Pete Sixsmith‘s search for a regular football fix takes him to some odd games and odder places. But at least joining a crowd in small three figures to watch Sunderland Under 23s at Stockton in the Durham Challenge Cup brought him the spectacle of a Sunderland win …
As the Christmas decorations come down and Father Christmas retires to his house situated near the North Pole, we lesser mortals begin to pick up the football habit again.
Deprived of the (allegedly) Beautiful Game for the best part of a month, I looked to the last week of December/first week of January to reignite my enthusiasm for football in general and Sunderland AFC in particular.
Despite a blip at Nottingham, I discovered that Sunderland were every bit as wretched as they had been for the majority of 2017 and I was so low after the abysmal defeat to Barnsley that I could not be bothered to turn out on Tuesday, contenting myself with sitting in front of the fire with a bottle of beer and watching McMafia on the telly.
Come Wednesday I had decisions to make and, being the thrusting, upwardly mobile kind of pensioner that I am, I made them. I had a difficult choice but, hey, I have made them all my life. Would it be Gateshead v Shildon or Stockton Town v Sunderland Under 23s, both in the Durham Challenge Cup, both involving “my” teams and both easily driveable.
In the end, the Stockton game was chosen. Partly because it was Sunderland, partly because I could kill two birds with one stone and take in a film in the afternoon. I often go to the Arc Cinema in Stockton as it tends to show films that the local Odeon/Vue/Cineworld tend to forget about.
They were showing The Battle of the Sexes, the film about the tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs which took place in the Glorious Year of 1973.
It was an afternoon well spent as the film was enjoyable, thoughtful and ultimately, moving. Emma Stone played BJK, Steve Carrell played Riggs, a gambler, exhibitionist and self-confessed Male Chauvinist Pig, in a voice that reminded me of Loudon Wainwright III and Andrea Riseborough was excellent as Marilyn, the beautician,who touched Billie Jean’s inner, Sapphic soul.
From there, on for something to eat and then to Bishopton Lane, Stockton Town’s home ground. They have been there for two years, moving in from another pitch on the same site (they share facilities with Stockton Sixth Form College). When they applied for promotion to Step 6 (Northern League Division Two) in 2014, they ended up building a brand new ground, with floodlights, an excellent 4G pitch, two perfectly adequate stands and a club house. It is an impressive set up.
They were formed in the late 60s as Hartburn Juniors, becoming Stockton Town in 2009. They played for one season in the Teesside League before being accepted into the pyramid system when they were elected to the Wearside in 2010.
From then on, the Teessiders dominated it and achieved the clean sweep (League Championship, League Cup, Monkwearmouth Charity Cup and Sunderland Shipowners’ Cup – probably the finest trophy in the land) in 2014-15. When they won the league again the next year and they had their new ground ready, they moved up into the Northern League and won the Second Division at the first time of asking.
They made a disastrous start to this season, losing their first six games, but pulled it round and are currently 7th in a good league behind such well-established sides as Consett, Shildon, North Shields and Morpeth Town. The expectation was that they would provide stiff competition for our Under 23s.
They proved not to be as a young Sunderland side, displaying all the skills the senior team should possess – and none of the inhibitions that beset them – wrapped the game up by half time. A stunning opening goal from Chris Allen set the tone and when Dan Wright made it two after 10 minutes, the result was never in doubt.
Further goals from Sonny Best (after a bout of ping-pong in the box) and a superbly taken solo effort from Jordan Hickey finished the game off. Stockton pulled one back ten minutes from the end in front of a disappointed crowd of 326.
We lined up thus:
Michael Woud; Owen Gamble, Alex Storey, Brandon Taylor, Josh Robson; Chris Allan, Sonny Best, Jordan Hickey, Rees Greenwood; Jack Diamond, Dan Wright subs; Tom Scothern (for Hickey 45), Ryan Leonard (for Best 60), Jean-Yves Poame (for Diamond 60) ; Anthony Patterson.
Stockton have bigger fish to fry on Saturday when they take on West Auckland Town in the FA Vase while our players will be turning out at the Riverside against Middlesbrough in the FA Cup – maybe.
* If there is any copyright claim, not answered by ‘fair use’ exemptions, on the images and videos Pete uses to illustrate this report, please make us aware and we will add credits or remove as requested …