Coxhoe Athletic are back. After two years playing as Spennymoor Town Reserves, the Wearside League outfit is under its own name and running with its own committee once again. The Moors’ connection is now a more informal one, after the Evo-Stik League club stepped in to preserve senior soccer in the village back in 2014 when Athletic was in danger of folding.
So with black-and-white stripes replaced by the traditional all-red colours, Coxhoe is hoping for a new era. The village itself, just south of Durham, is also changing fast. The Beechfield ground was once dominated by the old Steetley limestone quarry – the Steetley company had its own football and cricket teams; the footballers came under Athletic’s banner in the 1970s after the quarry closed. Now it’s surprisingly rural, with tree-lined slopes rising behind the goal at the top end.
But there’s a large modern housing estate on one of those fields and more is promised, with an eye on attracting commuters lured by the nearby A1 and swift access to Tyneside. Along the main street, which still has a small but thriving selection of local businesses valiantly resisting the onslaught of supermarket culture, placards draw attention to plans for a further 1,000 homes and ask whether Coxhoe’s future should be as a village or a town. It’s a far cry from the days when people built a street called ‘Basic Cottages’ here, although the name isn’t so much a reference to no-frills accommodation as a testimony to the ‘bassik’ stone hewed nearby.
Basic or deluxe, the football club is now seeking to build a future of its own – a fate shared with Saturday’s opponents, Durham City. The Citizens were relegated to Northern League Division 2 after a dispute over the ownership of the New Ferens Park ground in Belmont forced them into a groundshare at Consett and contributed to the departure of several players. It’s not the first time ground problems have hampered Durham’s progress and, once again, the club is looking to regroup. Chairman Olivier Bernard, once a full-back at Newcastle United, has vowed to bring the team back to the city but, with affordable land at a premium, it’s difficult to imagine a way forward that wouldn’t involve some kind of tie-up with the university. Ironically, the local women’s football team did just that and now plays its home games at New Ferens Park.
With both sides looking for confidence ahead of a new era, Coxhoe had enjoyed some decent pre-season outings – including a 3-2 win over Northern League Brandon Utd. Durham started with an alarming 0-5 reverse at Shildon, where reports suggested only a youthful goalie stood between them and an even greater hiding. Further defeats at Ashington and Whitley Bay left the team looking for its first goal of pre-season; a poll on the club’s Twitter account pessimistically predicted a finish in the lower half of the table. Coxhoe, perhaps, scented a scalp.
It wasn’t to be. Durham took a third-minute lead through Kyle Patton and never really looked back. Coxhoe were lively in the first half but gave up two quick goals after the interval –from David Luke and Mark Bertram – ended the game as a contest. Luke headed home his second, emphatically, from a corner before Coxhoe grabbed a late – and deserved – consolation from Chris Foster, possibly the best goal of the afternoon. For Coxhoe, there was further evidence that this team can consolidate its Wearside League status after stepping away from Spennymoor; for Durham, at last, there are signs that a team is emerging to compete in Northern League 2.
Beechfield Park, Coxhoe, England
July 23, 2016, Pre-season friendly
Coxhoe Athletic 1 (Foster) Durham City 4 (Luke 2, Patton, Bertram)
Att: 50 (head count)