Non-League Finals Day at Wembley (May 21, 2017) – My Day with the Ground-hopping ‘squad’

Written by Scott W (@ScottMHC14)

Rather than write a detailed double of match reports, I thought I’d do a bit of deep sum-up of the day itself on what are very likely my last matches of the 2016/17 Football season.

So, in what was my first return to Wembley in seven years (my last visit being the heady days of Dagenham & Redbridge’s EFL League Two Play-off Final win here over Rotherham Utd in 2010) I joined a number of fellow ground-hoppers for this double-header that made up #NonLeagueFinalsDay, first the FA Vase Final: Cleethorpes Town v South Shields and then later on, the FA Trophy Final: Macclesfield Town v York City – both of the National League, although York has suffered a difficult season which ultimately ended in the pain of relegation.

South Shields & Cleethorpes teams for the National Anthem (May 21, 2017)
South Shields & Cleethorpes Town players stand for the national anthem before KO

FA Vase Final:  Cleethorpes Town   v  South Shields

Cleethorpes took on heavily-fancied South Shields in the opening match of the day. Marcus Newell’s side managed to keep Shields at bay fairly well in the opening 45 minutes, although Shields forward Gavin Cogdon really did work hard throughout and kept the opposition defence on alert, whilst ex-Premier League star Julio Arca was still pulling the strings in midfield at the ripe age of 36. Cleethorpes couldn’t quite hold on until the break though with three minutes of the first period remaining, Cogdon was brought down inside the area, and ex-Newcastle Utd youngster Carl Finnigan converted the resulting penalty.

Half-Time : Cleethorpes Town 0 – 1 South Shields

Shields gradually built up their attacking rhythm after the break, having several opportunities to increase their advantage. Cleethorpes, to their credit, did well at the back though couldn’t quite find their range going forward. Graham Fenton & Ian Picton’s side would not be denied though as three goals in the last ten minutes sealed a truly memorable day. First, with ten minutes left, Dillon Morse’s header from substitute Robert Briggs’ free-kick made it 0-2.

Then late on, forward David Foley grabbed a brace, both of them crisp finishes to ensure the North East side took the FA Vase. The result I feel was a little harsh on Cleethorpes who battled hard though simply couldn’t match the clinical finishing of their opponents. Best wishes to both sides for next season.

Full-Time: Cleethorpes Town  0 – 4  South Shields

Finnegan (pen) 42’

Morse 80’, Foley 86’, 89’

Cleethorpes Town Starting XI: Higton, Lowe, Winn, Dickens, Bloomer, Coleman, Davis, Flett, Cooper, Robertson, Oglesby

South Shields Starting XI: Connell, Lough, Shaw, Morse, Arca, Phillips, Cogdon, Foley, Nicholson, Stephenson, Finnigan

Referee: Darren England      Assistants: Matthew Jones & Marc Wilson

S Shields players applauding their fans (May 21,2017)
South Shields players (far right of picture) applauding their fans after the match..

During the break, the ‘squad’ of us watching reflected on a good game, better in the second period though in a nutshell, we couldn’t have foreseen the match we had to come….

FA Trophy Final : Macclesfield Town v York City

Macclesfield, who finished in the top ten in the National League Premier took on York, who were agonisingly relegated from the same division on the last day.

This match didn’t take long to ‘rev up’ at all, as Macclesfield started well, with Chris Holroyd leading the line, Danny Whitaker & Rhys Browne in midfield and David Fitzpatrick at left-back the players standing out, though it was the Minstermen who opened the scoring after just seven minutes as veteran striker Jon Parkin’s header found the net. Macclesfield responded though as just five minutes later, lively winger Rhys Browne drilled home to level the contest. The high-tempo, frayed nature of the match continued though York re-took the lead through ex-Crewe striker Vadaine Oliver slotted home on 21 minutes. The Silkmen continued to push for the majority of the half and finally got their reward just before the interval, as midfielder Ollie Norburn walloped a superb effort past the excellent Kyle Letheren in the York goal to grab a deserved equaliser for John Askey’s side.

Half-Time: Macclesfield Town 2 – 2 York City

In all honesty, it took the entireity of the break to recover from such a superb first half of action. You hear the line ‘Football was the ultimate winner’ and in this match it certainly was the case.

After the break, Macclesfield continued to create chances though arguably just couldn’t find the ‘lethal touch’ in front of goal, with Letheren denying them well on more than one occasion. York battled well and held out, hoping for the odd chance as the game neared the end of 90 minutes. They got their chance, and substitute Aidan Connolly bundled the ball home after Parkin’s effort headed towards goal to give themselves a priceless advantage with five minutes remaining. They continued to hold out and claimed the FA Trophy to at least ease the pain of their difficult season and undoubtedly give Gary Mills’ side a fillet for what will be a tough assignment in the National League North next season.

Macclesfield will feel hard done by, though they should also hold their heads up high too. To both sides’ credit, they really wanted to win this match and that doesn’t always transpire on occasions like this.

Full-Time:  Macclesfield Town 2  –  3  York City

Browne 12’, Norburn 45 +1             Parkin 7’, Oliver 21’, Connolly 85’

Macclesfield Town Starting XI: Flinders, Halls, Fitzpatrick, Byrne, Pilkington, Browne, Holroyd, James, Norburn, Hancox, Whitaker

York City Starting XI: Letheren, Heslop, Morgan-Smith, Klukowski, Hall, Oliver, Parkin, Newton, Holmes, Parslow, Bencherif

In summary, this was a cracking day at the national Stadium and I hope it’s not another seven years before I return. Good also to enjoy it with the likes of Grassroot Football Show’s Adam Richardson and Peter Dudley and fellow ground-hoppers Andrew, Richard & quite a few others too.

Finally, congratulations again to South Shields and York City while deserved commiserations go to Cleethorpes Town and Macclesfield Town and best wishes to all for next season. So this double-header was on the same day as the last day of the Premier League? Really… OK, Match of the Day was decent..

Have a good summer all, I’ll see you next season.