Archive for October, 2021

Maldon and Tiptree v Felixstowe and Walton, Saturday 9th October 2021, 3pm.

October 31, 2021

For the last couple of years I’ve been doing some college stuff in Chelmsford. It means that I go down there for the weekend every two months or so for what they call ‘workshops’. I’ve always kept an eye out for the Chelmsford fixtures but generally we don’t finish until it’s too late in the day for me to get to see them.

For this trip Jen and I were staying in Maldon, which is about half an hour away from Chelmsford. It’s a town famous for salt and that fella out of The Streets of San Francisco, the one who isn’t knocking off Zeta Jones. To the best of my knowledge anyway. We’d picked Maldon because Brooks Williams had a gig there on the Friday night. He’s someone who I was aware of from his State of the Union work with Boo Hewerdine but I’d never heard or seen solo before. He was really good.

Next day the college session finished early and I was back in Maldon for around quarter past four. That meant that as I reached their Wallace Binder ground there was still around half an hour left in their FA Trophy Second Qualifying clash with Felixstowe and Walton.

Had I arrived earlier it would have been a tenner to get in but by this stage the turnstiles were long deserted. I had a chat with a fella on the railing as I went in and he filled me in on what I’d missed. The away team, Felixstowe and Walton were in red and white and one up. Maldon were the team in the Barca-like strip and they should have had a goal of their own courtesy of a first minute shot that bounced down off the cross-bar and, according to the fella, went over the line. Both sides were in the eighth tier Isthmian League North.

The attendance was announced at two-hundred and seventy-two but presumably that didn’t include latecomers like me. Most were congregated along the railing in the top corner but there was a covered seating stand along one side, another opposite and one more behind a goal.

Felixstowe had brought a few with them and there was a friendly atmosphere from a crowd united in their derision of the ref. Normally I’d side with the official but in this instance he really was poor. There were fouls where the body language of the defender clearly indicated guilt, but he didn’t pick up on it.

With not long to go Maldon nabbed an equalizer when a shot hit the post and bounced in off the away keeper. Felixstowe could have nicked it in the dying seconds when it looked like they had won a pen but the ref took the easy way out and pretended to have seen nothing amiss. There was no extra-time and the tie went straight to a penalty shoot-out.

Most of the crowd made their way down to the action end for the penalties which looked as if they might go on well into the evening before a Maldon miss sent Felixstowe into the next round with a 7-6 victory.

York City v Whitby Town, Saturday 2nd October 2021, 3pm

October 29, 2021

I was keen to keep up my run of seeing a game in every round to date of the FA Cup and so Jen and I took the train from Thornaby to York for the Third Qualifying Round tie between York and Whitby. The train was so packed that it was difficult to get through the doors. There were holidaymakers with suitcases heading off to Manchester Airport, other groups were dressed up with plans to spend the day in York drinking and a large proportion of the rest of the train was filled with Boro fans on their way to the game with Hull City.

Once in York it started to rain and so we nipped into the nearest pub for some lunch.

The food and drink was ok, but the pub highlight was that they had an excavated Roman baths in the cellar. An old fella told us all about it, notably that there was a whole more that remained covered up. I don’t know about you but if it was my pub I’d be down there digging every night until I had either recovered every sword, shield and rubber duck or else caused York town centre to disappear into a sink hole.

With kick-off approaching we braved the rain and took a bus to the Community Stadium. It took about half an hour which is longer than the timetable suggested but there seemed to be plenty of buses. I’d bought our twelve quid tickets online and the bar codes on my phone weren’t recognized at the turnstiles. A friendly steward used his own code and let us in anyway.

The reason our tickets hadn’t worked was that we’d tried to use them at the wrong entrance. Our seats were just right of centre in the main stand and so we should have gone in at the next entrance further along. We reached our seats by stepping over taped barriers that looked as if they were intended to block off the central area for subs and team officials. Nobody seemed bothered though, it was all very relaxed.

The Community Stadium is freshly opened for this season and looked appropriate for the needs of a sixth tier club like York. It holds 8,500 in four separate covered stands. The capacity wasn’t tested for this game though with the stand opposite being empty whilst Whitby had brought around three hundred fans with them who were in the stand behind the goal to my right.

York were in red, with Whitby in a white kit with blue trim that included two vertical thin stripes down one side of their shirt like the red and blue ones in Escape to Victory. I noticed that the ex-Newcastle player Steve Watson was managing the home side. I don’t know if my memory is playing tricks on me but I’m pretty sure that I was at that game against the Boro where he did the somersault throw-in, although it’s just as likely that even if I was there I’ll have gone for a piss and missed it with my memories actually being taken from You Tube.

