Arngrove Northern League 2nd Division
20th October 2007
The clubs most successful period came during the ‘60’s and ‘70’s when they were league champions as well as a successful cup side, winning the North Riding Cup and the Durham Amateur Cup, the club progressed through the Teesside League and on to the Wearside League, but sadly RA hit financial problems and were forced to fold in 1992.
The resurrection of the present club followed a year later, in the league where it all originally began, the Darlington & District League which they successfully won in 1999-2000, now with some financial clout behind them as well as a decent squad of players, the club then won the Auckland & District League and so another shot at the Wearside League, the obstacle the club fell at last time round.
The club made ground improvements with their ambition to achieve Northern League status, this was achieved when winning the Wearside league in 2004-05 and so after a gap of 80 years, the RA once again bring the world’s second oldest league to Brinkburn Road.
The grounds main entrance is on Brinkburn Road itself, behind the goal where the main seating area can be found, this is a basic criterion stand decked in red flip seats and is named as a memorial to former striker and reserve team coach Paul Adamson, the social club is in the corner next to the cricket pitch which runs parallel to one side of the ground which is open standing. The far goal has a covered terrace with the roof backing on to the building behind, this is built up slightly with wooden supports, and is a regular singing end for the RA fans, there may have only been 5 of them but they were loud enough with my personal fave chant being “There’s only one team in Darlo”, there’s also the Porto cabined changing rooms on the right hand side behind the terrace.
The team dugouts are opposite the cricket pitch end; behind these is an old red wooden/congregated iron stand, which must have been standing for a long time as it gives credit to the clubs recognition of playing in the Northern League between June 1919-May 1926, this is a small shelter with one side having a wooden bench, the stand has a bit of overgrowth inside, so could do with a good dose of weed killer, but it is handy if you fancy a fruitful snack as there’s a blackberry bush growing through the wall, the ground is complete with a trim red and white perimeter fence.
RA played hosts to Northern League newcomers and early season pace setters Birtley Town and were looking for a much improved performance than the game I attended last week at Norton. After a tight opening phase it was the league leaders who took the lead just before the half hour when Allsop got on the end of a right wing cross to nod in at the far post, but the lead was a brief one with Athletic centre forward Neil Tarrant pouncing on a lose ball which ran kindly to him in the box, this seemed to put the sides level at the break but Birtley got a significant lead in stoppage time with Luke Kerry’s well timed run, latching on to a flicked header to calmly place the ball under the keeper.
At the beginning of the second half someone introduced themselves to me, recognised purely by me sporting my 100FGC pin badge; it was Northern League groundhopper El Queso Grande we briefly discussed football grounds and the groundhopping art and both had a good view of Birtley’s striker John Kesterven’s half volley from a corner in the 47th minute to but Birtley 3-1 ahead.
Darlo RA were giving a lifeline in the 78th minute when Tarrant again latched on to a defensive error to toe poke the ball home ahead to reduce the arrears, then in a hurry to get the ball out of the net and restart the game a ‘handbags incident’ occurred when Birtley defender Scott Garrett stopped Tarrant getting to the ball, this wee scurry was settled when Garrett smacked the striker in the gob and was deservingly giving the red card, even though the defender tried in vain to plead his innocence, his set off a frantic finale with RA almost snatching a last minute equaliser, but Birtley held on and were rewarded for their workman like display to stretch their lead at the top to 9 points.
While the trickle of Darlington RA behind the goal reminded everyone how many teams there is in Darlington, it’s worth remembering that there’s actually two, and since the sad unnecessary demise of Feethams, there’s actually still a proper football ground in the town that’s well worth a visit
Ground no.149 Brinkburn Road – Matchday web album(18 pictures)