Frost Now Bites Football

Well I had travelled to County Durham to see Tow Law play Bedlington Terriers but was sceptical with all the recent postponements due to the incessant rain we have had. With two days of clear skies and some sunshine all seemed promising but an early inspection ruled the game off due to a frozen pitch. I did have a contingency in Penrith v Sunderland RCA and after a nervous wait until the 10.30 pitch inspection my fears were well founded with that game also postponed for the same reason.

Around about this part of the country though there is always an alternative and it was Darlington v AFC Telford United. Before heading to the match I popped into The Bowes Museum (Possibly the most underrated Museum/Gallery in Britain) at Barnard Castle, to see the Norman Cornish exhibition. Norman Cornish (born in Spennymoor 1919 and died in 2014) was a miner and artist and the way he captured the mining life through its people is amazing. Non of the nostalgic feathery look back at the good old days, his pictures show it as it was, the bent bedraggled look of the miners walking along the pit road tells it all, you can see the desperation and pain. The exhibition runs to the 23rd of February and on the previous day we visited the Mining Art Gallery part of the Auckland Project  in Bishop Auckland where some more of his paintings are on show to mark the centenary of his birth.

The restored Bishops palace is a new gem in this area and well worth a trip but there is more to come in the major regeneration of this part of town. The whole restoration of the area and heritage sites is being done to such a very high standard. I often find a football theme somewhere in the other things I am going to see and that was true of some of Norman’s paintings. Children playing football in the street was a common site and you can imagine the Charlton brothers being in the paintings.

I had forgotten the demise of Darlington FC and thought that I was going to the concrete monolith just on the A66 but when Google maps took me to the rugby ground at Blackwell Meadows I started arguing with the lady I call Betty. As usual she was right as she is nearly always, her major failing is some of the computerised american pronunciations of place and road names, it does give a fun distraction though to often lengthy journeys.


Darlington as a club was started in 1883 and have an amazing switchback history that could easily be made into an intriguing movie but I will only start in 2012 when despite strenuous efforts by fans to rescue the club the FA controversially demoted them from the Conference to the Northern League a drop of four levels.

The fans were made of strong stuff and left the 27000 stadium to ground share with nearby Bishop Auckland and won promotion in their first, third and fourth seasons to get back to where they are now in the National League North. The supporters raised funds and grants to get back to Darlington on Boxing Day 2016 to play at Blackwell Meadows which is rented from Darlington Rugby Club. A further promotion would have followed if the ground had been to the correct standards which it is now after raising the money to build a magnificent seated stand and a shed end for standing supporters. The club has even  set up a new academy in September 2018, and joined the National League Under 19 alliance. To progress to the next level the club needs to balance its fundraising for further on and off pitch development.

AFC Telford has its own story, originally known as Wellington Parish Church Institute in 1872 and as Wellington Town from 1879 it changed its name again in 1969 to Telford United to reflect the growth of the New Town to incorporate Wellington. In 2004 financial problems forced the liquidation of the old club and the new one was placed into the Northern premier League Division One. A lesser demotion than Darlington.


Darlington 2 AFC Telford United 3

It was a pleasure to sit in the stand on a beautiful clear sunny day with a biting chill in the air. The game on because the pitch had been covered overnight and a good mix of people had turned up in the disappointing crowd of 1212. Despite the overnight frost the flat pitch looked good considering the weather.

Darlington’s team seemed smaller than Telford but they were just quicker, keener and more nimble and dominated play immediately creating good chances which they spurned. They had to wait till 18 minutes when some sloppy defending by Telford from a corner meant the ball bounced to Storey to tap home. Darlingtons continued pressure meant they extended their lead on 31 minutes when Donawa controlled a pass and hit the ball into the roof of the net. At 2 nil up at half time it looked plain sailing for Darlington.

Telford brought on Marcus Dinanga straight away for the second half for what would turn out to be an inspired substitution. Within a minute of the restart Dinanga side footed a cross from the right by Ryann Barnett to make it 2-1. The Darlington defence seemed to have disappeared making it all too easy.

