled early in the second half when Caine Cheetham crossed the ball into the box, Duncan Bray got there in front of Bobby Moorwood to score in front of the packed (with seats) Stretford End, a moment that made his father (a life long devout Manchester United fanatic) extremely proud. Bray scored a second not long afterwards, this time he virtually walked the ball in the back of the net after dribbling round the entire All Stars defence. The A4e side got a consolation when Asa Ingall headed the ball beyond Sheffield's substitute "goalkeeper" Siraj Mohammed, the guest replacing the injured Darren Bonnington at half time, however the stadium announcer credited the goal to Jonathan Pickles (although god only knows why).
 
Overall it was good fun and a great experience for players and supporters alike, the result coming second to everyone having a great day out at a great stadium. After the game Jon Pickess said "it was great to be back after nine and a half months out, and it felt good to get my first game back under my belt", Asa Ingall however had other things on his agenda and moaned "it was my goal wasn't it Stu? Pickess was not even anywhere near it, I rose like a salmon!" A great way to cap a great season from players and management who all deserved the day out in the Manchester sunshine, as well as helping a great cause along the way.
 
Sheffield: Bonnington, McCarthy, Hilton, Jones, Atkinson, O'Carroll, Utley, Bray, Carrington, Watson, S.Naylor.
A4e: Ferraby, Griffin, Hobson, Moorwood, Holmes, Ireland, Ingall, Pickess, B.Naylor, Hemmingham, Mohammed.
 
Att: 67,721 (or thereabouts).

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Sheffield FC 2 Harrogate Railway 2
Northern Counties East Premier Division
Wednesday, 05/05/04
 
The curtains were brought down on an excellent season for Sheffield at the Coach and Horses tonight, with both teams sharing the spoils. With nothing to play for but pride, as only the visitors could truly get a better league placing with a victory, both teams played out an entertaining draw with the hosts grabbing a last minute equaliser from the most unlikely source. In front of a vociferous crowd Harrogate looked like upsetting the form book having come from behind in the second half, but in the end Neil Cluxton with only his second goal of the season made certain Sheffield ended the season without having the double done over them.
 
Despite the heavy rain over the past 48 hours the pitch was passed fit to play, and the visitors were the first to adapt to the conditions, Chris Howarth having the first opportunity of the game with a shot on the turn. It didn't take Club long to start dominating proceedings, with Duncan Bray heading a Lee Vernon free kick just wide. The game was starting to be frantic at this stage of the game and on 15 minutes Harrogate had their best chance to take the lead, Liam Gray having a free shot on goal, Neil Ferraby though found this very easy to handle. As the half progressed it was Sheffield who started to get the upper hand and were starting to cut through the Railway with increasing ease; Richard Carrington was put through on goal, his shot only just went wide of the goal. Shortly after Duncan Bray went near, his acrobatic shot making Lee Ashforth in the Railway goal pull off an equally spectacular fingertip save. Eventually the deadlock was broken five minutes before the interval, Carrington turned provider with an excellent long ball into the area, and Sheffield player of the season BRAY was on hand with his usual calmness to stoke the ball home for his thirtieth goal of the season.
 
If anything Railway were stung by the late goal and came out looking the more determined at the restart, and it didn't take them long to pull the game back to level terms. In the 51st minute Club were unable to clear a Harrogate corner, the ball fell kindly to HOWARTH who gratefully turned the ball past Ferraby. For a while neither team looked like threatening with a real attempt on goal, as the ball went from end to end with no-one managing a decent shot. Just when the game looked like it was going to slump into a dull end-of-season affair, up popped a moment of genius from ex-Farsley Celtic man Liam Gray; in the 77th minute GRAY picked up the ball out wide on the right wing and set off on a jinking run through an unusually slack Sheffield defence, with the man from Railway cutting through a hitting home an excellent finish. It seemed that Sheffield would end the season on a sad note, but with the heavens opening with more torrential rain coming down the Club players ended with a typical flourish. Duncan Bray went close with a last minute effort with the keeper putting the ball behind for the first of a series of corners, the last corner however from Lee Vernon produced the desired effect with CLUXTON getting his head to the ball with characteristic bravery to steer the ball home and give Sheffield the point they deserved and send the home fans into raptures.
 
It would be easy to say the game had no real bearing on the final placing in the table, Sheffield were already assured of a highly creditable fourth place before the game which was their best in ten years, however both teams need congratulating on turning out an entertaining finale to the season. Which league Club will play in next season remains to be seen, it seems it will be an interesting couple of weeks or so down at the Coach and Horses. Harrogate on the other hand look as if they could be a team to watch in the NCEL next season, not many teams have managed to take four points from Club this season, and even less have gone as close to taking all six. Sheffield though have had an excellent season, hopefully manager Dave McCarthy will be able to keep this squad of players together and build on an already sound looking platform.
 
BTF Club Man Of The Match - Neil Cluxton
 
Sheffield FC: Ferraby, Hilton (Black), Vernon, Watson, Utley (Tilly), Hobson, Cluxton, Carrington, Beaumont, Bray, Holmes (Ireland).
Harrogate Railway Athletic: Ashforth, Day, Turner, Whitehead, Bairstow, Shuttleworth, Ryan, Gray, Howarth, Marchant, Haigh. Subs Not Used: Blackstone, Henderson.
 
Att: 165.

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Sheffield FC 1 Worksop Town 4
Sheffield and Hallamshire Senior Cup Semi Final
Tuesday, 27/04/04
 
The reigning Senior Cup holders Worksop Town move into the final to defend their trophy, after overcoming a spirited Sheffield Club side on an extremely heavy pitch, and in front of a good crowd at the Coach and Horses who turned out on such an awful evening. Sheffield won the battle to stage the game following some extremely heavy rainfall; the referee only passing the game fit an hour before kick-off, with parts of the pitch at one stage during the day being under a considerable amount of standing water. Worksop however won the battle where it mattered, on the pitch, with the star man on the night Gary Townsend who won the game single-handed with a first half hat-trick.
 
Club have had a habit of starting slowly this season, more often than not being able to haul back the deficit, so it didn't come as a big surprise when TOWNSEND rose at the back to head home a cross with only two minutes on the watch. The difference this time was that Sheffield were up against a higher calibre of opposition, and would find clawing the game back level would not be so easy this time. Caine Cheetham though nearly drew the scores level almost immediately, after being set clean through the Sheffield man just couldn't get the ball beyond Ian Bowling in the Tigers' goal. On five minutes the game looked to be over as a contest, as once more TOWNSEND rose unmarked to head home beyond Ferraby. At two-nil Worksop looked as if they had achieved their objective and slackened up a little, allowing telling runs from Holmes, Bray, Cheetham and Beaumont to ask questions of the defence. On 26 minutes Sheffield pulled one back and it looked as if it was game on once more; a through ball to CHEETHAM saw the frontman deliver an exquisite chip leave Bowling stranded and the ball in the back of the net. Sheffield looked to have the upper hand and set about pressing with a lot more determination and self belief, and not long after could have got the equaliser; good work from Holmes and Bray fed the ball out wide to Hilton whose pinpoint cross found the head of Chris Beaumont, unfortunately his header could only hit the bar. That in the end was the game changing moment as in the 42nd minute Gary Townsend completed his hat-trick, and effectively sealed the game for the visitors. A free-kick conceded on the edge of the area, TOWNSEND stepped up and curled the ball past Ferraby; it was a goal the hosts did not deserve to concede, but in the end it underlined how clinical the UniBond team's finishing was.
 
