Archive for September, 2022

KV Oostende v KAS Eupen, Saturday 10th September 2022, 6.15pm

September 30, 2022

After three days in Luxembourg Jen and I caught the train back to Belgium. It was easy and cheap, with five hours of first-class travel from Luxembourg city to Ostend costing just over thirty quid each. It’s the same price whether you book on the day or in advance and there were plenty of seats.

We broke our journey at Bruges to check into our hotel and drop the bags off before continuing on to Ostend. It’s only around fifteen minutes further down the line. Once there we caught a bus from the station to the Diaz Arena.

Getting tickets for the top-tier game between Oostende and Eupen proved to be more of an arse on than the travel had been. When we eventually found the ticket office, they wanted ID. Fortunately we both had passports with us. Then we had to pay with cash only. I had about sixty-five euros in cash on me and with tickets at thirty euros a pop we were down to small change. Fortunately, we had time to nip to a cash machine around the corner.

Security was tight and we were thoroughly searched before taking our seats in the main stand. The next difficulty was getting a drink. Whilst I now had a wallet full of euros, they were no use inside the ground where everything had to be paid for using a special pre-loaded stadium card. I joined the queue for food whilst Jen got into line for obtaining and then adding cash to the card.

The Diaz Arena dates back to the 1930’s. Apparently it was done up a few years ago, but it is still an interesting ground. Each side has a separate stand, apart from the one opposite to us that seemed to have three different areas. There was also a decent view from the block of flats behind the stand to our left.

The capacity is around eight and a half thousand, but this was more than enough with it being less than half full.

Oostende were in red and green with Eupen in black. The home side looked to have taken the lead not long after the half-hour when a cross from the right was neatly tucked away. They have VAR in the Belgian top-tier though and it was soon ruled out for offside.

At half-time we tried to get a couple of cokes but at two and a half euros for a 250ml bottle, we were twenty cents short on the card, necessitating another top up in a different line. I can see the benefits of the card if you are a regular but as a one-off visitor it was more work than I wanted.

The royal death a couple of days earlier was marked by the playing of God Save the Queen during the interval. The Sex Pistols version. I bet it’s a while before I hear that at an English stadium.

Oostende opened the scoring not long after the restart with a shot from the left. They then had a fella sent off for a second yellow in a game that had become increasingly niggly. Eupen were more in control with the extra man but couldn’t make their possession count and Oostende held on for the win. We got lucky with the timing of the bus but then had to wait nearly an hour at the station for the next train back to Bruges.

Sedan Ardennes v Avranches, Friday 9th September 2022, 7.30pm

September 23, 2022

Jen and I had nipped across to Europe for a week as she had to formally re-enter the UK as part of her visa process. We’d taken the Eurostar to Brussels and after a night there headed down to Luxembourg. I’d planned to take in games in both countries but unfortunately all the matches in the early rounds of the Luxembourg Cup that I’d identified got shifted at short notice.

We had nothing planned on the Friday afternoon though and so I drove for an hour into France to Sedan with a plan to take in their third tier Championnat National game against Avranches.

The opposition name seemed familiar and I eventually remembered that I’d been there when hitching round France as a sixteen year old. I’ve no recollection of Avranches but the photographic evidence suggests that we were headed in that direction.

We got to Sedan a couple of hours early so that we could have a wander around Sedan Castle. It was interesting enough, with cannons, some underground rooms and a few of those curly staircases that favour whichever swordfighter has the higher ground.

The best thing about the castle was a working trebuchet. As only Jen and I were nearby at firing time I was allowed to have a go on it. The lady who was dressed up as a monk wouldn’t let me aim it at the buildings opposite which seemed a bit mean, but understandable I suppose as the cannonball was made of plastic rather than iron and there’s always the risk that an angry householder might stick a knife in it.

