My Greatest Game: Revisit Farsley’s 2011 title-winning clash at Tadcaster with Lee Connor

Lee Connor with his son Mason on the day Farsley lifted the NCEL Premier Division title in 2011

A BARNSTORMING run of eleven wins, one draw and no defeats had taken Farsley Celtic (or AFC as they were known then) to the brink of the NCEL Premier Division title in their first season as a reformed club.

The 3-2 loss at nearest challengers Parkgate and the events at full-time in the January of 2011 had galvanised Farsley and victory in the penultimate league game at Tadcaster Albion would all but secure promotion with a game to spare as their goal difference of +65 was so far superior.

Everything was going completely to plan by half-time as striker Ben Jones struck twice and Lee Connor’s goal gave Farsley a seemingly unassailable 3-0 lead. 

They were on verge of literally getting the cigars out until Paul Marshall’s side, containing future greats such as Steven Jeff, Carl Stewart, Nick Thompson and Ryan Qualter, mounted an unlikely comeback.

Terry Taylor and then Marc Thompson from a very debatable penalty turned the game on its head. Jones completed his hat-trick from the spot to ease the tension, but Tadcaster kept going and Nick Thompson set up a nerve-jangling finale until the full-time whistle eventually sounded to crown Farsley as champions.

Through the words of Lee Connor, this is his recollection of the day Farsley completed the first leg of the long journey back to the Conference North as a reformed club.

The key central defender reminisces about the team, his partnerships and friendships with Mark Jackson and Simeon Bambrook, the deadly strike-force of Gareth Grant and Ben Jones, his admiration for manager Neil Parsley, his World Cup hopes and his plans to get into management in the future.

Tadcaster Albion (Terry Taylor 57, Marc Thompson 73 pen, Nick Thompson 80) 3-4 Farsley AFC (Ben Jones 26, 35, 77 pen, Lee Connor 43) – 16th April 2011

Lee Connor celebrating winning the league after Farsley’s victory at Tadcaster. Picture: Phil Carver

The Teams 

Farsley AFC: Tom Morgan, Steve Mallory, Ryan Serrant, Simeon Bambrook, Mark Jackson, Lee Connor, Andy Cooper (Lewis Nightingale 79), Dominic Krief (captain), Ben Jones, Gareth Grant, Roy Stamer (Mark Bett 81). Subs unused: Tom Taylor, Ryan Watson, Tom Jackson.

Tadcaster Albion (starting eleven): Arran Reid, Tom Reid, Steven Jeff, Marc Thompson, Andrew Dawson (captain), Ryan Qualter, Terry Taylor, Nick Thompson, Robert Pell, Carl Stewart, Liam Shepherd.

“I would say winning the league with Farsley was my greatest achievement. I’ve got my Sunday success with HT Sports, but I look at that differently to the Non League stuff. It was my only Non League title so that’s probably why.

“That day against Tadcaster we were 3-0 up and all we had to do was see the second half out and get the cigars out. I think Simeon (Bambrook) actually put a cigar in one of his socks and people say he was going to pull it out with 15 minutes to go and pretend to smoke it if we were still cruising. I don’t know how true that is? Knowing him he may have done. But then Tadcaster came back into it and there was no time for things like that. 

“I remember the day really well and before it Pars (Neil Parsley) was really relaxed. Everybody was to be fair. I felt it was going to be a good day. Pars basically said ‘if we win today, we’re going to be champions, what more can we say? Just keep doing what’s you’ve done in the last eleven games’. I think as well because a lot of the lads had played in massive games like Conference North play-off finals, no-one was feeling the pressure. Most of us had seen it and done it and you just think ‘get the job done’. But we could have easily lost. 

“I think it was pretty tight for the first 20 minutes and then Benji (Ben Jones) scored and we relaxed a bit. There was also a break in play as Tadcaster’s captain accidentally collided with someone and had to be stretchered off. Benji scored again and I remember my goal. Someone shot and I was sniffing at the back stick and I guided it in with my head. I thought we had done it.

“There was not a lot said at half-time because we just relaxed and getting a breather because it was red hot. The message was keep going. I certainly didn’t think things were going to unravel, but it nearly did. I don’t remember their first goal, but I remember them getting a dodgy penalty. It was me who handled it, but it was so soft. I couldn’t believe it.

“I think the referee then levelled it up because I think both penalties were dodgy. So Benji put us 4-2 up and there was about ten minutes to go when they made it 4-3. The supporters may say different, but the end to the game just flew by from my memories. We had enough experience to see it out. It was certainly a funny game. I remember the celebrations when we got in a huddle and threw water around and then mixed with the supporters. I have some good memories from that day. 

