Great Non League Football Matches

Through reminiscing I have picked my favourite Non League football matches that I have attended in the last 20 years. Again, it is a personal list (in no particular order), not a definitive list.

Torquay United 0-1 Farsley Celtic (5th April 2008)

Craig Bentham celebrates with David McNiven after the striker scored the winner for Farsley Celtic in a shock win at then-Conference giants Torquay.

This was to prove Farsley’s final win in the Conference National, but arguably their best. Torquay fans were losing the plot as Celtic somehow denied the promotion chasers.

David McNiven’s early goal was enough for Farsley, who faced the ultimate battle of the Alamo in the second half. Through the heroic efforts Georges Santos and others in the Farsley defence, the bow would not be broken.

It paved the way for an epic coach journey, with a special guest…

Farsley 3-1 AFC Telford United (28th November 2009)

This game is well worth a watch as it has everything. Lee Ellington’s early goal for Farsley opened the scoring, but the game belongs to Polish goalkeeper Piotr Skiba who threw the ball into the back of his own net to level things up. The clip was used for the Question of Sport What Happened Next? Round months later and it helped Skiba win a professional football contract back in his native Poland.

What people don’t realise is that Skiba had go off injured soon after he was left concussed after making a great save to deny former Farsley striker Damian Reeves.

Future Bradford City and Doncaster Albion midfielder Dave Syers went in goal (nothing new as he done the same thing numerous times for Eric Gilchrist at Ossett Albion) and goals from Gareth Grant guided Neil Parsley’s Farsley to victory.

A blatant penalty after Grant was fouled was also turned down (if you’re reading this Mick, talk us though it!) before to cap off the most incredible game, Syers amazingly saved a Reeves penalty in the last few minutes. How often does an outfield player save a penalty?

Eastwood Town 0-1 Avenue (8th January 1999)

Mark ‘Willy’ Wilson

It may come across as a nondescript fixture, but this was the first time I met Mark ‘Willy’ Wilson. Willy was actually sent off in the second half, but because Martin Pemberton had scored the winner in the last minute, there was jubilation on the bus. Willy entertained the masses, with endless renditions of the Grand Old Duke of York, with the aid of an inflatable hammer.

Worksop Town 1-2 Bradford (Park Avenue) (23rd March 2004) 

Former Leeds United striker Carl Shutt won his first game in charge of Bradford (Park Avenue) and would later lead them to promotion

Former Leeds United Carl Shutt’s first game in charge had meant to have been on the Saturday, but rain or frost had put pay to the NPL Premier Division clash with Marine.

I was 14 at the time and rarely went to away midweek games that season, but I was able to persuade my dad to take me. There was huge excitement, a new manager who happened to be a former well known footballer. We supposedly didn’t have a chance of winning. I wasn’t particularly keen on Worksop at the time, perhaps because of the 3-2 defeat (a few red cards in that game) there three years earlier. There was an air of arrogance that night from their fans and officials that it would be a walk in the park for them.

Worksop inevitably took the lead, but despite a struggling threadbare side we fought back with a Craig Smith worldie. Jason Maxwell (or an OG depending on your angle) scored the winner during a goal-mouth scramble in the second half and the victory was a major springboard for how the season ended.

AFC Emley 3-2 Wigan Robin Park (18th August 2013)

Darren Hepworth celebrating one of his greatest moments at AFC Emley – the 2013 FA Cup triumph over Wigan Robin Park

Darren Hepworth was on the pitch during this unforgettable FA Cup tie. Emley were trailing 2-1 in the 90th minute and looked like a side going out until Anthony Haigh equalised. Hepworth raced onto the pitch in jubilation at securing a replay, and was on cloud nine when a sensational Paul Sykes 97th minute penalty won it.

“I think that has just gone past Alan Sunderland scoring the winner against Man United for me on a personal level,” said Hepworth shortly after.

