August 7 2018: sod’s Law

Oh crumbs. Yesterday’s blog not only reported that a goal for Tow Law in tonight’s game at Birtley Town would be the Lawyers’ 6,000th in the Northern League – only the second club to reach that milestone – but noted club secretary Steve Moralee’s misgivings at my planned attendance.

Jinx, and not of the high sort, is mentioned. So let’s talk about Birtley instead.

A Birtley club were founder Northern League members in 1889, played on the opening day but left at the end of the season. The latest incarnation returned to the NL in 2007 and were relegated at the end of 2015-16, my last season as league chairman.

Had that eventuality not long seemed likely, there’d probably have been a recommendation to relegate them for failing to meet ground crieria. It’s fair to say that we found our dealings wih the club very frustrating.

So it’s great to be back there tonight, the club’s first home game since promotion back to the second division, and to see the place transformed. The welcome from club secretary Colin Beat is warm, the clubhouse – for so long a semi-derelict cabin that held little but empty promises – wholly and magnificently transformed.

Then look at the programme (which in former times you usually couldn’t.) On the inside front cover there’s a list of the 19 junior teams under Town’s banner, on the back the logos of no fewer than 27 sponsors, from Slimming World to the Lotus Leaf Chinese restaurant.

The crowd’s 137, more than twice last year’s average, and most of them comfortably in shirt sleeves. Among them is Mick McGuigan, Tow Law’s centre forward in the early 1970s, culimnating in the League Cup final win over Ashington in 1974.

“I must have scored a canny few of those 5,999 myself,” says Mick.

Ah yes, the match. Tow Law goalie David Bowns, only signed the previous evening, undergoes lengthy treatment half way through the first half, makes a splendid save from a free kick and then hobbles off, replaced by sub defender Paul Oxley.

It’s goalless at that point, 1-0 to Birtley at half-time and 5-0 at the finish. Joe Barwick, a lively No 9, hits a hat-trick.

Near the end, Steve Moralee shoves his match folder into my hands. “It’s an injunction,” he says.

The Lawyers try again at Ryton and Crawcrook Albion on Saturday. I’m not going, honest.