A trip to see Farsley Celtic with Goat Major and Paddy turned out to be a remarkable spectacle, I can’t ever recall attending a game where three players were sent off, let alone one where the departed were on the same side. Hucknall Town’s Gary Sucharewycz, Gary Ricketts and Dan MacPherson all saw red in a dramatic first half.

We were too busy congratulating Paddy about the birth of his second son when the first incident took place. We looked over towards the far side of the pitch where a group of players were jostling and involved in a bit of “handbags at 10 paces”. From the melee Mr Hart the referee extracted Sucharewycz and to our delight brandished a red card. The game was only around 9 minutes old. Later reports suggested that an elbow was involved during an off-the-ball incident with Matthew James.

It was just the lift Farsley needed in their quest for three vital points, but things got even better for the home side and even more bizarre six minutes later when Hucknall’s captain Ricketts joined Sucharewycz in the early bath. Ricketts clearly went in two footed with studs showing on Mark Jackson and was rightfully shown a straight red card, the referee sprinting over to administer the punishment. Jackson’s injury was so bad he hobbled off after five minutes of treatment and apparently a trip to hospital followed.

Amidst all this drama there was little football of note, Farsley struggling against the strong winds and the plucky rearguard action of the visitors. The best chance of the half came on 30 minutes through James Walshaw when he sprinted ahead of the Hucknall defence. Walshaw looked set to score but a lob over the keeper ended up in the side-netting. Just as we were gearing up for a trip to the burger van for a much needed warm drink, the half ended in sensational fashion when MacPherson smashed James in the face with an elbow. The blow sent James to the floor clutching his face. This time it was blatantly obvious, even from where we were stood, the assistant referee flagging for the foul, and following a conference between the officials the referee incredibly whipped out the third red card of the half.

HT Farsley Celtic 0 Hucknall Town 0 and the players left the pitch to my shout of “better keep the bath water running”.

Despite the visitors being reduced to eight men, Farsley struggled to make the advantage count at first in the second half even though they often had ten men in the opponents’ half. The final ball was lacking, and we began to wonder if Hucknall might escape with an unlikely point. I opined that if Farsley didn’t beat a side with 8 men it was time to call for the manager John Deacey’s head. However a valiant defensive display to keep Farsley at bay was not enough to prevent Hucknall falling behind on 55 minutes. Rory Prendergast was found at the back-post and he fired towards goal resulting in the ball deflecting off Chris Timons for an own goal. The goal was devastating for Hucknall player-manager Mick Galloway who collapsed to the ground after seeing his team’s good work come unstuck.

Farsley were well in control but the wind was causing havoc as they struggled to add to their lead. The Hucknall keeper was also having a fine match, keeping out what chances the hosts managed to construct. It took the introduction of Jake Speight on 64 minutes to turn the game. Speight’s first chance came on 74 minutes when he low shot cannoned off the post and ended with Walshaw’s shot being blocked. I was beginning to fear a breakaway equaliser around this point, but Farsley finally sealed the win with a strike on 81 minutes after Amjad Iqbal’s header was saved well by the keeper only for Tom Penfold to capitalise on the loose ball by smashing home from the edge of the area.

Speight got his first goal for Farsley four minutes later. James Knowles did remarkably well down the right wing and got a low cross into the box for Speight to tap home on the goal-line. He scored again on 89 minutes with a header from close range that might have been claimed by Iqbal.

FT Farsley Celtic 4 Hucknall Town 0, and the shout of “Deacey out” was not required*

* As the players left the field I noticed that the Farsley Manager John Deacey was actually absent, I thought I hadn’t spotted him in the dugout. Had he already gone before I had chance to shout “Deacey out”? Turns out yes he had. A quick look at the club website showed he’d been relieved of his duties the night before, and his assistant Neil Parsley had been placed in charge of this match.

