Archive for January, 2022

Sunderland U14 v Hartlepool U14, Friday 28th January 2022, 7.30pm

January 29, 2022

As a ground hopper who keeps a tally of games that I’ve attended I love it when I get a new ground as a bonus. This one came about as I was up at the Ford Quarry in Sunderland for a Northern League game. Ford Quarry is a newish venue with three pitches in close proximity. The kids game was on pitch 2 and as I waited for the match on pitch 1 to begin I had a brief watch.

As you’d expect for an academy game the players all had a decent touch. After all, they should be the best players of their age in their town. Maybe Sunderland, as a former Premier League team, has an academy that casts their net even wider.

One thing that stuck me was the different sizes of the players. Some looked their age or younger, others could have been grown blokes. It reminded me of our kickabouts on Freddy Natt field on those occasions when we were joined by the blokes spilling out of the Centenary fresh from their Sunday lunchtime sessions.

I’ve no idea what the score was or even which was the better team as the main event was due to start but I did wonder how many of those lads might make it to the Stadium of Light or the Victoria Ground and whether any will end up on the next pitch along in a Northern League game. Either is good.

Kirkoswald v Endmoor, Saturday 22nd January 2022, 2pm

January 25, 2022

For one reason or another my match-going has all been at weekends recently. I’d been hoping to get along to a game or two mid-week, but other commitments and cancellations meant that it didn’t happen.

On the plus side I’d been able to attend a couple of gigs this week. The Howl and the Hum were back in town at Ku Bar on the Wednesday with the age of the crowd a fair bit lower than at most of the gigs we get to. They were very good. The odd song veered into U2 territory but a lot could easily have fitted into a Sea Power set. That’s good enough for me.

Two nights later we were at the Westgarth for The Men They Couldn’t Hang. One of our party described them as ‘Pound Shop Pogues’ which, on reflection, was probably a little harsh. Best thing though was that they had Bobby Valentino fiddling for them. Surprisingly he didn’t do his Bluebell’s Young at Heart riff. Is it a riff when it’s a violin? If I were him I’d be dropping it into every song I played. In fact I’d play a quick burst of it everywhere from waiting for cod and chips to queuing for a pile cream prescription. Unfortunately he missed out on a photo as he was skulking behind the speakers.

Anyway, after taking my Mam shopping at Tesco on the Saturday morning, Jen and I were free to head over to Kirksowald, near Penrith, for what was left of the weekend. It meant that we could do some walking the day after the game.

The walk went well and took in a loop that started and finished near to Kirkoswald Castle. The fortification was nothing special though and if I was planning to invade I’d target one of the pubs instead and leave the edge of village defences to themselves.

Our walk took over five hours and went to Little Salkend and back. On the way out we called at Lacy’s Caves and then returned via the Long Meg stone circle. Highlight though was walking through a field of attentive pigs. Sadly I was under strict instructions not to try and be-friend them but to just keep walking.

Pigs aside, there wasn’t much in the way of wildlife. I thought I’d spotted a deer lying close to the river but when we got nearer it turned out to be a log. It’s a rare species, the log deer. Not very skittish at all.

Ok, the match. We’d crossed the Pennines for a game in the Westmoreland League. It’s a league with three divisions that sit from the fourteenth to sixteenth tiers of the English pyramid. This was their highest level, a Division One game between Kirkoswald and Endmoor at Kirkoswald’s Old Showfield pitch.

Kirkoswald, in red and black, were going into the game in second place in the table with Endmoor, in green and black, in fourth.

We arrived just before kick-off and at a time when it looked like there were only two other spectators in attendance. As the game progressed the crowd swelled to around twenty, although some of them may well have been volunteer stewards or club officials.

It was free to get in and as the only parking was alongside the pitch we watched most of the game from the car. It was like being in an executive box. There weren’t any other options at the ground for sitting other than the swings at the nearby playground or getting a couple of camping chairs out of the boot.

