Friday, 30 October 2009

West Auckland Town v Spennymoor Town 31/10/09

A superb Spennymoor performance saw them run out comfortable 5-0 winners over the West Auckland at Darlington Road today.
I knew I had arrived in West Auckland when my friend spotted a sign that read "Home to the winners of the 1st ever World Cup Winners". As soon as I decided to venture west to the small town/large village of West Auckland, I knew parking would be a problem. The Memorial Hall Car Park was full, the roads were lined with cars, and the advice of a local shopkeeper was to park at the Post Office...which was also full!
After finding a quiet road to park in, we embarked on the walk to the ground. After a short excursion into the shop to a get a drink, (where I ended up buying two drinks for £1.60, even though I didn't want them!) we arrived at the small ground. I was very impressed with the small stand that lined one side of the pitch, along with the clubhouse next to it. Behind one goal was a uncovered terraced area, where all the away fans congregated in the second half. Myself and my friend set up camp opposite the main stand towards the corner flag at the bottom of the ground. A quick glance through the programme, and a look at the Half Time food menu filled the time before kick off quite nicely.
The two teams walked out of the tunnel to Tina Turner's "The Best", but today this applied to one team only. Spennymoor kicked downhill the 1st Half, and centre forward Jamie Clarke had the first real chance of the game, but his free header was straight into the keeper's arms. However, the deadlock was broken shortly after when on 11 minutes, a ball across from the right wing bounced over a West Auckland defender's head, and a first time shot on the half volley from Chris Emms flew into the back of the net.
Another defensive mix up, this time between the West Auckland keeper and centre back almost allowed Jamie Clarke through, but his toe poke just went wide. Another Spennymoor chance from distance was saved easily by the keeper, but this really did signal their intentions. My friend-who made lots of comments during the game as you will find out-commented on Jamie Clarke's ability, stating he was very good for his age. This seemed to be a jinx Clarke, as in the 28th minute, he completely missed the ball. However, Spennymoor kept pressing, and a minute later, the West Auckland keeper was forced into a fine save close to his left post. Former Darlington man Anthony Peacock started a bit of show-boating, but his audacious pass did not come off.
Clarke was yet again at the centre of another chance. After been played through, he looked destined to score Spenny's second, but a last ditch challenge saw the ball taken off his big toe just as he was about to pull the trigger. Screams from the Spennymoor following behind the goal for a penalty were waved away quite correctly by referee Mr Campbell. It wasn't long before the Moor's had another penalty shout, and this time the referee pointed to the spot-rightly so. He still wasn't popular with the Spennymoor fans, who believed he should have let play go on. However, former Republic of Ireland international Keith Graydon slotted home the spot kick to send Spennymoor into half time 2 goals to the good. West Auckland's best chance of the half came with 8 minutes left of the first half, but the long range effort went wide.
Half time arrived, and I sampled the Burgers on offer from Kath's Kaff. I wasn't disappointed with what I tasted. Very nice, topped off with a hot cup of tea. I was worried however, to see a 5 year old walking out of the clubhouse with a half a pint of lager! It wasn't too bad...until he took a big mouthful of it!! Minutes later, we saw him running across the terrace behind the goal, in a joyous mood. In the Football League, half time entertainment varies from people taking penalties, cheerleaders and even Delia Smith making a drunken plea to football supporters. West Auckland, like many non-league teams, involves the substitutes warming up and having shots at goal against each other. The twist here was the goalkeeper. A young lad, maybe 13/14ish, and the same in stone took up position between the sticks. I didn't expect much of him, but I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw. He was pulling off some stunning saves from the West Auckland substitutes. His hands must have been stinging afterwards!!
The second half continued on from the 1st. Spennymoor had a chance early on, but another regulation save was all that was needed from the keeper. A ball across from the right wing also provided another chance for Spennymoor, but Clarke's overhead kick attempt made contact with only one thing-the head of the West Auckland Centre Back! After some excellent build up play, Clarke was again played through, but his right foot shot hit the side netting.
West Auckland's best chance of the game fell in the 55th minute. A well struck free kick was goal bound, but Chris Turns saved well to his right.
Something I never thought I would hear at a Northern League game, but I must quote my friend. "That 10 [Anthony Peacock] and 11 [Chris Emms] remind me of Messi and Eto'o at Barcelona last season." If that's not a compliment, I don't know what is. The play between the two all game was fantastic, some fluid passing and moving between the two was exquisite.
Play seemed to die down for a bit, and it appeared Spennymoor were happy to play out the remainder of the game, and settle for the scoreline.
However, with 18 minutes left on the clock, a ball over the top was latched onto by Chris Lawther, who had come on as a substitute, and he took the ball forward and slotted home for 3-0. Lawther had another good chance, but the keeper saved well low with his legs. On 82 minutes, Keith Graydon made it 4 with his second of the game. More great build up play down the left and a reverse ball from the byline to Graydon saw him finish comfortably for his second.
A 30 yard effort a minute later for Spennymoor nearly made it 5, but the post came to the keeper's rescue. However, with 5 minutes left, a fine through ball was pounced upon by Lawther who put the ball nicely into the net to complete Spennymoor's 5 Star Performance.
A late chance for Spennymoor's number 7 forced the Keeper to make a fine reaction save.
There had been many handball shouts during the game, and they were getting rather annoying. However the stupidest of the game occurred just before full time, when a shout by a Spennymoor player came in a good 5 seconds after the incident!
The best thing that West Auckland could hope for was for the final whistle to go...and when it did, they were resigned to the fact that the best team win. Despite a poor performance from West Auckland, you cannot take anything away from Spennymoor's performance. They played great football for the whole 90 minutes. They were not afraid to get the ball on the floor and play football. Their passing was brilliant, and the off the ball movement was second to none. If I were to criticise anything about their performance, it would be their poor set-pieces. I don't think that one set play led to a decent chance, and I think if they could sort that out, then Spennymoor will be the perfect package.
Admission: £5/£2.50; Programme £1

To Norton and Back...