Deacey had been Lee Sinnott’s assistant during his successful stint at Farsley. When Sinnott departed for Port Vale, Deacey was eventually installed as his successor. Deacey failed to prevent Farsley’s relegation, and had overseen a disappointing start to this season. Supporters were becoming more frustrated with each game, the last one we attended against Droylsden highlighted his shortcomings. Having been comfortably on top without scoring, an injury to Andy Campbell forced the introduction of Mark Bett, who scored almost immediately. Despite the tricky Matthew James giving the very poor Droylsden left-back a torrid time, two minutes after the goal Deacey decided to settle for a 1-0 win replacing James with a defensive midfielder with almost half an hour left. Farsley lost all attacking impetus, and cruised for the rest of the game. It came as no surprise that Droylsden salvaged a point with a goal three minutes from time. Baffling substitutions and a negative approach were typical of Deacey’s reign, so it comes as no surprise that he has been sacked. A 4-0 win is a great start for Parsley and a welcome three points, but it was hard work. For a long time it seemed the best Farsley might manage against eight men was a 1-0 win, three goals coming late in the game to add some gloss to the performance. I was denied a chance to demand “Deacey out”, but ultimately got my wish. I wonder if the same will apply at Stoke? ;-)

Farsley Celtic V Bradford City
Seems like three is the magic number tonight for Farsley. This is the third year on the trot I’ve seen them beat Bradford City in a pre-season friendly. It was a comfortable win too, following on strongly from the 2-0 victory over Sheffield Utd the night before. The game was also a chance to see former Stoke City favourite Peter Thorne in action for the visitors.

I’d spent my day off on strike sorting out the house and removing clutter from the living and dining rooms. Oh Peter Thorne! Former Stoke City hero now at BradfordI was in need of some light entertainment so I arranged to meet Paddy the Farsley Potter at his place to watch the match and have a swift jar afterwards. The crowd was much larger than for the Vale game, with Bradford fans easily outnumbering the home support. They even started the game on time so we missed the first couple of minutes which is unusual, it is tradition for the whistle to blow as we step through the turnstile whatever time we arrive. For July it was cold, fleeces and waterproofs were needed, the scarf brought along as an accessory was employed for keeping me warm!

It was clear Farsley needed a sharper cutting edge and have moved to improve that problem. They’ve recently brought in striker Andy Campbell from Halifax Town, where last season he scored 12 goals from 49 appearances. It’s the Andy Campbell that started his career at Middlesborough leaving to join for Cardiff City for £1m in 2002. His career highlights include a fine lob over goalkeeper Chris Day to give Cardiff a play-off victory over Queens Park Rangers putting them into the Football League Championship, and scoring against Manchester United in the FA Cup in a 2-0 win for Middlesbrough. At 29 years old he should be half decent at this level.

A clinical first half performance from Farsley saw League Two side Bradford City easily brushed aside. Once again the football was played mainly on the deck with some good passing movements from the home side. Farsely goal scorer KnowlesUnlike the Vale game there were fewer young players on the pitch, both clubs fielding what looked like fairly strong teams. Farsley took the lead midway through the first half. Andy Campbell’s cross caused the City backline problems and James Knowles was able to squeeze home from close range. It was about the highlight for “Knowlsey” because while one of Farsley’s best players last season, tonight everything he touched (bar the goal) went wrong and his colourful language demonstrated he was not impressed with himself either!

There was barely time for the goal to sink in before Farsley doubled their lead moments later through Campbell. Rory Prendergast laid off Campell who smashed home an excellent effort with a thunderous shot from 18 yards. I thought I’d caught it magnificently on camera but a split second delay meant instead of the ball hitting the net I got Paddy’s raised hand of celebration blocking the view. Nice one youth. Farsley effectively wrapped up the match on 41 minutes. Campbell drove at the City defence before laying off Dominic Krief whose shot was deflected in by Paul Arnison. At the other end a free header from a corner was flashed inches wide, and another shot looked to come back off the post but it was in fact the advertising board. For all of their build up Bradford were no threat in front of goal, and it wasn’t until the half-time warm-down that I realised that Peter Thorne was actually on the pitch! For the record he played no part in the second half. HT 3-0

