BULLY FOR BILLINGHAM.

Pete Sixsmith reports from Bedford Terrace

After a busy night stewarding at Durham’s Lumiere Festival, I had opted against an away day and elected to spend the morning resting and then stroll up Busty Bank and along Elm Road and Highland Gardens to Dean Street for a tasty looking game between Shildon and Newcastle Benfield.

At 2.00 p.m. I put my shoes on, buttoned up my overcoat and, before setting off, checked the ENL website to find that the game was listed as OFF. I looked at the Shildon AFC Twitter feed; game off. I cursed the referee. I ranted at the iniquities of the weather. I looked for another game.

Billingham Town was the closest so the trusty Mazda was fired up and I sped the 22 miles from Sixsmith Towers to Bedford Terrace, arriving there just after kick off and finding a healthy crowd inside this well-appointed ground and a game taking place on Town’s splendid pitch which was in pristine condition.

This was my first sighting of the Billingham Blues this season and I was impressed with their first half performance. They went ahead early on when Luke Hogan rounded off a fine move with an even better first time shot which left West keeper Mark Bell clutching at thin air (why thin? How can air be either fat or thin?) and putting and setting the tempo of the game.

West struggled to get up to that tempo and young midfielders Dan Greenfield and Arron Thompson,  both who have impressed at times, could not gain a foothold in midfield, where Town debutant Glenn Butterworth, on loan from Marske United, showed his quality. Dan Mitton and Ross Colquhoun found Craig Hutchinson a real handful and Billingham pushed on well from the back. Their half time lead was well deserved as West skipper Louis Dodds made his feelings known to his teammates and half the 200+ crowd as he went down the tunnel.

His mood was not improved in the second half as the impressive Hogan swept in a second goal to assert Town’s authority over the game, although the (metaphorical) greybeards stood around me urged caution, quoting the well worn maxim that “A two goal lead is the hardest to hold in football.” As a Sunderland supporter, I would just have to take their word for it…..

But they were right. West began to push on and gained a corner. West are dangerous from corners, but only when they are taken by Adam Mitchell.  Three weeks ago, when I saw West beat Whitley Bay, their first two goals came from his dead ball kicks as Bay defenders failed to pick up. Billingham’s did the same here, with the same results.

Goal number one came when his corner was headed on by Anwar Purewal and was bundled over the line by Ross Colquhoun, prompting Mitchell to observe that the lack of celebration was worrying. But it was he who proved to be more of a worry for the defenders and when another corner was headed into the net by Purewal, West’s players did celebrate and, with 20+ minutes left, it looked as if they would go on and win.

But Town were having none of this and it was they who came back strongly. Bell made a couple of very good saves, there were some last ditch tackles and interceptions by West defenders and when the excellent referee brought the game to an end, West would probably be happier than Town with a point.

It was an absorbing and entertaining game, with both sides playing good football on an excellent surface. There was a boisterous section of the crowd sat in the stand complete with drums, trumpets and stentorian voices who created an atmosphere. There were good friends to chat with and trains to look out for. There was just the one that went past the ground; a Northern Rail service from Hexham to Battersby Junction. I casually wondered if anyone would ever want to make the full journey and if so, for what reason.

There may be a novel in that somewhere.