The Best Laid Plans…
In these days of public transport strikes and unreliability, it’s always wise to have a backup plan when travelling to games.
This week, we intended to visit Partick Thistle’s Firhill, but it wasn’t to be. This time, it wasn’t a rail strike or shortage of staff that caused our train to be cancelled, but Mother Nature!
The rain in most of the UK had been heavy and insistent for the days leading into Saturday’s fixture, and matches were being called off due to waterlogged pitches. Partick Thistle wasn’t one of the games to be called off. The problem this time lay with the East Coast Mainline as it lay under water in parts of Scotland.
On Friday I received an email from LNER informing me that our train to Glasgow wouldn’t be running, so I immediately went to Plan B.
Spennymoor Town were hosting Runcorn Linnets in the FA Trophy and with Spennymoor being just two bus rides away, it would prove to be an easy alternative.
Spennymoor Town – Journey and Pre-Game
After a rare Saturday morning lie-in, we headed off to catch our first bus, to Durham at 10:40. We arrived in Durham and made the short walk to our next bus stop, waited five minutes and hopped on the number six bus to Spennymoor.
The bus fare to get to Spennymoor cost a total of £19.80, which works out to £1.65 per mile.
Is it just me that thinks that’s far too much for a bus journey? It wasn’t even possible to get a day saver ticket because the buses are from two different companies: Go Northeast and Arriva (Arriva being the more expensive of the two.)
Anyway, that aside, it was a smooth journey and we arrived in Spennymoor at 11:40, one hour after setting off. Our chosen pub didn’t open until noon, so we took the opportunity to have a look around the outside of the Brewery Field Stadium, which was close by.
There have clearly been some recent additions and upgrades to the ground and it is replete with photographs and a timeline of the clubs’ recent history on the outer wall of the stadium.
The Exterior of the Brewery Field- Gallery
Brewery Field Exterior – History and People Gallery
I thought these additions were a nice touch and brightened up the stadium’s appearance. A good potted history of the club’s recent past for people unfamiliar with it, like myself.
We headed to the Moors Tavern, which is a very short walk from the stadium, just in time for the doors to open and let us in. We ordered a Madri and a Guinness for a total cost of £7.60 and chose a table. The menu is limited and mainly consists of burgers, steak, gammon and baguettes. That said, the food, when it came was large and tasty.
I ordered a cheeseburger and Mrs Hopper went for a “dirty” burger with BBQ pulled pork, costing a combined total of £20.90.
That sounds like it’s quite expensive but everything is homemade, freshly cooked and in portions that resemble an eating challenge. No complaints from me!
With our lunch eaten (ok, I ate mine, Mrs Hopper wimped out halfway through!) and the second round of drinks ordered, the Runcorn Linnets fans started to show up and add to the atmosphere of the place. They seemed a good bunch and I even managed to get them to do a little song for my camera…
Prior to setting off from home this morning, I had come across this video on Twitter, so it was no real surprise to see the Linnets fans on good form today.
Spennymoor Town – Arrival at the Ground
With the time pushing 14:20, we left the Linnets fans to sup up their drinks and walked back down the road to the stadium.
Our tickets were bought online via the Spennymoor ticket website but there appeared to be an option to pay at the gate too.
I’m not sure if this is always the case, so please drop a comment if it’s not.
They cost £15.00 and were print-at-home tickets. We presented them at the turnstile and entered Brewery Field.
In keeping with our experience at the Moors Tavern, it seemed like there was a very good number of fans who had made the journey up from Cheshire and I would guess that a decent percentage of the 625 attendance were Linnets fans.
Green and yellow was the colour of the day. Flags hanging from the advertising boards, wigs, hats and scarves were all on show as we walked around the ground taking photos and videos for the blog.
Spennymoor Town – The Stadium
Once through the turnstiles, the Main Stand lies ahead and to the right. To the left is a low, covered terrace. The opposite end of the stadium is an area of seating with a roof, while the side opposite the main stand is an open terrace. That side of the ground also houses the Moors TV gantry, which is placed on the halfway line between the team dugouts.
We started by heading for the Main Stand, which covers around half the length of the pitch and is centred on the halfway line, where the players’ tunnel is. From an eye view only, it houses around 228 people and has hospitality boxes behind the seating areas. Although tickets allow you to sit or stand anywhere in the ground, quite a high number of the seats in the Main Stand have ‘reserved’ stickers on them.
On the turnstiles side of the stand are a combination of a terraced standing area and what looks like an area that can house wheelchairs.
From here we went into the club shop, which is located beyond the Main Stand and takes up some of the standing area on the other side of it. We bought a programme for £2.50 but unfortunately, there were no pin badges for sale as they were out of stock. So I guess I will need to trawl eBay or look on the website when they are back in stock at some point, to keep my collection going.
