Sleek Sixer now …

John McCormick writes – was England v Malta worth watching? I sat through it but I wasn’t impressed. I just can’t get enthused about the national team.

I don’t think Pete Sixsmith thinks a lot of the England team either, but he does enjoy international weekends for the opportunity they provide to visit different clubs and experience new grounds. This time it was a short trip over the border to Yorkshire and and early FA cup game.

And it appears from his report that the match he saw was a lot better than the stuff played out in Malta.

Over to Pete:

THE MAGIC OF THE FA CUP.

Regular readers of this column (you really must try to get out a bit more) will know that I usually welcome an International weekend. There are two reasons for this. The obvious one is that I have a week off from the misery and suffering that I put up with for 30+ weekends and the other is that it often gives me a chance to visit a new ground and add to my tick list.

This weekend the break coincided with the First Qualifying Round of the FA Cup. Now I know that this competition loses some of its sparkle in the early months of the year but from August to November it is exciting.

The Extra Preliminary Qualifying Round was on August 6th, a day after we drew with Derby County. Clubs at Steps 5 and 6 (Northern League, Northern Counties East, North West Counties, United Counties etc.) join at that stage. Shildon made their way through that round, beating Morpeth Town 2-0 and then in the Preliminary Qualifying Round, they won 5-1 at Guisborough.

Wembley beckons, and so does the prize fund

Those two wins earned them £3,425 from the FA Prize fund. The payments are loaded to the bottom end of the pyramid, so should a Step5 club make it to the First Round they would win £30,945, a considerable sum of money for clubs at that level. This year’s winners will win a total of £3, 397,500 from the fund, which would allow Simon Grayson to buy half of Jordan Hugill.

For the First Qualifying Round, Shildon were drawn away to Bottesford Town from the Northern Counties East League. Bottesford is really a suburb of Scunthorpe and as I had been there twice I looked around for a game on a new ground, preferably within two hours of Sixsmith Towers. Scarborough Athletic fitted the bill perfectly.

Scarborough have spent the last ten years ground sharing with Bridlington Town after the demise of the old Scarborough club. The McCain Stadium (“The Theatre of Chips”) has now been demolished and replaced by a shiny Lidl store and Athletic have just moved into a new stadium across the railway line. It is part of the Scarborough Sports Village and the football club shares the site with a very impressive Sports Centre (motto:“everyone active”), an offshoot of Coventry University and a University Technical College – all bright and shiny and going into their second year as educational institutions.

The sporting facilities were opened in June of this year by former hurdler and BBC Athletics commentator Colin Jackson, with the Seadogs playing their first game back in The Queen of the Yorkshire Coast in late July – a friendly against a Sheffield United XI. They ply their trade in the Northern Premier League Division One (North), lost their last game to South Shields and won their previous cup tie in a replay at Marske United from the Northern League First Division.

Their opponents were Workington from the Northern Premier League Premier Division and like Scarborough, a former Football League club, as well as a bit of an outpost. Whereas Scarborough are an end of the line club but are connected with York and Hull, Workington are a middle of the line club, halfway between Carlisle and Barrow.

For once, the weather was kind and, after a pleasant drive down across the North Yorkshire Moors and past Whitby, I arrived in time for a leisurely stroll around a town I have always been fond of. Family holidays in the 50s and 60s were spent down the coast at Filey and the day trip to Scarborough was eagerly anticipated. Candy floss and toffee apples would be eaten, boat trips on The Caronia or the Regal Lady would be taken and we might even stay late and see a show. I saw Arthur Haynes and Nicholas Parsons one year, The Bachelors and Kathy Kirby the next and even squeezed in Dickie Henderson one evening.

The town was busy, what with it being the last weekend before school starts and we pensioners can reclaim the streets and the coffee shops. Workington supporters were thin on the ground, especially after 800 Sand Dancers had pitched up on Bank Holiday Monday to watch Julio and his Merry Men win 3-1. I did some shopping, had a coffee and a pleasant stroll along the front, listening in vain for Max Jaffa and his Palm Court Orchestra (leader; Jack Byfield) as I walked past The Spa.

Donkey Hill.

The grounds is known as The Flamingo Land Stadium (“The Theatre of Chimps”) and sits along Weaponness Valley Road and beneath Weaponness Hill, or Donkey Hill as that is where the seaside donkeys live when not carrying small children along the sands. Alas, no donkeys were seen on this day…

The game was a belter. Both sides set out to win it – both needed the £3,000 on offer and Scarborough in particular did not relish the prospect of a replay on the Cumbrian Riviera. The home team started stronger and in Grimsby loanee Max Wright, had a player who drew gasps every time he got the ball. He destroyed young full back Jamie Mellen and, forced two excellent saves out of Reds keeper Aaran Taylor.

Wright was the stand out player in a strong team performance. At the back, skipper Dave Merris marshalled his men in a way that I wish some of Sunderland’s players would emulate and keeper Tom Taylor was alert whenever the visitors broke.

The Reds (they are emphatically NOT Town – that’s the adjacent Rugby League club) included Jake Simpson (son of former Carlisle United manager and current England Under 20 supremo Paul) Jordan Holt who may or may not be related to Grant of Norwich City fame and their best player, Sam Joel, almost certainly not a close member of Billy’s immediate family.

The only goal of the game came just after half time when Nathan Valentine finished off a good move. Emile Sinclair could have wrapped it up when he hit the bar and then, just before the final whistle, Workington thought they had levelled when a header came down off the bar but failed to cross the line. Or at least that’s what the Assistant Referee said; I agreed with him.

Scarborough’s main stand

The stadium was well appointed with the stand modelled on the one at Heritage Park, Bishop Auckland and built into the side of the railway embankment. Standing accommodation included a covered end and, although there was no stepped terracing down the side, there is room for this to be built if so required. The Seadogs have made a good start in their new home and will await Monday’s draw with eager anticipation. The National League (North and South) teams enter at this stage. They would really fancy York City at home.

As for The Railwaymen, the club on which Monsieur Salut and I cut our footballing teeth, they would fancy Darlington at home or an away trip to Southport or Stockport after a hard fought 1-0 win at Bottesford. Anybody but South Shields…….

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Salut! Sunderland is written, illustrated and edited by - and principally for - supporters of Sunderland AFC. The site aims to be sufficiently literate and entertaining to appeal to people who do not follow SAFC but enjoy good football writing.

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