Bishop Auckland (Saturday, November 27)

SATURDAY NOVEMBER 27

Bishop Auckland 6 Billingham Town 2

I ENVISAGE another morning trawl through websites to try and find a match on.

Thankfully, Bishop Auckland’s early positive twitter message allows me oodles of time to make the journey.

As I drive north, I encounter rain, ice, fog and then a lengthy queue of traffic stacked behind an accident. At one point, I think I will have to find a closer game (revisit!) but mercifully the blockage clears and I arrive with time to spare.

Heritage Park sounds like it might be a scenic venue: I can tell you that it is not! It is surrounded by a Sainsbury’s superstore in a nondescript part of town.

I pay £5 at the gate and another £1 for the substantial programme. This consists of a thick, glossy outer wedge of standard club information and adverts with a chunky insert containing league news and details of today’s game.

I store it in the car to save my southern softie arms from carrying such a weighty tome! Just inside the stadium, I find today’s teamsheet pinned to a board.

The clubhouse is warm and full of friendly people. Delicious pie, chips and peas are available from the serving trolley, all for £3.50. A table serves as the club shop. A lady is busy decorating a Christmas tree in one corner.

Tea is £1.00 in here but only 80p from the burger van in the ground (which also serves hot pork cobs: I am spoiled
for choice!).

Right from the off, it is obvious that it will be a long, testing afternoon for Billingham Town. Bish are two up at half-time but as Town’s defenders become more and more generous throughout the second half, another four are shipped by
the visitors. Amazingly, Billingham manage two in reply!

Heritage Park does not tick my ‘quintessentially quaint, Non-League ground’ box but my travelling companions think I am being harsh.

The facilities are excellent and the PA system is the best I have ever heard at Non-League level.

It helps that the announcer has intelligently cottoned onto the fact that if you have a microphone, YOU DON’T
NEED TO SHOUT!!

sad.hopper@ntlworld.com

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