There were now end to end exchanges but a freekick to Telford on 76 minutes caught the home team asleep as Mc Quilkin took it quickly to the advancing Dinanga who had no one around to challenge him and he took the opportunity with ease, 2-2.

Darlington did press and hit the bar but a sloppy clearance from the goalkeeper meant the ball was at the feet of that man Dinanga and he made sure of his hat trick.

The game was delayed by the collapse of a cameraman behind the Telford goal who recovered after receiving treatment from both teams medical support but it ended for an unlikely home defeat to a few boos from the disgruntled fans.

Dinanga will not have scored an easier hat tick but to his outstanding credit he took all of his chances with composed finishing.


There were no chips again and the hot dog was disappointing, I was not the only one who didn’t eat all of the roll from what i could see had been put in the rubbish bin.

An offer worth taking.


My wife saw an offer for three issues of Four Four Two for only £1 and the temptation was too much.

I remembered the magazine with warmth in its early life as a more grown ups view of football than the then ‘Goal’ or ‘Shoot’. It still has a good feel as a glossy magazine with plenty of great images but seems to be for the elite teams of the Premiership, Europe and beyond. There are still some good written articles about unusual football topics, my favourite being  ‘The Killing of Tommy Ball’ by Paul Brown ( The Only Football League Player to be Murdered). An unusual curious topic that I had never heard of before.

My own interest in Non League Football is not catered for here, only a combined 1 page in three issues and then some of the content was a bit superfluous. Missing a trick in my view with many of these clubs now running boys, girls, mens womens, Saturday and Sunday League teams that add up to a good potential audience. Why no review of Chichester City’s amazing run and luck to get them into this weekend’s FA Cup second round?

I will not be continuing with the magazine but I am sure that many do enjoy it and new readers should at least give it a go, especially if they see this offer.

Retail Parks Beat Football.

With the Appleby Frodingham match postponed due to the heavy rain I decided as I was in Scunthorpe to go and watch Scunthorpe United at home to Port Vale in League Two. It is over 30 years since I last saw Scunthorpe play at home and that was just before they moved to their new stadium at Glanford Park. This stadium is now outdated with views obscured by stanchions and when built was easily accessed at the end of the M181 (a spur off the M180) but now blocked in by a Retail Park. To my surprise the club have gained planning permission in July to comprehensively rebuild the ground one stand at a time from the 9000 capacity to 11000 all seater. As well as the ground transformation 160 starter homes are to be built and business space to rent in all of the new stands will be made available. Scunthorpes already good parking facilities will be improved and I hope the council work with the club to create a better traffic plan for the area.

With only four and a half weeks left till Christmas and the rain just easing most cars were heading to the established Saturday afternoon sport of hunt the bargain at the Retail Park. You needed to fight through this throng of cars headed to the shops to get near the ground which was visible just beyond the shops bright lights.

There were more people going to the shops than the nearly 3400 who made their way into Glanford Park. The crowd seemed disappointingly low to me but perhaps there is a light on the horizon. If more people want to shop online then they will be looking for a new/old experience for Saturday afternoons. Perhaps here the clubs below the Championship can take a leaf out of the Premier League Women’s teams in offering discounted tickets to fill stadiums that increases merchandise, food, drinks, raffle tickets and future ticket sales that generates the same or more income and creates the atmosphere that encourages better play and a warm community spirit.

With the rain having finished about an hour before kick off it left grey heavy skies with a damp atmosphere but no wind. What a wet, rubbish Autumn this has been and we have a week yet to get to Meteorological Winter. The pitch however looked in good condition, very flat with great grass cover and there was good noise despite the ground being just over a third full.

Both teams have never been higher than the second tier of the Football League system despite both being over 120 years old. They find themselves playing now in the fourth tier.


Scunthorpe United 2 Port Vale 1

Port Vale only one off the promotion places were favourites against Scunthorpe who were just hovering above the relegation zone, but Scunthorpe had not lost at home in all  previous eight competitions.

