Saturday, 9 April 2016

Billingham Town 1 v Ryton & Crawcrook Albion 0 - Ebac Northern League Div 2

Saturday 9th April 2016
Ebac Northern League Division Two
at 'the Evolution Arena', Bedford Terrace, Billingham
Billingham Town (0) 1
Craig Hutchinson 89
Ryton & Crawcrook Albion (0) 0
Admission £5. Programme £1
Attendance: 167 all very noisy, biased and partisan, but extremely good humoured nonetheless.
It was difficult to ascertain an accurate figure, due to some of them making frequent trips to and from the bar, but my headcount and the officially announced figure were close enough not to split hairs over.
Wherever ye may wander, there is always one phlippng foto-bomber!
With the greatest respect to all concerned, a good number of Northern League clubs I have had the pleasure of visiting over the years, seem to be preserved in some kind of 1970's time capsule and they don't appear to have altered very much, if at all, since a time when I started stepping out to watch football at all levels during my formative years, except for the odd bit of vandalism and storm damage here and there.
That is meant by way of a massive compliment by the way, because in my humble opinion, there are far too many cases (with some notable exceptions) where clubs are guilty of losing a lot of character and charm, where tradition has been ruthlessly sacrificed, as they replace their old stands, with ready assembled new versions, that arrive on the back of lorries and all look the same. I will offer you Consett AFC as a prime example of this.
To illustrate this time capsule effect still further, we were 'treated' to the whole 9 minutes of Lynyrd Skynyrd's 'Free Bird' during the ten minutes leading up to the teams coming out onto the pitch.
Note the signal headto the rear of the covered terrace, depicting just
how close Billy Town's ground stands to the adjacent railway line.
They're functional enough, all of the new build identikit arenas, but they say nothing to any first time visitor about the uniqueness or history of any given club... and I doubt if anyone could ever develop an affinity to such a ground regardless of how regularly they attended games there.
That said, there are newer stadiums... and indeed several redeveloped ones, where the host club has made the effort to create something a bit different and original.
Today's visitors have a ground that should be on everyone and anyone's 'must visit' bucket list.
If you only ever take any notice of one recommendation made on a self indulgent bullshit blog with added football content this lifetime, get y'selves along to the Kingsley Park Stadium, ASAP!
They must've packed them in during the good olde days when this terracing
down the  length of one touchline was still under cover. I was going to take
 these pictures with trains whistling past, but even I'm not quite that sad.
Billy Town's home is in need of a bit of TLC round the edges, but to my way of thinking, it just looks and feels like a real football ground should do.
Though it doesn't always smell especially good, when a whiff blows across from the industrial plant that stands behind Billingham Synthonia's home, which is just a couple of stray long passes away (I'm already thinking back to this lunchtime's game), from Town's ground, over t'other side of Cowpen Lane, off Central Avenue, which connects directly from the A19, approximately 15 minutes drive away (going by the times of text messages I sent at either end of my journey) from the Blackhall Colliery ground that I had just visited, for a Football League Youth Alliance game, which I wish to erase from my memory as quickly as possible.
Some people would think such a round trip from East Retford upon Idle would be a proper ball-ache, but the calibre of people I know who read this self indulgent rambling, will understand, that it can be considered as a mere hop, skip and a jump, to take in the bonus of two old grounds on the same mild and pleasant afternoon.
I am still insisting however, that I'm a football enthusiast and romantic... and not a ground hopper, but even I've taken to giving myself an incredulous look, whenever I make that rather dubious claim these days.
An interesting fact that I acquired from Ryton's matchday secretary David Broadhead, was that prior to this afternoon, his club had gone 154 consecutive games since they last recorded a goalless draw.
It must have been a bitter sweet moment, when that record was extended in the last minute of this game, as Craig Hutchinson scored a close range winning goal for Billingham, via at least one possible deflection, from Stewart Bath's right wing free kick, after the visitors captain Leigh Shickle had fouled Hutchinson just outside the right hand side of the Albion goal area. So 155 not out it is then.
Former England player Gary Pallister started out on his footballing path at Billingham, as did Notts County's Neal Bishop, but I won't hold that against them. I can't find any record of anyone famous ever playing for Ryron, but then my research isn't up to much these days... so I'd be happy to be proven wrong.
"Hey liner! Where's the 15:38 number 36 bus from Greatham got to!?"
