Further changes have been made to fixtures.  The latest changes are:
Saturday 5th December 2020
Bishop Auckland         v        Sunderland RCA            (from 12/12)
Seaham Red Star        v         Whitley Bay                  (from 15/05)
Tuesday 8th December 2020
Hebburn Town          v         Seaham Red Star            (from 12/12)
Ryhope CW            v          Thornaby                          (from 12/12)
Sunderland RCA          v        North Shields                (from 05/12)
West Auckland           v        Billingham Town              (from 06/04)
Wednesday 9th December 2020
Guisborough Town          v          Shildon                     (from 12/12)
Stockton Town           v          Penrith                           (from 12/12)
Saturday 12th December 2020
Billingham Town           v          Guisborough Town      (from 30/03)
Penrith        v        Bishop Auckland                             (from 10/04)
Thornaby            v         Hebburn Town                        (from 14/04)
West Auckland          v           Whitley Bay                   (from 05/12)
Whickham         v       Sunderland RCA                       (from 31/03)
Monday 26th December 2020
Billingham Town           v          Thornaby                    @12.00 (from 06/02)
Saturday 28th December 2020
Thornaby           v        Seaham Red Star                     (@ 12.00)
Tuesday 5th January 2021
Ashington            v          Bishop Auckland                  (from 05/12)
Hebburn Town          v            Billingham Town            (from 01/05)
Wednesday 6th January 2021
Northallerton Town         v          Guisborough Town    (from 15/05)
Tuesday 6th April 2021
Billingham Town           v          West Auckland             (from 12/12)
Saturday 1st May 2021
Consett             v            Hebburn Town                       (from 05/12)
Saturday 15th May 2021
Seaham Red Star             v         Guisborough Town   (from 05/12)

By Brian Bennett

A group of colleagues from Ashington Football Club and friends who undertook another gruelling challenge in their bid to raise awareness and funds for Prostate Cancer UK have been overwhelmed by the support and generosity they have received from members of the public. The group successfully completed a 25 miles hike from the Angel of the North in Gateshead back to The dwmedia Stadium at Woodhorn Lane – the home of Ashington FC – and have been left staggered after raising £5,357 for the charity. This was the fourth year in a row that the walk – labelled the ‘March for Men’ – had been arranged and over that time, in excess of £15,000 has been donated. Stevie Baptist, one of the organisers said: “We had a magic day and have been blown away by this amount. The country is in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic and we had set ourselves a target of £1,000 – but to hit over £5,000 is beyond our wildest dreams and we send out a massive thank you message to all the people who have sponsored us.” He continued: “Originally, the walk was planned for October but we had to defer it as we went into local lockdown. We have increased the distance year on year and every one of us was keen to do it and the great camaraderie kept us going. We battled through a mixed bag of weather but whatever pain we went through is nothing compared to the people who are suffering from what is the biggest cancer amongst men. It all became a bit emotional at times as we met people along the way who gave a donation – including the homeless.” He added: “We’d also like to thank everyone who helped us on the day, to make it happen – Triple J taxis for the transport to the Angel, Jackie from the Clayton for the food and Daniel and Jemma from dw media who met us at various locations along the way with refreshments.” He went on: “We are already looking ahead to 2021. It will be extra special with it being our fifth year and we are thinking about incorporating families and children to get involved.” Tracey Pritchard, Director of Fundraising & Supporter Engagement at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “Walking has been so influential in helping us spread the word about prostate cancer but sadly this disease is not yet out of bounds. Prostate cancer is now the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK and due to the impact of Covid-19, our life-saving research is at risk. However, the continued support of so many wonderfully generous and supportive people has enabled us to protect research into better tests and treatments, to stop prostate cancer being a killer. We want to make prostate cancer something that the next generation of men do not fear and will continue to stand side by side with men and their loved ones. We thank Ashington AFC Fans and Friends for going that extra mile.” The participants on the walk were: Michael Slee, Steve Baptist, John Saunders, Lee Clark McCabe, Ian Campbell, Alan Dick, Ian Charlton, Peter Bowman, Cameron Bowman, James Fairgrieve, Craig Dickinson, Mark Dickinson, Neil Dickinson, Matthew Dickinson, Thomas Dickinson, Ralph Dickinson, Graeme Thompson and Nick Dunn.

The FA has released the following information about the Buildbase FA Vase:

Following the suspension of The 2020-21 Buildbase FA Vase competition during the period of the national lockdown between 5 November and 3 December, please see the confirmed schedule below which has been agreed in conjunction with Leagues Committee and National Game Competitions Committee for the restart of the competition;

The objective of the following schedule is to ensure the competition can complete as many fixtures as possible on time in an equitable manner and to ensure it remains on schedule.

Round Dates

First Round Proper         Saturday 5 OR Sunday 6 December for the 12 outstanding matches

Second Round Proper    Saturday 5 December as the default date, with any postponed matches rescheduled within the eight-day Postponement Window (i.e. on or before Sunday 13 December).

The 12 Second Round Proper matches, postponed as a result of the 12 outstanding First Round Proper matches which are scheduled on Saturday 5 OR Sunday 6 December, will be rescheduled on Saturday 12 December. If any of these matches are further postponed, they would need to be rescheduled within the eight-day Postponement Window (i.e. on or before Sunday 20 December).

Third Round Proper       Saturday 19 December as the default date, with any postponed matches rescheduled within the eight-day Postponement Window (i.e. on or before Sunday 27 December).

