Posts Tagged ‘Northern League’

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.

West Allotment Celtic v Crook Town, Tuesday 5th April 2022, 7.30pm

April 7, 2022

The Northern League finishes this month and there are plenty of midweek fixtures as clubs deal with games lost to the weather and covid. This one was at East Palmersville Sports Pavilion, just a bit north of the Tyne Tunnel. West Allotment Celtic moved there this season after a nomadic few years and I suppose their recent arrival explains why I couldn’t see any allotments anywhere around the ground.

It was six quid in, with another two for the programme and a further quid for the raffle. No luck again, although as I rarely drink rose wine, it wasn’t a big disappointment.

There were slim pickings at the tea hut, with a choice between a hot dog and a cheeseburger. As the cheeseburgers were still being cooked, I went for the hot dog. I’m not really convinced that they should count as food, but I hadn’t had my tea and thought I should have something.

I took a seat in one of the covered stands where I was soon joined by an old bloke who supported the visitors, Crook Town. He was adamant that Crook would win and kept telling me that they were the better side.

On discovering that I was from Stockton he advised me that the market day was a Wednesday, but there was little point in going as it had declined a lot in recent years. Whilst I knew Stockton’s market day, I’ve no idea of market days in any other town. That sort of knowledge struck me as a bit of a superpower and was certainly more impressive than his assessment of the state of play on the pitch.

There were few chances and no score in the first half. West took the lead midway through the second with a cracking strike from the edge of the box. I missed the Crook equaliser from a penalty in the dying moments as with ten minutes to go I’d nipped out to the clubhouse for a slash and with the rain coming down decided to head for the car rather than return to my seat.

The draw kept both sides in a lower mid-table position as they see out the season.

Birtley Town v Durham City, Saturday 2nd April 2022, 3pm

April 5, 2022

I had some college stuff to do this weekend, but it had been changed late on from an in-person workshop to all being done remotely. That meant that when my involvement was finished by early afternoon, I could look for a local game rather than the ones that I had been considering somewhere near Chelmsford.

The fixture I selected, on the basis of it being less than forty minutes’ drive away, was in the second Division of the Northern League. Birtley Town were taking on Durham City at Birtley Sports Complex.

Birtley were one of the founder members of the Northern League in 1889, but soon dropped out and then disappeared for a while. They were promoted from the Northern Alliance four years ago and have had a steady mid-table season this year.

Durham City have had a disastrous time of it lately, with just two draws all season and a goal difference approaching minus one hundred and fifty. Maybe today would be their first win.

I’d cut it a bit too fine and with the car park full I missed the opening few minutes. As I walked across the adjacent pitch, I saw Birtley take the lead. They were in green and white with Durham in black and red. Maybe another double figure defeat was on the cards for Durham. It was a fiver in with no programmes or team sheets. My strip of raffle tickets was about five away from winning whatever the prize was.

Once inside I took up a position on the rail and watched a collie playing with a burst football. Every now and again he would nip under the barrier with it between his teeth, as if to show the players what he might do if their ball came his way. There were other dogs in attendance including a chihuahua in a green scarf that had its own bed in the tea hut.

After a while I moved around to the small, covered stand on the far side. The potential goal rush didn’t materialise and Durham had their chances to equalise before Birtley doubled their lead just before half-time. There was a hint of offside about the goal and the Durham defence stopped and waited for the whistle. It didn’t come though, causing one of their management team to give the ref some serious abuse. He took it better than I would have and when a spectator suggested that he simply tell the gobshite to fuck off, he replied with a smile “Good idea, mate, but I can’t”.

At half-time I got some chips and gravy, attracting the attention of the collie who saw them as much more interesting than his burst football. Birtley added a third midway through the half before Durham managed a consolation from a penalty towards the end.

It was a competitive game, which suggests Durham are on the right tracks. It would be good to see them get a win before the season ends.

