Gillford Park, Northern League Division 2 , 3/10/20
Entry – £4 and £2
Attendance – 78
Match Ball Sponsor – £25
Coffee and crisps – £2
Pint and a coke – £3.30
Carlisle City Football Club
Founded – 1975
Nickname – The Sky Blues
Honours – Division One 1991–92
Random Fact – Formed in 1975 by Ron Thompson and George Walker, the club has been a tri-generational affair as Walkers son Andy played for and managed the club, and Walkers grandsons Jack and Henry also donned the sky blue shirt.
It’s like a bus, you wait for one for so long and two come along in quick succession. In this case, for me it was fitba matches and in particular, two Northern League games. This time down the M74 as opposed to the A1. I might as well have taken an ark rather than the car as the weather was abysmal and the rain relentless. So much so I was worried our travel ended up being for no reason. But not to worry the Gillford Park pitch held up and should be praised for withstanding such a deluge.
With no offence to Easington Colliery and Redcar Athletic this was the big game for the week. The reason being Wee Man was with me. The first time since February when we walked out of Recreation Park in Alloa. 237 days since we bothered a ground together. From making the sandwiches for the journey to the car karaoke (AC/DC and Frank Zappa), fitba with the little dude is a much better time than on my tod. Ecstatic to have it back.
We arrived in Carlisle with time to spare, so a swift drink in the Railway Social club was in order. I couldn’t help but notice the Scottish accents all around. It seems that the Northern League is currently the go to for fitba kicks at the moment. I know for a fact there were Aberdeen fans there , as there were Wee Man and myself plus the guy who told us “good to see other dandies here”, I also spoke to Dundee United fans, a Rangers man and an Annan fan too. I am glad this is the case as I am fast becoming a Northern League fan boy and I find it great that the teams will pick up an extra few quid from the football starved Scots crossing the border.
The time came to brave the elements, and we entered Gillford Park. A tidy wee ground that would not look out of place in the Highland League. A grandstand on the wing with a touchline length shelter opposite. Behind the goal at the entrance side there is another stand and this is where Wee Man chose to park us.
The game itself was a funny one. Carlisle looked to have walked it given the score line but it doesn’t tell the full story of the game. Birtley Town were actually the first team to have the ball in the net, when in the opening minutes they had a header disallowed due to a push. Soft but in the rules of the game a fair decision. This fired up the Sky Blues who from here took the game to the visitors and got their rewards when a tidy finish for Jordan Palmer broke the deadlock. This was quickly followed by a second when a great ball from a free kick was excellently placed by the head of Dan Kirkup on twenty minutes. Birtley really should have halved the deficit when number 9, Smith took an extra touch around six yards out when he should have smashed it home. This was to prove costly as Sam Atkinson made it three not long after when he found himself in space to tap home a cross after some neat play on the wing. Birtley would have to pull one out of the hat to get something out of the game
Birtley again should have scored in the opening minutes and given themselves a lifeline when a headed effort was placed wide when maybe power would have been the better option. Then the calamity “Soccer AM” moment happened. After retrieving the ball for a goal kick the Birtley keeper Mills tried to return to the park by vaulting over the perimeter fence. It didn’t go to plan and his hand slipped on the saturated wood with the man in purple ending up flat on the deck on the other side. Comical and hopefully he found the funny side of it too. Carlisle should have put the game completely to bed when Dinsley found himself bearing in on goal from wide but he chose the wrong option and went to place it at the back post with this effort going wide. From here the game was almost entirely played in the City half as Birtley came right into the game and dominated proceedings but could not find that spark in the final third despite testing Henderson on a couple of occasions. The biggest moment of the half came from the penalty spot when a clear dive earned a spot kick for Carlisle but justice prevailed as Mills pulled off a great double save to keep it at 3-0. Both teams went on to spurn a couple of decent chances each before the referee brought match to a soggy end , just in time before Gillford Park turned into a modern day Atlantis.
A decent enough game despite the horrific conditions. If Birtley were more clinical the game could have been alot different. But the Sky Blues were the clinical ones and deservedly took the three points. I am very impressed how the pitch held out in the biblical downpour. The Carlisle City experience wasn’t finished at full time either as Wee Man and myself got speaking to committee member Ged (a very very nice guy). After learning we sponsored the match ball he proceeded to get two training tops and a brand new Nike fitba for Wee Man. What a truly fantastic gesture. This topping of another good day in the Northern League.
Even the white knuckle drive home didn’t dampen our spirits. I think the Northern League has two new fans. Wee Man proclaimed in the car that “we should go to Birtley next”. Maybe not next as there are others pencilled in but I’m more than up for it.
For now though, roll on Esh Winning v Chester-le-Street on Thursday.
Me 183, Wee Man 52