Posts Tagged ‘Northern League’

Willington v Tow Law Town, Tuesday 26th December 2017, 11am

January 25, 2018

Bank Holiday games in the Northern League generally kick-off at 11am and so that meant I had time to fit one in before the Boro’s Boxing Day fixture against Bolton. I picked Willington as it was handy enough to get to from Sedgefield.

On the way there I passed a couple of signs for a Roman fort. It’s a shame that I don’t plan ahead a bit more as I’d have quite liked to have had a look around and it might have made the blog post mildly interesting for a change. Oh well.

It was five quid to get into Hall Lane for the Division Two game with Tow Law Town. It’s a ground that has been home to Willington for almost all of their hundred-plus years and I think the stand opposite the dugouts dates back to the 1930’s.  As ever, most of the crowd stood around the perimeter fence. It was a decent turnout, as you’d expect on a Boxing Day and I overheard one fella say that at almost two hundred, it was three times the usual attendance.

I don’t know a great deal about Willington other than they were managed for a while by Malcolm Allison. This was after he had left the Boro and long after his hey-day. If Willington had a team bath back in those days then it would be nice to think that the likes of Fiona Richmond would still be joining Big Mal in it for a bottle or two of champagne.

In addition to a former Boro manager, I seem to remember that they had one of our captains for a while. Tony McAndrew had a spell with them in the late-eighties as his playing career drew to a close. I’m pretty sure Trappa captained Chelsea during his spell there too. It’s hard to imagine any modern-day footballer continuing at this level after a successful pro-career, never mind Chelsea captains who probably earn enough in a week to fund Willington for a few years.

The game was lively from the off with a kung-fu style assault going unpunished in the first minute. The ref lost control from then on in and having set an early precedent allowed another couple of potential reds to go unpunished as the tackles flew in.

Willington were kicking down the slope and opened the scoring in the first half when someone tucked away the rebound from a shot that the Tow Law keeper couldn’t palm far enough away from danger. It stayed that way until half-time. I queued for a chippy butty and updated the tea lady on the violent disorder out on the pitch.

Tow Law could have gone top with a win but that looked increasingly unlikely as Willington went two up a few minutes after the break. The visitors had their chances, hitting the post and then having a penalty saved but despite the pressure Willington added another at the death for a slightly flattering three-nil win.

 

Shildon v Billingham Synthonia, Saturday 23rd December 2017, 3pm

January 22, 2018

Jen and I were in the UK for Christmas and with the Boro away at Sheff Wed I thought I’d take in a Northern League game. We were staying at Sedgefield and so it was only a twenty-five minute drive to Shildon for their Division One clash with Billingham Synthonia.

As I often do, I assumed that I’d be visiting a one-horse town and that it would be impossible to miss the football ground. I was wrong again and somehow managed to drive the full length of Shildon twice before admitting defeat and checking the location on my phone.

It was six pounds to get in and then another couple of quid for a programme. A bucket collection on the other side of the turnstile hoovered up the remaining change from my tenner.

I’m told that the Dean Court Ground dates back to 1903 and that the big five hundred seater stand was built in 1923. The stand might not see its centenary though as on my visit all you could do was loiter in front of it. The seated area had been taped off, presumably as some sort of safety measure.

On the opposite side of the ground was a much newer stand that had only been open for a few weeks. It holds two hundred and has replaced a longer covered terracing section. I’m not sure that’s progress at all. The crowd of 190 could have all fitted in the new stand, but most chose to stand at various points around the perimeter.

I positioned myself behind the home dugout for a while and listened to the softly spoken Shildon manager advising his players on his requirements for flatness and narrowness. I wasn’t really paying enough attention to remember whether they were too flat and too narrow or not flat and narrow enough. Possibly it varied according to the state of play. Regardless, I liked the calm way he got his point across to his players one at a time.

I had hoped that one of the players would be former Boro Youth Cup winner Anthony Peacock. Remember him, the little midfielder? After spells at Darlo and Spennymoor, he turns out for Shildon these days. Unfortunately he had been out injured for a while.

Despite Shildon being up at the top end of the table and Synthonia rock bottom, current form for the two teams was very similar. Whilst the home side had the better chances throughout and pressed hard towards the end, the result went true to current form and the game finished goalless.

