WEST ALLOTMENT CELTIC – IT’S GOOD TO BE HOME

For several years West Allotment Celtic have been nomads – playing at different venues as they strived to find a ground at or near their North Tyneside home.

But those days come to an end tomorrow night when they play their first league match at their new home – the East Palmersville Sports Pavilion at Palmersville, Forest Hall.

It’s been a long, hard slog for club chairman Jim Wilson and his team of committee and volunteers.  They’re sharing the facilities with Forest Hall YPC after months of ground improvement work, including new fencing, dugouts and floodlights.

The work was carried out after a £100,000 grant from the Football Stadia Improvement Fund.  Jim said:

“The club has been based away from its community for almost 25 years now, so it is wonderful to be back home at long last.

“It has only happened due to the unstinting effort and generosity of many people over many, many months.

“We’re proud to be back in the first division and we hope the local community will come along and support us.  There’ll be some great football on show.”

Previously, Allotment were on the brink of going out of business after a ground dispute with the Northumberland FA over their former Whitley Park home.  The club resigned from the league and looked set to bring down the curtain on 90 years of football at the club.

They withdrew their resignation when they secured a move into a new temporary home at Druid Park in the shadow of Newcastle Airport, almost 14 miles from West Allotment.

But they play Thornaby tomorrow in their first league match at their new home after a creditable draw at North Shields on the opening day of the season.  Club details are at:

https://www.northernfootballleague.org/team/west-allotment-celtic/

(And thanks to Ashington Secretary Gav Perry for the photos)

With Horden CW’s floodlight installation due to be completed by 30th September, it has been necessary to reschedule/reverse the following midweek fixtures:

Wednesday 25th August 2021
Billingham Synthonia v Horden CW (from 27/11)

Saturday 11th September 2021
Horden CW v Brandon United (from 07/09)

Thursday 23rd September 2021
Newcastle University v Horden CW (from 08/01)

Saturday 25th September 2021
Horden CW v Durham City (from 10/08)

Saturday 27th November 2021
Horden CW v Billingham Synthonia (from 24/08)

Saturday 8th January 2022
Horden CW v Newcastle University (from 21/09)

Other fixture changes:

Two cup games have been brought forward by 24 hours.

Whickham’s FA Cup tie against Consett will be played this Friday (August 6, ko 7.30pm)

Washington’s FA Vase tie against Thornaby will be played on Friday, September 10, ko 7.30pm)

 

Billingham Town 2 Newton Aycliffe 5 – Ebac Northern League Division One

Well that was alright, wasn’t it?

Twenty games, more than 4,000 spectators and 74 goals greeted the return of the Northern League demonstrating just why we have all missed it so much over the last nine months.

While fans of West Auckland Town and Newcastle Benfield may contest it, the best viewing on the opening weekend of the 2021-22 campaign came at Bedford Terrace as Billingham Town hosted Newton Aycliffe.

With Shildon joining towns Stockton and Hebburn in moving on up from the Northern League, Colin Stromsoy’s Aycliffe are perhaps one of those sides in the brush tarnishing category enlisted as ‘contenders’ given their consistency over the last two season’s worth of fixtures.

On both occasions prior to the season stopping Aycliffe found themselves in fifth place hanging onto the coat tails of the potential promotion places alongside the likes of North Shields and Consett – two others to receive a good deal of contender tarnishing heading into this new season.

Nevertheless, ultimately it comes down to what teams can do when they head out onto the field and on Saturday, Aycliffe held up their end of the bargain in a ding-dong affair with Pat Robinson’s Billingham.

The stage was set as the players emerged from the tunnel to the PA system’s warm-up music of Fatboy Slim battling in unison with the beating of a drum from one of Town’s fans. It seems strange to admit missing the sound of a drum at a football match given how they’re usually filed into the same cabinet as clappers and anything else used to generate an atmosphere outside of some good old fashioned bashing together of hands and groans of the voice.

