Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

Rothbury v West Moor & Jesmond, Saturday 14th May 2022, 2.30pm

May 24, 2022

The Boro’s season is over, but there is still the odd game taking place. This one was the final fixture for both sides in the twelfth-tier Division One of the Northern Alliance League. It was pretty much a dead game in that neither side were involved in matters at either end of the table and West Moor were guaranteed a sixth-place finish regardless of the result. Rothbury had a little more to play for in that if results elsewhere went their way, then they might move up from ninth position to seventh. I doubt that it kept them awake the night before.

The drive up to Armstrong Park was a scenic as it gets. I think that it just about borders the Northumberland National Park. It’s a fair distance though, around seventy-five minutes from Teesside, although as I didn’t have anything planned for the afternoon it was no big deal.

That morning Isla and I had been to have another look at the racehorse. We watched him on the gallops and had a chat with some of the stable staff. Apparently, he’s not one for the minimum distances so won’t make his debut until later in the season when the races get longer. Oddly enough, he doesn’t like carrots. Weirdo horse.

There was a clubhouse, I think, at Armstrong Park or maybe it was just the changing rooms. A few people were stood in front of it, but most were sat along one side of the pitch on a raised embankment area. The smart folks had brought camping chairs with them but most, like me, had found a spot where a level piece of ground met the slope so that there was somewhere to angle your legs downwards. As usual there were dogs in attendance including a spaniel and an enormous Dalmatian.

Rothbury were in red, with West Moor in blue and white. They each had to volunteer a sub to run the line, although the Rothbury lad was so biased that after a while the ref, who rarely strayed from the centre circle, just ignored him. The lack of exertion from the man in the middle wasn’t only limited to covering ground, but extended to whistle blowing. If he could let play go on he did do and on the occasions when forced to blow his whistle he did it so quietly that it undermined any authority that he may have had.

The visitors went two up in the first half, with Rothbury pulling one back early in the second half before West Moor rattled in another two to make the game safe. There was a late consolation for Rothbury and it finished four-two.

At the end the ref continued his minimal effort approach by blowing just twice to bring the game and the Northern Alliance season to an end.

Preston North End v Middlesbrough, Saturday 7th May 2022, 12.30pm

May 12, 2022

Once Harry started getting into following the Boro, I began looking at away games for us to go to. This one was always on my radar as it might very well have been the game that clinched a play-off spot or, at one stage, maybe even promotion.

The problem though was that I didn’t think that we would be able to get tickets. Our half-season cards put us a long way down the priority list and so back in February I decided to try and get something in hospitality directly from Preston. They were very good about it and despite me admitting that I was a Boro fan they sold us tickets for the Sir Tom Finney Lounge.

The Boro’s allocation turned out to be 5,600 tickets and as they reached general sale, we would have been ok, but it’s always nice to see a game in a bit of comfort so I wasn’t too disappointed that I’d shelled out more than I needed to.

The sat nav took us over the A66 and then down the M6. That’s a much more pleasant drive than the M62. There were a lot of dead badgers though. If I’d had a spade in the boot, I might have stopped and got one of their heads as I’ve often fancied having a badger skull. Harry thought that would be an odd thing to do despite him seeming happy enough with a sheep skull that I gave him a few years ago. Apparently, it’s different if you just stumble across them as opposed to deliberately carrying and using a dismembering tool. Whatever, it sparked a decent discussion over the merits of maggots v worms for removing the flesh.

We arrived about an hour before kick-off and our car park pass was waiting for us at the gate. There was time for brunch and a chat with some Preston fans on the same table. They weren’t at all hopeful of taking anything from the game and whilst they thought that there would be some players looking for new contracts, they reckoned that their team would already be ‘on the beach’.

They were wrong and Preston turned in a decent performance. With results from elsewhere not going our way the defeat didn’t make any difference to our play-off hopes and some of the players efforts might well have been useful to Wilder in helping him to make his plans for next season.

Despite the result I enjoyed the day out. It’s good to chat to the fans of the other side and Preston managed the hospitality very well. We didn’t even get kept back in the car park afterwards to let the crowds clear and were soon on the M6. That’s it for the Boro until July when I’m hoping for another season challenging at the top end of the table.

