Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Consett - Belle View Stadium

Consett FC
Belle View Stadium
Delves Lane
County Durham

07710 133694

Ground Number: 360
Sunday 20th April 2014
Consett 0-1 Durham City
Northern League Division 1

I had initially visited Consett as a bonus when completing the 92 football grounds. As the distance was so far, I had decided to stay overnight and that meant that I could take in an extra game on the Saturday. As it was one of Consett's games at their old ground, I decided to take in their entertaining 2-2 draw with Spennymoor. a decision that I was pleased I had made.So when the opportunity came up to see their new home on the Northern League Hop, I was quite pleased.

Consett were formed in 1899 under the name Consett Celtic. They played in local leagues until 1970 when they joined the Northern League. They are nicknamed the Steelmen, after the trade which dominated the town up until the early 1980's. They have reached the 1st Round of the FA Cup on 2 occasions, most recently in 1996 when they lost 4-0 to Mansfield Town. The money from that run was spent on improving the floodlights at the old ground. In 2008 they made the 5th Round of the FA Vase before losing an exciting battle 5-4 to current Ryman League side Merstham.  Since they joined the Northern League in the 1970's they have spent all but a few seasons in Division 1, finishing as runners up on 3 occasions, most recently in 2011. After dropping like a stone to finish 15th in 2012, they improved last season getting up to 9th. At the time of the game, they were on course to at least match, if not beat it.

Durham City meanwhile had been in the NPL in recent times. They were a place lower than their hosts and like them, they had the foresight to install a 3G pitch. They are owned by former Newcastle United player Olivier Bernard. Their stadium, like Consett's is a new build, which is bigger and was obviously built for a higher grade of football. That higher grade happened in 2008 when after winning the Northern League, they joined the NPL D1 North. They didn't rest on their laurels and stormed the league, winning it at the first attempt. That meant a promotion to the Unibond Premier, but they were dealt a blow when they were told they would not be able to take part in the playoffs if they reached them, due to them installing a 3G pitch a few years earlier. The sponsors, not happy with a limit being placed on their progress withdrew all support and they were forced to play with no budget and use players from their academy. The results were catastrophic and they lost 10-0 to Boston United, just one of many heavy defeats. Solace was found however in one of the most surprising places at they won 2-1 at promotion chasing FC United. They also won their next game against Whitby 4-3 but they ended the season on 0 points after a deduction by the league and losing the rest of their games. It would have been the easy thing to do to drop into the Northern League, but they vowed to solider on in the NPL D1 North and despite the finances being bad again, they finished in a safe placing of 17th. Despite finishing 9th the following season they took the decision to resign from the league due to travelling costs being too much and rejoined the Northern League, finishing 14th in their first season back.  You have to go back to the 1950's to find their last appearance in the FA Cup proper rounds, but they did make the 4th qualifying round in 2009 before losing to Histon. They also made the semi final of the FA Vase in 2002, though have never got further than the 1st round of the FA Trophy.  

For my second day of the Northern League groundhop, I had stayed over in South Shields. I woke up at 8am and had a shower and cleaned my teeth before going to try and find a shop that sold the Non League Paper. While I was waiting to go out, I watched 'Friends Like These' on Challenge TV and it reminded me do the time when. I was in the studio audience. It was Ian Wright hosting at the time and I upset the producer of the show by chanting IAN WRIGHT WRIGHT WRIGHT when he came on at the start. I and the others who joined in were told that we were not at a football game!

In the end I managed to get my paper at the 4th shop I tried, after around 30 minutes searching. I went back to my room for a bit before leaving for Consett at 10.45. I got there just after 11.30, parking in a nearby side street before going to the ground. After going I, I went to the bar and got myself a pint of Woodpecker Cider before buying a scarf for £5 from the merchandise stall. I then went and got some gravy and chips as well as a Bovril from the tea bar. I met again with Stu and stood with Anders , who had come all the way from Norway for today's game. The first half was pretty good with Consett having the best of the opening period, but not really having any clear cut chances.

The second half was a different story with Durham asking all the questions. It wasn't as open as the first half though. The deadlock was broken on 72 minutes when number 11 Fenwick rifled into the roof of the net from inside the area. That was it as far as goals went, and overall Durham deserved their win.

BELLE VIEW STADIUM replaced the clubs old Belle Vue ground which had plenty of character, with it's grass banks and large stand. While the the new ground is a bit bland in comparison, with just a couple of pre fabricated seated stands, it is at least quite neat and tidy.

One thing that has improved is the facilities at the ground. Most notably the bar which is very nice and modern as opposed to the tired looking bar under the stand at the old ground. It has Woodpecker Cider (plus some good choices for beer drinkers), plenty of seating and Sky TV.

Elsewhere a small table for a club shop near the turnstile has turned into a larger facility in the bar with a better range, and the hut that was the tea bar still sells pretty much the same stuff, just in a new hatch.

Another bonus is the 3G pitch which makes it a good choice for when the weather is dodgy, though another downside of the new ground is that it is further from the town, though not unwalkable by any stretch of the imagination. Overall I really enjoyed my visit here, and it's worth keeping in mind for the winter months if you want to see a game without fear of it being called off.

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