Manchesterfootball.info’s Tony Bugby made a detour en route to St James’ Park for Manchester United’s Premier League fixture against Newcastle United and earlier in the day continued his ‘groundhopping’ exploits to take in two non-league matches involving four teams each with illustrious histories
It was an early start from the North West to make the 11am kick off for El Coastico, the Ebac Northern League derby between North Shields and Whitley Bay with a distance of only 2.8 miles separating the two grounds.
The match at the Daren Persson Stadium attracted a season’s high crowd of 862, slightly below the 1,000 they had hoped as they had widely advertised the match.
It featured two teams with recent rich histories as North Shields, known as The Robins, as the front cover of their matchday programme bold claimed, are the only club to have won the European Amateur Cup, FA Amateur Cup and FA Vase.
They have made two Wembley appearances as they won the FA Amateur Cup in 1969 and FA Vase in 2015 when they beat local side Glossop North End in the final.
They had also reached the first round of the FA Cup twice, the last time in 1982/83.
Whitley Bay, nicknamed The Seahorses or The Bay, are four times winners of the FA Vase, including three years in a row in 2009,10 and 11.
They were formed in 1896 as Whitley & Monkseaton FC and evolved into their present guise with the highest level they have featured, the Northern Premier League in the late 1980s and 90s when they had their best-ever FA Cup run reaching the third round where they lost 1-0 at Rochdale having claimed the league scalps of Scarborough and Preston North End in the two previous rounds.
And they have a local connection as match secretary Rob York is a former chairman of North West Counties League side Stockport Town before relocating to the North East.
The derby, which saw North Shields earn local bragging rights with a 2-0 victory, involved teams experiencing contrasting fortunes.
The Robins have won nine of their last 10 league matches as they lie in second place in the division one table.
The Seahorses, meanwhile, have lost five league games in a row as they lie 13th. They included an 8-0 loss at Newton Aycliffe and 6-1 home defeat to Ashington.
The match ran to form as The Robins emerged comfortable 2-0 winners as they remain hot on the heels of leaders Consett.
They had been knocking on the door before breaking the deadlock just short of the half hour when a long throw was flicked on and swept home by Callum Smith for his 11th goal of the season.
Smith also struck the upright as The Robins came close to increasing their advantage which they did seven minutes into the second half through Dan Wilson’s 16th goal of the campaign.
Smith played the ball into the feet of Wilson who turned on a sixpence to fire low past goalkeeper Daniel Lister.
They had a great chance to add a third midway through the second period when David Robinson, sliding in to convert Andrew Cartwright’s low cross at the par post, struck the upright before colliding with the frame of the goal.
It was then a short journey to Hebburn Town which is on the outskirts of Gateshead for their Pitching In Northern Premier League, east division match against Newcastle side Dunston.
Another derby attracted a season’s best crowd of 814 as Hebburn had also widely advertised Newcastle were playing that night while Sunderland and South Shields were away.
It was just a pity only two hours separated the two matches for myself and other groundhoppers so we could comfortably watch both.
I only took in the second half while a group of Hearts’ fans had left North Shields before the end of that match and missed the opening minutes of the one at Hebburn.
Here again were two teams who have triumphed at Wembley in recent times.
Hebburn, who were founded in 1912 as the Reyrolles works team, only took the Hebburn name in 1986 and three years later were elevated from junior football to the Northern League, since when they win the FA Vase in 2020.
Dunston, by comparison, are babes having only been formed in 1975 as Wickham Sports, a works team for HMSO employees.
They became Dunston Mechanics in 1982 and nine years later were promoted from the Wearside League to Northern League.
Dunston won the FA Vase in 2012 beating neighbours West Auckland Town in the final at Wembley and in 2019 were promoted to the NPL, the highest level they have featured at.
Hebburn, who are 11th in the table, posted a 2-1 win over higher-placed Dunston who are eighth and managed by former Oldham Athletic and much travelled centre back Chris Swailes.
Hebburn took a seventh-minute lead through Olly Martin, a tidy strike for his 11th goal of the season according to those who witnessed it.
They doubled their lead in the 73rd minute through a wonderfully executed free kick from Kieren Aplin, a former scholar at Newcastle United. It was his third of the campaign.
But there was an anxious finale for the hosts after Dunston won a penalty for a blatant handball and which was confidently converted by Terry Galbraith.
It set up a nervous finish which was heightened when Hebburn had Aplin sent off in stoppage time for collecting a second yellow card.