Author: Square Peg

Harriers Head For Mickleover

by Peter Scherer

National League North side Kidderminster Harriers are our visitors to the Don Amott Arena this Saturday, for Mickleover’s third pre-season match.

Sports boss Gareth Holmes is still experimenting with his players, after last weekends home draw against Belper and the win over Chesterfield Youth.

“We have got this game and the Shepshed one away to look at more trialists and our squad players, before we start making decisions before the Burton and Barnsley games. 

By then I want to have a good idea of what my starting line-up will be for the first league game. I don’t really mind who we get first, as we have to play everyone twice,” said Holmes.

Harriers now managed by ex Rams boss Phil Brown, finished 10th in the league last season, but going back to 2000 they were promoted to the Football League, spending five years before relegation to the then Conference.

Brown has been in charge since January and this weekend will be their third pre-season game, having taking 1-0 wins at Cardiff City and Droitwich Spa. 

Christian Dibble and Josh Bishop have shared the goalkeeping duties so far. Dibble came from Wrexham in January and was a Bury Junior. He has also played for Warrington, Barnsley, Nuneaton, Boston Utd and Chorley, before spending 5 ½ years at Wrexham and is a Wales Under 17, 19 and 21 international. Bishop is a product of their own youth scheme.

Right back Alex Penny was a Wales International at Under 15’s. Hull City picked him up from Withernsea, but on his release he moved on via Bedworth, Stourbridge, Hinckley, Nuneaton and Peterborough Utd, before spending a year in Scotland with Hamilton Academicals. He came back to England with Boston Utd and has been at Kidderminster since February 2020.

Centre back Caleb Richards started out at Blackpool, and was loaned to Marine, Warrington and Southport, before joining Norwich in 2018. He was loaned again to FC United, Tampa Bay Rowdies in the USA and Yeovil and became a Harrier in September on his release.

Fellow centre back Paul Downing is a recent signing from Hereford. His early career was with West Bromwich Albion, who loaned him to Hereford, Shrewsbury, Rotherham and Barnet, before joining Walsall on his release. He has also played for MK Dons, Blackburn, Doncaster, Portsmouth and Rochdale, making over 300 football league appearances.

Luke Summerfield is a central midfielder and another recent signing from Halifax. He has played almost 400 football league games, having started out at Plymouth Argyle. He was loaned to Bournemouth and Leyton Orient, before joining Cheltenham on his release. Shrewsbury, York City, Grimsby Town, Macclesfield and Wrexham were his next stops, before a four-year spell at Halifax.

Ashley Hemmings is another vastly experienced and long serving left sided midfielder, with more than 400 senior football league games under his belt. Wolves initially loaned him to Cheltenham and Torquay, before he went to Walsall on his release. After a loan at Burton Albion he was released again to join Dagenham & Redbridge, but has played at Mansfield, Boston Utd, Salford City, Fylde, and Altrincham too. He came to Kidderminster from Fylde in October 2019.

Winger Seb Thompson was an England Under 16 International, who played youth football at Aston Villa. Liverpool, Leicester City, Derby and Burnley. He joined Macclesfield on his release, but left after a month and came to Kidderminster in February.

Maliq Cadogan is a winger too, currently on loan from Swansea City. He started out at Crystal Palace and is on loan until January.

Football is in the blood for right back Chistian Oxlade-Chamberlain. His father Mark was a well known Stoke City player and England International, uncle Neville had a long league career too and brother Alex currently playing in Turkey, is an England International too.

Christian started at Portsmouth and was loaned to Salisbury, Eastbourne, Pole Town and Oxford City, before joining Notts County. After two years he headed for Gosport, Aldershot and Kings Lynn, before joining our visitors in July 2023.

Winger Samson Hewett, striker Kobe Hall and midfielder Noah Rubio are more home-grown talents, Hewett was out on loan at Bromsgrove and Malvern Town last season to gain experience, while Hall was also at Bromsgrove and Coleshill Town.

Right sided midfielder Jack Lambert came from Darlington at the start of last season. After early spells at Middlesbrough and Dundee he joined Scunthorpe, who loaned him to Darlington and Blyth Spartans. He spent a month with IBV Vestmannaeyjar in Iceland, before joining Hebburn Town and then spent two years at Darlington.

