Gainsborough, Gateshead, Lincoln and Darlington; oh the joys of Boxing Day fixtures! It’s always the second fixture you look for in the summer when they’re published. Who are we playing first and then where are we travelling to on Boxing Day. Perhaps it’s a preference or perhaps it’s the luck of the draw, either way each year I always promise to attend the Boxing Day family party much earlier next year when we might be playing at home!
By 10.00 am we were off on our way north and soon tucking into a half eaten box of festive chocolates courtesy of Fair Weather Graham. Bright and blustery with a maximum of 6 degrees forecast, you can’t beat that real bone chilling football experience in the middle of a bleak winter. Why would you ever sit in warmth and comfort and watch football on telly?
Our destination was Blackwell Meadows, home of Darlington Rugby Club and now the new home of Darlington FC. It was Darlington’s big day, their first game at the ground and the first time the club was playing in the town since reforming in 2012. Almost all their other games have been played 12 miles away, ground sharing with Bishop Auckland. The game was all ticket and the 3000 capacity had sold out very quickly.
The original rugby union ground has been transformed in preparation for the football club’s arrival. The ‘tin shed’ from the old Feethams Ground had been salvaged and re-erected behind the goal at one end of the ground, a small stand had been built on the halfway line opposite the main club house and new fencing and car parking facilities had also been constructed recently.
The first goal at the new ground was scored by Darlington, a late Christmas present from the Shaymen and to be fair even I would have scored with that much space six yards out and nobody about. To be fair to Darlo, by half time the Shaymen were level and from our end of the ground, in the distance it looked like their keeper contributed to the goal too. Christmas gifts all round.
As the second half started and darkness fell, the Christmas cheer was swept away by the persistent icy wind. We were lucky it wasn’t raining, huddled together at the open end of ground with all the action taking place in front of the noisy home fans at the other end. Two quick goals, both of high quality and it was game over. Darlo passed the ball well in the tricky conditions and made the most of their bumper following. With the final kick of the game the Darlington keeper again provided us with a final Christmas gift, falling backwards into his goal with the ball, it was too cold to cheer, we could only laugh.
Driving back and we had the car heating on full blast at 30 degrees all the way home, nobody complained. Tesco Pete read the scores out followed by the league table. It was one of those days. Oh the joys of Christmas.
Total miles on the road this season 2747, total Goals 32
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