Seven minutes into the second half Worksop grabbed a fourth, Adam Muller broke down the left hand side, and as Sheffield skipper Bob Moorwood pulled up with an injury, MULLER took full advantage to drill the ball beyond Ferraby. All credit to the Sheffield side they came back with a lot of zeal and energy, but couldn't get another goal back, although it wasn't for a lack of trying. Caine Cheetham was dreadfully unlucky to see his close range effort clawed off the line by Bowling, whilst shortly after in a goalmouth scramble, no-one could get the vital foot to stab the ball over the line. Sam Ireland came close after an impressive show, his curling shot just straying outside the far upright. As it was time got the better of the home side, and press as they did they did not possess the clinical finishing of their higher ranked opponents to give the scoreline a more respectable look. So it's another final date at Hillsborough for Worksop, and hard luck has to go to a very brave Sheffield side. The score didn't do Club justice and looks more slanted than it actually was, somewhat flattering the Worksop side. The Tigers however always looked relatively at ease never really stepping out of first gear, and given a two goal platform so early who could blame them, obviously they now move into the final outright favourites.
 
BTF Club Man Of The Match - Duncan Bray
 
Sheffield FC: Ferraby, Hilton, Vernon (Black), Watson, Moorwood (Naylor), Hobson, Beaumont, Tilly (Ireland), Cheetham, Bray, Holmes.
Worksop Town: Bowling, Ludlam (Archer), Davies (Plant), Hawes, Mitchell, Sykes , Callery, Jones (Payne), Muller, Townsend, Caudwell.
 
Att: 349.

Sheffield FC 3 Arnold Town 0
Northern Counties East Premier Division
Saturday, 24/04/04
 
Any pre-match talk of ground grading appeals had to be put on ice at The Coach & Horses this afternoon writes Deano. In the first instance the team had to do the talking out on the park by claiming three points against lowly Arnold Town, thus consolidating the sides top four place. Less than forty eight hours after a hard earned victory at title chasers Eastwood, there was just one change from Thursday evenings starting line up. Match winner Richard Carrington replacing match winner creator Darren Holmes.
 
If ever there was any doubt, and in warm temperatures and bright sunshine, then these fears were quickly allayed as Sheffield put on a solid professional performance to enhance their promotion credentials. Arnold showed why they are struggling near the foot of the table, resorting at times to what can only be described at best as crude challenges. However, Club refused to allow themselves to become embroiled in anything unsavoury and once Chris Hilton had broken the deadlock in the twenty sixth minute the game was as good as won for the home side. Lee Vernon dinking a lovely ball into the penalty area for Carrington, whose low drive across the six yard box was deflected to the oncoming Hilton on the right hand side of the box. There was to be only one destination for the right backs low shot.
 
In the second half it was pretty much one way traffic and Richard Carrington went close with a header that looped just over angle of bar and post. However, it was 2-0 in the fifty eighth minute and it was that man Hilton on target again. As with the first goal, Lee Vernon was involved again, this time flighting over a corner that saw the ever dependable Chris Beaumont's header thumping against the bar and away, but only as far as the edge of the area. Enter Chris Hilton, with the ex-Belper defender hitting a sweet strike through the crowded area and beating Town 'keeper Whitehead all ends up. Neil Ferraby had his first real save of note to make at the other end, and then it was back to normal service with Club going further in front with fifteen minutes remaining. Caine Cheetham, who was always involved, managed to get enough contact in a fifty-fifty challenge to send the ball goalwards and Richard Carrington was on hand to make sure.
  
Despite having made three substitutions, the fluency of the side never wavered and the three goal cushion was no less than Club deserved on an afternoon where uncertainty off the pitch still abounds. Victory over Harrogate on Thursday should now ensure the sides best placed finish for over ten years.
 
BTF Club Man Of The Match - Chris Hilton
 
Sheffield: Ferraby, Hilton, Vernon (Griffin), Watson, Moorwood (C), Beaumont, Ingall (Tilly), Utley, Cheetham, Bray (Holmes), Carrington.
Arnold Town: Whitehead, Davey, Boulter, Williams, Hodgson, Coke (Hunh), Brady, Bogan, Purdy, Back, Wilkins.
Unused Subs: Taylor, Broster

Eastwood Town 0 Sheffield FC 1
Northern Counties East Premier Division
Thursday, 22/04/04
 
A heavily depleted Sheffield side overcame massive odds tonight at Coronation Park, beating the hosts Eastwood and damaging the Badgers' title aspirations. A late goal from substitute Richard Carrington was the difference between the two teams, and came against the pattern of play after the visitors managed to hold out following a heavy period of pressure from the home team.
 
The first half was a lively battle with very few clear cut chances; Caine Cheetham had the best opportunity five minutes into the game, after being put clear on goal the Sheffield forward couldn't get enough control to truly test Danny Bryant in the Eastwood goal. At the other end Chris Shaw rattled the woodwork with a fierce free-kick from the edge of the area on the quarter hour mark, but other than that neither goalkeeper was truly tested. The game looked to have the potential to boil over, with the main flashpoint being a clash of the two captains Bob Moorwood of Sheffield and Paul Gould of Eastwood.
 
With Eastwood kicking down the slope in the second period, it looked as if the Badgers would make good use of this advantage and they promptly set to work putting Club on the back-foot. Only a brave defensive display, marshalled by man of the match Moorwood, saved the bacon for the visitors. The hosts had plenty of pressure and opportunities to grab a lead, but the exertion of a congested run-in seemed to tell on a tired looking side. The introduction of Richard Carrington for Caine Cheetham added a new dimension to the game, with some telling runs making the home defence do some work. With time running out a goal-less draw appeared to be inevitable, however with five minutes left on the clock Club managed to grab a winner, much against the run of play. A long ball from the Sheffield midfield looked to be easily dealt with by Bryant; Darren Holmes on the other hand had different ideas and managed to get between keeper and defender to charge the ball down and into the path of CARRINGTON who slotted the ball into the unguarded net. The goal deflated the hosts and came at a time where they were unable to reply, and with that the result was sewn up for Club.
 
The win takes Sheffield up to fourth in the table, and all but hands the title on a plate to Ossett Albion. Eastwood, despite all the pressure, looked like a team that had been playing four games a week. This no doubt took its toll on the performance of the hosts, however it shouldn't take the shine off an excellent display from a very under strength Sheffield side. With Clubs' last two matches of the season being home games against sides in the lower reaches of the league, 16th and 17th place as this is written, a couple of wins would ensure Sheffield their highest ever finish in recent times.
 
BTF Club Man Of The Match - Bob Moorwood
 
Eastwood Town: Bryant, Fisher, Whitehead, Soar, Fletcher (Reynolds), Gould (Meikle), Hutchinson, Knox (Mushambi), Nazha, Mitchell, Shaw.
Sheffield FC: Ferraby, Hilton, Vernon, Watson, Moorwood , Beaumont, Ingall, Utley, Cheetham (Carrington), Bray (Tilly), Holmes. Sub Not Used: Griffin.
 
Att: 150 (approx)
 

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Harrogate Railway Athletic 3 Sheffield FC 0
Northern Counties East Premier Division
Saturday, 17/04/04
 
Sheffield were looking to bounce back to winning ways after the Bank Holiday defeat by Pickering writes Trev, with a visit to Station Road to take on Harrogate R.A. for the first meeting of the season between the sides. It was a bright sunny day with a slight breeze. Dark clouds were threatening a downpour, but this fortunately failed to materialize.
 
It was the visitors who threatened first when a free kick just outside the penalty area was hit into the wall by Carrington. Five minutes later and there was panic in the Sheffield defence as a high ball into the area was completely miss-judged by Bonnington, but the ball eventually was cleared to safety. Duncan Bray then almost put Club in front after his shot on the turn went across Harrogate keeper Ashforth but just wide of the upright. Chances were at a premium but Harrogate began to press more and more, and a good break down the Sheffield left saw Haworth latch onto a ball on the edge of the area to send a shot just wide of the angle with Bonnington beaten. Harrogate seemed to have adopted a policy of shoot on site as a number of shots went narrowly wide of the visitors goal. Sheffield's only worthwhile reply was a twenty five yard effort from Stewart which had Ashforth diving full length with the ball going narrowly wide.
   
