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The last Around the Alliance feature for this season saw me complete the grounds needed to tick off the top two divisions. For both matches I travelled by car with Katie & Lee, with Katie taking the wheel to Cumbria and I drove us up the Northumberland coast last night
567. Sheepmount Stadium
Northbank Carlisle 2-4 Birtley Town
Northern Alliance Premier Division
Wednesday 3rd May 2017
When Northbank Football Club were formed in 1970, they were heavily influenced by Arsenal FC. The club took their name from the main standing terrace at Highbury, they adopted the same traditional red and white sleeved shirts, and use a canon logo as the club crest. After a series of friendly matches the club began playing competitive Sunday football in the Border City & District League, before joining the Carlisle & District League in 1975, winning promotion up to the First Division in their second season.They joined the Northern Alliance in 1995-96 and progressed from the Second Division to the Premier League after just three seasons. In 2003 they changed their name to Northbank Carlisle, then a couple of relegations between 2008 and 2010 saw them drop down to the bottom division, however they quickly bounced back to return to the top league in 2013
I visited The Sheepmount back in 2012 ticking off Carlisle City for Around The Alliance - part seven The place is currently in a bit of a state after Storm Desmond caused £3m worth of damage to the running track and changing facilities, when the rivers Caldew and Eden burst their banks in December 2015. There is currently cabins in use for changing rooms and toilets, with Northbank still using the same pitch at the bottom end of the complex. The pitch is fully railed off with dugouts on one side.
Birtley Town secured a well deserved away victory in Cumbria courtesy of a Connor Halpin hat-trick. After missing a host of first half chances they finally took the lead just before the break with a tidy finish from Tony Smith. Halpin tapped in a right wing cross on the hour mark, before nipping in to make it 3-0 on 68 minutes, then it seemed a case of just how many Birtley would score. .
Northbank had a full substitutes bench to choose from and the fresh legs got them back in it, with Jordie Cowley finishing off a good move, followed by a good positive run and shot from sub Kieron Blair, which made it 2-3 with fifteen minutes left.
Northbank’s relegation has already been confirmed, but they couldn’t complete the comeback and add to their measly points tally as a Harpin wrapped things up in injury time, running through the home defence to make it 4-2.
NCFC 2(Cowley 71 Blair 76)
BTFC 4(Smith 41 Halpin59,68,90+3)Att.26hc
569. Hotspur Park
Alnmouth United 1 -0 Wallsend Boys Club
Northern Alliance First DivisionWednesday 17th May 2017
Alnmouth is a village on the north-east coast, halfway between Newcastle and Berwick Upon Tweed, and 4 miles east of Alnwick. The village is built on a peninsula on a spit of land bordered the north sea and the estuary of the River Aln.
It was established as a village and granted a charter in 1152, developing as a port supporting a small fishing industry and a leading north-east centre for the export of grain, timber and slate. Once the railway arrived Alnmouth transformed into a popular coastal resort with a holiday camp, bathing houses and one of the earliest link golf courses in England
Alnmouth United joined the Northern Alliance after winning the North Northumberland League in 2014-15. They finishing 5th in their debut season, which was good enough for promotion to Division One following a rejigging of the three divisions.Hotspur Park is found in Hipsburn, a mile from the village on the west side of the River Aln. The ground has a changing room cabin in between the car park and the pitch, which is roped off with a pair of wooden dugouts at one side. The Alnmouth & Lesbury Cricket Club pitch resides next door.
Alnmouth United faced Wallsend Boys Club for their final game of the season, already confirmed as finishing in the bottom two. The contest was looking nailed on for a nil-nil, but I had a feeling the home team were going to pinch it, as they shaded it throughout and finished the match strongly.
For what could possibly be my last match of 2016-17, I nearly saw my goal of the season. A right wing cross was met with a fabulous Andy Carroll-style scissor kick by the big ginger lad, with the tattooed leg, who was playing his final game for the club (sorry I didn’t get his name but that’s a pretty accurate description)which just went the wrong side of the crossbar.
With time running out another bout of late pressure saw the ball fall kindly to Glenn Robson, and “The Silver Fox” made no mistake to poke the ball home from close range, to give Alnmouth a second win in the space of a few days and a good end to a disappointing season.
