NORTHERN FOOTBALL LEAGUE
Founded 1889 - second oldest League in the world
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Wednesday, 25 April 2018
30/11/2017 West Allotment Celtic 1 Bedlington Terriers 0 – Ebac Northern League Division Two This was another night for brave, hardy spectators. And on a bitterly cold night there wasn’t a great deal on the pitch to get the blood coursing through the veins. The record books will show one goal and three valuable points for West Allotment. In the 85th minute a long ball enticed Terriers keeper David Stewart to the edge of his box to try and clear it, only to see Allotment striker Dean Walker beat him to the ball and knock it across to Bruno Mendes-Correia who tapped it into the empty goal. It wasn’t exactly leaving the best to last in a game that was short of quality. There weren’t too many other highlights, with both teams struggling to put moves of more than two or three passes together. Of the two, West Allotment were marginally better for most of the game. The main noteworthy incidents were: - Allotment’s Nicky Whitelaw shielding the ball, turning his defender and getting a shot on target in the 25th minute. - His counter-part Jack Foalle shrugging off a challenge, turning and shooting across the home goal in added time at the end of the first half. - A Terriers free kick that Allotment keeper Sam Taylor had to punch clear from just under the bar. - And a long-range effort by Terriers tipped over the bar by Taylor in the 23rd minute, with Adam Smith trying an overhead kick from the ensuing corner. And that was about it. One goal. Three points. And a lot of very cold spectators. (PS – kick off was delayed for just over 10 minutes when one of the officials went to the Blue Flames ground where West Allotment used to play instead of Druid Park where Blue Star used to play. An easy mistake to make). 29/11/2017 Alnwick Town 1 Billingham Town 3 – Ebac Northern League Division Two I’ve got no idea what Billingham Town have done to upset the rain gods, but for the second time in a week they played in atrocious conditions. But this time, unlike last week’s loss to Ryton & Crawcrook, they got a win for their troubles. It was a just reward for their efforts. The pitch passed a 5pm inspection and rightly so. It had held up well despite the heavy rain. Four and a half hours later it was looking a lot worse for wear. And just like last week’s game, both sets of players deserve praise for battling through the deteriorating conditions. By the end of the game, it wasn’t quite a mud bath, but it was obviously hard work to run at any great speed and pass with any great confidence. Billingham Town adapted to the conditions better than Alnwick and in the visitors’ No. 9 Ash Lavan they had the most skilful player on the pitch. Despite the conditions, he had an excellent game. Languishing at the bottom of the division, Alnwick struggled early on, but they took the lead in the 17th minute, against the run of play. Billingham keeper Brad James failed to keep hold of a corner and Ross Straughan couldn’t believe his luck when the ball fell to him and he got just enough on it to shepherd it into the goal. It certainly gave them a boost – their play and team work improved noticeably after taking the lead, including a cross by Lewis Robson which bounced off the top of the bar. Billingham drew level in the 36th minute when Joe Kerridge cut back on the edge of the Alnwick box and drove a shot low, just inside the far post. They’d certainly done more than enough to go into the break level. Alnwick couldn’t capitalise on two chances in the last 10 minutes of the half. Straight from the kick-off after the Billingham goal, Robson put over a cross that Brad James could only palm sideways, but there wasn’t an Alnwick player near enough to make the most of the opportunity. Christopher Laidlaw was then denied with a last-gasp sliding tackle by Matty Osmond just as he was about to shoot. That was about as good as it got for Alnwick. In the second half they couldn’t replicate their form and play of the opening 45 minutes. Just when everyone thought conditions couldn’t get much worse, hail stones started to pelt the players. It soon turned to sludge and the pitch deteriorated quickly, with the rain only stopping intermittently. Lavan put the visitors ahead in the 55th minute when he just beat the offside trap, took the ball on for 20 yards, out-pacing the defence and slotting it past Alnwick keeper Robert Hodgson. They extended their lead in the 65th minute Kerridge floated a free kick into the Alnwick box and it careered in after Jack Connor looked as though he’d got a touch on it (and it might have got a deflection off a defender before crossing the line). Twice during the second half, Billingham strikers were denied a shot by well-timed sliding tackles by Alnwick defenders. At the other end of the pitch, their striking team-mates were having less of an impact. For the last 10 minutes they changed to a 3-4-3 formation and pushed Billingham on the back foot, but they couldn’t add to their tally. At the final whistle, players and officials were well and truly drenched. They were probably drier in the post-match shower. 28/11/2017 Team Northumbria 0 Shildon 1 – Ebac Northern League Division One The consensus among those of us huddled against the wind on the far side of the pitch was that Team North deserved something out of this game, they just couldn’t find the finishing touch to a period of sustained pressure in the second half. For the last 20 minutes of the game, they tried everything they knew to get an equaliser – crosses, long-range shots and quick, short passes in the box. A sign of the pressure was seeing Shildon happy to resort to booting it clear on several occasions instead of trying to keep the ball and pass it out of defence. They steady the ship with their second consecutive win after four defeats in league and cups thanks to a goal by Jack Blackford 38 minutes into the game. The ball was passed to Adam Burnicle and he knocked it back to Blackford whose shot-cum-cross sailed over Team North keeper Greg Purvis. It came towards the end of a half that had both teams playing brisk and busy football, with neither dawdling on the ball: Shildon’s Matty Robson with a low drive just past the far post in the third minute and the home team’s Gerard Richardson with a header from a corner just over. Shildon almost took the lead in the 16th minute when a shot by Billy Greulich-Smith hit the post, the rebound came to Burnicle too quickly for the Shildon front man to get a strike on target. Team North’s best chance was just after the half-hour mark when Aidan Heywood had a shot from the edge of the box blocked by Nick Liversedge in the Shildon goal and Ben Dibb-Fuller’s follow-up shot hit the post. Dibb-Fuller and Heywood had another chance apiece just before the break, but the Team North No 10 couldn’t get an angle on his shot after running past three Shildon defenders and Heywood just missed the target with his effort. The teams exchanged chances in the second half with Burnicle, captain Daniel Moore and Michael Rae with the pick of their efforts. In the 55th minute Greulich-Smith set Burnicle up and his first-time, thumping shot was well saved by Purvis. Halfway through the half Purvis was forced into another good save by Moore’s shot. In between Team North’s late pressure, Shildon’s last chance fell to Michael Rae. Blackford sent in an excellent cross which was met by Rae at the far post, but he couldn’t wrap his foot around the ball and he hit it just wide. At the other end, the Shildon defence frustrated Team North’s dominance to see the game out. It was as cold as a Christmas market in Berlin for the hardy spectators who braved the biting wind. There was enough good football to make it worth it. 26/11/2017 Penrith 0 North Shields 3 – Ebac Northern League Division One It took North Shields quite a bit of time to get into top gear, but once they did they looked very good indeed. The upturn in their performance was partly due to their own abilities to change the way they played and in part to Penrith’s defence failing to maintain their first half performance. It was a first half where the Cumbrians