The half time interval saw the introduction of Asa Ingall for Tom Jones, the centre back having taken a knock in the opening forty five minutes. With six minutes of the second half played and the back four still settling, the defence was caught out as a ball played down the middle found Henderson, who ran on and chipped over the advancing Bonnington to open the scoring. Sheffield were looking a lot more lively in this half and were unlucky when a scramble in the home goalmouth ended with Holmes' shot being well saved and the rebound being smacked against the bar by Richard Carrington.  Nick Tilly and Ben Naylor were brought on to mix things up, replacing Stewart and Vernon respectively. With three quarters of the game played Darren Holmes had an opportunity to level finding himself unmarked in front of goal, however his weak shot was easily gathered by the keeper. From the resulting throw out, Harrogate launched a quick counter attack and Marchant doubled Harrogate's lead with the Sheffield defence static.
 
There was only one side in it as Harrogate pressed forward looking to kill off the game. A 50/50 ball on the edge of the Sheffield area ended with Bonnington in collision with one of the Harrogate forwards, resulting in the keeper leaving the field on a stretcher. Darren Utley took over between the sticks as ten man Sheffield re-shuffled the defence in an attempt to salvage something from the match.  The game was finally over as a contest two minutes from time when a crossfield ball eluded the head of Holmes to fall at the feet of Ryan who placed his shot into the far corner.
  
Harrogate Railway had equalled Club's biggest defeat of the season, and also brought to an end Sheffield's run of never having lost an away match played on a Saturday during the 2003-2004 season. Hopefully this was a one off with too many players having an off day, and not an adverse reaction to the unfortunate events off the field  of the last seven days.
 
BTF Club Man of the Match - Darren Bonnington
 
Harrogate:- Ashforth, Bairstow, Turner, Shaw, Bradshaw, Shuttleworth, Ryan, Henderson, Haworth, Gray, Marchant. Subs: Haigh, Whitehead,Blackstone.
Sheffield:-  Bonnington, Utley, Vernon(Tilly), Jones (Ingall), Hobson, Stewart(Naylor), Cluxton, Carrington, Cheetham, Bray, Holmes.
 
Attendance: 97

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Sheffield FC 0 Pickering Town 2
Northern Counties East Premier Division
Monday, 12/04/04
 
Sheffield were hit by a major jolt in the bid for UniBond football this afternoon, as Pickering continued their Indian sign over Club with yet another win at the Coach and Horses, their third in consecutive seasons. Following on from Saturday's brave display at Mickleover, Sheffield needed a near perfect performance to drill home their advantage over the rest of the pack; unfortunately they came up against a quality outfit that played some excellent football to take all three points.
 
As with most six-pointers this was a tense affair and both sides had chances to get an early advantage; Alex Willgrass came close for the Pikes, hitting the post from an angled shot, whilst at the other end Lee Vernon had Kevin Martin worried with a cross-cum-shot that hit the bar. Pickering also had some loud shouts for a penalty waved away, however they were to take the lead in the 15th minute, one they wouldn't lose. A corner from the right saw WOOD get there first; his effort was steered past the defenders on the line and into the net. Sheffield tried to respond, but the Pickering defence mopped up most of the things Club threw at them. Some chances got through, a long ball from Darren Utley to Duncan Bray the pick of them; with Bray through on goal his effort could only hit the legs of Martin. Caine Cheetham also had an opportunity to get Club on level terms; a curled shot that beat Martin hands down cruelly went inches wide of the post.
 
It wasn't a good first half performance by Club, but over the last few weeks we have seen Sheffield go in at the break following a weak opening only to storm back in the second period. Today however Pickering was a different proposition, and a totally different one to the team we met last week, and were extremely resolute in the defence of the lead. Sheffield tried to hurl everything they had at the visitors, however the tall centre half partnership of Rob Eales and Matt Morton mopped up most of the hosts attacks with a solid performance. Pickering were fortunate not to concede early in the half after Martin flapped wildly at a corner kick, fortunately they had Mark Swales to thank for a goal-line clearance following the melee. The Pickering keeper made amends for his failure to deal with the routine cross moments later with a top-drawer save, tipping over Richard Carrington's shot following some excellent close skill by the Sheffield youngster. Pickering stifled most of Club's creative moves with some quick closing down of the ball, whilst they played some neat passing football when in possession. The final nail in the Sheffield coffin came in the 63rd minute when Pickering mopped up yet another Sheffield attack; they launched a counter-attack of their own with MARK SWALES picking up the long clearance beating Vernon before slotting the ball under Bonnington. Sheffield had no answer to this, and even though they maintained most of the pressure for the rest of the game, the hosts could not get the goal they needed to kick-start a revival of any kind.
 
On the day the better team won, and disappointing as the result was it doesn't spell doom and gloom just yet. Sheffield's main contenders, Ossett Albion aside, all have some pretty tricky run-ins and our rivals continue to slip up as Buxton did again today against Armthorpe. The important thing is that Sheffield pick themselves up from this defeat and regain the positive attitude that put them in contention for promotion in the first place. A further downside for Club was the early ankle injury to Ryan O'Carroll, with luck this won't be too serious and the wide man will back with the squad as soon as possible. Next up is a trip to Harrogate Rail next Saturday, and like Pickering at the Coach and Horses, this has been a happy hunting ground in recent years for Club. Let's hope the trend continues.
 
BTF Club Man Of The Match - Chris Beaumont
 
Sheffield FC: Bonnington, Beaumont, Vernon , Jones, Hobson, Utley (Tilly), Cluxton (Ingall), Carrington, Cheetham, Bray, O'Carroll (Holmes).
Pickering Town: Martin, Vasey, Brunton, Eales, Morton, Wilgrass , Dickinson, M.Swales, Greening (Baxter), Wood, S.Swales. Subs Not Used: Young, Ellwood.
 
Att: 204.

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Mickleover Sports 1 Sheffield FC 3
Northern Counties East Premier Division
Saturday, 10/04/04
 
Some hard work and a brave defensive performance saw Sheffield move back into third place in the league after overcoming tough opposition in Mickleover Sports. In a game that had a strange similarity to last Saturday's at Pickering, Sheffield had to come from behind once again, this time however they were to hold on for all three points. Mickleover who had won their previous three games, including victories over two of Club's promotion rivals Brigg and Pickering, were never going to be pushovers and it took a great deal of endeavour to come away with all three points.
 
The opening of the game gave a bit of false hope for the visitors, with Duncan Bray shooting narrowly wide in the opening ninety seconds; the real pattern of the game was going to be anything but one-sided for Sheffield as they found to their cost for the rest of the half. On eleven minutes Sports took the lead, albeit a little against the run of play to that point, when PARKINS lofted a shot across and over Darren Bonnington into the corner of the net. The goal spurred Mickleover into an all-out attack that had Sheffield rocking a little; two minutes after the goal Carl Cunningham nearly made it two, somehow though Jon Hobson managed to scramble the ball off the line when a goal was an almost certainty. Halfway through the half Darren Bonnington was called into action, the Sheffield keeper pulling off a great fingertip save from the Sports' scorer Parkin. It was looking one-way traffic to this point and it appeared Sheffield would have gladly taken the 1-0 deficit into the half-time break, but with five minutes to go in the half things turned dramatically in the visitors' favour. With Club having their best spell of the game, and having Mickleover penned in their own area for the first time in the game, the ball broke on the edge of the area to BRAY whose shot was cruelly deflected in slow-motion past the despairing Sports keeper Stone. Going in at half time on level terms was more than Sheffield could have hoped for based on the balance of possession and territory, the second half however would get much better for the away team.
 
