Newcastle Blue Star v Cullercoats, Saturday 28th August 2021, 2.30pm

Jen and I were heading to a party not far from Newcastle so I had a look to see what games were going on nearby. The best option was a fixture in the Northern Alliance Premier Division between Newcastle Blue Star and Cullercoats. The Northern Alliance is a feeder league to the Northern League and with this being in their top division it meant that it was the eleventh tier of English football.

The game was at the Scotswood Sports Centre and we were able to park directly outside. It was three quid admission with a programme for a pound. If you were feeling flush there were tables for ten in a hospitality tent at two hundred and fifty quid a pop. That’s still less per head than getting into the Boro.

Blue Star were in Newcastle strips sporting, as you may imagine, a blue star. Cullercoats had a weird combination of red and black oblongs on their strip.  We settled into a covered seated stand on the opposite side to the hospitality area. The attendance was later announced as 226 with a fairly even split between those at the beer tent tables and those dotted around the remainder of the ground.

I couldn’t help but notice the difference in the ages of the linos. One of them looked about fifteen which isn’t uncommon these days as people get into refereeing at a younger age and progress quickly. The fella on our side must have been well into his sixties, maybe older and therefore around fifty years older than his counterpart. He didn’t miss much though and got little in the way of whinging from the players. I dare say he has seen it all before.

The standard of play understandably seemed lower than that of the higher ranked Northern league and I got the impression that there were fewer former academy prospects looking for a way back into full-time football. It struck me more as being local lads playing at their level.

Blue Star took the lead within the first ten minutes from a free-kick after the Cullercoats keeper had handled a back pass. It was a harsh consequence, but the young lad redeemed himself with some good stops soon afterwards.

By half time the score had increased to four-nil and all the players remained on the pitch. Perhaps there wasn’t room for them in the changies or maybe there weren’t any. It meant that if they could watch the competition where small kids tried to hit the crossbar with shots from age-appropriate distances. Better than a post-mortem from the management any day.

In the second half we were treated to a Cullercoats sub who came on with black socks rather than the red ones that his teammates were wearing. To be fair, he had made a token effort of applying a couple of rings of red tape to them. Then with five minutes to go the home goalie was replaced. He clearly had somewhere else to be as he dashed straight out of the ground. At that stage his team were 8-0 up and that’s the way it finished.

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