gave their Tyneside visitors a tough test and only went behind to a penalty – one of those decisions that, as a spectator, you’re glad you don’t have to make. It was hardly a surprise that the returning Martyn Coleman was the main focus of Penrith’s attack. In the opening 22 minutes he had four efforts on goal. He seemed to have adopted a “shoot on sight” policy. The Cumbrians’ Plan A was to get it to Coleman as quickly as possible so he could have a shot. Plan B was get it to Coleman as quickly as possible so he could have a shot. Plan C was…..see Plans A and B. North Shields had the defence to cope with him. For the first 20 minutes North Shields were stringing lots of passes together without particularly testing Cameron Copland in the Penrith goal. That changed with the difficult refereeing decision by David Carr when he judged that defender Grant Davidson had fouled Lee Mason, with Gareth Bainbridge stepping up to convert the spot kick. Although Shields were the better side, it was all about concentration and application by the Penrith defence who held them at bay. Their best open play chance of the half was when Bainbridge and Craig McFarlane both tried to get on the end of a cross with diving headers, both just missing. Given their league position, Penrith may well have been fairly satisfied with how they had played. As a team, and the defence in particular, were less convincing in the second half. In particular the back four seemed to lose the concentration that had served them well in the opening 45. In the 63rd minute Bainbridge made it 0-2 when he got the ball in plenty of space. At first it looked as though he was going to lob Copland, but he decided to push the ball forward. His touch looked on the heavy side but Copland was caught in two minds whether to rush out or stay back. He chose the latter, allowing the Shields No. 9 to take it on and bend it round him. It was the first of three chances that came his way within four minutes, with the defence standing off him. Shields turned the ball round the Penrith defenders on several occasions, allowing runners to latch on to the ball. The game was sealed in the 76th minute when the ball came in from the right through a bunch of players, finding McFarlane at the far post and he managed to find a gap through a crowded six-yard box to make it 0-3. The Penrith defenders continued to struggle with the Shields players running round and past them. At the other end, they had a couple of efforts on goal in the last 10 minutes, but the game had been put beyond them. The final whistle saw spectators make pretty sharpish tracks to the bar and cars at a “parky” Frenchfield Park. There was snow on them thar hills. 22/11/2017 Ryton & Crawcrook Albion 1 Billingham Town 0 – Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup This game had no right to be as good as it was. At times the rain fell in almost biblical proportions. The players deserve a lot of credit for the quality on show. In much better weather this would have been a pretty decent game, it was all the more commendable how both sides still played their football despite the conditions. There was a sense of déjà vu about the game too. Earlier this season Ryton played Chester-le-Street in the league; the visitors hit the woodwork and Ryton scored a winner deep into injury time. Three months later, they were at it again. In dramatic style, they left it late again to grab the winner, which gets them through to the next round of the EA cup. In the 91st minute Michael Hedley latched on to a long ball and ran at goal, riding one tackle by Kris Summers, got into the box and was about to shoot when the Town defender slid in and fouled the Ryton striker. Callum Turnbull tucked the penalty away. It was a tough way for Town to go out of the cup. They, like their Ryton counter-parts, had given everything in the tough conditions, made slightly easier by a pitch that held up remarkably well. It wasn’t a night for nimble footwork in the penalty area – more of a night for a hatful of long-range shots by both teams and plenty of sliding tackles. In the first half Billingham Town passed their ball around the better of the two and were more patient in their build up play. Ryton tried to get it upfield as quickly as possible. In the second half their build-up play improved. Twice Town had players only a foot or two away from getting on the end of quality crosses and in the 56th they had a double chance only to be thwarted by the woodwork. Craig Ruddy saw his shot come back off the post, the ball bounced up and Joseph Kerridge had an effort hit the bar. Town players couldn’t quite believe that they hadn’t scored. Before the goal, Mason Stephenson had the home team’s best chance when his fine shot from distance was well saved by Mark Hodgson. Hodgson’s counterpart, Ryton keeper Darren Houghton, decided to wear a baseball cap – probably a wise decision to help him see better in the pouring rain. The rain did eventually ease up, but only with a couple of minutes to go before the end of the game. By then, there were a lot of tired legs on the pitch. The ground’s famous bus stop shelters have never been some busy and never been so needed. The one slight disappointment was the sending off of Jake Fenton. He was given a yellow card for a foul and within seconds he was shown a second yellow – presumably for “verbals” at the referee. A slight blemish on an otherwise commendable night of football for brave fans, exemplary officials and players who got on with the game without any whingeing about the weather. So finally - and a first for the blog – a roll of honour for services above and beyond: The players – Darren Houghton, David Below, Jack Moody, Callum Turnbull, Liam Barker, Liam Anderson, Mason Stephenson, Phil Hodges, Martyn Hepple, Michael Hedley, Tyler Davis and subs Kevin Anstey, Lee Crammond and Sam Moore. Mark Hodgson, Brandon Kirkbride, Lee Moore, Craig Ruddy, Stephen Oakley, Kris Summers, Elliott Beddow, Clayton McDonald, Danny Lambert, Jack Connor, Joseph Kerridge, and sub Jake Fenton (red card not withstanding). The officials – Steve Lawson, Jack Herriot and Rob Denton. The other 32 spectators who braved the elements. If I’d have had the opportunity to get your names, I’d have been happy to include them as well. And a big thank you to the staff at Ryton and Crawcrook for ensuring the game went ahead. 21/11/2017 Ashington 2 Billingham Synthonia 0 – Ebac Northern League Division One Good matches, full of incidents, make blog writing relatively easy. Once you’ve got the opening paragraph sorted, the rest looks after itself. I’m not sure where to start for last night’s game. It wasn’t a bad game, but neither was it gripping. In essence it boiled down to: Ashington having a stroke of luck and getting a second goal right at the end of the game to make the scoreline a tad flattering. For the Synners it was about a gameplan that almost worked, some bad luck, and being inches away on a couple of occasions from getting something from the match. Ashington’s first half display was better than their second half performance. They controlled much of the play in the first 45 without fully testing James Dawson in the Synners goal. Ashington’s good fortune was Billingham Synthonia’s bad luck: The second half was only seconds old when an Ashington shot was blocked by Dawson. Unfortunately for the visitors, full-back Tom Gavin was right next to him and the ball hit him and rebounded into the goal. In the second half the Colliers seemed content to sit on their lead rather than go all –out for more goals. In the last moments of the game the second goal came: Tom White broke down the right, rode a tackle and crossed it. No. 9 Dale Pearson ran into the box at full pelt to bury it in the net. A lot of credit should also go to referee Michael Burrows for the goal – as home fans were calling for a foul on White, he allowed the advantage to be played. Many other referees would have blown up immediately and awarded a free kick. It capped a solid, if unspectacular performance by the Colliers. For the Synners, the gameplan was clearly to be solid and compact, with Jordan Jewson as a lone striker and to play on the counter-attack. The loss shouldn’t necessarily detract from the fact that for most of the game, the players executed the plan pretty well. They were within inches of taking the lead at the end of the first half when David Hillerby produced the best shot of the game, forcing Ashington keeper Conor Grant to dive at full stretch to push it away for a corner. Centre back James Rowe came within a whisker of getting an equaliser in the 76th minute when he almost timed a run to meet a corner with a header to perfection. A split second later he would have connected fully with the ball and would have probably scored. Instead all he could manage was a glancing header that went wide. In the last 15 minutes or so – and only a goal behind – they decided to push more men forward and played with a more attacking mindset . Apart from a good five-minute spell around the 30-minute mark, it was their best period of play in the match. As they pushed on for the equaliser, they left spaces at the back and conceded the late break by the Colliers. They’ve now played 22 league games, won one and drawn four. It would be easy for the players to go through the motions and give up on the season, but that wasn’t the impression of their team spirit and effort I saw last night. 