Thursday, 3 July 2014


Portland Park in Ashington was one of my favourite football grounds, decrepit but rich in history, with one of the friendliest clubhouses in the North East. It is now a supermarket.

The following match report appeared in the Ashington fanzine, The Pit Pony Express in March 2001.

Ashington v Norton & Stockton Ancients

There are a lot of things that tell a man he is getting old. You notice that if you eat a balti after nine o’clock you can’t get to sleep, that jeans manufacturers are making their waistbands much tighter than they used to and that sheepskin slippers are damned comfortable and who cares what they look like, anyway, I'm only going to the bloody post office. Even more telling is the way people treat you when you have an accident. 

Coming out of the clubhouse into Portland Park on the evening after this game something happened. One minute I was walking along expounding to my two companions on the ridiculousness of the Northern League’s stringent ground safety policy, the next I had missed my footing and fallen down two steps of terracing. In days gone by my mates would surely have reacted to this event by laughing hysterically and yelling “A big round of applause for the acrobat” and other such witticism. This month, however, I turn 40. So instead of mirth I got concern. “Are you all right? Don’t get up straight away. Wait till you feel fully recovered”. All very laudable, I’m sure. Though personally I’d have preferred scorn.

I was not injured in the slightest, though I did feel mightily humiliated, AN EMOTION DOUBTLESS SHARED BY THE DAY’S OTHER VISITORS FROM TEESSIDE, NORTON AND STOCKTON ANCIENTS (I put this latter clause in block capitals in case any young aspiring writers are eager to see how an experienced hack such as myself sets about linking two completely unrelated pieces of twaddle in so seamless a manner that nobody but a certified expert can detect the join). For the latter had, in the immortal words of Hunter S. Thompson, just been thrashed like a red-headed stepchild.

Not that anyone would have predicted a 5-0 scoreline after forty minutes, Norton more than matching the home side and playing some neat football in midfield. Unhappily for them they lacked the Colliers cutting edge in front of goal. If only the legendary RA “ Bullet” Smith were still on their books things might have been different. Although given the fact that he would be at least ninety, probably not.

With half-time approaching Ross Atkinson showed how it should be done, latching onto a through ball and going one-on-one with the Ancients' gargantuan goalie. Sensing that to attempt to go round this massive figure would require a 4WD and a fortnight’s supply of food, Atkinson wisely chose to lob him instead and the ball dropped nicely into the empty net.

Ashington's second came shortly after the interval. Unfortunately I had been distracted by a picture of Jimmy Adamson in the clubhouse and didn’t see it. I am reliably informed that Robson scored it. Other information is lacking, but years of missing goals at live football tell me that it was in all likelihood a wickedly swerving shot struck with the outside of the right foot from thirty yards which practically tore a hole in the roof of the net. And I’m sure the player himself would confirm that if asked.

At this point Norton became disillusioned. Heads went down. “We’re not talking anymore,” the giant keeper said more or less to himself.  Porter added a third with a spectacular diving header worthy of Tony Mowbray in his pomp and the visitor’s manager was heard to inquire of an assistant “Have you got the petrol money?”

Lawson and Robson finished the rout with goals that were almost mirror images of Atkinson’s opener, the Norton custodian showing the sort of aversion to chips normally associated with weightwatchers.

Five-nil. The biggest victory margin I have ever seen at a Northern League game. Though, admittedly I don’t get to Crook very often. Which is probably just as well. I seem to recall the terracing at Millfield is a bit steep for old-timers like me.


No comments:

Post a Comment