Friday, 16 June 2017

Football Alliance Expands to Welcome New Scottish Member Clubs!

The Football Alliance have today announced a major development following lengthy negotiations with the Scottish League, which is that the ten clubs constituting Scotland’s Championship will join the existing national structure from the beginning of the 2017 - 18 season to form a new mainland-wide ‘UK Football Alliance’ competition.

In a further development, the ten clubs from north of the border will be joined by the addition of another dozen from the English regional divisions and two from the Welsh League, bringing the national total to 64 which will be organised into four divisions of 16 teams each. Four of the Scots will play in the newly-expanded Second Division with three each in the also-increased Third and new Fourth Divisions, with champions SG (‘Seren Goch’ = Red Star) Caernarfon and runners-up CPD Porthmadog from Wales joining the Third and Fourth respectively.

Whilst the decision not to place any of the Scottish clubs at the top level, in the Championship, was the subject of a degree of controversy, it was considered that the comparative performance of English and Scottish teams in European competition should be a decisive factor in determining such an outcome, with the Scots’ lack of progress in a continental context - including when in direct opposition, for all that St Johnstone earned a narrow first leg lead over Marine in last season’s Champion Clubs’ Cup before succumbing on aggregate - and its consequent perception of a certain inequality thus resulting in them beginning life in the second tier as their highest point of entry. In the future, it has been proposed that the domestic champions of Scotland will be elevated to national level, replacing the lowest-placed Scottish finisher in the structure unless that club has earned promotion from the Fourth Division in which case they will be immune from demotion and an additional Scottish club will join the national Football Alliance.

The ten Scottish clubs - including one from the Orkney Isles - to feature in the new Alliance will be:

Second Division

St Johnstone
Stromness Celtic

Third Division

Partick Thistle

Fourth Division

Dynamo Dundee
East Fife
Solway Star

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

European Champion Clubs' Cup Final 2016 - 17

(in Rotterdam)

Marine             (0)  2
RWD Molenbeek      (0)  1

Marine became the second English club to achieve the rarified status of European club champions after a night of high drama in Rotterdam.

For all of the Mariners’ progress since relegation from the top flight only three years ago - the momentum of their upward trajectory since has carried them from promotion, to the Championship and now this season their first continental final in addition to an almost successful defence of their title - RWD Molenbeek represented the most formidable and daunting of opponents, as the Cup holders (having beaten Stalybridge Celtic for that particular privilege) and appearing in a fourth successive final.

Having defeated European club nobility in the form of multiple Champions’ Cup winners Atletico Madrid and Ferencvaros in the quarter- and semi-finals, Marine approached the final in confident mood and took that swagger into the match itself, bold enough to play RWDM at their own technically sophisticated game without sacrificing their customary effervescence. Chances were engineered by both sides - the best perhaps to Molenbeek - without either being able to achieve a breakthrough in a first half that ended goalless but leaving the 4,000-plus attendance anticipating the second even more eagerly such was the standard of football produced.

Upon the resumption, the pattern continued as did the pace, unabated. A goal seemed ever more imminent as both sides struck the woodwork before, in the 58th minute, Marine found the net and took the lead with an acrobatic finish from Tegwyn Prothero, volleying in on the run from the left side of the penalty area after an opening had been skilfully created. As the cut-and-thrust continued without further scoring, that appeared a fitting enough goal to win a final until RWDM eventually breached the Marine defences after 87 minutes with a wonderful goal, a deceptively simple side-footed finish from a central position fifteen yards out, the ball caressed into the corner of the net just out of the despairing reach of the Mariners’ ‘keeper, after a passing sequence the length of the pitch that had systematically taken Marine apart in a manner not previously achieved.

Pegged back but not deflated, Marine took the game back to the Belgians and, as extra-time loomed, scored the decisive goal in the dying seconds as Prothero again appeared in the right place at the right time, flinging himself horizontally at a cross from the right flank, heroically defying the threat of defenders’ outstretched boots, to plant a glorious diving header past RWDM’s custodian, a thrilling denouement to what had proved to be a magnificent match.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Football Alliance Cup 2016 - 17: Final

Northwich Victoria      (1) 2
South Liverpool         (0) 1

(at Manchester Central)

Cup honours to Northwich Victoria, deserved reward for another fine, consistent season for the Vics, still a ‘young’ team amongst the higher echelons it must be remembered, although the margin of victory was but a narrow one.

