Alliance Update

The Around The Alliance series has featured over 60 matches on this blog over the last 14 years. I finally completed the set within the Alliance pyramid at the end of last season, which was mainly due to limited travel and focusing on Step 7 grounds.

This season the league has sadly lost two of my local clubs, with both Gateshead Redheugh and Felling Magpies wrapping it, as well as Red Row Welfare and Cramlington Town, which leaves 58 clubs within the four divisions. As far as new clubs and grounds go, into the set-up come Bedlington United Sporting Club, plus Whickham FC have formed an U-23 side. I’ve also noticed on the league website that AFC Newbiggin are playing at People’s Park in Ashington, and a fellow enthusiast recently informed me that Morpeth play on the common outside Craik Park. Already on the list is Newcastle Independent who play on the 4G pitch on Coach Lane, so potentially five new grounds to tick off this season, beginning with a game in the west end of Gateshead...

799. Whickham School

Whickham U-23 2-3 AFC Newbiggin Central

Northern Alliance Division 3

Saturday 2nd October 2021

The ground is actually on the opposite side of Fellside Road, with the school across the road used for changing facilities. The pitch is just an open field, but there is a bit of shelter available, with the 97 bus stop looking onto the action.

Newbiggin Central took the lead in the 39th minute courtesy of a header from Michael Todd, before Whickham levelled just before half time, with some nice footwork and accurate finish from Tom Ferguson.

The hosts went ahead on the hour when a right wing cross was swept in by Oliver Martin, but Newbiggin hit back with Michael Humble netting home the rebound, after the ‘keeper made a good save. The visitors were reduced to ten men with just three minutes left after a straight red card shown to the number five, however this spurred them on to grab a winner, with a shot from Todd taking a slight deflection to make it 2-3 in the last minute.

WU-23 2(Ferguson 43 Martin 60)

AFCNC 3(Todd 39,89 Humble 76)

Red Card #5 87'


New Northern Alliance grounds visited during this season, will be added to this blog.

Update 17th October

800.Coach Lane Sports Ground 3G

Newcastle Independent 0-0 Cramlington United

Northern Alliance Division 1

Saturday 16th October 2021

I visited Coach Lane earlier in the season when I was redirected to another ground (and another new tick) which can be read here.

Today's game was one of my football firsts. Over the years I've attended well over a hundred matches in the Northern Alliance and this was the first time I witnessed a 0-0. The fixture was an evenly matched contest, with both defences coming out on top and not too many clear cut chances. The point kept Cramlington United clear at the top of the 1st Division, with the GOAT sitting in third, but with a few games in hand.  Att.35hc

✔798 Sir Tom Finney Stadium at Irongate

Bamber Bridge 2-4 Matlock Town
Northern Premier League Premier Division
Saturday 25th September 2021

Bamber Bridge is an urban village in Lancashire, 3 miles south-east of Preston in the borough of South Ribble. The name derives from the Old English "bēam" and "brycg", which presumably means "tree-trunk bridge" (population:approx’ 14,000) 

Football in the village was represented in the late 19th century, with a club established in 1952, joining the Preston & District League. In 1974 they merged with Walton-le-Dale, continuing in the same league.

Preston and District League 1974-1990: Premier Division champions 1980–81, 1985–86, 1986–87, 1989–90 

Guildhall Cup winners 1979, 1981, 1985, 1990

North West Counties League 1990-1995: Division Two champions 1991–92

Northern Premier League Pyramid 1995-present  Premier Division champions 1995–96

Challenge Cup winners 1994–94 President's Cup winners 2004–05

Sir Tom Finney Stadium at Irongate


Bamber Bridge



Current Northern Premier League grounds visited: Premier (17/22) Pyramid (52/81)

Opened August 1987

Capacity 3,000 (554 seats)

Record attendance 2,300 friendly v Czech Republic 1996 Lost 1-9

(The Czechs used Irongate as their training ground during Euro 96)

Brig played at the King George's Playing Field, before obtaining a plot of derelict land in 1983 to build their own ground. The name Irongate is taken from the local area and it was officially renamed the Sir Tom Finney Stadium after the legend’s death in 2014. The ground has a smart main stand decked out in black seats, with full cover at the far goal which extends in the corner towards the stand. The ground entrance is within a standing enclosure, left of the goal with the clubhouse, refreshment bar and club shop alongside. The dugouts are opposite the main stand, which is open standing with large netting to stop the ball going into the neighbours gardens.

Bamber Bridge(5th) 2(Barge 25pen Sinclair-Smith 73)

Matlock Town(2nd) 4(Cook 11,62 Hughes 26 Byrne 90pen)

NPL - Premier Division matchday 10

3pm ko


Admission £10

Pin badge £2.50

Coffee £1 chips £2

Programme available 

Matlock maintained their position in the top 2 with a good away performance at Irongate. The Gladiators took an eleventh minute lead when a long clearance from the 'keeper found Jamie Cook who fired in with the outside of his boot. Brig equalised with a Ewan Barge penalty, but the visitors instantly replied when Liam Hughes fired in from close range. 