York were two-up at half-time courtesy of a couple of scrambled goals. I stood in line for a pie and some coffees which I was able to get in time for the restart despite the queue.

Ex-Boro striker Brad Fewster was up front for Whitby but was in the pocket of the York centre-half and was hooked early enough in the second half that I was still eating my pie. Not much of note happened after that other than a Whitby sub half-heartedly flicking his boots up for a stud check in a way that a dog flicks up dirt behind him after taking a crap.

It ended up two nil to York and the victory took them into the draw for the Fourth and final Qualifying Round.

South Shields U18 v Stockton Town U18, Friday 1st October 2021, 7.30pm

October 13, 2021

After my visit to North Shields four days earlier for an FA Youth Cup tie, it fell to South Shields to provide my Friday evening entertainment in the same competition. As an added bonus, Stockton Town provided the opposition and as my parents have been shelling out a tenner a month for years to support ‘the young lads football’ in the Stockton Town monthly draw I was keen to see if their money had been well-spent.

Mariners Park, or the 1st Cloud Arena as it is now known, is situated in an industrial estate. If there was any club parking it was full by the time I arrived and so I dumped the car a couple of hundred yards away. It was three quid admission which is a pound cheaper than neighbours North Shields. Immediately as I went in I saw the new stand that is being constructed along the length of one of the sides of the pitch. It’s an impressive show of ambition from a club in the seventh tier of English football and that only six years ago were in the tenth tier Second Division of the Northern League. The ambition was supported by around three-hundred and fifty fans turning out. That’s an impressive attendance at this level in adult football, never mind under eighteens.

The new stand will give South Shields decent facilities on all four sides of the ground. There’s covered standing behind both goals and a combined standing and seating covered stand along the other side of the pitch. I chose to sit and although there were stanchions holding up the roof I got a good view of both goalmouths.

South Shields were wearing a Burnley style kit with Stockton in their regular yellow and blue. The hosts looked the better side early on, keeping possession well and playing mainly in Stockton’s half. They made their dominance count and by half time were two up. I thought the Stockton keeper was a bit jittery but to be fair, he wasn’t at fault for either of the goals and he made a couple of good saves to keep his side in it.

At half-time I got myself pie and chips and a coke in a pint beaker that you paid a pound for and could either return to get your pound back or keep. I’m a sucker for things like this. I’ve a cupboard full of plastic beakers from the last couple of World Cups and a commemorative South Shields version has now joined them.

Stockton got back into the game with a great strike that was just too high for a keeper a fraction off his line. They then levelled before South Shields regained the lead. The big talking point, or whinging point, came when Stockton made it three each. The goal came from a penalty awarded after the striker was fouled but chose not to go to ground and instead tried and failed to round the keeper. The ref called play back and awarded the pen. Brilliant. Or ‘disgusting’ and ‘disgraceful’ according to the home fans nearby. Why should a player have to go down to ‘win’ a pen?

Shields weren’t to be denied though and hit back with a fourth and winning goal.

North Shields U18 v Morpeth Town U18, Monday 27th September 2021, 7pm

October 7, 2021

I’ve no recollection of ever having been to the Tynemouth area, other than to the Wet and Wild swimming centre when my kids were small. When looking for the Daren Persson Stadium online I noticed a beach and a castle nearby so Jen and I set early to have a pre-match wander around.

We parked up near the Aquarium and went down onto the beach. Despite the cold there were a few people around. Most of those who ventured into the water were in wetsuits but a few teenagers were braving it in shorts. We had the dog with us, as did a few other people, and it was only when we were leaving the sand that we noticed a sign prohibiting dogs until the first of October. I doubt the enforcement officers will read this, so we’ve probably got away with it.

At one end of the beach is Tynemouth Priory and Castle. It was shut by the time we arrived so we could only view it from outside. I keep meaning to rejoin English Heritage and when I get around to it we’ll probably pay a return visit, perhaps tied in with a game at nearby Cullercoats.

The game that we were attending was in the FA Youth Cup between North Shields U18 and Morpeth Town U18. We paid four quid to get in which struck me as high for a kids match, but I don’t suppose you get much for that these days. I looked at going to the cinema the other day and tickets were fifteen quid. That was just for regular seats. Add in a similar amount for drinks and snacks and a trip to the pictures makes four quid for football seem like a bargain.

We took seats in the covered seated stand. It was only later that I noticed that we were sat in the area reserved for visiting officials. As with the beach, I’m not one to deliberately flout the rules, but I find I’m getting less and less observant these days.

North Shields were in yellow and green with Morpeth in light and dark blue. There was an early goal from North Shields and a prompt equalizer from the visitors but after that North Shields took control and rattled in goals at a steady rate.

