NCEL: Tadcaster Albion hammer Pickering Town to extend lead

Tad Albion's Matt Sparkes scored two against Pickering
Tad Albion's Matt Sparkes scored two against Pickering

Boss Paul Marshall hailed a “perfect day” as Tadcaster Albion hammered North Yorkshire rivals Pickering Town 5-0 in front of a league record crowd at the 2inspire Stadium.

Matt Sparkes headed in twice before second-half strikes from Carl Stewart, Calum Ward and Terry Taylor completed the rout.

Pickering, featuring former Albion forward Tony Hackworth, were poor throughout and missed their only meaningful opportunities with the game already gone.

The comprehensive win extended Tad’s at the pinnacle of the Northern Counties East League Premier to seven points, after title rivals Barton Town Old Boys lost 3-2 at Armthorpe Welfare.

Albion were also boosted as championship favourites Brighouse Town (11 points back with five games in hand) drawing 2-2 against Athersley Recreation.

Marshall said: “Everything went perfectly well today. The kids were all here, It was a great community based club today. The team performance was outstanding. From the first minute to the 90th minute we outworked them, we outbattled them and scored some good goals. We probably should have won six, seven or eight.

“Best performance of the season without doubt. It was the perfect day.”

With a flurry of youngsters at the ground to celebrate the Brewers’ Juniors Day, Albion welcomed 523 to the ground to set a new league best for the club and the highest NCEL Premier crowd of the season.

A buzz of excitement surrounded Albion’s ground before kick-off and Marshall named the same starting line-up for the third game running.

That meant club stalwart Taylor remained on the bench, with former pro Nicky Deverdics partnering Nick Thompson and Joel Dixon in a midfield three.

Sparkes, partly responsible for 14 of Albion’s 15 clean sheets prior to kick-off, settled alongside centre-back regular Denny Ingram, with George Bissett and Josh Barrett in full-back.

Up top, 30-goal man Stewart and Calum Ward set about turning the Pickering defence at every opportunity, ably assisted by diminutive winger Stuart Rice.

The trio’s dynamic movement caused problems early on, Stewart striking a half-volley across goal before Ward failed to gather six yards out when free in the box.

Albion were a threat from all of their opening set-pieces, with Dixon, Thompson and Deverdics all alternating in delivering.

And sure enough, the opener arrived from a dead ball routine. Deverdics’ initial corner was only half cleared before Ward lifted in a cross for Sparkes to head into the top corner.

Former Barnet midfielder Deverdics was again involved as Stewart sprinted through the visiting defence but the forward headed wide after his tame shot was palmed straight back to him.

Sparkes was denied a second on 28 minutes when Pikes ‘keeper Callum Myers thwarted his powerful header.

But the towering centre-back wasn’t to be outdone at the resultant corner as he met Thompson’s ball in to nod straight through Pickering stopper.

Tad were all over their fifth-placed North Yorkshire rivals and Rice sent another effort wide before Stewart sent another Deverdics delivery onto the top of the bar.

Pickering brought on Sam Calvert for Harry Coates at half-time and moved Hackworth into a deeper midfield role after inconsequential first period up front.

But it was Tad that remained in the ascendancy. And when Rice darted past two defenders on the right, he drove a cross straight to Stewart to poke a 31st goal of the campaign and seal victory with 40 minutes left.

Stewart could have added to his tally against his former club, but his unselfishness went rewarded as he set up Ward to calmly stroke in Tad’s fourth.

With Pickering lacking an outlet up front, or fire in the midfield, the home side stoked the ball around and one fine move ended in Bissett drilling wide after a rare foray forward.

Such was Albion’s dominance, Marshall rested Stewart, Thompson and Dixon to bring on Danny Critchlow, Taylor and Richard Batley.

And Critchlow almost made it five for the 500 fans with his first touch, but his header lobbed over Myers and trickled wide.

Ineffectual Pickering striker Joe Danby, scorer of 30 goals this season, then had a similar fate with a shot over Tad goalie Arran Reid, whose dad Jimmy had been sacked by the Pikes earlier this season.

No member of the Albion side would have been more happier than him to claim a clean sheet. And Taylor added insult to the scoreline late on with a calm finish for his third goal of the campaign.

Calvert could have grabbed a positive for Pickering late on, but, after beating the offside trap, he shot wide.

Instead, it meant Albion have not conceded in 408 minutes and are unbeaten in their last seven league fixtures.

And with just five matches to go, boss Marshall has his sights firmly set on a historic championship crown.

The gaffer believes his side are fully capable of winning their final five matches to record a century of points.

He added: “We are out to win every game until the end of the season to get 100 points.

“If we lose the league with 100 points, so be it. It would a nice target to achieve.

“The way we are playing, we are good enough to beat anybody.”