19/11/2017 Bedlington Terriers 1 Heaton Stannington 2 – Ebac Northern League Division Two The Terriers didn’t get the reward they deserved for their honest endeavour throughout this game and a more positive approach in the second half. Meanwhile, Heaton Stannington in general, and Jonathan Wright in particular, made the most of their opportunities. The game didn’t get off to the most promising of starts – the opening 10 minutes the play was more like pinball – the ball bouncing around with moves lasting no more than two or three passes for each team before they lost possession. In fact, other than an excellent goal by Wright and a good 10-minute period for the Terriers, it was all a bit mediocre. Most of the play was down the Terriers left/Stan right. The opening goal came in the 18th minute when Andrew Robertson pushed a short free kick to Wright. There didn’t seem to be much for Bedlington to worry about and they stood off him, only for the number 9 to launch a left-footed floater from distance that sailed over goalkeeper David Stewart and in off the far post. Adam Smith produced the Terriers’ best shot of the first half in the 24th minute when his effort could only be deflected by Matthew Smith in the Stan goal, fortunately for the visitors, Michael Hall was on hand to clear it off the line. It prompted Bedlington to have their best phase of the half when they finally got into their stride. They got off to a much better start in the second half. They were more positive, had more possession in the Heaton Stan half and pushed more players forward. Chances started to come their way too: a Luke Wilson shot and a Zak Atkinson header both just over the bar. They pegged it back to 1-1 in the 59th minute when Smith was clipped by Adam Laidler as he turned in the box. Calvin McMahon converted the spot kick. Parity didn’t last too long. Four minutes later, Heaton Stannington regained their lead. Wright took a pass from Joshua Holland, cut back, wrong-footing the defence, and produced a strong finish to make it 1-2. It was a harsh setback for the Terriers who continued to make most of the running in the second half, including sending over several good corners which caused problems for the Stan defence, the corners just weren’t as productive for Bedlington as they were for West Allotment against the Stand in midweek. Smith in the Heaton Stannington goal was being kept the busier of the two keepers. He twice saved at full stretch: in the 71st minute from a Josh Miller header and in the 76th from a Wilson shot. Heaton Stannington seemed content to defend deep and in numbers and to see the game out with long clearances. It worked and it finished 1-2. (And our quote of the week winner was the Bedlington Terriers player who urged a team-mate to move in a specific direction: “[Go] Right. [Go] Right.” He seemed rather disappointed with his team-mate’s direction of travel: “That’s left.”) 17/11/2017 Easington Colliery 3 Washington 1 – Brooks Mileson League Cup There are few certainties in life, but it seems that whenever I go to Welfare Park I see an Easington Colliery side that works hard and plays as a team. Last night was no exception and they thoroughly deserved this win against their Division One opponents. Up front with Liam Adamson and Jay Redman they have two strikers probably best described as “nippy”, always looking to use their pace to get behind the back four; and with number 4 Shane O’Brien they have an on-field leader. He could have bagged himself a hat-trick. His first chance came in the 19th minute when he almost got on the end of quality cross. That chance was Easington’s third attempt in a couple of seconds: Adamson had a shot blocked by Washington keeper Decklan Greenwood. Redman followed up and had his attempted blocked on the line by Pascal Chimbonda. It was Washington’s number 4 who came closest in the first half for the visitors. He found himself in space on the right and drove in a low shot that forced Easington keeper Kyle Donaldson into an excellent diving save. Team mates Callum Dent and Jak Hanson followed that chance up, but one skied his effort and the other shot straight at Donaldson. Easington took the lead in the 40th minute with one of the best free kicks of the season. More than 20 yards out, Ethan Wood hit it over the wall, and over and round Greenwood in a crisply taken effort that the Washington keeper was never going to reach. The home team rounded off the half with two more chances – a glancing header by Jake Metcalf that just scraped past the outside of the post and a David Vincent shot from outside the box that Greenwood had to dive a full stretch to push away. Easington picked up where they left off from the off of the second half. A fine shot by O’Brien forced another diving save by Greenwood in the 47th minute and he saw a header come back off the bar in the 58th minute. Washington’s Lamin Cham cleared a James Talbot shot a yard from the goal line after the Easington player couldn’t quite get enough power behind it. O’Brien had his fourth and final effort in the 63rd minute. They doubled their lead in the 69th minute: A Talbot shot should have been easily gathered by Greenwood but he couldn’t hold on to it, the ball slipped out of his grasp and Redman followed in and slotted it into the net. It was no more than they deserved. Unsurprisingly, Washington look short of confidence and they couldn’t make any headway in the second half. They couldn’t up the tempo of their play and didn’t consistenly press the Easington defence until the last 10 minutes or so. When they did, they were rewarded with a goal. In the 91st minute Jake Pickard played a one-two with Andrew Mogwo, the Washington number 9 jinked past a defender and put it past Donaldson. Within seconds Easington had re-established their two-goal lead when Harry Wood nimbly took it round Greenwood close to the byline and scored from the tightest of angles. It sealed an excellent win. And finally, just as the game saw one of the best free kicks of the season, it also featured one of the worst misses I’ve seen in almost 50 years of watching footie. To save his blushes, I won’t name names, but a Washington player managed to miss an open goal from two yards out (and I may be being generous saying it was two yards. A “howler” doesn’t quite cover it.) 14/11/2017 Sunderland RCA 1 Runcorn Linnets 2 - Buildbase FA Vase second round A quick break broke RCA’s Vase dreams for another season. In the end they seemed to run out of steam and self-belief against a Linnets team who had to play most of the game with 10 men. The sending off should have swung the tie decisively the Wearsiders’ way. Instead they were undone with only seconds to go. In the 93rd minute a through ball released Runcorn winger Kristian Holt who got round his man, sent over a low cross and Mark Houghton came steaming in to power it home and seal the win. RCA failed to make their man advantage count after Linnets’ Mitchell Bryant was sent off in the 35th minute