Sunderland The Times Inn Over 40's
Billy Hardy Centre
Ground Number: 1010
Saturday 16th October 2021
Sunderland The Times Inn 0-5 Penshaw Catholic Club
Sunderland Over 40's League Premier Division
This game was being played at the Billy Hardy Complex in the Castletown area of Sunderland. The ground's primary tenants are Hylton Colliery Welfare. Their formation date is unclear but as you will have guessed from the name, their roots lay in mining. They've never played higher than the Wearside League and that is where they play in the present day, competing in the league's second-tier. The team I was going to see, Sunderland Times Inn competes in the top tier of the Sunderland Over 40's League. They are a pub team from a boozer that is situated near the Stadium Of Light, around two miles from their home pitch. They were struggling in the league when I visited, sitting third from bottom. They spent last season out of the league, following the abandonment of 2019/20 due to the pandemic. They've struggled in recent years but were runners-up in 2009 before winning the league the following year. The venue is named after Billy Hardy (born 5 September 1964 in Sunderland), a former bantamweight and featherweight boxer champion. He held the British championship at bantamweight and featherweight, as well as the European and Commonwealth featherweight titles.
When I planned my weekend in the North East, a big draw was the Sunderland Over 40's League. It may not be the finest football level but it is an extra game in the morning and is always entertaining. There are too few leagues that play Saturday morning which is a shame as they could draw plenty of extra fans in. The only other one I know of is the Midland U21 League. Neither of these is in the Football Traveller which is a bit of a surprise given how low down they go with all manner of basic pitches. I'd have loved to have gone and seen Sherburn Over 40's again, but they were away in Middlesbrough at a basic venue. I decided to go for the closest decent ground to my accommodation and that was Sunderland The Times Inn. I did my research and found out the team was linked to a pub near the Stadium of Light. I was hoping to visit there on Friday night to get a feel for the place and team but it would all depend on time.
The day of the game came and I'd had a late night thanks to traffic noise outside my B&B. The same noise woke me just before 7 and I must have only got around 4 or 5 hours of sleep. I felt OK though and at least it gave me a chance to start the day ahead of schedule. After getting washed, dressed and getting my things together, I left just after 8.20. I decided to walk to town for the exercise and got there just after 9. A McDonald's breakfast roll with brown sauce was a good start to the day and I also had a look in Cash Generator but there was nothing that I fancied. I got a couple of cans of drink and a Honeycomb Twin Peaks bar from Poundland before getting my day ticket from the station. I got the 9.50 bus which was on time for once and was near the ground by 10.05. Google maps directed me to the wrong entrance unless I fancied going through someone's back garden but I found the correct place and was pitchside by 10.15. I was definitely supporting the Times Inn, they'd been very welcoming when I'd visited the pub last night and even gave me a free shirt.
The Times Inn were in disappointing form and had lost their last five games. They'd lost 3-1 at Washington EMS, 4-0 against Sherburn Village, 5-3 at Easington Colliery, 5-3 at Hartlepool FC Blues and 4-1 at Wallsend. Their last victory had come on 4th September as they beat Ryhope Forresters 4-1. The hosts sat in 14th place while the visitors, Penshaw Catholic Club were in 8th. They'd won 4-1 at Wallsend in their latest game and had also beaten Washington EMS 3-1. However, they had lost 3-0 to Sunderland Ryhope Forresters, 3-1 at Ferryhill Greyhound Vaux and 2-1 at Hartlepool FC Blues. It was a good start for the visitors, they took the lead after 3 minutes, #8 finding the top corner from the edge of the area. It was a fairly even game though and the Times Inn manager came and said hello after he was told that I was coming. On 18 minutes, Penshaw had a goal disallowed for offside. They were generally on top and the lead was doubled on 40 minutes. It was a cross from the right, a party from the keeper and #8 following up for his second. The Times Inn captain was not happy and gave his team a dressing down at halftime. Five minutes into the second half Penshaw hit the bar with a header and went on to dominate the second half. They made it 3-0 on 65 minutes and on 70 minutes it was 4-0, #9 slotting home from the right. The home keeper was keeping things respectable with some good saves but he couldn't prevent Penshaw from making it 5-0 a few minutes from time, the ball hitting the bar on the way in.
THE BILLY HARDY SPORTS COMPLEX is a decent venue, set in pleasant greenery. The pitch is railed but aside from a few steps of terracing, it's only grass to stand on. There is plenty of parking and it is a couple of miles from Sunderland on a few bus routes. There's a bar at the ground or a few shops nearby.