It was a good natured game with the only vitriol reserved for the players who had been press-ganged as linos whenever they gave a fifty-fifty or less decision in favour of their own side. The ref, who spent most of the game pacing the centre-circle, ignored or overruled the dodgiest of the decisions.

The standard, as you might expect at this level, wasn’t great, but it was a well-matched contest where the defences dominated. We reached half-time without either keeper having to make anything other than a regulation catch.

The teams were only away for five minutes at the break. That’s ideal when there’s no food or drink to queue for. Endmoor took the lead with twenty minutes remaining. The ball fell to someone loitering around the penalty spot and whilst his shot didn’t have much power to it, he placed it well enough for the keeper to stand little chance.

The visitors held the advantage for around five minutes before their keeper gambled on reaching a through ball before the striker could. He didn’t quite get there in time and the ball was knocked past him into an empty net for one each.

There were no more goals and the draw did little to enhance Kirkoswald’s title chances. I suspect we will see a few more games in the Westmoreland League, as much for the surroundings as the football.

Middlesbrough v Reading, Saturday 15th January 2022, 3pm

January 16, 2022

Well, how enjoyable was that? There’s nothing like a last gasp winner to put a smile on your face. Harry reckoned it must have been the best Boro comeback ever. “Could be,” I hedged, casting my mind back to Bucharest and Basle. Nobody wants to hear old blokes rattling on about things that happened before you were born though and so I passed on the opportunity to piss on his chips.

It was freezing in our East Stand seats. So cold that earlier in the day I’d just about killed off the rescue fish that have been living in a bucket in the kitchen. Their new home is going to be a big sink in the garden originally intended to be a planter. A two hour outdoor acclimatization spell in near freezing temperatures had caused them all to float on their backs and, whilst I’m no vet, that’s rarely a good sign in fish. After being brought back inside and having some warm water added they returned to normal. Maybe I’ll have to postpone their move for a bit longer.

If you were wondering what rescue fish are, they are minnows, sold as live food for other bigger fish to eat. I thought they might enjoy a life in a garden sink a bit more. I’m not so sure now.

Anyway, the game. We had a few chances first half but let them back into it after the break. Andy Carroll scored from a header for them and with time running out Mat Crooks headed an equalizer and then deep into injury time, a winner.

It wasn’t as good a performance as against Forest but I was pleased that Wilder had a Plan B. And then a Plan C.

Worksop Town v Pickering Town, Saturday 8th January 2022, 3pm

January 13, 2022

The lunchtime kick-off at Mansfield meant that there was an opportunity to take in a second game of the day at the more traditional time of 3pm. We could have gone to a game just five minutes drive away but decided instead to head north for half an hour to Woksop.

There was a lot of congestion around the Mansfield ground and if I’d given it a little more thought and parked maybe a hundred or so yards further away we might very well have missed most of it and made the kick-off at Worksop.

As it was, the game was fifteen minutes in by the time we had parked up and paid the nine quid admission.

There looked to be five different stands with a main seated and covered one running along a lot of one side of the pitch. A further four covered standing areas were dotted around the ground and gave plenty of choice to the 455 in attendance. I particularly liked the one behind a goal that looked as if a roof had been fastened to an existing wall and then some steps added at ground level.

Worksop were hosting Pickering in the Northern Premier East Division. The home side, who are pushing for a play-off place, were in yellow and black with the relegation threatened visitors in their blue kit. It was still nil-nil as I took up a place on the barrier near a corner flag.

Pickering opened the scoring midway through the first half. I saw the buildup but was unsighted for the finish as I was in the queue for a coffee. I did see the equaliser a few minutes later at the other end though when a six yard box scramble was concluded with a headed goal.

The goals kept coming with the little bloke who I’d seen score the winner for Pickering the previous week finishing well on the half hour to put his side back in front. Worksop were level before the break though with another headed effort.

In the second half Worksop gradually got on top and the lad who had scored their first two goals added his third, again from a header. We had some drama in the last fifteen minutes with a melee that kept re-breaking out. Eventually one from each side was sent off but it could easily have been more.