But how nice it was to have supporters back in abundance. There really was almost a fever pitch as we headed towards that oh so famous time of 3 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon and thankfully, for those 179 in attendance they were welcomed back with a cracker.

There were seven goals, a red card and just a refreshingly fierce competitiveness to the game; you could sense both sets of players were letting out nine months of pent up frustration. Tackles were flying in, teammates sticking up for one another, there was good football, there was some nine-month rusty football, there were some excellent strikes, there were pantomime villains and there was even the rain – it must be the football season.

Ten minutes is all it took to bring the first goal as midfielder Marc Costello won the ball back for the visitors in a promising area before finding Lewis Walton who hung a wonderful cross onto the head of Jake Petitjean who nodded past Michael Roxburgh in the Billingham goal.

Sonni Coleman became, I presume, the first player to be sin-binned this season for an indifferent choice of words towards referee Alex Clark as the hosts grabbed an equaliser when Ashley Lavan’s deflected strike looped onto the post falling kindly for Harrison Webster to slam in the rebound from close range.

Cleansed from the sin bin, Coleman came back on to almost immediate effect as he was handed the task of converting from the penalty spot after Petitjean was fouled by Joseph Taylor inside the area.

Coleman’s spot kick oozed class as he stroked it beyond the keepers reach low into the bottom corner.

A fairly entertaining half but nothing compared to what was to come. Ben Dibb-Fuller replaced Liam Jarvie, who came close to adding a third for Aycliffe inside the opening minutes of the restart, and he looked to have sealed the game with a wonderful strike in the 71st minute arrowing a left-footed effort low into the bottom corner from distance.

But two minutes later things turned on their head as Petitjean and Daniel Boyle robustly slid in together causing a melee involving most of the 22 outfield players as well as a good chunk of both dugouts.

On the face of things it seemed little more than some over-zealous handbags but the crux of it suggested something different as Aycliffe’s Adam Burnicle was given his marching orders much to the delight of the home fans.

But the numerical deficit had no impact on the game as within a minute of restarting Aycliffe added a fourth through Petitjean who fired a rasping half-volley beyond Roxburgh from inside the area.

Danny Earl gave the home side the faintest of hopes nine minutes from time when he turned home from close range but it was the away side who would have the final say as the clock ticked over 90 minutes.

Dibb-Fuller’s persistence forced Lavan into an error and the midfielder was able to exchange a neat one-two with Coleman before cleverly lifting it over the keeper for a fifth.

Goals. Drama. Rain. Football. It’s good to be back.

(With thanks to Yvonne Wood for the photo)

Joe Ramage

Penrith mascot Bradley Hodgson is to step down as the club mascot after 17 years.

Bradley, who is 24, said:  “It’s been a privilege to be the club mascot – beyond any of my wildest dreams, but I want to give somebody else the chance – I’ve done it for long enough.

“But I’ll still be attending games.”

Club chairman Brian “Billy” Williams said:  “It’s been fantastic to have Bradley as our mascot for so many years.  He’s been an integral part of our matchdays here at Frenchfield.

“I’m sure he’ll enjoy his last season as our mascot – both he and his parents Stuart and Kim are a credit to the club.”

To mark the start of his last season as mascot, yesterday’s visitors Ashington presented Bradley with a team shirt – number 17 – before the 2-2 draw.

(PS – I’m hoping that Bradley doesn’t relinquish one role when I visit for the blog.  He always helps me update the league website with the day’s scores – spotting errors by me before they go live on the site.  Bradley:  I hope you enjoy the season.

Mike Snowdon)

Pictured below – with his Ashington shirt and keeping an eye on Penrith’s first team photo before yesterday’s game.

And a cracking game to kick off the new season

Penrith 2 Ashington 2 – Ebac Northern League Division One

As we all know, there’s been precious little football for many, many months now, with covid disrupting pre-season preparations for some teams; but Penrith and Ashington played like they’d never been away.  It was a match full of incident and played at pace.  Hopefully it will be a portent of things to come.

