April 19 2017

A rum do at Darlington, is it not, odder yet that they seem set to appeal – these things can be punitively expensive – and curious that Poole, aka the Dolphins, appear to be in the same boat. Poole have form.

I’ve been there twice, the first time in January 2008 when Consett visited in the FA Vase fourth round and the ground was enclosed not by the regulation 6ft fence but by the sort of thing which elsewhere might have bordered a municipal flower bed.

It was a former school field, the fence the sort of structure over which a determined three-year-old coud have played hookey. Viewing from outside the ground was possible on all four sides. Perhaps the FA had different ground criteria for clubs in the south.

Poole’s in Dorset, English Riviera, home to 140,000 people, almost as many yachts, to the Bank of New York and to Sandbanks, where the seriously rich – like Mr Harry Redknapp – lay their heads.

Former Morpeth Town secretary Les Scott, ostensibly on a spying mission, hadn’t been impressed. “There are bigger back gardens back home,” he said.

Nor was Northern League Club secretary Martin Haworth, who found Sandbanks awully windy. “You can get blown away in Consett for nothing,” he added.

Consett led through Steve Brown’s 44th minute free kick – what, that short little feller off the Sunday Sun? – but were pegged back by an unfortunate own goal. Memory suggests that they lost the replay.

Three years later Whitley Bay were down there, semi-final first leg. The train was late; somewhat anxiously I stopped an elderly lady to ask directions to the ground.

“Do you know that my water rates have gone up to £80 a month?” she answered.

In the VIP marquee they were eating sausage rolls and egg and cress sandwiches, though one gentleman appeared to be dining out on his young lady’s left ear. Was it, my Northern Echo column incorrigibly observed, a case of wooing within tent?

A goal down, Whitley Bay brought on Brian Rowe after 75 minutes. “A fat bloke who wouldn’t get in our Sunday morning team,” said the chap on BBC Radio Solent.

On 90 minutes the fat bloke broke up an attack, passed out to Paul Chow whose cross was turned in from at least 18 inches by Damon Robson. In the 92nd minute, Lee Kerr’s 22-yard free kick ensured the Seahorses romped home with a vital lead.

The rest is FA Vase history – and Poole had finally done something about the fence.

*For the record, it’s 175 years today sincxe Shildon Tunnel – 120ft deep, 1,225 yards long, – saw its first train (or posibly didn’t, because it’s awfully dark down there). What an engineering feat – how on earth did they manage it? I pay a nostalgic visit though no longer tempted to walk through it as, foolishly, we were when much younger.

Yesterday’s blog had a Shildon flavour, too – news that former Railwaymen’s manager Gary Forrest, 11 years at Dean Street, was joining West Aucland with most of his coaching team. It attracted the second-highest audience in the blog’s nine-month gestation. As always, many thanks for your support.

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