Schadenfreude seems to be the way forward

 

Torquay go 1-0 down at Hartlepool

Apologies for the lack of blog posts coming from both Forfar and East Fife for a few months but it’s been a truly sad soul-sapping season of football. I notice that I had a few paragraphs written about Torquay’s 3-0 (and we were luck to get nil) defeat at Hartlepool in draft but I guess it was hard to find the motivation to complete a nice blog post about a capitulation to an average side boasting a tubby Marlon Harewood who charged us £25 (hipster prices) to get in. The only plus points were the Chesterfield challenging Fish and Chips plus the some rather dubious man company for the 540 mile round trip.

A thoroughly enjoyable time at Royal Antwerp Football Club

Ultimately the 2013-2014 season is going to be one that I’ll consign to a very dark place to be forgotten about. Torquay United had one of those seasons where we were more or less relegated in February but still managed to maintain a rather tiresome survival interest until the penultimate game of the season. It sounds churlish of me but I found myself willing my own club to lose and just put me out of my extended misery. It’s the false hope factor that will be my eternal nemesis. All we had at Torquay was the club’s chief media knobber posting endless shameless snippets of spin on the official site and a few equally awful clubs above us tripping up over themselves to avoid the relegation trap door to the Conference Prem.

Nice brickwork at Stafford Rangers

I tried to immerse myself in other football related trips to Antwerp, Duisburg, Gillingham Town (Dorset), Taunton, Stafford Rangers, West Auckland, Marlow, Essen and then the Holy Grail. A work trip to German with all expenses paid and access to German Football. But the trip to Offenbach was marred by a fairly soulless concrete experience at the Stadion am “Justin” Biebererberg and the trip to Mainz was numbed by jobsworth stewards who confiscated my beloved Fuji camera and were being deliberately awkward to everyone until some old German fan bellowed at them whilst shaking his walking stick. They relented and stop telling people not to sit in section B after deciding that it wasn’t a great idea in closing off the entry to section C and getting people (including the elderly) to climb over barriers to get into section C. I felt fully justified both cheering Kaiserslautern II’s last minute winner and telling a group of home fans to “fuck off” when they didn’t appreciate me sharing the opposition team’s joy. The moral of the story here is that it’s not all utopia when watching football in Germany. Some of it isn’t that inspiring. I think I had more enjoyment photographing a lad’s game on typical Sportplatz in the shadow of both the Bundesbank and the Europaturm.

That lovely stand at Marlow

None of it really worked though. Even a couple of feisty end of season play off games at Altrincham and Bangor failed to make me feel better. Both home teams won. Both team’s supporters ran onto the pitch with unscripted and unbridled joy. I felt a tinge of jealousy at their joy and then a deep feeling of sadness that, in a little under 2 years, Torquay have transformed themselves from a promotion play off final challenging team to a club who have lived permanently in the bottom few places of League Two under the stewardship of a bumbling chairman. I could write pages upon pages about how strongly I feel about this season’s demise but in short we’ve managed to get ourselves in a right old pickle both on and off the pitch. Not quite as much as dear old Bristol Rovers mind you.

Gritty FA Vase action at West Auckland

I was also immensely proud of both Wealdstone deservedly winning the Ryman Premier League with games to spare and 1.FC Koln holding their nerve to clinch promotion to the Bundesliga 1. Wealdstone in particular have been splendid to watch this season with old pros Scott McGleish and Glen Little showing the way to Tom Pett, Jerome Okimo and Sean Cronin. There are some top people at that club behind the scenes who go about their business in a manner which certain league clubs (and Torquay) could learn from.

Trees at Taunton Town

So as soon as the season ended it felt good to look forward to life in the Conference again. On one hand it seems like a crying shame to be back there after how hard we worked to get back into the league but at the very least it’ll be great to go back to Blundell Park, Sincil Bank, Aggborough and Moss Rose, as well as first visits to Alfreton, Nuneaton, Braintree and Halifax. At least we’ll be a slightly bigger fish in a slightly smaller pond.

South West Trains at Gillingham Town (Dorset)

As I’ve got older and even more cynical I think that schadenfreude (or should that be Schadenlosfreude) has taken over from extra curricular domestic and foreign ground trips in making me feel better about my own team’s limitations. I was more interested in trying to work out who was coming down with the Torquay rather than caring so much about if they would avoid the drop into the Chip League. At one point there were several candidates from Northampton, Wycombe and Brizzle Rovers, even our near neighbours in Exeter were starting to look shaky. Northampton have never been popular with us as they’ve always come across cocky bastards with dellusions of grandeur. Personally speaking though I wanted them to stay up for Alan Knill’s sake as he was sacked by Torquay in January rather unfairly and promptly rocked up at Sixfields as Chris Wilder’s number two. In the end of course it was dear old Brizzle Rovers who came down with us and made absolute helmets of themselves in the process. This made me laugh and happy for at least a week.

