Easington's glory year came in 1986 when they finished runners-up to Newcastle Blue Star in the Northern League Division Two. Two years later they took revenge, thrashing Blue Star three-nil to reach the last qualifying round of the FA Cup - the furthest they'd been since Tranmere Rovers visited Welfare Park in 1955. It's a ground which, unlike the team, remains Northern League standard. A concrete terrace runs down one side of the pitch, with a covered stand by the corner flag and a red-brick changing block either side of the halfway line. The teams come out of the corridor, their studs clattering on the steps. Easington, with five wins and twenty-two goals to start the season, look confident as they wait to run onto the pitch. Windscale have travelled all the way from the west coast of Cumbria, which at this level of football is a very long way indeed. "Come on Easington," a lone voice shouts. An old man sits in the social club, finishing his pint, and there's a queue of three at the food hatch. "Bovril? That's 80 pence, mate. Here, stick some pepper in, give it a kick." We walk round to the far corner of the pitch, where you get a view of the sea from a steep bank of terracing.
Easington start well, rattling the frame of the goal, but it's Windscale who take the lead with a four-man right-to-left move and a sidefoot finish. "Lose one goal and we go to pieces," complains an Easington player at half time.
The game opens up in the second half but some decent defending means neither side gets any real chances until Easington equalise out of nowhere with ten minutes left. "Come on lads, big last ten," the manager shouts but too much of their play is rushed and it's Windscale who finish the stronger side. "Thing is," a spectator says, "sometimes you've got to go back to go forwards."
For Easington's sake you really hope he's right.
Date: September 1st 2010