Around the Alliance - part three

The third and final part of my mini-tours around the grounds of the Northern Football Alliance Premier Division for this season, I've enjoyed visiting these clubs and attended some great games, I look forward to continuing the series next season.
(click on images to enlarge)

Ground no.168 - Sporting Club of Cramlington
Cramlington Town v Shankhouse
16th April 2008
Cramlington is a small town 9 miles north of Newcastle in Northumberland, Shankhouse Black Watch joined the Northern Alliance 2nd Division in 2000, winning promotion in their first season and changing their name to Cramlington Town a year later, last season the club won promotion to the Alliance Premier after finishing runners-up to Gillford Park in Division One.
Sporting Club of Cramlington is based within the grounds of Cramlington High School, the ground was opened in November 2003 at a cost of £10,000, thanks to local funding and an award from the Football Foundation, giving the ground the basic requirements of spectator barrier system, dugouts and technical area.Additional facilities for both school and community use, were provided by Northumberland County Council, using capital from the sale of surplus school land to allow the original £3m sports complex proposals to be developed.
The Sporting Club is an active place, I missed the kick-off as I struggled the find a parking space, as well as the Cramlington Town match there was another five or six games taking place, mostly involving junior girl matches on the many football pitches around the complex.
The game was very competitive with an above average count of late tackles, near neighbours Shankhouse scored the only goal of the first half; be it a fortunate one, a cross from left back Heppell took an unkind deflective, spinning over the helpless keepers head. The result seemed settled after an hour, a scramble in the box produced a few efforts at goal with one shot stopped on the line by a defenders hand, the referee had no hesitation in giving a penalty and a red card, Armstrong made no mistake with his spot kick. Shankhouse looked comfortable, soaking up any pressure from the ten men, looking more likely to add to the score until five minutes from time when a great save from the keeper stopped a late consolation goal from Town, but from the resulting corner the ball fell to Miller on the edge of the box who’s shot went through a packed defence and into the net. Then amazingly, to everyone’s surprise, Cramlington rescued a point in injury time via the same player, again a corner kick wasn’t cleared and the ball fell nicely in his path, blasting a shot into the roof of the net. Overall a spirited and entertaining game with both clubs sharing the spoils in the Crammy Derby.
Matchday Stats
Unofficial HC attendance 44
2-2 scorers - Miller(86,90+1) -/- Heppell(19) Armstrong-pen(59)

Ground no.170 - Cochrane Park
Newcastle University v Carlisle City
26th April 2008

Newcastle University have several sports facilities throughout the city but the principal competitive venue for football, rugby and cricket is found at Cochrane Park, located north-east of the town centre.
The venue houses 4 football pitches, 3 county standard rugby pitches, 1 cricket square and 5 tennis courts, with the ground the football club use situated at the far side of the complex. The site has an attractive looking pavilion, used as team changing rooms, with a function suite and bar facilities.
Newcastle University have played within the Alliance since 1988 and have been in the Premier Division since the 2000-01 season, last season they finished 6th their highest position to date. The University’s football club squad is now picked from current students only, they struggled earlier this season, but have finished the campaign well, lifting themselves off the foot of the table.
Carlisle City provided physical opposition to the students, after a goal from Foote on 19 minutes, City equalised after half and hour, a good finish from Gardner from a tight angle making it level at the break. Uni were the better side in the second half, taking the lead on 66 minutes when Kewn turned a right wing cross goal wards, a defender on the line tried to stop the ball with his hand but the shot proved too strong, the goal scorer appealed for handball, but within a second later turned away to celebrate the goal, forgetting about his penalty plea. The Students secured the win and capped a fine 2nd half display with a late goal from Crockett, giving them another valuable 3 points in their pursuit of avoiding the drop.
Matchday Stats
Unofficial HC attendance 11
3-1 scorers; Foote(9) Kewn(66) Crockett(85)
-/- Gardiner(32)

Ground no.172 - South Newsham Playing Fields
Blyth Town v Alnwick Town
12th May 2008

Blyth Town were originally formed as a junior boy’s team in 1995, the adult side began in 2002-03, the previous seasons Under 18’s made the step into senior football and won the Alliance 2nd Division title in their debut season. The club now run 26 teams from Under 6’s boys to men and girls Under 10’s to ladies.
The adult side progressed, winning promotion to the Alliance Premier in 2005 and this season they’ve won the NFA Senior Benevolent Bowl, beaten Wark last month at Whitley Park by a goal to nil.
The ground lies on the main A1061 road into Blyth, where you find the car park and the club pavilion, which has recently undergone major improvements, including expansion to the changing rooms and a function suite.
On arrival I noticed the players walking away from the ground, crossing the road and heading through a pathway in between two housing estates, this lead towards a large playing field with two football pitches, one of which was a daisy field roped off for use as the venue for the match. Obviously this couldn’t be the home ground of Blyth Town, being not correctly fenced off, without dugouts and not meeting the Level 7 requirements. I made enquiries about the main ground and was told after a league inspection, it was deemed unfit for use, with the club giving special dispensation to play at this ground until the former is passed fit. Looking at the club website it shows they have 8 pitches, 4 at South Newsham and 4 at South Beach, the fixture was listed as South Beach-pitch 2, so after being disappointed at not seeing the club play on their proper home ground, at least I’ve scored for an extra ‘tick’ and I’ll make a revisit when they’re back across the road playing on the main pitch.
Alnwick Town were the visitors to South Newsham Playing Fields, sorry… that should be South Beach-pitch 2, I didn’t know it at the time, but last season I witnessed their last game in the Northern League before Demotion into the Alliance, last seasons squad have now gone and they find themselves a place behind Blyth in 13th
They returned back up the A1 with a comfortable 2-0 win, with a goal in each half, the first a header directly from a corner on 14 minutes from Patterson and the second from Keen on 65, there was more chances to add to their tally but the front two struggled to stay onside, blaming the linesman for their badly timing forward runs.
At half time Blyth Town made a couple of substitutions, one of them was a lively left-winger who was shithot fast and keen as mustard, he was constantly involved although his eagerness saw a couple of late tackles, one of which resulting in an unfortunate accident, as he overstretched he snapped his leg, letting out a scream which could be heard as far away as Ashington. The upshot of this was the game was stopped for 25 minutes as the lad couldn’t be moved, with the players and spectators having to hang around waiting the arrival of the ambulance. I spoke to a few Alnwick supporters and we agreed the game should be stopped, with only 10 minutes left to play, the 2-0 score line should stand, I decided that personally the game was over and decided to head home, hoping I wouldn’t find that Blyth Town made a remarkable recovery winning 3-2 in those last ten minutes, however it did stay 0-2 so I didn’t miss anything and I managed to get home for the second part of Coronation Street.
Blyth Town have major ambitions; with their main wish to eventually become a Northern League club, they’re also looking to make major developments at South Newsham, to establish themselves and show there’s more than one club in Blyth.
Matchday stats
Unofficial HC attendance 32
0-2 scorers; Patterson(14) Keen(65)

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