Whickham v Newcastle Benfield, Wednesday 29th March 2022, 7.30pm

April 2, 2022

Isn’t British Summer Time good? Unless, I suppose, you’ve got early morning cow milking and electric lights haven’t yet reached your part of the world. The changing of the clocks meant that this was the first evening game in a while where I’ve been able to drive there in the daylight. I went up to Whickham, which is just off the A1, moments before you would pass the Metro Centre.

Whickham were taking on Newcastle Benfield in Division One of the Northern League. Both sides have had a decent season but are some distance off the possibility of promotion.

The game was at The Glebe. Its capacity is listed as four thousand, but with just the one small stand a capacity crowd would mean people having to stand around four deep along the railings. Fortunately, the attendance didn’t quite reach one hundred and fifty, so we all had plenty of room.

I paid six quid to get in, another two for a decent programme and gambled a quid on the blind card. I’ve yet to win a single thing at any of the grounds that I’ve been to. Maybe there should just be a bucket for me to tip the contents of my wallet into instead.

I’d not had time for tea before setting off and so called into the cabin and bought some chips with curry sauce. I got a can of coke but it was too cold outside to drink it and so I stuck it in my pocket and got a coffee instead. It seems that the hot weather of the past weekend was only temporary and with snow forecast I was quite pleased that I hadn’t moved the rescue minnows from their tank to the small pond in the garden as I’d planned to do. I might not be able to put them in there at all now as my granddaughter has filled it with tadpoles from the quarry and I’ve no idea how they would get on.

Incidentally, have you ever given any thought to what tadpoles eat? Me neither, but I didn’t think it would involve me buying, boiling and finely chopping spring greens. I put more effort into the tadpoles dinner than I do my own. Apparently once they grow legs they become carnivorous and if you don’t give them meat they will eat each other. Charming. I doubt the beagle will stand idly by whilst I lob steak cubes into the water.

Whickham were dressed up, as so many teams are in this part of the world, as Newcastle whilst Benfield were in a yellow kit with red trim similar to the one that I’ve a slight recollection of Liverpool wearing in the eighties.

The home side took the lead in the first couple of minutes when a floated cross from the left dropped in at the back post. Two more crosses from the same side led to headed finishes and Whickham were three goals to the good by half-time.

I left the covered stand for the second half and watched from different vantage points on the rail. The slope on the pitch was much more noticeable from the side. You’d think that there would be a farmer up there with earth moving equipment who’d be willing to level it out during the close season.

Whickham added a fourth from a penalty when a defender handled whilst lying on the floor. It was borderline deliberate DOGSO in my opinion so him feigning astonishment at both the decision and the subsequent yellow card seemed a little extreme. A fifth goal followed midway through the half after a rare Whickham break down the right-hand side.

The sixth and final goal for Whickham came after a free kick was charged down and the loose ball cracked home on the half-volley from twenty yards. Whickham clearly deserved the win but I think the six goal margin flattered them and suggested a gulf between the teams that wasn’t often reflected in open play. Still, that’s what the records will show.

Newcastle Benfield v Seaham Red Star, Wednesday 23rd March 2022, 7.30pm

March 26, 2022

I’ve been steadily working my way through the Northern League grounds and this game, at an hour’s drive away, was the nearest option this evening. I could have got to Benfield Park a little quicker if I’d used the Tyne Tunnel but now that they’ve taken away the option to do anything other than pay online I can’t be arsed with remembering and then making the payment once I’ve got back home.

The game was between Newcastle Benfield and Seaham Red Star in the Northern League Division 1 Cup. I’d never heard of the competition before, but there’s lots of things that I haven’t heard of so that’s no reflection on the prestige of the competition.

It was six pounds in and another two for a programme. Benfield Park is a decent ground. There were two covered stands that each seated about a hundred people, a couple of raised terrace areas, a hospitality suite, and a clubhouse. There was also a tea hut where I got a Bovril and almost killed myself with salt poisoning. Someone should invent a version that replaces the salt with pepper.