After we were done with the castle we parked up at Stade Louis Dugauguez and called into a nearby bar for moules frites. My French is rubbish and usually lapses into Spanish half-way through a sentence, but it was sufficient on this occasion to get us fed.

We then wandered around to the ticket office where we bought seats down the side for ten euros a pop. I’m not sure if the ends of the ground were open and the only other option was the stand opposite for twelve euros.

Our timing worked out as well as it could have done as the moment we stepped into the ground, the rain started. It continued heavily until midway through the second half and with some wind in the air we moved higher in the stand to keep dry, settling in the end for back row sets.

The stadium holds around twenty-five thousand in theory, but there were fewer than four thousand braving the conditions for this game. Most were in our stand, with a home singing section in the corner to our left. I didn’t see any away fans.

Sedan, in green and black, were second to bottom of the table with just two draws to show for their efforts to date. By contrast, Avranches, who were in red and white, were second from top. However, it was difficult to tell which was the better team in the first half as neither side created much.

The game opened up in the second half with neither side putting much effort into defending. It boiled over a couple of times and whilst the ref frequently flashed his yellow card, he didn’t ever seem in control.

Despite all the missed chances it looked to be heading for a goalless draw until a converted penalty seven minutes into added time took the points for the visitors.

Middlesbrough v Sunderland, Monday 5th September 2022, 8pm

September 6, 2022

It’s been a frustrating start to the season with points dropped to late goals in games where our performances have generally been good. The transfer activity was mainly done early on, and the window closed without us recruiting a replacement for Tav or any of the expensive strikers that we had been linked with.

Nevertheless, I was confident that we’d have sufficient quality to beat Sunderland in a game where most pre-match discussion seems to revolve around whether or not it’s a ‘derby’. I don’t really see why the label matters. There’s certainly a north-east rivalry with bragging rights between neighbours and workmates and that’s enough to give it an extra edge over a game against the likes of Reading or Cardiff.

Harry and I were there reasonably early and stopped to look at the statue of George Camsell. I was impressed with it. I also like the idea of celebrating our history with statutes as when you’ve only ever had one trophy in the cabinet the players who’ve performed for us fill that gap to an extent.

I’m not sure about the placement though, I think it makes the area near to the gates look cluttered. I’d prefer to see the statues placed around the stadium perimeter, perhaps supplemented by a few more. Rioch and Todd in their shorts in a dugout would be good, as would one of Jackie collecting tracksuit tops whilst smoking a cigar. Maybe a horizontal Massimo heading that goal that took us to Eindhoven.

The other main talking point was the return of Tony Mowbray as the new Sunderland manager. He gets a lot of leeway from me and he’d probably have to start molesting cats before I’d consider he’d tarnished his legacy. He stayed fairly low key, but got a chorus of ‘He’s One Of Our Own’ from the South Stand. It wasn’t on a par with the reception that he received when he returned with Ipswich as a player, but that was a high bar. Despite his current job I’d keep him on the statue list.

It went well on the pitch. Dael Fry came back in and showed why he should be the first name on the team sheet and Isaiah Jones looked to be getting back to his best. Liam Roberts commanded his box well and made the case to keep his place when Zak Steffan regains fitness. The single goal meant that we could never relax until the final whistle, but for a change we held on to take all three points.

Gateshead Leam Rangers v Durham City, Saturday 3rd September 2022, 2.30pm

September 5, 2022

Durham City have been having a bad time of it lately. They were relegated from the Northern League to the Wearside League in the summer and any hopes of consolidating at the slightly lower level had been dashed by losing all of their eight fixtures to date whilst conceding an average of more than nine goals a game.

Jen and I watched them ship eleven goals without reply in their fixture with Hartlepool a few weeks ago. They have changed a lot of their players since that one and it’s difficult to establish any sort of pattern of play when you’ve got new players coming in each week.

I’d seen on social media that a dozen or so players had been let go in midweek and the talk amongst the handful of Durham fans that were there to cheer them on was that they had done the right thing in shedding those without the right attitude.

