The weekend call-offs came one after another, with the awful, hope-sapping regularity of Conservative gains on election night. Ashington, Tow Law, Chester-le-Street, Esh Winning. The afternoon pitch inspection at Sunderland RCA took just long enough for the referee to spot the five inches of snow that was piled on top of the ground. Gilford Park's long awaited first 'home' game of the season was postponed at 8am, with fifty Newton Aycliffe fans about to set off by bus for Gretna. West Auckland were still officially hopeful - "there's an inch of snow on the field but underneath it is soft and playable" - until another four came down during the night. Hebburn Town and North Shields dug out their long-sleeved shirts and made it as far as half past ten - by which time the Wearside League's fixtures page had gone as blank as Nick Clegg's conscience and the Northern Football Alliance was down to its last five games.
The sun was out at Villa Park. But at one o'clock, as Marouane Chamakh sliced a shot wide of goal, Cullercoats Custom Planet finally bowed to the inevitable.