The Welfare Ground, Northern League Division 2, 1/10/20
Attendance – 105
Entry – £5
Coffee and Chips and Gravy – £2.80
Pint – £2.80
Easington Colliery Association Football Club
Founded – 1913
Nickname – The Colliers, Green Army
Honours- Wearside League -1929–30, 1931–32, 1932–33, 1947–48, 1948–49, Wearside League Cup 1932–33, 1945–46, 1961–62, 2009–10
Random Fact – The club disbanded in 1964 but returned to the Wearside League in 1973
16th of February 2020, I walked out of Gerledome in Arnhem into a storm. Storm Dennis to be precise. If only I knew the other storm that was heading the worlds way. Three days after returning from the Netherlands, I was heading to my gust free work offshore in Angola. Four weeks later I returned to the “unprecedenteds”, “new normals” and “lockdowns”. Fast forward seven months and we are still none the wiser in the UK. As other countries are getting back to normal or as near as, the UK are making a mess of things. However there is one shining light. Bothering new fitba grounds is again possible, but only at the other side of Hadrians Wall(while in Scotland parents are not allowed to watch their kids).
I will be honest, Easington Colliery. I had never heard of the team nor the place, but needs must. My fifty grounds for the season plan was well out the window, but never one to bow to adversity ,there was a plan B. That plan -The Ebac Northern League. I definitely know about Easington Colliery now.
After a five hour drive I found myself the unknown, or County Durham as it really was. Not somewhere I have found myself in the past but when it rains it pours, this is the first of two visits as I will find myself back down in a weeks time for more Northern League action. I really didn’t know what to expect in all honesty, in a fitba sense that is but whatever the standard I would have to get used to it as I have no choice if I want to add to the grounds list. As it turned out, I was quickly enamoured by it all.
When I got out the car I was asked by a geezer how to get to the ground as the carpark was not directly adjacent to Welfare Ground (Hello Mark). I may have been in the North East but my North Easterly twang would have sounded completely out of place when I explained I was an interloper. A friendly chat about all things Northern League and no Scottish fitba was had and it was a sign of things to come for the night.
After heading through the woods I stumbled upon the Welfare Ground. Here I was was given a good welcome from the lady and gentleman on the gate, who I couldn’t help but think thought I was a bit mad travel to watch so far to watch tenth tier English fitba. But as I explained, its any port in a storm for us Scots just now. I like the Welfare Ground, it has a charm to it, when you walk through the gate you are faced with a cracking sea view with the lights of Hartlepool in the distance and coincidentally Redcar in behind there. There also seemed to be a great vibe to the place. I was by no means the first there despite being extremely punctual myself but there were a good number there, beers flowing and laughs and chatter all around the bar area(outdoors as the clubhouse its self is closed due to Durham FA regulations). It got me thinking that people live for their fitba, fitba teams like Easington Colliery are part of the community and how this set up is not allowed in Scotland is not a complete joke.(105 people were in attendance, I am sure there were more in Tesco when was there on Wednesday). All rules were adhered to, there was distancing, masks, hand gel usage and we were all outside for god sake. It also raises the question on our prohibition drinking rules in our own lower game. A bugbear of mine if ever there was one.
To the game its self. I was impressed early on with the game starting at a frantic pace. It was wide open with numerous chances for both sides, some of which should really have buried. On another day this match could have been 2-1, 2-2 or 3-3 in the first ten minutes but for poor finishing. Captain Pounder(potential porn name) for the home side with the pick of the chances and really should have buried it. Not long after The Colliery were thankful to keeper Lawrence who pulled off two fines saves from Preston and Martin to keep Redcar at bay. Moments after the second save the deadlock was broken when after some good work from Middleton in the middle of the pitch, Adamson was on hand to thump a low effort past Lawrence(not a typo, both keepers had the same name). More chances followed for both sides but I was becoming apparent that the hosts were taking a bigger hold of the match and the second came around half an hour when some trickery on the wing led to Chapman not believing his luck when an empty net awaited him to smash home into. Throughout the half I couldn’t help but admire the aversion both teams had of the long ball game. Without trying to sound condescending, at eighth tier I would have expected a lot more “kick and chase” type play. Very refreshing to see. Funnily enough Redcar got their goal from to my recollection the first direct high ball of the match when a free kick was punted up the park with a glancing header from Preston leading to another impressive save from Lawrence which unfortunately for the keeper left Matthew Bell to tap in. Two minutes later the double goal advantage was restored when an identical move to the Easington second goal was repeated, this time with Pounder on hand to hit an empty net. The half was not finished there as the one hundred and five in attendance were treated to a comical moment when the referee went to book the Collierys centre half after a crass challenge and in his haste brandished the red card instead of the yellow. The look on the big Colliery players face was a picture in that short period where he thought he was away for an early shower until the ref corrected his error.
The second half didn’t live up to the action of the first period. There was an early chance for Redcar which would have put the cat amongst the pigeons but Lawrence was on hand to tip over the bar. The visitors were again guilty of poor finishing and should really have grabbed a second but the effort missed the target . The game was put out of reach on around sixty five minutes when Pearn chipped an incredible effort over the keeper from what looked a tight angle into the stanchion. Some finish and I am still trying to work out how he did it. The last action of the half should have resulted in a penalty to Redcar, it was as stonewall as they come but was incredibly waved away, leaving to hosts to preserve their three goal win.
Good viewing with some good fitba on show. A weird game where both teams could have won it despite the comfortable looking score line. A game of countless misses. Second half lulled a bit but I will not complain as the two hundred twenty six day monkey is off of my back. Friendly folk from both sides, good football, fine night and a charming wee ground. A good way to get back on it with no complaints. Well the 02.13 arrival home is not the greatest in all honesty. As far as popping my Northern League cherry goes I am more than chuffed about how it panned out. Cheers to Easington Colliery and Redcar Athletic for the show. Maybe despite being enraged with the draconian rulings on Scottish fitba I have found a new top place to watch fitba off the back of it. Roll on Carlisle City v Birtley on Saturday.
I know football and politics have nothing to do with each other but after witnessing this for myself I am in no doubt that the Scottish Government are making a complete arse of things by not allowing fans into the lower leagues. It’s a travesty and well over the top. Clubs are going to go out of business because of this and they don’t seem to care. Get down to the Northern League and see for yourself Sturgeon. This SHOULD be happening in Scottish fitba. I felt safer at the the match than in the shop or in a pub and that is not hyperbole to prove my point. The rules are there and they are adhered to. GIVE US OUR GAME BACK!
Me 182 grounds