While we expected Bradford to turn up the pressure and mount a second half comeback, the opposite was in fact the case. They again carried no real threat in front of goal despite the pace and trickery of their left winger getting them into decent positions throughout the game. The second half was memorable only for the downpour of rain, the subsequent soaking we received, and how it actually stopped when we finally made a move to the covered terrace behind the goal. Typically having moved we were then the wrong end to see Bradford City pull one back on 60 minutes. Barry Conlon scored from the penalty spot after Mark Jackson had been penalised for an apparent handball. The natives on the paddock weren’t happy about the penalty when we returned to our usual spot and described the decision as “soft”. I think that’s Yorkshire for “dubious”. ;-) No real effort was made by Bradford (who brought on coaches David Wetherall and Wayne Jacobs for a run out) to salvage honour and Farsley ran out comfortable winners, holding on to the possession and stroking the ball around nicely. Hopefully they will prove a capable side in their new division this season. FT 3-1

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Clouds over Throstle Nest

Farsley Celtic have become my second team. Naturally Stoke City are at the forefront of my footballing passions, but when my fellow Leeds Stokie friend Paddy moved to Farsley a few years ago we started to occasionally attend matches at the wonderfully named Throstle Nest. I rather enjoy standing on a terrace and listening to the comic banter of disgruntled Yorkshiremen, it’s not that disimilar to my days on the Boothen End at the old and sadly missed Victoria Ground at Stoke. (Apart from the different accent and a much larger crowd of course!) While I have become quite taken by this non-league side, it is a relatively detached way to enjoy a game without the utter misery felt when your team loses. While I cheer them on and want them to win, it’s not the end of the world if Farsley don’t do the business. Just as well seeing as they were relegated after one season in the Blue Square Premier, the division just below the Football League.

However tonight Farsley took on Stoke City’s local “rivals” Port Fail, er I mean Vale. This was one game I’d have loved the Celts to have won, if only for the pleasure of singing the sensational “Beat by a village, you’ve been beat by a village” to the Vale fans. Cambridge Utd got that treatment last season. Marvellous stuff. What were the Vale doing up in Yorkshire? Lee Sinnott returns to his old hauntWell Vale’s current manager Lee Sinnott left Farsley to join them, having done a wonderful job of delivering three promotions at Farsley in just four seasons. He did another wonderful job leading Vale to relegation to the bottom tier of the Football League in his first season in charge. Oops. Mustn’t laugh, but to be fair he faced a mammoth task and they were pretty doomed before he arrived. So Sinnott returned to his old stamping ground with his new team to provide a pre-season friendly match, and hopefully something for us Stokies to chuckle at.

I’d love to report that it was a good game but I can’t. Both clubs fielded young sides, many of the Farsley stalwarts were nowhere to be seen apart from their only international cap (Pakistan) Amjad “Ammers” Iqbal, and veteran journeyman Steve Torpey who looks about three times the age of some of his junior team mates. 'Ammers' - Farsley's Pakistan InternationalWhile the football was played mainly on the ground with some decent passing moves, the quality in front of goal was lacking by both sides. To their credit Farsley matched Vale for fitness, industry, and often skill, indeed it was the home side that fashioned the best openings in the first half, but not the required finish. If Farsley had been wearing their shooting boots the Vale might have trailed 3-0 by half time, the Burslem team failing to trouble the Celts ‘keeper once. The second half produced even fewer chances, the only one of note falling to the Vale, but it was superbly saved at close range by the Farsley goalie. To be honest neither side deserved to win it, though Farsley probably took it on points seeing as a visiting Martian would not have been able to pick out which was the League side and which contained semi-pros. Despite being a friendly there were some crunching tackles flying about, mainly from the home side with a point to prove maybe. Final score at Throstle Nest 0-0.

I’d like to think I provided the Vale fans with one talking point to return to the Potteries with. I attended the game with a Stoke scarf tied to a Farsley scarf, draping them around my neck so both my allegiances were on clear display. Torpey, Farsley's veteran forwardPassing by Vale fans produced looks of stunned disbelief, disappointment, and prompted one lady in the stand to deliver a “I don’t believe eeeet”, pointing at the offending article. I grinned back cheekily and replied “Better believe it, Stokies here, Stokies there, Stokies bleedin’ everywhere!” Hopefully Vale fans returning home will be chuntering about going all the way to some obscure place in Yorkshire and still seeing a Stoke fan ;-)

The Vale fans may be from the other side of the city but they share the same self-depreciatory humour as their Stokie counterparts. One Valeite noted the hoarding with the Blue Square Premier logo emblazoned across it and added drily, “I wonder how much they want for that sign? It’ll save us buying a new one in a season’s time!” :-)
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