Penrith 0 Chester-le-Street 2

Saturday 21st March 2009
Penrith 0 Chester-le-Street 2
skilltrainingltd Northern League Division 1
At: Southend Road
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Attendance: 130 (headcount)
Weather: sunny spells
Duration: first half: 48:05; second-half 48:11

In the latest edition of Groundtastic and also in an article on the News & Star newspaper’s website, I read that work on Penrith’s new ground at Frenchfield on the edge of town is expected to restart within weeks after funding was provided by the North West Development Agency.

The newspaper article continued to say that the completion of the new ground would allow the club’s current ground in the middle of the development site at Southend Road to be knocked down, freeing the way for work to restart in town on the New Squares and new supermarket, once further funding is made available.

The historic ground on Southend Road was one I’ve always wanted to visit so with the news of its potential imminent demolition and Saturday home games running out, we just had to make the trip to Penrith – even though it meant a 300-mile round trip. The fact there was a castle and presumably coffee shop amongst other things in the town made it a family day out as well.

I was pleasantly surprised we got off before 9-30 am. A couple of stops on the way, including the excellent Westmoreland services at Tebay and a detour on the A6 through Shap, and we were in the temporary pay and display car park outside the ground just after 1 pm. There was time for me to have a quick walk to the castle before the turnstiles opened up.

The turnstile was a proper turnstile, only opened when the gateman pressed a pedal to release the lock. Through the entrance, the pitch ran widthways (orientated north-west to south-east) with a seated stand containing wooden benches immediately on the right, straddling the half-way line. Immediately to the left was the refreshments kiosk. Also on the near touchline adjacent to the left-hand corner was the changing room building, another remainder along with the stand of the ground’s long history. On the far touchline behind the dugouts was an area of covered standing. At the left-hand goal, with the new leisure centre behind, was a hospitality building.

Programmes (£1 for an attractive and informative matchday magazine) were available at the entrance and I picked up a teamsheet from a friendly club official which whom I enjoyed a chat about the future of the ground and the 1979 FA Trophy Final. Line-ups were also announced over the tannoy

Both sides went into the game just above midtable with ninth-placed Penrith one point and two positions better off than visitors Chester-le-Street. The visitors had played three games more than their hosts. Penrith could also boast an impressive home record of 12 wins from 15 league games with their two defeats both coming in consecutive games back in September. With games running out, leaders Consett on 64 points looked out of reach.

The teams came out together and exchanged fair-play handshakes, before Penrith got the game underway. They attacked the Leisure Centre end in the first, or right to left from my vantage pointon the back row of the stand in marked position ‘85’.

Penrith (blue shirts, white shorts and blue socks) almost took the lead in the second minute when visiting keeper Jonathan Carmichael somehow turned over Graham Anthony’s rising shot hit from the edge of the area. On the quarter hour, Wayne Gredziak turned and hit a right-foot volley from near to the left corner of the Penrith area. The ball flew just wide of the near post with the visitors appealing for a corner, presumably they felt keeper James Holland got a touch.

The home side enjoyed a good spell around the midpoint of the first half and they almost took a 22nd-minute lead. Dan Robinson rose in front of goal and got in a free header which rebounded off the inside of the left-hand post straight into the arms of a relieved Carmichael.

Moments after I wondered if the game would end up as a 0-0 (genuinely I was!), the visitors took the lead in the second of three minutes of first-half stoppage time. Liam Robertson hooked the ball home via the right-hand post and Holland was left frustrated with himself for not dealing with Josh Home-Jackson’s initial cross.

Within a minute of the restart, Chester-le-Street (wearing a change strip of all yellow) had a good opportunity to double their lead. Home-Jackson met Liam Robertson’s cross but couldn’t direct his header on target.

The action went up the other end where Carmichael blocked a bullet header from defender Alan Gray, direct from Dean Douglas’ corner.

Chester-le-Street scored a vital second goal in the 52nd minute. From out of the light, Craig Price curled a right-foot free-kick into a packed area and the eluded everyone to end up in the far side of the net. Fluke goal, it may have been, but they all count and the visitors were on course to do the ‘double’ having won the reverse fixture 3-2 back in October.

Would Penrith suffer their first home league defeat for six months or could they find two goals?

After leading scorer Michael Reed went off injured, the home side pushed tall defender Wayne Robertson up into attack. Penrith won four corners in just about as many minutes without success. On the hour, however, there was another chance for the visitors when Gredziak sent a first-time shot over the bat from just outside the area.

As the second half wore on, Penrith just didn’t look like making inroads into their two-goal deficit. Chances simply became scare at both ends. In the 83rd minute from the first of four successive corners, Andy Armstrong had a header cleared off the Penrith line by substitute Michael Brown.

My wife and daughter got back from the town to see the last 10 minutes and they saw Penrith almost get a consolation goal in stoppage time. Carmichael dived full-stretch to his right to turn a low shot from Douglas round the left-hand post.

On the way home, we first stopped a short distance down the A6 at Eamont Bridge to see a couple of English Hertitage sites – the earthwork known as King Arthur’s Round Table and the impressive Mayburgh Henge – as well as the Eden Memorial Monument. Down the road was Shap and an opportunity to have a look at the Shap Memorial Field, home of Shap FC, with its area of covered standing.

During the game I felt the corner count appeared higher than the norm and a quick count-up later on had Penrith winning 13 corners and Chester-le-Street 12 corners.

Shap FC