Haltwhistle Jubilee v North Shields Athletic, Saturday 30th October 2021, 2.30pm

On the way up to Glasgow the previous week Jen and I had driven past Haltwhistle and it struck me as somewhere that would be good to combine a game with a bit of a walk. It didn’t need to stay in my thoughts for long as a fixture in the eleventh tier Northern Alliance Premier League the following week soon brought us back.

We drove a couple of miles outside of town and parked up at Cawfield Quarry, close to Milecastle 42 of Hadrian’s Wall. We had set off later than intended and so only had two hours or so, but an hour walking eastwards along the wall and then another hour back again was a very pleasant pre-match activity.

Jen and I had walked the wall around ten years ago but I’ve no recollection of this particular part. I doubt that it has changed much so it’s more likely my failing memory. I’m tempted to do the walk again as a refresher, but this time in the other direction.

There had been some doubt as to whether Haltwhistle Jubilee’s fixture with North Shields Athletic would take place. There had been heavy rain the day before but the result of a mid-morning pitch inspection at their Burns Field pitch was tweeted to confirm that it was on.

It was free to get in with any revenue for Haltwhistle coming from the sale of programmes at a pound-fifty a pop. I know they sold at least twenty-nine as that was the winning number for a bottle of wine.  Even if that was the full extent of sales that’s not bad from a crowd that I counted as sixty-six people and four dogs. That crowd figure may have included some of the management teams, but I didn’t count the bloke watching from his garden that the beagle kept baying at. After a while that fella very kindly hid behind a tree to keep the noise down.

The Northern Alliance Premier is a diverse league. This setting wasn’t far off Sunday league with no stands whatsoever. In contrast Newcastle Blue Star have been attracting four-figure gates with many of their fans taking tables in hospitality. I doubt that Haltwhistle would meet the necessary ground standards for promotion to the Northern League, but I could see Blue Star moving beyond that level very easily.

Haltwhistle Jubilee were in blue with North Shields Athletic in red. The hosts opened the scoring with a well-worked goal in the first half. That increased the level of abuse from someone that I assumed was associated with Shields and who kept wandering on to the pitch. The ref didn’t have it easy as he was effectively on his own with his linesmen being co-opted from the subs for each team.

In the second half the abuse increased and one bloke was made to go and stand ten yards further along the touchline. He was also the fella that won the bottle of wine in the programme draw, but I doubt that he’d had time to drink it all by then.

Jubilee doubled their lead with a well-planted header. We had a bit of late drama when Athletic subbed their keeper for no apparent reason and he sulkily made his way along the touchline. The new goalie didn’t concede and it finished two-nil to Haltwhilstle.

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