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Monday 21st April 2014 ko 12.00

Northern League Division One

BISHOP AUCKLAND 8 (Megran 25 45 Hodgson 37 Hawkins 43 Lawson 48 Brunskill 57 64 Lane 70)

CROOK TOWN 1 (Davis 58)

Att 434

Entry £6

Programme £1.25

Badge £3.50

In many respects this season cannot finish quickly enough; yes you’ve read that correctly, but don’t worry, I’ll still watch the usual bucket-load of games while I can. I was and am tired, and when the Northern League announced the last of their reunion hops, it looked like a good excuse to have Easter away from the organised hops for the first time in a long time. That’s nothing against Harvey Harris, Mike Amos and the Northern League, they are lovely people to deal with, but time with family and friends looked a good option for me. Until I was sat in the pub on Saturday and GroundhopUK’s Chris Berezai phoned, should we go and support the event on its fourth and final day? On go on then….

The very fixture evokes past glories. The club was formed in 1882 when theological students from the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford studying at Auckland Castle  formed a side – Bishop Auckland Church Institute. The students chose club colours of Oxford Navy Blue and Cambridge Sky Blue, which the club still use today.

Bishop Auckland won the old FA Amateur Cup 10 times from 1896 to 1957 and their opponents 5 times from 1901 to 1964. Bishop Auckland FC’s best season was arguably 1954–55. They won the Northern League Division One, the Northern League Cup, the FA Amateur Cup and reached the 4th round in the FA Cup, losing to York City. With the introduction of the Non-League Pyramid, and the Alliance Premier League in 1979, and Northern League’s refusal to take part, in 1988 they opted to enter the Northern Premier League, being promoted to the Premier Division in their first season.

After the 1958 Munich Air Disaster the club lent Manchester United 3 players, Derek Lewin, Bob Hardisty and Warren Bradley. In 2007 when the floodlights at Old Trafford were being replaced, the club donated 24 lamps for use at Bishop Auckland’s then proposed new ground. And its a home that in recent years has been the club’s biggest problem.

Between 1886 and 2001 Bishop Auckland played at the Kingsway, which was shared with cricket. The club moved into a groundshares with Shildon and Spennymoor while permission and finance were sought for their new ground.  The finances took an inevitable hit, and the club were relegated twice, returning to the Northern League in 2006. Their new ground, Heritage Park was finally opened in 2010, and it reflects the club’s ambitions to play at a higher level.

The main stand reminds me of that at Penrith AFC, but here there’s a covered terrace behind one goal, and where there’s a pay booth at Penrith AFC here there are turnstiles. There’s also a bank of temporary seats to help house the big crowds attracted by tenants Darlington AFC; its clear the club are destined to play their football at a higher level, and that was before kick-off too!

Its fair to say I have history with Crook Town. Yes, my visit to the quite frankly gorgeous Millfield saw a home win, but I was also at Penrith 10 Crook Town 1 too…. There had been a hint of what was to follow on the first day of the hop when it finished Ashington 7 Crook Town 3. I could give you a run down on how the goals were rolled in, but lets be honest, there’s no lack of reports elsewhere. I’d observe only that the mistake by Crook keeper Sam Hogg for the Two Blues’ 4th goal killed the young glovesman’s confidence and led to the glut of goals in the second half.

That glut eased my tired bones and after catching up with old friends who’d wondered why on earth I hadn’t been at the first 3 days, I made for Spennymoor.