Tomorrow sees Non League Day – when non league football in England takes centre stage.

There are plenty of matches to go to.  Our fixture list for the weekend can be found here:

League chairman Glenn Youngman said:  “Non League Day is an excellent chance for people to try non league football for the first time.  There are plenty of clubs across the region and our league offers great football and excellent value for money.

“Hopefully new spectators will go to a match and become a more regular supporter.”



Crook Town 0 Newton Aycliffe 3 – Ebac Northern League Division One:

The judgement of the groundhopper fraternity was unanimous on all counts:

Newton Aycliffe were comfortable winners; at times played some excellent football; were technically strong and a team that was well organised and drilled; quicker and sharper.

Crook Town worked hard, closing Aycliffe down to try to stop them playing; they were competitive, but didn’t put enough pressure on the Aycliffe defence or keeper Adam McHugh.

All in all, the scoreline was about right.

Aycliffe took an early grip on the game, going ahead in the 12th minute – Dan Myers latching on to a Kyle Davis cross and firing the ball in at the far post.  Crook responded well to the early setback, digging in rather than retreating, but as the half progressed the visitors took control of the half.

Crook produced their best attack in the opening 45 minutes right on the stroke of half time.  Zack Bewley got past two Aycliffe players, fed the ball out to Reece Brown but his cross evaded two team mates as they made runs into the box, allowing Aaron Brown to clear the danger.

They made a brisk start to the second half, generating a few more attacks in the opening minutes but Aycliffe doubled their lead in the 59th minute – Liam Jarvie brought down in the box and the No. 10 then converting the penalty.

Soon after the second goal there was a long delay as Crook No. 6 Jack Armstrong received treatment for a head injury after a coming together with an Aycliffe player.  That, and a whole series of substitutions by both teams, meant the game lost its competitive edge.

The visitors wrapped up the three points with their third goal.  Myers hit a cross to the near post where sub Eddie Thomas was on hand to head it into the net.

For Newton Aycliffe, as they approach the finishing straight in the Division One title and promotion race with a couple of other teams, it was job done.

(Two quick post scripts:  there was some quality tackling by both teams on show and there were a plethora of Browns in the line-ups:  Reece Havelock-Brown, Reece Brown, Connor Brown and Aaron Brown.)

Mike Snowdon

Tow Law Town 1 Newcastle Benfield 0 – Ebac Northern League Division One:

A stout defence and a clinical finish were enough for the Lawyers to grab their first points for more than a month.

Benfield had an early scare – Tow Law winger Dan Marriott moving in from the left before hitting a shot that rebounded off the post.

From then on in for the rest of the half, Benfield looked the better side, more comfortable on the ball and pushing forward more than the home team; but most of their attacks failed to test Lawyers keeper Tom Orton, although they had an appeal for a penalty.  No. 9 Dennis Knight contested a 50-50 ball crossed from the right; initiallly the referee awarded a penalty until he spotted the linesman who’d flagged for offside.

Full back Callum Guy gave them an attacking option down the left.  He hit a shot that was always rising over the bar and then he couldn’t find a teammate with a cross to finish off one of their best moves of the half.  And it was Guy who forced Orton into the save of the half, hitting a swerving shot that the keeper pushed away.

Tow Law countered with a quick break down the left by Marriott.  He tried to get the ball to Andrei Ardelein only for Brad Varga to intercept the pass before the No. 9 could take the ball for a one-on-one chance.  With 10 minutes to go before half-time, Marriott came up with the solitary goal of the game – taking a pass from Luke Page and then coolly placing his shot into the bottom right hand corner of the Benfield goal.

The momentum was swapped at the start of the second half, Tow Law with the upper hand and playing the better football – Marriott with a half volley over the Benfield bar and then the winger and Dom Joynes sending over a couple of dangerous crosses.  Marriott then broke into the Benfield box but Nic Green was able to send the ball out for a corner with a well executed tackle.  With their next attack Page took one touch too many after he intercepted the ball and ran to the edge of the Benfield box, allowing defender Liam McNamara to get a tackle in.

Halfway through the second half the pendulum swung back Benfield’s way. Layton Watts had a shot deflected for a corner and Guy hit another effort well over the bar.  Despite re-taking control of the game, they failed to test Orton and for the last 10 minutes Tow Law were happy to get plenty of men behind the ball – defending deep and in numbers to close out the game and secure the three points.

Mike Snowdon

Boro Rangers 1 Ryton & Crawcrook Albion 1 – Ebac Northern League Division Two:

As we get to the business end of the season, every point won and lost seems to take on extra significance.  At opposite ends of the Division Two table, both teams will be regretting chances created and not converted.

Two wingers proved to be their side’s cutting edge in the first half. Rangers No. 11  Callum Hickman was the first to make an impact – a shot deflected for a corner, a cross for team mate Jack Guy who screwed his first time shot wide and then he cut in from the left and hit a shot that Ryton keeper Thomas Dawson parried at his near post.

Ryton No. 7 Harvey Walsh was the main attacking outlet for the visitors with a couple of dangerous crosses, but it was No. 9 Aaron Costello who exploited a mistake to put the Tynesiders ahead.  A high ball was misjudged by James Dillon, allowing Costello to get between the defender and Boro keeper Danny Horner and head the ball into the net.

