Heaton Stannington v Durham City, Friday 25th February 2022, 7.30pm

Jen has been in America for the last few weeks and whilst Harry has been coming along to a few games he was at his Nanna’s for this one. He’s got millions of Nannas and Great-Nannas. Fewer Grandads though as we are all dying off. That’s how it works.

I was dogsitting over the weekend and so Henry the beagle stepped in as a match-day companion. He wasn’t too keen initially as he’d already settled down on the settee for the evening but once we got up to Heaton he perked up. He’s a weird dog. On Bonfire Night he sat on the back steps and watched the firework display. If he’s up for something like that then some lower league football should be a treat for him.

It was a fiver admission at Grounsell Park for humans with no charge for canines. I suppose they usually earn less than we do. My losing raffle tickets this week were for a Heaton Stannington branded coat. That’s marginally better than the usual two bottles of booze if you are a ‘Stan’ fan of just the right size, but I’d have made more use of some screw-top sauvignon.

It’s quite the done thing to bring a dog to Northern League games, more so at this ground than most. There was an airedale, a pug, something that looked a bit like a spaniel with a perm and a long-haired sausage dog. I don’t think I’d ever seen one of those before.

The area near the entrance and outside the bar was packed, so I headed further along to the covered seated stand and we watched the first half from there.

Heaton Stannington were in a skinny black and white striped kit with Durham City in yellow and blue. It didn’t take long for the home side to open the scoring and they were three up within half an hour. The scoreline wasn’t much of a surprise as Heaton Stannington are running away with Division Two of the Northern League whilst Durham City are adrift at the bottom of the table with only two points all season and a goal difference of minus one hundred and twenty-six.

There was part of me that hoped to see a rout. Is that mean spirited? I usually try not to be. Durham City had already lost by ten goals on three occasions this season and back in November were beaten sixteen-one by Carlisle City. You don’t get to witness outcomes like that too often.

At one stage in the season it looked as if Durham City might fold due to debts of a hundred and fifty thousand pounds. But, approaching March, they’ve managed to stick around.

There were another two goals early in the second half but to everyone’s surprise they both came from the visitors. Order was restored with a quick response from ‘The Stan’ as we approached the hour-mark.

The final half hour was end to end as both sides pushed for an oddly crucial seventh goal of the game. It was the home side that managed it in injury time to seal a five-two win that flattered them to an extent. The dog seemed to have enjoyed the evening out but was happy to return to the settee.

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