for elbowing RCA’s Craig Hodgson. (The no 4 was taken to hospital with a suspected broken jaw.) Until the dismissal, it was an evenly-matched contest after RCA got over some early jitters. Nathan O’Neill tried an audacious lob in the 9th minute when – 40 yards out – he spotted Linnets keeper Matthew Holmes off his line, forcing him to back pedal and head it away from the edge of his box. In the 27th minute the RCA striker was at the centre of a big shout for a penalty by the home team after their best attack of the half: Dylan Elliott pushed a good ball through to winger James Cassidy and O’Neill was about to connect with his cross when he appeared to be clipped from behind, but the officials thought the Runcorn man must have got enough on the ball to deny the appeals. In between, Linnets had looked sharper and quicker and most of the game was being played in the RCA half, with Holt putting their best effort over the bar. The red card gave RCA more space and they started knocking the ball round with more confidence and in the 45th minute they took the lead when skipper Ross Preston met a James Armstrong corner with a strong header. The balance of play had shifted RCA’s way. They started the second half brightly enough too, with a couple of chances and half-chances, without fully testing Holmes in the Runcorn goal. A mistake by Adam McGuinness let Runcorn back in the game. The defender let the ball run past him instead of clearing his lines, Houghton sprinted past him into the box and the RCA man brought him down. Dan O’Brien converted the spot kick in the 54th minute. James Armstrong and Elliott had the upper hand in midfield, but as a team they didn’t stretch the visitors and put them under pressure with quicker play. And then, with about 10 minutes of normal time remaining, RCA seemed to hit a wall, with moves breaking down and possession lost easily. It gave Runcorn the encouragement they needed to go for the winner. They defended in numbers but launched a series of quick counter-attacks. In the 87th minute, McGuinness managed to head a corner out from under his own bar. In the 92nd minute a Linnets break had four attackers up against three defenders and RCA were only saved by a wayward pass. The writing was on the wall and they snatched the winner in the last minute. It was the kind of finish that seems to happen in cup ties. Some of their fans looked exhausted after being put through an emotional wringer. 11/11/2017 In the first of two blog reports, Archie MacKay was at the all-Ebac Northern League tie that would have graced a final: Marske United 2 Shildon 1 - FA Vase Second Round While one of these sides would end the day victorious, the other despondent, the remainder of the tournament’s contenders had celebrated the result of this match from the moment the fixture was drawn. Not that they were especially supportive of one side over the other, more that they were comforted in the knowledge one of the FA Vase’s strongest sides would exit the tournament in the Second Round, leaving the competition diminished, but their own opportunities for progression increased. Marske and Shildon have matured into giants of the Northern League stage over recent seasons, echoing each other’s progress and creating their own personal rivalry in the process.It was Marske who snatched the league title from under the noses of Shildon in 2014-15, finding themselves crowned champions when the South Durham club fell at the final hurdle. The two would meet in the following season’s showcase curtain raiser, the JR Cleator Cup and in its finale, the League Cup. Shildon would extract some solace for the previous season’s heartache by winning both. The Railwaymen would also wrest the championship crown from the Seasiders, consigning them to a distant second while finally, after a 76-year wait, lifting the coveted trophy. Another Cleator Cup meeting would follow, comprehensively claimed by Shildon, whose run of victories over the North Yorkshire club in these recent cup competitions has acted as a catharsis for that lost league title. Well, almost. That last day let-down at Bedlington still rankles. And so it is that a modern rivalry has been forged between two evenly matched sides with similar ambitions if dissimilar playing styles. Shildon are pleasing on the eye, adopting a cultured brand of football played along the ground while Marske rely more on their physicality, pressing and bruising opposition forwards before bypassing midfield and pouncing with a predatory instinct on the ensuing scraps. Today the sides would add a new spice to the mixture as they took to the national stage, vying to progress in the FA Vase. The tie was undoubtedly the game of the day, one that both would have preferred to experience a good deal deeper in the tournament, if not on the Wembley turf in its final match. Many would have considered that prospect a distinct possibility prior to this early draw. The home side, who are on a blazing run through league and cup, having won twelve of their last thirteen matches, were able to name a full squad for the tie. That run includes a remarkable 2-1 away win at Shildon’s Dean Street in early October in which they scored the leveller ten minutes before time, direct from a wind-assisted corner, and the winner with the final kick of the game – a quickly taken direct free kick from 45-yards which again made use of the strong wind and caught Nick Liversedge too far from his goal line to recover. Shildon’s back line for this game was seriously diminished. Matty Robson was lost to suspension after receiving his marching orders at Morpeth the previous Saturday. Their shining young star, Dominic Curl, fell to injury in the same game and will take at least two more weeks to recover and Kyle May departed the previous midweek to take over as manager at a struggling Penrith. Marske manager, Carl Jarret, without wishing ill will on the afflicted players, confessed to a moment of celebration at the news of Shildon’s troubles, rightly predicting the gap on the left would be plugged by Marc Ellison, a combative midfielder who has been enjoying arguably his best season at Shildon, but not a natural left back, albeit he has previously filled that position. Jamie Harwood dropped to right back and with Dan Groves and the vastly experienced player-manager, Daniel Moore filling the centre pairing, it was the slightest of weaknesses in the Shildon line up, but one Marske immediately and persistently exploited, and from which they gained instant reward. After just four minutes a long ball into the right channel gave Ellison an insight into the pace of James Fairley. Giving the stand-in defender a five-yard start, the winger ghosted by his opponent before squaring to the unmarked Danny Earl who had the simplest of tasks to side foot past Liversedge in the Shildon goal. It was the worst of starts for the visitors and the opening every Seasider, tucked in bed the night before the game, must have dreamt of. It was followed by a spell of Marske pressure as they looked to press home their advantage. Fairley was subjecting Ellison to a torrid time, but the visitors remained resolute and the game soon developed an ebb and flow as Shildon settled and made their own forays. A couple of chances fell to Adam Burnicle, spearheading the Shildon attack alongside Mickey Rae, but on both occasions the angle was tight and the keeper well placed. On the quarter hour, a Fairley cross received a crucial defensive touch just before it reached Earl and from the resulting corner, a frozen Shildon defence watched on as Fairley prodded the ball over the bar when he should have done better. With 27 minutes played, a moment of uncertainly from Nick Liversedge almost allowed the Marske forward line to steal the ball at the edge of the box when the keeper waited too long for it to arrive in his domain. A tremendous shot stopper – as would be evident later in the game – the giant Shildon goalkeeper has found himself similarly stranded more than once this season. It is an area of his game that requires work, but on this occasion the quick actions of his fellow defenders dispelled the danger. Fairley continued to cause problems, as did balls into the channels, and