Football fans love a moan. Referees might be the go-to target for terrace tirades, but depending on the circumstances pretty much anyone or anything can be fair game. So it was no great surprise to hear a couple complaining throughout the second half of Consett’s game with Chester-le-Street. Wayward goalkicks, the team ‘pratting about with it down there’ and – slightly unusually – the estimated cost of balls disappearing over the fence around Belle Vue, all played on the nerves of some spectators anxiously hoping for a Consett win.
The odd thing about this pair’s ‘Waldorf & Statler’ audition, though, was that their team was leading 7-0 when it first came into earshot and extended that to 9-0 before the final whistle.
Most of the other 426 in the ground were understandably less keen to twist on 21. Celebrating manager Mark Eccles’ birthday in style, the home faithful broke out a rendition of ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ before celebrating the skipper’s hat-trick with a chorus of ‘Craggsy, Craggsy, sign me boots!’ The gaffer was serenaded with the strains of ‘Happy birthday to you’ as he left the field.
A good time was had by most but the Cestrians suffered. The visitors are well aware that competing with the smallest budget in the Northern League First Division makes life tough at the best of times and it was clear after the opening exchanges that Saturday was not going to be among the happiest of days. Twice the defence failed to clear its lines and Luke Sullivan and Nathan Gray made it 2-0 inside four minutes. Chester’s goalie, Jack Wilson, switched his in-game monologue; sprawled in the six-yard box, his advice and warnings for his back four briefly gave way to an existentialist meditation touching on the philosophical challenges of doing simple things well (or even at all). Although his team suffered a miserable afternoon, Wilson did pull off some good saves to stop the final score piling up even further.
But on a fine autumnal afternoon, Consett were left to revel in a convincing win. A snorter of a 25-yard free-kick from Craggs, two more precise finishes from Gray, a penalty from Sullivan and Jordan Nellis getting his third in three games completed the scoring in front of another good crowd. The Steelmen have regularly pulled in 400+ crowds this season, highlighting the success the club has made of its move to the new Belle Vue stadium. It might lack the imposing grandstand of its predecessor, but the compensations of a large, comfortable clubhouse and a genuine place at the heart of the Consett community more than make up for that. And handing out nine-goal hidings won’t discourage future visitors either … unless, perhaps, they are looking for a cause to complain.
Belle Vue, Consett, England
Northern League Division One, Oct. 15, 2016
Consett 9 (Craggs 3, Gray 3, Sullivan 2, Nellis) Chester-le-Street 0