Train Strikes Again
Yet again, the railway strikes put paid to our original hopping plans.
Instead of making our way up to Larbert for the Stenhousemuir v Albion Rovers game, we had to look for a more local venue.
Bishop Auckland is a market town lying about 12 miles to the southwest of Durham. It was built at the spot where the rivers Wear and Gaunless meet.
Two bus trips away, this made it a good place for us to go as an alternative.
Bishop Auckland are one of the most successful amateur clubs in football, having won the FA Amateur Cup an unprecedented ten times. They have also been the beaten finalists a further eight times.
Bishop Auckland – Pre-Game
We set off from home around 10:00 am to catch our bus to Durham at 10:26. Of course, it never showed up and we stood waiting until one finally appeared at around 11:15. The connection in Durham was a lot smoother and we were in Bishop Auckland by 12:45pm.
The football ground sits in between the town of Bishop Auckland and the village of St. Helen Auckland, which lies to the southwest of Bishop Auckland.
After getting off the bus, we made a short walk to the March Hare. A Marston’s chain pub and pretty much the only choice for anyone wanting a pre-match pint before entering the ground.
Very much like a Wetherspoons, you know exactly what you are going to get in advance in chain pubs. Average food and average beer that is neither bad nor good. A good pub in this area would surely get good custom, particularly on a match day.
Having said that, the March Hare did the job. A couple of pints of Guinness and a steak and ale pie for me and a pasta dish with garlic bread and a couple of pints of lager for Mrs Hopper (who is much better now and thank you to those who asked about her health after being unwell last weekend!)
We left the pub just after 2 pm and made the short walk to Heritage Park.
Bishop Auckland – The Stadium
After crossing a busy road near the roundabout off the A688, the ground appears ahead of you.
Two turnstiles either side of the main stand allow access to the stadium. The entry fee is £7 and is by cash or card at the gate.
Programmes were for sale just inside the ground, priced at a very reasonable £1.50. I also managed to get a team sheet off a kind gentleman who stood next to me in the first half.
We wandered off to take a look in the little club shop to the left of us, passing a snack bar and some tables for people to sit at while they eat or grab a pint or two at the bar further down to the left.
In the club shop, I was looking for just a pin badge memento but ended up coming out with a home shirt for myself and an away shirt for Mrs Hopper.
Such nice designs!
With our swag tucked away, we set off for a walk around the ground to take some pictures and a video of the surroundings.
At the same end as the club shop, was a nice little covered terrace that runs just over half the width of the pitch and had seven rows of terraces and a guard rail at the bottom.
We stopped behind the goal for a short while, watching Bishop Auckland do a few shooting drills. The man in the goal was quick to point out that he was just a coach and not the team goalkeeper.
I fully believed him after watching for a couple of minutes…
Moving around, opposite the main stand is a standing area made up of a grassy bank and a footpath. A wooden fence covered in advertisements sits atop the bank.
We walked to the corner and I took a video from there of the ground in its entirety.
At the opposite end to the club shop is what appears to be temporary seating. There are two identical blocks either side of the goal containing approximately 150 seats each. Despite having a temporary seating look about them, there are permanent looking steps leading into them and very aesthetically pleasing artificial grass placed in front of each row of seats.
The Main Stand covers a short length of the pitch either side of the halfway line. Heritage Park has a seated capacity of 500, so I would estimate the Main Stand holds around 200 of that capacity with the rest being in the temporary stands behind the goal.
There seems to be hospitality of some kind at the top of the stand and the players tunnel is in the middle of it, leading onto the pitch from the changing rooms within.
As a whole, Heritage Park is a very neat and tidy, well looked after ground. It was opened in 2010 by Sir John Hall, the ex-chairman of Newcastle United.
There is a nice piece on the Bishop Auckland FC website that chronicles the building of Heritage Park, which you find by clicking here.
Bishop Auckland – Stadium Gallery
Bishop Auckland – The Game
As a spectacle, this was a very one-sided affair and the home team dominated from the outset.
So one-sided in fact, that the Two Blues goalkeeper never had to make a single save in the whole 90 minutes!
