Football Matters Blog

October 21, 2016
The latest from Mark Carruthers of Football Matters...

When I think of the North East non-league scene I always think one aspect of our game is overlooked.

We are well-known for producing hard-working midfielders, tricky wingers, prolific strikers and leaders of men (or women).

But when I look around the non-league scene right now I think one aspect of the game that is thriving is the quality of our goalkeepers.

I have always admired goalkeepers, right from my early days watching the game in the mid-to-late eighties when the likes of Grobbelaar, Southall and Shilton were plying their trade at the top end of the game.

There is just something a bit different about them.

The complete disregard for their own safety, their ability to produce something out of nothing, the fact that they are the last line of defence and that thin line they tread between hero and villain.

You see, for me, the keeper is the player that plays the game with the highest element of risk.

When a striker misses a chance, there is little worry, as another one will come along soon.

If a midfielder misplaces a pass, they can get the ball back and go again.

If a defender misses a tackle, they can have two or three team mates to get them out of trouble.

But the goalkeeper, if they make a mistake, nine times out of ten it ends up with the ball in the back of their net.

As I said I admire them greatly.

Which brings me on to our goalkeepers here in the North East.

The quality of keepers in our teams in the National League, Evo-Stik NPL and Northern League is extraordinary this season.

Pete Jameson is one of the main reasons Darlington are now just two promotions away from a return to the Football League and he has put in some outstanding displays over the past year.

In the Evo-Stik League Spennymoor Town goalkeeper Dan Lowson has hit the headlines for an FA Cup goal, but his work at the other end is why the Moors are challenging for a second consecutive promotion.

Adam McHugh is finally settling into life at Blyth Spartans, with his point-saving display at Matlock Town described by some as one of the best goalkeeping displays they have seen.

My real focus here is in the Northern League, where the depth of quality in the goalkeeping department should be the envy of step five and six leagues around the country.

Now I am far from a paid-up member of the Goalkeeping Union, to be fair I struggle to reach the bar in a five-a-side goal.

But nobody can fail to see what we have in the Northern League goalkeeping pool.

Whether that is penalty-saving expert Robert Dean at Marske United or the long-serving Newcastle Benfield number one Andrew Grainger.

Then there are the likes of Shildon's Nick Liversedge and Morpeth Town's Karl Dryden, both men were key in their sides' successes last season.

There are more, a lot more!

Hayes, Connell, Hudson....only joking Andy!

There are many missed, and for that I apologise, but keep up the fine work, it is not going unnoticed.