Looking Back whilst Moving Forward
0Posted 03rd May 2015 - Posted in Club News And so as the curtain is about to fall on an extraordinary season at Sandygate. A season, you might say, of two halves – except the first half ended in September, heralding an extraordinary revival. A swell of hope characterised the start of a new campaign: after a disappointing season, the club had regrouped and looked for a fresh start under the experienced guidance of Steve Toyne, who arrived with a few of his colleagues from Dinnington after the club had sadly folded. Toyne knows this level better than anyone and the club were given a further boost with an impressive win over Sheffield FC in the pre-season derby. The season started in earnest at Knaresborough in the August sunshine. The hosts were hotly tipped after a successful previous campaign, but the Countrymen held their own for long periods. They went down to a smart finish from a Champions League loser's medal owner – Seb Carole. The cricket club had given Hallam permission to play more home games in the early part of the season, but the fixtures conspired against them, and Lincoln Moorlands overcame a side still getting used to each other in the only home game until late September. By that time, the hunt was on for a new manager. Spirited displays were not enough to get the team off the mark as the side struggled to settle into a shape and find consistency in defence. Sadly, the financial gap was evident on a couple of occasions. Danny Flynn did his best to raise spirits but his goals – including a stunning 30-yard free kick at Bottesford remained mere consolations. As injuries and illness began to kick in, the side found themselves on the wrong side of a hiding at Eccleshill, and that was the last straw for Toyne, who handed in his resignation. There was no questioning his calibre as a manager or his work ethic and that of the players, but he was wise enough to see that it wasn't working. As the search went on off the pitch, Kev Staniland oversaw two very unlucky defeats, late goals leaving Hallam empty-handed against Hall Road and then Ashton Town in the FA Vase. They then beat Wombwell Main in the Sheffield and Hallamshire Senior Cup before Ryan Hindley and his management team took over for the visit of Shirebrook. The team were visibly buoyed by the arrival of Hindley and his wingmen. Hindley, young and enthusiastic, beat off a large number of applicants due to his passion, his knowledge of local football and his experience at every level of the game. It was to prove a controversial afternoon. A bumper crowd were treated to a thriller, sparked by a Simon Mirfin goal quickly cancelled out by a penalty. Shirebrook's Matthew Plant was lucky not to see red for a foul before Flynn looked to have won the game for Hallam with seven minutes to go but Plant scored twice in the last two minutes to deny Hindley a winning start. He and the Countrymen didn't have to wait long, though. A stunning 4-1 win at Selby finally got Hallam on the board, and already the atmosphere was different. A goalless draw against Worsborough followed, providing more encouragement with a first clean sheet of the campaign. Stamina proved to be an issue as the boys went down to two late goals at home to Louth, but another defeat, away to Handsworth Parramore in the Senior Cup, did nothing to stunt the growing confidence. Having said that, not even Ryan could have predicted the next few weeks as Hallam exploded into form. First, Grimsby Borough were obliterated 7-2 on a cold Tuesday night at Sandygate. Hallam then fell victim to a superb Craig Heard hat-trick at Yorkshire Amateur but then deservedly beat high-flying Clipstone. The original fixture had been abandoned on 78 minutes due to fog with Hallam 3-0 up, so the victory felt like justice served. A narrow defeat to Emley did not flatten the upward curve of Hindley's side, who then secured back-to-back 5-0 away victories at Teversal and Grimsby, who must have been sick of the sight of them. The winter had begun to take hold and a few home games were lost to the weather, but it didn't knock their momentum. New signing Jake Wright, a loanee from Sheffield United who had scored a brace in each of the last two games, then scored a stunning winner away to Clipstone to secure a league double (or triple!). A fascinating story had begun to provide a backdrop to Hallam's season after life member Phil Farnsworth had appeared on the Antiques Roadshow to present the Youdan Cup,the world's oldest football trophy. Although located at Bramall Lane at Sheffield United's football museum, the cup is owned by Hallam after they won it in a local tournament in 1867. The BBC were keen to follow up the appearance and arranged a spin-off programme, for which Thomas Youdan's descendants were invited to Sandygate in December. After Christmas, the boys travelled to Hemsworth and were unlucky to leave with just a point after a thrilling 3-3 draw. A blip at home to Knaresborough in the snow was quickly forgotten as Wright scored two hat-tricks in four days: the first was the difference against Dronfield, the second was almost a footnote in an 8-1 win at Lincoln Moorlands, where the visitors scored seven second-half goals. Wright's final game for the Countrymen ended in a 4-0 victory at Worsborough in the League Cup. His parting gift was a brace. Thankfully, his loss wasn't felt too keenly. The side were full of goals by now, and his strike partners were stepping up to the plate. Brammer scored two penalties as Hallam twice came from behind against Rossington. Sheffield Wednesday loanee Jonathan Fusco, who had scored twice at Lincoln, also got in on the act, along with Captain Fantastic Mirfin. A big difference had been the midfield, where the likes of Flynn, Fairweather, Mirfin, Ben Kistell and James Reed were providing quality and stability. A smash-and-grab by Yorkshire Amateur proved to be an isolated result as the boys deservedly avenged their thrashing at Eccleshill before winning with ten men at Hall Road. They then turned giant-killers as Elliott Simpson's first-half goal was enough to beat Premier side Garforth Town in a blizzard and send them through to the League Cup quarter-finals. Ben Kistell then provided arguably the moment of the season as Hallam easily overcame Winterton at Sandygate. With his side two goals to the good, Kistell spotted the Rangers keeper off his line and executed a perfect, 55-yard lob. The Star were there to feature the match for their Grassroots section, and their photographer caught the moment in all its glory. A last-gasp Flynn goal secured all three points in a five goal thriller against Mansfield, but the hard work and fixture congestion was starting to take its toll and the boys were well beaten at Shirebrook thanks to a hat-trick from Liam Morris. Hopes of a top ten finish were then dashed with three defeats in a week, two against teams just above them in the table. Hallam were certainly safe from relegation now but were eager to secure a good finish and league placing to build on over the summer. The cup run came to an end, as it had in the Senior, at Handsworth Parramore, where they lacked a cutting edge. But luck appeared to be against them as two unfortunate late goals at Worsborough sent them away empty-handed and an excellent display at Louth could only yield a 3-2 defeat, despite dominating for long periods. However, the side had their mojo back, and deservedly beat Hemsworth in a feisty game at Sandygate. Michael Blythen was in excellent form and scored again in a battling draw against Teversal before a win at Dronfield with a Jack Hargreaves brace ensured a respectable finish to the season as Hallam welcomed promoted Pontefract and travelled to Emley, who were hoping to join Ponte in the Premier next season. Ryan Hindley, his backroom staff and his players can be extremely proud of their achievements this season. Without a point after 11 games, they were knocking on 50 points by mid-April and had long since secured another season in the NCEL First Division. There have been excellent performances from front to back, and no serious betting man would have touched the end of season players' awards. The ceremony itself was a testimony to the united spirit at the club, which the Youdan family embraced. The BBC had aired their special programme on the Youdan Cup the previous week and Glen Youdan attended with his family and co-presented some of the awards. All of which seems to be heralding a new dawn for Hallam FC, with much to look forward to, on and off the pitch.
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