Post industrial at Rot Weiss Essen

As a firm believer in Premiership clubs developing young English talent I should be giving my full backing to both Brendan Rogers and Liverpool but I can’t bring myself to. I spent most of the 1980s despising Liverpool and I can’t stand Roger’s cringeworthy soundbites about “unleashing the power of the kop”. It was looking very much like a Premiership title for them though but thankfully they shanked it up.I got sick of this #doingitforthe96 and that Stevie Gerrard somehow “deserved” a premiership winner’s gong.

Frankfurter fussball

So onto the World Cup. So far, and I write this after England’s 1-2 to Italy, it’s been a wonderful exhibition of top class football with a couple of shock results. Shamless joy unconfined in watching the Spanish get pumped by the Dutch. It’s not wholly Spain’s fault but I don’t like their brand of football or the way that the media (a lot in the UK) lauds them as the zenith of football style. All I’ve found it to be is a nemesis of pure attacking football and extension of Spain’s other national sport, bullfighting. All about teasing the opposition rather than really put them to the sword. So I really enjoyed the dutch really sticking it up them even if Arjan Robben’s celebrations grated a little bit.

Unbridled joy at Altrincham

Our pitch looks better on Sky.

Hitting the Saturday shops, Belfast style.

There’s nothing like a bit of travel to inject some much-needed happiness in life to combat the post-Christmas Holiday depression, that invariably kicks in after a full January of work when work means a little more ball-ache than usual. Ball-ache just because it’s the cold realisation that things have started in earnest again after the pre-Christmas wind down when nobody really gives much of a shit about doing things properly or making hay when then sun is shining.

So when the chance came up to travel to Belfast for work I jumped at the opportunity. I do have friends who seem to get slightly more exotic work trips than I do. One in particular has recently had a few trips to Tokyo and Washington DC. He works for one of those big revenue management companies who delight on milking the maximum possible amount of money out of people, so I guess he deserves what he gets whether it’s suffering from vertigo in a glass lift, searching for vegetarian options or actually getting the chance to see these places he visits. The poor (Quorn) sausage. Being canny I managed to engineer the Belfast  visit to happen on a Friday and I was then delighted that I could extend it to a Saturday and take in another Belfast derby. Last season I saw Glentoran V Linfield. This season would be a far more feisty affair between Cliftonville of North Belfast and Linfield. I could hardly wait.

The breakfast venue of choice. Quite liked the car as well.

I just about survived the flight over. After only two flights into Belfast City/George Best Airport I’ve become convinced that pilots find it a bit of a sod to land at. Without being a meteorologist I think it may have something to do with the Airport’s position on the Belfast Lough with the cross winds meeting the winds coming down from the hills behind Belfast. This time I flow Aer Lingus for the first time. On the final approach to the airport I experienced some of the worst landing conditions ever. The plane bounced up and down. Then tipped from left to right repeatedly. When the Cunnilingus (sorry I couldn’t resist) pilot deployed full flaps it started to combine all four movements until I was convinced that he would abort the landing. People started looking around at each other in mutual fear. Just when you thought he would slam on the throttles and climb away he managed to touch the plane down on the tarmac like a goose feather hitting a silk pillow. Talk about an anti-climax. Upon exiting the plane I thank the pilot with a heartfelt “Nice landing sunshine” and following it up with a hearty wink.

The fry.

The rest of the day was spent in the office where I managed to catch up on a load of stuff. After the extended office hours work was completed I then met up with some of the Belfast colleagues for the promise of “a few drinks”. The trouble is that the Guinness over there is a completely different animal. Over here I find it a chore to drink. It tastes burnt and it’s heavier than a sumo wrestler with heavy shopping. Over there it’s more like a pleasurable session pint. Much lighter and milder than the shite we get. I had a lovely night of laughter and booze. A slight flash point in the gents though. I was relieving myself when I heard a bloke shout “Ah for fuck’s sake” in the cubicle. He then walked out and snarled at me “The first time in my life that I need a shite in pub toilet and there’s no fucking paper”, he stormed out and almost took the door off it’s hinges. I was told by the Crusaders supporter in the office that Cliftonville-Linfield wasn’t a derby as such, more of a “Sectarian Interlude”! I think he’s right in hindsight. Linfield seem to be the Glasgow Rangers of Belfast, Glentoran are Celtic (but with a slightly different religious persuasion) whereas as tucked away in North Belfast are Cliftonville and Crusaders who are the Hibernian and Hearts. Divided through religion in the make up of the traditional support bases but I get the impression that the rivalry is a more one of close proximity and football than religion. Though of course I stand to be corrected. But I think everyone hates Linfield. “You’ll be fine for the game tomorrow” I was told by Mat, the Crusaders fan, as the snow began to fall outside “they’ve got a 3g pitch”. He then followed this up by telling me that Crusaders have a 4g pitch and that “it looks better on Sky”. You see. More than religion between those two clubs. It’s all about the extra G.

