Simply signing himself "A Darlo fan", a reader who may well be called Malcolm e-mails about one of the darker days in the club's oft-crepuscular history - when Clive Nattress, he says, scored two own goals.

Malcolm was among the Yorkshire club's supporters in the days before segregation. "Pass to their right back," shouted a large Huddersfield fan to one of his own players, "he's on a hat trick."

So what, asks our Darlo fan, is the most number of own goals scored by the same player in a match?

Undoubtedly the best remembered case of assisted suicide hereabouts is Michael Proctor's double disaster in Sunderland's 3-1 defeat by Charlton Athletic on Feb 1 2003. Sunderland leaked three own goals in eight first half minutes, Stephen Wright deflecting in the other.

"Sunderland set about inflicting defeat upon themselves in the most bizarre period of football imaginable," said the Echo's man at the match.

"I think I must have run over a black cat," said Proctor, now with Hartlepool.

He's in good company, nonetheless. Jamie Carragher scored two own goals in Liverpool's 3-2 defeat by Manchester City in 1999-2000 and Aston Villa's Chris Nichol scored all four goals in the 2-2 draw with Liverpool in 1976.

The record for most own goals in a game, however, is almost certainly held by a player from Madagascan club Stade Olympique d'Emryne, who played bitter rivals AS Adema in the final match of 2002.

The previous week, Olympique had been robbed of their championship chance by what coach Ratsimandresy Ratsaraka claimed was a biased referee. In protest, he ordered his players to attack their own goal.

As the opposition looked on in amazement, Olympique did the hard work for them. They lost 149-0.

The ever-amiable Clive Nattress - a cousin of former television news reader Angela Rippon, not many people know THAT - scored 15 goals at the right end in 347 Darlington appearances and also had a season at Halifax.

Problem is, he can't remember ever scoring two own goals in the same game - though he did hit a hat-trick against Huddersfield Town, two for the Quakers and one for Huddersfield.

It was April 8 1980, Darlington's Derek Craig also netting past his own keeper and the result dooming Quakers to a second successive re-election application.

He'd been a taxi driver in the close season, reckoned he could make as much in the summer as in the winter, went on Crook Town's still talked about tour of India in the summer of 1976 and later became team manager.

The Indian bands, he recalled in Steven Chaytor's wonderful book recalling the tour, got it into their heads that Crook's theme tune was Waterloo, by Abba.

"We had Waterloo coming out of our ears. We bloody hated it."

These days he works for a DIY company in Bishop Auckland and still watches Darlington. "I think we'll have a very good side this season," he says. "A lot of people might be surprised."

In passing, almost, we observed a month ago that both cricket teams at Lands - a hamlet on the edge of Cockfield Fell - were top of their respective divisions of the Darlington and District League.

In passing also, we ambled up there on Saturday afternoon, country kennels for many a mile raucously relaying the alarm. The lady of this house was reminded of the old song: "Hark, hark the dogs do bark, the beggars are coming to town."

Strictly it's two hamlets, High Lands and Low Lands, and precious little of either. There's a Methodist chapel, a village hall, an attractive little green and for well over a century the oft-wind blown cricket field perched somewhere between the two. They've never missed a season.

Neil Riddell had a few games for Lands and very many more for Durham County, David Thomas played football for England and cricket for Lands, Gordon Barker of Essex had a milk round at West Auckland and pitched up occasionally, too.

Now they've been told that Durham County Council, their landlord, wants to sell the ground. First refusal sits at £4,000.

"It's very reasonable, to be fair, but £4,000 doesn't grow on Cockfield Fell," said Carroll Simpson, the club chairman.

On Saturday the first team entertained East Cowton - Northallerton way - the visitors reduced to nine men when a fielder damaged his hand in trying to take a catch. Team mates gathered sympathetically. "Big girl," they said.

As now is the custom, East Cowton also had names on the back of their shirts - Fight Kid, Two Pint and Scotty, as in beam me up - and though two short, the Lands lads found them unerringly.

They finished a dozen or so short, the indomitable Andrew Whitfield claiming 6-106. Lands of hope and glory? We may never be invited again.

Just a couple of weeks to the new season, and Ferryhill Athletic anxiously seek a new manager following the withdrawal of local lad Stan Cummins.

The former Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Crystal Palace midfielder had had a spell in hospital with a blood disorder. "Stan was born here so we thought he was perfect for the job, but understand why he no longer feels able to take it up," says Norman Bellwood, who heroically helps keep Athletic running.

Three times Northern League champions, Ferryhill lost their ground in the mid-1990s and their place in the Northern League soon afterwards. The club now plays in the Wearside League, where last season they finished bottom, at Shildon athletics stadium.

"We've tried very hard, but a new ground in Ferryhill seems as far away as ever," says Norman.

"Basically I'm just trying to keep the name of the historic old club alive, but if the new man can win us the Wearside League, then that would be a bonus." Norman's on 01388 451065.

Lord's day observed, Thirsk play West Meon at cricket headquarters on August 25.

Thirsk, of course, is where Thomas Lord was born 250 years ago this year. The Hampshire village of West Meon is where he died, aged 76, in 1832.

The idea of the match came from West Meon and was enthusiastically agreed by MCC chief executive Roger Knight when in Thirsk to unveil a plaque on Lord's birthplace.

That Lord was just three when he left North Yorkshire for Norfolk and 67 by he pitched up in West Meon is, of course, neither here nor there.

The match will be on the Nursery Ground, but the old lads will talk of it for years.

And finally...

Not even umpteen pillars of Wisden could help readers crack our Ashes questions on Friday.

The player who was Geoff Boycott's opening partner in the first 1964 test against Australia was F J Titmus MBE - John Edrich having been injured in the warm-up - and the Australian whose hand injury in the same match marked the end of his Test career was Norman O'Neill.

The legendary bowler who made three Ashes tours but never once played against Australia in England was Bill Voce, whose 27 Tests were spread over 18 years.

John Briggs in Darlington today invites readers to name the last Northern League footballer to win a full England cap.

With half an eye on a trip to Taunton, the column returns on Friday.

Published: 26/07/2005