Scunthorpe looked the better team from the off and both Alex Gilliead and Abo Eisa looked dangerous on both flanks. Eisa looked to have scored on 25 mins when cutting in from the left his fierce low drive was touched onto the post  by Scott Brown in goal for the visitors and out for a corner.

Eisa was again involved when he was fouled just in his own half but the referee played the advantage which fell to Port Vale after only two passes and as the home side froze Port Vale strung some passes together and Jake Taylor took his chance well to give them the lead. The crowd and home players were silenced as they looked to the referee to call the play back for the foul but he pointed to the centre circle.

Scunthorpe were not phased by this and kept up the pressure and a run and an accurate pass on 37 minutes by McGahey from the right found Kevin Van Veen (a Harry Kane look alike in all respects) who effortlessly planted the ball in the back of the net. All level at half time Scunthorpe now seemed to have the momentum.

Only 7 minutes into the second half Van Veens pin point corner caused mayhem on the goal line and Brown could only knock the ball down for Ngosi Ntlhe to tap in for his first goal for Scunthorpe.

Scunthorpe could well have added to their score and when Abo Eisa was subbed off late in the game he was awarded the man of the match. Despite the impressive fluent forward play my man of the match was Rory McArdle who was tireless all over the pitch.

As I left the ground a melee of all players broke out at the Port Vale end and I later found out that  the referee had red carded both David Worrall of Port vale and Mathew Lund of Scunthorpe.


Disappointingly there were no chips at Scunthorpe but the cheese pie was so tasty. It was also amazingly hot and foolishly I burnt the roof of my mouth.


It was a change and enjoyable to watch this level of football but I will hopefully make another attempt to visit Appleby Frodingham by the end of the season.




Football Classified – An Anthology of Soccer

Football Classified – An Anthology of Soccer  –  Edited by Michael Parkinson & Willis Hall

Published by William Luscombe Publisher Limited 1973


This easy to read 50p bargain from a Charity Shop is only 187 pages long and is interspersed with the odd cartoon.

The short stories and articles are a bit dated but some are relevant today and show where the game has come from. It also reminds you that ‘Football Books’ did not start with ‘Fever Pitch’ in 1992.

My favourites were two articles by Derek Dougan the loved Northern Ireland player and Manager and the idolised Wolves player. In a few pages he weaves a great story of how he became established in Northern Irish Football and the interesting religious mixtures. The other is about how to choose a football club as a youngster with a view that tradition of a club my hold you back.

Another article by Tony Pawson talks about Managers, partly about Danny Blanchflower’s   relationship with them. He wanted to be captain but have the authority on the field and change tactics as he seemed fit for the way a game was heading and be involved in team selection. This would not sit well in todays game but perhaps should be reviewed especially in view of the success he had at Tottenham.

There are chapters by many well known writers, J.B. Priestly, ian Wooldridge, Brian Glanville, Willis Hall and many more. The book satisfied my curiosity for the game.


Andrew Watson – ‘The World’s First Black Football Superstar’


Andrew Watson – ‘The world’s First Black Football Superstar’                                      Written by Tony Talburt – First Published in 2017 by Hansib Publications Limited.

This book I found in a nearby Library and turned out to be fascinating. Only 115 pages long it is a quick and easy read and is well referenced for anyone wishing to make further studies.

Tony Talburt sets the historical and environmental outlook in Guyana and Glasgow very well. He also paints the picture of developing battles between Amateurs and Professionals, between Scottish and English tactics and styles of play and the Working Class and the Elite for the future of football.

The time is the mid to end of the nineteenth century and Andrew Watson a blackman from Guyana plays for the two premier teams in the world, Queens Park and the Corinthians as well as the best national team in the world, Scotland. Watson played for Scotland in their 6-1 trouncing of England at the Oval in 1881 and although only appearing on three occasions he was made captain of the national team.

Watson was also an administrator of clubs he played for and helped influence some of the rules of the game.

