Arsenal, FA Cup, Hill Farmers Blues, Ironworks Road, Mark Knopfler, Northern League, Thornaby, Tow Law, Tow Law Town
Saturday 15th September 2014 k0 15.00
Northern League Division Two
TOW LAW TOWN 1 (Lee 85)
THORNABY 1 (Clarke 27)
Such is the reputation of Tow Law’s Ironworks Road Ground I had no difficulty in filling a car to pay it a visit. In fact, the only issue I had was my presence each Saturday in the Masons Arms pub quiz. So to the rest of team “Hoof Hearted,” you have my apologies, but have a look at what follows and I sure you’ll understand my tardiness!
You really do have to climb to get to Tow Law, set as it is in the northern outcrops of the Pennines in County Durham, just a few miles south of Consett. The name is derived from the Old English Tot hlaw, or Lookout Mound, and stood opposite the stand you can see why!! You are 287 feet above sea level after all!
The town grew mainly through the efforts of Charles Attwood, who seeing the area had natural reserves of both coal and iron ore, set up an ironworks. The industry expanded until there were 6 blast furnaces in the town, mostly financed by Barings Brothers, the merchant bank famously brought down by “rogue trader” Nick Leeson in 1995.
The town produced iron until the late nineteenth century mostly for the ever-expanding railways but the vast majority of cannonballs used by the British in the 1853 Crimean war came from Tow Law, to the extent that the local village of Inkerman is named after the battle of the same name!
In more recent times town is mentioned in the Mark Knopfler song, “Hill Farmer’s Blues” from his album The Ragpicker’s Dream.
The Ironworks Road Ground is the kind of traditional football ground that the Northern League seems to specialise in, and groundhoppers love. While Tow Law are struggling on the pitch in front of meagre crowds, the ground remains a beautifully maintained piece of footballing architecture, oozing history from every pore.
That history includes FA Cup runs that saw 4,500 pack into the ground in 1967 to watch Tow Law beat Mansfield 5-1 in the First Round proper. They took Shrewsbury Town to a replay in the next round, losing that 6-2, but the real choker was that the winners had a home tie against mighty Arsenal in the 3rd round. I wonder how they’d have crammed them all in?
For a side that nurtured the talents of a pre-Newcastle United Chris Waddle, Tow Law are at a low (no pun intended!) ebb. At kick-off they were third-from-bottom of the league, and were fortunate to pick up a point from a limited Thornaby side.
It was a classic case of a team paying for not taking their chances, as the visitors had the majority of the possession, but with only Jamie Clarke’s first half strike to show for all that domination, however little Tow Law had penetrated, Thornaby would always be vunerable, and I’ve no doubt that Anth Lee’s late strike was a real sucker punch.
There still remained time for Thornaby to see two of their chances cleared off of the line, one by a good header, one by… well the Tow Law secretary called it best. “Good save,” he yelled, the trouble was the save wasn’t by the goalkeeper…..
Perhaps Tow Law deserve a little luck, I saw them on one of the Northern League’s hop’s last season at Stokesley, report here, and was struck what a friendly bunch they were. That, thankfully hasn’t changed so let’s hope that friendly Tow Law will get both the results and the crowds that the wonderful ground deserves.
The Edward VIII post box is in Hilyard Row, Catterick Garrison.
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