AFC 1 (Robson 88)
Crossgates Primrose 1-3 Lochgelly Albert
East Region - South Division
Saturday 13th May 2017
Crossgates is a former mining village in Fife, two miles east of Dunfermline. It takes its name from the crossroads at the crossing point of the Dunfermline to Kirkcaldy road and the old Great North Road from Inverkeithing to Perth.
Guitar legend Stuart Adamson grew up in the village. The former Skids and Big Country man was born in Manchester, but his Scottish parents moved the family back home to Scotland and settled in Crossgates when he was just a wee toddler.
Crossgates Primrose Juniors FC were formed in 1926.
The Rose folded for the first time in 1960 before reforming in 1983.The club resigned from the league in November 2015 due to a lack of committee members, but following the foundation of a new board returned at the start of this season. Scottish legendary midfielder Jim Baxter began his career at the club before signing for Raith Rovers in a £200 deal in 1957.
Scottish grounds visited 86
Scottish Juniors grounds visited 36
Record attendance 7,600 v Auchinleck Talbot (Scottish Junior Cup 6th round 1952–53)
Capacity 7,500The ground takes its name from a disused pit at the former Cuttlehill Colliery where it’s now located, and hosted greyhound racing between 1937 and 1953. The pitch is railed off with a bus shelter style dugout on each side. The changing rooms and cafe cabin are on one side along from the paying entrance.
Crossgates Primrose(12th) v Lochgelly Albert(4th)
McBookie.com South Division Matchday 26/25
The Rose finished off their season with a local derby defeat to Lochgelly Albert. The visitors struck first with a lovely chest and volley from Lewis Elder, his effort from the right hand side of the box gave his side a 16th minute lead. The hosts made a poor start to the game, but drew level when Andy McDonald fired home on 39 minutes, before a curled free kick from Craig Paterson in the last minute of the half restored the one goal advantage.
The game was well balanced in the second period, but it was Lochgelly who wrapped it up, when a long throw from the ‘keeper set up a quick break which was finished by Steve Brown to claim the three points for The Albert.
CPJFC 1(McDonald 39)
LAFC 3(Elder 16 Paterson 45 Brown 80)
Top Bloke - Lewis Elder(Lochgelly Albert)
Tea £1Pies (for James and Mark) £1 each
0842 East Coast Virgin train to Edinburgh, arriving at 1024
It was good to see some Scottish Junior action again, this being my first since I finished 'On the Trail of the Scottish Holy Grail’ back in October. I met up with two of the co-stars of the book; Mark Wilkins who had caught the overnight bus from London to Edinburgh and James Little, who picked the both of us up at Waverley, to drive us over to Fife.
We arrived in Dunfermline at 12.20, calling for drinks at The Guildhall & Linen Exchange (new ‘Spoons tick) The Canmore and The Commercial Inn, before the short drive to Crossgates.
After rounding off a great day with a few more bevvies back in Edinburgh, I fell asleep on the train and for the first ever time missed my stop at Newcastle, waking up just as it crossed the King Eddy bridge. This means I had to get off at Durham and double back, so I got home an hour later than planned, although I can’t complain too much as it could have been a hell of a lot worse.
My book on Scottish Junior football is still(and always will be) available from the Amazon book store and can be found HERE. - (The ideal present for Fathers Day)
Arbroath 3-2 Elgin City
SPFL - League 2
Saturday 29th April 2017
Arbroath is a former royal burgh and the largest town in Angus, on the North Sea coast of Scotland. (population almost 24,000)
As a town, it dates back to the High Middle Ages and the founding of Arbroath Abbey in 1178. The town growth came through the expansion of the flax and jute industries during the Industrial Revolution. The new harbour was built in 1839, so by the 20th century, Arbroath had become one of the country’s largest fishing ports.
The local delicacy and world famous “Arbroath smokies” was awarded Protected Geographical Indication in 2004, which limits their production to within 4 km of Arbroath. Smokies are made from haddock using traditional methods dating back to the late 19th century, where the fish are first salted overnight to preserve them, before being left tied in pairs to dry. The dried fish are then hung in a special barrel containing a hardwood fire and covered with a lid, then about an hour later are golden brown and ready to consume.
Arbroath Football Club were founded in 1878 and are nicknamed "The Red Lichties" in reference to the red light, which was used to guide fishing boats back from the North Sea into the harbour.