The book certainly makes a strong case for Andrew Watson’s elevation to the rank of the worlds first black football superstar but Robert Walker of Queens Park (the first black player),  Arthur Wharton (believed to be the first black professional) and Walter Tull (an outstanding  club player for Clapton, Tottenham and Northampton) might all have had a view.

No need to say much more than suggest you get a copy of this book and enjoy.



Rain Rain Go Away


It’s rained for days and there is major local flooding.

With the River Derwents banks burst in Derby and the A52 and A61 shut it looks like an ‘Emergency’ to me, but it’s great that the game is on. The sky is grey and overcast, the wind is getting up and at only 3 degrees it’s feeling cold.

The pitch is flat but the grass cover looks a bit yellow considering the rain of the last 6 weeks and the touchlines in places are just boggy. With the road conditions, the weather and Derby away to local rivals Nottingham Forest on the Television as the early kick off it was not surprising that fans stayed away and there was only a disappointing attendance of 162.

There has been a team called Witton Albion based in the Cheshire town of Northwich since 1887 but no real match records before 1890. They played in Cheshire Leagues until promotion to the Northern Premier League in 1979. The sale of their old central town site to Sainsburys and the move to a new stadium at Wincham Park, 1989  sparked a resurgence in the club and promotion to the then ‘Football Conference’. This did not prove a happy time as they struggled for a few seasons in the bottom half of the league and eventually found themselves in the Northern Premier League Division South in 2008. They have since yo yoed in the league, up and down and sideways but find themselves now firmly embedded in the Northern Premier League.

 Mickleover Sports F.C. was founded in 1948 as Mickleover Old Boys and played for 44 years in the Derby & District Senior League. In 1982 the Sports Club decided on a more ambitious regime joining the Central Midland League and planning the move to Station Road which they achieved in 1992.Their rise through the Central Midlands League, Northern Counties East and eventually to the Northern Premier league for the 2010/11 season has been spectacular. But in 2011/12 they suffered their first ever relegation only to bounce back by 2015. They have maintained this level for a few years and built an impressive youth policy.


Mickleover Sports FC 1 Witton Albion 4

A what appeared to be a punt upfield by James Short in the fourth minute hit a Mickleover defender’s back and cannoned into the net for an early Witton goal.

Witton continued to dominate with Danny McKenna continually causing havoc down the right through the mud. Mickleover should have been on level terms though when on 36 minutes some slipping and sliding by the away defence left Lee Hughes with a great chance that he ballooned over the bar off a Witton defender.

Four minutes later Witton went further ahead when Billy Smart (No 8) headed in at the far post following a freekick.

Incredibly straight from the kick off Will Jones immediately intercepted the ball and from just in the Mickleover half lobbed goalkeeper Nathan Brown for an amazing goal and a three nil lead at half time.

The rain was now heavier, continual and making conditions worse as the teams came out for the second half.  Within 3 minutes Mickleover had a slim lifeline when Mason Warren converted a penalty. Witton continued their. Domination though and Danny McKenna  capped a fine performance on 85 minutes when he drove home a gifted opportunity following a corner.

Witton were deserved winners with their mid back three of  Wardle, Ansel and Goulding dominating the game.

No Chips here today and the food cabin is away from the bar exposed to the elements. To get a better experience a nearer location for the food and hot drinks to the bar for shelter and warmth would be better.


Clay Cross Town FC Rocket to the Stars

Clay Cross Town had reached the Buildbase FA Vase Second Round and had planned and hoped for a record crowd, instead the torrential rain of the last few weeks caused the game to be postponed and it was subsequently played on Bonfire Night. With the many other family attractions  going on and the fact that the game had only been sanctioned as on just over 3 hours earlier the crowd of 188 was a great achievement for this small but hungry for success club.

Their rise in the competition has been a credit to them and they were the last remaining Step 7 club in the competition.


Reproduced from the match day Program.

Their opponents Sherwood Colliery FC based in Mansfield were one step higher and being only 12 miles away a local Derby. Clay Cross are currently top of the Central Midlands Football League – South Division and are unbeaten as are the second team Sherwood Colliery FC Reserves.