In Durham’s previous game they had arrived with just eleven players and played most of the game a man down after one of them just walked off the pitch and headed home. For this game Durham had again turned up without subs and with four new signings making their debuts.

It was three quid in and I reckon the crowd probably peaked at around twenty-five. I watched the first half from the only seating available, a bench that may have served six at a push, under a covered area.

Gateshead Leam Rangers were probably not the opponents that Durham would have wanted in that they went into the game in second place in the table having won six and drawn two of their ten games.

The home side, in a Norwich-style kit, were patient in their build ups and quick to counter. It paid off with three goals in the opening quarter of an hour. Steady pressure extended the lead to six-nil by half-time.

One of the Durham fans near to me was invited to training on Wednesday by a member of the coaching staff as the teams headed to the changies. Even if he proves to be useless it’s worth doing when you can only raise a match-day squad of eleven.

The goals kept coming in the second half, with Gateshead reaching nine with still twenty minutes to play. At that stage the Durham goalie indulged in some timewasting, probably a first for a team that far behind, and pissed off the home side causing a few of them to bring it up with the ref.

Injuries reduced the visitors to nine men in the final stages as the goals rained in with Gateshead adding another five to nick a fourteen-nil victory.

The score line made me think of the only other time I’ve been at a game with a fourteen-nil result. It was back in 1978 when I was keeping goal for Barmoor Boys U14s and Stockton West End rattled all fourteen past me at the Norton Cricket Club pitch. I think that game might only have been thirty-five minutes each way. Just as well really.

Windscale v Richmond Town, Wednesday 31st August 2022, 7.45pm

September 4, 2022

Harry and Isla had gone back to Teesside ready for the start of the new school year, leaving Jen and I with a few days left in The Lakes. I’d noticed that the Ennerdale Show was taking place and so we thought that we’d have a wander along. There were various competitions such as best pair of carrots, best set of three hounds, a bit of horse parading and even some fell running. We didn’t enter anything.

The dog was soon bored with looking at beagles that were half his width and so we left after a couple of hours and went for a walk at Ennerdale Water. There were far fewer people around and with a free car park and well signposted walking trails I was surprised that it wasn’t more popular. Perhaps everyone was at the show, focusing on winning Best Six Peas in a Pod.

That evening we called in to Egremont for a Wearside League Premier Division game between Windscale and Richmond Town. I know Egremont pretty well, or at least I knew it well thirty years ago when working at Sellafield. Thursday nights frequently culminated in the Old Hall nightclub for what was known as ‘Grab a Granny’ night. Looking back, it seemed like anyone in their thirties was considered a granny those days and it may very well be that some of them were.

Jen and I still had Henry with us and that caused a problem when I noticed the sign at the Falcon Club entrance prohibiting dogs. It’s a reasonable restriction as I’m sure plenty of dog owners would just bring their pooch for a walk, perhaps when a game wasn’t taking place, and then let it piss or crap on the grass.

Jen very kindly offered to skip the delights of eleventh-tier football and take Henry for a walk around the neighbouring estate. There was nobody taking money at the gate and probably around fifty people lined up around the perimeter fence.

If you look at the map of Wearside League teams, Windscale are the only one on the west side of the country. The rest are, well, in or around Wearside. I’ve no idea how Windscale ended up in a league that otherwise comprises clubs from a small part of the north-east and I doubt that it’s a popular journey for visiting teams and officials.

Windscale were in blue, with Richmond Town in red. The visitors had the best of the play for most of the first half, but it was Windscale that took the lead half an hour in with a well-directed header from a free kick. They could have doubled their lead just before the break when a shot from the edge of the box hit the inside of the post and somehow bounced out rather than in.

Henry and Jen completed their walk and returned to the car park during the half-time interval. That was my cue to call it a night and follow the remainder of the game on Windscale’s twitter feed. It took them until added time to notch a second goal and seal the points.