Billingham Town Reserves v Ferryhill Athletic, Saturday 26th February 2022, 1.30pm

I hadn’t been intending to go to a game on this afternoon as I had too many things to do. I knew that there was a game on at North Shore Academy just a few minutes from my house but I reckoned that as it was a school with an artificial pitch dogs wouldn’t welcome. I was looking after the beagle and so thought that I’d save that venue for another day.

Things change though and I found myself driving past North Shore on the way back from the shops. It was at the time when the game was on and I couldn’t bring myself to pass the turn without calling in for a quick look.

North Shore is a school built on the former site of Tilery Sports Centre which was somewhere that I spent a fair bit of time at. As a kid I played table-tennis and five-a-side there as well as failing dismally to progress beyond a white belt at judo. Later it was somewhere for games of squash and seven-a-side football on an outdoor gravel pitch.

Up until recently there had been some tennis courts there too. I can only recall playing on them once, back around ‘84ish. My friend Paul and I had walked past them in the early hours of a summer’s morning after a night out that had concluded around 4am in the casino. We nipped home for racquets and returned to play a few sets whilst everyone else was asleep.

With the casino being long gone and now the tennis courts too, I’ve no idea what people find to do when the pubs shut these days. It’s as well I’m generally in bed by nine.

Anyway, the game. It was a second round tie in the Washington Aged Persons Cup between Billingham Town Reserves of the thirteenth tier Division Three of the Wearside League and Ferryhill Athletic, who play one step higher in Division Two. Billingham were in blue and a goal up when I got there. Ferryhill soon squandered a chance to equalize with a penalty that was hit too close to the keeper.

The ref looked to be in his sixties, but kept a tight grip on the game, tolerating no backchat. I like that. Twenty minutes was all I could spare though, partly because I had a couple of live goldfish in the car, and I left them to it. A quick check later on revealed that Billingham ran out four-one winners to progress to the third round.

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