Around the Alliance - part two

Another in the series of my mini-tours around the grounds of the Northern Alliance Premier, continues with three more additions, a ground in Newcastle, a jaunt into Northumberland and a trip to the only club representative from County Durham.
(click on images to enlarge)

Ground no.165 Bullocksteads Sports Complex
Heddon v Wallington (League Cup s/f)
29th March 2008

Bullocksteads Sports Complex is based in the Kenton Bank Foot district of Newcastle, in the shadow of Kingston Park. It’s a ground I’ve visited several times before, as both spectator and player, but not for a number of years, however this occasion counts as an official ‘ground tick’ as it’s the home venue of Northern Alliance Premier outfit Heddon FC.
The ground has 13 grass pitches catering for both football and rugby, used mainly by Northumbria University. The main football ground, complete with a fence and dugouts, is a short walk from the Sports Bar, which also houses refreshment facilities and changing rooms.
Alliance League clubs Heddon Institute and Proctor & Gamble Newcastle amalgamated to form P & G Heddon FC in 2002, the club was renamed Heddon FC for the 2002/03 season, a season which concluding with promotion to the Northern Football Alliance Premier Division.
The game I attended was a League Cup semi final, or to give the competition it’s full name (pause..deep breathe) the Longhorn Hardware Stan Seymour League Cup. Heddon were up against Wallington, a club based near Scots Gap in Northumberland, who may be a league below them, but horrendous weather conditions proved a leveller and gave them a great opportunity of causing a cup upset.
As I approached Kingston Park the rain started, by kick-off time the conditions worsened with heavy rain and a swirling wind. The game started with Heddon having the wind behind their backs and Wallington struggling to venture out of their own half, even the keepers long clearances failed to cross the half way line, each kick blowing towards the dugouts and out of play.
The half ended goalless, Heddon had most of the possession but failed to really test the keeper, by this time I was watching the game upstairs in the Sports Bar which gives a good view of the pitch and also gave me time to defrost. The conditions meant if a goal were to be scored, then only one would decide it, the decisive moment of the game arrived on the hour mark with the match winner scored by Peter Southern. The underdogs doggedly defended their lead, holding on to booked a place in the final against current league leaders Walker Central, when they’ll be hoping to cause another shock and lift the cup for the first time.

Matchday facts
Unofficial HC attendance 28
score 0-1 scorer - Southern(60)

Ground no.166 Eden Lane

Peterlee Town v Ashington Colliers
9th April 2008

Peterlee was founded in 1948 as a new town, named after (you guessed it!) Peter Lee, a well known local miner. The football club was formed in 1976 as Peterlee Newtown, joining the Wearside League in 1979. They became founder members and first winners of the Northern League Division Two in 1982, they played within the two levels of the Northern League, until a disastrous period of consecutive relegations saw the club land in the Northern Alliance.
For their first Alliance season in 2006-07, the club dropped the ‘new’ bit changing their name to Peterlee Town, they finished bottom of the league, but fortunately they were saved from further relegation, due to the expansion of the league.
Eden Lane is a tidy looking ground, which is has been well maintained, preserving it’s Northern League standards. The main stand which looks out towards to North Sea, is painted dark red with five rows of bench seats, there’s also a diminutive covered shelter on the far side terrace, with the rest of the ground combining pathway and grass bank standing.
The match was a cracking game, it was if both teams were trying to keep the score down, missing plenty of good chances. An even first half saw Colliers take an early lead through Scott, but a dodgy penalty in first half stoppage time gave an opportunity to draw the game level, but a routine save from the keeper preserved the visitors half time lead. After at least a half dozen clear cut openings the Newtowners finally found the net through Howe, who made up for his earlier penalty miss. This produced a fantastic finale with both teams going full pelt for a winner as the game swung back and forwards, but as the game looked to be heading for a draw, a goal deep in to injury time from Gee gave Peterlee victory and on the balance of chances missed they deserved it.
I went for a cup of tea just before half time, the bloke who served me asked where I was from, when I told him “Gateshead” he repeated my answer but added a grunt prefix, he asked why I was here, so I told him it was because I liked visiting grounds and had never visited Eden Lane, even in the clubs Northern League days. A tinge of sadness then came over his face “ oh aye! happier times” he replied. I almost felt sorry for him, I felt the need to give him a cuddle and tell him everything will be ok. It’s these type of folk that keep these football clubs going, lending a hand because of their devotion to the club. He didn’t just make tea, he swept the floor, retrieved the wayward footballs from over the wall and even shouted tactics from behind the dugout. So on his behalf I hope the clubs stay in the Alliance is a brief one and a return to those happier Northern League times are not too far away.

Matchday facts
Unofficial HC attendance 20
score 2-1 scorers Howe(68) Gee(90+2) -/- Scott(17)

Ground no.167 Hirst Welfare

Ashington Colliers v Gillford Park
12th April 2008

After seeing Ashington Colliers at Peterlee, I was back seeing them in action three days later (they’ll think I’m a new fan) at their home at Hirst Welfare.
The Hirst Welfare Centre is a multi-use community facility, that has all weather floodlight synthetic football pitches, as well as grass pitches, one of which is used by the Colliers, there’s also a community centre with a cafĂ©, gym and office space.
The club is the reserve side of Ashington FC, whose new ground is in the process of being developed over the hill on the other side of the complex, they joined the Northern Alliance leagues in 2000, two successive promotions brought them into the Alliance Premier in 2006, last season they finished 9th.
Again, like my previous Alliance game, I enjoyed a tremendous match played in great spirit with the added bonus of two tremendous goals. Gillford Park travelled over from Cumbria with lingering hopes of still winning the title, unbeaten on their travels all season, four points behind leaders Walker Central. They looked a good bet to catch them, playing some neat football and taking a half time lead through defender Taylor, who capitalised on a loose ball from a corner kick. Colliers on the other hand missed some good chances, continuing the trend from Wednesday night and as the game progressed it became more likely that Gillford would grab a second and clinch victory, that was until two pieces of magic in the space of 5 minutes turned the game around.
Firstly an equaliser on 71 minutes from centre-forward Brown, scoring a superb volley, meeting a left wing cross which flew into the roof of the net, the goal came totally out of the blue, so much so that me and the linesman looked towards each other in shock, before nodding in agreement that we had just seen a cracking goal. Four minutes later and an even better goal, this time Butters picked the ball up in midfield, then surprisingly rifled a 25 yards screamer, giving the keeper no chance, it was a pity there was only a crowd of under 20 to witnessed such a great strike.
Apart from a disallowed offside goal from Gillford , Colliers finished the game strongly and wrapped up the game with a third, this time midfielder Hutchinson getting on the end of a left wing cross, which he celebrated as if his lottery numbers had come up, capping a great win for the black and whites against one of the leagues best sides.
I chatted to a few of the local contingent and was told some useful info regarding the first teams new ground, let‘s just say there’s been a few hiccups and the only football your likely to see within Hirst Welfare in the near future is on the Alliance pitch.

Matchday Facts
Unofficial HC attendance 19
score 3-1 scorers Brown(71) Butters(75) Hutchinson(86) -/- Taylor(12)

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