Bizarrely, there were also a couple of outdoor gym areas just in case anyone wanted to do some pedalling or pummel a punch bag.

Newcastle Benfield were in blue and white stripes with Seaham Red Star in red and white. Newcastle created the better chances in the first half but the away goalie was equal to them. There were a few tackles flying in, but I thought the ref controlled the game well despite the constant moaning at him from both sides. After one altercation he ordered the two miscreants to come to him and he gave them an enormous bollocking that all of the 131 people in the crowd were able to hear. A nice alternative to a couple of yellow cards.

I switched seats at half time and moved to the other side of the pitch. That stand is behind the dugouts, so I got the moaning by the management teams closer up. Seaham took the lead from a penalty early on in the second half, but Newcastle equalised with around twenty minutes to go and then nicked a winner close to the end. By this time the ref had started supplementing his bollockings with cards and the visitors finished a man down.

It was another enjoyable evening out, just sitting quietly waiting for a bit of skill beyond expectations and with the lack of tension that comes from not caring which team wins.

Brandon United v Chester-le-Street Town, Wednesday 9th March 2022, 7.45pm

March 11, 2022

I had a couple of options for games this evening and if I’d gone to Washington instead, I’d have witnessed a world record penalty shootout that finally ended up with a 25-24 winner after 54 kicks. I imagine that the shoot-out will probably have taken around three-quarters of an hour to complete though and so at times people would have been wishing that it had just gone to a replay.

Instead, I went to Welfare Park for the Northern League game between Brandon United and Chester-le-Street Town.

It was a fiver in and I picked up a programme for a quid. I’m always impressed when clubs of this size produce programmes. With average crowds around the sixty mark I suspect the sales might be in single figures, which is a shame as it was exceptionally well done. I learned from it that Brandon started out as a Sunday League side in the sixties and have the FA Sunday Cup on their list of trophies. They have won the Northern League too, although they are currently struggling in the bottom half of the second division.

Welfare Park looks as if it’s as old as the club. There are some benches behind one goal that are rotting away and the covered seated stand has areas in front of it that have been fenced off, presumably for safety reasons. With perimeter fencing that looks to date from the sixties as well it’s a bit like being in a time-warp. If they do get around to upgrading anything, I suspect that Beamish might be interested in the old stuff. It’s a pity that this was a night game as there looked to be a great view across the pitch to what might have been Durham. In the dark though, it was just a cluster of distant lights.

Brandon were in all red with visitors Chester-le-Street in yellow and blue. Imagine it as Wales v Sweden. Both sides appeared to struggle with the cold and the wind and a lot of first touches seemed to go straight to an opposition player. Brandon broke the deadlock not long before half-time with a header after some penalty box pinball and that was enough to take the points and move them a little further towards mid-table.

Heaton Stannington v Durham City, Friday 25th February 2022, 7.30pm

March 2, 2022

Jen has been in America for the last few weeks and whilst Harry has been coming along to a few games he was at his Nanna’s for this one. He’s got millions of Nannas and Great-Nannas. Fewer Grandads though as we are all dying off. That’s how it works.

I was dogsitting over the weekend and so Henry the beagle stepped in as a match-day companion. He wasn’t too keen initially as he’d already settled down on the settee for the evening but once we got up to Heaton he perked up. He’s a weird dog. On Bonfire Night he sat on the back steps and watched the firework display. If he’s up for something like that then some lower league football should be a treat for him.

It was a fiver admission at Grounsell Park for humans with no charge for canines. I suppose they usually earn less than we do. My losing raffle tickets this week were for a Heaton Stannington branded coat. That’s marginally better than the usual two bottles of booze if you are a ‘Stan’ fan of just the right size, but I’d have made more use of some screw-top sauvignon.

It’s quite the done thing to bring a dog to Northern League games, more so at this ground than most. There was an airedale, a pug, something that looked a bit like a spaniel with a perm and a long-haired sausage dog. I don’t think I’d ever seen one of those before.