The visitors hit the ground running, with an energetic start.  As early as the 4th minute they were denied an early goal by Penrith keeper Luke Miller who stopped a Jordan Summerly shot with his legs.

Penrith took another couple of minutes to get going, with three attacks in three minutes.  Ashington’s main threat came down the middle, with skipper Dan Briggs running at the heart of the defence, being fouled several times around the edge of the box, only for the Colliers to squander free kicks in promising areas.

Penrith left winger Bryce Dean-Norman looked their main threat and his persistence set up the opening goal in the 19th minute.  He dispossessed an Ashington defender close to the by-line and sent over a sharp cross.  Connor Shields couldn’t connect with it but Luke Brown, tucked in just behind the No. 9, buried it into the Ashington net.

Once again, Miller came to Penrith’s rescue in the 25th minute with a fine double save.  Adam Maun fouled Briggs in the area.  The No. 10 took the spot kick himself – Miller stopped it and then saved a follow-up shot by Robert Lee Taylor with his legs.  But the Colliers were level a minute later, converting their next attack, when McGorrigan got between the keeper and a defender to prod the ball home.  Ashington kept pressing and were rewarded with their second goal a couple of minutes before half-time.

A corner cleared everyone in the six yard area before falling to centre back Yannick Aziakonou loitering on the far side of the goal.  His cross back across the area was met by Karl Ross who planted a header in to make it 1-2.

After finishing on a high, the visitors weren’t able to recreate the play, team work and sharpness that had seen them just edge the first half.  Penrith took advantage, playing a better passing game and mounting a series of dangerous attacks in the second period.

They didn’t hang around either.  In the 2nd minute of the half, Brown broke down the right before setting Matthew Story up, with his shot saved by Ashington keeper Adam McHugh.  Two minutes later Brown pushed another ball into the danger area, with defender Thomas Bramley just making the tackle before Connor Shields could strike.  At the other end, Miller was called into action again, with a diving save for a McGorrigan shot.

In the 54th minute, Penrith were level when Brown connected with a throw-in, stroking the ball home.  Both teams then traded chances.

62’ – Shields hitting a curling shot off the right hand post, with Story hitting the follow-up shot wide right.

78’ – McGorrigan managed to squeeze between two defenders and hit the ball past Miller, only for the ball to hit the inside of the right hand post and come back out.

84’ – Shields produced a precise cross which Penrith sub Luke Hunter headed against the bar.  In the dying seconds, fellow sub Luke Salmon spotted Miller off his line but the No. 16 couldn’t find the net with a lob.

It finished 2-2 and there can be few complaints by either side with the result.  A thoroughly entertaining match for the neutral.  Fingers crossed that it’s the first of many.

Mike Snowdon

A reminder to spectators about the location of a couple of our clubs:

West Allotment Celtic finally get to play league matches at their new ground – the East Palmersville Sports Pavilion, Palmersville, NE12 9HF.

Meanwhile, Sunderland West End returned home to the Ford Hub Sports Complex in Keelmans Lane (SR4 OHB) for last season’s truncated season.  They will be joined again at the hub by Washington.

Spectators are requested to register/access this website/save the QR code to your phone to attend matches at the complex:

https://secure.stgeorgespark-local.com/Account/Login

We asked regional non-league sports reporter Mark Carruthers and regular Life of Pie blog contributor Pete Sixsmith to look ahead to the 2021/22 season and give us their predictions:

Mark Carruthers:

No matter what happens between the white lines at Northern League grounds over the coming season, the biggest success will be the return of supporters to the seats and terraces of their beloved clubs.

A short period of limited attendances late last year was a rare moment of relief for our clubs as they battled with the practical and financial challenges presented by the covid-19 pandemic.

But now, almost 18 months on, the gates are back open and we all have a responsibility to ensure that we do all we can to help our clubs move on in a safe and sustainable manner.

The return of supporters is particularly well-timed as we head towards an intriguing Northern League season.

There is a fresh feel about both divisions – although there is naturally an element of sadness about the departure of Northern League stalwarts Hebburn Town and Shildon along with Stockton Town, who made many friends during their five-year stay in the league.