Any match which is postponed as a result of being impacted by one of the 12 outstanding First Round Proper matches would be required to be rescheduled on Tuesday 29 December. If any of these matches are further postponed, they would need to be rescheduled within the eight-day Postponement Window (i.e. on or before Sunday 3 January).

We fully appreciate the challenges some Clubs may face as a result of this scheduling. However, due to the impact of COVID-19 and the uncertainty it has created, the proposed schedules and actions above are considered appropriate to bring the Competition back on schedule as quickly as possible and to mitigate any further risk to it progressing.

Please also be advised there would need to be a further review of the Competition should the national lockdown be extended beyond 3 December. In such circumstances, The FA will contact Clubs with an update as soon as it is able to do so.

Further changes have been made to the dates and kick-off times for some fixtures over Christmas.  The amended list of fixtures for Boxing Day and Bank Holiday Monday is below.  (Kick-off is at 3pm unless otherwise specified for a fixture):
First Division:
Saturday 26th December 2020
Ashington AFC            v    Northallerton Town
Guisborough Town         v    Newcastle Benfield (@ 11am)
Newton Aycliffe          v    West Auckland Town (@ 12.00)
Stockton Town            v    Shildon
Thornaby              v   Seaham Red Star
Monday 28th December 2020 
Bishop Auckland          v    Whickham                      (@ 13.00)   
North Shields            v    Ryhope CW                        (@12.00)
Penrith                  v    Consett                                     (@13.00 )
Sunderland RCA           v    Hebburn Town              (@ 12.00)
Second Division:
Saturday 26th December 2020
Bedlington Terriers      v    Carlisle City
Birtley Town             v    Esh Winning                     (@ 12.00)
Crook Town               v    Brandon United               (@11.00)
Durham City              v    Billingham Synthonia
Monday 28th December 2020
Chester-le-Street        v    Newcastle University
Easington Colliery       v    Heaton Stannington      (@ 12.00)  
Redcar Athletic          v    Tow Law Town
Ryton & Crawcrook Albion v    Jarrow                     (@13.00)
Sunderland West End      v    Willington                 (@ 12.00)  

The Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t brought much good news to the football world, including the Ebac Northern League.

One of the few bright spots has been new spectators discovering the league and coming to our games before the suspension of matches last week.

One of the new “converts” to the league has been Scot Graeme Giles who has travelled thousands of miles with his six year-old son to get his football “fix”.  Graeme, who lives in Aberdeenshire but works in Angola, looked for pastures new with football shut down for spectators north of the border.  By coincidence, the cousin of one of his works colleagues mentioned the Ebac Northern League and noticed that spectators were allowed in.

And his tweets about his experiences has been a big hit with our clubs and fans (he’s at: @GilesGraeme – nickname Fitbawbag).

“I had some time at home and in 3 ½ weeks I was able to get to six games, travelling more than 3,000 miles.

“It’s been fantastic to watch and I’ve been very impressed by the quality of the football and everyone has been so welcoming.  My favourite league is the Highland League for entertainment and value, but the Northern League is very similar and the top teams in the league would be OK in the Highland League.”

His six year-old son Jake is a fellow convert, after joining Graeme on his second cross-border trip.  “He has loved it.  As we were coming back from a game at Carlisle City he asked: ‘What’s the next game?’”

Apart from Carlisle, he’s also been to games at Easington Colliery, Tow Law, Consett, Ryton & Crawcrook and Esh Winning.

They diverted to Consett and were able to get returned tickets after the game they had planned to go to – Hebburn v Stockton – was postponed after they’d crossed the border, with Consett making sure it wasn’t a wasted journey.

“People and clubs got to learn that I was travelling to their match and they’d keep me informed about whether the match was on or not.  Spectators have also been great for telling me about the league and the different clubs.  Everyone has been very welcoming.

“The standard of the football has been higher than I expected.  For example, at Easington I don’t think the ball left the deck during the first half, with quick, passing football.

“And all the grounds have got their own quirks

And Graeme’s already planning his post-lockdown fixtures, with games at Crook Town, Penrith and Heaton Stannington pencilled in.

Graeme has also penned an article about his Northern League experiences here: 

The League Management Committee has decided that league fixtures will resume on Saturday, December 5, after the national lockdown has been lifted.

However, the decision, made on Thursday night, is subject to any changes to the lifting of the lockdown and in consultation with the FA.

League chairman Glenn Youngman said:  “These are unprecedented times and everyone is in a difficult position.  We have had to balance the need of clubs and players to prepare for the resumption of matches with the need to complete the league season and getting much-needed income into clubs.

“By making an early decision, clubs will be able to plan as best they can for the resumption of games.

“By December we will already have effectively lost two months of the season – having to start in September and this latest pause.

“We have been able to complete just under a third of our fixtures, but there is always the potential to lose further fixtures due to bad weather and there are other cup competitions – such as the Vase and FA county cups in December – which will put further pressure on league fixtures and reduce the number of dates that fixtures can be moved to.

“We will continue to keep under review whether we will hold our own cup competitions.”

Fixtures that have been postponed because of the current national lockdown have been re-arranged for dates towards the end of the season.  The fixture list on the website will be updated as soon as possible.

(Following a request from the FA, before the season started, clubs were asked for their views about how promotion and relegation should be decided if the season was ended prematurely.  Around three quarters of clubs responded and the vast majority said that the points per game system should be used if at least 75% of fixtures have been played.)