“That’s the first time I’ve won a game in the FA Cup and what a way to win, it was unbelievable. When it went 2-2, I thought we’ll take that and we’ll prepare for Tuesday night and go there (Wigan) and get a result.

“It was fairy-tale stuff…It was totally Roy of the Rovers.”

Glossop North End 3-1 Shaw Lane Aquaforce (7th March 2015)

Barnsley’s Non League icon Joe Thornton after placing Shaw Lane in front in the FA Vase quarter-final replay at Glossop

What might have been! Barnsley’s Non League icon Joe Thornton had put Craig Elliott’s Shaw Lane Aquaforce to within three minutes of a semi-final tie with St Austell and two games away from Wembley.

That was until Sam Hind equalised in the FA Vase replay and Glossop won it in extra-time.

The buzz around Shaw Lane as a club had been brilliant during the FA Vase run and the ending was so harsh. The deserved Toolstation NCEL Premier Division title triumph six weeks later made up for the disappointment.

Garforth Town 5-0 Armthorpe Welfare (10th November 2015)

Former Garforth Town manager Adrian Costello enjoyed the most incredible first game in charge with just 11 players and no subs at his disposal

Apart from keeping Garforth Town in the Toolstation NCEL Premier Division against the odds, Adrian Costello will go as the man who had the most incredible first game in charge.

Costello, appointed six days earlier, had inherited a squad of around 13 after the previous manager Graham Nicholas had left for Ossett Town and took most of the team with him. Costello’s task was made harder when his ‘first game’ was postponed after torrential rain, rendering his initial signings ineligible for the West Riding County Cup tie with Armthorpe.

It meant he only had 11 eligible players, including one who had left weeks earlier and had to persuaded to help out.

It did not matter as Costello and his 11 heroes (and no subs) stormed to an unbelievable 5-0 victory against a full-strength Armthorpe. Curtly Martin-Wyatt (2), Danny Harris, Jassim Alali and Spencer Lund scored in what goes down as one of the greatest wins in Garforth’s history.

Worsbrough Bridge 0-2 Pontefract Collieries (22nd April 2017)

Mikey Dunn had the Worsbrough right back at sixes and sevens when Pontefract won promotion from NCEL Division One in 2017

Nerve-wracking to say the least. The brief was simple. Win to overtake Emley and potentially win the Toolstation NCEL Division One title if Hall Road fail to beat Campion. Ultimately it was Emley who were left disappointed.

But the Colls certainly gave them hope. Once as Chris Wood had fired them in front, you’d have thought it would have been plain-sailing. But no. Goalkeeper Ben Saynor was controversially sent off for fouling young Jack Mawson, leaving the Colls with ten men and key defender Jimmy Williams in goal.

Critically Mikey Dunn, who had the Worsbrough Bridge right-back at sixes and sevens all afternoon, scored the second goal 60 seconds later.

Dunn even missed a penalty in the second half as Colls sealed promotion.

Farsley 3-1 Lincoln Moorlands Railway (23rd April 2011)

Farsley won the Toolstation NCEL Premier Division title in 2011

This was the day Farsley lifted the Toolstation NCEL Premier Division title – completing the successful first year of the rebirth. The 3-2 defeat to Parkgate had galvanised the team and the final day win rounded off an unstoppable run of form.

Glasshoughton Welfare 4-3 AFC Emley (11th October 2011)

Lee Bennett scored twice for Glasshoughton in the 4-3 win over Emley

Darren Hepworth will remember this game very well. Darren had celebrated in an exuberant way twice in the opening five minutes after Chris Wdowczyk and his pre-Ash Flynn star player David Heagney had scored.

But in what was a helter-skelter game, Carl Fothergill and Liam Radford hit back for Craig Elliott’s Glasshoughton. Heagney scored a penalty before half-time, but it agony for Hepworth as a young Lee Bennett’s early second half double secured Welfare the points.

The game is also symbolic for under-lining Glasshoughton as serious promotion contenders. Elliott would later lead his side back to the NCEL top flight later that season.

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