a cross by the winger almost led to a fortunate second when Ellison’s swiped clearance was mishit against the outside of his own post. Shildon would have a goal ruled out for offside when Burnicle pierced the home defence with a diagonal run to latch onto a Billy Greulich-Smith pass, but as his rasping shot flew past Robert Dean, so the linesman raised his flag to the protests of the striker and visiting fans in line with the play. At the break, the lack of soundproofing in the away dressing room was evident as Moore’s assessment of his side’s first half performance reached fans huddled in the ‘Tin Shed’ terracing. But as in the first half for the home side, his strong words would bear immediate fruit for the visitors in the second. Shildon came out at pace and with a clear determination. On 52 minutes, a diagonal ball to Greulich-Smith was beautifully cushioned into the path of the onrushing Harwood, but the right back’s run was illegally halted by Curtis Round a foot inside the penalty area. In the absence of regular penalty taker, Matty Robson, Greulich-Smith stepped up and sent the kick straight down the middle as the keeper stretched to his right. Marske were clearly unsettled by Shildon’s assertive start to the second period and the visitors would create, but squander a number of chances to take the lead. Two opportunities in particular, late in the game, could have sealed a notable victory. First, five minutes from time, Mickey Rae was sent clear and with just Dean to beat, he attempted to stab the ball past the onrushing keeper who, already on his way down, was able to smother the ball. Perhaps a lob would have been the better option. Then, two minutes later, Burnicle was sent through in a similar position but, bearing down on goal, lost his composure and blazed the ball high and wide. Marske survived and the lung-bursting second half effort left the Shildon players spent. The home side took control of the first period of extra time and Shildon had Liversedge to thank for keeping them in the game with a series of superlative saves. Then, with time almost up on the first extra period, Marske were gifted a throw from a loose Shildon pass. The ball was nodded out to Craig Gott, 25 yards from goal, and the prolific midfielder connected perfectly with the volley to return a rocket into the bottom corner and score for the seventh consecutive game. It was a goal fit to win any game and with time and energy reserves quickly evaporating, even Marske’s reduction to ten men for the final five minutes after the dismissal of Liddle for his second yellow card could not rescue Shildon. So it is Marske who prevail and continue to represent the Northern League on a day when several others, including past winners Morpeth Town and Dunston also fell. It is the second time this season that the Seasiders have recorded the same scoreline against the railwaymen while adding a new chapter to this captivating modern-day rivalry. FA Vase it may have been, but this game, with its back and forth, its engrossing, tactical nuances, its endeavour, its high drama and its quality was as much an advert for the Northern League as it was for Step 5 nationally. Its victors will already be installed as the bookmakers’ favourites for the trophy and as a jubilant Jarret maintained afterwards, no club will want to find out they are facing Marske United when the third round draw is made on Monday. Marske United: Dean, Rowbotham, O'Sullivan, Butterworth, Carling, Wheatley, Fairley, Gott, Earl, Liddle, Round. Subs: Roberts, Bulmer, Brockbank, Bell, McDonald. Shildon: Liversedge, Harwood, Ellison, Dodds, Moore, Groves, Blackford, Hodgson, Burnicle, Rae, Greulich-Smith. Subs: Fenton, Proctor, Peacock, Banki, Turnbull. Attendance: 431. Ryhope CW 1 City of Liverpool FC 2 – Buildbase FA Vase 2nd Round An absolutely stunning goal by Ryhope’s Tom Bott wasn’t enough to keep the Wearsiders in this year’s Vase. Already 2-0 down, the Bott strike gave Ryhope some hope after being second best for most of the game. There didn’t seem much on for the No 4 when the ball dropped in front of him 30 yards out, but he hit it with power, placement and dip, leaving the Liverpool keeper helpless. And despite a late push to get an equaliser, Ryhope fell short. City of Liverpool FC have only been going for two seasons and they’ve already won a couple of trophies and promotion to the top tier of the North West Counties League. It’s easy to see why they’ve made such an instant impact. This was a pretty impressive performance. They could have been 2-0 within the opening 10 minutes: Karl Noon was inches from connecting with a John Connolly cross right in front of goal. Minutes later, a Daniel Dalton header hit the underside of the bar, bounced perilously close to the line before being scrambled clear by the Ryhope defence. Ryhope looked nervous, unable to keep possession and weren’t getting much joy from knocking balls up to the front two. Their first real chance came in the 23rd minute when Nat Skidmore produced an excellent pass to James Ellis who chested the ball down and volleyed it, only to see it go wide. They followed that up in the 32nd minute with a quick one-two involving Ellis and Joey Melvin, with the Liverpool keeper Karl Wills getting a foot to Ellis’ shot. Ellis was Ryhope’s main threat up front. Liverpool were playing a pressing game against the home team’s back four, not giving Ryhope the time and space to get moves going. The visitors took the lead in the 42nd minute after a dreadful mistake by Ryhope left back Davey Gordan when his back pass fell well short. Noon gathered the ball, ran to the byline and sent in a cross with two of his team-mates running into the box. Their captain, Joe Camozzi couldn’t miss from a few yards out. Ryhope started the second half much better than the first and Corey Nicholson sent over a low cross in the 48th minute which had to be hacked away close to the line by the Liverpool defence. But minutes later they were down 2-0 when Noon was found with a long ball and he hit a wonderful, unsaveable volley. He couldn’t have hit it any sweeter and it knocked Ryhope backwards. And around the 70-minute mark Ryhope’s defence got a case of the jitters, presenting the Merseysiders with a couple of chances to extend their lead. The first of their chances was when Elliott Nevitt was one-on-one with Ryhope keeper Jonny Ball who managed to block the shot with his legs. The second was when Kyle Davis spooned a shot wide with the goal gaping. Ryhope’s late flourish proved fruitless. They go out and there are no complaints from this quarter: the better team won. A couple of hundred fans made the trip from Merseyside – they were clearly making a day of it and generated a great atmosphere. It’ll be interesting to see how far they go in the competition. 10/11/2017 Jarrow Roofing 3 Seaham Red Star 0 – Ebac Northern League Division One This week seems to have been one of contrasts, and last night’s game was no exception. This was one of the best performances I’ve seen from Roofing, and one of the weakest from Red Star. And it’s going to be a somewhat one-sided blog, for the simple reason that it was a one-sided game. In the first half I counted at least six chances for the home team by Paul Garthwaite, David Palmer, Olly Martin and Lee Kerr. Red Star keeper Jordan Harkess was kept busy with several diving saves. Until the 43rd minute, all Red Star could muster were a couple of half chances, but Roofing almost paid the price for failing to convert their opportunities. A through ball by Liam Hodgson set Thomas Scott up with a clear run at goal after the Red Star attacker beat the offside trap. One on one with Roofing keeper Shaun Newbrook, Scott put his shot over the bar. It was Red Star’s first real chance and good one squandered. Roofing’s failure to convert chances in the first half was soon remedied in the second. Five minutes in, and in acres of space, Martin took one touch on a cross, turned and fired in a perfect shot past Harkess who couldn’t reach it, despite diving at full stretch. Five minutes later Red Star centre back Bradley Staunch was caught in possession by Martin on the edge of the box. The Roofing no. 9 hit another precise