With the football season over prematurely due to the Coronavirus Pandemic I’m in the unusual position of actually having this blog up to date! So to keep the content coming, and for something to do, I’ll do some old grounds and games where there’s a story to tell. And there certainly is a story behind today’s entry!
Saturday 2nd September 2006 ko 15.00
Northern League Division Two
PENRITH 10 (Douglas 7 9 29p 39 54 82 Rooke 25 Reed 49 64 68)
CROOK TOWN 1 (Bailes 73)
So let’s set the scene. It was 14 years ago and I was on the first full day of a holiday with my now ex-wife between Appleby and Tebay, near the Lake District. It was a typical day of a holiday of the time, in that I’d been told I wasn’t finding a game, and it was hammering down with rain. All things considered it wasn’t the most promising looking day..
We travelled north via Appleby to Penrith and parked up so as to visit Tourist Information. You couldn’t park outside so we trudged along wet streets and as we did I spotted a quite glorious poster-it’s the first photo, and wondered if they had another game during the week. Tourist Information produced little that could be visited comfortably in the rain but the ex spotted the Alhambra, the local cinema.
Now the car has got me to no end of games, but this is the only time that “Cars” got me to a game. She fancied seeing the Pixar produced film, I didn’t so I got to head to Southend Road! And for the record, I didn’t need to be asked twice!
Now as glorious as the main stand was at Southend Road, that day my sole interest in it was in its ability to keep me dry! It also meant I was sat next to the radio reporter local to Crook Town, and that fact helped me to put what happened next right into perspective, because I was to witness something that 2,000 or so grounds later I’ve still seen nothing quite like it.
The week before, Crook manager Alex Oliver was sacked and most of the team followed him out of the club in the days leading up to this game. Crook turned up with the bare 11 players, and that included a 15-year-old, the kit man, and club stalwart Dennis Pinkney aged 50 to make his 528th appearance for the club, well over a decade after his 527th.
It was never likely to be a close game, and Penrith took full advantage. Douglas scored six, making Reed’s triple seem positively tame! But none of that really sticks in my mind, that dubious honour goes to the gallant Dennis Pinkney. God knows he performed miracles at centre half that day, but midway through the second half the mind was still willing but the legs were weak. The ball was knocked past him, he desperately stuck out a leg and tripped the forward running through. There was no malice in it, but there were to be consequences.
Now in all those 527 previous appearances Pinkney had never been booked, and as the referee walked over to him card in hand, it seemed the only person there that didn’t know about Pinkney’s record was the referee. Pinkney looked horrified, the Crook players gutted for their man and even the Penrith players tried to stop the booking but to no avail. I found myself misquoting slightly,
“Father forgive him, he knows not what he is doing”
I hope that afterwards the players had a collection to play Pinkney’s fine. It was the very least he deserved, and all credit to Crook Town for fulfilling the fixture; it would be been so easy for them to have postponed the game given the turmoil the club was in.
I had absolutely no idea that two years’ later the ground would be lost with the club moving to the purpose-built Frenchfields Stadium, and now no trace of Southend Road remains. I was fortunate to be back in the area just after the final game and found a gap in the fence for the pictures of the derelict ground.
I dashed back to the cinema to meet the ex, but did take the time to take down the sodden poster I’d spotted earlier. It took a little time to dry out back at the campsite, and I do still have it. Thankfully the ex enjoyed her film- I’d have had hell to pay if she hadn’t, and I kept my own council as to what I’d seen. Because if you don’t understand sport, and bless her, she never did, then Penrith, their 10 goals, and Pinkney’s sacrifice would have meant nothing to her.
But even after 14 years, every time I pass the town on the M6, that game is what I remember Penrith for.
Post closure in September 2009