Steven Jeff attempts to get in the way of a Andy Cooper strike. Picture: Phil Carver
Ben Jones scores one of his three goals in Farsley’s 4-3 win at Tadcaster. Picture: Phil Carver
Ben Jones scoring again for Farsley. Picture: Phil Carver
Lee Connor in battle as Farsley look to beat Tadcaster. Picture: Phil Carver
Nick Thompson turns away after making it 4-3. Picture: Phil Carver
Lee Connor celebrating winning the title
Lee Connor receiving his NCEL Premier Division title medal with his son Mason
Lee Connor has a lot of admiration for Farsley’s title-winning manager Neil Parsley who done a wonderful job for nearly ten years at Throstle Nest. Picture: Phil Carver

“Getting Farsley promoted was a real honour for Pars because it is difficult league to win, especially at the first attempt. It was a great achievement. Even now teams throw big money at it and can’t get out of the NCEL. You can end up getting marooned in the NCEL. Look at Worksop and Scarborough, it took them a few attempts to go up.

“It was great too for John Palmer who was Mr Farsley Celtic. Without him there would have been no Farsley Celtic and I think a lot of the lads went back to play for him because he had looked after many of them over the years. 

“We then got the trophy against Lincoln Moorlands on my birthday, the 23rd April. That was a special day too because Mason my son was there and he was really young. If you look at the photos he was on my shoulders and I’ve still got those photos and I look at them occasionally. It means a lot to me that day. I also had all the family there. I’ve still got my medal and I have a big scrapbook too with all the photos in. I look back at the time with a lot of pride.

“There was a lot of pressure on us because other teams thought we were spending a lot of money but we weren’t. It wasn’t a massive wage bill. Teams that year treated games against Farsley like a Cup Final and they raised their games. 

Lee Connor celebrating scoring in a 4-0 win over Hall Road Rangers who were then managed by Billy Heath. Picture: Phil Carver
Ben Jones and Gareth Grant tore teams apart during Farsley’s title-winning season. Picture: Phil Carver
Top goalkeeper Tom Morgan with Simeon Bambrook, who is believed to have had a cigar stored in his sock during the title-winning match at Tadcaster. Lee Connor says Bambrook scored some critical goals that year and was one of Farsley’s players of the season

“I actually joined after getting in touch with Pars three games into the season. I had hoped to get a club higher up the leagues to try and keep playing in the Northern Premier League. I was was getting on a bit though. I think I was either 36 or 37 at the time. Pars said they’d had a couple of funny results so come down as there might be a chance. I slotted in with Jacko (Mark Jackson) and it did take time to get used to the NCEL. I think it did for everyone as we had all played higher up and it took time to gel and when we did we won 13 out of the last 14 league games.

“We had a really good spine. Obviously Morgs (Tom Morgan) was in goal. Myself and Jacko were the centre-backs and we were quite experienced. Ryan Serrant was the same at left-back. In midfield there was Simeon and Roy (Stamer). Then upfront there were Granty (Gareth Grant) and Benji (Ben Jones) and they were incredible. They were just banging goals in for fun. Granty on his day used to tear teams to pieces to be brutally honest. Simeon had a brilliant season too and he was one of the players of the year. He scored some critical goals. His attitude and professionalism was second to none and if you weren’t on it he was one of the first to say ‘sort yourself out’. Pars also added to that with a few young lads who all played their part.

“I think we had a good run at the start of the season, but then we started losing matches. We lost to teams like Thackley, Maltby Main, Nostell, Lincoln Moorlands and then to Parkgate who beat us to go top and three points clear with three games in hand. We always touch on it, but that Parkgate game away from home when they were singing and celebrating like they had won the league was a big moment. There was a lot of football still to be played. We all sat down and listened to them and we had a discussion. We just said ‘we have to kick on’. Pars didn’t change anything, he didn’t bring anyone in. What happened at Parkgate with them all singing was in our minds and it brought us together. The team spirit was brilliant that year and I think as well we had players in that side that had won three or four promotions at a high level and lots of cups. That made a huge difference. There was so much experience.

“We took each game as they came, but winning breeds confidence. We were a good team and we were flying. Everything clicked. We were getting early goals. We weren’t conceding. We were turning up for games knowing we were going to win. The run we went on was unbelievable. To be fair we had Conference North players playing for us. I always used to say to them ‘you’re a Conference North player, I’m at the backend of my career, some of you really shouldn’t be here’, but they wanted to play for Pars and Farsley and for not much money.