Joe Foulkes is a right back and played his early football at Walsall. After three loan spells at Kidderminster, his moved became permanent a couple of weeks ago.

Striker Amari Morgan-Smith is about to start his fifth season with our visitors, after arriving from Alfreton in July 2020. He started at Wolves, before moving to Crewe Alexandra. Quickly moving on to Ilkeston, Luton and Macclesfield, he first came to Kidderminster on loan in 2013, before his stay became permanent. Oldham Athletic was his next stop, followed by Cheltenham, York City, Telford and Alfreton. 

Central midfielder Zak Brown scored the winning goal at Droitwich. He came from Alvechurch in July 2022, after being a West Bromwich Albion Junior.

Centre back Reiss McNally has spent most of his career with Solihull Moors. He spent a year at Guiseley before returning to Moors in 2020, but was loaned to Brackley Town, Hereford and Telford, before coming to Kidderminster on another loan in November 2022, making it permanent at the start of last season.

Maz Kouhyar is an Afghan International, who can play on either wing. He played his youth football at Coventry City and Walsall and made 21 league one appearances. He then moved on to Hereford and York, from where he is currently on a season long loan.

Central midfielder David Davis has just arrived from Forest Green. He started at Wolves, before loans at Darlington, Walsall, Shrewsbury, Inverness and Chesterfield followed. He joined Birmingham on his release and after another loan at Charlton, he went to Shrewsbury, who also loaned him to Solihull and Forest Green, before the latter became permanent.

It’s All Square With Belper

by Peter Scherer

Mickleover FC were held to a 2-2 draw by visitors Belper Town at the Don Amott Arena, in their latest pre-season friendly, with both sides scoring in each half.

Jake Bennett and Ryan Wilson had their first outings of pre-season, joining Yusuf Mersin, George Taft, Curtis Weston, Will Atkinson, Stuart Beavon, Marcus Barnes and Leojo Davidson, along with two trialists in the starting line-up.

The visitors went ahead with a disputed goal, when the ball appeared to have gone out of play on the right. Bennett gave up his chase to wait for the throw, but play was allowed to carry on and unchallenged it was 0-1.

It was Bennett’s positive work on the right that led to the equaliser, late in the first half, with Barnes placing a perfect header over the line 1-1.

Another batch of trialists were used as subs during the second, but it was the visitors that nosed ahead again from a set piece, 1-2.

But Sports pulled it back again when Zac Sandhu, another second half sub, brought it back to 2-2.

It was another good chance for us to learn and see where we are. We’re physically good but need to look to improve with progressive possession. But we got to see more of our squad in action and had a chance to look at some more trialists.

 

said manager Gareth Holmes.

Let’s Welcome The Nailers

by Peter Scherer

This Saturday we welcome Belper Town to the Don Amott Arena, for the second of our six pre-season fixtures.

We are looking at more trialists this weekend and we haven’t given all of our current players a game yet, like Jake Bennett, Andy Dales and Dan Bradley. It’s early days and we just want to get match time for the players and take a good look at them all

Sports manager Gareth Holmes.

Belper Manager Lee Attenborough took his Northern Premier League East side to Ashby Ivanhoe for their first game on Tuesday night, going down 0-1 to the United Counties League side after an early second half goal.
The Nailers first choice keeper Is Dan Moore, an ex Burton Junior signed from Boldmere late last year, while Harvey Adams is his cover.

Playing at right back is vice captain Ben Rhodes, a long-time servant to Belper, who came back in 22/23 after spell in Italy with Mantova.

Centre back Paulo Aguas is a new signing, arriving from Spanish side Ponferradina, he will be teaming up with Ioan Evans, a former Welsh Under 17 & 19 International and Sheffield Utd Junior, recently arrived from Matlock.
New captain Jack Broadhead started out at Chesterfield, and also had a spell at Mickleover in 2018. A defensive midfielder and another new arrival, having moved from Worksop.

The versatile Mason Warren needs no introduction to the Mickleover fans, having spent a number of seasons at the Don Amott Arena, some as captain. He moved to Belper at the start of last season.