With just four minutes and twenty-two seconds on the clock, Bishop Auckland took the lead via Wayne Whitfield’s left foot. A quick, flowing move saw the ball passed out wide to right back Dane Burlace who put a tantalising ball across the six-yard box, leaving a tap-in for Whitfield at the far post.
1-0 Bishop Auckland.
The second came from the penalty spot in the 21st minute. A lovely through ball put the attacking player through on goal only to be brought down by the Pickering defender. Was it a penalty? I’m not sure but I can see why it was given and Craig Gott made no mistake from the ensuing penalty kick, slotting the ball in the bottom left corner while the keeper went the opposite way.
2-0 Bishop Auckland.
Bishop Auckland continued to dominate but had to wait until the 42nd minute for their third goal. This was a bizarre cross/shot via a free-kick by left-back James Risbrough. The ball wasn’t touched by anyone and found it’s way into the same corner that the penalty had gone in. Risbrough looked almost embarrassed that he had scored but still managed to raise a fist and a smile to celebrate.
3-0 Bishop Auckland.
Half time saw the home side comfortably ahead and there seemed little danger of anything being different in the second half unless something drastically changed.
Just nine minutes into the second half, Bishop Auckland got their fourth goal and what a stunner it was too!
After having a little possession on the left, the ball was switched to the opposite side where right back Dane Burlace controlled the ball, cut inside and fired a shot from 25-yards into the top left corner of the net. The keeper got a glove on it but couldn’t prevent the goal. Not a bad day for the right back, an assist, a clean sheet and a rocket goal.
4-0 Bishop Auckland.
Then came the rain that had been threatening and spitting off and on for most of the day. Driving most of the spectators into the covered terrace behind the goal, including Mrs Hopper and I.
Goal number five was from the other full-back who was having a great day also. In the 66th minute, James Risbrough picked up the ball in the final third in the centre of the pitch and wormed his way to the right-hand side of the goal before passing the ball into the net and past the beleaguered Pickering Town keeper.
5-0 Bishop Auckland.
The sixth and final goal came as the rain continued to steadily fall. In the 78th minute, the referee gave a free kick for what should have been a stonewall penalty as the offence clearly took place inside the box. However, it didn’t matter because Louis Johnson stepped up and stroked the ball around the wall and into the bottom corner.
6-0 Bishop Auckland.
That ended the scoring but not the action. An incident occurred that has left me very confused.
After a free-kick was given to Bishop Auckland, the referee clearly showed a yellow card and then flashed another card that was either red, or orange/red in colour and the fans behind the goal all started waving goodbye to Pickering Town’s number 14.
Except… he didn’t leave the field.
In the video, I started to film number 14’s walk of shame and then filmed the free kick but I couldn’t understand why the player was allowed to stay on the pitch. If anyone can clear up this incident for me, I would be very grateful. I definitely wasn’t the only one who noticed this orange/red card being shown and in the video, you can see #14 start to walk off but then remain on the pitch and even marked by a Bishop player.
At the end of the game, a collective sigh of relief from the Pickering Town players almost dwarfed the applause of the home fans and I’m sure they didn’t have a pleasant journey home after that showing.
Attendance – 304
Entrance Fee – £7.00
Programme – £1.50
Bishop Auckland – Match Highlights
Bishop Auckland – After the Game
Following the game, we made the short but tricky walk back to the bus stop. The area is definitely not very pedestrian friendly, so take care if you go to visit Heritage Park.
The bus appeared early (or late if you had been waiting for it from its supposed arrival time) which was fortunate for us.
Arriving in Durham earlier than expected, there were an incredibly large number of drunken groups of people wandering past as we waited for our connecting bus home.
Hen parties, Newcastle fans, groups of men and women and individuals. Many struggling to stay upright and bear in mind this was still early evening, around 6 pm.
I guess some of them ‘could’ have just been celebrating Bishop’s large win…
Anyway, we caught our bus home, grabbed some snacks from the local Tesco and got home far earlier than we are used to on a Saturday night.
All in all, a great day of football and another new ground ticked off the list.
On to the next…