New Mills 1 - 1 Newcastle Town

Just like last year, the early end to the Northern Premier League season saw a small group of Mossley supporters head off to strange pastures in search of football. And just like last year they ended up in the High Peak, or to be more specific New Mills, where the eponymous home town team were taking on Newcastle Town.

Ninety nine percent of the time a fixture at the tail end of the season involving the teams in first and second place would be must-see games full of tension and potential high drama. This though, thanks to Newcastle running away with the league and being crowned champions several weeks earlier, represented that other single percent where all that was at stake was pride.

However, the fact that there absolutely nothing riding on the outcome didn’t stop it from being a genuinely good game to watch from a neutrals perspective. Well, for the most part it was. There was a slump around the hour mark but compared to some of the games I’ve witnessed since August, particularly the Curzon-Colwyn Bay play-off four days earlier, this was ambrosia – the stuff the gods were fed with and not the rice pudding.

So, the game. Newcastle took an early lead when a sublime move up the pitch end in the most ridiculous of goals; the ball taking what seemed like a dozen deflections before ending up in the back of the net. The lead was a just reward for the Staffordshire sides great start to the match but they were pegged back when the assistant referee was kind enough to give the Millers a free-kick for a non-existent foul, from which Carlos Meakin headed them level.

New Mills' good fortune continued when their number five only received a caution for bringing down a player in the box. It was as blatant a red card offence as I've seen all season yet the referee (as is often the case at this time of year when their eyes are on holidays and not on filling out reports) only saw fit to issue a yellow. Newcastle's pre-interval misery was then completed by the penalty taker not only blasting his spot kick straight at keeper Liam Higginbotham (see, I know one players name) but knocking the rebound ten metres over the crossbar with the goal at his mercy.

The second half began with both sides piling forward in search of the goal that would put them in front but then came that aforementioned slump. It wasn't a gradual thing either - the quality of the game just went into a straight nose dive. Thankfully it picked up again towards the end and the Millers had Higginbotham to thank for keeping the scores level as the visitors bombarded his goal with shots.

I'm no fan of the keeper after the way he left Mossley last season but some of the saves he pulled off in the closing moments of this match were unbelievable. At times it seemed like 1 vs 11 and reminded me of the semi-final game in Shaolin Soccer (which, while I'm on the subject, is the best football film ever made):

Conclusions that can be drawn from the game? The over riding one is that I'm glad Newcastle will be in the Unibond, sorry - Evostik South next season. Seriously, they're that good a side and if they can keep their squad together I don't envy anybody playing them at all.

New Mills are a decent team too although not quite as formidable as Town and that's mostly down to their strike force who in this game posed all the threat and menace of a particularly wet lettuce leaf. Even the introduction of ex-Football League striker Simon Yeo didn't improve things any. At least not in terms of goal potential but he did up the quotient by falling over the ball. Twice.

Of course I'm basing the above opinion purely on the strength of one match but as it doesn't stop supposed 'experts' in the media, it's not going to stop me either.