There were no more goals though and Worksop ran out time to take the points.

Mansfield Town v Middlesbrough, Saturday 8th January 2022, 12.15pm

January 12, 2022

I’ve been attending each round of this season’s FA Cup since the opening Extra Preliminary round back in August. As we’ve now reached the Third Round I had the option of continuing my streak to a ninth successive round by taking in a Boro game away at Mansfield.

The bad news, however, was that we had only been allocated 1700 tickets. At fifteen quid a pop they would be in high demand and I knew that I wouldn’t have sufficient priority points to get one. With that in mind I got in touch with Mansfield early on and nabbed a couple of hospitality tickets in the 1861 lounge for forty quid each. Result, as they say, and a bargain too.

Stadium parking wasn’t included in the price but I was ok with that as I didn’t want to be trapped at the ground after the game. We ended up in a car park about five minute’s walk away and Jen and I just followed the locals on a route that included a short cut through someone’s garden.

We had an hour to while away in the lounge before the 12.15 kick-off and after my second breakfast of the day, this time a full English, we were entertained by the recollections of former Mansfield player Micky Laverick. His heyday was the mid-seventies and I got the impression that era was Mansfield’s peak to date.

As kick-off approached we made our way out to the Ian Greaves Stand and our centrally located seats in the upper tier. My records state that I’d been to the ground before, thirty-five years previously in the first Rioch promotion season. Even after looking around, I’ve no recollection whatsoever of the game or even the day.

We were sat two rows behind the media people. I’ve no idea who does the Boro commentary these days as I gave up trying to connect when I was in Russia. I didn’t see anyone behind a microphone that I recognized but I was able to keep an eye on the young lad from the Northern Echo typing his updates.

The Boro support had the stand to our left. They kept up a decent volume throughout the game and the “Mansfield’s a shithole” ditty raised a few laughs from the home fans around us. “It is, mind” said one, “but it’s our shithole”. I know the feeling.

I was a little worried to learn that this was the strongest team that Mansfield had been able to field for a while. As we only had three players starting that I’d consider to be in our first-choice XI there was potential for an upset. It all went well to begin with though and we were two up early on with chances to put the tie out of Mansfield’s reach within the first twenty minutes.

The home side were better in the second half and we struggled to stay on top. It seemed to take a while for Wilder to get his instructions understood and as we gradually replaced the fringe players with regular starters Mansfield got back into it.

There were joyous celebrations all around us as they pulled one back and then equalized. Had the game gone to extra-time then I’d have made them favourites to win. As so often happens these days though Isaiah Jones made the difference when his injury time cross was diverted into the net for a match-winning own goal.

Roll on Round Four.

Penistone Church v Emley, Sunday 2nd January 2022, 3pm

January 11, 2022

After the game in Pickering Jen and I carried on down to Penistone, a small town on the edge of the Peak District. We’d driven through it on the way to Buxton the previous month and it looked like somewhere that might be interesting to stay over in the right circumstances.

Those circumstances came around fairly quickly with Penistone Church having a rare Sunday game the following day in the ninth tier Northern Counties East Premier Division. We had a wander around town prior to the game but, perhaps due to the time of year, there wasn’t a lot going on.

We did notice that the Southport to Hornsea Trans Pennine Way passes through Penistone and as it looks an interesting long-distance walk, we might make it back sometime.

The game was clearly a special one for Penistone. They usually get around 200 through the gate but on this occasion, perhaps due to the combination of it being a rare Sunday game and a memorial match for someone associated with the club, it was hoped that the attendance would challenge the previous record of 512.

People were still paying their five quid admission to the 1000 capacity DSM Memorial Ground well into the first half and the eventual crowd total was later announced as 825. That’s pretty good for the ninth tier and boded well for the bucket collection to buy a young lad a new wheelchair.

