READY FOR KICK OFF: Action from the recent friendly fixture between Middleton Wanderers and Staindrop Wheatsheaf
READY FOR KICK OFF: Action from the recent friendly fixture between Middleton Wanderers and Staindrop Wheatsheaf

THE new Northern League football season will kick off on Saturday, September 5 – with spectators allowed to watch the games.
West Auckland Town AFC kick off their league programme with a raft of away fixtures, beginning with a local derby against near neighbours Shildon, while construction of the new clubhouse is carried out.
However, the side’s first competitive action will be in the FA Cup extra preliminary round with a trip to Northern League second division outfit Heaton Stannington, in Newcastle, on Wednesday, September 2.
Following on from the revised guidance from the Government and FA, up to 300 spectators will be allowed into league and cup games as part of a phased return.
The FA has stipulated that games can only be held if the club has produced a Covid-19 risk assessment and clearly placed the assessment on the club’s website.
Clubs also need to put in place measures to support the NHS Test and Trace system.
Northern League chairman chairman Glenn Youngman said: “It’s great news that we can start the new season with spectators present, albeit with limited numbers.
“Everyone has a part to play in keeping fans, players, match officials and club volunteers safe and well to ensure that we can continue to play matches that are open to the public.
“The FA has made it clear that they will keep the situation under constant review.”
Meanwhile, the grassroots leagues in which the dale’s teams play will start a week later, on Saturday, September 12.
Bowes FC, Glaxo Rangers and Evenwood Town will all play in the first division of the Crook and District League this time, which this season will have seven teams, while the second tier is made up of eight.
Glaxo and Evenwood begin their campaigns with fixtures in the preliminary round of the Durham Minor Cup.
Evenwood will welcome Gateshead Redheugh 1957 to the Randolph Social Welfare Ground, while Glaxo face a trip to Catchgate Community FC, who are based at Annfield Plain.
Bowes, meanwhile, start their league fixtures on September 12 with a tricky looking away trip to Middlestone Moor Mason’s Arms, one of the league's stronger teams.
Catchgate have joined the Crook and District set up this season, while Darlington GSOB have dropped out.
On a Sunday morning, the dale’s teams will be competing in two different leagues.
Middleton Wanderers will begin their second season in the Darlington Sunday Morning League and will be joined this year by Staindrop Wheatsheaf, when fixtures start on September 13.
Staindrop started off last season in the Wear Valley Sunday Morning League, but dropped out before Christmas.
That leaves Gainford Cross Keys and Toft Hill as the dale’s representatives in the Wear Valley set up.