Club started the second period like a house on fire, and the writing was on the wall after just five minutes when Neil Cluxton saw his shot unluckily deflected over the bar for a corner. From the resulting corner by Lee Vernon, the ball fell into a melee of players with JONES getting the decisive touch to put Sheffield into a lead they would not relinquish. Mickleover weren't going to give this game up without a fight and caused Sheffield to have an uneasy period with some telling pressure; the ever industrious Karl Payne fed the ball to Carl Cunningham whose spectacular volley was tipped over by an equally spectacular save from Man-of-the-Match Darren Bonnington. Sheffield managed to soak up the pressure quite well, and hit Sports on the break at every opportunity, although neither side created anything like a clear cut chance. The introduction of Darren Holmes midway though the half saw Sheffield add a new dimension to their play, one that the tall Mickleover defence had few answers for. On 79 minutes some pressure from Sheffield saw the young debutant in the Sports goal Stone make a hash of a clearance, only reaching Holmes who got the ball via Caine Cheetham to Duncan Bray, with some nifty footwork deceiving the defenders Mark Wood was fooled into tripping the Sheffield front man. BRAY made no mistake from the spot, his coolly taken kick beating the keeper with ease. Club then just had the small matter of playing out the final ten or so minutes without conceding a goal, a feat they managed quite well.
 
A difficult game against difficult opposition, but once more it is another double and the "unbeaten away on a Saturday" run continues for one more week. Sheffield never looked to be in top form today, mainly down to the impact of suspensions, however the players on the park did just enough to continue the promotion push. With Buxton losing at home to Goole and Pickering losing to Eastwood, this win moves Sheffield into third place once more. With Pickering next up at the new-improved Coach and Horses, every result is getting more vital by the week. Let's hope the push for the UniBond keeps being positive.
 
BTF Club Man Of The Match - Darren Bonnington
 
Mickleover Sports: Stone, Reynolds, Holness , Wood, Strzyzweski, Yeoman, Hays (Leighton), Payne, Cunningham, Middleditch, Parkins (Morgan). Sub Not Used: De Reus.
Sheffield FC: Bonnington, Beaumont (Tilly), Vernon , Jones, Hobson, Stewart, Cluxton, Utley, Cheetham, Bray, Naylor (Holmes). Sub Not Used: Moorwood.
 
Att: 110.
 

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Pickering Town 2 Sheffield FC 2
Northern Counties East Premier Division
Saturday, 03/04/04
 
Mill Lane staged the first of the two six-pointer games in nine days between top of the table rivals Pickering Town and Sheffield FC, on a torrential rainy day in North Yorkshire, with the outcome seeing the spoils shared after the Pikes nicked a late equaliser from the spot. On a pitch that resembled a skid-pan, two in-form teams fought out a fierce and sometimes fiery battle, with the visitors heading South with only one point when three were deserved following a fine second half display. The result also saw Sheffield maintain the unusual record of never losing on their travels on a Saturday, a feat that looked highly in doubt at the half time break.
 
With Sheffield still feeling the effects of suspensions from earlier in the season, the starting line-up saw both Asa Ingall and Chris Hilton missing, with Jon Hobson missing due to personal commitments. The Mill Lane surface looked short of grass before the kick off and a heavy downpour prior to kick-off didn't help matters one bit, contributing to conditions that would shape both the tactics and the mood of the game. The first ten minutes saw Sheffield penning the Pikes in their own half, with the Pickering defence having severe difficulty clearing their lines. On ten minutes however, and on their first foray into Club territory, the hosts opened their account. From an Alex Willgrass corner, the Sheffield defence failed to pick up Peter Vasey unmarked on the penalty spot, VASEY had no trouble heading home whilst unchallenged. Although the goal came against the run of play, it was the spur for Pickering to hold a sustained period of offence at the Sheffield goal; Darren Bonnington had to be solid to save a powerful free kick from Joe Connor, and later the Sheffield stopper had to do the same from a similar free-kick from Willgrass. At the other end the Sheffield attacks appeared more sporadic and disjointed, even so the chances were happening; only a great stop by David Stockdale, the first of many, from Mickey Stewart's shot kept Pickering in the lead, whilst Duncan Bray put the ball just over halfway through the first half. Caine Cheetham was getting amongst the Pikes' defence with an aggressive display, and the striker was almost rewarded with a goal after his looping effort was tipped onto the bar and to safety from Stockdale. At the other end Bonnington had a great show of bravery blocking a header at point-blank range from Ricky Greening, after a poorly cleared cross found its way back into the middle. Whilst the keepers were doing their best to steal the show the referee was doing his best to do likewise with a very weak display that threatened to get the tempers of both sides up, and also had the potential to boil over and spoil an entertaining game.
 
If the half time break gave both teams the chance to cool off, neither took the opportunity with neither budging an inch in the tackles. In the 52nd minute though, Sheffield gained parity after a storming start to the half that threatened a goal from the off; a massive clearing header from Tom Jones found Caine Cheetham galloping through on goal, once more Stockdale put his body on the line to bravely block the attack, it was in vain though as the ball broke to BRAY who seldom misses a chance from that range. At one each Sheffield looked in control of matters, but some crude challenges from the Pickering side looked set to turn the game into a free-for-all; the worst of these, a two-footed lunge by home skipper Willgrass which could have caused a very serious injury, deserved a red card at the very least, the yellow served up by the referee only set to prove a point of his performance on the day. This is not to say Sheffield didn't dish out their fair share of heavy challenges, no team are angels after all, but the game threatened to get niggly at best. The glue-pot of a pitch didn't help matters, with neither side able to judge passes with any accuracy. Gavin Dickinson stopped Sheffield getting their noses in front with a goal-line clearance from Caine Cheetham's effort, whilst Stockdale came to the Pikes' rescue yet again to deny another attempt by Cheetham. With the pitch starting to take its toll on the players, the chances were starting to come as the game opened up, with both sides starting to press for the vital winner. Joe Connor struck the Sheffield upright from a free-kick, whilst at the other end Ryan O'Carroll forced yet another save from Stockdale from a free-kick of his own. In the 77th minute the stalemate was broken, a corner from Lee Vernon was whipped into the box, mayhem ensued and BEAUMONT was on hand to poke the ball home for his third goal of the season and give the visitors a well deserved lead. It was a lead that looked to be fairly secure, with Cheetham and Bray threatening to get a third on the break and O'Carroll playing some enterprising football down the left, but it wasn't to be a happy ending for the Dronfield club. When seasons are summed up you tend to come across some inspired substitutions, some on the other hand a just plain unlucky, today saw one of the latter. With the clock running down and less than four minutes on the clock, Cheetham was replaced by Ben Naylor; nothing unusual in that tactical move apart from Naylor's first touch played the ball directly to Willgrass who was tripped in the box, all within a matter of seconds. WILLGRASS picked himself up, took the kick and calmly slotted the ball past Bonnington.
 
And that was how the game stayed, another away Saturday undefeated, and a result that many Club people would have taken before the kick-off and even more would have taken at half time. However unfortunate Ben Naylor's first touch was, the whole game couldn't hinge on the substitution or that moment, it is something no-one can legislate for. Neither can the decision by the referee to show Alex Willgrass a yellow card and not a red card for that nasty tackle, even though the Pikes' skipper carried on and scored the equaliser. These things are part and parcel of the season as a whole, and when weighed up with the other results of the day it doesn't seem such a bad result. Club now have the opportunity to move up into second on Tuesday when the visitors are Harrogate Railway, hopefully this will end up with all three points staying at the Coach and Horses to move Sheffield ever closer to a place near the top.
 
BTF Club Man Of The Match - Ryan O'Carroll
 
Pickering Town: Stockdale, Morton (Russell), Brunton, Eales, Vasey, Willgrass , Connor, Adams (M.Swales), Greening, Wood, Dickinson (S.Swales).
Sheffield FC: Bonnington, Beaumont, Vernon , Jones, Utley, Stewart, Cluxton, Holmes (Tilly), Cheetham (Naylor), Bray, O'Carroll. Sub Not Used: Moorwood.
 
