IN a Shrovetide encounter of few chances, time was quickly running out when the parish of St Paul grabbed a last-gasp winner to break the stalemate.
The Shrove Tuesday football match has been played on the Pastures beneath Alnwick Castle since 1828 and between the two Alnwick parishes of St Michael and St Paul since 1847.
The annual game, on a pitch the length of a furlong and with 4ft 7in-wide hales, was halted at the start of the Second World War and not restarted until 1952 at the Duke’s request. It has since been played every year except 2001 because of the foot and mouth outbreak.
This year 22-year-old David Hubbard was the hero deep into the third half-hour of play, leaving his position in defence to break up the field and snatch the victory, retaining the title that St Paul won back from St Michael last year.
It was his first hale in a decade-long Shrovetide career, having started playing as a 12-year-old.
David, who works at the Alnwick Castle and Garden, said he was happy to have scored the crucial match-winner. “All of my friends were standing up that end,” he added.
The crowds were out in force as the afternoon started in crisp but sunny conditions with Lord James, the Duke of Northumberland’s brother, throwing the match ball from the Barbican of the castle. The procession marched down to the Pastures for battle to commence between the two parishes, on a pitch that was less muddy than some years though still offering a bobbling, bumpy surface complete with molehills for the players to contend with.
After the game, prizes were awarded to a number of players for good play and to David for the winning hale before the ball was kicked into the river.
It was Swarland’s Dan Flint who claimed the match ball for the second time in his Shrovetide career.
Laughing off the cold, the 21-year-old lifeguard at Willowburn Leisure Centre described his dip in the Aln as a “nice ice bath after the match” to sooth his muscles.
Awards for good play: David Hubbard, Ray Imeson, Geoff Imeson, Jordan Frost, Lee Hope, Mitchell Logan, Judd Donohoe, Danny Donohoe, Kieran Hogg, Reagan Turnbull, Stephen Stewart, Linsey Taylor, Jez Fenwick, Jess Morrison, Cyrus Pattinson, Dan Harrison, James Woolen, Lee Armstrong, Ryan Wealleans.