The club are famous for the world record 36-0 win over Aberdeen based Bon Accord, on the 12th September 1885. Jock Petrie scored 13 goals in that game, a record for the most goals by a single player in a British senior match.
Division 2 equivalent:Runners-up 1934–35, 1958–59, 1967–68, 1971–72
Division 3 equivalent: Runners-up 2000–01, 2011–12
Division 4 equivalent: Winners 2010–11 Runners-up 1997–98,Scottish Qualifying Cup Winners 1903, Runners-up 1899, 1912
Scottish League Senior grounds visited 34/42
Capacity 4,135Record attendance: 13,510 v Glasgow Rangers - Scottish Cup 3rd round, 23rd February 1952.
The club originally played at Woodville Park and Hospitalfield before moving to a former rubbish tip on the seafront. Gayfield Park was opened in 1880, with the first match against Rob Roy in the Scottish Cup. Its location to the west of the harbour next to the North Sea, which makes it the closest ground to the sea in Europe.The ground is made up of three sides of terracing with covered enclosures at the Seaforth End (South End), the East Terrace and the Harbour End (North). The Gayfield Stand was opened in 2002 and has a single tier of 814 seats. The changing rooms and the 36nil bar are housed within the stand, with the dugouts at the front.
Arbroath (2nd) v Elgin City (5th)
Ladbrokes Scottish PF League 2 Matchday 35
A Ryan McCord hat-trick shot Arbroath to the top of the table and the possibility of the Division 2 title. He gave his side a 38th minute lead with a direct free kick from the edge of the box, before Jamie Reid levelled just before the hour mark. The hosts regained the advantage five minutes later when McCord found himself free in the box(and suspiciously offside) to turn and fire home.
Their chances were heightened when two quick yellow cards saw Reid receive his marching orders, followed by a third for McCord tapping in at the far post after a great cross from David Gold. On 86 minutes substitute Jassem Sukar headed into his own net to set up a grandstand finish, but the hosts comfortably saw out the remaining time to claim a vital three points.
Arbroath head to Stirling Albion next week and will be crowned champions if they match Forfar’s result, who play Annan at home in the final round of fixtures in League 2.
AFC 3 (McCord 38,63,80)
ECFC 2 (Reid 58 Sukar 86OG)
Top Bloke - Ryan McCord (Arbroath)
Free team sheet
Pin badge £2.50Coffee £1
Newcastle - Edinburgh 0743 Virgin East Coast arr.0920
Edinburgh - Arbroath 1131 Scotrail arr.1256
Return on 1805 from Arbroath and the 2000 from Edinburgh back to Newcastle (Hooray! At long last...a later Saturday train service back home from Edinburgh)
Arbroath has been on my “t’do list” for years, but it’s always eluded me, as they always seemed to be playing away whenever I had a free Saturday. The new later train service means it's now much easier to achieve as a day trip, so I booked advance tickets for my first trip north of the border since I wrote the last chapter of my book back in October.
I had a few hours spare in Edinburgh which gave me plenty of time to visit the new JDW in the city, the very impressive Caley Picture House. I also visited the Arbroath branch before the match, then afterwards called for a pint on the harbour and scranned a smokie on my way back to the station.An enjoyable day and even though it was a sunny April afternoon, it was still chilly enough for my face to be like beetroot and my hair to be sticking up like Oor Wullie’s from the strong wind coming off the North Sea.
Matchday Web Album (23 pictures from Gayfield)
Just the one new ground ticked off and the first of this season’s cup finals in this latest edition of Around the Alliance.
Grounsell Park was the venue for the Bay Plastics Combination Cup final, as Seaton Burn faced Gateshead A, who were in pursuit of another league and cup double. The Tynesiders bossed the game for long periods but were unable to break down a stubborn Burn defence, who worked tirelessly throughout. As the match progressed Seaton Burn became more confident and had chances to win it late on, but the match finished goalless after a tight ninety minutes.
It looked likely that a defensive error or a cracking goal would settle the final and this was the case, when in the second period of extra time a misplaced back pass was intercepted by Arman Mirkarimi, who rounded the ‘keeper and slotted home the winner.
Congratulations to Seaton Burn on winning their first piece of silverware, while the young Gateshead team are just three points away from winning the First Division and claiming back-to-back league titles.