shot which went in off the post. 2-0 and Roofing were finally converting their superiority into goals. In the 66th minute Martin almost bagged a hat-trick with a left footed shot from distance that was tipped over by Harkess. Martin only had to wait another minute before grabbing his third and the best of the bunch. Lee Kerr won a 50-50 tackle with a sliding challenge and then sent Martin on his way with a pass bent round a defender straight into the path of Martin who didn’t have to break stride. Martin took it 40 yards before slipping it past Harkess with a coolly taken shot. He was subbed in the 89th minute, giving the spectators and coaches the chance to applaud him off the pitch. Job done. There was still time for three more chances for Roofing. David Palmer had a shot blocked by Harkess with his legs; Kerr saw another shot hit the post and Liam Anderson had a penalty saved by the Red Star keeper, but the miss didn’t cloud a top performance by Roofing. For Seaham, Harkess couldn’t be faulted for the goals, Alex Ramshaw tried his luck with a good 30-yard strike that Newbrook took two grabs before gathering, and captain Robbie Bird caused the Roofing defence more problems than the rest of the team combined. But it was a night and performance to be filed away under the “not our night” for Red Star. (And finally, as requested (by Jan), here’s a mention for Jan’s chilli and chips.) 09/11/2017 Newcastle Benfield 2 Alnwick Town 0 – Northumberland Senior Cup I always wonder which Benfield I’ll see when I make my way to the Sam Smiths Sports Ground. On their day they can be a match for and beat anyone. On an off day they can be decidedly average. Last night, both incarnations were on show. In the first half “decidedly average” would be generous. It was a wonder that they went into the break in the lead against a determined and sometimes better Alnwick team. In the second half “normal service” was resumed by a team on a run of five wins against a second division team. For their part, Alnwick didn’t play anything like a team at the bottom of the second tier. I saw them a couple of times early in the season and they looked to have improved on last season. Since then they have clearly struggled. In this game they played with their early season form. As early as the third minute, Benfield’s Lewis Scorgie was heading a shot-cum-cross by the visitors’ Tony Brown off the line. Fourteen minutes later Josh Hay tried to lob Benfield keeper Daniels Nimmins, only to see it go over the bar. It wasn’t until a quarter of the way through the match before the home side had their first shot on target – an Oliver Leedham shot that forced Alnwick keeper Robert Hodgson into a diving save. Alnwick kept applying the pressure: a ball into the box was headed back by Hay and Lewis Robson hit a first-time volley which struck the outside of the post. Just after the half-hour mark Alnwick captain Ross Straughan had a point blank header saved by Nimmins. They were unfortunate not to be able to convert their chances and they’ll be unhappy at the way they went behind. Scorgie met a corner with a free header at the near post and found the net. All Alnwick’s good work had been undone with a simple goal. Alnwick couldn’t repeat their first-half performance after the break. In the second half it was Benfield’s turn to create all the best chances: 61 minutes – Brayson one-on-one with the keeper, he took too long on the ball and Hodgson kicked the ball away from him, Brayson picked the ball up again, this time getting a shot on goal, saved by Hodgson again. 62 minutes – another double save by Hodgson from another shot-cum-cross by Benfield’s Rhys Evans and a follow-up effort. 63 minutes – a perfect cross by Evans, with Brayson making a far post run and almost certain to score until Straughan slid it to knock it safe with a goal-saving interception. Benfield finally converted their superiority in the 73rd minute with another near-post header, this time Jack Errington meeting a Brayson cross. It was a backs-to-the-wall defensive display by Alnwick in the second half. If most of Benfield’s second-half chances had gone in, it would have looked like a landslide and that would have been unfair on Alnwick. It was never that easy for Benfield, who now face a quick two-day turn-round for their FA Vase game against the Terriers. 08/11/2017 Bishop Auckland 2 Dunston UTS 1 – Ebac Northern League Division One Good and bad. Positives and negatives. Both teams had a bit of both in last night’s encounter at Heritage Park. For Bishop Auckland, the good/positives out-numbered the bad/negatives. They’ve got over their early season travails. Their football has clearly improved since the summer. They created lots of chances and openings. And they look and play much more like a team. On the reverse, they should have converted more of their opportunities. And they didn’t fully exploit their man advantage after a Dunston player was red carded. For Dunston their plus and minus points were different. On the positive front, they battled, worked hard and didn’t look as though they were ready to throw in the towel when down to 10 men. They took their goal very well, with one of the best moves of the game. However, I’ve seen them several times this season and been impressed on each occasion, but last night they weren’t at their best, even before the sending off. With 11 men they were also behind in the “chances created” count. Down to the nitty gritty: For the opening 20 minutes it seemed as though neither team was in top gear, although they were evenly matched. The game started to improve and open up after that. In the 24th minute Dunston defender Carl Jones got a foot to a cross by Bishop’s Harrison Scott; it spun perilously close to the line before being cleared. The hosts took the lead in the 29th minute when a Thomas McAloon cross reached Ian Ward, unmarked in the box, and he applied the finishing touch. In the next 10 minutes they had another two chances – the goal had given them greater confidence. Dunston’s best opening came in the 43rd minute when Mark Fitzpatrick gathered a long ball, knocked it sideways, Liam Thear let it run on to Adam Rundle, but his shot was straight at Scott Pocklington. Dunston started the second half in much livelier fashion than they’d played much of the first half. There was a bit more urgency to their play and in the 52nd minute Callum Elliott broke down the right and pulled it back for Jake Stafford, but he couldn’t get his shot on target. In the 54th minute Johnson was clipped by Ben Pollock just outside the box and the Dunston defender was shown a straight red. Dunston came back with the perfect reply: the ball was knocked up to Fitzpatrick who quickly passed it on to Thear who in turned pushed it past a couple of defenders and struck a precise shot to level it up. For most of the rest of the half Dunston were happy to defend in numbers, leaving Fitzpatrick up front on his own. Bishop’s chances started to rack up and twice within a few minutes Jones was on hand to clear balls off the line for Dunston. Then, for the second night in a row, there was a dramatic goal in added time. Andre Bennett got on the end of a cross which eluded everyone in front of the goal. It reached winger at the far post and his low, clean shot made it 2-1 and left Dunston no chance to re-group. It had been a valiant rear-guard action by Dunston, but Bishop Auckland deserved the win. Paul Tully RIP One of the stalwarts of North East football has sadly passed away. Paul Tully worked as a news reporter in the region, as well as for Newcastle United and was a passionate fan of non-league football. Here are a couple of tributes to him: Non-league correspondent Mark Carruthers: The community that is North East football is a lot poorer for the loss of Paul Tully. His love, his passion and his enthusiasm for the game, at all levels, was a joy to witness. His knowledge of Newcastle United is second-to-none and the club meant everything to him. And he was a familiar face at non-league grounds around the region. Spending a minute in his company would give you more insight and more joy than an hour in the company of many an expert. Although I knew and admired Paul’s work for