Arngrove Northern League Division Two
15th March 2008
This is my fifth attempt this season to tick off Brandon United’s Welfare Ground, each time I’d made plans to visit either vandalism or an act of God stopped me in my tracks, burned out dugouts, floodlight failure, a waterlogged pitch and even the roof of the stand almost blown down. This meant having to turn to my contingency plan and a revamp of my carefully planned out fixture list, but at last success, the game was on and I found the ground ok, even though I made the mistake that I’d been warned about, driving up the wrong dirt-track and ending up amongst the nearby allotments.
Brandon is a village, just south-west of Durham City, the clubs origins began by employees of waste paper company Rostrons, who formed a Sunday morning side in 1968, by 1974 they were re-branded as Brandon United, becoming one of the top Sunday morning clubs in the country, this was proven when winning the FA Sunday Cup in 1976, beating Brum side Evergreen 2-1 in the final.
In 1977 a switch to Saturday football, joining the Northern Alliance, winning 2 titles and 2 League Cups in 3 seasons, they resigned from the league in 1980 but an unsuccessful attempt to get into the Northern League meant a backward step into the Northern Amateur League, however the club finally fulfilled their ambition in 1983 via the Wearside League route, which also included a win in the Shipowners Cup during that brief spell.
They won the Northern League 2nd Division in only their second season, after nine years they were relegation, but again gained promotion at the turn of the century, they pushed on becoming Northern League Champions in 2002/03, the following season they finished 8th, but since then there’s been a steady decline, 18th then relegated the following year, 17th last season, with this campaign being their worst, tailed off at the bottom of the league, with only one solitary league victory all season.
I attended the reverse fixture last season when I visited Kimberley Park and the status of both clubs have swapped over, last season it was Prudhoe who were languishing at the bottom, in danger of having to resign from the league, however they’ve made a steady improvement this season, but Brandon seem jammed in reverse gear, stuck at the bottom of a very steep hill.
The Welfare Ground has a capacity of 3,000, with the best gate of 2,500 in that FA Sunday Cup semi-final success, as I’ve already mentioned, this ground has took a bit of a good hiding this season and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but all things considered the ground doesn’t look to bad. The ground’s clubhouse is outside in the car park, where you find the turnstiles, the ground is up a flight of stairs giving a ground a lofty position, so it can get a wee bit cold, which means a good supply of hot Bovril is needed to keep the bloodstream going.
The nearside has open standing which continues behind each goal, with a long single bench running full length between both corner flags, the main spectator area is on the far side. This is split into three different sections, a standing terrace, a row of four bench-type seats and sandwiched in between a separate seated section with a surrounding wall, which is more likely used for press and VIP purposes should the occasion arise. There is another small built up terrace next to the stand and to the other side there’s portakabins used as a canteen and club facilities, the players changing rooms are in a separate building in the far corner.
An encouraging start to the game from Brandon, they looked a better side than I expected, carving out several good openings in the first ten minutes, but unfortunately they lacked conviction or someone willing to take responsibility in front of goal, this was typified after 20 minutes, when Dixon beat the offside trap, he ran on with only the keeper to beat, but instead of shooting he decided to square the ball to the supporting striker and from four yards out, with the goal at his mercy, he somehow missed the target, shooting into the side netting, not a candidate; but easily the winner of ‘miss of the season’ I won’t mention the lads name, but no.7, you know who you are. As is usually the case, they were punished for their poor finishing when Potts gave Prudhoe the lead on 36 minutes, a free kick from the right was flicked on and the burly striker’s diving header found the roof of the net, giving Prudhoe the half time lead(I later found out this was an own goal, my eyes must have deceived me)
By the hour mark it was game over, a megatastic mistake from the United keeper, spilling the ball and letting it run under his legs to present Brown to score with ease and minutes later a goal from Potts, direct from a long clearance from the Town keeper, he ran on to the end of another flicked header before picking his spot with a good finish to make it 3-0. Prudhoe had several chances to add to their tally, while that encouraging start (and the hope I would see a rare Brandon win) from the hosts seemed a distant memory.
Due to the backlog of home fixtures, Brandon still have other opportunities to reward their home support with that winning feeling this season, the club issued a reasonably good match day programme for the bargain price of 75p, there was an informative piece titled ‘This week in history’ and on March 15th 44BC the anniversary of the assassination of Julius Caesar in a conspiracy led by Brutus and Cassius. I remember learning about that in school and seeing it reconstructed on TV programmes like I Claudius and Rome. Who could forget those immortal last words “ infamy infamy they’ve all got it in for me” before the first of those 23 stab wounds ended the dictators life, or am I getting confused with something else? I should maybe ‘carry on’ writing about football grounds, instead of trying to be clever by adding a bit of culture to my posts.
Anyway good luck to Brandon United for the rest of the season, a bit of self belief and they’ll be ok, I’ve never heard of any news regarding relegation from the Northern League, so they’ll be able to start again next season with a clean slate, surely they can’t have another season as bad as this one, so the only way is up, well.. they can’t get any lower can they?
Simple Pieman’s visit(March 2005)
Ground no.163 Welfare Ground - Matchday Web album(15 pictures)