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Friday 25th October 2013 ko 19.30

Wearside League


RYHOPE COLLIERY WELFARE 6 (O’Neill 30p Butler 54 Hall 56 Winn 65 Pounder 74 Yip 90)

Att 168

Entry, Programme, and 60th Anniversary Shipowners’ Cup Final Programme £4

Sometimes, coincidence can be a wonderful thing. With the Northern League staging a 4-game groundhop in Newcastle the next day, any club staging a game in the area the evening before was always likely to see a glut of southern-based hoppers. 4 clubs did; in the Northern League there were games at Shildon and Spennymoor, and a few saw Middlesbrough beat Doncaster in the Championship, but for me the most intriguing was Silksworth CW.

Silksworth is a district of Sunderland, and I passed the Stadium of Light on my way to the Bobby Gurney Memorial Park. Gurney was born in Silksworth as his father worked at the local pit, now where the local leisure centre. Bobby was spotted playing for Bishop Auckland in 1925 and signed for Sunderland. He played for the Rokerites for 25 years scoring 228 goals, still a club record. He was collected just the one cap for England, and died in 1994 aged 86.

I love grounds like this, tucked away as it is behind terraced houses. Nothing much can be happening, but still the place will ooze atmosphere, and that sense is doubled when it gets dark and the floodlights are switched on….

A few days before the club clearly hadn’t realised the volume of hoppers that were likely to arrive, and were gently pointed in the right direction via Twitter. It is to the club’s great credit that the game felt like a bone fide groundhop game. The programmes were fascinating, and I’d like to think the club made a tidy sum from the food and drink on sale. They worked hard at their opportunity and this off-duty groundhop organiser loved them for it. Even the referee was a Mr G. Hopping!

The visitors were Northern League Division Two runners-up last season but were relegated due to ground-grading issues. Judging by this performance they have retained most of their team, and after a slow start were just that little bit too sharp for the hosts.

Once Nathan O’Neill’s penalty beat Graeme Pickering in the Silksworth goal, Ryhope never looked like losing the tie, and were 3-0 up via John Butler and Phil Hall, before Silksworth struck back with the first of two smartly taking goals from Liam Gill. Ryhope rattled in 3 more goals from Chris Winn, Jack Pounder, and substitute Jonathan Yip, to give a rather flattering scoreline to the visitors. They were clearly the better side, but not by 4 goals.

Whatever the result it was a hugely enjoyable evening out despite the rain, and here’s a thought to other Wearside League clubs. The next Northern League Groundhop is on the 1st March, and will be based around Marske, Stokesley and Darlington. There’s a windfall for any go-ahead club with floodlights that puts on a game, and does a programme the night before. Just ask Silksworth CW!