Battle of the football titans.

Bishop Auckland v Whitley Bay to many would not seem a top match but this was a game I had looked forward to.

Both teams play in the Northern League and were in good positions to win the league but have in recent weeks fallen away. Why then my title, well both have an illustrious history that can’t be matched by any others at their level of football.

Bishop Auckland appeared in eighteen FA Amateur Cup finals during its 80 odd year run, winning ten, before that competition became the FA Vase of which Whitley Bay have won four, three in a row in 2009, 2010 and 2011. No other teams has won as many.

Bishop Auckland’s ground is modern on the edge of a large retail park that is growing in size across the already busy main road. The centre of Bishop Auckland has that very run down feel which has new grant money to try to regenerate it. One idea currently up for consultation is to build a new multi million pound bus terminal to help turn things around. I think the money would be better spent on increasing affordable busses to serve the expanding and ultra busy retail park which might help to take some of the cars away.

The afternoon was grey with a cold bite in the air at 3.5 degrees which had not put off the 346 who had made it to the match. The ground has good facilities with a large seated stand on one side, more uncovered seating behind one goal and covered terraced standing behind the other. There is a food kiosk with a good range of food and drink, tarmacadam parking area and a hospitality area which I did not look into. The club also have their own shop in town in the cultural quarter, an area that boasts the refurbished town hall/theatre, Mining Art Museum, Spanish Art Gallery, Auckland Tower, El Castillo tapas restaurant, Auckland Castle, grounds and gardens and soon to be opened Faith Museum, mostly part of the Auckland Project that has been driven by the philanthropist Jonathan Ruffer. The football shop has all types of historical artifacts and information about this important club and if time had permitted I could have spent much longer there.

Bishop Auckland trace their history back to 1882 when theological students studying at the castle formed a team called Bishop Auckland Church Institute but a dispute meant a break away club, Auckland Town, was crated in 1886 and from this Bishop Auckland Football Club. Their iconic quartered shirts of light and dark blue represent the colours of those original students from Oxbridge. Auckland Town were founder members of the Northern League but it was as Bishop Auckland that they were members from 1893 to 1988 and 2006 to date. They spent the other years in the Northern Premier League which at that time was only one league away from the Football League. They moved to their current ground in 2010 after nearly a decade of ground sharing. This is a very brief history that touches the very surface of their many cup and League triumphs and the players who represented their country or went on to play for clubs at the highest level.

The present Whitley Bay team was formed in 1950 named Whitley Bay Athletic as members of the Northern Alliance League and joined the Northern League as Whitley Bay FC in 1958. Like Bishop Auckland they can boast many cup and League successes but it is those FA Vase wins that set them apart from others.

Bishop Auckland FC 3 Whitley Bay FC 0

Saturday 4th March. 15.00 kick off. Northern League. 3rd v 4th. Bishops v Seahorses

Heritage Park, Stadium Way, Bishop Auckland, DL 14 9AE.

Bishop Auckland, Shirts, bark blue and light blue quarters with dark blue shorts: Whitley Bay, shits have black shoulders and neck that graduates into yellow with black shorts.

There was 1 minutes silence for ex manager, Tony Lee before the game who had served the club for many successful seasons in the past.

The 1st 15 minutes were edged by the Seahorses who gained the upper hand in midfield and down the left and should have had a penalty when Elliot Day was tripped but somehow kept his balance to tamely shoot at goal. I’m sure that if he had gone down the referee would have had no alternative but to point to the penalty spot.

The home side did have the ball in the net just after but this was ruled as offside. Bishops now came more into the game but what struck me most was the best long ball passing I have seen anywhere all season from both sides, great to see it successfully executed rather than some of the pedestrian crab like playing out of defence that is the current trend.

With the game poised for half time in the 4th minute of added time Marcus Giles received the ball on the edge of the penalty area and his shot was cruelly deflected past the away goalkeeper who was going the other way for 1.0.

Bishop Auckland kicked down hill in the second half on the undulating good grass pitch and took control from the start. They doubled their lead after 67 minutes when some neat inter-passing on the left corner of the penalty box gave Lewis Johnson the space to cut inside and hit a right foot curling shot round defenders and the goalkeeper into the right hand corner of the goal.
It was all over ten minutes later when substitute Callum Patton was put through and he drew the keeper and tapped the ball to his left where Dean Thexton was free to stroke the ball home for a three nil win.

The win for The Bishops keeps their League title hopes alive and I saw a competitive, skilful game, thank you. My man of the match was Whitley Bay’s Elliot Day who created chances on the left, defended well, was vocal in marshalling his colleagues but was subbed off around 70 minutes when he seemed to injure his leg after an awkward tackle.

The officials had a good game and they say that when policemen look young you are getting old well the girl running the line looked like she could have been my granddaughter. However she took some stick from the home fans for offside decisions. not her age or sex and was confident to hold up play for an off ball incident that gained a player a booking.

Finally the chips, of which I am embarrassed to comment, they were cold and soggy and I threw most away. A score of only 33. Perhaps I was given the end of a batch that had been cooked sometime before I bought them.


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