NORTHGATE Season 2 Episode 1 – “CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME”
Northgate 5 – 3 Gatley St James
Season 2 for the Tangerine Army kicked off on home turf with the Charity Cup. In Clark’s absence, the reins were passed once again into the hands of Elkington to see if he could maintain his 100% winning record as Caretaker Manager. 3rd Division Northgate had been thrown into a Charity Cup group comprising of no less than three Division 2 teams. As the underdogs of the four teams, Northgate certainly had a point to prove.
Due to the plethora of talent available, Elkington opted to try out a new formation with three at the back. The familiarity of Hilsden and Tonks were joined by the addition of Holden playing in his more regular Sunday League position. They lined up in front of Davenport between the sticks. In front of them, Elkington himself sat as the holding midfielder with the responsibility of mopping up in front of the back three. Ahead of him, the powerhouses of midfield were Slade and captain Jones. Occupying the wide positions and deployed as ‘wingbacks’ were Campbell and promising new summer signing Harvey. It would be their job to work tirelessly as part of both a five-man defence and a five-man midfield. This left up top the contrasting yet complimenting strike partnership of Morgan and Owen. The bench was occupied by the Mikes both Heathcote and Taylor.
Northgate made a promising start with both Harvey and Campbell growing into their free wide roles. Davenport was commanding his defence and his massive kicks were causing problems for the Gatley back line. It wasn’t long before Northgate ‘Goal Machine’ Alex Owen found the breakthrough! It came (as it always does) from a throw-in of course… and although Clark will attempt to claim the assist from 1000 miles away, on this occasion those honours belong to Slade. We caught up with Slade on his drive home from the match:
Basically, the ball came in, think Russ maybe got a head on it, nodded it down, looked like it was going out of play….but then SUDDENLY out of NOWHERE the outstretched leg of Slade managed to EXPERTLY hook it back with PRECISION and FINESSE and knock it across for Alex to finish! I’m not saying you should put that in your match report but… it’s pretty much written itself… haha!!
An interestingly alternative account from the goal scorer Owen:
It was a throw in that got knocked across (I don’t remember how). The ball got stuck between me and the defender three yards out. The ball fell kindly for me and I took AN IMPORTANT touch to the right away from him and then EXPERTLY slotted past the diving keeper.
Gatley came back fierce and tried to expose cracks in the Northgate line-up. A failed clearance led to a mix up on the edge of the penalty box and the ball was not properly dealt with by Northgate allowing the nippy Gatley winger in for a shot to equalise for his team. Moments later, the same Gatley winger found himself through on goal again. It looked like he was surely going to put his side ahead when…
…well, Lawrie Campbell why don’t you tell us about this one:
Well, with Holden’s pace card left in the changing room, it was down to me to save the day, with an extra burst of my energy I chased down the opposing winger. In a ‘heart in mouth’ moment as he edged into the box I just went for it, simply taking the ball from his stride as he fell over the tackle. Claims for a penalty echoed around the stadium, but with my pace I’d actually already made it half way back up the pitch, to set up our next attack. A ‘sterling’ decision from the ref I’d say!
In a stalemate at one goal each, the Northgate back three were finding space to knock it around between themselves and working the ball out wide. Elkington picked the ball up in his own half and with his eagle eyes spotted Harvey on the edge of the penalty area. A precision lofted ball from Elkington coasted through the air until it met with the chest of Harvey. One touch on the chest and a second to square the ball across to the advancing Owen who was bursting into the box. Before he could pull the trigger he was bundled to the floor and with no need for VAR the ref pointed to the penalty spot. Prising the ball from Owen’s hands would be as difficult as taking the number 9 shirt from off his back, and so he stepped up to take the spot kick. Hit low and evading the keeper to his right, Northgate were back with their noses ahead!
In the run-up to half time, Northgate still had more to offer. The ball was threaded through from midfield with both Harvey and Owen chasing it down. At the prospect of seeing Owen on a hat-trick a huge shout of ‘LEAVE IT!!’ erupted from the mouth of Harvey, and Owen did so. With the ball firmly at the feet of Harvey he looked to open his Northgate scoring account, but he was quickly closed down. He held the ball up and desperately looked for his other teammates. Finally with all other options exhausted, he squared the ball across the box into the path of the soon to be delighted Owen who calmly slotted in his and Northgate’s third.
Before the stroke of halftime the captain Jones had to be retired due to a recurring hurty foot, and this prompted the first professional debut for summer signing Taylor who came on to join the midfield. Taking a 3-1 lead into halftime, Heathcote replaced Elkington with Campbell moving into the middle allowing Heathcote to operate on his preferred left side. A strong start to the half led to a Northgate free-kick and a ‘straight of the training ground’ moment. Instructions were being barked from the bench to the Northgate team assembling in the box, to aid in passing on this information Holden took it upon himself to act as ‘middle-man’ and like a Hobbit going on an adventure he wandered up into the box with the vital instructions, but before he knew it the kick from Campbell was heading his way and he realised it was he who was going to have to finish this… and he did! (I literally have no idea how as I was retrieving a ball from a thorn bush at the time and just heard the cheers…) 4-1!
A topsy-turvy end to the match saw Gatley claw a goal back to make it 4-2. A series of injuries saw Elkington return to the pitch for the injured Tonks, with Slade dropping into the back three. Morgan then retired for the now recovered Tonks only to return to the pitch moments later to replace a concussed Taylor. Northgate responded with a cheeky unselfish scoop from Morgan who could have scored himself but instead flicked the ball up onto the head of Campbell who in his own words thought he’d headed it over. A late well-struck goal from Gatley was too little too late to prevent Northgate continuing their 100% winning record without Clark.
We caught up with Northgate’s Jay Holden after the game to hear his thoughts:
I think the decision to play 3 at the back was a stroke of genius from Elkington. He’s a Manager who’s not afraid to try something new and he knows how to get the best out of his players. Obviously, Elkington has got us playing a brand of football that this club has never seen and the fans are loving it, it’s a tough act to follow. The lads and I aren’t sure what’s going on but we believe that Clark is returning for the next game and I just hope he is able to keep the momentum going.
Ben Davenport (GK)
Dave Tonks (RCB)
Matt Hilsden (CB)
Jay Holden (LCB)
Martin Harvey (RWB)
Lawrie Campbell (LWB)
Rob Elkington (DCM)
Josh Slade (CM)
Ben Jones (CM) (c)
Russ Morgan (ST)
Alex Owen (ST)
Mike Taylor (CM)
Mike Heathcote (LWB)
Man of the Match: Russ Morgan