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Tow Law Town lays on a warm welcome at 3,000th Northern League fixture
STUART LAUNDY joined the celebrations as Tow Law Town FC lined up against South Shields for the club's 3,000th fixture in the Northern League - which is itself celebrating its 125th anniversary.
TOW Law Town's big day began with a blizzard, not that unusual at the second highest football ground in the country - even for the end of March.
By the time kick-off arrived at 3pm, however, the sun was out and the wind had abated somewhat.
Saturday's scene, said Bob Rogers, surveying the horizon, reminded him of small town outback Australia where, as a young man, he had worked as a farm hand.
Bob was among the guests at Tow Law's 3,000th Northern League fixture, at home against South Shields and a match which also coincided with the league's 125th anniversary.
His granddad, Charles Samuel Craven, was the league's founder, a fact which had come as something of a surprise.
The two never met. Bob was born nine years after his grandfather's death in 1940 and notes kept by his mother made no mention of Mr Craven's place in North-East sporting history.
“My mother's notes place him up here, but did not mention his sporting endeavours,” he said.
He only found out about the link when when tracked down by Northern League chairman Mike Amos, which in itself was no mean feat.
Born in Stockport, Bob has made Hong Kong his home for the past 40 years, business not sport his forte.
Tow Law Town FC laid on a warm welcome for Bob and a good number of others keen to celebrate the club's landmark.
Admission was free, a commemorative programme had been produced and the Durham Amateur Football Trust had put on a display in the clubhouse – though care was taken to ensure this did not interfere with a pre-match domino school.
Before kick-off, club president Lady Elsie Robson accepted gifts from both the league and opposition.
“It's a good day for the club,” said chairwoman Sandra Gordon, fretting that an outbreak of flu doing the rounds in the town may have deterred people from coming along.
Secretary Steve Moralee had calculated at the start of the season that the 36th fixture would be the 3,000th.
Having worked out it was a home game on a Saturday, he had conspired with league fixture secretary Tony Golightly to ensure any rearranged games did not upset the arrangements.
A pretty average first half between two second division mid-table teams had not dampened the enthusiasm of Michael Bevils.
Now 68, he has supported the club since he was a small boy. A member of the committee, he had been battling the early morning elements to get the lines marked out.
“We are struggling at the moment, but I would much rather watch this than the Premiership, with its cheating and diving,” he said.
“You can't raise any money in the second division. Tow Law does not get great crowds.
“Who is going to stand out here when you can watch Sunderland and Newcastle in a pub on a Saturday afternoon? That's what we are up against.
“But we own our ground and we have got a good little club house. It would be nice to get a little bit of support and get back into the first division.”
While the ground was not bulging at the seams, a few more had come through the gate.
Paula and Erin Harrison along with Sian Potter were huddled up against the chill behind the far goal.
As mother, sister and girlfriend of Tow Law number seven, 22-year-old Lewis Harrison, they are to be found cheering him on at most games.
When Tow Law took the lead through Dean Thexton, it looked as though Paula, Erin, Sian and the rest may be celebrating three points before South Shields' Luke Richardson went and spoilt the day with an equaliser.
The result didn't matter to Bob Rogers. He said he had really enjoyed his trip to Tow Law, seeing how his grandfather's legacy lives on.
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