Friday 28th December 2018 ko 19.30
Northern League Division 2
REDCAR ATHLETIC 1 (Callender 90)
BILLINGHAM SYNTHONIA 1 (Kelly 37)
“Hello, what’s your name?”
“Would you like a go?”
It was half-past midnight at a god-forsaken service station less than half-way back to Oxford. We were sat eating a barely digestible burger each and someone had forgotten to switch off the nearby Peppa Pig children’s ride, and every single minute it advertised itself. To three hoppers far from home it seemed to taunt rather than attract. I allowed a grim smile, you do need a common sense bypass to be a hopper!
Christmas helped, it turned an impossible drive after work into a gentle drive up the A1 (M) over an afternoon, via the chemical works at Middlesbrough, to the pretty seaside resort beyond. A mixture of a Friday night fixture and a side new to Step 6 meant other hoppers would see the game too, and make a beeline for it.
It’s surprise that Redcar hasn’t seen Northern League football since the unrelated Redcar FC left the league in 1922. Incidentally that final season saw Redcar reach the FA Cup quarter-finals beating Middlesbrough in the 5th Round, only to lose 2-0 at Small Heath Alliance or as they’re known today- Birmingham City.
Redcar Athletic are a relatively new club, formed as Teesside Athletic formed in 1993 and changing their name in 2010. They won last season’s Wearside League and it is obvious that a lot of work has been, and will be done to get their Green Lane home up to the required standard.
In some respects that adds up to the obvious, the ubiquitous “Arena” stand, the hard standing around one and a half touchlines and one goal line, and floodlights. I suspect its somewhere already in situ that will impress new visitors more though. The clubhouse is spacious, and managed to shift servings of pie and chips as fast as a bumper crowd could buy them.
In fact the only area where the club underestimated demand was for the programme. I suspect that’s a sign of the times that only 20 copies were produced. Hoppers may love their programmes, by by and large the general populace do not. I’m grateful to the The Itinerant Football Watcher Peter Miles for buying me a copy. Us hoppers look after their own!
The opposition, Billingham Synthonia will remain a point of pain with me. They left their spiritual home, Central Park in a hurry, in April 2017, and I was on the Northern Counties East hop when they played their final home game there. I and many others had the same dilemma. Do I do Armthorpe Welfare or do I make I beeline for Billingham? In the end my responsibility was to the hop, so I’d love to see them return!
These days former Manchester City and Middlebrough midlfielder Jamie Pollock is both chairman and manager at Synners. They’re now based at Norton Road, former home to the now dufunct Norton and Stockton Ancients and a large contingent of their fans and the groundhoppers swelled the crowd to Redcar’s largest for many years.
It was the footballing cliche of a game of two halves, no bad thing since you can’t actually watch the game from the far goal! Synners scored at the end of the first half, Reece Kelly looking suspiciously offside, even -if his team deserved their lead.
Redcar raised the game in the second half, but left it late, very late to equalise through substitute Joel Callender. It was justice based on the whole game, and was a satisfying end to what had been a patchy game.
It gave it the impetus to attack that mammoth drive home….