“I played for Farsley in three spells. I was also the assistant manager to Pars a couple of years ago after Jacko left (in 2016). The first time I played for Farsley was with Martin Haresign in 1999. I played for the club for three years in the first spell. In one season I won players’ player of the year, manager’s player of the season and supporters’ player of the season. Ray Illingworth presented the trophies that night and it was a special one.

Martin Haresign wanted Ashton United to pay £5000 for Lee Connor in the early 2000s. They settled on £2000
John Reed brought Lee Connor out of retirement in 2014 when he was the manager of Ossett Town

“Ashton then signed me for a fee. Martin Haresign wanted five grand for me, but Ashton got me for two. That was a good move and that was 2002 so what would I be worth now? Twenty-five thousand? 

“I went back to Farsley when Lee Sinnott took over. I played 20 games for him, but I wanted to go back up the leagues again which you can’t knock me for. I probably should have stayed and it was the wrong thing to do in hindsight. 

“I was desperate to come back in 2010 and I had played under Pars at Guiseley as well as Farsley and we have always got on well. I like him. I went back to Farsley because I wanted to play for the club again, but also because of him. I still speak to him now. He’s a great guy and he’s honest. That’s what you want. He was also loyal because if you had one or two dodgy games he wouldn’t bomb you. His man-management skills were excellent and that’s a reason why he was in management for nearly 20 years. Some people will disagree, but if you didn’t get up his back he was good for you. 

“In terms of managers, Gerry Quinn was brilliant for me when I played for Ashton. Trevor Storton was the manager who first gave me my chance in Non League football and he was another good manager. I was playing locally for HT Sports and Martin Regan was playing for Avenue and he told Trevor about me. 

“Then at the end of my career John Reed was brilliant. He signed me for Ossett when I was 38 or 39 and at that age it was brilliant that he had confidence in me. It was nice that he brought me out of retirement and remember scoring against Scarborough which was a big game personally for him. 

“My last Non League game was actually for Farsley against Droylsden when I was 40. I was the assistant manager and it was a night game and Pars put me on the bench and we were beating them 3-1 I think and he put me on for the last ten minutes.

Lee Connor and Mark Jackson are still friends ten years on

“I now play for the Harrogate Veterans. Jacko plays and I also play a bit of local five-a-side with him. We had a good partnership and because we played a lot of games together we got used to each other. He’d played in the Football League and for Leeds, it was a joy to play with him. We hit it off and we’re still good pals now. As a team we also went to Benidorm after we won the league and ever since then we have been good buddies.

“I see Simeon quite a bit too and we sometimes go to the Leeds games together. He plays for the Harrogate Veterans as well. 

“I always bump into someone with the Veterans. Me and Jacko played against Ben Jones the other week and you always talk about past memories. Jonesy was mentioning the Benidorm trip more than anything.

“I was also recently invited to go to Thailand to play for England in the Veterans World Cup this summer, but obviously it has been cancelled. Playing for England Veterans is certainly one of my aims. 

“I’m certainly not going to rule out going into management. When I went back to Farsley as the assistant manager I didn’t do as much as I wanted to. It was a shame I walked away, but I felt it wasn’t right. When you’re learning you need to be more hands-on. John Deacey was there as well as joint manager with Pars and three people is too many. Three is a crowd. 

“When Garforth’s manager (Rob Hunter) left I did think about getting back into it, but Marshy (Paul Marshall) got the job. That would be a good job for me as someone starting out. I have watching games all over when Leeds haven’t been playing to keep my eye in. I applied for the Ossett job a while ago and I spoke to someone at Mossley the other week. That didn’t materialise and I probably wouldn’t have gone there anyway. I haven’t applied for many, but I’m always looking. I also speak to the odd old manager like John Reed too. I speak to Clive (Freeman) too. He watches Leeds now. I might have missed the boat because the longer you are out of it the harder it is to get back in, but you never know.”

Lee Connor was interviewed by James Grayson 

2 thoughts on “My Greatest Game: Revisit Farsley’s 2011 title-winning clash at Tadcaster with Lee Connor

  1. Lovely memories of ‘Conns’ there – a solid big stopper of a player, but could play a bit too. That Harey team he played in were a great set of lads- Fat Bob (Whellans), Tina (Turner), Big Chief (Noteman), Deadly Daz (Foreman), JD (Day), Stevo (Stevenson), Pav (Singh) – had some GOOD times with them on & off the pitch.

  2. Those 2 games were really good… the win at Tad basically won us the league, then we got the Trophy at home against Lincoln MR – think they’ve shut now?!
    All the French kids were there, and created a great atmosphere at Throstle Nest, with drums, flares etc. There was a tournament/invitational thing going on, so the French kids were in town at the right time, by fluke. Their teacher/coach was slaughtered & joined in the team photos

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