At half-time I went into the club house for a cup of tea. There wasn’t any food although I could see a stack of pre-cut buns through the kitchen doorway. At least at the pictures I could have had an over-priced and under-cooked Westlers.

There was something on the wall telling me that Malcolm MacDonald was the North Shields President. I didn’t see him around, although he may very well have been stood nearby for all I tend to notice.

The second half was more of the same with the Morpeth defence failing to pick people up and being punished for it. Their number four looked a decent player who tried to make things happen but in the absence of support from his team mates he would invariably hang on to the ball for longer than he should have and end up conceding possession.

The game finished six-one and so North Shields progressed to the next round.

Darlington Railway Athletic v Wolviston, Wednesday 22nd September 2021, 7pm

October 6, 2021

I’ve worked in Darlo a couple of time, firstly for Press at their Haughton Road offices thirty-odd years ago. For some reason, I’d got Haughton Road confused with the Brinkburn Road location of Darlington Railway Athletic’s ground and so spent a good twenty minutes driving up and down the road where I used to work wondering why I couldn’t find a ground that I’d never previously seen there anyway.

Fortunately, Jen was with me and she took a more sensible approach of using the sat nav on her phone and we successfully spotted the Brinkburn Road floodlights with time to spare.

You go in through the entrance to the social club so if anyone did fancy watching for free then it shouldn’t have been too difficult to evade paying simply by telling them that you were there for a pint and to watch Man United versus West Ham on the telly. There were no programmes or team sheets but the bloke on the door offered to track me down if he could get hold of a team sheet for me. I’m not really that bothered. I don’t keep them, but I do like to have a quick check to see if any of the players are known to me.

Jen and I started off in the covered stand behind a goal. It was a terrible view though and we quickly moved to a better vantage point leaning on a railing along the side of the pitch. Darlington went one up very early on but I missed all bar it hitting the net as I’d been trying to get a decent photo of a spaniel that was sleeping next to the dug-outs. From what I did see it looked to be a spectacular goal.

Both benches were very shouty with Wolviston in particular appealing for everything. We moved a bit further round to spare my eardrums from the needless racket. Wolviston were clearly on top in the first half and a well-worked headed goal doubled their lead.

At half-time we wandered into the clubhouse for a cup of tea. Despite the Man United game being on the telly everyone’s attention was on a cat that had strayed indoors. It hid under tables and resisted any attempt to shepherd it towards an open door. With the players returning to the field, it was still giving staff the runaround and so we left them to it.

Wolviston just about clinched the points with their third goal early in the second half, although Darlington did pull one back before a fourth Wolviston goal finally settled matters. The standard was decent for an eleventh tier Wearside League game, as was the attendance of one hundred and four people, three dogs and one cat.

Spennymoor Town v AFC Fylde, Tuesday 21st September 2021, 7.45pm

October 5, 2021

Whilst I’d missed the opportunity at the weekend to get to an FA Cup game, the replays allowed me to keep up my streak of seeing a game in every round so far. This was a Second Qualifying Round replay, which is four rounds into the competition and was a consequence of Spennymoor’s one-all draw away at AFC Fylde three days earlier.

It was a tenner to get in and whilst I saw some people with programmes I didn’t see anyone selling them. Jen and I were there early enough to nab seats in the main stand which offered covered seating and a central viewpoint from the side. We could have sat behind the goal to our right or stood opposite or behind the goal to our left.

There was a decent bar that I wandered into whilst looking for something to eat and a couple of food kiosks where at one of which I was able to pick up pie and chips for my tea.

I noticed that former Boro Youth Cup winner Jason Kennedy was on the bench for Spennymoor. I watched him in the warm-up and whilst his hair has now gravitated to being around his chin, it’s good to see one of that team still playing. He didn’t get much of an opportunity at senior level with the Boro, although I’ve a vague memory of him coming close to scoring with a shot from distance against someone, but he carved out a good career for himself between then and now.

The standard was good with both sides playing a fast-passing game. The home side had a first half penalty appeal turned down that looked about fifty-fifty to me. There was a second shout from Spennymoor for a spot-kick moments later that I’d say was sixty-forty. That, perhaps combined with the one that wasn’t given, was enough to persuade the ref and Spennymoor converted it for a one-nil lead.

A lot of the home fans who had been sitting in the stand to our right switched ends at half-time to be closer to the Spennymoor attacks. That’s one of the perks at this level. The Brewery Field attendance was announced as being 1094 with 54 from Fylde.

Fylde applied pressure in the second half and forced a good save from the home keeper but Spennymoor held on for the win and a place in the Third Qualifying round.