The area near the entrance and outside the bar was packed, so I headed further along to the covered seated stand and we watched the first half from there.

Heaton Stannington were in a skinny black and white striped kit with Durham City in yellow and blue. It didn’t take long for the home side to open the scoring and they were three up within half an hour. The scoreline wasn’t much of a surprise as Heaton Stannington are running away with Division Two of the Northern League whilst Durham City are adrift at the bottom of the table with only two points all season and a goal difference of minus one hundred and twenty-six.

There was part of me that hoped to see a rout. Is that mean spirited? I usually try not to be. Durham City had already lost by ten goals on three occasions this season and back in November were beaten sixteen-one by Carlisle City. You don’t get to witness outcomes like that too often.

At one stage in the season it looked as if Durham City might fold due to debts of a hundred and fifty thousand pounds. But, approaching March, they’ve managed to stick around.

There were another two goals early in the second half but to everyone’s surprise they both came from the visitors. Order was restored with a quick response from ‘The Stan’ as we approached the hour-mark.

The final half hour was end to end as both sides pushed for an oddly crucial seventh goal of the game. It was the home side that managed it in injury time to seal a five-two win that flattered them to an extent. The dog seemed to have enjoyed the evening out but was happy to return to the settee.

Newton Aycliffe v Billingham Town, Tuesday 8th February 2022, 7.45pm

February 16, 2022

Newton Aycliffe is another of those places that’s not too far from me, but I’ve never been to. I suppose you’d need a reason to go there and I’d never had one. That is, not until I’d wanted to tick off their Northern League ground.

I parked up near to the Moore Lane Sports Club and was directed towards the pitch through a gate in a wooden fence. It was seven quid to get in and the only team sheet available was fixed to a wall. There were no programmes either, due to “the media officer having gone to Hartlepool”.

I enjoy flicking through a programme, but I can appreciate that with sales likely to be in low double figures it’s a thankless task to produce them. Hopefully the career progression of the former media officer will encourage someone looking for a start in football media work to get involved at Newton Aycliffe and resurrect their matchday magazine.

I bought raffle tickets giving the chance to win a bottle of something or other and took a seat in the covered stand along one side of the pitch. Newton Aycliffe turned out in blue with Billingham Town in a white kit. The hosts are challenging for promotion from Division One of the Northern League with Town down at the bottom of the table.

The pitch was fairly cut up by modern standards with both goalmouths made up of mud rather than grass. Newton Aycliffe looked good early on and took the lead in the opening minutes with a shot that may have been deflected more than once.

The talking point of the first half was a Billingham town striker being sin-binned for telling the ref to “Fuck Off’. Whilst swearing is ever-present in football, there’s a line and he crossed it. I like the sin-bin approach being trialled in the Norther League but I’d like it more if players were simply sent off instead for abusing officials.

Newton Aycliffe added a second goal twenty minutes from time when a precise ball across the face of the goal was tapped in to clinch a win that keeps them in contention for promotion.

Horden CW v Redcar Town, Tuesday 9th November 2021, 7.45pm

November 10, 2021

I’ve been slowly working my way through the Northern League grounds, but hadn’t put any urgency on visiting Welfare Park, home of newly promoted to Division Two side Horden Community Welfare. Then I read that their old main stand was to be knocked down and despite never having even heard of it before it became a priority to visit whilst it was still there. It’s hard to fathom the stuff that suddenly appears important when it clearly isn’t.

Anyway, it’s only twenty minutes up the road when the A19 hasn’t been closed for repairs. I parked on the road outside, paid my fiver and another pound-fifty for the one remaining programme. It came complete with the elastic band that had been holding the bundle together and which added to the dog poo bags, carrots for horses and face masks that were already filling my pockets. If I ever get sent to prison I’ll no doubt be baffled when they give me back my possessions on the way out.

