A NASTY NIGHT FOR NORTHALLERTON

Northallerton Town 1 Newton Aycliffe 7 – Ebac Northern League Division One

By Pete Sixsmith

I am sure that you are all familiar with the work of the American journalist Lincoln Steffens. He was the man who visited the Soviet Union in the 1920s and made the declaration “I have seen the future and it works,” a statement that could be contested vigorously by many. It goes to show that predictions should be made based on more than one view of that of which you are pontificating.

Well, I have seen Newton Aycliffe twice this season. On the first occasion, a depleted side came back to gain a deserved point from a Shildon side who thought they had the game sewn up. Aycliffe were well organised, knew what they were doing and, although lacking a cutting edge, could well have won the game. I’ll make a prediction here: they have the potential to win the First Division this season.

On Wednesday, I trekked from Tier 2 County Durham, where promotion to Tier 3 is regarded as imminent and most of the inhabitants are infected by boils, pustules and swollen limbs and crossed the River Tees into North Yorkshire where all the men are handsome, all the women are pretty and all the children are above average and where boils etc are all but unknown.

Northallerton is a fine town with its long high street, its independent shops and its place at the centre of North Yorkshire life. It has a Betty’s, purveyors of Fat Rascals to fat rascals, Lewis and Coopers who sell sumptuous hampers and tuck boxes that even Bunter of Greyfriars would not complain about and Barkers, the kind of shop that Binns used to be like before Mike Ashley turned them into a slightly more upmarket version of Sports Direct.

The town football team has never risen to the heights of its shops. They switch divisions on a regular basis and I cannot remember them challenging for honours in the top flight or having a good run in either of the national competitions. This season they are sitting in mid table having played more games than most of those around them and having a goal difference that took a pounding in this game.

Aycliffe were a pleasure to watch, even if it was through steamed up varifocals and they played the crispest, best organised football I have seen this season. Manager Colin Stromsoy has put together a group of players who clearly listen to him and have bought in to his footballing philosophy of moving the ball quickly without giving it away.

There are no stars in this Aycliffe side but there is a collective frame of mind that Lincoln Steffens would have appreciated. Stromsoy is no Lenin, urging the workers on with stirring language and rhetoric as previous Aycliffe managers have. Instead, he is the technocrat who understands what can be done with the (relatively) limited resources that he has at his disposal and in getting the best out of each individual player.

He has, in Marc Costello, a fulcrum around which much of the play revolves. Up front, he has a bustling menace of a centre forward in Adam Burnicle, who caused the Northallerton defence all kinds of problems in the opening half hour as they went three up to leave the home team with a mountain to climb.

Burnicle opened the scoring in the second minute when he drilled home a superb ball from Liam Jarvie. Jarvie made it two, then Connor Phelan put the South Durham lads out of sight. Burnicle put a penalty so far over the bar that it hit the 19.58 to London Kings Cross, before another goal from the quietly impressive Jake Petitjean sent them into the dressing rooms with wide smiles on their faces.

Any hopes that Town had of getting back into the game disappeared when Petitjean headed home a fifth. In fact, their only hope of being spared a humiliating home defeat was when a bank of fog appeared and settled like a trusty Labrador in the far corner of the pitch. It was to no avail.

Further goals were added by Ethan wood and Liam Jarvie and although Nathan Stephenson beat Adam Pickford in the Aycliffe goal with an exquisite chip, it was no more than a consolation – if that.

Predictions made at the start of a long process often fall by the wayside – Steffens did get it wrong about Communist Russia – and there is always the possibility that some of the Aycliffe players could be lured away by bigger clubs with bigger budgets. But I got the distinct impression that this was a collective and a group of players who had developed together and who hoped to achieve together.

If you get the chance to see them, I heartily recommend it.