Wolverhampton Wanderers U23 v Middlesbrough U23, Wednesday 4th May 2022, 7pm

May 11, 2022

One of the Premier League grounds that I’ve never been to is Molineux. odd really, as it’s probably somewhere that most Boro fans of my age, or even a fair bit younger, will have been to on at least a couple of occasions.

I should have gone for the sixth-round replay in ’81 when half of Teesside headed down the A19 mid-afternoon. For some reason I’d been singled out at school and told if I got away early then they wouldn’t enter me for the exams. In hindsight, what a load of bollocks. I should have called their bluff as we weren’t a school that had many kids who were capable of a handful of ‘O’ Levels and if mine were taken out of the equation it would probably have dropped their average score for our year by a couple of percentage points.

The other one I missed was the promotion game under Lennie. I was married then to a wife who didn’t like me having fun without her. Instead, we were at Newmarket to see Lester win his final classic. I’m not sure she enjoyed that very much either but at least she could see what I was up to.

The evening got off to a good start when I parked up and spotted a rat.  I’ve nothing against rats. They get a bad press on account, I think, of their tails. If they had fluffy jobs like squirrels, people would be putting food out for them.

I’d bought my £4 ticket online and had to register as a Wolves fan. I’m ok with that although they are already spamming me with season ticket offers and last year’s kit. This morning they tried to sell me a guided tour of their museum accompanied by a legendary goalie. The only Wolves goalie I could think of was the other Phil Parkes, the one who didn’t have half a game for England. Although I’ve a vague recollection that they loaned us a goalie a few years ago who did ok. I’ve forgotten his name though.

Fortunately I wasn’t required to put on a Black County accent to get past the stewards and I was soon inside the Billy Wright Stand. The ground looked pretty new to me. I can remember them building a stand down one side around thirty years ago that was constructed behind the existing one, leaving a large gap to the pitch when the old stand was eventually removed. It was hard to picture Bosco and the like playing here whilst I remained at school forty-one years ago. There were rail seats behind the goal to my right, something that I didn’t realise had already become a ‘thing’ in England.

There were a few hundred people inside, all in the lower tier of the stand I was in. Prior to kick-off the announcer played ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’ and the crowd sang along to the chorus, replacing ‘Silver Lining’ with ‘Wolverhampton’. I suppose it’s no worse than Pigbag.

The song brought back memories of my time working in Rumours, an over the border nightclub. Silver Lining was always the penultimate song of the night signalling the time to cast your eyes around for a partner for the smooch that followed. There was no time for grabbing grannies here though as the ref blew the starting whistle the moment the chorus was done.

This game was an U23 fixture in the semi-final of the Premier League 2 Cup. Boro haven’t had a great season in that division whilst Wolves, with some much more expensive players, are up in second. Still, the cup’s a great leveller, or at least it was until Wolves took the lead inside the first minute.

Boro had a few players who I was keen to have another look at, Brynn in goal, Wood at the back and Payero in midfield. Joe Gibson is usually the star man whenever I’ve seen the U23s but had a quieter game this time.

Apart from Neil Bausor, who I’d seen outside looking a bit lost, I didn’t see or hear any other Boro fans in the ground. At least not until half-time when I spotted a fella with a red and white scarf on. He clearly had taken no notice of the Home Fans Only edict. I bet he nicked off school in ’81.

Whilst we drew level midway through the first half, Wolves regained the lead just before the break and then doubled their lead in the second half. A late consolation for the Boro wasn’t enough to prevent us from getting knocked out.

I headed back up North with the Real Madrid-Man City game on the radio. I bet there were a few City fans in Madrid who wished they had a wife who stopped them from going to games.

Durham County U18 v Northumberland U18, Tuesday 3rd May 2022, 7.15pm

May 10, 2022

This game was an U18 County Cup Final at Perth Green, home of Northern League club Jarrow. I missed the first twenty minutes due to the sat nav taking me back out of Jarrow and along the A19 until I was adjacent to the ground and then telling me that I had arrived at my destination. Great, providing I could abandon the car on the hard shoulder, scramble up the embankment and then scale a fence.

I ended up detouring through Bolden before eventually finding my way to Perth Green.

It was one each when I arrived, Durham County were in blue with Northumberland in yellow and black tops with red shorts and socks. I worked out which team was by checking out the colours on the badges worn by a lot of the officials and which matched the kit worn by their team.