Att: 116.

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Sheffield FC 3 Selby Town 0
Northern Counties East Premier Division
Tuesday, 30/03/04

Club carried on from where they left off on Saturday with another rousing 3-0 victory over potential promotion rivals, this time the victims were Selby Town, with a rip-roaring first half performance leaving the Robins rocking. With suspensions taking its toll on Sheffield, manager Dave McCarthy made a few changes to Saturday's line-up with starts for Mickey Stewart, Lee Vernon, Darren Utley and Ryan O'Carroll. The game was a potential six-pointer and one neither side could afford to lose, however it was the hosts who came away with all three points capping a dreadful week for the North Yorkshire club.

There was a frantic opening to the game with both sides taking no prisoners; Ryan O'Carroll was the first with a testing shot after just four minutes, Selby keeper Ryder doing enough to deny the Sheffield man. It didn't take long for Sheffield to get the lead they were never going to lose, on eight minutes Duncan Bray cut the ball across the goal, the keeper missing the cross, and on hand was CHEETHAM who made no mistake with the finish. Cheetham had the chance to help double the lead when he beat the visiting keeper to the ball, unfortunately his pass went behind O'Carroll who was rushing in on goal. The lead was doubled however in the 16th minute with a fine goal from the hosts' leading scorer; a cross-field ball from Darren Utley was headed on by Caine Cheetham, BRAY turned excellently to rifle the ball past the hapless Ryder. The game was now becoming fast and furious and Sheffield looked to have the ability to score on every attack. Selby's cause however was not helped by some poor kicking from the keeper; a typically bad kick found its way to Duncan Bray whose shot went just wide. A stroke of luck produced the third and final goal from Sheffield, but it still took some clinical passing and finishing from the exciting frontline. A clearance from a Selby defender ricocheted off the backside of Ryan O'Carroll into the path of Duncan Bray, the ball was squared to CHEETHAM who slotted the ball under the keeper.

Despite having three goals whacked past them, Selby finished the first half on a high, although this was to no avail with their token efforts on goal being tame to say the least. The second half found Sheffield giving a more settled and composed performance with Micky Stewart in inspired form in midfield, chasing and harrying every ball. Neither side troubled the scoreboard for the first twenty minutes, the first effort of note a long effort from O'Carroll that was well held by the keeper. Ryder gave a more assured display in the second half, even though his kicking was lamentable, and pulled off a string of good stops to deny Sheffield the opportunity to stretch their lead; Lee Vernon's cross-cum-shot had the defence fooled and it took a great fingertip stop from Ryder to stop a sure-fire goal, whereas the keeper had to be solid to stop a powerful header from Jon Hobson. Selby's task was made virtually impossible in the 72nd minute when they were reduced to ten men, after Steven Ward was shown a second yellow card for alleged dissent to the referee. This final blow to the visitors put Sheffield at ease for the final fifteen minute run-in, playing some good football along the way, giving Club the opportunity to coast to the final whistle. Even so a fourth could have come in the dying moments, some great inter-play from Cheetham and Nick Tilly fed Duncan Bray, and once more Ryder had to be at his best to save a bit of pride, the game however had long gone.

The Coach and Horses has not been a happy hunting ground in recent years for Selby, however they have improved somewhat since the seven goal drubbing they picked up on their last visit. This was yet another example of what Sheffield can produce on their day, and yet again the home fans were well entertained for their money. The win puts a bit of daylight between them and the Robins, Selby are now four points behind with Sheffield having a game in hand. It also builds Club up for yet another important "six-pointer" at the weekend, this time a trip up to Pickering Town awaits the Sheffield boys, who enjoyed an excellent victory themselves against Ossett Albion. Hopefully Club can put in another sterling performance like tonight's and Saturday's and head back South with another positive result.
 
BTF Club Man Of The Match - Mickey Stewart

Sheffield FC: Bonnington, Beaumont (Watson), Vernon , Jones, Hobson (Naylor), Stewart (Tilly), Cluxton, Utley, Cheetham, Bray, O'Carroll.
Selby Town: Ryder, Croad, Hart, Barley, Dawson, Cox, Wain, Lee , Ward, Gaughan, Matthews (Haddon). Subs Not Used: Sadler, Cygan.
 

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Sheffield FC 3 Goole AFC 0
Northern Counties East Premier Division
Saturday, 27/03/04
 
It was a welcome return to winning ways at the Coach and Horses this afternoon. After two successive defeats Sheffield overcame a lively Goole AFC side with an emphatic 3-0 victory, and is so doing jumped two places in the table to third. The star of the show once more was Richard Carrington, whose excellent hat-trick was the difference between two well matched sides. Sheffield Manager Dave McCarthy made a couple of changes to the starting line-up following Thursday night's derby defeat at Hallam; Asa Ingall returning for the "new-boy" Darren Utley, whilst Darren Holmes replaced Ryan O'Carroll on the left flank.
 
Sheffield didn't take too long to get going in this game, with the deadlock being broken after just three minutes. Defender Jim Gore pulled down Duncan Bray on the edge of the box to give Sheffield a free-kick twenty yards out, one that was taken by CARRINGTON who drove his shot beyond the flailing Adam Mitchell in the Goole goal. The visitors came back at Sheffield almost immediately, and with better finishing probably could have been level. Nigel Danby had an opportunity to get an equaliser, however his shot was skewed dreadfully wide after the ball landed at his feet following a badly cleared corner. Danny Farthing went close too; his header hit the top of the bar from a Mike McKenzie cross. Goole were playing some good football up to this point, with some nice passing helping them to retain the majority of the possession. Having squandered a one-goal lead in their previous outing you tended to have the feeling Sheffield would need a second to steady the ship a little and they got that, albeit against the run of play, in the 23rd minute. A little cross from Asa Ingall was neatly nodded on by Caine Cheetham into the path of Richard Carrington, having held his nerve and composure CARRINGTON made absolutely sure by drilling the ball past Mitchell. At two-nil Sheffield started to look a lot more settled in their play, and started to find gaps in the Goole defence and started hitting them on the break with increased regularity; Duncan Bray was set free with a through ball with the Vikings' defence static, unfortunately the prolific striker overstretched a little with his finish which saw the ball hit Mitchell and go to safety. Carrington was starting to dominate play in midfield, and his creativity put Cheetham through on goal, only a last ditch tackle by the Goole skipper Kevin Graham stopped Club going in at the break home and hosed.
 
The second half started in complete contrast to the first half; whereas the opening forty-five was lively and entertaining the re-start had a positively flat feel to it. Goole seemed to have lost the spark that had run through the team in the first half and were limited to trying long shots; Nigel Danby saw two of his efforts well dealt with by Darren Bonnington, the first a free-kick outside the area, whilst the second a more optimistic shot from over thirty yards out was more borne out of frustration than design. For Sheffield the front two of Bray and Cheetham were giving more than a little trouble for the Goole defence, however neither could get their name on the scoresheet despite some glorious chances. Bray beat the offside trap on the hour mark, with Cheetham in support in the centre; unfortunately the finish from the side's leading scorer was uncharacteristically wayward. Next up to miss a golden opportunity was Dunk's strike partner, Bray turning provider to Cheetham in the middle, somehow Caine managed to miss the target when a goal was an almost certainty. When Cheetham put Holmes through on goal with an excellent pass, a goal looked ominous, only a last ditch tackle from Tom Reid saved the day for the Vikings once more. The game had been played in a great sportsmanlike manner, however with fifteen minutes left came a potential match turning moment which could have soured the whole game; having seen the hosts kick the ball into touch following an injury to a Goole player the visitors conceded possession from the throw, Steve Davey though chased the throw only to be pulled back by Tom Jones in the Sheffield defence with the referee awarding a free-kick to the Vikings. All credit to Goole after the dust had settled, as the sportsmanship returned to the game with the free-kick being put straight into touch.
 
