Stockton Town v Thornaby, Thursday 26th December 2019, 11am

I always think of Boxing Day as a day for going to the match. It used to be with the Boro but I’ve drifted away over recent years and for this year’s festive football I thought I’d go along to watch Stockton Town at their Sixth Form ground.

I went to Stockton Sixth Form back in the early eighties but it wasn’t a great success. I had no real interest in learning and spent most of my time there recovering from nights out at Bentleys and Gaskins or skipping lessons for fictitious dental appointments. By the time they booted me out I should have had better teeth than Steve McClaren.

One thing I did turn up for in my time there were football matches. I was the keeper for the B team, with the occasional first team call up when their keeper had a genuine dental appointment. We played on the same pitch as Stockton Town do now, in a way.  You have to ignore that the pitch has been rotated ninety degrees and the grass replaced with an artificial surface. If you can put that to one side, you’d never notice the difference.

For this Northern League Division One game with Thornaby I took my grandson Harry. I paid seven quid for me and a pound for him. That’s a big difference from the Boro where it would have been thirty two pounds for me and seventeen for him for us to stand behind the goal. That’s near enough fifty quid and so it’s no wonder I rarely go anymore.

And as if to show the benefits of getting kids through the turnstiles we then spent another twenty quid or more on a golden goal ticket, programme, scarf, burger, hot dog, two hot chocolates and a coffee. The coffee was for me.

We were there quite early and so able to get a couple of the unreserved seats in the small stand along the side. There was also a shed type stand to our left populated mainly by blokes in santa hats. With the crowd exceeding a thousand, we did well to get a seat.

This will probably be the last season that the Northern League will see of Stockton Town as they are clear at the top of the table and with three teams going up they are more than likely to be playing in the Northern Premier League Division One North-West when August comes around.

That will be quite a rise for Stockton as it’s only about three years since they were in the Wearside League. In fact it’s only about ten years since they started a men’s team. They were playing as Hartburn Juniors up until then. I discovered all this reading the programme and also learned that they were founded by Derrick Small, one of my former bosses at Capper Pipes back in the day. Well done Derrick.

Sadly for the visitors, Thornaby might be two divisions apart by then with them kicking off this game in the third from bottom spot. Stockton were in yellow and blue with Thornaby in orange.

Not a lot happened in the first half and Harry, having been told by me that there might well be five or six goals, declared it a boring game. He also confided to me that he’d thought we were going to the Boro match. The fella next to me attributed the lack of goals to Thornaby being up for it and Stockton having enjoying their Christmas lunch too much.

In the second half Stockton stepped up the pressure but struggled to make the breakthrough. Our main interest as the game went on was the golden goal ticket that had a time of seventy five minutes and which we’d agreed to split the fifty quid prize. We hadn’t checked the exact time that the game had restarted but with around a quarter of an hour to go a Stockton player curled one into the corner of the net through a crowded box. We waited for an announcement of the goal time but there wasn’t one. I’ve a vague recollection of reading somewhere that local residents objected and so no announcements are made.

The goal was enough to secure the three points and the three points were enough to consolidate Stockton’s place at the top of the table. When it became apparent that there would be no goal time announcement we made an early dart, pretty much as I done throughout my brief stay at the college all those years ago. A later check online revealed the time of the goal to be seventy-eight minutes.

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