After 115 years of being indisputably man in the middle, the Albany Northern League has its first female referee.

Stacey Woodrow, still just 19, is a marine biology student at Newcastle University. Since there are some pretty queer fish in the ANL, she will feel entirely at home.

Stacey, a Blyth lass with an accent to match, refereed the division two promotion clash between West Allotment Celtic and Northallerton on Saturday and in only her second game showed her first red card - West Allotment's Shaun Dobbs for a second bookable offence.

She's adamant that she's taken to it like a duck to the proverbial. "You're always going to get stick as a referee, but it's not as if it's unexpected, is it?

"I know I'm seen as a bit of a novelty but I feel confident enough that I can deal with it. I don't like people trying to walk all over me.

"The worst thing is when people relate having a bad performance to being a girl. I'm not crap because I'm a girl; if I'm crap I'm crap, full stop."

A referee since she was 14, she insists that in most ways she is still one of the lads.

Hidden depths? "I believe in staying calm and controlled because I don't want to get a good hiding, but I'm very happy as a referee. The linesmen get more abuse than the referee does."

On Saturday her assistants were veteran Durham pair John Lee and Bob Skelton, each three times older than she is.

"For such a big game in only her second appointment she did very well indeed," said John.

The marine biologist could yet prove quite a catch.

BBC Radio Newcastle sports reporter Paul Dixon may have more than the usual interest in this weekend's FA Vase tie between Jarrow Roofing and Cammell Laird.

Cammell Laird are to the Vase what, say, Middlesbrough are to the FA Cup: not really expected to win it, but no great surprise if they did.

Before the draw was made, Dixon checked the Cheshire club's odds with an on-line bookmaker. "I thought maybe 25-1, scrolled down to 50-1 and finally found them at 150-1," he says.

Thus encouraged, he and a BBC colleague have each placed £7 each way - the most the Internet would allow - and talk of retirement if Cammell Laird's boat comes in.

Good North-East lad that he is, Paul still hopes Roofing put one over them, of course - and panicked by the influx of money from Broadcasting House in Newcastle, have now slashed Cammell Laird's odds to a mere 80-1.

Uniquely comprehensive, Doghouse Cricket Club's annual statistics have arrived to offer a reflection on the rainy season - nine matches postponed, another two abandoned.

Familiar old faces like David Lewis, Ray Gowan, Ken Thwaites and Dave Morrison all got a game - David Lewis managed 19 - while Yarm newsagent Tom Stafford, 57, claimed 11 stumpings in just eight games.

"I've always liked to be an attacking wicketkeeper," says Tom, knees still in decent working order - "nothing a couple of Nurofen won't put right".

Despite a London upbringing, an accent as broad as the Thames estuary and an unashamed affiliation to the Arsenal, he also plays for Yorkshire Over 50s. "A couple of people have queried my credentials. I tell them I'm the overseas professional," he says.

Former Durham County player Marc Symington has become a kennel club regular, joined for two of the season's final three games by Mark Davies, who last season took 50 first-class wickets at 18.76, including 6-44 against Derbyshire before being injured.

For the Doghouse he played against Ravenscar and Sheriff Hutton Bridge. Tom Stafford eyes the situation from a crouching position. "He'll be lucky to get his game next season."

Still at the Durham Riverside, we hear that Peterlee JP Mervyn Hardy - querulous king of critics' corner - has undergone major surgery.

"The operation mirrored precisely what it was like watching Durham last season, bloody painful," says Mervyn, who lives in Shotton Colliery.

He is heartened, nonetheless, by good will messages from cricket followers, including Durham board members - "how many self-centred football directors would take such trouble?" - and by the news that he will be fighting fit for next summer.

"Even though I'm still tired and weak, I have retained my greatest and perhaps only quality, the ability to grumble at will.

"The Durham players and some of the less popular umpires - T Jesty, for one - will doubtless be cheered by that revelation."

This Saturday seems to mark cricket club presentation night, the column invited to many but able - alas - only to make one.

First come, we'll be at Staffordshire Place CC in Thornaby from where the indefatigable Brent "Bomber" Smith asks us to issue a reminder of the annual extravaganza. "They all read your column," he insists.

Fruits of his learning, the son still at university - politics, Nottingham - has been exchanging abundant e-mails with his old form tutor in an attempt to field a Palindromes' XI.

You know, lads like Tom Kaak - formerly of Darlington - whose names are spelt the same forwards as backwards.

Much studying later they have eight, profess a mistaken belief that Leon Noel - a double palindrome - once played for Liverpool and are disappointed that Boro's Ugo Ehiogu narrowly fails to qualify.

In addition to Kaak, the Reversibles include Massimo Oddo (Lazio), Marcello Salas (Chile), Hasan Sas (Turkey), David Hannah (ex-Celtic), Mark Noon (Coventry), Ricky Otto (ex-Birmingham, other Ottos not permitted) and Shiniji Ono of Feyenoord and Japan.

Old palindromes' act, readers may be able to help complete the squad.

In recalling former Newcastle United forwards Albert Stubbins and Albert Bennett - for whom we continue to scout the county of Norfolk - Friday's column wondered if any modern players still possessed that bulldog forename.

Tom Purvis in Sunderland has a database of 3,120 pro's, not one of them Albertian, but which has overlooked one briefly on Tom's doorstep.

John Briggs in Darlington points out that Albert Jarrett - age 20, 6ft 1in, ten and a half stones wet through - has made several appearances for Brighton this season, including in the 2-0 defeat at Sunderland just a fortnight ago.

The eight Football League clubs for which Peter Shilton played (Backtrack, November 12) were Leicester City (286 appearances), Stoke (110), Nottingham Forest (202), Southampton (188), Derby County (175), Plymouth (34), Bolton Wanderers (1) and Leyton Orient (9).

Newcastle United programme editor Paul Tully, who wrote his answer in verse, also recalls Shilton's only goal - for Leicester against Southampton in October 1967, a long kick with the wind against Saints 'keeper Campbell Forsyth.

Since the column began with women referees, readers are today invited to name the first woman to run the Football League line.

More lines in the sand on Friday