FC Hartlepool v Durham City, Wednesday 3rd August 2022, 6.45pm

August is a time when there are plenty of games going on in the lower leagues as fixtures can be played mid-week without floodlights and with little chance of the weather intervening.

With that in mind, Jen, Isla, Henry and I went along to FC Hartlepool for their eleventh tier Wearside League Division One match against Durham City. We found the ground easily enough but, as I’ve often done in the past, I’d got the date wrong and we were twenty-four hours too early.

This is usually the point where I bring up standing outside of Freddy Natt aged seven trying to get into a padlocked school one day before it actually re-opened after Christmas, but I dare say you’ve heard that one. As we were already out and about, we drove to Seaton Carew for a walk along the seafront and some fish and chips.

Jen and I returned to the Grayfields Enclosure the next evening with the dog and paid our three quid admission. If we’d been a bit sharper, we could have nabbed the bench seat near to one of the corner flags, but instead ended up having to lean on the railings around the pitch. There was a decent turnout, with people watching from all four sides of the pitch and a few kids having kickabouts of their own.

I’d seen Durham a couple of times last season in their relegation from the Northern League. They’d been really hammered on a few occasions and didn’t win a game until the final day of the campaign. I was hoping that the drop down a level would make them more competitive, but a seven-nil defeat on the opening day of the season suggested that they may struggle this season too.

Hartlepool were in red and blue, with Durham in red and black. Theoretically there wasn’t a clash of colours, but in real life it was often difficult to tell the teams apart. How hard is it to make sure that the teams play in non-clashing kits?

Hartlepool took the lead in the first few minutes with a shot from outside the box that appeared to have left the keeper unsighted. The added another ten minutes later and a third from a penalty on the half-hour. The home goalie didn’t have a save to make in the first half and whilst it was still only three-nil at the break, Hartlepool genuinely could have been ten goals to the good with better finishing.

Durham kept their hosts at bay for the opening fifteen minutes of the second half, but two goals in quick succession around the hour mark opened the floodgates and Hartlepool added another six in the remaining half-hour to run out eleven-nil winners.

It’s hard to gauge how good unbeaten Hartlepool are two games into the season, but it looks like another tough year for Durham.

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