Thursday, 14 October 2010

Ground 143: Blue Flames Sports Ground, West Allotment Celtic FC

The words West Allotment Celtic always seemed faintly exotic when I was younger. I used to search them out every weekend in the Sunday Sun, where they appeared towards the top of the mysteriously named Northern Alliance Premier. I imagined them as a team of expatriate Caledonians, possibly bohemian, dribbling and zig-zagging the ball around their bemused opponents. Years later, disappointingly, I found out they actually came from Benton.

And so here I am at the Blue Flames Sports Club, home, the sign at the entrance to the car park tells me, of the Northumberland FA and the Northern League's West Allotment Celtic FC, who are playing Team Northumbria in the First Round of this year's Northumberland Senior Cup. Dire Straits are on the tannoy, and there's a crowd of about seventy people lined up along the top of a grass bank, looking down on the floodlit pitch. There's a metal stand, a couple of wooden picnic benches, an open window into a kitchen, and a view of the bar through sliding glass doors.

Celtic vs Aberdeen.

West are in Celtic hoops, Northumbria Aberdeen red. The home side score first when Dean Nicholson breaks through the students' attempt at an offside trap. "They must learn that one in the second term," a spectator says. Northumbria get a penalty, the West Allotment players rush to the linesman, "You haven't got a fucking clue, man," one shouts at the referee. They're still complaining when the keeper drops to his left and stops the ball one-handed. "It was his trailing leg," says the ref. "Now stop your whinging and get on with the game."

Nothumbria equalise, and go two-one up midway through the second half when a shot smashes against the crossbar and is toe-poked in with the keeper still scrambling on the ground. The home team have chance after chance, but appear to be aiming for a spot that varies randomly between six inches above and ten yards wide of the goal. My feet are freezing, the tea hut's closed - and then West Allotment take the game to extra-time.

Extra-time team talk.

The winner comes at five to ten as I mentally prepare for penalties. A Northumbria player's dragged down by the touchline and the flag goes up for a foul. "It's football not ballerina," screams West Allotment's keeper. "Just you watch your kicks and keep it shut, eh?" replies the linesman. The free-kick's cleared, the ball blasted up the pitch, and the net ripples for a fifth and final time.

The draw for the next round's already been made. West Allotment are away to Newcastle Benfield, two games from a final at St James' Park.

Admission: £4
Date: 13th October 2010

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