The 2024 curtain-raiser takes the Steelmen to the Eden Valley, where bogey-side Penrith lie in wait.
As the new year dawns upon Redcar Athletic, the club are presented with another chance to rewrite their fortunes, and mount a charge up the table.
Gary Forster’s men are tasked with toppling a struggling Penrith, a Cumbrian outfit who seem to revel in underdog success against the Steelmen.
With a point against a well-organised Boro Rangers to cap off 2023, Redcar are in search of a first win in five to kick-start the new year in the best possible fashion.
There is just one slight hitch: the Steelmen have failed to beat Penrith in the past three encounters, consistently proving second best to the plucky Cumbrians.
Here’s everything you need to know about this afternoon’s Ebac Northern League match at Penrith’s Frenchfield Stadium…
WHO ARE YA?
Tucked away in the scenic Cumbrian countryside, Penrith are a club with a long-standing history in the Northern League.
Formed in 1894, the Blues plied their trade in local and district leagues, before joining the Northern League ahead of the 1948/49 season, where they remained for almost 40 years.
The inception of the new North West Counties Football League drew the Cumbrians away from the division, with the promise of more local games an enticing prospect for a club marred with masses of travel.
Penrith’s greatest success has come outside of the league structure, with the club proud to boast 16 titles in the Cumberland County Cup, the most recent in 2010.
The Bonny Blues returned to the Northern League in 1997, facing fluctuating fortunes across both divisions since.
Unfortunately, the club’s location is tantamount to their shortcomings, as chariman Billy Williams expressed to programme editor, Ash Stone, before the fixture at Green Lane.
“Geographically we struggle to sign experienced players,” Billy affirmed, “and therefore we are often left with a young squad.”
Form is proving a difficult commodity for Redcar Athletic this season.
One of the best attacking outfits across the north east of England, the Steelmen possess the quality to dismantle defences and run riot on the scoresheet, yet seem to struggle to maintain any momentum.
Redcar struck EIGHT past Tow Law Town at Ironworks Road, faltering at Green Lane just two weeks later with a four-goal thumping at the hands of Isuzu FA Vase favourites, Silsden.
Newcastle Benfield were subject to a similar battering at the back end of November, yet in the four games since, the Steelmen have picked up a lone two points.
WATCH | Redcar Athletic 8-0 Newcastle Benfield
Consistency seems a principle concern too for Redcar’s Cumbrian counterparts, Penrith.
The Bonny Blues closed out 2023 with a commendable 2-1 triumph over Whitley Bay, yet in the weeks before succumbed to three successive defeats.
To add to the profound confusion, a spectacular TWELVE goal thrashing of Tow Law lay not to distant in the rear view mirror, an afternoon sure to be written into the history books of the Eden Valley outfit for years to come.
LAST TIME OUT
Despite fighting at different ends of the table for the majority of the past two years, Penrith seem to have a hold over the travelling Teessiders.
The Cumbrians celebrated a second half leveller at Green Lane last season, before taking a massive leap towards division one survival in a 3-2 victory at Frenchfield Park.
Redcar Athletic saw Joe Thompson dismissed for a reckless challenge on the evening, succumbing to a second half turnaround despite Danny Boyle’s early brace.
The Blues’ trip to Green Lane in October was branded ‘the most disappointing result of the season’ by Gary Forster, who was absent on the afternoon through other commitments.
Redcar’s sudden resurgence from a poor start the the campaign hit a major stumbling block, as the Cumbrians stunned the home crowd with a three goal haul.
Former Steelman Matty Tymon nodded home to offer a glimmer of late hope, but an all-round off day left his side reeling come the final whistle.
The theme of the season – even as we enter the new year – a lack of consistency shrouds Gary Forster’s team selection, with suspensions and injuries to force his hand once more.
In Boxing Day’s tense stalemate with Boro Rangers, then captain Joe Ferguson was dismissed for a tentative second booking, whilst midfield maestro Danny Boyle himself left the field, having suffered a broken ankle.
The duo join Anthony Bell and Adam Wheatley respectively on the sidelines, marking a grave lack of options in the middle of the park.
The boss’s midfield headache is worsened still by the sudden departure of Oscar Fletcher, whose decision to join West Auckland proved hurtful, but understandable.
In response, Redcar Athletic looked to the market, with a duo of midfield talent passing through the doors at Green Lane.
The club yesterday unveiled the permanent acquisition of former Marske United and Northallerton Town man, Dale Hopson, an undeniably experienced attacker with the passing range to split open even the most concrete of defences.
Hopson will most likely feature alongside young Leo Robinson in some capacity this afternoon, a 17-year-old prodigy from Hartlepool United, spending the month under the watchful eye of his footballing father, Mark Robinson, on a work experience loan.
Making the trip to the Eden Valley this afternoon? Here’s all the boring – but very important – details you need to know…
FINDING THE FRENCHFIELD STADIUM
A ground recently decked out in a £870’000 refurbishment, Frenchfield Park is a little off the beaten track, yet visible from the main road?
The Bonny Blues’ home lies at the end of what feels to be a neverending, winding road, and can be found on a map using the postcode CA11 8UA.
MAIN STAND CLOSURE
Due to a health and safety issue, the main stand at Frenchfield Park will be shut and prohibited for supporter use.
Entry to the clubhouse will be made through the door at the back of the stand.
Admission into Frenchfield Park for this afternoon’s fixture will set adults back £7, with a lesser fee of £4 for those eligible for concession entry, such as pensioners, or students.
Any under the age of 12 will find their entry into the ground free of charge.
Penrith’s clubhouse bar will be open and ready to serve refreshing pints to the travelling Steelmen fans, as well as their own.
The bar will serve fans with both cash, and card.