I’m not sure how many excuses you get in life for a trip to Boldon, so when the chance comes along I guess you’ve got to grab it with both hands. The Jeff Stelling avoidance options this weekend included a much-hyped Vase tie at North Shields and a much-delayed Trophy replay at Gateshead, but been there and done that, and shouldn’t you always try to seek out new experiences whenever possible? With such noble thoughts in mind I opted to plug a gaping omission in my personal Northern League portfolio with a first ever trip to Jarrow Roofing.
A bit like Billingham Synthonia, it’s one of the more romantic sounding outposts on the schedule. Lest I give the impression that my social life’s hit the buffers in a serious way, I’ve largely given up telling non-enthusiasts of my plans. I spent last Saturday at West Allotment, one that always elicits quizzical looks from the uninitiated, so, to head off any enquiries about damaged guttering, it was with the minimum of fanfare that I alighted at Brockley Whins Metro station armed with directions to the ground from the club website.
It’s fair to say I needed them, along with smartphone sat-nav capabilities, for after descending a path so steep that momentum alone was taking me to my inevitable destination, and crossing a stream before skirting around the back of a housing estate, I was beginning to doubt my own sanity. Passing some industrial buildings as I emerged onto a proper road, the first solid indication that I was heading in the right direction came with the shouts of a football team clad in all red being put through some pre-match drills. Though clearly not the pitch they were going to play on, closer inspection confirmed that it was indeed Bedlington Terriers.
It still took a while to find the entrance. They don’t appear to be big on self-publicity, so after negotiating the adjacent social club, where those that weren’t standing outside smoking were presumably immersed in the North London derby, and encountering a padlocked gate which briefly made my heart sink before I realised it guarded a separate facility, I noticed a gap in the fence at the far end of the car park. A turnstile, of sorts, and the customary warm welcome.
I had been warned not to lean on anything too heavily, just in case the entire place collapsed, and duly dismissed the comment as a witty exaggeration. I came to appreciate that it might not have been entirely without foundation, as I gingerly made my way through a dilapidated covered ‘corridor’, then behind the goal protected by a wooden fence, whose survival of the recent high winds must be a testimony to something, and a large, if rather perfunctory ‘Haway The Roofers’ sign. The refreshments bar belched out an aroma of chips which made me curiously nostalgic for the old Durham Ice Rink. Finally finding a seat which didn’t double as a water butt, I readied myself for kick-off.
Before writing this I saw that Richie McLoughlin, who to all intents and purposes is Jarrow Roofing, had been quoted as saying this was a poor match. I must admit to having quite enjoyed it. I’ve seen worse pitches and I’ve certainly seen worse footballing sides. It didn’t always come off, ok it rarely came off, but both teams at least attempted to probe the other without resorting to humping the ball and chasing. Jarrow were the more proficient and clinical, while the Terriers could reflect on a litany of wasted opportunities which might have made the scoreline more even.
Barnes, apparently normally a left back but pressed into service further forward here, was the best player on display. He headed home an excellently flighted Marshall cross, then finished a move he had started, after exchanging passes with Morien, just before the break. Bedlington, in what would prove to be Ian Skinner’s last match in charge before joining the Steve Harmison revolution at neighbours Ashington, withdrew the peripheral Scott for the more industrious Davison, but still failed to find an end product. Their best chances fell to the lively Williamson, a shot which Greenan turned aside, and a centre which Young was agonisingly short of getting a touch to.
A free kick conceded on the right edge of the penalty area finished the visitors off. Substitute Leven found the head of White, and he found the back of the net. Roofing, in their first season back at this level, and currently deprived of Campbell’s influence, have climbed to an impressive fifth in the table. Nothing much to feel gloomy about, even if the referee ensured that they wouldn’t get away with leaving the floodlights switched off as dusk closed in.
I may have been harsh about the rather basic surroundings, and it’s true the place could do with a lick of paint, but there’s something wonderously characterful about venues such as this. It’s certainly a different world to the one inhabited by the boys in the Soccer Saturday studio, yet there’s no doubt I’d prefer to be here than listen to their nauseous patter. It’s sad to think that one day there won’t be anything quite like it left, so I better make sure I return with haste, and recommend it to anyone who cares to listen.
Jarrow Roofing: Greenan, Marshall, White, Errington, Kirkup, Myers, Carson, Gardiner, Morien (Whitehead), Teasdale, Barnes (Leven) Subs Not Used: Regan, Davison
Bedlington Terriers: Staples, Walker, Dobson, Keenan, Little, Harmison,
Williamson, Blandford, Scott (Davison), Young, Harvey (Nellis) Subs Not Used: Dunn, Walton, Walmsley