Mickleover in clover

Mickleover Sports 3 Frickley Athletic 0

I randomly decided to go and watch some non-league football on Saturday. I didn’t want to travel too far but still wanted to see some decent football and hopefully a few goals. I narrowed it down to 3 or 4 but finally decided on Mickleover Sports. It’s always nice driving around Derbyshire and after a quick google search I’d seen that they’d been in the news that week with Harry Redknapp poaching their coach Paul Groves and taking him to Birmingham. I’d also seen that Clinton Morrison is plying his trade there at the ripe old age of 37. Should be interesting I thought.

Mickleover were in good form, winning 4 of their last 5 and the team they were playing, Frickley, had lost all of their last 5 and were already relegated. They’d shipped 94 goals in their 45 games with only bottom side Skelmersdale faring worse. On paper it looked certain that Frickley were going to be recording another defeat and the day before I headed over to bet365 to see if they were taking bets on the match. Odds on non-league matches are offered up with a much bigger overround (bookmaker margin) than bets on the premier league and other professional matches for obvious reasons. There was a 10% margin on this match so any kind of betting on these markets needs to be extremely selective but still, the 1.44 on offer for Mickleover looked a tempting one to place a decent sized bet on. I came to my senses however, reminding myself I know nothing about these two teams, little about non-league football in general and this was the last game of the season. For all I know both sides might by fielding their youth teams!

I arrived early at the Don Amott stadium on a beautifully sunny afternoon so I had plenty of time to look through the match programme and familiarize myself with the surroundings. Mickleover have a very nice setup, plenty of space to park for free, a nice little clubhouse, decent little stand and a nice flat playing surface. What more do you need really.

I watched closely during the warm up to see if I could note any difference between the two teams’ approach. Frickley seemed to start with a lot of shooting and players doing their own thing. Mickleover were playing keep ball and other passing exercises and it was clear that they had a better team spirit with plenty of talkers, something which is very important in any level of football. Frickley finished up with a passing exercise and it didn’t look too promising that they struggled to string more than 2 or 3 passes together.

At this point I was thinking that maybe I should have lumped on at 1.44 afterall, but after the first half display (0-0 at half time) I was glad I didn’t. Not because Mickleover didn’t play well, they did. They kept the ball really well and played some nice stuff which is not always that easy on a hot day and dry pitch. The first half lacked attempts at goal though and in terms of goal-mouth action wasn’t great. Mickleover played very deep which allowed their defence to build up possession from the back. The back 4 were very comfortable in possession and looked pretty solid. It was clear that they had some very talented players but they weren’t getting enough runners in behind the Frickley defence or getting to the by-line enough.

Clinton Morrison was up top for Sports and I’m sure he’ll be the first to admit that he’s not in the best physical condition of his career. Quite understandable really at 37. What often happens to forward players when they are no longer so mobile is that they tend to want to hold the ball up and come deep to collect it, Wayne Rooney-style. As helpful as this is in retaining possession it can prevent you getting up the pitch. You really need someone running in behind the back 4 and stretching them. This is what Mickleover were lacking in the first half.

It was very evident that some of Mickleover’s players had played at a higher level. Player-Manager John McGrath looked a very experienced and solid competitor and he and Pablo Mills, ex Derby County, were key figures in setting the tempo and getting the Mickleover side playing.

Mickleover have a good mix of experience and youth and the player who stood out the most was 21-year-old Andy Dales. A good dribbler with an excellent touch and good creativity he can strike a ball well too. His long-range effort that was excellently tipped over the bar by Frickley keeper Malkowski, was Mickleover’s best effort at goal in the first half.

Frickley actually came closest to scoring in the first period, via a high ball into the box that caused confusion in the Sports defence and the ball though already past the keeper, was cleared from danger. If Frickley were to score it looked like being from a set piece or a long ball into the box and the Frickley forwards were competing well in the air against towering centre-back and Sports captain Tom Burgin.

The second half was a much more entertaining affair. The referee who had already given out a few unnecessary yellow cards jumped at the chance to issue a couple more after a few handbags and put Frickley down to 10 men in the process. Frickley were already being dominated in terms of possession and after the sending off they struggled to get the ball.

A brilliant run and one two from Pablo Mills saw him clean through with only the keeper to beat but he side-footed too close to the keeper. Mills more than made up for the missed chance shortly after though and the opening goal was certainly worth waiting for. McGrath clipped it into his feet from a free kick and Mills flicked it up inside the area and backheeled it into the corner of the net. You can see the moment of magic and the goals that followed by visiting the link at the bottom of the page.

Mickleover were really dominating now and the second goal came just 2 minutes later. It was a bit of a worldy as they say. Dales who’d looked dangerous all game finished off some superb interplay, smashing the ball high into the top corner and leaving the Frickley number 1 (who has represented the Polish national side) no chance.

Mickleover made a few substitutions and took off their captain midway through the second half. This along with pushing for more goals seemed to leave them a little more disorganised at the back and Frickley could have nicked a goal on a couple of occasions. Both times the Frickley players found themselves with a free shot at goal inside the area but Mickleover’s keeper narrowed the angles and stood up well.

We’d already had two brilliant goals and on 88 minutes that became three after another promising young player Adam Baskerville showed his class. Controlling the ball excellently on the edge of the area, he feigned to shoot and took a touch to steady himself before lashing the ball into the top right corner. Again, the keeper, who had been one of Frickley’s best players couldn’t have done anything to prevent it.

Mickleover played the sort of football that is very easy on the eye and this was pleasing to see for my first real taste of the Evo-Stik league. The standard had exceeded my expectations and it was a good spectacle with some absolutely superb goals scored on a beautifully sunny day.

After that thoroughly enjoyable performance, I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for Mickleover’s results and may well be back down to visit next season.

Highlights of the Mickleover v Frickley match