A Bank Holiday, and sadly Spennymoor’s game at Shildon had been postponed owing to the hosts having an FA Cup replay that week. So, what should I do? The obvious thing was to make the most o the time with Michelle and Josh and spend some quality time with them. So, that’s what I decided to do.
What could be better time together than to go to a new ground and see a game of football between 2 teams, neither of which I support!
Being a Bank Holiday, the weather was less than perfect with strong winds and squally showers. Perfect weather for travelling 40 miles to Newton Aycliffe for a 1pm kick off. I thought better of going to see Durham City’s 11 am kick off game on the way to Aycliffe. That would probably have been a liberty too far.
Newton Aycliffe are relative newcomers to the Northern League having only been in the league four seasons. This is already their second season in the top division. It is an amazing rise for a former park team. I am not going to repeat the history of the club. It is set out on their website HERE.
The ground itself, Moores Lane is situated between the Old A1 ( now A167) and the town centre in Newton Aycliffe.
The club are based at the Newton Aycliffe Sports Club which also hosts a rugby club and cricket club on the site. To conform with league rules, the football ground is fenced off from the other pitches and is accessed by walking round the clubhouse at the Sports Club and along the path past the cricket club. Indeed, if you did not know the football club was there, you would not realise it was there. Indeed the fixture board outside the clubhouse helpfully does not list today’s game! This despite it being a local derby!
The view from the clubhouse towards the ground.
Having planned the trip so that we arrived at the ground early enough, we had time for a drink in the clubhouse. Despite a sign on the door saying it was a members club, there was no one on the door and they were happy to serve anyone. So after alcohol was taken on board, it was time to head to the ground itself. Unlike most ground you’ve been to, there are no turnstiles at the ground. There is just an open gate and a chap in a wooden hut to take the admission money.
The cost of getting into the ground was reasonable at £6 per adult and £3 for concessions. Once into the ground, there is the almost obligatory raffle ticket and programme seller. However, it was an unusual choice of programme seller.
Yes, Elvis was selling the raffle tickets. I didn’t ask if the 1st prize was a trip to Memphis! In fact when the draw was made, the 1st two prizes were meat!
The ground itself is a very new ground with an almost flat pitch surrounded on four sides by hard standing, but no terracing.
The seating was courtesy of a temporary stand. It is cheap to provide and for a small club with limited finances makes it sense. Next to the seating was a small covered section. This was rather odd as it appears to be missing the floor, The stand appears to be designed to have a terraced floor so everyone under cover could see the game. For some reason there was no floor, so unless you were one of the dozen or so people in the front row, you would not be able to see the game. This probably explains why so many people stood out in the rain to watch the game.
The changing rooms at Moores Lane consisted of portacabins. Not the glamorous facilities that you would get at a Premiership club, but it is cost effective and there is no reason to think the facilities were not adequate.
The dressing rooms were to the left of the entrance gate, and to the right of the entrance gate was what is one of the most important facilities at a non league ground, the tea hut. Once again, portacabins were used to provide the catering facilities, the committee room next to it, and the toilet facilities. All were spotless and served the purpose.
Now, purely in the interests of boosting the finances of a non league club, we all sampled the burgers and teas before the game. They were excellent value and very tasty. The only problem was that by half time they had run out of pies and hotdogs, so we had to have more burgers at half time. The catering staff deserve a mention for their friendly helpful manner. Without the catering staff, football matches would be less pleasurable at this level. Unlike at Premiership level, food is affordable at Newton Aycliffe.
Once fed and watered, we made our way to the seats, mainly because they were undercover. Now, I found myself sitting next to a noisy neighbour who insisted on making noise every time anyone shouted. I’m not sure if they were joining in, or were just upset by the noise.
You don’t get to sit next to a dog at St James’ Park or Old Trafford. This was not the only dog in the ground, but was certainly the funniest as it barked every time a player shouted. At half time, I met a number of fellow Spennymoor fans who had come to the game as our game was off. Indeed, there were probably in excess of 12-15 Spennymoor fans in the crowd of 340. The second half was spent sniggering at the antics of the Newton Aycliffe goalkeeper who appeared to be afraid of the ball. He dropped the ball gifting Bishop their first goal and was at fault for at least another two of Bishop’s five goals. Indeed the only time it seemed he got near the ball was when he was unable to get out of the way fast enough. On this performance, Michelle questioned if he was actually a goalkeeper or an outfield player filling in for the day.
From a Spennymoor fan’s perspective the good news was that on the following Saturday, Spennymoor play Newton Aycliffe and with Coco the Clown in goal for Newton Aycliffe, a win was surely guaranteed. [More on that in a later post]
The game ended up with a 5-1 win for Bishop Auckland. The sad thing was to see how few fans Bishop have these days. Behind the gal bishop were attacking were only a handful of bishop fans. Whilst admittedly others would be in the seats or stood down the side, there were only a small band of loyal two blues fans. It was a far cry from the crowds bishop used to get in the past at Kingsway. Sadly, despite offering excellent value and a friendly atmosphere people no longer seem to want to go to non league games.