Ground Number: 1003
Saturday 25th September 2021
Willington 1-3 Thornaby
FA Vase 2nd Qualifying Round
FA Vase 2nd Qualifying Round
WILLINGTON FC - A BRIEF HISTORY
The club was established in 1906 as Willington Temperance and they joined the Northern League five years later, dropping the Temperance suffix. They were runners-up in 1913 and would go on to win the league again in 1926 & 1930. Whilst the Northern League remained as a single-tier league, Willington also had poor seasons in 1924, 1963, 1968, 1981, & 1982 when they finished bottom of the table. The mid-80s was a tricky time for the club in with the Northern League introducing a new second tier for the 1982/83 season. Willington finished bottom again and were relegated to Division 2. They would go on to finish bottom of Division 2 in 1984 for their fourth consecutive basement finish. The team recovered to finish 7th in 1985 but would generally struggle and finish around the bottom reaches of the table. They'd finish bottom again in 1992 and 2005. After the latter of these finishes, they were relegated to the Wearside League, ending 94 years of continuous Northern League membership. Even at that lower level, they would still struggle, finishing bottom in 2009 & 2010. Eventually, the good times would return and in 2013, Willington would amass 101 points and finish second behind Stockton Town. They would still find things tough back in the Northern D2 but in 2018 would have their best season in years as they finished 7th. In the last two seasons, Willington were mid-table when proceedings were abandoned. This season they sit third-bottom, albeit with games in hand.
In the FA Cup, Willington have reached the 1st Round four times, although the first three was when the competition was very different to what it was today. The latest of these came in 1973 when they beat Stanley United, Durham City, North Shields & Ashington before being paired with football league giants Blackburn Rovers. They held them to a 0-0 draw at home but lost 6-1 in the replay. After reaching the FA Amateur Cup Final in 1939, only to lose to Bishop Auckland. They'd go on to win the competition in 1950, overcoming Wimbledon, Leytonstone and Barking prior to gaining revenge on Bishop Auckland with a 4-0 win. They would also reach the FA Trophy 3rd Round during the 1976/77 season, beating Lancaster City and Macclesfield Town, prior to a defeat to Nuneaton Borough. In the FA Vase, their best run came during the 1994/95 season. That year they beat Marske United, Crook Town and Oldham Town, prior to a defeat to Belper Town in the 3rd Round. Local cup wins include the Northern League Cup in 1957 and 1975.
The most famous manager to be in charge of Willington is Malcolm Allison. The flamboyant boss, most famous for his spell at Manchester City spent ten games in charge of the side in 1984, winning four, before leaving to take the Kuwait national team managers job. This was at the time when he was at war with the FA, refusing to pay a £250 fine. As a result, they banned him from the touchline and meeting the players. The former mining village of Willington is in County Durham and has a population of just under 5,800. The closure of the pit in 1967 hurt the village but since 2000 it has been enjoying a recovery with several new housing developments. As a result, the vast majority of the population work in Bishop Auckland or Durham.
For the second leg of my double this Saturday, I wanted to see an FA Vase game. I had five potential options in all, the favourites being Billingham Synthonia and Willington. The former has the best range of pubs, and at first glance, the more interesting back story. The latter was the better game - a division separated the two sides but was limited drinking-wise. In the end, simple geography played a part. Willington was far closer to my morning game at Sherburn Village and as a result, my Friday night hotel near Darlington. I did my research into the club on Friday morning and this turned out to be far more interesting than I'd anticipated. I used that time to finalise all my plans, including getting back to Newcastle after the game. From my game at Sherburn Village, it was a short walk back to the bus stop. I didn't have long to wait for my bus but the traffic was awful and it took 35 minutes to do the two or so miles back to Durham. Arriving at 12.40, the place was bustling with an attractive local market. I fancied a sit-down meal and so headed to my 210th Wetherspoons, the Waterhouse. I ordered a pint of Thatchers Gold and a Tennessee Beef Burger meal. Neither of these were the finest in their field but they were both nice. With them not having Black Dragon, despite doing so a couple of days ago, I decided to get an earlier bus than planned. I was at the stop at 13:20 for the 13:30 bus to Willington. This was ten minutes late and it was a hat trick of buses where the USB charging didn't work. The heating was also on which made it very warm. I was at the ground by 2.10 though and after buying some Irn Bru from a local shop, headed in. Entry was a well priced £5 and a decent programme £1. I also got a can of Strongbow from the bar for £2.