Recent information that is being further investigated suggests that there has been a football team in Clay Cross since 1881 with the current clubs inspiration taken from the team of 1909. It existed on in local football in different guises until in 2012 a new ‘Town’ club was reinvigorated. Disappointment in missing out in recent years on promotion has doubled everyone’s efforts to make this season one to remember.

Similarly Sherwood Colliery were reformed in 2008 in Mansfield Woodhouse and by 2012 they were successfully elected to the Central Midlands League. they too have had some ups and downs but are currently top of the East Midlands League – Premier Division.

Sherwood Colliery FC were put in the spotlight by the BBC website article, 21st August 2019 which although previewing their up an coming first round proper tie with Loughborough Dynamo made much of their Chairmans involvement . As a local lad Gareth Bull has put much of his energy, passion, and some of his lottery winnings into  the club.

The rain had only stopped two hours earlier as the teams took to the field Mid to a fanfare of rockets. Not for them though just local revellers on this cold bonfire night.

The pitch slopes slightly from one goal to the other and is a bit undulating with good grass cover. It all looked very wet but there was no standing water.

Clay Cross Town FC 3 Sherwood Colliery FC 1

Clay Cross chose to play with the slope and took charge of the midfield with No.10 putting in some good creative work. Both sides could have scored in the first 20 minutes but for good saves by the goalkeepers. The deadlock was broken when on 25 minutes when a well worked corner saw the Clay Cross No 8 Josh Scully hit a cross goal ball that evaded everyone but the Sherwood player on the far post who steered it into his own goal. Josh Scully ran to the crowd to claim the goal.

Within 5 minutes Sherwood hit back when from a freekick on the left, the ball fell to Sam Dockwray who made no mistake in drilling home. Level at half time it seemed anyone’s game.

What was impressive was the way that both teams played out of defence rather than the long ball. Despite some chances it looked as if the game was heading for extra time until with 2 minutes left after a bad clearance and some great work from the right the resulting cross found Josh Parfitt unmarked to simply nod in for Clay Cross to lead.

Clay Cross seemed happy to try to play out time but in added time again a strong run from the right, following two corners, found Sam Dockwray to smack the ball home for a 3-1 win to Clay Cross. The whistle blew just after to jubilation from the home team and crowd and a next round game against either South Normanton or Rothwell Corinthians both step 5 teams and two levels above Clay Cross.



The Chips were the best of the season so far, golden, hot, thick, tasty and plenty of them. A high score of 76 for these.

The Romance of Football

This Saturday, 2nd November, is the Second Round Proper of the FA Vase and one stand out game is  Bishop Aukland v West Aukland Town, kick off 3pm.

This very local derby sets the most successful Ameteur Cup side against the first World Cup Winners.

It is all about romance, passion, rivalry, community and much more, its is also the essence of Non – League Football.

Keeping up to date on the other day I found this ‘Our Cup of Tea’ documentary.

It’s well worth the 16 minutes of anyone’s time. and


Harrogate ease through to next round.

I had the opportunity to visit the Shay in Halifax to see the F.A. Cup 4th Qualifying Round, Halifax Town v Harrogate Town. I had not visited the Shay for ages and it has changed out of all recognition partly due to the sharing arrangement with the local Rugby League Club

It is now a very modern ground, not a concrete jungle, with great facilities that now graces the National League.

The day was very Autumnal with grey skies, little wind, but a chill in the air. The pitch looked perfect but had cut up badley where the practice goals had been placed.

Halifax Town AFC have had their ups and downs. Formed in 1911 they worked their way up to the Football League in 1921 where they stayed until relegation to the Conference in 1993. A promotion in 1998 saw them back in the League but for only 4 years and life back in the Conference was hard and financial difficulties lead to administration in 2007. A further demotion due to financial difficulties found the newly reformed club in The Northern Premier League One North in the 2008/09 season. They have since fought their way back and now sit top of the National League but recent results have been disappointing.