We had got in early to find space in the 200-seater covered stand. It proved to be a wise decision as there were times when the rain was coming down heavily. Penistone were dressed up as Newcastle, with Emley in yellow. There were some tall lads in the Emley side, although one of the home centre halves could reasonably be described as a big unit. The season was panning out better for the home side and increasingly better form had seen them rise to eighth in the table. Local rivals Emley were down in seventeenth.

Penistone opened the scoring on twenty minutes from a breakaway but were soon pegged back by an Emley effort that had the home fans screaming for offside. The elderly lino kept shaking his head and insisting that the number three had been deep enough to put the scorer onside.

As half-time approached the Penistone striker who had scored their first added a second when he rifled home from the edge of box. In added time he got his hattrick with a left footed finish from the other side after running on to a through ball.

There was a lot less drama in the second half and it finished 3-1 to Penistone. I doubt that we will be back but I suspect that a few of the locals who swelled the crowd will make a return visit.

Pickering Town v Tadcaster Albion, Saturday 1st January 2022, 3pm

January 10, 2022

I like to try and combine going to games with something else and Pickering seemed an ideal location to go for a pre-match walk. Rather than spend some time looking for a suitable route I took the easy option of just going to Dalby Forest Park as it had a load of paths marked on it and I figured that we could just wander along one of those.

That was exactly as it turned out, although as all but one of the paths were mountain biking trails, there was no need for any difficult choices. We didn’t see much at all in the way of wildlife but it made for a pleasant morning out in the fresh air.

Pickering is a town that I’m reasonably familiar with as when my kids were small I used to bring them to a fishing lake on the edge of town. It was marketed as ‘fun fishing’, the fun being that it was so overstocked that you would catch a fish with just about every cast. We would head down after school and return an hour or so later with a bag of trout that had been gutted and cleaned for us.

We stopped for lunch just outside of Pickering and then parked up with half an hour or so to spare. It wasn’t the warmest of days and Jen was keen for a seat in the covered stand where she could more easily cover her legs with a blanket. With rain forecast I wasn’t going to argue with that. Our early arrival worked well and after paying the eight quid admission we were soon settled into a small covered stand along the side of the pitch.

There were also covered stands behind both of the goals, but I think we got the better of the deal.

I was sat next to a bloke who was filling in a sheet on a clipboard. I took a sneaky peek whenever I could and concluded that he was the referee assessor. It was a time-consuming task with him appearing to have to score everything the ref was involved in. It meant that he spent most of the match looking downwards rather than being able to take in everything that was going on.

For what it is worth, I thought the ref had a good game. I’ve no real idea on how often he made the right call, but he was confident and decisive and that counts for a lot. Mind you I’ve worked with some right chancers over the years who were just like that so maybe there is a bit more to it.

The game was in the Northern Premier League East Division which is the league directly above the Northern League and the one that Stockton currently play in. Pickering, in blue, were taking on Tadcaster, in white. Both teams were near the bottom of the table and the home fans weren’t confident of avoiding relegation.

I’d been hoping to watch a couple of Boro youngsters who had been on loan at Pickering but they seemed to have vanished. One of them didn’t appear to have even played during his spell at the club.

The pitch was unusual in that there was a slope about two thirds of the way across from us. It ran the length of the field but wasn’t gradual. The pitch started off flat, dropped down a metre or so and then levelled off again. I imagine that when playing a pass you would have to gauge the way the slope would impact upon it in the way a golfer would when lining up a putt.

The first half was a bit niggly with a few yellows but no real chances and the teams went in level at the break.

The game came to life on the hour when an unexpected Pickering shot from distance flew in. It looked as if Pickering would see the game out until two minutes from time when the home keeper, who was making his debut on loan from Darlo, had his clearance charged down to allow a Tadcaster equalizer. It was a shame for the kid as he’d had a decent game. His blushes were spared in injury time though when one of his teammates cut inside from the right and finished well for the winner.

Three points for Pickering against their relegation rivals and a decent day out to start the New Year.