The main stand was still in use, although the seats at the outer edges were covered with sheeting. I took a seat in the second row and listened to the blokes behind me chat about the sport in general. One or more of them clearly had professional connections and it made me think about how little I know. I don’t mind that though, I’m quite happy to rock up without even knowing who any of the players are and just watch an eleven v eleven contest unfold.

There was a young lad sat in front of me who was supporting Horden and he was keen to see them open the scoring. He asked me if I thought that they were doing ok and I told him that they were. They had the best chances in the first half and it was only due to some poor finishing and good goalkeeping that the game remained goalless at the break.

I got myself chips and gravy at half-time and having experienced the condemned stand I wandered around to the terracing behind the goal to the right. There were around a hundred and fifty spectators in total with a few groups of teenagers having a laugh, a selection of solitary old blokes like me and some dog walkers who were combining a bit of football with exercising the pooch.

The lad in the stand got his wish when Horden went a goal up early in the second half. Redcar were never out of it though and turned it around with two goals in the last ten minutes. It was a niggly game and it spilled over at the end when the players realized that they had ran out of time to settle their scores on the pitch.

One player picked up a red card after the final whistle and a couple of the protagonists looked keen to continue their disputes as they disappeared into the tunnel. I struggle to understand that mentality and that, in addition to a lack of talent, fitness and inclination, is probably why I’ve generally watched football rather than played.

Guisborough Town v West Allotment Celtic, Wednesday 24th August 2021, 7.45pm

September 11, 2021

Despite living less than half an hour away for a lot of my life I’ve never been to Guisborough forest. I didn’t even know they had a forest. It’s rarely too late to put something right though and as we’d planned to be in the area for a game later that evening we parked up at the visitor centre and had a look around.

We might have timed our arrival better as we parked up at a quarter to six, fifteen minutes before the need to pay for parking ended. Still, these things tend to balance out.

We walked along a disused railway line, first in a direction that brought us out in a housing estate and then by reversing our steps and heading back to the visitor centre to an area less inhabited. First impressions were very favourable. There are plenty of benches, sculptures and structures for kids to climb on. We only covered a small fraction of the paths so I suspect that we will be heading back at some point with the dog and grandkids.

The match was at Guisborough’s George V ground in Division One of the Northern League and it was seven quid to get in for their tier nine game against West Allotment Celtic. There wasn’t a programme but team sheets were being handed out. A slight drizzle was in the air which I always thought was great for playing in. It’s refreshing when running and it gives the ball that extra bit of pace across the wet grass. As a spectator it’s a pain in the arse and so we nabbed seats in the small covered stand just along from the dugouts.

Our wandering in the woods meant that we’d missed our tea and so I got pie and chips from the kiosk.  I had the choice between pork and mince. I asked which was best and whilst one lady wouldn’t commit, the other silently mouthed mince from behind her colleagues back. Once I had committed to mince the other commented that she wasn’t too sure about hot pork pies. The mince pie was ok but I should have got gravy on the chips. In the twin interests of research and gluttony I later got a pork pie and it was very good, despite being warm.

The game was well attended with 241 turning out. Some were in a covered standing area on the opposite side to us, whilst a few braved the light rain and leaned on the perimeter fence. There were lots of kids making the most of the remaining school holidays with many of them being looked after by dads who were enjoying the rare combination of having a pint and watching football whilst carrying out childcare duties.

Guisborough were in Sunderland strips with West Allotment Celtic (as you might imagine) in green hoops. The home side started well and scored in the third minute. I wondered at that point if a rout was on the cards. The Celtic right back was one to watch. He had a very good touch and wasn’t afraid to take a man or two on. One run saw him dispossessed over on the left wing meaning he had a fair bit of ground to make up to get back to his regular position on the field.

The visitors got more into the game as the half went on before Guisborough added a second goal just before half time. Despite the lead it wasn’t all one-way after that and the home keeper made some very good saves to keep Celtic at bay. It took a deflected shot five minutes from time to make it three-nil and clinch the points for Guisborough.