Northern League Day fixture: Consett vs Bishop Auckland
First division runners-up in both 2008 and 2009, Consett have high hopes of going one better this time round. Managed by Kenny Lindoe – who steered unfancied Brandon to the title in 2003 – they’re just a single point behind leaders Shildon with three games in hand on their fellow Durham side. After defeat to Spennymoor ended an unbeaten run of twelve games, the Steelmen impressively swept aside Sunderland RCA and Dunston in their last two home games by a combined score of seven goals to nil, ex-Bishop Auckland forward Gavin Barton making it a total of 20 goals in the 24 games he’s played since joining at the beginning of the season. Barton is partnered up front by teenage striker Gavin Ross or Marc Walton, once of Newcastle United, Torquay and England Under 19s. In midfield, Jonjo Dickman formerly captained Sunderland Reserves. As a junior, defender Scott Martindale was on the books at Hibernian.
Consett’s Belle Vue Park was built in 1950 and opened with a game against Sunderland Reserves which attracted a still record crowd of 7,000. There are plenty of car parking spaces available behind the red-brick main stand, which has covered seating at the top and old-fashioned terracing below. Although the facilities aren’t the best, Belle Vue more than makes up for it in terms of character. There are plans to move to a new ground on the outskirts of town so get along while you still can.
There’s a real top versus bottom clash on Northern League Day. Visitors Bishop Auckland were the most famous non-league side in the country in the mid-1950s, when they won three FA Amateur Cups, five Northern League titles and had enough spare cash to send a chauffer-driven Rolls Royce to pick up a young defender called Bob Paisley (who later had a bit of success at Liverpool) on match days. Despite finally moving to a brand new ground of their own and having one of the league’s best keepers in Peter Jeffries, the Two Blues are struggling at the wrong end of the table, having fallen into the third and final relegation place in the wake of a 5-3 home loss to fifth-bottom Stokesley. 2002 Vase winner Ian Dixon and ex-Sunderland and Darlington defender Phil Brumwell are among those tasked with the difficult job of shackling Barton, Ross and Walton. In midfield, Kieron Day spent three years at the Sunderland Academy, while forwards Daniel Hawkins and Arran Wearmouth both started out at Middlesbrough. Daniel O’Donnell, a 21-year-old midfielder who had injury-afflicted spells with Celtic, West Ham and St Johnstone, has recently signed until the end of the season.
Getting there: Coming from the north, drive through Stanley on the A693, turning on to the A692 through Leadgate and then the A691 at the roundabout as you enter the outskirts of Consett itself. The ground’s just off Medomsley Road (DH8 6LR). From the south, take the A691 from Durham. Bus timetables for Consett can be viewed here.
As usual in the top division, it’s £5 in, half price for concessions. Kick off at 3 o’clock.
A version of this piece originally appeared in the Newcastle United fanzine True Faith.