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Story posted: Saturday, 3rd November 2018

Gary Norton's Blog
Gary Norton's Monthly Blog
Hello all. Welcome to November's manager's blog.
Another 7 league games have passed since my last blog and overall it’s been a productive period that has seen us accrue 13 points via 4 wins (Lincoln, Frickley, Stamford and Pickering) 1 draw (Spalding so nearly a win with the equalizer coming via a 93rd minute penalty) and 2 HEAVY defeats of a very contrasting nature against Carlton Town (0-5) in an unacceptable and embarrassing performance and Morpeth (1-5) who are top of the league and one of the best sides faced for some time.

Disappointingly we have also had a defeat in the FA trophy in the last few weeks meaning we have disappointingly this season exited both of the main cup competitions at the first hurdle and at the same time missed out on some much needed prize monies for the club. We have also had a league cup win at Carlton Town in our most recent win helping restore a tiny bit of pride after they completed the league double against us.

We are still seeking that consistency in performance we would like to see but having said that we do have quite a bit of inexperience around the squad so there are plenty of learning opportunities for those players concerned. Over the last month We’ve been trying to put more pressure on the senior players in the squad (especially since that 5-0 Carlton debacle) to really stand up and be counted and ensure that they are showing the younger lads in the squad good habits and how to handle certain situations in games. It’s still very much a work in progress but when you consider that after our win at Pickering on the 6th October we had hit the same number of points that we had by new years day last season all in all comparatively speaking at least, we are in a decent place.

One of the really pleasing things to happen over the last month is the emergence of Harry Lansdowne from the Reserve team. Harry made a few appearances in pre-season and we really liked what we saw and so in my view it was only a matter of time before he got an opportunity in the first team squad this season. He came on to make his competitive debut for the first team in the final minutes of our win over Stamford at the Moat Ground before starting his first game (and picking up man of the match) in our 3-2 win at Pickering Town 4 days later. Since then he has started 4 games on the trot and done very well. Harry joins brother Albert who has established himself this season as a first team regular and won our player of the month award for September. There are several other players who have graduated from the successful Reserve team that Todd Foster and Richard Jarvis has put together over the last couple of seasons. I’m referring to the likes of Kane Lee, Jake McIntosh, Connor Ward and Zakim Evans who are now all regular members of the first team squad this season and hopefully benefiting from being involved at this level of football to the extent it will make them better players for the experience. Add those lads to the likes of other local youngsters like Cam Steele and Callum Riddell who have also featured regularly in the team and we are doing very well with regard to giving our young local talent opportunity in the squad this season and the future looks very bright on that front especially if more of them force their way into the starting XI on a regular basis.

At the time of writing one of my main areas of concern is around the rate at which we concede goals which at the time of writing was 31, the highest in the league. So far this season of the 31 goals conceded to date, 20 have come in the last 8 league games averaging 2.5 goals per game and we have only kept two clean sheets so far this season (1 league, 1 league cup) which we certainly need to improve on.

In particular, away from home we have let in a whopping 24 of the 31 league goals conceded against us so far this season in our 8 away league games (average 3 goals per game) and so it’s very clear where our area of opportunity lies. By contrast in our 6 homes league games so far (pre Spalding on 3rd Nov) we have conceded 7 goals in 6 games (1.16 per game) and 3 of those were in the seasons opening game against Stocksbridge Park Steels in a 3-3 draw. At the other end of the pitch there are only 8 or 9 sides in the league who have scored less goals than us so that is also a concern we are trying to resolve as best we can.

Our current league position (6th before Spalding on 3rd Nov) is of course somewhat false when you consider that we have played the most games of anyone in the league so far. Always best to have the points on the board some say but without doubt the fact all sides have games in hand on us means that realistically we are probably sitting in mid table of the league at this stage of the season. When considering this time last year we were around the bottom of the league I'd have taken that with both hands. The good thing is we are most definitely in the ascendancy with more young local talent playing in the side than I can remembers in 20 years of being involved with the club. Even the most pessimistic of supporters surely must take some positives from that all things considered in terms of where we have been over the last couple of seasons or so.

A few weeks back held our fundraising day on Sunday 30th September and I was really pleased with how it went. Our supporters club lost 2-0 against Burton Albion SC to kick off proceedings before the main event which saw some ex club legends from both Rovers and FC teams play in a game which certainly rolled back the years. The afternoon was a great success from the clubs perspective and one that we will be looking to repeat in a bigger scale hopefully on Easter Bank Holiday Sunday next year. Many ex legends were unable to make the day and it’s through a combination of requests from them and also a number of our own supporters who either enjoyed the day or were unable to make it that I have agreed to arrange another event next year. This one will be bigger and better and have more things to do for the family and will also be a joint fund raiser for both the club and a charity cause that one of our supporters has been busy raising money for recently. Keep an eye out for details much nearer the time.

I have had the privilege of being present at the last 2 supporters club meetings and continue to be impressed with how they are operating and progressing. They have some cracking ideas to try and help move the club forwards and a number of things they are working on to become more professional in their approach and its certainly working in my opinion. Myself and the rest of the Gresley board of directors have been very impressed with them and they are as close to the club now as ever before working and pulling in the same direction which is great to see. All of the first teams squad have been signed up as members and we are in the process of doing the same with the Reserve team and other sides connected with the club where possible. The SC are holding a fundraising race night in the club house on Saturday 22nd December after the planned Brighouse game so I’m hoping we can get some good support for the event in a bid to help raise much needed funds for the club and of course have a great night at the same time. Please see any member of the SC for details of the event or to purchase tickets. If you haven’t already done so please also consider signing up to become a member of the supporters club at the great price of just £10 per person (£5 for kids). Membership comes with a number of advantages in terms of discounts in the local area which will be confirmed when you speak to the SC upon joining and you will also be helping the club out at the same time for which we would be most grateful for.