Richard Carrington seemed hell-bent on getting a hat-trick and only misfortune and some heroics from the Goole goalkeeper stopped him getting his achievement earlier. Holmes fed Carrington with an excellent ball, the young man-of-the-match in acres of space, only an excellent point blank save from Mitchell denied the goal. Sheffield were now laying siege on the Vikings' goal, Cheetham, Bray, Holmes and Carrington were all asking the questions of the Goole defence, the visitors were finding it hard to cope with the wave after wave of Sheffield attacks. In the 79th minute Club finally sealed the game, and with it Carrington got his well deserved third. Substitute Mickey Stewart made a typically energetic dash across the penalty area, Kevin Graham allegedly clipped his heel, and the referee awarded a highly dubious penalty. Up stepped CARRINGTON with his usual composure, and sent the keeper the wrong way to give Sheffield an unassailable lead. Goole were a spent force and couldn't manage a well deserved consolation goal, a shot from Danny Farthing in the dying seconds was the nearest they came to troubling the scoreboard.
 
Hopefully this win will see a return to the confidence Sheffield had shown prior to the two previous games, a three-nil win over Goole is as good as you will get to kick-starting the run-in. It was an excellent all-round performance from Sheffield, and whilst it is easy to single out Richard Carrington for his three-goal display, notable mentions also need to be made to Asa Ingall, Darren Holmes and Chris Beaumont who all played major parts in this victory. The improvements to the performance coincides with the improvements being made to the ground in anticipation of promotion, if the rest of the season sees Club in this vein of form then it will be work that has been worthwhile.
 
BTF Club Man Of The Match - Richard Carrington
 
Sheffield FC: Bonnington, Beaumont, Hilton , Jones, Hobson, Ingall, Cluxton (Stewart), Carrington, Cheetham, Bray (Utley), Holmes (O'Carroll).
Goole AFC: Mitchell, Reid, McKenzie (Wash), Gore, Graham , Danby, Farthing, Thompson, Davey (Walker), Smith (Fell), Stuart.
 
Att: 159.

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Hallam 2 Sheffield FC 1

Northern Counties East Premier Division

Thursday, 26/03/04

Sheffield's promotion aspirations took a serious knock tonight, at Sandygate in the hastily re-arranged World's Oldest Derby, as for the first time this season Club suffered back-to-back defeats. Hallam had to come from behind to win the game, using their notorious slope to good effect, and now stretch their unbeaten run to nine games. Making a welcome return to Club, and making yet another debut, was Darren Utley who took his place in the starting eleven.

The conditions thankfully were not as extreme as Saturday's, when high winds forced a late cancellation of the game, but underfoot conditions were still considerably soft. Kicking downhill, Sheffield started the first half the stronger with Ryan O'Carroll asking questions very early on with a very testing corner. Moments after, Danny Spooner in the Hallam goal had to be alert to deal with a shot from Caine Cheetham, this striker hitting on the turn from a floated free-kick. The Hallam defence were called on to save the keeper's face not long after when Spooner's kick only reached Richard Carrington, the young Sheffield midfielder's shot being desperately scrambled away. Cheetham had a golden opportunity midway through the half, having been put through clear he miscued his shot wide of the goal. Sheffield were turning up the pressure, and a series of corners brought no joy, the thoughts of turning the slope to their advantage seemed to slipping away. Hallam had their opportunities to grab a goal at the top end of the field; a cross from Paul Wood found the head of Jamie Smith who just headed over. On 26 minutes, Sheffield got the breakthrough they deserved when Spooner failed to get to grips with a free-kick from O'CARROLL, the ball squirming under the keeper's body after the Sheffield player had curled it round the wall. With the lead achieved it was now up to the visitors to capitalise on this, Duncan Bray had a chance to double the lead on the break, but lost control and possession at the vital moment, whilst Darren Utley nearly crowned his debut with a headed effort that hit the bar following a corner.

With Hallam playing the second half down their favoured slope, the one goal was always looking to be a fragile lead, and so it proved as the hosts levelled inside the first minute. A free-kick near the corner flag was only half cleared as far as Andy Tibbenham; his floated cross left the Sheffield defence flat-footed and looking to the linesman as SMITH nipped in between the static visitors to head home. After a short period on the back-foot Sheffield tried to respond with some telling attacks, Mickey Stewart had his header cleared off the line, whilst Spooner palmed away a Duncan Bray effort after the Sheffield forward was set free by Chris Hilton. Tom Jones went close with a header from a corner for the visitors, Sheffield were on top at this stage but the hosts looked very dangerous on the counter-attack. The Club defenders looked particularly shaky under the Hallam long ball from defence tactic, with the Sheffield defenders misjudging the bounce on more than one occasion. In the 77th minute, and much against the run of play, Hallam got the goal that was to take all three points. After holding possession for a sustained period of pressure, Lee Mellon dispossessed Ryan O'Carroll on midway; the ball broke to Matt Roney who ran through three Sheffield defenders on a mazy run before RONEY let a shot go from 25 yards giving Bonnington no chance. It was, from hereon in, literally an uphill struggle for Sheffield who despite forcing forward for the rest of the game were thwarted by a very solid and clever Hallam defence.

After looking like a side that were unlikely to get beaten, two defeats on the trot has given Sheffield's promotion hopes a real knock. A trip to Sandygate never seems to be a rewarding one for Sheffield, with points at a very high premium for the visitors. Whilst this isn't the end of the world with regards to UniBond ambitions, it leaves very little margin for error with the rest of the season. Next up are two potential season changing games, both at home, against Goole who have hit a rich vein of form lately, and the season's surprise package Selby. A return to winning ways will be vital for the boys to get back on track.

BTF Club Man Of The Match - Ryan O'Carroll

Hallam: Spooner, Ashton (Hague), S.Mellon (Muzyczka), Reynolds, Colley, Campbell, L.Mellon, Wood, Smith, Roney, Tibbenham. Sub Not Used: Franklin.

Sheffield FC: Bonnington, Beaumont, Hilton , Jones, Hobson, Utley (Stewart), Cluxton (Holmes), Carrington, Cheetham, Bray, O'Carroll. Sub Not Used: Vernon.

Att: 150

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Sheffield FC 0 Liversedge 1
Northern Counties East Premier Division
Tuesday, 16/03/04
 
Sheffield's unbeaten league run finally came to an end, after thirteen games, with tenth placed Liversedge taking the spoils against all the odds at the Coach and Horses tonight. Club made a couple of changes from the side that snatched a last minute victory over Thackley the previous Saturday; out were leading scorer Duncan Bray through work commitments, and Asa Ingall who suffered an injury at the weekend, whilst making a return to the side after suspension were Ryan O'Carroll and Ben Naylor.
 
With a stiff breeze behind their backs for the first half, Sheffield never really took advantage of the conditions and it was Liversedge who nearly made the first breakthrough; Bonnington had to be on hand to block Wayne Crossley's effort after the little striker was through on goal. Club chose to try and exploit the conditions, and the lightweight keeper Kyle Sutcliffe, by putting the visiting defence under an aerial bombardment. Unfortunately this ploy came to no avail with Club's best effort coming from Caine Cheetham's shot which scurried across the face of the goal, and with three players in the middle no-one could get the vital touch. The first half as a whole was a scrappy affair, with Sedge quite happy to hold out until the break; leaving the Coach and Horses with a point was obviously high on their agenda.
 