We welcome old and new faces into Division Two, with the promotion of Horden CW, Blyth Town, Redcar Town and Boldon CA.

It is a familiar story in Division One as West Allotment Celtic and Crook Town return and Redcar Athletic’s rise continues as Teesside gains yet another club in the top tier.

It is never easy making predictions ahead of a season, especially when opportunities to see every club has been limited – but if I was to tip a club to win Division it would have to be North Shields.

Marc Nash and Anthony Woodhouse have seen continuous improvement during their time at the club and the Robins narrowly missed out on promotion last season.  Their squad looks strong, they have options all over the pitch and a group of players that are now accustomed to the playing style and system imposed by their coaches.

The nearest challengers, in my opinion, will be Newton Aycliffe and Consett – although I also believe the latter will be our best bet of success in the FA Vase.

The sting of their 2020 final defeat against Hebburn will still be felt – but Terry Mitchell has strengthened his squad yet again and the experience of reaching a final will put them in good stead this season.

Division Two looks an intriguing battle for promotion this year but there are two clubs that stand out as potential title winners after some impressive additions to both of their squads.

Billingham Synthonia and Easington Colliery have both had busy summers but will head into the season with strong squads that are capable of coping with everything thrown at them this year.

There are other contenders, and the likes of Heaton Stannington, Carlisle City and Tow Law Town will all hope to challenge for one of the promotion places on offer.

No matter what happens at your club throughout the coming nine months, relish their return and embrace the little things that we all took for granted before the pandemic took them away from us.

Pete Sixsmith:

There is always a frisson of excitement at Sixsmith Tower as August approaches and, with it, the start of a new season.

As a Sunderland supporter I await the arrival of those giants of the EFL, Cheltenham Town, Cambridge United and Morecambe making their first, and probably not last, appearance at The Stadium of Light; while as a Shildon season ticket holder I am looking forward to our first season away from The Northern League since The Railwaymen re-joined from the North Eastern League in 1932.

Therefore, I may well be qualified as someone with no vested interest in the ENL to assess the prospects for the coming eight months – Covid permitting of course. With the exit of three clubs, all of who were at or near the top for the last couple of years, it leaves the First Division wide open.

For many, Consett will be tipped to finish in an automatic or play-off place come April/May. They have a strong squad, an excellent infrastructure and, as one of the bigger towns in the league, a large support base. The same applies to North Shields and many will not look past these two as viable title winners.

There are others who will have a say. Before last season was closed down, Newton Aycliffe went on an excellent run, which culminated in a 7-1 win at Northallerton. I texted that “I may well have seen the champions tonight” – and they proceeded to lose four games on the bounce. But, on the evidence of their recent game with South Shields, they are back as strong as ever. Take six points off the Newtowners and you will be close to winning the league.

I have also seen newly-promoted Crook Town at their evocative and welcoming Millfield ground and I suggest that they will survive comfortably and will shock one or two of the more fancied teams. Like Newton Aycliffe, they play football on the ground and in a fair and positive manner.

Thornaby, residents at the most improved ground in the kingdom, are another who harbour ambitions, while newly-promoted Redcar Athletic will be seeking to stay ahead of newly elected Redcar Town, who could do well in Division Two. A Redcar derby for the Lemon Top Trophy is a distinct possibility for 2022-23.

As always, the Second Division looks very competitive. I like the look of Birtley Town as a team and a club, while Heaton Stannington are surely ready to bring real ale to Division One.  Resurrections at Tow Law Town and Willington would be welcomed and Billingham Synthonia appear to have overcome their trials and tribulations and may well cross swords with cross-town rivals Town before much longer.

Of course, the whole thing depends on how well (or badly) we handle covid. Another truncated season may prove terminal for some of the leagues less secure members. We have done brilliantly to come through the last two seasons with no casualties – indeed, we have actually extended the league – but all involved want an uninterrupted campaign for 2021-22.

Over to you, Mr Johnson.