Match Preview: Alnwick Town v RFC - Rothbury Football Club
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MATCH PREVIEW: Alnwick Town v Rothbury – George Dobbins League Cup

Rothbury’s reward for a battling 2-1 win over Gateshead Rutherford in the George Dobbins League Cup is a dream ticket to visit neighbours Alnwick Town in round three.

The two sides were early pioneers for Association Football in Northumberland but have not met in a competitive fixture since the mid-1880s.

Vintage advert from 1882 for one of the last competitive meetings between the two clubs

A sense of anticipation is building at Armstrong Park ahead of the historic tie and secretary Dan Herron said the Reds will be going there not just for the occasion, but hoping to pull off a shock.

“It’s great to actually be in a competitive tie with Alnwick – for most of recent history there’s been a very big gap between the clubs, with Alnwick either in Alliance Premier or Northern League Two and Rothbury competing in the North Northumberland.”

“So, personally for me, I’m immensely proud that our leadership of the club from NNL up through the ranks to Alliance Division One has closed the gap to allow the fixture to take place. I don’t think it’s happened in my lifetime and possibly not for 138 years!” said Herron.

“Having such a big gap always meant some of Rothbury’s better players would aspire towards Alnwick for that higher level of football, which we always promoted for the good of player development. But ideally we wanted to bring the best standard possible here so we become an attraction to younger players in the region too, and I think we’ve done that quite successfully,” he continued.

“Obviously we’ve got Tom Macpherson, Tony Brown and James Jackson in the current squad who have all had a strong affiliation with Alnwick over the years so I’m sure they’ll be relishing the chance to go back to St James’s Park.”

“Alnwick are in good form and are obviously a team of a higher calibre than us based on league position. But we’ll be going to play our own game and be competitive, we’ve got form for raising our standards against better teams so you just never know what could happen.”

Alnwick Association – a forerunner of Town – were formed in 1879 by a Scottish cabinetmaker called Crammond. Rothbury took up the Association code in 1881. Only Tyne, Rangers and Corbridge predate the formation of the Alnwick side in Northumberland.

The Coquetdalers had long played games of football against neighbouring Redesdale under the old ‘Border Rules’ at Harehaugh and Alwinton and they were beaten 1-0 by Redewater at Rochester in 1876.

Both Alnwick and Rothbury also played ‘mob football’ Shrovetide matches and while the game continues in the Pastures to this day, Rothbury’s games were ended in 1867.

The sons of the Rothbury Rector George Ainger, from St. Bees in Cumbria, were instrumental in bringing Association football to the valley. Francis and Walter were both players of note for the Hillmen, and Walter went on to turn out for Old Carthusians and as an England Amateur International.

Alnwick won 4-0 at Rothbury’s Brewery Field and 4-0 again in the return fixture at the Waggon Ways in 1882 in the earliest meetings between the sides. But with Alnwick going on to compete at a higher level than the side from over Corby Crags when Leagues began to be formed, they have not met since.

The fierce rivalries that Rothbury established with Alnwick teams over the subsequent years were with the likes of Duke’s School Old Boys, Aydon Forest and Percy Rovers.

Rothbury player manager Tom Macpherson played at Town for several seasons and is eagerly awaiting his return to St. James’s Park with his hometown club.

Alnwick Town’s St James’ Park

“It’s a great draw for us as a club and a sign of how far we’ve come in the last five or six seasons – it will be a great test for our young lads,” said Tom.

“For some of the more experienced lads, we are looking forward to it too and good to be back at St. James’s Park and seeing all the great people behind the scenes – the 472, Tommy Abramovich, Rob McKay and Ian shouting at us to get out the goal mouths. Not many of the players are still there from when I played but it’ll be good to catch up with Jakey, Horny, Nippa, Love Island Brad and Dundafty again if they are selected.”

“That all being said, I’ll enjoy it but I still want to go there and win.”

Words: Jon Tait