After coming out of the shop, we came to the seated stand behind the goal. This is a neat and modern-looking structure that covers the entire width of the pitch and has four rows of seating and room for over 500 spectators, I would guess. It also houses a big electronic scoreboard on the roof.
After walking to the end of the seated stand, you come to the far side of the stadium. This is basically a small area of low terracing at one end and an even lower terrace on the other side with a wide walkway above the second part. There are toilets, the aforementioned TV gantry in the middle and the team dugouts on this side of the pitch. The whole of this side of the ground is open to the elements.
At the far corner of the walkway, there is a covered area with benches, where you can buy food and drink and shelter from the weather. Mrs Hopper got herself a cup of tea from here for £1.50 (even though the board says £2.00!)
This brought us to the final part of the Brewery Field, a low end-terrace, consisting of four or five steps and partially roofed in the middle section. A nice photograph adorned the wall of the covered section, along with a ‘Pride of County Durham’ banner.
At the turnstile end of this terrace is the Neil Adams Bar, which was opened in November 2019. Available for private hire events, corporate away days or sports dinners, the bar overlooks the pitch and has TV screens inside.
Overall, the Brewery Field has the feeling of a ground that has recently undergone a major overhaul and the facilities are pretty good. This should stand the club in good stead as they look to gain further promotion to the National League.
According to the club website, the capacity of the ground is 4,300, with 739 covered seats.
Spennymoor Town – Video of Brewery Field
Spennymoor Town – Stadium Gallery
We decided this end terrace would be a good spot to watch the game from and we settled into position by a crush barrier and waited for the teams to enter the pitch.
Spennymoor Town – The Game
Just as the teams were entering the field, I inadvertently managed to capture a little chicken drama unfolding in front of us. Yes, you read that correctly.
A Runcorn fan had unwisely, but amusingly, decided to don a rubber chicken hood and walk along the front of the terrace. The unwise part of it was that he climbed the perimeter fencing and did his chicken dance from the playing surface side.
This resulted in a security guard chasing him down and leading him out of the stadium. It seemed like a little bit of harmless fun and he clearly wasn’t endangering anyone but I guess rules are rules and player safety has to come first.
Still, it made me laugh…
Simultaneous to the chicken drama, a more sombre moment was taking place as relatives of former Moors player, Kenny Banks, joined the players in the centre of the pitch for a minute’s applause. More on this is on the clubs’ website.
With all this done and the stewards keeping an eye out for the Cheshire Chicken sneaking back into the ground, it was time for the game to begin.
Spennymoor are currently placed at seventeenth in the National League North, while Runcorn Linnets sit two tiers and thirty-three places below them in the Northern Premier League West Division, where they currently occupy fourth place.
It didn’t take the home side long to assert dominance over their opponents from Cheshire.
With just seventy seconds on the clock, Moors took the lead. A throw-in on the left of the pitch wasn’t dealt with well by the Linnets’ defence and it was put back to the edge of the area. Runcorn’s Sam Heathcote won the ball and played it back to Ally Brown but his attempted clearance careened straight into the onrushing Rob Ramshaw. The Moors midfielder pulled the ball back across the goal to find Glen Taylor. Taylor controlled with his right foot before shooting into the left corner of the net.
1-0 Spennymoor Town!
There was a danger of this getting away from Runcorn early, as Taylor almost made it two just a minute later. His shot was turned away for a corner though and after this, Linnets were back in the game almost immediately.
With five minutes on the clock, Runcorn won a free-kick in their own half, which was quickly played out to the left. From here the ball was pumped down the middle of the field and nodded back out to the left. A couple of quick passes later, Ryan Brooke found himself on the end of a through ball from Eden Gumbs that evaded the close offside call by a whisker.
With a defender and the goalkeeper bearing down on him, Brooke coolly slotted the ball under the oncoming keeper to put the away side on level terms.
1-1 Runcorn Linnets Equaliser!
Even without the chicken, the Linnets fans behind the goal were jubilant at the unlikely turn of events as their heroes celebrated in front of them.
That was as good as it got for Runcorn in the first half though, as Spennymoor took control from here on in. It’s pretty telling that the home keeper never touched the ball again until three minutes before the half-time whistle!
It took Moors until the 27th minute to make their possession dominance pay off, though when they did, it was a thing of beauty.
Some neat, controlled possession on the left flank and centre, eventually ended with a shot from Tom Allen being blocked and ricocheting to the far post where it was headed partially clear. A contested ball left a Linnets player on the pitch and the Moors player not touching the ball either. Step up, Mark Anderson. He was the quickest to react to the loose ball and he thumped a curling shot from twenty-five yards out into the corner of the net.
What a strike!
2-1 Spennymoor Town!
Four minutes later Moors had the ball in the back of the net again. This time, however, the referee not only disallowed the goal but booked goalscorer, Glen Taylor who was deemed to have elbowed an opponent in the build-up.