Having stifled Sheffield for the first forty-five minutes, Liversedge's second objective was to put Sheffield under the cosh and try and come away with the unexpected victory. Club on the other hand had been drawn into playing a long ball game with, more often than not, the final ball going astray. Sedge got their deserved breakthrough on 62 minutes after a routine looking shot was not held by Bonnington in the Sheffield goal, CROSSLEY was the man on the spot to scramble the ball home. The visitors were now the more adventurous of the two teams, and their positive attitude had the more hesitant looking Sheffield side on the back foot. The hosts never got going in the second period and never troubled Sutcliffe with a serious shot in the whole of the game, and the visitors were more than glad to run the clock down to get a well deserved, yet unexpected victory.
 
All runs come to an end, to be fair no-one expected Sheffield to run in to the end of the season undefeated, however the manner of the defeat was a little disappointing. After some excellent displays of passing footballing prowess, the defeat at the hands of a team who had been comprehensively beaten the previous Saturday and the way it occurred came as a bit of a shock. With the local derby at Sandygate on Saturday and an interesting run in to the end of the season, let's hope this is just a hiccup that we needed to get out of our system.
 
BTF ClubMan Of The Match - Chris Beaumont
 
Sheffield FC: Bonnington, Beaumont, Vernon , Jones, Hobson, Stewart (Carrington), Cluxton, Holmes (Tilly), Cheetham, Naylor (Hilton), O'Carroll.
Liversedge: Sutcliffe, Cuthbertson, Cole, Milnes (Johnson), Smith, Farrand (Townsend), Broughton, Nestor, Crossley, Goldthorpe. Sub Not Used: Frankland.
 
Att: 126.

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Sheffield FC 2 Thackley 1
Northern Counties East Premier Division
Saturday, 13/03/04
 
For the second time in a week Sheffield found themselves up against the in-form Thackley side, once more they took the spoils; this time however the game was won in far more dramatic circumstances. In a game played in tricky conditions it took until the last kick of the game, from the unanimous man-of-the-match Richard Carrington, to clinch the game and extend Club's unbeaten league record to thirteen games and put more pressure on the rest of the pack at the top of the table.
 
The game started shortly after a heavy hailstone shower, and the game kicked off on a very slippery surface which made underfoot conditions very difficult. With this being the case, the game had a fairly flat feel to it with both sides very evenly matched and chances very limited. The first chance for Sheffield came in the 18th minute, a move as slick as the surface saw Duncan Bray feed Nick Tilly whose shot whistled just by the post. Thackley had their fair share of the territory but like the hosts had very few clear-cut chances, the best was a shot from Declan Corby which landed safely into the hands of Darren Bonnington. Sheffield started to get on top of the game midway through the first half, with a lengthy sustained spell of pressure; however it was Thackley that got the telling breakthrough on 39 minutes with a goal considerably against the run of play. A free-kick from Dave Nelson was floated into the box, PATTERSON was first to the ball and it was his header that went over the head of Bonnington and into the net to give the visitors the lead. Sheffield might have felt a little hard done to at this stage of the game, and had a golden opportunity to go into the break on a par; Asa Ingall taking the ball round last week's "thorn-in-the-side", keeper Aaron Brian, unfortunately a rush of blood to "The Salmon's" head saw him lash the ball wildly over the bar and probably into the next county.
 
The second half saw Sheffield suitably fired up, with Richard Carrington instrumental in causing havoc with numerous teasing runs down the right flank. It only took until the 51st minute for Club to grab the equaliser, a corner from Carrington found HOBSON rising above the pack to head home for the second week running, the Thackley defence only able to clear from behind the goal-line with the linesman having no doubt in awarding the goal. It was no more than the hard working Sheffield side deserved and this spurred the home team on to create wave after wave of attacks, with the Bradford based side on the back-foot. Duncan Bray nearly found himself on the scoresheet following some typically tenacious play from Neil Cluxton, Bray's volley from Cluxton's cross resulted in a point blank save from Brian. Sheffield had enough opportunities to win the game much earlier than they did, Carrington creating the position for countless chances, fortunately for Thackley on most occasions a defender was on hand to get the foot in to deny either Cheetham or Bray, it looked as if it was going to be one of those days. Luckily it wasn't, and in the 3rd minute of injury time and with a bit of poetic justice to boot, Sheffield got their well-deserved winner. A hopeful ball to the edge of the area saw Brian race from his goal to contest a challenge outside the box with substitute Micky Stewart, the keeper's header only reached man-of-the-match CARRINGTON who calmly lobbed the keeper from 20 yards to send the home crowd and bench into raptures.
 
An excellent win and a very rare double over Thackley, this now sees Sheffield look towards the rest of the season with a great deal of confidence. The nature of the comeback showed the spirit of a good team, however this was by no means the best performance by Club this season, and the teams above them in the league will be looking over their shoulders with a bit more anxiety. Next up for Sheffield is a home game on Tuesday against Liversedge, three points in this game will surely set Club amongst the favourites in the fight for UniBond football next season.
 
BTF Club Man Of The Match - Richard Carrington
 
Sheffield FC: Bonnington, Beaumont (Vernon), Hilton , Jones, Hobson, Ingall (Ireland), Cluxton, Carrington, Cheetham, Bray, Tilly (Stewart).
Thackley: Brian, Tye, Senior, Oliver, Sugden , Nelson, Fletcher, Fallon, Patterson, Corby (Rossindale), Hillam (King). Sub Not Used: Armitage.
 
Att: 155.
 

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Wakefield & Emley 2 Sheffield FC 3
Sheffield & Hallamshire Senior Challenge Cup Quarter Final
Tuesday, 9/03/04
 
Sheffield marched into the semi-finals of the Senior Cup with a comprehensive win over UniBond Premier Division opposition at a cold Welfare Ground tonight, in a game where the score flattered the hosts. Club looked seldom troubled by Wakefield and Emley, with leading scorer Duncan Bray bagging two goals to add to his tally on his return to his former hunting ground, and the visitors only had to concern themselves with the Pewits' token spell of pressure at the end of game. The game was an excellent showcase for the Sheffield players, with several key members of the side putting in sterling performances against higher league opponents, which hopefully will be a springboard for the rest of the season.
 
It's getting to be a trend now with Sheffield going behind to the early goal, so much so that we come to expect it. The goal came pretty much against the run of play with Sheffield looking the livelier of the two outfits; in fact the visitors went close early on when Darren Holmes' diving header was directed straight at keeper Lee Wilson following an excellent cross from Caine Cheetham. In the 6th minute, and from the hosts only attacking move of the half, a cross was handled in the area by Jon Hobson; KENWORTHY stepped up and sent Darren Bonnington the wrong way to give Emley an unlikely lead. Club got back into the game immediately, dominating every aspect of play, with neutral onlookers wondering which team were two divisions higher than the other. Despite being on top, Sheffield couldn't get the instant breakthrough they deserved, with most attacking moves falling foul of the visitors' trend of over elaborating in the build up. When they did go direct Duncan Bray went close with an effort from twenty yards following a defence-splitting run. The equaliser came in the 20th minute with Bray to creator and scorer; running in from the edge of the box the Sheffield striker was hacked down by Robert Tonks in the box, again the referee was in no doubt with the whistle. BRAY shot the penalty straight at Wilson, the ball however sat up nicely enough for him to head in the rebound. The expected lead came Sheffield's way in the 37th minute with the ever creative Darren Holmes latching onto a cross that left the Emley defence in a state of disarray, keeping calm he stepped the ball around Wilson to chip the ball to BRAY who volleyed home into the goal. There was a chance to kill the game just on half-time when Bray broke free, with two unmarked Sheffield men in the middle the forward saw an opportunity of a hat-trick and chose to shoot when perhaps a cross would have been the better option.
 
