Run and Football 2023-24 Pre-season game 1

Saturday 1st July has been marked in my calendar for a few months now. A weekend away in the Highlands helping Ewan complete the Charlie Ramsay Round. An injury sustained last week meant I was unable to travel. The attempt was eventually rescheduled due to a forecast of rain, snow and high winds. I’d already turned down the Derwentside A.C. club relay Holly Island to Tynemouth Priory as I wasn’t convinced the run, rest, run, rest nature of the event would help my recovery. This meant I needed a pre-season game to attend.

I decided on a visit to the Birtley Welfare Ground for a friendly between Birtley Town and Ponteland United. I’d not been to Birtley to watch football before and it seemed like a good opportunity. The Welfare Ground is usually the home of Birtley Town Development but their senior club is playing here today. On arrival I was reminded of the arson attack on the Birtley Bowling Pavilion back in March with the charred remains still in situ.

Birtley bowling greens and pavilion

Time For A Run

I decide to run towards a big green area I can see below the football ground. Luckily and find a path down the side of an industrial estate. This leads across some agricultural fields to the Bowes Railway Path. I’ve been on this path before a couple of miles away at Kibblesworth. It was a previous club relay of the Great North Forest Heritage Trail. The Heritage Trail isn’t recommended but the railway path is a nice former railway line and good for a run.

Angel of the North from Bowes Railway Path

Conservation Innovation

After running under the North East Main Line I find myself outside large gates to the left and right of the path. The damaged interpretation board tells me I’m at Lamesley Reedbeds. They filter sewage and mine contaminants from the water before releasing it to the river Team. It was estimated a total of 5.6 hectares of reeds were needed to successfully complete the process. Lamsesley Reedbeds have been in operation for over10 years and I’d be interested to find out if the filtration is working. When completed it was the first time minewater had been combined with sewage into one system.

Lamesley Reedbeds

I see a sign I like at a road junction. It is unlikely to deter anyone but gives me a laugh.

Don’t be a tosser

Back To The Ground Just In Time

I looped around before ending back on the railway path and running back to the ground via the centre of town. The whole time I was on the run I only saw a couple of people including one lady had 4 very yappy terriers. When I arrived back at the car for a quick change I could hear the teams warming up on the other side of the wall.

A towel down, new t-shirt, socks, shoes and trousers later I was ready. As I walked to the entrance the game started. It was a surprise at 2.50, I’ve heard of late kick offs but the referee must have wanted an early start. A quick check of the club website confirms I’m not going crazy and the advertised kick off was 3pm.

Birtley Town v Ponteland United

There are two divisions between todays teams and I expect Birtley should win. The club were promoted to Northern League Division One last season. A penalty shoot out win over Horden Community Welfare in the playoff semi final was followed another win on penalties over Billingham Town in the final. Ponteland are members of the Northern Football Alliance League and finished mid table in their Premier Division last season.

Spectators at the match with changing accommodation next to the tree

Strong winds are bending the trees and a partially loose roofing sheet is banging up and down on the burnt out bowls pavilion. The Ponteland goalkeeper has a few nervous looks behind to ensure he isn’t going to be beheaded. Birtley move the ball faster and with more purpose but the away side have their moments too.

Chance for Birtley the forward chose to pass rather than shoot

Both sides hit the crossbar, Ponteland with a long range effort and Birtley an acrobatic volley. The green and white players push Ponteland back and short passing around the box creates chances for the home side. Counting the number of tattoos, facial hair and gym bodies on each team it looks like Birtley have the older squad. Birtley create several chances close to the goal but the goalkeeper is quick and alert to fall on the ball. After 40 minutes the referee blows for half time. He has started early and we have lost 5 minutes at the end of the half. Feeling robbed at halftime the score remains 0-0.

A Ponteland full back takes a throw in

Second Half Mauling

Birtley make a handful of substitutions at half time and as far as I can see Ponteland only change their goalkeeper. The wind is making it difficult for a tiring Ponteland team and they struggle to clear the ball past the halfway line. Despite this they have a great chance early on in the half. Their centre forward can’t connect with the cross. Up at the other end some one touch passing sets the winger down the right wing. The first time cross is accurate and it is an easy job to head it past the keeper who can only watch.

Strimmer needed for the crowd barrier

From then on the game becomes one way traffic. Ponteland are tiring and Birtley can substitute on fresh new players who are looking to impress. A steady stream of chances come the home team’s way. The Northern League club monopolise possession finding holes with their short passing style. In the last half an hour Birtley create enough openings to win handsomely and capitalise to finish with a 6-0 scoreline.

Players shake hands at the end of the match

Post Match Reaction

Entry Fee Free

Programme None

Attendance (approximately) 50

Run fun 7/10

Parking availability (for the size of the crowd) 9/10

Match entertainment 4/10

2023-24 Number of games attended 1

2023-24 Number of new grounds 1

Birtley Town FC website

Run on Strava

If you enjoyed reading Run and football 2023-24 Pre-season game 1 I’m sure you will like dipping into our archive of Run and Football for the 2022-23 season.

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