Both sides will probably feel that they created enough chances to actually win today's game, but it was Billingham Town (who started life in 1967 as 'Billingham Social') who looked like the side most likely to snatch all three points, as they applied a lot of pressure, particularly towards the end of the game, whereas, in my humble opinion the visitors (who were called plain old 'Ryton FC' back in the day, after they came into being in 1970) were possibly, just about nearly on an even footing with their hosts during the opening 45 minutes, but not beyond that point..
The first goal scoring opportunity fell to Billingham's Brad Staunch, at the wrong end of the pitch, as he nudged a back pass beyond Shaun Scotter in the Blues goal, who had to make an Herculean effort to get back and clear up the mess made by his centre half.
Shaken into life by their near miss, Town pushed forward but Jamie Davis headed wide from Bath's long free kick from out on the right flank, while Hutchinson headed straight at Frazer Nairn moments later after John Maddison picked him out with an in-swinging ball from out on the left.
Josh Holland and Callam Turnbull were knocking the ball round at will in the final third Staunch launched a 'no effing about' clearance into the Ryton half that Steve Bagshaw ran onto, before shooting tamely at Nairn.
Jack Connor switched passes with Davies and he slipped the ball through to Bagshaw, who powered his shot on target and Nairn did well to turn it over his crossbar.
Craig Hutchinson headed Callum Croker's flag kick past Nairn, but the goal was ruled out because Jack Stoddart had been fouled inside the six yard box as the players jostled for the best position.
HT: Billingham Town 0 v Ryton & Crawcrook Albion 0
During the first half I'd sat in the Ryton half of the main stand, as they exchanged pleasantries with the home supporters. There wasn't any real segregation, it was merely a case of the visiting supporters taking up the seating that was still available after they had arrived 'fashionably late' from inside the clubhouse.
I moved around to the far side of the pitch for the second half, to get pictures of the main stand with the cooling towers in the background and wave at the passengers on the passing trains, I'm like that!
Ryton picked up a bit just after the break, without actually worrying Scotter too much, but their attacking intentions seemed to be short lived..
Shickle's free kick was headed behind for a corner by Staunch, but Croker cleared the ball from Keenan Edwards' flag kick.
Holland nearly caught Scotter out with a long range shot, but his effort lacked the power to cause the Town keeper too many problems.
Billingham pushed forward again and Hutchinson was thwarted twice by Ryton's hard working defence, before the ball fell to Gary Redman to the right hand side of the area, who crashed the ball against the visitors bar.
Croker rolled a corner kick to Maddison and he in turn crossed the ball to Staunch at the near post, but to Ryton's relief he crashed a bullet header narrowly wide of the upright.
Hutchinson tangled with Adam Chrostowski as he ran into Ryton's penalty area and went to ground, but the referee Sam Ross saw right through his ruse and waved any appeals away. It wasn't an actual dive, but if you're going down in the box anyway, you may as well try to make it look good.
Davies crossed from the left and Chrostowski conceded another corner, that Maddison scythed in towards Stephen Oakley who headed straight at Nairn, who must have been wondering if he was involved in some kind of bizarre target practice game this afternoon, in view of how many Billingham players had aimed the ball directly at him over the course of the game.
Hutchinson shot wide amongst a crowd of bodies in front of the Ryton goal, but the referee mistakenly awarded a corner, but a disgruntled visiting defence made light work of clearing the ball and as the clock ticked down, it looked as if they had absorbed enough pressure to claim a share of the points.
However, as I said towards the start of this long winded epistle... "Craig Hutchinson scored a close range winning goal for Billingham, via at least one deflection, from Stewart Bath's right wing free kick, after the visitors captain Leigh Shickle had fouled Hutchinson just outside the right hand side of the Albion goal area".
FT: Billingham Town 1 v Ryton & Crawcrook Albion 0
The saga of the 0-0 draw record is to be continued.
I really enjoyed this game, the banter was good, as was the company and the lady in the tea room even gave me a couple of chocolate digestive biscuits to dunk in my frothy coffee, it wasn't exactly Starbucks but it was a strong and warm brew and it hit the spot.
If your ears were burning, that would have been one of the Ryton committee and myself bitching about you and putting the world to rights. We shared some very similar views and I reckon I will have to promote him to my cabinet as the Minsister of Sport when (not if) I get elected as Prime Minister.
Be afraid, you have been warned!
Thankfully the A19 and A1 were both  bereft of traffic and I got past Middlesbrough before the capacity crowd from the Riverside Stadium hit the roads. It's been far too long since I dipped my hook into the Northern League's waters, I feel that several overdue road trips are in the offing any time soon.