I took a seat in a fifty-capacity covered stand, next to a brown spaniel. There was a covered elevated standing area on the other side of the dugouts and despite intermittent drizzle a few people watching from pitch-side whilst leaning on the perimeter fence.

Durham took the lead a few minutes from half-time with a penalty that was hotly disputed by some of those sat around me. The ref, who I think I’ve seen a couple of times this season elsewhere, took his time before penalising the defender and awarding the spot kick. The keeper went the wrong way and Durham were two-one to the good.

I got a drink at half-time and felt like the only fella who was paying. Just about everyone else in the room was a committee member or official and got their tea for free. They also had a plate of chocolate digestives that, if they were being offered around, didn’t make it my way.

Durham added a third goal a few minutes after the restart. I’m not sure if the Northumberland keeper was injured in that attack but he limped off a few minutes later. Northumberland didn’t roll over though and had some decent chances to peg back the deficit, including one shot that the Durham keeper tipped onto the bar.

With ten minutes or so to go Northumberland made it three-two, sparking some argy-bargy as players fought over the ball. They pushed for an equaliser but Durham held out for the win.

I hung around for the presentation out of politeness. The trophy looked impressive and as if it had a decent history. Unlike the cup final that I went to at Eppleton recently there were no flares or arse baring this time. Probably for the best.

Middlesbrough v Stoke City, Saturday 30th April 2022, 3pm

May 9, 2022

My niece’s son, Alistair, came along to this one with Harry and myself. His Dad, who I don’t think is really into football, has tried to make Alistair into a Man City fan. I’m hoping that if he enjoys being at the Riverside for a few wins then he might just switch allegiance. He’s seven, so it’s ok at that age.

The Boro’s first half performance was enough to have him cheering and stood on his chair in celebration as we knocked in two goals in quick succession and had a ‘third’ disallowed.

With a real third goal in the second half, it looked as if the goal difference with Sheffield United had moved sufficiently to make a win at Preston enough for a play-off spot, assuming of course that that Sheffield only get a draw in their fixture against Champions Fulham. A last-gasp consolation skewed all of the calcs though and it now looks like we will need a two-goal win for our part of the equation.

There was a disruption in the second half when a young lad ran on the pitch to get himself a selfie with Tav. He looked in his teens to me and therefore old enough for some rough tackling by the stewards. The upshot was that his Dad, who filmed the invasion and was then abusive to the stewards, got a life ban. That’s fair enough in my view as I consider that when the pitch side fences came down, our part in the bargain as fans is that we stay off the pitch. I don’t want to go back to watching games through wire mesh.

We hung around at the end for the lap of honour and applauded the players and staff. It’s been a good season whatever the result at Preston and the form that coincided with our half-season tickets looked to have got Harry hooked. I think that if we are in the Championship next season and can keep racking up the home victories, there’s a good chance of Alistair joining him as a Boro fan.

Wingate Howden v Easington Mechanics, Thursday 28th April 2022, 6.15pm

May 8, 2022

I’m not one for thinking too deeply, particularly about why I do the things that I do. I’ve never really had a career plan, for example, instead I just stumbled into a particular line of work and then kept on with it in various guises. It’s the same with the groundhopping. It’s not a hobby that I’d any interest in up until a few years ago and I think what probably triggered it was adding a total for grounds attended to my spreadsheet that records where I’ve been.

Perhaps it’s a collector’s mentality, but it’s a collection that can never be completed. Alternatively, I sometimes wonder if I’m doing it to try and impress people. But who would be impressed by someone rocking up at different football grounds, never to return? There are groundhoppers on the Futbology App that I use who have been to thousands of grounds and their ‘achievements’ just make me wonder why they would spend their lives doing that.

Sometimes I think I do things just because they have somehow become the things that I do and that’s about as deeply as I go into it. All that preamble is probably because if I ever were to think too much about what I get up to I would have no idea why I was in Wingate for a game in Division One of the Peterlee and District Sunday League.

Sunday football doesn’t fit into the national pyramid and if it did it would probably be down around the fifteenth tier. This fixture wasn’t even in the top division in their league with a Premier Division above it for the teams to aspire to.