Striker Brodie Litchfield is another returnee, having rejoined the Nailers last season, after a spell at Basford.
Midfielder Curtis Burrows came from Corby Town in February last year, and he is joined by new signing Nathan Whitehead from Matlock Town.

Striker Luke Rawson is another pre-season signing, an ex Chesterfield Junior, signed from Stocksbridge.
Former Sheffield United youngster Nat Crofts has been playing US College football, whereas striker Ewan Sutherill has come from the Nailers own Academy, along with Lewis Austin.

Young striker Jack Thatcher is a new signing too from Dunkirk, while Heaton August and Andrew Tsolakis also played at Ashby last Tuesday.

Kick off is 3pm and admission is just £5.

Bev Starts Coaching

by Peter Scherer

Mickleover’s senior pro and experienced striker Stuart Beavon has a change oof roles this season, as he joins manager Gareth Holmes’ new line-up as player-coach.

I see my role growing as we get into the season, especially helping and coaching the strikers

he said.

His season kicked off in true fashion last weekend, scoring the opening goal in the 4-1 win over Chesterfield’s youth team.

Sports Kick Off With Pre-Season Victory

by Peter Scherer

Mickleover opened their pre-season campaign with a 4-1 home win against a Chesterfield FC Youth Team.

For manager Gareth Holmes and his assistant Mick Galloway, it was their first chance to meet the fans in a match situation and introduce some of the new signings.

Yusuf Mersin started in goal and had newly signed George Taft, Curtis Weston, Leojo Davidson and Dylan Edwards making their debuts along with Stuart Beavon, Marcus Barnes, Will Atkinson and three trialists.

Beavon gave Mickleover the lead with Taft making it 2-0, before Chesterfield pulled it back to 2-1 before half time.

The game was really about how the trialists got on, giving them time on the pitch and a chance for the established players to get to know the new ones

said Holmes.

There were two more goals in the second half, with Fin Ryder coming on as a sub, while the third was well taken by one of the trialists, to make it a 4-1 win.

It was a positive day for us, everyone came away OK. We had a lot of the ball but we have a long way to go, we are trying and testing and we used more trialists in the second half and some Academy players  and we have four more hopefully playing against Belper Town next Saturday too

Holmes added.

More of the established players will be back in the team over the net few weeks, “it’s important for us that the players understand what we expect and create an identity. It was pleasing too for the Academy lads, especially with Fin scoring one of the goals.” 

So Belper Town visit the Don Amott Arena on Saturday and it’s a 3pm kick off.

A New Start: Chesterfield Youth (H)

by Peter Scherer

This Saturday Mickleover begin their pre-season series of friendlies with a home game against newly promoted Chesterfield Youth team.

It will be a first chance for supporters to meet new manager Gareth Holmes and his assistant Mick Galloway, along with new signings George Taft, Dylan Edwards, Curtis Weston and Leojo Davidson.

“It’s the first game of pre-season and it’s all about players getting minutes in their legs and assessing fitness. I expect to have lots of rotation in the team, as I want to see what everyone can do,” said Holmes.

Kick off at the Don Amott Arena is 3pm.

Davidson Signs Up

by Peter Scherer

Former Manchester City and Sheffield Wednesday Junior Leojo Davidson is the latest Mickleover FC signing, having spent last season at Basford Utd, following  a spell at Barrow and his release from the Owls in July 2023.

During his time at Hillsborough he made one first team appearance in the EFL Cup, and is a right sided player, who can play full back, midfield or on the wing.

I’m happy to join Mickleover, I have played at this level before and it’s a good club. I am excited at the move and I am setting myself a target to score goals, set up others and make an impact to be noticed

he said.

Leojo has an excellent pedigree having played at Manchester City then going on to Sheffield Wednesday 1st team. He also represented England as a Youth International. He’s a dynamic player who wants to excite and beat players and we look forward to working with him to reach his full potential

added Mickleover manager Gareth Holmes.

Weston Comes To Mickleover

by Peter Scherer

Mickleover Manager Gareth Holmes has added experienced central midfielder Curtis Weston to his squad after signing from Buxton.

Weston was an FA Cup runner-up with Millwall back in 2004 and has made over 400 league appearances for Swindon Town, Leeds Utd, Scunthorpe, Gillingham and Barnet through the Championship, Leagues One and Two and won the Conference title during his stay with Barnet.