Matlock extended their advantage just after the hour mark, when a lovely through ball from Wiles found Cook who went around the keeper to slot home his second. In the 73rd minute a free kick just outside the box was squared to Sinclair-Smith who side footed over the goalie to make it 2-3, but the away side sealed the win in the final minute, when Alex Bryne confidently fired home a penalty. 


0805 Northern Rail - Newcastle - Carlisle 

1008 Avanti West Coast - Carlisle - Preston arr.1116

1357 Northern Rail - Preston - Bamber Bridge

Reverse journey back home.

I took advantage of the Northern Rail £1 ticket sale to tick off another in my pursuit of completing some leagues. I spent most of the day in Preston, calling at six of the pubs which weren't in the Good Beer Guide on my last visit. When I arrived at Bamber Bridge I stopped at the Brig ‘n’ Barrel and the Beer Box, another two good pubs which are in the guide.

This was my first solo full day out on public transport since the return of some normality. It was great to have a bit of “me time” and during this long day of travelling I met some interesting and lovely folk along the way. 

✔797 Grosvenor Vale

Wealdstone 2-2 Aldershot Town
National League
Saturday 18th September 2021

Wealdstone FC was founded in 1899, now based in Ruislip in the London Borough of Hillingdon. The manor of Ruislip appears in the Domesday Book, with some of the earliest settlements still surviving and designated as local heritage sites. St Martin's parish church dates back to the 13th century and the northern end of Ruislip High Street has some original village square buildings, which are now Grade II listed.

The Stones started in the Willesden & District League, winning the league twice, then following the First World War played in the London League and Middlesex Senior League.

Spartan League 1922-1928

Athenian League 1928-1964: Champions 1951–52

Isthmian League 1964-1971 1995-2006 2007-2014:

Division Three champions 1996–97

Premier Division champions 2013–14

Southern League 1971-1979 1981-82 1988-1995 2006-07:

Division One South champions 1973–74 South Division champions 1981–82

Alliance Premier/Conference 1979-1981 (founder members) 1982-1988

Champions 1984–85

Conference/National South 2014-2020

The Stones returned to the top of the Non-League pyramid as National South champions in 2020.

They have the honour of appearing in the first ever football match to be televised in the UK, when the BBC showed part of their league match against Barnet in October 1946, and the first club to win the Alliance Premier/FA Trophy double in 1984-85. Wembley success was also achieved in 1966 when they beat Hendon to lift the old FA Amateur Cup.

In the early 20th century the club played at the College Farm Ground in Locket Road, before moving to Belmont Road, both in Wealdstone. At the start of the 1922-23 season they relocated to the Lower Mead ground in central Harrow, which was home until 1991 when financial problems caused by boardroom misconduct saw the ground sold for commercial development.

In January 2008 after 17 years of various groundshares, they obtained the Ruislip Sports and Social Club, plus the associated lease at the Grosvenor Vale ground from Ruislip Manor FC starting from the 2008–09 season.

Grosvenor Vale



Opened 1947

Capacity 4,085 (Seats 709)

Record Attendance 2,469 v Colchester United, FA Cup 1st Rd, 7th November 2015

Current National League grounds visited 21/23

The entrance to the ground is in the corner, where there's a small covered terrace, the 1966 Stand (which backs onto the social club), team dugouts and sections of open terraces running along this side. On the opposite side is the original main stand, flanked by open hard standing. Behind the goal nearest the entrance, is the changing rooms with the Bulla Stand covered terrace, added in 2013. At the top end is the Crouch Corner terrace next to the remains of a concrete gun turret, used to protect nearby Northolt Aerodrome from German bombing during World War II. Also behind this goal is a six row covered seated stand, the latest addition to the Vale added in 2017.

Wealdstone 2 (Jackson JR 28 Umerah 62)

Aldershot Town 2 (Andrews 49 69)

Vanarama National League matchday 7

3pm ko


Admission £15

Pin badge £3

Coffee £1

Programme available £3

It was honours even at the Vale, as the Shots twice hit back to grab a point. The Stones took the lead when Dennon Lewis teed up Ira Jackson to fire in the 28th minute opener, before a good finish from Corie Andrews early in a lively second half. Josh Umerah put Wealdstone back in front, heading in from a long throw-in by Jack Cawley, but yet again, they couldn't hold onto their lead. A lovely through ball from Toby Edser set up Andrews for his second, then both teams continued to create decent chances, but overall the draw seemed the fairest result. 


This was my first visit to London since the breadknife and I got caught in the capital, when the first lockdown of pubs and restaurants was announced in March 2020. We had a big list of pubs we wanted to visit over those few days, so we had some unfinished business to take care of. For my Saturday footy fix it was the Metropolitan Line from Kings Cross to Ruislip for a long overdue visit to Wealdstone.  I arrived in Ruislip Manor at 2pm, making time to call at the JJ Moons and the GBG listed Hop & Vine before kick off. Overall we ticked off 25 Good Beer Guide pubs in London, so a canny weekend and a great end to our holiday fortnight.