many years, I first met him at Blyth Spartans, another club that he loved so much. I had the pleasure of witnessing the day they won the Evo-Stik League title sat alongside him. To share and to witness such joy and such happiness will live with me forever. He introduced himself to me when I joined the club as Press Officer in 2012 and he gave me an invaluable insight into what I needed to do to get into the media on a full-time basis. I know that many that worked alongside him at NCJ Media or Newcastle United also benefitted from his knowledge and knowhow. I will forever be indebted to Paul for his time, patience and encouragement and it saddens me that I will no longer be greeted by that enthusiastic “Hello there Mark, hows it going?” when I walk into a ground. Paul is a loss to us all and the North East football scene has lost a very special and a very unique gentleman. Vince Gledhill, who worked with Paul when he was part of a team of reporters based in the Chronicle and Journal’s Northumberland office, in Ashington, said: “It was a privilege to work with Paul and learn from his deep knowledge of football and of west Northumberland. “He was a journalist who took a deep pride in making and keeping good contacts who trusted him to write the stories that they – and he – felt the readers should know about. “While our newspapers got articles that were written with care and diligence, I had the additional privilege of seeing how much effort Paul put into finding and checking his stories before filing them to his newsdesk. “I also got to enjoy his sharp sense of humour during the time we worked together and also after we had both retired, when we still kept in touch and occasionally met to share reminiscences with old pals over a pint.” 07/11/2017 North Shields 3 Whitley Bay 2 (after extra time) – Northumberland Senior Cup If any of the 434 spectators didn’t enjoy this game, they clearly don’t like football. They were presented with 120 minutes of quality and dramatic football from start to finish. If you weren’t at the game, you missed a cracker. The stall was set out from the opening seconds when Whitley Bay launched an attack straight from kick-off. The quality never let up: pace, variety in attacks by both teams, chances and some excellent defending. Paul Robinson should have put the home team ahead in the 4th minute when he shot wide after finding himself with time and space in the box. They nudged ahead in the 12th minute when the referee awarded a penalty after a Lee Mason shot hit a raised hand. New striker Ben Harmison struck it well to make it 1-0. They could have made it 2-0 17 minutes later when Mason and Harmison combined to set Dean Holmes up, with his shot superbly saved by Dan Lister in the Whitley goal. Within a five-minute spell Whitley Bay hit Shields with two goals to turn the tables on their neighbours. In the 33rd minute a neat interchange of passes involving Tom Potter and Josh Nearney allowed the Whitley fullback to put in a quick cross – Alex Kempster made a near post run and managed to push the ball over the line, despite a partial block by Sean McCafferty in the home goal. Nearney was involved in their second too: he punted a hopeful ball forward into the Shields goal, Shields defender Joe Robson caught it all wrong and hooked it over his own keeper. All McCafferty and the defence could do was watch as it almost spun wide before crawling over the line in slow motion. The second half picked up where it had left off in the first, with both keepers making crucial saves in the opening minutes of the 45. Just as Robinson had missed a good chance in the 4th minute, Whitley Bay squandered their own opportunity in the 75th when Marty Cornish set Scott Jasper up after a long, driving run, only to see the number 14 push it wide. In the last 10 minutes, Shields threw everything at Whitley Bay, with several scrambles in the box and Harmison see a shot ricochet off the post; but with the seconds ticking away, it looked as though they were going to fall short until they dramatically equalised with the last kick of normal time as Dan Wilson struck through a melee of players in the six yard box in the 95th minute. It was a life-saver for them. There was no let-up in extra time. Ryan Carr scored what was to prove to be the decisive goal in the 102nd minute when Harmison held the ball up, knocked it back to Carr whose shot found its way through a crowded area to make it 3-2. Chris Salmon had Whitley Bay’s last effort in the 113rd minute and Wilson almost scored in the 118th minute when Shields had four attackers against two defenders, but his shot spun just wide of the far post. It was a classic cup tie. I just hope it didn’t take too much out of the players before the FA Vase ties on Saturday. 04/11/2017 Hebburn Town 0 Jarrow 0 – Ebac Northern League Division Two We all have our crosses to bear, and Jarrow’s cross to bear at yesterday’s South Tyneside derby was…..crosses. And lots of them. They were pelted with them by their near neighbours. And for the second match in two days, it was a defensive line who stood out, in particular their captain Jordon Mellish. For half an hour Hebburn threw everything at Jarrow but couldn’t find a way through and it was only after 30 minutes that Jarrow started to make in-roads into the game. Jarrow’s David Smith was at the heart of the action in the first half. The left-back made a goal-saving tackle in the 20th minute following a great cross by Hebburn left-back Scott Wallace. In the 38th minute he cleared the ball of the line with keeper Gary Frater beaten. And despite all their pressure, it was Smith who came closest to breaking the deadlock with a powerful, swerving shot which Hebburn keeper Steven Hubery did well to tip over. Unsurprisingly, it was Paul Chow who came closest to scoring for Hebburn. He was denied a shot by a timely tackle by Nicholas Little early in the second half and in the 88th minute he couldn’t get enough power in a shot to curl it round Frater. Of the two, Jarrow would have been most happy with the result and a stoic display of defending. A goal and win might have eluded Hebburn, but the draw saw them stay among the front runners. More than 300 people turned up for the fixture – a very welcome change from last season when Hebburn were contemplating their future. The clubhouse was doing very brisk business too. Although it was a pity the game wasn’t better, it’s great to see football alive and kicking in South Tyneside. 03/11/2017 Ryton and Crawcrook 2 Heaton Stannington 0 – Ebac Northern League Division Two The blog has obviously been a bit of a jinx on the top dogs in the three second division matches attended this week. First up was Tow Law who lost at home to Durham City. Next was Whickham who were overtaken in the table after being beaten by Thornaby. And last night it was table-topping Heaton Stannington’s turn as they were felled by Ryton and Crawcrook. At one end Phil Hodges was a star man, with a couple of goals. At the other end, the back four for Ryton were excellent, in particular Liam Barker who may have just edged past Hodges for best performance on the night, but it was a close run thing. Over the 90 minutes, Heaton Stannington probably played the better football, but Ryton were organised, kept their shape – whether attacking or defending – and looked more determined in their play than the Stan, perhaps in part motivated with the knowledge that they were up against the team leading the division and would have to be at their best. Heaton Stannington’s approach play was better than the hosts’, they just couldn’t get enough of an upper hand over the Ryton back four. They didn’t help their own cause by repeatedly taking too many touches or passing to teammates when an earlier shot looked a better option. Ryton took the lead in the 20th minute with a move straight off the training pitch: a free kick knocked into the box, six Ryton players moving across the goal, with Hodges the one unmarked at the far post. He managed to send a looping header back over Stan keeper Matthew Smith and a couple of defenders and into the goal. It was against the run of play but well worked. Heaton Stan’s most effective attacks in both halves came down the wings, with several good crosses put into the box, it was just that no-one was reading them well enough to get on the end of them. Hodges doubled his team’s lead in the 50th minute, seconds after Rhys Harbottle bent an excellent ball round the last defender, inviting Sam Moore on to it, but the Ryton striker couldn’t get it past Smith who managed to block it for a corner. It was a temporary reprieve – the corner landed at Hodges who struck a clean, sharp shot to make it 2-0. Harbottle was sent off a couple of minutes later for a second yellow card and that could have spelt trouble for Ryton, but Abu Salim evened it up in the 68th minute when he was sent off for his second yellow. The Harbottle sending off certainly got the home crowd involved: shouting at just about every decision and they were the noisiest I’ve heard them. Tyler Davis had the last meaningful contribution to the night – a 30 yard shot which swerved and was about to dip just under the bar when Smith managed to push it over. Tune in to the next blog to see if the jinx strikes again later today. 