Sunderland U23 v Middlesbrough U23, Monday 20th September 2021, 1pm

October 4, 2021

One of the advantages of me working on a freelance basis these days is it gives me a lot more flexibility during the day. This meant that lunchtime kick-off for the Boro U23 game with Sunderland was easily do-able. The match had originally been listed as being at Eppleton Colliery before changing to the Academy of Light. I’ve never been to either place so it was no big deal to me.

Jen and I followed the phone directions but were turned away at the main entrance car park for not being scouts. I knew I should have stuck with going to cubs. Instead we had to park around the corner and take a five minute walk along a track to a pitch that looked like it had been dug out of scrubland.

There weren’t any team sheets available, but I saw a few people with them. No doubt they will have picked them up at the main entrance as part of their scouting privileges. Unusually there wasn’t any info on the Boro line-up on Twitter either so I was pretty much in the dark about who was playing for us until later on. I’d estimate that there were around a hundred people watching with at least twenty of those observing in some sort of official capacity.

Boro were in their green change strip with Sunderland dressed up as, well, Sunderland. One of the players that I did recognize was Sol Bamba. He started at left-back before switching to centre-half mid-way through the first half. He played for about an hour, organizing everything that went on in an impressive performance.

I noticed how much politer the players were to the ref than in regular adult football. The players were more likely to praise the referee for a decision that went their way than slag him off for one that didn’t. “Ref, that’s better, well done” still implies dissatisfaction with earlier decisions but keeps the pressure on without telling him he’s having “a fucking shocker”.

Boro took the lead early on and then doubled it after some good play from the left winger Kololo. We added another scrambled effort straight after half-time before Sunderland nabbed a consolation once Bamba had gone off and left the organizing to others. All in all, it was a decent performance and an enjoyable trip out during the day.

Whitby Fisherman’s Society v Great Ayton Royals United, Saturday 18th September 2021, 1.45pm

October 3, 2021

Jen and I had stayed in Scarborough overnight for a Duran Duran gig. They are Jen’s band not mine but as she attends so much stuff that’s primarily of interest to me I was happy to go along. As it happens, I had a good time. The open-air theatre works well for gigs on dry days, I had a few drinks and they played their only half-decent song, so fair enough, I’d do it again.

It also meant that we could tick off a bit more of the Cleveland way and we spent the Friday afternoon walking from Scarborough to Cayton Bay and back along the clifftops.

Being over in the Scarborough area meant that we could drive back to Teesside along the coast past Whitby and on to Lythe. Mulgave Community Sports Club in Lythe is where the Whitby Fisherman’s Society play their home games in the North Riding League East, which is the twelfth tier in the pyramid. They had a home game on the Saturday and so I picked that as my game for the weekend.

There was a modern looking cricket pavilion with the football pitch adjoining the fenced off cricket square. Nobody was taking anything for admission as Jen and I arrived a couple of minutes after the quarter to two kick-off. We were just in time to see visitors Great Ayton go one up through a free kick that the home goalie stood little chance with.

I had a chat with a Great Ayton fan and he was able to confirm that Whitby were the team in blue with Great Ayton in black and white. He also reckoned that his team were struggling these days and the quality of the players had slipped in the last year or two. I could see what he meant. Some players had a decent touch but others looked like they had only recently taken up the game, perhaps as an alternative to gym membership.

There was a large grassy bank to one side of the pitch and as there was nowhere to sit on any of the other sides we moved to the top of the hill and sat up there. I wasn’t quite West Stand Upper but we had a view of the sea to our left and countryside in every other direction. I counted up the attendance from our lofted vantage point and I‘d say that there were twenty-two people watching who weren’t there in an official capacity.

Great Ayton were reduced to ten men after twenty minutes when a flying tackle sparked a melee that just about everyone joined at one point. The ref was in a difficult position in that neither linesman was neutral and therefore couldn’t be relied upon. Furthermore, his own fitness wasn’t the best and so he rarely strayed from the centre circle. Whatever the merits of the tackle, order was restored with a red and, I think, a couple of yellows.

Great Ayton reorganized and managed to hold on to their one goal advantage at the break. With the cricket pavilion being a hundred yards or so away most players stayed by the side of the pitch at half-time. One nipped up to the bushes behind us for a piss. There seemed no real reason to drag out the re-start and within five or six minutes of the half-time whistle the second half had commenced.

The second half had the same fractious manner as the first with both teams disputing everything. I think if I’d have been the ref I’d have just cleared off. As the game went on Whitby got more desperate, throwing their goalie up for the last couple of minutes. I love to see that, but on this occasion it didn’t work and the visitors took the points.