MATCH REPORT: Rothbury v FC United of Newcastle
Chris Coe smashed the only goal of the game in off the FC United crossbar and put the Reds up into third spot.
There were just thirteen minutes to go when Coe let fly with what proved the winner and the visitor’s task was made harder when Dylan Swann was sent off in the last ten minutes.
Hitting third position in the Northern Alliance Division One is the highest that the club has ever achieved in its 145-year history and when you consider that the bulk of the squad come from within around a fifteen-mile radius of Armstrong Park, then that feat is all the more commendable.
Goal-hero Coe was certainly quick to sing the praises of 16-year-old local lad Max Bates, who made his first team debut in the game. He was continuing a family tradition, as so often happens in the local game, as his granddad Mick Wood played in the Rothbury side that was hugely successful the NNFL in the 1970s.
“It was good to see young Max getting on the pitch – he did well when he came on. He’s never looked out of place and his attitude is second to none. It’s good to see young lads getting involved and it’s massive for a club like us out in the sticks,” said the striker, who is only 21 himself, and a nephew of Reds’ Hall of Famer Kevin Coe.
Add in the likes of Greg Woodburn, Kyle Smith, Josh Blakey and the rest and there is something of a Coquetdale Golden Generation benefiting from playing at the higher standard with midfielder Tony Brown and player-manager Tom Macpherson two of the oldest heads in the squad at just 34.
“It’s great to see young Max get on the pitch and he did great, calm and composed on the ball. He’s been absolutely brilliant since joining up with the first team, great attitude and commitment in everything he does,” said Macpherson, who saw fit to hand him his first opportunity after being impressed in training.
“He’s not the only one, we have other young local lads training with us every week – Reuben Law, who was on the bench on Saturday, Ethan Arkle, Nolan Law – they have all been a breath of fresh air since coming along and have added competition for places. We are trying to create a clear link between Morris’ junior team and the first team – this will be vital for the long-term health of the football club,” continued the gaffer, as a full Youth Development plan and gateway into the first team squad remains a priority that the club officials are keen to further explore and implement.
FC United of Newcastle themselves have been looking for players lately and bringing them in has strengthened the side, while a youth pathway would certainly benefit the black and whites too, so the boss was well pleased with the three points.
“We were definitely value for the win, although we weren’t necessarily firing on all cylinders,” conceded Tom, himself a nephew of Rothbury legends Gordon and Stuart Mackenzie.
“FC United were much improved from earlier in the season, but I thought we dominated possession and created enough chances to make the score look more comfortable. One of the most pleasing things about Saturday was the patience we showed when their keeper was pulling off worldie after worldie. Also, getting 90 minutes into Dunny, returning from injury, was a huge plus for us moving forward,” he continued.
With young referees in the County holding a strike last Saturday and the NFA raising awareness about the issue of abuse to referees, Macpherson said that he felt ‘the spirit of the game from both sides was top class’ and singled out ref Michael Floyd for some praise as well.
“He officiated expertly as always and his constant chat and explanation of his decisions made the game flow,” said Macpherson.
Saturday’s visitors Hebburn Town (Armstrong Park, 2.00pm kick-off) are another side that are investing in youth with their u23s providing the future for the Northern Premier League East side, and Macpherson knows the quality that the South Tynesiders have in their team.
“Hebburn U23s will be extremely tough – they’ve only been beaten once since the first week of the season so they are obviously very resolute,” he said.
“We are at home though and fancy our chances against anyone at our place. We have five or six senior lads back this weekend too so should have a full squad to choose from.”
Get along and see the young guns in action for yourself. They really appreciate the vocal support from the sidelines.
Words: Jon Tait