The restart saw much of the same, Sheffield attack - Emley defence; it really was that one-sided. The hosts looked ragged with Nicky Wood and Dean Fearon looking cumbersome in the middle, as good football from Holmes and Carrington provided Bray and Cheetham with plenty of scope for chances. The Pewits were riding their luck somewhat with Sheffield being able to attack at ease; Holmes let an excellent effort go from 20 yards, the keeper tipping the ball over the bar, whilst Holmes turned provider whipping a cross into the box with Fearon toe-poking the ball wide of goal. Curiously neither deflection resulted in a corner being awarded, Fearon's luck however was to run out shortly. In the 59th minute Sheffield got the third that effectively killed the game; a cross from Bray stranded Wilson in no-mans-land once more and under great pressure from Cheetham, Fearon could only direct the ball into his own net for an OWN-GOAL. With the game more or less won Sheffield could afford to relax a little and take control, Neil Cluxton controlling the game in midfield with an air of authority. It was a mistake in the 79th minute by Cluxton however that relinquished possession to Emley skipper Miles Thorpe, with no danger looking imminent THORPE let a cracker of a shot go from 25 yards, deceiving Bonnington enough to give the hosts a faint hope of saving the game. The composure that had been there moments earlier seemed to leave Sheffield, and with a new feeling of self belief Emley pressed forward for the first time in the game. Despite this Club held firm for the second time in four days to hold on to a three-two victory, and could have stretched the lead even further with a last minute shot from substitute Nick Tilly that was blocked by the backside of Nicky Wood.
 
Despite their respective leagues Sheffield were always favourites to win this game, the only surprise was the emphatic nature of the victory. Emley looked a side in a state of disorganisation, never once really looking like they would be the team in the semi-finals. As it is Sheffield are the side that will join Frickley Athletic, Stocksbridge Park Steels and Worksop Town into the hat. I doubt that any of that trio would fancy a tie against Club in this form.
 
BTF Club Man Of The Match - Duncan Bray
 
Wakefield & Emley: Wilson, Tonks, O'Reilly, Joice (Manousios), Wood, Fearon, Day, Thorpe , Clarke, Selby (Murphy), Kenworthy (Flynn).
Sheffield FC: Bonnington, Hilton , Vernon, Jones, Hobson, Ingall, Cluxton, Carrington, Cheetham, Bray (Davenport), Holmes (Tilly). Sub Not Used: Watson.
 
Att: 97.

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Thackley 2 Sheffield FC 3
Northern Counties East Premier Division
Saturday, 6/03/04

Sheffield had to show great character and spirit come from behind not once, but twice at Dennyfield today, to record a rare victory at Thackley and to continue their unbeaten league run that now stands at twelve games. Against the league's form team it was always going to take an exceptional performance for Sheffield to come away from Bradford with any reward, but that is exactly what they did. They had to do it the hard way too, on an uneven pitch and facing some questionable refereeing decisions, and after falling behind twice in the opening quarter of an hour to free-kicks, it was the visitors who came away deservedly with all three points.
 
As has happened so many times in the past, Sheffield got away to the worst possible start. With both teams still getting settled in, Thackley were awarded a free-kick in the 3rd minute about twenty yards from goal; PATTERSON took a quick shot at goal and the ball took a wicked deflection to beat Bonnington in the Sheffield net. The visitors' worst fears seemed to be confirmed moments later, with some apparent defensive frailties exposed, Corby was played into space only to hit the bar from the edge of the area. Club were looking ragged at the back and it seemed like it was Thackley who were going to be the ones continuing their unbeaten run, and not Sheffield. Those worries were put aside in the 13th minute, with Thackley unable to deal with a cross the ball broke in favour of the attacking side, BRAY toe-poking the ball past Aaron Brian in the Thackley goal. The equilibrium didn't last long, two minutes to be exact, and it would be fair to say that Sheffield didn't get a fair rub of the green in the build-up. With Thackley breaking from goal, the ball was played onto the hand of Jon Hobson who could hardly have got out of the way. Dubious as the decision was, the free-kick was awarded and SENIOR dispatched the ball with a beautifully curled shot beyond the wall and Bonnington and into the corner of the goal.
 
Despite this bit of rough justice Sheffield stood firm and pressed forward with more purpose, in fact Club had so much more possession and more chances they were puzzled as to how they went in a goal behind at half time. The main reason for this was probably an inspired performance from Aaron Brian, the Thackley keeper, who single-handed kept the hosts in the game. The first moment of brilliance from the Thackley stopper was a point-blank save from Duncan Bray, who had been fed through by attacking partner Caine Cheetham. Bray had a serious call for a penalty waved away by the referee after being hauled down in the area during yet another spell of pressure; perhaps it wasn't going to be Sheffield's day after all. That point of view seemed to be justified as Ryan O'Carroll floated an exquisite free-kick at goal; Brian blocked it but appeared to not know much about it, and didn't know much about the rebound as Chris Beaumont's shot bounced off the bar. Beaumont was having an inspirational game for Sheffield creating some good opportunities, whilst remaining solid at the back. The Sheffield right back provided another glorious chance shortly after, lofting a good cross into the middle, Asa Ingall flicked it into the path of Cheetham who was clear on goal; it was no real surprise when Brian came to Thackley's rescue once more as he tipped the shot over the bar. The most creative non-scoring moment of the half came from the ever industrious Beaumont who set off on a mazy forty yard run beating four home players, played a one-two with Cheetham, only to see his final effort blocked once again by Brian. Thackley did manage to get to the other end, and Bonnington had to make a good save from Andy Patterson's shot to stop the game going beyond Club's reach.
 
The first half was also a heated affair which got a bit niggly at times, thankfully the second half settled down and both teams managed to knuckle down to some honest basic football, and with that the chances were fewer. That was until the 58th minute when Ryan O'Carroll received the ball down the right wing, his cross seemed to be deflected past Brian by home captain Craig Sugden for an own-goal, although all the credit must go to O'CARROLL. The equaliser was the catalyst for another bout of Sheffield pressure, and moments after Brian had to be on hand to spectacularly tip away a header from Tom Jones. From the resultant corner in the 61st minute, Richard Carrington put the perfect ball into the box for HOBSON to rise above the crowded area to head powerfully beyond Brian to give Sheffield the lead for the first time in the game; it was a lead they would not relinquish. Whilst it has to be said Brian had been a thorn in the Sheffield side with his repeated heroics, the save of the game came from our very own Darren Bonnington, whose "Banks-esque" save from a Mick Fallon and James Riley free-kick combination had the visiting fans on their feet, it appeared it would be Sheffield's day after all. Sheffield had more than their fair share of chances to bury this game as time ran out for the hosts, Cheetham had a chance that he blazed over the bar as he was clear through on goal, and substitute Ben Naylor went close after being put through by man-of-the-match Ryan O'Carroll. After what seemed an eternity of injury time, the referee put the travelling faithful and their heroes out of their collective misery to put a full stop on an excellent game.
 
Another Saturday away game without defeat, this was a great result for Sheffield Club and a true rarity of a victory at Dennyfield. This was the first time I can recall Club winning at Thackley in the time I've been watching them, and the first time I've seen a Sheffield goal there since the drawn League Cup Semi-Final in 2001. Considering the other results from today, Selby losing at Armthorpe, Brigg being hammered by Hallam, and Ossett Albion and Brigg Town being held to disappointing home draws, it has to be said this was a good day all round for Sheffield FC. Club have to do it all again against Thackley next Saturday at the Coach and Horses, in-between however is a small matter of the County Senior Cup Quarter Final on Tuesday away at the Welfare Ground to Wakefield and Emley.
 
BTF Club Man Of The Match - Ryan O'Carroll
 
Thackley: Brian, Nelson, Senior, Riley, Sugden , Tye, Fletcher, Fallon, Patterson (Howley), Corby, Hillam (Briggs). Sub Not Used: Oliver.
Sheffield FC: Bonnington, Beaumont, Hilton , Jones, Hobson, Ingall (Holmes), Stewart (Cluxton), Carrington, Cheetham, Bray (Naylor), O'Carroll.
 
Att: 105.

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More Reports 03-04

All Reports By Stuart James Unless Stated - Copyright BEHiND THE FLAG