Gateshead ‘A’ 0
Seaton Burn 1(Mirkarimi 117)Att.170est
The George Dobbins League Cup final took place between Birtley Town and Walker Central at the home of Hebburn Town FC. This time we didn’t have to wait long for a goal as Michael Trodd gave Walker a 14th minute lead, playing a one-two with Baxter from a corner kick, before curling in a fine effort from the edge of the box. They could have had the match wrapped up and the sky blue & white ribbons placed on the cup well before half time, taking advantage of the strong wind behind their backs. Michael Baxter missed a golden chance, doing the hard work to go around the ‘keeper after being put clean through, but with the goal at his mercy he fired the ball into Victoria Road. Birtley goalie Phil Mills denied Michael Leech from close range and Matthew Hayden also went close before the interval.
Birtley, backed by a keen vocal support from their junior section, improved in the second half and had chances to draw level, as they pushed to take the match into extra time. They almost snatched an equaliser with just minutes remaining when a cross from Hill was met by a Connor Halpin diving header which agonisingly crashed against the crossbar.
Overall Walker just shaded it, although the match might have been more of a spectacle if it wasn’t for the strong wind on this chilly night in South Tyneside.
Birtley Town 0
Walker Central 1(Trodd 14)Att.160est
565. Churchill Playing Fields
Lindisfarne Custom Planet joined the Northern Alliance from the Tyneside Amateur League in 2014, winning promotion in their debut season after a third place finish in Division Two. Prior to the start of this season they changed their name and relocated to Monkseaton, playing home games at the Churchill Playing Fields. The senior side forms part of the set up at Monkseaton Juniors, where there is a reserve team in the Tyneside Amateur League and youth teams from Under-7’s to Under-16s, as well as a Futsal club.
Monkseaton is a village which has now been absorbed as part of neighbouring Whitley Bay, although it outdates the seaside resort, dating back to the early 12th century when it was known as Seton. King Henry I granted lands to the Priory of Tynemouth so it became “Seton Monachorum" then eventually Monk Seaton or Seaton of the Monks.
Churchill Playing Fields has bowling greens, a tennis court, an athletics track, cricket pitch and at the far end two football pitches, one which is roped off and used by the senior side and the furthest pitch used by the reserve team.
Monkseaton faced Gateshead Redheugh 1957, the hosts going into this game sitting in sixth position while their opponents are anchored at the bottom of the table. After witnessing 2 one-nils in the Alliance over the last few weeks it was obvious that the match would be settled by a solitary goal. The decisive strike came midway through the first half when a spell of pressure from the hosts saw Jack Armstrong fire in at the far post. Monkseaton had chances to extend the lead and overall deserved the win, despite a few “handbag moments” late on as their opponents became more and more frustrated.
Monkseaton FC 1 (Armstrong 21)
Gateshead Redheugh 1957 0
Northern Alliance First Division
FootnoteThe only ground I haven’t been to in the top two divisions is Alnmouth United, so if I get the chance to visit this season it will be added to this post.
Monday 17th April 2017
Although I've had this leg of the Easter Groundhop marked as a “must do” since it was announced over a year ago, it wasn’t until last weekend that I sorted out the logistics for the trip. I booked myself on the 0708 Transpennine Express train to Manchester Oxford Road, from where I had a five minute window to catch the train to Atherton. Everything was going to well until the train got stuck at a junction outside Piccadilly Station, which meant it arrived at my stop a minute late for my connection, but luckily that service was also late, so still arrived at my first game ten minutes before kick off.
I contacted Consett based Peter Taylor, who I've done groundhops with previously and he agreed to give me a lift home after the three matches. He was also kind enough to offer a chauffeur service between games, so a huge thank you to him for helping me out.
Atherton Collieries 5-1 AFC Darwen
North West Counties League - Premier Division
(1st v 19th) 11am ko.
The Colls founded in 1916
Joined Bolton Combination in 1919, winning the first of ten league titles in their debut season.
Also had spells in the Lancashire Alliance, West Lancashire League and the Lancashire Combination.
