There used to be a time when you could pick up a ticket for the football at no more cost than a trip to the nearest cinema, when you could stand to watch the game without the threat of a banning order, when you could drink beer in sight of the pitch, see a team full of local players, buy a programme and a burger and still get change from a £5 note.
Actually, you still can – and with the continuing wrangles between club sides and national associations meaning it’s a Friday night kick off for England in Bulgaria, there’s no better time than this weekend’s Non League Day to rediscover the simple joys of watching a game of football on a Saturday afternoon.
Northern Alliance First Division side Gosforth Bohemians have put more effort than most into this weekend. Founded in Leazes Terrace in 1894, Bohs are producing a one-off programme (free with the £2 entry) for their home game with Cramlington Town. Food and drink will be on sale (no alcohol, but the Three Mile Inn is just along the road) inside the newly renovated clubhouse, where you can also see trophies and photographs from the club’s long history. In the Premier Division, Percy Main Amateurs (£2 including an excellent programme), Heaton Stannington (usually free) and Ponteland United (£1) have home fixtures. Kick off in all the games is 2.30pm.
The Northern League – founded in a Durham City pub in the summer of 1889 and the oldest grassroots football league in the world – has a reduced programme of fixtures with many of its teams in FA Cup preliminary qualifying round action. Consett versus Stokesley is the pick of the league games. Runners-up last season, Consett’s ex-Hartlepool forward Michael Mackay has scored eight goals already this season in what has otherwise been an inconsistent start for Kenny Lindoe’s side. After losing thirty-eight players in the summer, Stokesley have conceded thirty-two goals in their first five games, losing 15-0 at Bedlington before picking up their first point in Monday’s goalless draw with Bedlington. Consett hope to move to a new stadium next season, so see the Belle Vue while you can.
This time last year Matty Grieve was partnering Sol Campbell for Newcastle reserves – now he’s partnering James Harmison (whose brother used to bowl for England) in the centre of of Ashington’s defence. The Colliers take on second division Northallerton Town in the FA Cup, hoping to bounce back from heavy defeats to Sunderland RCA and Bedlington. Their fans will be hoping to see another ex-Newcastle reserve, winger Jonny Godsmark, back in the starting eleven.
Bedlington have scored nineteen times in their last two games, while visitors Billingham Town won 6-2 at Crook in the previous round. Expect to see plenty of movement on the Terriers’ new £30,000 scoreboard.
Closer to Tyneside, Whitley Bay host Marske United in a repeat of last weekend’s league game. Ian Chandler’s side won that one 4-0 and will expect to go through to the next round. Dunston UTS face a more difficult proposition at home to Durham City. Newcastle Benfield – second in the league table with a game in hand – are at home to a South Shields side who’ve let in 18 goals in their first six games.
All the FA Cup and Northern League games get underway at 3pm. Adult admission is generally £5 with half price entry for children and OAPs (£6 and £4 at Whitley Bay). Directions to all the grounds are at http://northernleagueday.wordpress.com. Also, if you’re on twitter you can follow @grassroots11 for a variety of Non-league and Northern League information and events.
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