Congratulations to Nathan Mulligan, who after impressing Darlington Manager Steve Staunton has signed a Contract with the League 2 Club until the end of the season. This will be Nathan's second spell at the League's bottom club, after failing to make the grade as a youngster with both Darlington and Middlesbrough.
This is the 2nd Northern League player to make the step up to League football this season, after Billy Greulich made the switch from Brandon to Hartlepool.
Both contributors to Around the Grounds wish Nathan all the best at Darlington!!

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Norton & Stockton Ancients v Bishop Auckland 28/10/09

The last kick of the game was the decider in this thrilling contest on a cold evening at Norton's Station Road venue.
A very late arrival at the ground after going to pick up fellow attendees en route to the match went horribly wrong. It's not my fault that there are two churches with village halls on the same road! Then I had to pick my young cousin up who I had kindly invited along to see his first Non-League game. It was then a case of finding the quickest way to Norton...which I didn't.
With a slightly delayed kick off, we were lucky, and I got my favourite spot at Norton, just near the home dug out.
After last weeks 2-0 home win for Norton, Bishop were always going to be looking for revenge. A bright opening period of play started with Norton getting a free kick 30 yards out, which saw a comfortable save for the Auckland keeper. With 15 minutes on the clock, Norton's Keeper James Briggs flapped at a corner. A back post effort headed goal wards, and was cleared off the line, and the rebound was blocked by the same Norton Defender.
A Norton Counter attack created their first threatening chance of the half, but the finish was missing as the striker poked the ball wide.
However, the deadlock was broken on 22 minutes. A long clearance from the huge boot of the Bishop Auckland Keeper found his man to perfection. The ball was brought forward, and a nifty "one-two" between two Bishops players saw the ball volleyed into the back of the net from point blank range.
Norton didn't let their heads drop, and on 30 minutes, a 25 yard effort out of the blue produced a fine save from the Auckland keeper, and from the resulting corner, another chance was cleared off the line. This bizarrely resulted in jubilant cries from the Bishop's supporters. I don't know what goes in the drinks in their neck of the woods!
Briggs was again tested in the Norton Goal, pulling off a fine save from a goal bound effort. The 3rd clearance off the line of the night, again by an away defender, lead to a quick Bishop Auckland break. A defensive slip left Tyson Masters one-on-one with the keeper, and duly slotted home.
The last chance of the half fell to Norton. A defensive header went towards goal, but he was spared his blushes by a team-mate clearing off the line...again!!
Tonight, came a new phenomena in a Northern League game. I ate nothing at half time! However, I had promised my cousin that the Burgers from the "Norton Cafe" were top quality. And he wasn't disappointed! I quote: "These are better than McDonalds Burgers!" Back to the action on the pitch...
Norton came out onto the pitch looking like a determined team. With just 5 minutes on the clock, Norton won a free kick right on the edge of the Penalty Box. A routine straight from the training ground saw a near post shot hit the side netting. However, Norton still pushed on, and they were rewarded for the patience in the 61st minute, when a ball over the top was finished off past the keepers outstretched arm and into the back of the net. 2-1, and the game was back on!
Norton still drove forward, and Bishop Auckland were penned back in their own half for a long period. Another corner was half cleared by the nervous Bishop's defence. It was taken down nicely by the number 10 Sonny Andrews, and he hit the ball sweetly on the half volley. Now, this is time for a bit of poetic licence. I had the honour of been stood directly behind him when he struck the ball. It moved from left to right in the air, and the last minute dip took the keeper by surprise. A quality finish by a quality player. By some stoke of luck, my cousin had his phone out filming at the time. So Sonny, just for you, it will be on the site before long for you to savour!
The game was now any one's. Play went back and forth, until the 80th minute when a desperate tackle by a Norton defender, not dissimilar to one you'd see on the adjacent rugby fields, saw Bishop's win a penalty.
Again, my cousin had his phone out, and it will be another Norton Man who will want to see the video over and over again, as he pulled off a great penalty save, from what was a poor penalty.
And now our famous Quote of the Day. This week was from the Norton Dugout, where the shout of "Don't lose it, don't lose the f***er!" came from. Priceless!!
With just minutes to go, tempers flared up after a few tasty challenges, but the referee was quick to diffuse the situation.
Another Bishops counter, and another fine save. Play went down the other end, and Andrew's headed over from 4 yards out; a chance which could and should have sealed it.
However, with just seconds on the clock, Bishop Auckland has one last big push. A run through the middle, ball played out right-appeal for offside: "NO!" shouts the linesman! Striker clean through on Goal...Pandemonium behind the goal! The Bishop Auckland fans went mad!!! It was like they'd won the league! The ball is placed on the centre spot...3 long blasts on the referee's whistle, and Bishop Auckland had won in truly amazing fashion.
Final Score 3-2
A brilliant game for the neutrals, and what a reintroduction after 4 weeks away from it all.
Roll on Saturday...!!!
No photo's from the game tonight, but hopefully video action should follow shortly.

Sunday, 25 October 2009


I think we must apologise for the lack of coverage over the past few weeks.
Sadly, Sporting and Work commitments have limited the opportunity to get to a game recently, and I am now starting to suffer from Withdrawl Symptoms.

Hopefully, next Saturday will see the return of us to a Non-League ground, and I can't wait!!