Willington were sitting third-bottom in the Northern League D2 and had beaten local rivals Tow Law Town to get this far. Thornaby were third in the Northern D1 and had won 5-0 at Washington in the previous round. The hosts were in blue and the visitors in orange and 35 league places separated the two sides. Around 28 miles separated the two sides. Both sides had good vocal support but I felt that the game deserved more than the 102 that turned up. The game started according to the form book and Elliott Beddow opened the scoring with a great shot on 12 minutes. From the edge of the area, he found the top right-hand corner. Willington sought an equaliser and they forced the visiting keeper to tip over the bar from a free-kick on 19 minutes. A well-worked move on 25 minutes saw the visitors shoot narrowly wide of the right-hand post. Despite this, Thornaby were the better side and they doubled their lead on 42 minutes, Craig Hutchinson progressed down the right flank, cut in and found the bottom corner from the edge of the area. The visitors had a strong penalty claim just before halftime, the linesman appeared to signal but then put his flag down, much to the fury of the visiting fans. Willington pulled one back with an Adam Storey free kick on 55 minutes but Thornaby sealed the game on the hour, Hutchinson getting his second and his sides third on the break.
Thornaby deserved the win but Willington had given it a good go. There had been some good banter between both sets of players and fans too After the game, I made my way to the bus stop, just missing the 16.54. I had to wait 20 minutes which wasn't bad. My power bank was nearly empty so I was glad that I finally got some working USB sockets to charge both that and my phone. I was back at Durham by 5.30 and as I needed the toilet, headed back to other Wetherspoons as I knew they had Black Dragon on. The place was absolutely rammed and unusually they held my bag as it had food in. I only stayed for around 20 minutes before heading for my bus which I only had to wait a couple of minutes for. It was a decent service up to Newcastle with me there at 7.15. It was then 20 minutes walk to The Free Trade Inn on the banks of the Tyne. Sadly they had fallen into only doing table service, so it took a while to get my pint of Covid compliant Olivers Farmhouse. That said, it was nice to get some breathing space compared to the hectic Wetherspoons earlier. The cider was an absolute cracker too and with four hours to go until my coach home, I didn't need to rush. I briefly walked down the Tyne for some more pictures before heading off to the Cumberland Arms. They were doing table service too and once again the annoyance was balanced by having plenty of space. The Ross On Wye Four Apple Blend was excellent too, as it always is from my favourite Cidery.
From there it was another pub, The Cluny which promised 'an extensive range of real cider and perry' yet did anything but and I had to settle for a Rekorderlig, with it being a low strength one, that was probably a good thing. I then went to get some food, I was planning on going for a curry but laziness led me to going for a half-pound doner burger and chip from a local takeaway. I was back at the coach stop half an hour before departure, I popped into the adjacent nightclub for a pint of Strongbow which was quite pricey at £5 but at least it helped me sleep on the coach. I got a few hours of sleep in but woke up when they stopped at Woodall Services. From then on, I was kept aake by the mindless witterings and stupid noises of two girls who rabbited on incessantly for the entirety of the journey. The coach was back in London by 6.15, 40 minutes ahead of schedule. My power bank had not charged despite me having it plugged in, I was seriously considering heading for home. I walked up to Buckingham Palace to mull it over and in the end decided to go home. After five days of excessive drinking, I was giving the booze a rest until at least Friday in any case. For once, the trains were spot on, even if after a deserted London, the Victoria Line was absolutely rammed at 7.30 on a Sunday morning. The other lines were quieter and for once, my connections all worked out well, with my final bus home seeing me get back at 9.30. I was still going to go to football later though, but the far more local option of Hilltop v Broadfields United which I didn't need to do a blog for. I caught up with the two blogs that I'd not finished in the morning but was glad of a brief rest after a hectic few days.
HALL LANE is a great ground and place to watch football. The main stand at the ground is large and has bench seating for around 500. It looks great and had the club's name picked out on the roof. There are also a few other covered areas with space for around 250 in all. There are plenty of steps of terracing too as well as grass banks to stand on. There is a decent tea bar and the clubhouse sells cans. There's plenty of choice of shops, pubs and takeaways near the ground. There's plenty of street parking and a car park whilst the ground is on a few bus routes from Durham.