Tow Law Town

Northern League Div 2
Tow Law Town 1 
Darlington Railway Athletic 2
Atten 50ish
Gate £5

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After a long wait i finally made the pilgrimage to Ironworks Road. As you drive up high into the Weardale hills going to Tow Law feels like going to Mecca.
I arrived earlier than usual and spent time visiting the war memorial in the village centre. It's awesome, a soldier with rifle and bayonet and a huge list of local men who gave their lives for the freedom we enjoy today. Pre-match meal was enjoyed at "The Pantry" in the high street. A delicious freshly cooked breakfast , the best i have had for  a long time, all washed down with tea from the most inaccessible regions of the himalayas where the leaves of tea are rolled on the inner thigh of a geordie lass before your very eyes.

The ground is situated on Ironworks Road - a steep hill to be more precise. The Clubhouse and Social Club are situated just outside the ground and hanging on the wall proudly are photos from the good old days. Including their visit to Wembley in 1988 when the whole village had descended from the Durham Coal fields to the smoke and bright lights of London. I got chatting to an elder who was enjoying his lunch time tipple who had lived all his life in the village and how he remembers those days with much fondness and how his famly go back generations following their 'heroes' in black & white.

The Lawyers first ground was in Church Lane but the present Ironworks Road ground was built by volunteers during the miners strike of 1892/93.
Another memory was the tremendous F.A. Cup run of 1967/68. Having reached the first round Tow Law beat Mansfield 5-1 and in the second round drew 1-1 with Shrewsbury at Ironworks Road. The Lawyers went into the hat for the Third Round and drew a home tie with Arsenal. Sadly it was not to be after they went down 6-2 at Shrewsbury in the replay. Frank McGee reported after the replay "Arsenal were saved from a fate worse than death - a trip to Tow Law in January".

The game itself was not the best as both teams struggled with the very strong winds. The wind turbine was at full speed and noise !. Tow Law scored with their first real shot on target possible against the run of play. Visitors RA equalised before half time as the game entered its later stages the only winner looked like being the wind. But the RA goalie made at least thress excellent saves and mnutes before the end RA broke clear to score the winner and complete the smash and grab.

The obvious focal point of the ground is the impressively painted main stand , possibly the most colourful in the league. The views over Weardale are spectacular and a typical warm geordie welcome awaits.

I decended down the hills from 'Mecca' and entered civilisation again. Going to Tow Law is like visiting another world. I wonder what it's like here in January ?

Blaenau Ffestiniog

Welsh Alliance League - Division 2
Blaenau Ffestiniog 4 
Penmaenmawr Phoenix 2
Atten 320
Gate £3

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Blaenau Ffestiniog is a historic slate mining town in Gwynedd though its population has declined from a peak of 12,000 to under 5,000 these days. Tourism now forms an important part of the economy with local attractions such as the Ffestiniog Railway and the Llechwedd Slate Caverns. 
Football in these parts dates back to the 1880s with various local sides featuring in the archives. Just after the First World War Blaenau Ffestiniog FC became one of the most powerful clubs in North Wales and other sides known as Town, Blue Stars, Juniors and Athletic have represented the town.

Cae Clyd is not the easiest to find if following the Sat Nav and is found up a narrow road going south out of the town. There used to be a stand which straddled the half way line on the far side from the entrance.I heard they 'borrowed for a while, before the Railway Authorities wanted it back. But to be honest it makes no difference to the beauty of the place, except perhaps those without a brolly when the heavens open.

Best View for a Goalie ever ?

But once you do find Cae Clyd, life is good again. For when you enter it is like steppng into a magical kingdom reminiscent to something out of a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale. For the sweeping views at every angle just leave you spellbound. For it is that beautiful. Except when the rain and fog appear it all disappears like a magic trick , only to reappear once it all lifts.

The game itself was most enjoyable and played in half sunshine and half rain showers. In fact it was raining goals as the bumper crowd enjoyed a six goal feast. Vistors Penmaenmawr Pheonix also played their part and even had the audacity to take a half time lead. But the Reds came back strongly in the second half and scored the winning goals in the last seven minutes to record their first victory of the new season.

As you walked passed the changing rooms despite the rain bouncing of the windows you could hear happy celebrations from the home players . It was reminiscent of the famous incantations of a Welsh Male Voice Choir as if they just won the World Cup and 6 Nations ! It was fantastic.

The happiest team in the world ?
 It was sadly time to say farewell to Cae Clyd and once again take time to absorb the stunning surrounding views for another time before my onward journey.

Can it get any better than this ? In a word ... No !

AFC Emley

FA Cup Extra Prelim Round 
AFC Emley 2 
Ashton Athletic 1
Gate £6
Atten 186


An excellent afternoon spent high up on Emley Moor in the shadows of the transmitting station. FA Cup fever had again started with the locals.
The original Emley AFC's history stretches back as far as 1903. They were somewhat successful in Yorkshire non-league football over the years, winning several championships but were perhaps most famous for their FA Cup run in the later part of the 1990s which saw them playing against West Ham United. That famous day back in Jan '98 the whole of the village had made its way to East London and the unthinkable nearly happened. Watch it HERE

Todays match was played in sunshine , light rain showers, and strong winds of which both teams found hard to adapt to in the first half. Shooting down the slope and with the wind behind them in the second half Emley scored two quick goals. But fair play to Ashton Athletic they fought back and made the last ten minutes tense, especially for those in claret and blue. 

An excellent tea hut was in operation today serving a bumper crowd with delicous home made meat and potato pie , mushy peas and gravy. The famous Emley Mixed Grill Raffle was also in operation but sadly a smaller platter than when i visited four years ago. An excellent colour programme with few adverts and with lots of information sold out early. Probably one of the best programmes i have seen at a non league club for a very long time. The modern bar displaying memorabillia from their famous day out in East London in '98 hangs proudly for all to see, was a hive of activity. A plethora of hoppers were also in attendence which always boosts the attendence.

Cup matches played on a Sunday at Emley have a special atmosphere - simply superb ! 

Ground Enjoyment 10/10