Spennymoor Town FC
Ground Number: 242
Friday 15th February 2013
Spennymoor Town 1-3 Darlington 1883
Northern League Division 1
PRE MATCH RESEARCH
The demise of the original Darlington club is well documented elsewhere. Basically, after years of financial hardship, the club had finally bitten the dust. Not before, however, a rescue group has stopped them going out of business in January, saving them within a few minutes of a deadline that would have signalled liquidation. With hard work from their own support and the generosity of donations from the fans of clubs from all over the country, they managed to complete their league fixtures in the Blue Square Premier. The money didn't last forever, and with chairman Raj Singh unable to agree on a settlement for the debts he had run up in the clubs name but had loaned the club himself, the club was wound up. But at least during the rescue by the supporters, there were plans for a new club if the old one was not viable
But things had to change. The club reformed as Darlington 1883 and despite trying to establish the new club at Unibond League level, they were put in the Northern League, a division above the town's other club, Darlington Railway Athletic. Next home was to be found, finally getting the millstone that was the Darlington Arena from around their necks. The stadium, the pipe dream of former Chairman and convicted safecracker George Reynolds would have been great in the Championship or even Premiership with its 25000 capacity and plush facilities. But on crowds of little more than 2000, the maintenance costs were a nightmare and the ground went through several states of ownership before being vacated by the football club. It's actually being used by a small rugby club now, but with them getting attendances of 300, it is doubtful if that will last long. Several venues were considered before finally settling on Bishop Auckland, where a new ground had been built. I had actually been to see it on the way to Gateshead last March and it was a pretty smart ground, with the facilities to stage football a couple more levels up, it would do as a home for at least a couple of years.
But what of the home side, Spennymoor Town? They had won the Northern League 3 times in a row prior to the current season but had not elected to apply for promotion on any of these occasions. This was after the town's original club, Spennymoor United had gone bust in 2006 and they too had reformed. The club had been very helpful in selling me a ticket and posting it out to me. I did really want to stand with the Darlington fans, but my messages asking about tickets were completely ignored, a big let down for a club run by the fans. The league before the game saw Spennymoor sitting 15 points behind Darlington, but 23 games unbeaten and with a massive 7 games in hand on their rivals.
I was already planning a week or a few days up North watching some football and when this game came up, I decided to extend it even further. It was a clash between the top 2 in the Northern League, a local step 5 league for clubs in the North East. In fact, it would be the start of a marathon of 9 games in 7 days, weather permitting of course. I managed to get out of work around 10.30 and after getting changed was on my way shortly before 11. After the long journey, I finally arrived in Scotch Corner at my hotel at 3.20. After half an hours rest, I was off out again, first for a look round Darlington and a pint of another new cider in the Quakerhouse pub. After that, I met up with my Darlington supporting mate Ryan. After we had picked up his ticket we were on our way, arriving at Spennymoor just after 6.30. Given the huge crowd expected, finding a parking space was easy. I then had my first ever Parmo, a delicacy from the North East with chicken and cheese. Not especially healthy, but very nice. We got to the ground at 7.15 and had to go in separate entrances as I had a ticket for the Spennymoor end. However, about 10 minutes after getting into the ground, a small number of people were allowed to switch ends. They'd only sold 2300 tickets, but I reckon you could have got another 500 in there no problem.
It was really a game of 2 halves. The first half was Spennymoor's. They took the lead through a penalty but that was cancelled out by an excellent long-range strike from Darlington. The home side had the better chances and were unlucky to go into the break without the lead. However, the second half was a different story. Darlington dominated and totally deserved the 3-1 win. Spennymoor battled bravely but overall the right result came. This meant the end of their 23 game run and handed Darlington a great advantage in the title race. That said, it is Spennymoor's to lose, what with all their games in hand. After the game, we went to the pub while the traffic cleared and watched the old folk of Spennymoor give their best efforts on the Karaoke. It was a bit of a ghost town really, the first 4 pubs we saw were closed, but the one we did go in was very busy. I dropped Ryan back in Darlington before heading back to my hotel, arriving at about 11 and spending some time relaxing before going to sleep.
BREWERY FIELD is a smart and well-specced ground that should be ok for Unibond Premier football, maybe even conference north. The main stand holds around 250 and there is further covered terracing for about 700. The rest of the ground is open terracing, with a real-terms capacity of around 1500, though less than this officially. I didn't get to use the tea bar, club shop or bar but the town is close by and offers a good choice of places to eat and drink.