Crook Town v Tow Law Town, Friday 17th February 2017, 7.30pm

April 7, 2017

Jen and I were staying in Sedgefield for this UK visit  and that made it handy for getting to a Northern League Division Two fixture at Crook. I was reasonably confident of finding their Millfield ground on the basis that if I followed the sign at the A1 roundabout for Bishop Auckland, sooner or later there would be a sign for Crook. Sure enough, that’s exactly how it worked.

I’d also assumed that Crook would be a small enough town to make finding the stadium a doddle, but if it hadn’t been an evening kick-off under floodlights I’d probably have struggled a little more than I did.

It was five quid to get in, with another pound for a programme. From what I can gather, the ground pre-dates Crook Town’s formation in 1889. It has seen a few Amateur Cup winning sides including one that featured Frank Clark, a future European Cup winner with Nottingham Forest.

There was a main stand that was built in the twenties and a slightly smaller one to its right. The goal at that end had some concrete terracing and the other two sides just a grassy bank apiece.

Tow Law were the visitors in a reverse of the fixture that I’d seen at their Ironworks Road ground last season. Most of the noise came from the players who, in what didn’t seem to be an ironic manner, spent the match shouting to each other that they were “too quiet”. I’m not sure that any situation can ever be too quiet.

If the players weren’t berating each other they were having a pop at the ref and each side seemed to have a rota for carrying out the criticism. If all of the players are critical in turn, I presume it’s less likely that one will be singled out for a yellow card. I’d just book them all.

There were a couple of hundred home fans and a small section of visitors up in the main stand. Although with the two towns only being five miles apart there were probably a few more Tow Law supporters dotted around the ground. Neither set of fans made much noise, with the biggest contribution coming from a bloke leaning on the railing who was coughing so hard that I thought he might hack his rib cage up.

Tow Law were the better side and after being a couple of goals up at half-time kept adding to their score as the game went on. Crook had neither the necessary composure or luck in front of goal and as the second-half drew to a close found themselves five-nil behind.

I hung on to see if the visitors could match the six-nil score of the game I saw between the teams last season.  Tow Law came close, hitting the post with the final kick of the evening. I suppose Crook can take some comfort from the slightly smaller defeat. I might turn up next year and see if they can maintain their improvement and limit the deficit to four.

Stokesley Sports Club v Thornaby, Monday 2nd May 2016, 11am

August 13, 2016

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The Bank Holiday games in the Northern League tend to start a bit earlier than the regular three o’clock kick-offs. It makes a lot of sense as it still leaves enough of the day to do other things afterwards.

A quick scan of fixtures revealed that Stokesley were at home to Thornaby and as Jen and I were staying just down the road in a cottage at Ingleby Greenhow it seemed an ideal choice.

We’ve stayed at Ingleby a couple of times now. It’s quiet, but close enough to Norton to make doing the family stuff easy enough. Being out in the countryside makes it interesting for the grandkids too and they revelled in talking to the sheep and horses, poking a dead pheasant and chasing rabbits down the long driveway.

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It was also handy enough for Jen and I to do a bit more of the Cleveland Way and we hiked from Clay Bank to Osmotherley and back over a couple of days.

The weather was fine and whilst I tend to prefer the coastal sections of the trail, the mix of woodland and open moors, together with the views of Teesside made both days decent walks.

Mind you, we probably could have done with an earlier start on the second day as we ended up coming down off the moors in darkness.

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The weather was less impressive for the game at Stokesley’s ground, with strong winds and the odd spot of rain. It was five quid to get in and the bloke on the gate apologised for being sold out of programmes. He generously offered to post one to me, but as I’m trying to give up accumulating stuff that will never see the light of day again I very politely fucked him off.

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I made my way around to the far side of the ground just as the game began, passing a dog with a burst football in its mouth. I’m not sure that it’s particularly wise to bring to a dog with that sort of hobby to a match.

I’m not a fan of Banning Orders, mainly on the basis that we have sufficient proper laws to deal with football-related skullduggery, but I’d find it hard to oppose one for the owner if Fido decided to add to his popped Mitre Multiplex collection.

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Thornaby were in blue shirts that were way too big for most of their players. The blustery conditions meant that the wind kept getting trapped inside of them. Part of me wanted the wind to pick up further on the off-chance that some of the lighter members of the visiting team might get literally carried away.