02/11/2017 PENRITH V SHILDON By Pete Sixsmith There are few things in Northern League football better than a trip across the Pennines to Penrith. In fact, the only thing better than that is a trip to Penrith when they are playing Shildon. Throw in a midweek game and the chance of a day around Ullswater and you have a classic footballing day out. I got two out of the three. The fallout over the sacking of Sunderland’s three thousandth manager since Ellis Short bought the club kept me tied to the laptop in my capacity as Salut Sunderland’s answer to Today’s the Days Peter O’Hanraha-hanrahan. Throw in an interview on BBC Newcastle’s Alfie and Anna Show and the Ullswater part of the trip had to be foregone. So, I trekked across the A66 in the dark without a pause or a traffic jam or a wheezing, grunting Scammel lorry hobbling up the hill over Stainmore. Time was when you counted the near death escapes in double figures on this beast of a road and looked out for the Bowes Moor Hotel, shining like an ocean liner in the night followed by the Stainmore Café and The Punch Bowl on the way into Brough. Now it is derelict and the Bowes Moor (scene of a murdered landlord in the late 60s) is holiday apartments but the café hangs on at the top of the Pennines. Penrith spent many years at their Southfield Road ground smack bang in the town centre. You could hear the trains rattling up and down the West Coast Main Line and be treated to the stentorian tones of the legendary Walter Brogden as he read out the teams and the winning raffle numbers and as he told the youngsters kicking a ball around (probably a sheep’s bladder in Cumbria) to get off the pitch. If the football was dull, there was always the eclectic series of advertising hoardings to look at. Amongst those for seed merchants and agricultural contractors, there was one for a local taxidermist, unique in non-league football although I believe that The Emirates hi-tec advertising scoreboard is rampant with them. After the game, you could retire to Penrith’s Second Finest Night Club, situated in the corner of the ground, a place so dark that those Ancient Greeks being ferried down the River Styx to eternity would have found Hades a more illuminated place than the Second Finest Night Club in Penrith. Now they play at the very well appointed Frenchfields Sports Complex on the edge of the town, sharing the site with a multitude of junior football and rugby teams. It’s very well appointed, is similar to Bishop Auckland’s Heritage Park and is clearly not a happy place this season. Like Sunderland, they are deeply involved in a relegation scrap and are desperate to get out of it. Their manager left last week and they are hoping to make an appointment soon, once they have, and I quote the excellent Penrith programme, “cleared up a couple of small items.” They hope that he/she will be in charge for the trip to Cockermouth in the Cumberland Senior Cup on Saturday. Now that is a trip worth making; a day in the home town of William Wordsworth, Ben Stokes and Jennings Brewery. Penrith put in plenty of effort but were no match for a smooth Shildon side who started brilliantly and were three up after sixteen minutes. Adam Burnicle opened the scoring after three having already missed a much easier one and then a header from Billy Greulich-Smith doubled the lead. Jack Blackford, on loan from Hartlepool United, scored a tremendous third and the game was over. The Cumbrians had missed a couple of chances themselves and played a part in what was a very attractive game of football, well refereed by Stephen Dial and containing no snarling, scuffling or gratuitous swearing. I saw a North Riding Senior Cup game on Monday night which was the complete antithesis of this one. A rare goal from Daniel Groves finished the game off as both teams looked forward to their Cranston’s pies in the clubhouse and I was back on the A66 home by 9.30. The journey was split between Mark Chapman and friends praising Harry Kane, Dele Ali and Sergio Aquero and Ritallah Shah on Radio 4’s The World Tonight trying to get Iain Duncan- Smith and Julia Hartley-Brewer to spill the full beans on Michael Fallon. She had given up by Barnard Castle. It is possible that Penrith could either be relegated or switched across to the North West Counties League which would be a shame – particularly the latter. I wonder if FC Oswestry Town would fancy a midweek game in Cumbria. Not even a Cranston’s Meat and Potato Pie would make that a palatable fixture. 01/11/2017 Thornaby 5 Whickham 0 – Ebac Northern League Division Two Whickham were one-nil down in the opening minute and things went downhill from there. Meanwhile, Thornaby had the perfect start and things just kept on getting better for them. Some people were still coming through the gate after the first goal – when Kyran Clark slotted it past John Mordey when the Tynesiders’ defence were caught dozing, to score one of the quickest goals of the season. They never looked back. Anyone sneaking off for a quick cup of tea at half-time would have missed the second too. In the 45th minute, a Thornaby corner fizzed across the goal line, past several players until it reached Stephen Morrison who applied the finishing touch at the far post from a few feet out. And they never allowed Whickham to re-group in the second half – scoring two goals in six minutes of the re-start. A great run by left back Matthew Robinson was made all the better by him taking a split second to look up and pick out Clark who rounded Mordey and managed to squeeze it in from a tight angle. Two minutes later in the 50th minute, Clark was brought down in the box and Robinson made it 4-0 from the penalty spot. And the proverbial icing was put on the cake in the 74th minute when a dreadful mix-up between Owen Lancaster and Tom Soutar at the back for Whickham gifted the ball to Kurtis Howes who, like Clark, rounded the keeper and tapped it in. For Whickham, I couldn’t quite what to make of their first half performance. There was plenty of effort, but not much cohesion. They mainly relied on trying to exploit the pace of Steven Aiston and Kallum Broadhead up front. It was a more clear-cut assessment in the second half. They were poor. They never recovered from the two quick goals at the start of the half and their defence looked increasingly vulnerable and frail as the half went on. In the second half in particular, Thornaby’s strikers pulled the defenders all over the pitch, managed to beat them for pace and turned them repeatedly. Whickham’s best chance came in the 70th minute when a mistake by Thornaby captain Jack Bailey let substitute Ross Nicholson in. His strong shot was only kept out by an excellent save by Thornaby keeper Patrick Pisani. Other than that, the keeper was rarely troubled. It was an impressive, all-round, accomplished performance by Thornaby. Perhaps not a “they’ll definitely be in the mix at the end of the season” performance, but very impressive all the same. The victory makes it five wins and a draw in the last seven league games for Thornaby and they leap-frog over Whickham and into fifth in the division. They’re on a bit of a roll.