TT No.96: Mike Latham - Sat 16 December 2006: Northern League Division 2;  Prudhoe Town 2-2 Alnwick Town.  Attendance: 20; Admission: £3; 16pp programme: 50pence. FGIF Match Rating: 4* 

 

 

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I’ve been fortunate to receive many a warm welcome to clubs in the Northern League but nothing like this.  Driving into the car park of Prudhoe Town FC the secretary was waiting to greet me as I got out of the car.  What service!

 

Actually, it was a misunderstanding.  The appointed referee had failed to turn up, the teams were warming up with the kick-off delayed and he thought that I was the substitute referee hastily summoned.  Confusion over, he kindly invited me into the snug social club at the Kimberley Park ground while we awaited the official’s arrival, politely turning down my offers to take the whistle.  Looking at the programme later, the secretary, Chris Lowther, is also chairman and treasurer while the physio is Rachel Lowther, showing once again how clubs such as this depend on the hard work, talents and enthusiasm of a small number of people.

 

Finally this league game kicked-off in rapidly descending gloom 35 minutes late but what a game we had.  Despite both teams being in the lower reaches of the table they put on a terrific show, full of vibrant attacking football and some superbly taken goals played in a fine spirit on a splendid playing surface.  The 2-2 draw was a fair reflection of a memorable game though Prudhoe, having twice taken the lead, failed to kill off the game when they had chances.

 

Prudhoe is a small Northumberland town situated 10 miles east of Hexham and boasts an impressive castle while the serenity of the place on a bright wintry afternoon betrayed a violent past. Twice in the 12th century the castle was sieged by King William of Scotland and during the English Civil War it was occupied by both Parliamentarians and Roundhearts.

 

The football club’s background, by contrast, is far more recent. Formed as Ovington FC in 1959 and later renamed Prudhoe East End they joined the Northern League in 1988, later being renamed Prudhoe TownKimberley Park, built on a former rubbish tip in the valley below the town and just off the A689 road to Hexham, has been home since 1987.

 

It is a splendid venue, neat, spick and span, superbly maintained with not a lick of paint needed or a piece of litter out of place. As well as the social club there is a smart tea bar with an excellent and cheap range of goods, a smart covered seated stand and a rather elegant canopy with chairs to sit and watch the action while sipping a freshly made cup of coffee or munching on a hot dog. The grass slopes on the other three sides leading down to a hard standing perimeter behind a neat post and rail fence are neatly mown and the floodlights excellent.  In a semi rural location, bordered partly by trees, Kimberley Park is a lovely and tranquil place to watch football.

 

Tranquil being an operative word for, sadly, just a score of spectators escaped the shopping queues or the ‘attraction’ of local pubs screening live pictures from the Newcastle United-Watford game to watch this game.

 

With just £3 charged for admission and a basic 16-page programme another 50 pence the afternoon was not only hugely enjoyable but tremendous value.  The stand-in referee, a man of advancing years, controlled the game impeccably without seemingly leaving the confines of the centre circle or raising a sweat, aided by two excellent linesmen.

 

After a week of wet weather the Northern League are tops for spectator information with an updated message line available on matchdays to inform travellers of matches postponed.  In the end only two, at Penrith and Tow Law, were called off and though this game finished late, at 5-15pm, it had been well worth the wait.

 

Talking to a middle-aged couple by the tea bar, who had recently moved to the area from East Anglia their enthusiasm for Northern League football was infectious. They go to two or three local games a week, lapping up the entertainment on offer and making new friends along the way. ‘You don’t get many nil-nils in this league,’ said the husband, trotting out an enviable list of goal-laden games he had seen since decamping north. What a shame more of the longer standing residents of the town are not more enthusiastic about the jewel on their doorstep.

 

contributed on 17/12/06