Though the column's bark is invariably worse than its bite, last Tuesday's piece about Doghouse Cricket Club has had one or two straining at the leash.

Chiefly, if unexpectedly, anxious to have their day are the peripatetic cricketers of Tooting Bec, in south London. Still further down country, the cricket-playing Archdeacon of Tonbridge is also keen to bat for the opposition.

The story so far....

Doghouse are a Teesside-based Sunday team chiefly comprising seasoned and successful NYSD League players who claim to be "supreme ambassadors" for cricket in the North-East.

Two weeks ago they travelled for their annual "friendly" at Kirklington, near Bedale, so greatly and so mercilessly smiting the home bowling that Kirklington captain Neil Craddock threatened to take his team off unless the onslaught ceased.

Sixes sailed in all directions, several balls were lost, the home innings delayed while Kirklington decided if they wanted to continue the game. Doghouse, 94-1 after 24 overs, had been almost 300 ten overs later. Kirklington managed 171 in reply.

"If we play them again, we're going to bat left-handed," Doghouse chairman David Lewis had told Backtrack.

The counter-attack is led by Tony Ford in Northallerton, who since 1978 has organised a North Yorkshire tour for Bec Old Boys, based in Wandsworth.

Regular opponents include Thirsk, Northallerton, Bedale, Scorton - on their extraordinary table top pitch - and the village cricketers of Kirklington.

"We have won some and lost some on that idyllic ground at Kirklington and both the welcome and the spirit in which the game has been played have been in the finest traditions," says Tony.

"You wouldn't believe how much a bunch of south Londoners have fallen in love with that part of the world. We have been treated like royalty and made true friends."

Kirklington's teas are "stupendous", he says, the rose beds in front of the pavilion quite wonderful and Neil Craddock and his 80-year-old father - who still looks after the ground - "true cricket gentlemen."

The Ven Clive Mansell, Kirklington's wicketkeeping Rector until becoming Archdeacon of Tonbridge this year, also believes that the Doghouse approach was - in more ways than one - over the top.

"Thirteen years playing cricket at Kirklington was nothing but great fun for me," says Archdeacon Mansell. "It represented all that's best about the village game and it's all rather sad that this match seems not to have maintained that tradition."

Tony Ford, Bec to basics, maintains the partnership. "I do not believe that the aim in founding the Doghouse was to have a club which took pleasure in going round the villages, beating up the natives and smirking about it afterwards."

Tail wagging the Doghouse? Truly, it is the biter bit.

An altogether more convivial cricket occasion at East Rainton CC's annual bash on Friday, save for the fact that guest speaker Frank Worthington failed to appear for the second year in succession.

It was also the second year in succession that a "misunderstanding" was blamed.

The village side east of Durham have had an unsurpassable season, unbeaten champions of the North East Durham League first division and winners of every cup open to first division sides.

Ian Kitching continues inexpensively to take wickets ("they don't turn any more, they just come out of the sun"), Ashley Proud had a batting average of 109 and 51-year-old wicketkeeper Derek Aylesbury - known for fairly obvious reasons as Ducksy - has won the award for most first division victims for the eighth year running.

Getting down is still no problem, he insisted. "I just need a crane to get me back up again."

Our old friend Barry Goodwin, the 45-year-old goalkeeper whose worst recorded expletive has been "Jeepers", may have come close to something a great deal worse on Saturday.

The mini-bus in which he was travelling to Murton's Albany Northern League match at Evenwood was in a road accident in Hetton-le-Hole. Though two club officials needed hospital treatment, Barry - and other players - insisted on continuing in other cars.

"I told him we'd quite understand if he wanted to go home again, but Barry's a brilliant guy and it takes more than that to knock him back," says Murton chairman Tom Torrence.

An hour into the match, however, Barry was involved in a second accidental collision - with an Evenwood forward. His arm is broken in three places and his elbow dislocated. Surgeons operated on the Sunderland-based veteran on Sunday.

"He was in a lot of pain but all he was bothered about was that Murton had won," says Mrs Goodwin. "I think it might be the end of his playing career."

And his reaction? "I wasn't there, but I doubt if it would have been anything worse than 'Jeepers'."

The column was with Shildon at Frickley Athletic, the former West Yorkshire colliery welfare club from which flying winger Derek Downing went to Middlesbrough in 1965.

Though the pit's long gone, the heap's still spoiling out the back.

It was the FA Cup second qualifying round, a goalless draw - we should have won it, though Frickley are two divisions higher - and a 7.45pm replay at home tomorrow night.

Lest the occasion escape attention, Shildon chairman Gordon Hampton and team manager Ray Gowan spent yesterday on the roads - erecting "FA Cup fever" signs all around the town.

"It's a very big match for us. On Wednesday night we want all roads to lead to Shildon," said Gordon, owner of Ferryhill-based Ashfield, the country's biggest road sign manufacturer.

The winners will again be seeking directions - Redditch or Shirebrook, away.

Already holder of the MBE, retiring NYSD Cricket League president Ken Gardner (Backtrack, Friday) received further recognition on Saturday at the 70th anniversary bash for Hartlepool-based Paragonians CC - a good night and a late 'un, reports Ron Hails.

Ken received the George Henderson Memorial Trophy for services to sport and the community. Other presentations included man of the season Peter Rhoden and 11-year-old Adam Burgon - this year or any of the other 70, the youngest player to appear with the incomparables.

The Hartlepool United fanzine Monkey Business, incidentally, reckons that team manager Neale Cooper is a ringer for 1970s television conjuror Ali Bongo - born William Wallace.

"Both have to have Scots blood, he's also bald now and they both regularly work magic."

And finally...

Friday's column sought the identity of the only player to have appeared in the Premier and all four "old" Football League divisions and assumed it to be Alan Cork.

Gavin Ledwith, however, puts forward a case for his old Sunderland schoolboy adversary Clive Mendonca, known as "Superclive" on Grimsby Town's travels through the divisions and a Premiership scorer with Charlton.

"I actually helped him impress scouts by setting up countless cup final goals for him while he was at Castle View School," says Gavin. "Unfortunately I was playing in defence for St Aidan's School at the time."

Since we've been talking cricketing clergymen, it will be recalled that the Rev David Sheppard played 22 Tests - but which county did he represent, and of which diocese did he become bishop?

Back on our knees on Friday.

Published: 30/09/2003