Sixer’s Travels: dreaming of those twin towers (whoops the arch) again

Malcolm Dawson writes……….not one to suffer the plight of the England Men’s Footballing XI in meaningless friendlies our regular correspondent Peter Sixsmith takes the opportunity to take in some non league football. This weekend he indulged his love of footy and that of rail travel by making the short trip to the Yorkshire coast to see if his home town Club (and that of M Salut) might bring his dream of a Wembley Final one step closer. Read on to find out ……..


Except it wasn’t as Marske United knocked Shildon out of the FA Vase in the Second Round proper and coupled with our abject failure to qualify from the group stage of the Checkatrade Trophy, it reduces my chances of a Wembley visit in 2018 considerably. The FA Cup still remains and remember all you over 50s, we did appoint a new manager in November 1972 so maybe, just maybe……

Regular readers will know that I actively look forward to the international breaks. It means that I can relax a little and not become anxious at the prospect of another gut wrenching, sleep inducing performance from the Lads in red and white stripes, complete with subsequent sulk and foul temper all day Sunday. I sometimes take off for the day to tick a new ground off and I was sorely tempted to go to Winsford in Cheshire to watch Tow Law Town’s game with 1874 Northwich. 1874 were once Northwich Victoria and played at the SoL in 2006. They had a loud mouthed chairman who complained about us reducing the prices and depriving Vics of income. He sold the club on to another party who was eventually declared bankrupt and 1874 Northwich were formed by the fans to keep an honourable name going. Good for them.

However, I declined the pleasures of the Saturday Hen Party Specials on Trans-Pennine Express and opted to travel with Northern Rail almost all the way along the line that starts in Bishop Auckland and ends in Saltburn, via Shildon, Newton Aycliffe, Heighington, North Road, Darlington and all stations to Saltburn – including the penultimate stop at Marske-on-Sea. It was almost a full train as it set out from Bishop Auckland and it was full when it picked up a sizeable contingent of Shildon supporters at its first stop. More got on at Newton Aycliffe and the ticket collector abandoned any prospect of collecting fares until after Darlington where the train disgorged those picking up connections, going shopping or toddling off to the cinema to see Paddington 2.

On we went to Middlesbrough, passing the scene of last weekend’s disaster and then through the ruins of the Teesside steel industry to Redcar Central and East, Longbeck (where I have never seen anybody get on or off – ever) and then to Marske, where 30 men and women, with completely different accents to the locals, wandered down the ramp and into The Zetland, The Clarendon and Biggles Bar.

The latter is named in tribute to Captain W E Johns, the creator of James Bigglesworth, Flying Ace and general all round good egg. With his chums, the Hon Algernon Montgomery Lacey (who I suspect was a bit of a toff) and Ginger Hebblethwaite (working class Northerner), they foiled many a dastardly plot from Johnny Foreigner and emerged as heroes in 98 books with titles like Biggles Takes A Holiday (maybe in Marske-on-Sea), Biggles Takes It Rough (not for those of a sensitive nature) and Biggles and The Noble Lord (presumably not Lord Montague of Beaulieu). Alas, Biggles Flies Undone is a figment of some schoolboy’s imagination. (I seem to recall it being something on Monty Python’s Flying Circus c 1969 – MD)

Johns was stationed in Marske during the First World War as a flying instructor but he kept crashing the planes and was removed to the Western Front where little help was needed to bring down the Sopwith Camels and Pups that zoomed above the poor bloody infantry sitting in their shell holes, waiting for a whizz-bang to blow them into kingdom come.

I managed a fine pint of Cameron’s Strongarm in The Clarendon in the company of Colin Hurworth (partner in crime in the Mystery of Who Wrote SAFC For Ever in the dust of Don Revie’s car), a Sunderland supporter and like Algy and Ginger an all round good egg (he prefers Scotch ones) and Graham Shafto, a Newcastle fan but none the worse for that. There are some decent ones around.

A fine pint of Strongarm was taken by our intrepid explorer

There was a good crowd at Mount Pleasant, a small ground that needs a lot doing to it if Marske are to be promoted to the Northern Premier League. One whole side was blocked off as they were laying new paving stones, so the 500+ in attendance were squeezed into three sides of what is a ground with little elevated terracing. They are a good team though and they took an early lead when Danny Earl ran through and scored a well taken goal and one which rocked Shildon and their noisy support. The first half was cagey with neither side wanting to make mistakes. Nick Livesedge in the Shildon goal made a couple of very good saves before the half time whistle went and many bladders could be safely emptied.

The second half was of a very high standard as both teams went for it. The Railwaymen drew level when marauding full back Jamie Harwood was brought down in the box and Sunderland supporter Billy Greulich-Smith stepped up to put the spot kick past Robbie Deans in the Marske goal. Both sides spurned chances to win the game in the 90 minutes and as is the case in this excellent competition, the game went to extra time with a replay to come if the scores were still level after two hours. Train timetables were consulted and if there was a prompt start, the 17.34 could still be caught. We hoped.

Marske midfielder Craig Gott settled the game in favour of the Seasiders with a stunning shot in the first period of the additional half hour and try as they might, Shildon could not find a second equaliser. Marske had a man sent off for two yellow cards near the end but they were disciplined and organised and deserved their win. They have lost but three times this season – once to league leaders Morpeth Town, once to fellow title challengers West Auckland Town and once to another set of Yorkshire Coasters, Scarborough Athletic in the FA Cup. They have won the last eight games they have played and look a very good unit indeed.

With thanks to @Official_SAFC on Twitter

The 17.34 was caught thanks to the conductor holding the train while your correspondent waddled down the ramp and as tiredness caught up with the Shildon folk in the carriage, a pleasant journey was spent in the company of top Sunderland supporter Russ Henderson and copious pictures of his new cat Wilf.

So no Vase run for Shildon this year and it leaves us with the league to concentrate on. League leaders Morpeth Town surprisingly lost at Ashton Athletic in deepest, darkest Ashton-in Makerfield while West Auckland and North Shields won through.

And as for Tow Law- their game was postponed due to a “soft spot” on the Winsford pitch. They were not amused and may well approach Biggles, Algy and Ginger to see if they are prepared to strafe the ground. A long way to go for nothing…..

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