January 27, 2009 – Hillheads Park, Whitley Bay
With a couple of evenings to spare in the north east, I toyed briefly with the idea of taking in Sunderland’s game with Fulham in the Premiership, or going further south to either Hartlepool or Darlington, both of whom had decent looking home games.
Instead, I decided to venture off the beaten track a little and take in some more Northern League action after trips to South Shields and West Allotment earlier in the campaign.
It proved to be a good decision, after an enjoyable game and visit to Hillheads Park, home of Whitley Bay.
The incumbant Bay faced up to Chester-le-Street in a Division 1 game, and after failing to realise that the game was a 7.30pm kick off I got to the ground just after the game got underway.
I travelled to ‘The Coast’ on the excellent Tyne and Wear Metro which stops about ten minutes walk from the ground, through some residential streets and past the local Ice Rink.
Thankfully I hadn’t missed much by the time I got inside the ground, but I didn’t get my usual chance to look around the ground before the action started.
The ground is typical of the level with a small stand the prominent feature. The remainder of the field is ringed by a few steps of uncovered terracing with the exception of a shallow bus shelter like cover adjacent to the stand. In comparison to similar sized clubs nearer home in Scotland is a pretty decent set-up, if a wee bit rough round the edges.
I watched the first half from opposite of the stand, doing my best to get a couple of decent pictures using my mobile phone camera. As you can see the results weren’t fantastic!
The game was decent. It was the usual up and at them long ball stuff you tend to see in the Northern League with it being a similar standard to Scottish junior football. With the pitch conditions a bit heavy it probably made sense to go route one.
Whitley Bay got themselves on top after an even start and after a couple of near misses struck twice in three minutes to establish a commanding half time lead.
Chester came out fighting, pulling a goal back two minutes into the second half, and they really made a game of it during the second half.
They had some late pressure, while Whitley couldn’t get the third goal which wouold have killed off the game. The result was a game which went right for the full ninety, giving decent entertainment for my fiver admission.
The game benefitted from what I felt was a common sense refereeing performance from the man-in-the middle, a Matthew Dicicco from Middlesbrough. Rather than the pre-programmed Robo-refs you often see these days, he let the game flow, allowing the players to put in the kind of physical effort which is customary at this level.
In general I felt at home in Hillheads Park. It reminded me quite a bit of the junior level I see a lot in Scotland and the sight of a tricky wee striker wearing brightly coloured boots nicknamed ‘Sparky’ also helped. For the non-believers out there, that’s a reference to Livingston’s up and coming teenager Leigh Griffiths!!!
The catering was also a joy with scotch pies on offer – a real rarity south of the border. Suffice to say one was sampled and it passed my strict quality control standards, as did an accompanying chicken pie.
Had a quiet chuckle whilst waiting the queue as a local lad and his young kid debated the scotch pies composition. Somethings are better off not thought about to be quite honest.
My night also included a half time pint in the bar, with lager coming in at a very reasonable £2.30.
To quote a poster inside the ground advertising their next FA Vase game, ‘Howay the Bay!’ This is a place I’d recommend visiting.
Scoring – 1-0 Bell (27), 2-0 Kerr (29), 2-1 Fisher (48 )
Attendance – 199 official
Admission – £5
Programme – £1
Ground – 7/10. Has character.
Game – 7/10. Fully bloodied encounter.
Overall experience – 7/10. Friendly and enjoyable.
Match report links