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Spurred on by the presence of a bumper bank holiday crowd of forty-seven (and a dog), Stokesley took the lead on the half-hour. I was quite surprised as they hadn’t been doing at all well this year and weekly hammerings had left them well adrift at the foot of the table and long-since relegated.

In fact, in what I’d assumed to be a reasonable form guide, they’d suffered at nine-one defeat to Thornaby in the reverse fixture, just the previous week.

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Normality was restored before the break with two Thornaby goals and with the rain getting heavier I took my eighty pence cup of coffee into the covered stand for the second half.

A few visiting fans with their blue and white scarves had made the trip from Thornaby and they were rewarded as the visitors extended their lead to an eventual four-two victory.

That was it for the for the season for those two teams. That was also it for the Northern League as far as Stokesley are concerned as they will start next season in the not quite so prestigious Wearside League. I doubt it will make much difference to the dog.

Tow Law Town v Crook Town, Saturday 30th April 2016, 3pm

July 31, 2016

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A couple of days after arriving in the UK, Jen and I had a drive out to Tow Law for their derby with Crook Town in the second division of the Northern League. I don’t think I’ve ever been to Tow Law before and it was a lot more pleasing on the eye than I’d imagined it to be.

Whereas I’d been expecting somewhere run-down, with polystyrene take-away trays blowing down a deserted high street, it was actually a pleasant little town with plenty of countryside around it. More green than the grey that I’d anticipated.

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The Ironworks Road ground dates back to 1893 although the ironworks that it is named after had actually closed a good ten years or so earlier than that. I’m not sure how much of the ground is original, although the fella that took our fivers to get in reckoned that the ‘step-on’ turnstile might very well have been.

There were plenty of options for viewing the game and we initially stood behind the goal at the end where we had come in. When the rain that had threatened for a while finally arrived we moved to the stand behind the dugouts.

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A good proportion of the sixty or so crowd had the same idea, with a few kids seeking shelter at the far end in the standing enclosure with a small roof on it. A handful of older blokes braved the drizzle on the terracing opposite us, whilst one or two fans tucked in close to the walls of the changing rooms.

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I was a bit disappointed with the standard of play, although I seem to think the same thing every time I go to a Northern League game. Surely the technical ability of the players should be so much higher these days with the academy system. Whilst I’ve no idea if any of the players were ex-pros, you’d think that most of them would have been in academies for some of their formative years. If so, it didn’t show.

Tow Law created plenty of the chances and the Crook goalie managed to somehow get out of the way of most of them. He had a signature move of quickly dropping to his arse whenever a shot was fired in, as if he was playing Musical Bumps.

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If only the keeper been as successful at getting out of the way of the barber he might not have ended up with a curly perm on the top inch of his head with the remainder shaved to the bone.

At half time I got myself a coffee and some chips from the window near to the turnstiles and we had a chat with a bloke who had brought a wooden rattle. He was younger than us, so it wasn’t as if he’d had it since the nineteen fifties or whenever they were popular. I doubt you’d get into the Boro with a device like that these days.

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We watched the second half from the terracing on the opposite side to the stand. It meant that we got to hear the linesman keeping the players straight as to what they were doing wrong. He’d quite happily point out to a whining centre-half that “you played him on” or that “the full-back didn’t step up”.

At one point he got into a shouty exchange with a coach over the hand signals that he had used to indicate that a player had returned from a previously offside position. I suspected that the most recent offside change that the other fella was aware of was when it changed from three defenders to two, back in the days when the Ironworks still had that lingering smell of fresh paint.

The officiating was all very impressive, but wasted on those players and coaches. I doubt I’d have had the inclination or the patience to explain my decisions. Nor, come to think of it, the stamina to run up and down the line.

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It wasn’t much of a contest, with Tow Law being five goals up by early in the second half. They could probably have had more but a few of the home players looked happy to see the season out at a canter.

The excitement levels perked up towards the end when with all of the Crook Town subs used, or more likely, an incomplete bench to begin with, an injured outfield player had to swap positions with Mr. Musical Bumps. The change made little difference, apart perhaps from reducing the opportunities for the original goalie to have a bit of a sit down.

Tow Law rounded off the afternoon with a sixth goal before the end and brought their season to a close. It wouldn’t be overly harsh to suggest that for some of the Crook players, the season had finished long before kick-off.