South Liverpool put in another excellent performance against a team from the Championship, having eliminated holders Red Star Mossley, eventual league champions Liverpool St Helens and then Blyth Spartans en route to the final, but fell just short on the day, going down as late as the 85th minute to one of Northwich’s classic counter-attacks after having maintained parity for all but brief periods of Vics dominance.
Northwich took the advantage after 26 minutes and remained an ever-present threat even when allowing South Liverpool the opportunity to probe from midfield, defensive solidity underpinning their efforts although their one lapse allowed South to equalise in the 64th minute, setting up the last half hour nicely, during which both teams had chances to score before Vics applied the coup de grace.

In addition to a first major trophy, Northwich’s prize is a place in next season’s European Cup-Winners’ Cup, whilst South Liverpool, as Second Division champions, have at least the not insignificant consolation of promotion to the Championship.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

European Cup-Winners' Cup Final 2016 - 17

(in Dusseldorf)

Vasas Budapest        (2) (3)  5
Red Star Mossley      (1) (3)  3  (after extra time)

Double disappointment for Mossley as, following Saturday’s defeat at Hungaria that cost them the league championship, their first European club competition final ended, after a pulsating 120 minutes’ football before 3,284 spectators in Dusseldorf, with Hungary’s Vasas Budapest eventually overcoming Red Star to add the Cup-Winners’ Cup to their previous haul of five Champions’ Cups and once again claim pre-eminence as continental trophy winners.

Starting as hesitantly as they had at Hungaria, Mossley fell an early goal behind before settling into the occasion and establishing a foothold in the match with an equaliser on the half-hour. Vasas, displaying the virtuosity that has long been their hallmark, then stepped up a gear to score again and take that 2 - 1 lead into the half-time interval, a fair reflection of the cut and thrust of the opening period’s play. Mossley regrouped and emerged determined to impose themselves, playing with a pace and panache that Vasas, for all their defensive efforts, found irresistible, to the extent that, by the 65th minute, Red Star had turned the match on its head and held a 3 - 2 lead. However, this proved but a precarious advantage as, drawing on the club’s long history of victorious experience, the Magyars engineered a 78th-minute equaliser to take the final into extra time. There, Vasas assumed control for all Mossley’s sterling efforts to maintain parity and, with a further strike in the 99th minute, edged in front for the third time on the night before ending Red Star’s hopes with the decisive goal in the second period of the additional half hour, thus taking over custodianship of the trophy from last season’s inaugural winners Raba ETO Gyor, whom Mossley had vanquished in the semi-finals.

Vasas Budapest will defend their trophy next season but Mossley, domestic and European runners-up as were their near-neighbours Stalybridge Celtic last term, alas will have no continental adventure to embark on.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Matchday #32: Results and Final League Tables


Blyth Spartans  3   Northwich Victoria  2
Gainsborough Trinity  3   Dynamo Burnley  2
Hungaria  4   Red Star Mossley  3
Marine  7   Manchester Central  2
Red Star Wrexham  1   Excelsior Marlow  1
Spartak-Slavia  2   Marxist Polytechnic  1
Stalybridge Celtic  2   Liverpool St Helens  2
Torpedo Tranmere  4   Locomotive Crewe  1

Second Division Promotion Group

Bohemians 5 South Liverpool 4
Bradford Comrades 1 Hartlepool Petrochemical 2
Prescot Cables 1 Audenshaw Ajax 5

Second Division Relegation Group

Merthyr Tydfil 2 Hendon Hotspur 3
Newcastle Blue Star 3 Crystal Palace 1
Wimbledon Tooting & Mitcham 1 Sheffield Wednesday 6

Third Division Promotion Group

Gateshead Trinity 4 Nelson Proletariat 3
Matlock Town 5 Red Star Bootle 1
Sunderland Automotive 1 White Star Waterloo 1

Third Division Relegation Group

Liverpool Hibernian 1 Manchester Newton Heath 1
Tadcaster Albion 0 Everton Stanley 2
Urmston Villa 5 Newcastle Caledonia Thistle 2