Cheshire League 1978-1982
Founder members of the NWCL in 1982
Division 3 champions 1986-87
Division 2 runners-up 1995-96
Promoted to Premier as Division 1 champions in 2014-15
League Cup winners 2015-16
562. Alder House
The club have played at Alder House ground since their formation, which now has the sponsorship name of The Kensite Stadium. The entrance is in the corner of the ground, where there is a seated stand between the turnstiles and the dugouts. Opposite is the clubhouse, tea bar and a small seated stand next to a covered standing enclosure. Behind the top goal is the changing rooms, with the bottom end open to the elements.
The floodlights were installed in 1994 with the original old stand demolished in 2007.
The Colls took another step towards the Premier Division title with a 5-1 demolishing of AFC Darwen. They took an early lead courtesy of an own goal from Jamie Edwards, before Jordan Cover converted a spot kick on twenty minutes. Vincent Bailey made it 3-0 early in the second half, then two goals in five minutes from Cover including another successful penalty, saw the number nine complete his hat-trick. Nicholas Hepple grabbed a consolation goal for the visitors, as the leaders are now just one win away from becoming champions.
West Didsbury & Chorlton 3-1 Congleton Town
North West Counties League - Premier Division
(10th v 16th) 2.45pm ko
Changed name to West Didsbury and joined Lancashire & Cheshire League in 1920
League runners-up in 1922-23 1931-32.
Division 3 winners 1987-88 Division 2 winners 1988-89
Rhodes Cup winners 1927, 1970
In 2003 changed name to West Didsbury & Chorlton
Manchester League 2006-2012 - Division One champions 2010-11
Joined NWCL Division One in 2012-13, winning promotion to its Premier Division in their debut season.
563. Brookburn Road
West moved from the Christie Playing Fields to Brookburn Road in Chorlton in 1997. The ground is tucked away in a housing estate, dominated by the large clubhouse and changing room block at the far goal. There is a few seats at the front of the building with a small covered seated section named the Rob Turley Stand next to it. There is some cover at the entrance goal with the rest of the ground open on both sides.
West left it late to overcome Congleton Town with all four goals coming in the last quarter of the game. Nia Bayuno headed in a corner on 72 minutes, before the visitors replied with a neat volley from Callum Gardner with time running out. The away side looked the more likely to go on and grab a winner, but a towering header from Saul Henderson, quickly followed by a rasping shot from Carlos Mendes Gomez, saw West steel the points in injury time.
Maine Road 2-2 Abbey Hey
North West Counties League - Premier Division
(14th v 12th) 5.45pm ko
Founded in 1955 as City Supporters Rusholme
Played Sunday League football and became Maine Road FC in the late sixties when they moved their HQ to the Maine Road Social Club.
Switched to Saturday football in 1972, winning the Manchester League Premier Division four seasons running between 1983 and 1987.
Joined NWCL Division Two in 1987 - champions in 1989-90
Premier League runners-up 2012-13
League Cup winners 2008
564. Brantingham Road
After playing at various grounds in Withington, Stockport, Newton Heath and Flixton, the club moved to Brantingham Road in Chorlton in 1980. The ground is decked out in sky blue and has a covered enclosure down one side filling with a couple of rows of wooden benches. On the dugout side is a covered standing area, with open hard standing behind each goal. The spacious clubhouses bar has church seats, so you literally take a pew when you sit down for a drink.
Maine Road let slip a two goal lead to share the spoils with Abbey Hey. Matthew Morgan produced two good finishes, with a goal in each half to put the Sky Blues in command, before the visitors hit back. Matthew Cook got on the end of a left wing cross to fire in at the far post, before the last (and best) goal of the day from Ashford Blake, who rifled in the equaliser from the edge of the box on 79 minutes.
Afterwards, Peter didn't spare the horses, getting me back home at 10.15pm, after an enjoyable but tiring day. My personal highlights throughout the day was the 'Spoons in Chorlton, the drunken crack from Dickie Bysouth and the gorgeous barmaid in the clubhouse at Maine Road.
ACFC 5 (Edwards OG4 Cover 20pen, 66, 76pen Bailey 49)
AFCD 1 (Helpless 80)
WD&CAFC 3 (Bayuno 72 Henderson 90+1 Gomes 90+4)
CTFC 1 (Gardner 84)
MRFC 2 (Morgan 18,51)
AHFC 2 (Cook 62 Blake 79)
Admission £5 each game
Programmes: £1.50 each and £2 at West
Pin badges: £3 and £2.50 at Maine Road.