There were still a few games to complete in the league, presumably due to postponements of Sunday fixtures during the winter. It hadn’t been the best of seasons for Wingate Howdon, with them starting the game second from bottom of their ten team league. With just two games remaining of their season they had the possibility of climbing to third from bottom, but as I’ve no idea how many teams get relegated to the second division that might mean very little.

Easington Mechanics, in fifth place in the table, should be ‘on the beach’ at this stage of the season, but as they had only played eleven of their eighteen games they still had a chance of reaching the top two or three, if that counts for anything.  By way of a form guide, Easington won the reverse fixture a couple of weeks ago by seven goals to one.

The Wingate Welfare ground is twenty minutes up the A19. It’s on the site of a long-closed colliery. There are two grass pitches and some changing rooms in the distance. Next to the ground is either a very well-developed set of allotments or a shanty town. There’s a fence around three sides of the pitch that was in use with the gate locked at one end meaning that someone had to climb over it whenever the ball was hoofed into the field next door.

A horse was tied up behind the section of the fence near to a corner flag. I went near for a photo of him with the game in the background and he assumed that I’d come to feed him. My horse coat that would usually have carrots in the pockets was at home and so he had to settle for having his snout rubbed. That’s not a euphemism for anything untoward.

Wingate Howden were in yellow and blue with visitors Easington in green. Both keepers wore the same colour shorts and socks as their team-mates but with a fleece rather than a goalie top. It made sense as the temperature had dropped a little. The first task for the away keeper was to flatten the fresh molehills in his goalmouth. That’s not something you see in the Champions League.

I’ve a groundhopping rule that requires games to have linesmen. This one stretched it to the limit as the flags were held be members of the coaching teams and were never even unfurled. The only use that one flag got was when a player went down and his manager used the flag to rap him on the injured knee and then jab him in the balls to encourage him to stand up.

There weren’t many spectators, maybe six for most of the game with a late peak of around ten as people arrived towards the end. One of the early six probably shouldn’t have counted as he spent the time repairing his bike and was maybe only there because that was the place where his chain came off.

The home goalie got plenty of encouragement from his manager who invariably shouted “what a fucking save, Trevor” whenever the keeper touched the ball and occasionally when he hadn’t. I was surprised by how little stick the ref got but he’d have had an easy response in that if he had been anywhere near competent, he wouldn’t have been officiating at this level.

The standard, as you might expect, wasn’t up to much. There was one fella at the back for Wingate who could play but everyone else seemed to spend the whole game misplacing their passes, safe in the knowledge that it wouldn’t matter as the other side would then do the same. Easington were two up at half-time and added a third soon after the restart. A restart that took place after a two minute break for half-time. Howden pulled one back but it finished three-one.

The time watching gave me a chance to reflect further on why I go to these games, and I concluded that it’s because I enjoy watching live football. Simple really. This one had some moments where I genuinely laughed out loud, sometimes at something someone said, often at something they did. I also realised that I enjoy getting out and about, especially to places that I know nothing of. Maybe I don’t need to think too deeply after all.

Middlesbrough v Cardiff City, Wednesday 27th April 2022, 7.45pm

May 7, 2022

This was another game that needed a brisk walk to make kick-off. Harry had been at his final rugby training of the season and with them not finishing until well after seven we had to get a move on. One of his teammates laughed at the idea that he was going to watch us play Cardiff, presumably that lad only considers the games against the likes of Spurs or Chelsea worth turning up to.

For most of the walk to the ground we were the only people around. It wasn’t until the Riverside was in sight that we caught up with the other stragglers. We arrived just as the Cardiff players were taking the knee and then sat down at exactly the time the ref blew his whistle to get things underway.

The atmosphere seemed a little on the flat side. Understandable, I suppose, considering the way that we’ve dropped to the edges of the play-off race. We started slowly but once Tav had knocked home the opener there wasn’t really much doubt about us taking the points. A second goal from McGree made sure.

I’d have been happier if we could have added another to peg back the goal difference with Sheff Utd, but there are a couple of further opportunities to do that and if, a big if, we can win our final two games then I think that there’s a chance that we can overtake them for that sixth spot.

Bedlington Terriers v Chester-le-Street Town, Saturday 23rd April 2022, 3pm

May 6, 2022

The Northern League season is drawing to an end and with Bedlington Terriers having a home fixture I thought that I’d head up to Dr. Pit Welfare Park to watch them take on Chester-le-Street Town in a second division fixture.