In between the goalmouth action, Rangers looked more comfortable on the ball, with more of the possession and the better passing game.  Ryton invited pressure, with many of their defensive clearances going straight to Rangers players, giving them the opportunity to launch another attack.

With 10 minutes to go before the break, Costello almost bagged a second, latching on to a clearance by Horner who’d come well out of his box.  The No. 9 launched it back over the keeper who backpedalled to see the ball go wide by just a foot or two.

Dawson then had a golden couple of minutes in the Ryton goal.  He was able to block a Danny Lofts shot that the Rangers No. 9 hit from a tight angle.  He then produced one of the best double saves I’ve seen this season.  The referee awarded a penalty for a push on Boro No. 4 Matthew Lovatt.  Diving low to his right, Dawson was able to save Lofts’ spot kick and then, springing to his feet, he stopped Hickman’s follow-up shot from close quarters.

And for the second half it looked as though Dawson’s contribution was going to be crucial.  Ryton’s play improved in the second half.  The two sides traded attacks but most of the shots were off target:  Lofts with a turn and shot wide left, Dylan Lawson’s shot skimming just over the Rangers bar, a Jack Guy cross that just evaded three Rangers attacking running into the box, a Ben Turner effort curling outside the top left corner, Costello with a glancing header just past the post and then Walsh seeing a shot deflected for a corner.

For the last 10 minutes Rangers pushed for an equaliser and in the 85th minute Dawson produced another good save, pushing a half volley by Rangers sub Paul Blake over the bar.

As the Ryton contingent looked nervously at their watches, their team should have wrapped up the win.  Antonio Agostinho had a golden opportunity to score in the 89th minute, but Horner was able to block his shot.  In the third minute of time added on they had back-to-back-to-back chances by their subs:  taking a pass, Liam Shanley’s first touch took him wide instead of setting himself up for a shot, another Agostinho shot then hit the post and then a Harry Poole shot came off a defender for a corner.

The final whistle couldn’t come soon enough for the visitors but with the seconds ticking away, Rangers found the equaliser – Lofts holding off a defender before sliding the ball past Dawson and in:  relief and celebrations for the home team, the stuffing knocked out of the visitors.

Mike Snowdon

Horden CW 1-1 Redcar Town – Ebac Northern League Division Two

Horden CW and Redcar Town played out an entertaining draw in the Ebac Northern League Division Two.

Redcar forward Kurtis Howes had two great chances to open the scoring within the first 10 minutes – firing over the bar from close range before sending a lobbed effort from the edge of the area just over the bar.

Horden came close in the 35th minute when Kieran Campbell’s cross found Jack Maskell who could only place his effort wide of the post.

Redcar had another great chance to put themselves ahead in the 42nd minute – Michael Prest was sent through on goal with only Craig Foster to beat, but the forward hit his effort straight at the keeper.

The hosts took the lead just a minute later – a long free kick into the Redcar penalty area was flicked on to Charlie Upperton, who neatly placed his effort into the bottom corner.

Redcar were arguably the better side in the first half and should have been three goals to the good, however not taking their chances cost them and saw Horden go into the break with the one goal lead.

Horden were reduced to 10 men 55 minutes in when Ross Kidson brought down Howes in the area after he was sent through on goal.

Nico Weatherald stepped up and placed his spot kick down the middle to get his side back into the game.

Although Redcar had a man advantage, Horden managed the game well and reduced the visitors to few chances as they pushed forward in numbers.

The visitors came agonisingly close to snatching all three points in the final minute of stoppage time.

Redcar stopper Mike Algie started a counter attack from a Horden corner by throwing the ball to Sam Webster, who burst through the middle and played in Howes who could only send his effort wide of the post.

Horden held on for a point which takes them top having played more games than their rivals. Horden host Jarrow in their next game, whilst Redcar Town host Willington.

Adam Gill

Subject to FA Council approval, the Inter-Step Play-Offs currently in place at Steps 4 and 5* of the National League System (NLS) are (to be replaced after the 2022/23 season.

(*Step 5 is the Ebac Northern League Division One)

The change will see the introduction of a traditional four-team Play-Off in each of the sixteen Step 5 divisions – thus guaranteeing a second promotion place from Step 5 to Step 4, subject to Clubs meeting the eligibility criteria which includes an independent ground grading assessment.

At the end of the 2023/24 season, this will mean that an additional 16 Clubs will be guaranteed promotion from Step 5 to Step 4 (32 Clubs in total), with the number of Clubs relegated from each of the eight Step 4 divisions to remain as two in order to increase the divisional size at Step 4 to 22 Clubs per division. The resulting 16 vacancies at Step 5 will be filled by only relegating one Club per Step 5 division, as opposed to two.

From the 2024/25 season, it is intended that the number of Clubs automatically relegated from each of the eight Step 4 divisions to Step 5 will increase from two to four, two Clubs from each of the sixteen Step 5 divisions will continue to be promoted to Step 4 (one automatic and one via the Play-Off) and the number of clubs automatically relegated from each Step 5 division will revert to two.

These changes reflect a long-term aim of The FA to create consistency at each Step level of the NLS pyramid.

The current arrangements for promotion and relegation in and out of the Ebac Northern League can be found here in the pdf marked Regulations for the Operation of the National League:

League Handbook