Maltby Main manager Louis Axcell has showered his ‘star goalkeeper’ Jonathan Hill in glowing praise.
Midfielder Hill has had to be Maltby’s heroic stopper in two of the last three games – the victory at Thackley ten days ago and the FA Vase success at Cammell Laird 1907 on Saturday.
That’s because number one Jim Pollard has been self-isolating and Axcell cannot speak highly enough of Hill for stepping up.
“I sent him a WhatsApp message at about half-past-nine (on the Saturday morning of the Thackley game) saying ‘you might be in goal today’,” Axcell told Non League Yorkshire.
“His reply word-for-word was ‘oh brilliant, I love going in the net’. He actually looked forward to it I think.
“Against Thackley we were terrible for the first 35 minutes, we could have been 5-0 down.
“We conceded two in the first 20 minutes and you can ask their manager about it, but he pulled off a save which was just ridiculous.
“The athleticism to get across and tip it round the post was unbelievable. He kept us in the game and we were far better in the second half. Without him it could have been three points lost.
“It sums him up. His attitude is unbelievable. He plays centre-half, up top, centre-midfield and now in goal. He’s a key asset to have.”
Maltby have won all three games without Pollard as young Dan Morton, the ex-Worsbrough Bridge stopper, played between the sticks against Handsworth in the 2-1 win.
But it was situation that Axcell was not expecting.
“Jim Pollard, our number one, lives in a student house with quite a few other lads and there’s been Covid incidents in student digs so he couldn’t come into contact with people,” he said.
“It fell on the weekend my number two and goalkeeping coach Jamie Bailey went on holiday.
“I found out at quarter to nine on the Saturday morning (of the Thackley game) so we contacted the league and they told us we had until 11 o’clock to sign somebody or we’d have to put an outfield player in.
“We managed to sign Dan Morton for the Handsworth game and he did a great job. But he couldn’t play Saturday as he had something booked so we had to go with Hillsy in goal again.
“I probably could have got a goalkeeper for the weekend, but it was Cammell Laird away.
“It was two-and-half-hours on a coach and people aren’t going to come in for one game to travel all that way. I think we were out of the house for ten hours. If it was a league game we’d have put more effort into getting a ‘keeper because it would have been a local game.
“James Pollard has now come to the end of his isolation period so he’s fine to come back in. We also have another two coming back in.
“I registered myself, but there was no chance I was going on the pitch as an outfield player. It was purely in case something happened to Hillsy while he was in goal. I’m not a goalkeeper, but if he’d had to go off I’d have probably gone in. That would have been desperate times.”
Prior to the three consecutive wins – against Thackley, Handsworth and Cammell Laird, Maltby lost late-on at Liversedge before a last minute Brad Beatson penalty rescued a last minute point against AFC Mansfield.
“The first two games weren’t relatively kind to us in Liversedge and Mansfield which were two really tough and tight games.
“I felt we deserved at least a point against Liversedge. It was a game of two halves as we dominated first half and didn’t take our chances and then we were on the back-foot in the second half.
“We’ve then had three wins. There’ve all been tough games, Handsworth, Thackley away and Cammell Laird. We didn’t play badly in the first two games, but we didn’t take our chances. We’ve been creating. Taking our chances was just the bit missing.
“We’re relatively pleased and we have probably got another gear. We probably haven’t played as well as I would have liked. Hopefully we can go on a bit of a run, but we have a tough little trip to Yorkshire Amateur on Wednesday night. They’re absolutely flying.
“They tore us apart at home last season at Christmas time and it was possibly our worst performance. But they were magnificent that day and frightening.”
Non League Football is free to continue playing following prime minister Boris Johnson’s unveiling of the new tiered lockdown rules.
But with Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations on the rise, how long the sport will be allowed to function is an open question and Axcell fully expects problems.
“Obviously there will be disruption,” he said.
“All we can do is follow the guidelines and rules. As far as I’m concerned, if we get a player who tests positive, if he hasn’t been in contact with us in the few days previously, then we’ll try and fulfil the fixtures.
“I’m a strong believer in that if we can take 12 or 13 players we go and get the games played and try and get as much of the season done.
“Obviously no-one can control what is going to happen. The more testing there is, the more people who are being found (with the virus).
“I’m just glad we haven’t been stopped and the announcement today means we can carry on. But everyone has to accept in the next six to eight weeks everyone is going to be affected by it.
“I think we need to try and play as many fixtures as we can within the rules and guidelines. I wouldn’t say Non League is under threat, but it is a crux of people’s lives, not just the players, but the supporters and the committee members.
“Everyone like the Government is trying to predict things and I just think rather than predicting, let’s make the best out of a bad situation.”
If you have enjoyed reading Non League Yorkshire over the past few months, please consider making a donation to the not-for-profit organisation NLY Community Sport which provides sport for children and adults with disabilities and learning difficulties. CLICK HERE to visit the JustGiving page. There is a video at the bottom of the page showing our work.
NLY Community Sport, run by James Grayson and Connor Rollinson, has always had combatting social isolation at the top of our objectives when running our Disability Football teams. As we slowly return to ‘action’, our work will play an important role in reintroducing our players, who have disabilities and learning difficulties, back into society.
We have six teams, a mixture of Junior and Adult teams – Nostell MW DFC, Pontefract Pirates, Selby Disability Football Club and the South Yorkshire Superheroes (Barnsley) – across Yorkshire.
We have enjoyed great success over the past three years. Several of our players have represented Mencap GB in Geneva, including Billy Hobson from Selby and Greg Smith, whose story is quite inspiring.
Like most organisations, we have been affected financially by the Coronavirus and because of the cancelled Lucille Rollinson Memorial Tournament, we are down on projected income for the year and we have incurred losses in the last few months.
We have not been hit as badly as other organisations, but we do need raise £2000 to put us back at the level we were at in mid-March and enable us to make a difference once again to our players’ lives in the future, without having financial worries. Several of our players are suffering from effects of the lockdown and we are determined to be in the strongest position possible to provide services for them.
Any amount raised above £2000 will be put towards new projects (when the world returns to normal) designed to further benefit people with disabilities and learning difficulties. You can learn more about the organisation HERE and on our Facebook page.
Watch the video below to see highlights from our three years as an organisation. The video was produced for our players at the end of March to remind them of good memories from the last three years.