I parked on the street just around the corner and gave my fiver to the fella on the turnstile. He came straight out to see me, or rather to see Henry, my daughter’s beagle. He told me that he used to have Westies, but they were just too expensive these days and his current dog was a cross between a Jack Russell and a Lakeland Terrier. If I lived in Bedlington and supported Bedlington Terriers, then I’d feel it almost compulsory to have the breed of dog associated with the town.

As we were talking the team in yellow and blue opened the scoring. The dog bloke was not happy and told me that they were the visitors. Bedlington were the team in red and whilst they were fourth from bottom at kick-off, were in serious danger of dropping into the bottom three and out of the Northern League. He felt that a win today was vital to their hopes of survival.

There were different covered stands along one side and a massive scoreboard that wasn’t used. There were plenty of dandelions alongside the grass pitch. I took a few for Mr Rose who I was also looking after for the weekend. He’s my granddaughter’s rabbit who was previously known as Rose until the vet informed them that they had been wrongly advised of his gender. Frequent dead-naming doesn’t seem to bother him and he loves dandelions.

Bedlington’s relegation worries got worse on the half-hour when their keeper dawdled on the ball and had it took off him and knocked into an empty net. The scorer celebrated by booting the ball on to the clubhouse roof and received a yellow for his lack of manners. It infuriated a few of the crowd who presumably supporting the visitors. They got even more pissed off when the lino told them that he’d have done the same. They soon cheered up when a third goal was added from a free-kick a minute later.

I’d made a mistake sitting in the stand nearest to the food hut as every time someone passed with a burger, Henry gave them his full attention until it had been eaten. Bedlington got more into the game as we approached half-time but couldn’t take any of their chances and went in at the break three down.

The ref continued to get some stick in the second half, on one occasion when the choice seemed to be between a penalty and a goal-kick he appeared to compromise with a corner. That decision left nobody happy and resulted in both sides berating him.

Chester-le Street added a couple more in the final quarter of an hour before Terriers notched a consolation at the end. I missed that one as Henry had slipped his lead and ran into the food cabin. He had his eye on a big bowl of chips but fortunately the lady in there managed to head him off. Other results didn’t go the way of Bedlington and they dropped into the bottom three making relegation a real possibility.

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

May 5, 2022

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.

Gateshead Rutherford v Killingworth, Monday 18th April 2022, 6.30pm

May 4, 2022

I suppose the only good thing about the Boro’s game against Huddersfield was that it was a lunchtime kick-off and that meant that I could head to a second Bank Holiday Monday fixture.

I had a couple of options, both in the Northern Alliance, and picked the nearest one which was at Gateshead Rutherford’s Farnacres ground. Rutherford were taking on league leaders Killingworth in the eleventh tier Premier Division.

Farnacres is just off the A1, before the Metro Centre. It’s up a country lane with parking outside of a fence where if you chose, you could watch the game from your car. It was a pleasant evening though and so I headed inside. I don’t think that there was anyone taking money, at least there wasn’t at the gate I used. Hopefully I hadn’t cheated them out of a couple of quid.

Rutherford were in a red and black kit with Killingworth in grey. A win for the visitors would be enough to clinch the title and of the eighty or so spectators who were lined up at the top of the embankment I’d estimate that around half were supporting the champions elect.

In addition to the people watching there were also a few dogs in attendance. I was stood near to an elderly beagle who had that faded appearance that comes with age. At half time when I went into the clubhouse for a chip butty, his eyes didn’t leave me until the empty polystyrene tray had been deposited in the bin.

There were also a few greyhounds, a couple of shih tzus, a spaniel and two French bulldogs. In fact, I missed the final goal of the evening as I was scratching one of the bulldogs on the head.

Rutherford had nothing to play for in this end of season game. Perhaps that explained why they only had the one sub available compared to Killingworth’s full bench. I was pleased to see the lad get on, even if only for the last ten minutes. It would have been soul-destroying to have been the only option for a change and still not receive the nod.

For a team with nothing at stake, Rutherford certainly put the effort in. They took an early lead and when pegged back in the second half soon got back in front. They conceded a second equaliser before nicking the winner with fifteen minutes to go. By that time, it was getting dark and I doubt that anyone was hoping for much added time. The defeat for Killingworth meant that their title celebrations would have to wait another week.