More recently he has played for Buxton and Fylde in the National League North, after a four-stay in the National League with Chesterfield.

I had spoken to Gareth and saw what he wanted to do at Mickleover football wise, attractive and sort of game I enjoy. There’s a great set-up at the club and it’s a new start, I used to set myself targets but take it as it comes and enjoy it

he said.

Curtis’s career speaks for is self. He played in the Northern conference last year and he is another strong character, that we are bringing in. His experience, game intelligence and defensive qualities makes him another strong addition and I’m really pleased that in-spite of other options he’s chosen to be here at Mickleover

Holmes added.

What’s Changed Since We Last Headed North?

After two seasons of travelling south, it’s time to go north again, as Mickleover look forward to being back in the Northern Premier League.

We had two strong seasons in the Southern Premier League Central, finishing one point outside the play-offs in the first year and losing out in the play-off semi finals last season.

So what’s changed since we left the Northern Premier at the end of 21/22 season?

There are 10 clubs remaining from our last NPL season, Hyde Utd, Ashton Utd and Gainsborough Trinity who were sixth, seventh and eighth respectively last season, while Lancaster were ninth, Whitby Town 12th, Morpeth Town 13th, FC United 14th, Matlock Town 15th, Bamber Bridge 16th and Basford Utd 18th.
Basford came with us to the Southern League in 22/23 along with our local rivals Ilkeston Town on promotion, before both went back to the NPL last season, to finish 18th and 11th.

That leaves half of the league who we haven’t faced in a league match in recent years. We played Guiseley in a pre-season friendly a few years back, after which they were relegated to the NPL at the end of 22/23 from the National League North.

We knocked Worksop Town out of the FA Cup last season 5-0, but having been promoted to the NPL last season, they finished the season in fifth place.
Warrington Rylands were promoted to the league in 22/23 and were another successful team last season, finishing fourth.

But it was recovering former league side Macclesfield that took the league by storm, having been promoted in 22/23 they finished second in the table at the first attempt in the NPL, but lost out to Marine in the play-off final.

Workington are another former league side moving up the ladder, but they struggled last season in 17th.

The final five teams, a new to the league this season, have all arrived via promotion or relegation, with Blyth Spartans having dropped from the National League North.

From the NPL Division One West we are now joined by Champions Leek Town, who we knocked out of the FA Trophy a couple of seasons ago. Prescot Cables have also been promoted from the West too, after finishing third.

Finally Hebburn Town, Champions from Division One East and runners up Stockton Town complete the 20 teams.

So there are local or fairly local Derbies with Matlock, Ilkeston, Leek and Basford, with a number of North Eastern visits at Blyth, Hebburn, Morpeth and Stockton, but our furthest trip this season will be Workington, with a round trip of 432 miles, hopefully on a Saturday.

We are all looking forward to the pre-season games, starting against Chesterfield on July 6th, and the fixtures announcement to see who we face on August 10th.

Holmes Announces His Assistant

Mickleover manager Gareth Holmes hsd announced his former Hucknall Town team mate Mick Galloway as his assistant for the forthcoming season.

Nottinghamshire born Galloway had a long playing career, starting out at Notts County and making over 300 senior appearances throughout the English and Scottish Leagues, with Gillingham, Lincoln, Chesterfield, Carlisle, Gretna, Stirling Albion and Cowdenbeath.

He played for various non league teams too, before trying his hand at management with Hucknall Town, Gedling and Long Eaton Utd.

Working with Gareth again was a no brainer when he approached me to join him at Mickleover. We go back many years and our work ethics and philosophy are the same

he explained.

When I signed Gareth from Ilkeston I knew straight away what type of person and character he was, a winner, and an honest and genuine young man

Holmes is delighted to have his former team mate joining the management team.

I’ve known Mick a long time, we played together and I’ve played for him when he managed in the Northern Premier. He’s honest hardworking, passionate and understands the game

Holmes replied.

He has all the qualities that I really value and want our team to have in abundance. He’ll be an integral part, in what is already a very strong management team, with Stuart Beavon and Jonah Jones

he concluded.