West Auckland v Penrith, Saturday 21st December 2019, 3pm

I’d recently watched Bishop Auckland and reflected on how, despite being a non-league club, they were famous enough for me to have had them as a Subbuteo team when I was a kid. Their near neighbours, West Auckland, haven’t too shabby a history themselves as it happens, winning the Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy a couple of times early in the last century.

They were twice invited to a four team tournament in Italy beating a Torino XI in the final first time around and then Juventus when returning a couple of years later. I’ve heard the competition described as the ‘First World Cup’. It strikes me as something more like one of those four team pre-season tournaments that we see these days, but I suppose that is looking at it through modern day eyes.

I remember seeing the trophy in, I think, a working mens club in West Auckland back in the days when my mates and I were borrowing our parents cars in the evening and heading off to country pubs. I understand that it was stolen a few years later and a replica was commissioned.

Those days of playing Juventus seemed a long way off as I turned up at the Wanted Stadium and handed over my six pounds admission. The programme listed former Boro player Bruno Pilatos in the Penrith side. As far as I know he never made the first team (or just made the first team laugh) but I can remember watching him turning out at Synners for Boro reserves.

Bruno was listed as a right back in the programme notes, whereas I’d remembered him as a central midfielder. Regardless of whatever  he used to be, in this game he played as a left sided winger/midfielder. I’m not sure if he was new to the position, or to Penrith, but the other players seemed to be offering him a lot of positional advice and he rarely touched the ball in the opening quarter of an hour.

The hosts, in yellow and black opened the scoring after about twenty-five minutes when someone stooped low to direct a header past the Penrith keeper. A couple of minutes later a home striker broke through and tucked it across the goalie into the corner to make it two.

With ten minutes to go to half-time West Auckland scored their third with a shot from the edge of the box. I thought it was close enough to the keeper for him to have kept it out but perhaps he was unsighted.

At half time I got some chips that looked and tasted as if they may have been left over from West Auckland’s previous game. I got lucky with my other choice of a pork pie.  It was served hot and usually the only time I eat them anything other than cold is if I chance upon one fresh from the oven at Blackwell’s. I’d forgotten how good hot pork pies are and decided that if I were to make any resolutions, it would be to eat them hot more often.

West Auckland were kicking up the not insignificant slope in the second half but it didn’t prove to be any disadvantage as they increased their lead a few minutes after the restart whilst I was still burning my mouth on the pie.

Penrith managed to keep  West Auckland at bay until the eightieth minute when someone added a fifth with a header from a corner. A sixth followed shortly afterwards that might have been meant as a cross but drifted in via the keepers fingertips and the underside of the bar.

Six-nil seemed a fair result. Bring on Juventus.

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