Saturday, 9 January 2016

Darlington reach lofty heights

posted by John Winn

Spring has come early to the Lower Ure Valley, not in the form of early flowering daffodils or the premature call of the first cuckoo but in an outbreak of decluttering at the Winn household and so on yet another wet day I found myself rooting through bags and boxes in the loft looking for 'stuff ' more worthy of the recycling centre. Amongst gems uncovered were school reports, 'needs to take more care with his French homework', a certificate almost sixty years old stating that I could swim 100 feet of Darlington Baths, and even more improbably a document confirming some proficiency in IT.

Those who know my affection for Darlington FC will not be surprised to know that I found a box of memorabilia devoted to the club and not all souvenirs of doom and gloom for something that caught my attention and diverted me from the task of decluttering was a Northern Echo Sport supplement dated May 13th 1991 on page five of which was a report of DFC's victory over Rochdale two days earlier which had given The Quakers the championship of Div 4 and therefore promotion to Div 3. I was one of over 9000 who had packed the Feethams ground on that sunny Saturday. Happy days, for Darlington now ply their trade four divisions lower on a ground twelve miles out of town and which has not been fit to host a league game since late October.

The climax to the football season received fulsome coverage, Darlington's triumph was relegated to page 5, but the editor still found space for four pages of cricket coverage, including scorecards from North Eastern and Yorkshire leagues as well as the National Club Knockout Second Round tie between York and Sheffield Collegiate which the latter had won by one wicket. Amongst the winners' XI was a sixteen year old  Michael Vaughan, who had been run out for 13 in the scramble for the winning runs. Opening the batting for Collegiate was Richard Kettleborough, now one of cricket's foremost umpires and who had compensated for scoring only four by taking 3 for 16 off 9 his 9 overs.

In county cricket Yorkshire had suffered a narrow defeat to Warwickshire at Headingley in the Refuge Assurance League the previous day when Peter Hartley had been unable to hit three off the last ball. Top scorer for Yorkshire was Richard Blakey and leading wicket taker was Keighley born Stuart Fletcher. These were the days when Sunday games often interrupted championship cricket and Yorkshire 'clinging to the edge of the precipice' would return to Headingley on the Monday to resume on 178 for 7, still 82 short of victory over the Bears. Waiting for them was Alan Donald who finished with match figures of 10 for 96 as Yorkshire fell 30 short, some late resistance having been offered by Hartley and Fletcher. A curiosity of this match was that fifteen of the forty wickets to fall were for lbw, decisions given by Messrs Balderstone and White (R).

Durham of course were still eleven months away from their first class debut but the league cricket reports make interesting reading. Clayton Lambert had hit 144 for Blackhall but finished on the losing side to Darlington played on Sunday to avoid a clash with the football, Simon Brown who was to carry Durham's attack for many years and play one test for England was playing in the Durham Senior League and Halifax had a team in the Yorkshire League. Ian Dews was captaining York and hit 82 against Castleford until he was dismissed by Chris Silverwood. Time to put these memories back in the loft, no danger of them being recycled.

GThis is where Darlington scored the second goal against Rochdale in front of the 'tin shed' which for over fifty years doubled as a sight screen for DCC. Photograph taken during demolition to make way for housing.