One of the areas I mentioned last time that the SC were going to try and help us improve and to become that little bit more professional is to raise the funds required to enable us to video our home games. Most (if not all) of the away teams we have faced so far this season have the facilities required so in that respect we ae lagging behind somewhat. Hopefully sometime soon we will be in a position to start this once we have procured the required equipment and software which will then provide a really valuable aid to myself and the staff to be able to analyze performances and pick out the bits we want to go over again with the squad or individuals in terms of areas we have done well and most importantly where we can improve. It will also enable any of our supporters (or those from the opposition) who were not able to attend the game get a flavor of the match and see the goals involved of course. It will also allow us to provide another different outlet for us to attract sponsors who will appear on the edited highlights that would go onto our website each game. Ian Lummis from the SC is making this his personal mission to help raise the funds for the equipment and so please keep an eye out of any events or initiatives and try to support if you can.

I referenced earlier our heavy defeat at league leaders Morpeth Town (5-1 on Sept 20th). Morpeth is our longest away trip of the season and a +4 hour each way coach journey but despite the heavy scoreline making our day a difficult one on the ptich I have to say that the hospitality shown on the day by our hosts was as good as I’ve witnessed at this level of football. From the moment we arrived in Northumberland all connected with Morpeth from the Chariman down to the many volunteers working on the day couldn’t do enough for us to ensure we were looked after and they are as professional off the pitch as they appear to be on it having stormed to the top of the league with their only league defeat of the season so far coming on the opening day at Belper Town. On the pitch many of our supporters who made the long trip stated that in their opinion they are as good a side as they have seen at this level for some considerable time and without doubt they should go one to win the league by some considerable margin. The club is most definitely geared to playing at the next level already for me on and off the pitch and there are many little touches and ideas off the pitch in the way Morpeth work that we could look to take and try to implement at the Moat ground but we are reliant on trying to get more volunteers involved if we wanted to try to improve certain things. One area they aced was the post match food for the players, it was second to none. Not only did they have several choices of good quality hot food for the players, they also insisted that every single Gresley supporter that made the long long trip was fed ahead of the long journey home which was a very nice touch indeed. We will certainly be looking to replicate the same level of hospitality when Morpeth return to play us in January and given the long journey involved it’s the very least we could do.

Many of you know that club legend, captain and player coach Jamie Barrett and his family are currently going through a very challenging and difficult time at the moment and our thoughts of course are constantly with Baz, Leanne and all of the family now and going forwards. I won’t go into specific details here but the squad and many of our supporters have become aware of the situation over the last couple of weeks and wish them all well in the weeks and months ahead. I’m in regular contact with Jamie during each week and so I’m certain that he knows that he his family have and will continue to have the ongoing love and support of all connected with the club as long as it’s needed. We have made it clear to Jamie that as an when he feels able to be involved with the squad he just has to let us know but now more than ever his priority has to be with his family but he will review things game by game which is absolutely the right thing to do.

We are rapidly getting through the season and are already over a third of the way through it. November is a month where we play all of our games at home and I really hope we can see our recent crowds improve a little for the league games we have coming up as they have been disappointing in my view season to date. We do have a spare Saturday (on Nov 10th) due to Ossett Albion’s continued involvement in the FA trophy so it’s a great opportunity to pop down and see the Reserve team in action and to see if there are any budding players like Harry Lansdowne who I mentioned earlier that have the potential to make the step soon into the first team squad. So, if you need a football fix on that Saturday or just want to get out of the Christmas shopping trip the other half has planned for you I will hopefully see you at the game.

Finally many of you who have been involved with the club for a while will recall Stan Crockett, a club stalwart of many years who sadly passed away in July 2017. Stan and his wife Peggy worked for the club in a number of guises as volunteers for a number of years in the old Gresley Rovers days are were HUGE favorites at the Moat ground and made many many friends here over the years. They are also famous for appearing in many episodes of the TV Comedy Benidorm as extras after they moved out there for a few years. I was approached by Stan and Peggy’s son Mark a few weeks back asking if the club would consider a request for the family to spread some of Stan’s ashes on his beloved Moat ground at some point in the future. The club agreed and Peggy, Mark and the family have selected the Cleethorpes Town home game on November the 17th to come up and watch the game. After the game they invite anyone connected with the club who knew Stan to join them on the pitch for a few moments for a brief ceremony and witness Stan’s ashes being scattered on the ground he once worked so hard on for many years. They then extend the invite to join them for a few drinks in Stan’s memory in the bar afterwards. I hope that if you knew Stan and are able to make the game on the 17th you join in with proceedings and then join us for a few drinks in Stan’s name afterwards.

That’s all for this month. My next blog will appear on the website at the start of December so until then thank you so much for taking the time to read and I hope to see you at one of our upcoming games soon.

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League Position
  Team P GD Pts
10 Highgate United 29 -3 38
11 South Normanton Athletic 26 0 37
12 Worcester City 26 11 36
13 AFC Wulfunians 31 -6 36
14 Coventry Sphinx 25 -19 34
15 Tividale 23 -4 27
16 Haughmond 29 -29 26
17 Racing Club Warwick 24 -29 24
18 Lye Town 28 -31 18
19 Gresley 26 -22 16
20 Selston 25 -38 13

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