Harrogate Town were formed in 1914 and played in local football until the 1980’s when they were founder members of the Northern Counties East League. Progress has been steady and in 2016 layed a state of the art 3G pitch and started operating as a full time professional club in the 2017/18 season. They were rewarded for this move gaining promotion to the National League that season. They are now well established as a major force in this 5th tier of English Football.

Halifax Town 1 Harrogate Town 2

Harrogate started the best in front of the disappointing crowd of 1246. Their attacking play down the right was causing problems with Brendan Kiernan putting in some good crosses which were causing angst for the Halifax defence. One of these crosses on nine minutes was headed onto the crossbar by a back peddling Josh Staunton who unfortunately saw Mark Beck score from the rebound.

The diminutive figure of Josh Faulkingham bossed the midfield seeming to be everywhere. Despite this Halifax should have gone in level when on 30 minutes Jerome Binnom-Williams should have done better with his header with an open goal beckoning.

Harrogate ended the half on top but within a few seconds  of the second half Niall Maher tapped in at the back post to level the score. Halifax should have pushed on from this but again Harrogate dominated midfield and they retook the lead on 54 minutes with some neat interpassing on the right for Jack Muldoon to cut the ball back across goal for Beck to get his second.

Halifax tried with little success to regain the momentum and even using all of their substitutes could not create an effective threat.

Harrogate ran out deserved winners.

The food facilities were very good but the chips at £2 were only warm and a bit soggy, disappointing, only scoring 56.

Pennine Lancashire Football Culture


The British Textile Biennial this year is being hosted in the Pennine Lancashire Area this year with events being held between 3rd October and 3rd November.

This area produced 85% of the world’s cotton goods by the end of the 19th Century and some lives on today through manufacture, design and sales. The British Textile Biennial promotes the industry and encourages people of all ages to embrace the history and promotes the creation of new pathways in this exciting field.

On a recent visit to the area I found two of the events with Football relevance. At the former Burnley Mechanics Institute, now a venue for meetings, leisure and the arts Jacqui McCassey has presented an exhibition ‘Girl Fans’ a photo-zine of female football fans fashion. She has observed and recorded how female fans of Burnley F.C. and Burnley Womens F.C. express their identity. Jacqui’s images and and some ephemera are displayed on the walls of the lounge/bar and restaurant. A small free brochure is available to look at the images and some others at your leisure. Worth a tea/coffee and some time to take a look.


Also as part of the British Textile Biennial was an exhibition at the old Cotton Exchange in Blackburn between October 4th and 20th of Adidas trainers. The trainer has been synonymous with fashion, football and practicality for the last 50 years.


The Adidas Spezial Exhibition showcased over 1200 pairs of their trainers with many rare examples.

Gary Aspen the designer of the Spezial Range  is from nearby Darwen, a son of a Mill Worker, was presenting many of his own collection and many more. Gary is a passionate Blackburn Rovers fan and was showcasing the latest limited edition the ‘Blackburn Nightsafe’. All proceeds from the sale of 200 pairs of the £100 trainers will go to the homeless charity ‘Nightsafe’ based in Darwen. Donations for attending the display were also being collected.

“I’m absolutely over the moon about it. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me,” he said, his Lancastrian accent intact despite years spent working in London. “This is one of the top 10 poorest towns in Europe and I feel strongly that places like Blackburn, which have been hit badly by austerity, can be regenerated with the help of culture.”

Quote by Gary Aspen for an article by  North of England editor. The Guardian 



At the same time there is an exhibition at Townley Hall in Burnley, ‘Bob Lord, Burnley Born and Bred’ which runs until February 29, 2020.

Born in 1908 Bob Lord left school at 14 and built a meat empire employing hundreds of people. as a devoted Burnley fan he eventually became Club Chairman and had high influential positions in the game. His controversial comments did not endear him to everyone and you either loved or hated him.

In Burnley he is best remembered for their successful years in the 1960’s and the setting up of one of the best youth schemes and training grounds in the country, perhaps the forerunner of the modern academy.

The exhibition has some great photographs of his era at Burnley that came to an end just before his death in 1981. A short video has also been produced that is well worth watching.