A trip to county Durham gave me the chance to visit Esh Winning to see them play Bedlington Terriers in the Northern League Division Two at the West Terrace Ground.
The names conjure up a strange coming together of a mystical world playing a dog breed, but this is serious football. The village of Esh Winning comes from Esh, the medieval name for a local Ash forest and Winning the term given when a new coal seam was discovered (A winning).
Esh Winnings ground is outside the village in fact it is on the border of the neighbouring village Waterhouses. The ground was moved there around 1968 when The NCB cleared the Eastern Village and pit buildings selling the current ground to the reformed Esh Winning club.
There was a football team in village called Esh Winning Rangers around 1889 playing locally until joining the Northern League in 1912 and dropping the Rangers from their name a year later. This team folded in 1934 and today’s club can be traced back to 1967 when Esh Winning Pineapple was formed playing Sundays in the Durham League. 1981 saw them step up to the Northern Alliance where they stayed for only one season before joining the Northern League where they play today. At the same time as this move the Pineapple part of their name disapeared.
They have seen an awful lot of ups and downs since then, 2002 up to Division 1, 2006 down to 2, 2009 to 1, 2011 back to 2 where they are now.
Bedlington like Esh Winning has seen football in the town for over 100 years with teams playing around the 1900’s. The current team dates back to 1949 when they played under the name of Bedlington Mechanics in the Northern Combination. They changed their name to Bridlington Colliery Town and then to Bedlington Colliery Welfare in the next ten years joining the Northern Alliance League in 1955. After another ten years they disbanded (1963).
They were back in business in 1965 reforming as Bedlington Colliery Welfare in the Alliance but by 1971 they left the Alliance League and played in some minor leagues under the new name Bedlington United again being readmitted to the Northern Alliance League in 1980. Two years later they were promoted to the the inaugural season of the Northern League Division Two. By 1985 they were promoted only to be relegated the next year. Promoted again to the top division in 1995 by 1998 they were winning that division, the first of 5 in a row, and a year later their highest peak was reached when they made it to the final of the FA Vase where they lost to the only goal to Tiverton Town. They were close again a season later but this time fell at the semi final stage. Somewhere along the way they were renamed Bedlington Terriers as per the dog breed associated with the village.
The heady days were over and they suffered a decline until finally sucumbing to relegation to the second division in 2016.
Sometimes it’s not the football that is the main enjoyment of the afternoon. Sitting in the stand I met Dec alias Miserable Les a musician of 50 years who now under his alias writes poetry and sings some of his output to paying audiences. He has released some albums one of which is called ‘7 Deadly Songs’ worth looking up but it is an acquired taste. It was the chat about the area, his support for Gateshead, knowledge of the local football scene all in a comical way that made the two halves fly by. Some of the humour was self depreciating, for instance his explanation of how his choice of name, Miserable Les, was a huge error because if you look it up on Google you find pages about Les Misérables before any appearance of himself. Definitely a very poor choice. Thank you Dec for a very amusing and enjoyable afternoon, hopefully our paths will cross again on another of my Northern excursions. Good luck with your music in the future.
Back to the football, the ground as I said was not in Esh Winning but in Waterhouses and is reached down an unmade road through a wood. To enter the ground you go through the club house that was busy with a bar and food area combined, however no chips. Going outside you are greeted by an open ground with good views of the local hills and woods. The pitch sloped from one goal to another and the grass was still thick with little wear even in the goal mouths, perhaps due to the exposed nature of the area and the drying winds which were very evident.
Although overcast it did not feel cold despite only registering only 6 degrees.
Esh Winning AFC 0 Bedlington Terriers FC 1
Northern League Division 2, Saturday 12th February, Kick off 3 p.m.
Esh v The Terriers
Esh Winning looked the liveliest early on but the two very young teams cancelled each other out as the defences took the upper hand. Even the sending off of Bedlington Terriers stalwart defender Shepherd for what the crowd thought was arguing with the referee changed little. The biggest excitement was when Esh hit the corner of the upright and crossbar just before half time.
With Bedlington now playing down hill little changed and it was a defensive error that gifted O’Connor the ball who steadied himself as two defenders and the goalkeeper tried to get in the way before he placed the ball home for the lead. Despite having a man advantage Esh Winning did not get back into the game and posed little threat to deny Bedlington their win.
The result meant that the Terriers moved up the lower half of the table but Esh Winning are now second from bottom only above the winless Durham City.
Interesting that both goalkeepers were young, tall and very competent. This seems a trend in lower league football. It could be that there are now specific goal keeper coaches or perhaps they are no longer sticking the kid that didn’t want to play in goal, Whatever the reason the standard of goalkeeping is definitely improving.
Unfortunately there were no Chips at the ground but I popped into Fields in Esh Winning to try their Chips. Fields have featured on TV programs as one of the last Chip shops to still cook with a gas fired range. It was busy and everything had been freshly cooked and the chips were just as they should be , tasty, hot, slightly greasy. Unfortunately my picture does not do them justice as I took it with them rested on my knee as we rushed off