In the 34th minute, Spennymoor players and fans were convinced they should have been awarded a penalty for a handball at the near post but the referee waved it away!
A minute later, those indignant claims were forgotten as Paul Blackett scored his first goal for Spennymoor. A throw-in on the right touchline resulted in a cross being swung in low across the area by John Lufudu. Blackett was the eager recipient and swept the ball past the Linnets keeper at the right-hand post from twelve yards out.
3-1 Spennymoor Town!
It should have been 4-1 before the half-time whistle, following a great save by Danny Taberner from Tom Allan’s shot across the area. Unfortunately for the home side, Glen Taylor blasted his volleyed follow-up shot over the bar.
This action was the final meaningful event of an action-packed first forty-five.
Half-time – Spennymoor Town 3 Runcorn Linnets 1
As the referee blew the half-time whistle, it was easy to believe this would be a comfortable home win in the second half. A two-goal cushion, dominant first-half performance, two tiers ahead, being the home team… everything seemed to be to Moor’s advantage.
It proved to be not quite that way though, as a spirited Runcorn team and a boisterous away following gave their all.
Mrs Hopper and I decided to change our vantage point for the second half, with our bums firmly planted on a ‘reserved’ seat in the Main Stand.
The Second Half
Moors kicked off the second half and it was 3-2.
That’s how it felt anyway. Within twenty seconds of the restart, a poor backpass by Finn Cousin-Dawson was latched onto by a gleeful Jamie Rainford as he nipped in and poked the ball past Harry Flatters in the Spennymoor goal.
What a disaster for the home side!
3-2 Spennymoor Town!
Whatever was said at half-time by the Runcorn management had certainly fired them up and it was a different team that played the second half. That might have been the last goal of the game but it wasn’t for the lack of effort by either team.
In fact, just four minutes after getting the second, it took a brilliant save by Flatters to stop the Linnets drawing level. A free-kick from twenty yards out was taken by Ryan Brooke and he would have been devastated to see it kept out by the flying Flatters.
This was part of some concerted pressure by the Linnets including a string of corners and throw-ins. Unfortunately, the match highlights don’t show the free-kick, so you will have to settle for my poorer-quality video of it below.
In the 55th minute, Ramshaw and O’Mahony both went into the referee’s notebook. Ramshaw for a late challenge, and O’Mahony for his reaction to the ugly challenge.
Five minutes later, Ramshaw redeemed himself by playing a lovely through ball for Anderson, who fired his shot just wide of the Linnets post.
I’d like to give a special mention to Linnets substitute Dapo Olarewaju, at this point. After coming on at half-time, he looked like a real livewire on the left side of Runcorn’s offensive moves.
It did make me question why he wasn’t in the starting line-up because he certainly gave Spennymoor’s defence a torrid time trying to mark him in the second forty-five. This included Dylan Boyle, who committed two potential yellow card tackles on Dapo within a couple of minutes of each other. Fortunately for Boyle, the referee deemed the first one just to be a ‘stern talking to’ offence.
Unfortunately for the underdogs, they couldn’t make their improved second-half performance pay dividends with further goals but they did make it a very entertaining fixture after it seemed somewhat of a dead rubber at half-time.
The rest of the half was a lot of toil and effort from both sides without many more clear-cut chances and after four minutes of injury time, the referee brought an end to a thoroughly enjoyable game.
I should probably point out that this was a huge day for the Cheshire-based Linnets. This was the furthest the club had ever progressed in the FA Trophy in their entire history, which explains why it was being treated as such a big occasion by them. The players and fans certainly didn’t let anyone down on the day and played almost as equals to their much higher-placed opposition.
Full-time – Spennymoor Town 3 Runcorn Linnets 2
Attendance – 625
Entrance Fee – £15.00
Programme – £2.50
Full Match Report from the Spennymoor Town website.
Spennymoor Town – Match Highlights
Spennymoor Town – After the Game
Following the end of the match, we left the ground and saw our bus approaching the bus stop. A quick jog/stumble later and we were on the bus back to Durham. That was quick!
We got back to Durham at 17:20 and just missed the hourly bus back home. This left us with almost an hour to kill and we decided to stay warm in the Three Bridges pub on the corner of Millburngate road, which is standing in as the temporary bus station while the upgrades are carried out to the actual bus station.
The Three Bridges is a roomy pub that was showing the England v New Zealand rugby union game on multiple screens.
By the time we left, we had the impression that England would be trounced by the All Blacks, so I was a little surprised when we got home to find out that England had actually pulled off a tremendous comeback and drawn the game.
We left the pub five minutes before our bus was due and it duly turned up at the ascribed time, meaning we were home by 19:00. Somewhat of a luxury on our travels!
Next week, we will again be staying fairly local but this time we will be going to the north of Newcastle for a visit to Morpeth Town in the Northern Premier League Premier Division.
Onto the next!