Crook Town v Ryhope Colliery Welfare, Wednesday 20th April 2022, 7.30pm

It’s the time of the year for cup finals with this one being for the Durham County FA Frank Pattison Challenge Cup. It was at the Hetton Centre which is also known as Eppleton Colliery Welfare. It’s a ground used by Sunderland’s U23 and Women’s teams. Cars were already turning around due to lack of space when I arrived, but I got lucky as someone who must have been there for something other than the football vacated his prime parking spot and saved me having to drive back out again.

With a few minutes to kick-off there was a queue to get into the ground. I paid my fiver and was given a free programme.

I passed the trophy on the way in and took a seat in the main stand. There were a few rows of seats with a standing section behind. The Crook  fans seemed to have taken over that area and sang throughout the game including a few renditions of the ‘Nicky Bailey’ song.

Most of the crowd, which eventually reached 620, were stood around the perimeter pitch fence with others getting a better view from on top of embankments and mud piles. Crook were in amber and black with Ryhope in red and white.

Crook took the lead on eighteen minutes with a volley from the edge of the box, but didn’t hold the advantage for long with Ryhope equalising on the half hour when the ball was hooked home after a corner.

At half time I went for some food but the slow-moving queue of people waiting for chips meant that I bailed out and watched the second half from behind that goal until the length of the queue had sufficiently dropped for me to nip in for a pie.

Ryhope probably had the best chances in the second half but neither side did enough to win it and with the score level at full-time we went straight to pens. I’d anticipated the end that would be used and so was already in a prime spot when the whistle went. I was joined by a few others, most of whom were supporting Crook.

I had a brief chat with a young kid next to me. He told me that he supported Newcastle, as well as Crook and marvelled at the turnaround under Eddie Howe. He then turned his attention to the Ryhope goalie and before each kick informed him that he was a ‘paedo’. Charming. I doubt the lad was any older than twelve.

The Ryhope keeper had the last laugh though, saving a couple of the penalties to clinch the cup. A fella on the other side of me, sensing defeat, had declared that he was going onto the pitch anyway. He did so, raising a flare to the heavens and dropping his trousers to his thighs in what I took to be a gesture of dissatisfaction with the result.

I made my way back to the main stand for the presentation. By this time most of the Crook fans had left the standing area and so I was able to get an elevated view of Ryhope lifting the cup.

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