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Note that this page is from our Gresley Rovers archive.
It may not be related to the new club Gresley FC.
Story posted: Friday, 16th May 1986

Magnificent Moatmen
Story courtesy of
The rehabilitation of Gresley Rovers was completed on a wind-lashed night at Great Wyrley last Thursday.
A goalless draw against Harrison's clinched runners-up spot in the Banks's West Midlands League Premier Division and climaxed a remarkable somersault in fortunes for the Moatmen.

Fifteen months before Rovers had reached their lowest ebb in a decade of struggle since switching from the East Midlands League.

Then a largely unknown character named Frank Northwood was drafted in at the Moat Ground and the revitalisation process was firmly launched.

By the end of the campaign Rovers had not only climbed out of the basement department, but had also hauled themselves into the top half of the table.

Any fears that the recovery might be a short-term affair were quickly dispelled when the 1985 – 86 season got underway.

Rovers, spurred by their exciting discovery Phil Gee, left the starting blocks like a team of Olympic sprinters, quickly establishing themselves as title contenders and making early progress in both the FA Cup and Vase.

Gee, of course, was whisked away by Derby County with almost indecent haste after only six games for a fee of £2,500 with the promise of another fat payday in the not-too-distant-future.

The departure of Gee slowed the early season flood of goals, but did not stop Rovers from making significant strides.

With the experienced Brian Beresford proving an instant success in attack, Rovers enjoyed their best FA Cup run for 20 years, reaching the fourth qualifying round at the expense of Friar Lane, Oldswinford, and more significantly Worksop Town and Alfreton Town.

Alas, Rovers were unable to climb the one hurdle which stood between them and a place in the first round proper for the first time since 1931.

They headed south to meet the Cockneys of Leyton-Wingate full of expectation, but disappointingly failed to find their beat form and went down 2-0.

That defeat prefaced their only unhappy spell of the season. Only two out of seven league games were won in the last to months of the year. In retrospect, that lapse in form probably cost Gresley the title.

There was heartbreak, too, in cup competitions. Dreams of a trip to Wembley in the Vase were ruined on a wretched afternoon at Hinckley where Gresley's display was singularly their worst of the season. They also made their exit from the Derbyshire Senior Cup, though not before taking Multipart Leagurers Buxton to extra-time in a replay.

Northwood decided that it was time to act and a crop of new players was drafted in in a bid to ensure that the early season successes were not wasted.

Probably the most significant acquisition was that of goalkeeper Karl Austin. Austin , briefly a professional with Port Vale and now trying to re-establish himself after breaking a leg playing for Stafford Rangers, went on to play a significant role as Gresley strung together a brilliant 22-game unbeaten run between Boxing Day and the end of the season. He missed the first of those two games, but from the moment he made his debut at Lye in January it was clear that Rovers had inherited a very special talent.

The statistics of Austin’s half-season are quite astonishing. In 20 games he conceded only eight goals – three of them on a frozen pitch at Blakenall – and in six games of the season – nine hours of football – he had not once had to retrieve the ball from the back of his net.

Those facts also reinforce the view that, despite their immense goal-scoring prowess, Rovers were also a good side defensively.

Ian Earley was superb almost from the first to the last kick of the season and Steve Dolby was also a tower of strength.

Collectively, Gresley were welded into a highly efficient outfit, yet there were other outstanding individual contributions. The goal scoring of Brian Beresford was a major factor. John Laws and Robert Philpott, two of the midfield imports, both imposed themselves on the midfield department.

And in attack Beresford ended the season with a 38-goal tally, which included two four goal hauls and two hat tricks.

There was a significant contribution; too, from Clive Arthur who celebrated his switch to the attacking role he likes best by plundering 25 goals, 13 of them from the penalty spot.
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League Position
  Team P GD Pts
12 Loughborough Dynamo 28 -11 31
13 Spalding United 25 -7 30
14 Lincoln United 24 -11 30
15 Newcastle Town 25 -12 26
16 Market Drayton Town 26 -22 26
17 Carlton Town 21 0 25
18 Kidsgrove Athletic 23 -11 25
19 Gresley 24 -16 24
20 Sheffield FC 24 -11 23
21 Peterborough Sports 26 -13 23
22 Romulus 27 -34 22

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