Niall Quinn throws in

So I staggered back to the nearby hotel with the pint count well into double figures. A gammon and cheese sandwich (with a crescent of crinkle crisps) from room service was wolfed down. I woke up feeling a bit rough but dragged myself down the road to the Harlem Cafe (http://www.harlembelfast.com/) for a Belfast fry. Good stuff it was too. Sausage, bacon, black pudding, mushrooms, fried egg, fried potato bread, fried soda bread and a pancake.

A couple of friendly lunatics ;)

I killed a few hours in Belfast before the game. Shoppers co-existing nicely with various protesters (flag, civil rights or housing benefit cut) with the Northern Irish Police out in full body armour and those fantastic armoured Landrovers that make the English Vauxhall Astra diesel regulation panda cars look a bit underwhelming. So various streets were cordoned off in order to stop the 3 different protests from meeting up and having a bit of a ruck.

Linfield attack the Cage

I made my way early to the Cliftonville Social Club in the pissing rain. “Take me to Solitude” I told the Taxi driver who then started moaning about the morning’s police tactics. “Fucking dopey bollox cunts” he muttered. 15 minutes later he dropped me right outside the red-painted corrugated iron façade of the main stand. “Could you drop me a bit closer please?” I playfully asked the taxi driver, who I thought for one minute wouldn’t get the joke. “Haha” he said. I then went inside the social club and had myself a wee pint whilst waiting for my twitter contact to turn up with the ticket he very kindly got for me. Turn up he did with a full Hertha Berlin hat, dampening down his strawberry blonde locks and I was introduced to some of his mates. Good proper football people. Two of them very kindly donated a couple of Cliftonville Badges as well.

Bottom of the main stand

I squeezed through the gate. Sparse on the arse. Very sparse. We stood in the new seated area below the main stand. The club bolted on some seats before Cliftonville played Celtic in the Champions League Qualifiers earlier in the season. Since then seats have began to attract families who now try to sit down in an area which houses some of more vocal Cliftonville supporters. When I mean vocal I mean sweary.

I’ve watched football for many years at all levels and with all sorts of crowds but I have to say that an afternoon of watching Cliftonville play Linfield resets my definition of dogs abuse. My local team Wealdstone tend to dish out plenty of abuse from time to especially when they think the ref is weak or a twat (or both), or whenever either Canvey Island or Concord Rangers come to town. Nothing I heard at Solitude was something that I hadn’t heard before, the thing that took me by surprise was the relentless nature of it. All in jest of course and designed just to wind up the opposition players to the max, but utterly relentless. Linfield star Ivan Sproule copped it for a sporting a slightly Adolf Hitler-esque haircut. “Where did you get your fucking hair cut Sproule? Nuremberg?” was the pick comment of the afternoon for me.

Attacking the hills

It was, as you’d expect, a feisty game. Tackles flying in everywhere. Linfield players (Gault, Carvil, and Sproule) throwing themselves to the floor in order to try and get a couple of iffy refereeing decisions. Plenty of yellow cards issued but no lessons learned as the tackles and niggle continued. As the game went on Linfield were the better side but failed to convert anything, Andrew Waterworth missed a couple of decent chances and Carvil went close with a couple of long-range efforts. Cliftonville huffed and puffed but never really threatened the Linfield goal which was minded by a goalkeeper with teflon gloves. The conditions didn’t help much with a cold wind and driving rain. Top scorer Joe “the goal” Gormley had an off day and the excellent Conor “Ginger Beard” Devlin in the Cliftonville looked assured enough to keep the visitors from Windsor Park at bay.

Looking back at Solitude

Midway through the second half Cliftonville managed to deliver a bit of quality into box and marauding defender Mark Smyth forced it in and the noise generated by the 2,500 or so Cliftonville fans sounded more like 10,000. Fans overcome with delight and joy. People crouched down, closed their eyes and gave double fist pumps in silent celebration. A few minutes later the ginger Linfield midfielder with no chin (Robert Garrett) steamed into a challenge and deservedly got a straight red card. To his credit he knew he was fully guilty and walked straight off. None of this arguing with the referee bollocks which has become so prevalent in the upper echelons of the game.

The moody black and white shot

Cliftonville then had an attack of the nerves as Linfield when for broke and this tension spread to the terraces. I then had to leave a few minutes earlier in. A very kind Cliftonville fan escorted me down to the stewards and managed to negotiate an early release. Usual doctrine usually means at these encounters the home fans are kept in for 15 minutes while the Linfield fans are escorted under heavy Police protection onto supporters coaches and allowed to head west up Cliftonville Road to prevent any dust-ups. This wouldn’t do for me. I had a plane to catch at 1820. The plan was to get out early, call a taxi and start heading back to the airport before a) the game finished b) the Linfield fans were herded onto Ulsterbuses and c) before the Cliftonville fans were let out.

Some Belfast street art.

I was hoping for scenario A. In the end I reckon I was seconds away from scenario C expiring, as I stood for about 15 minutes in the driving rain with two machine gun armed Police Officers and their armoured Land Rover, wondering how a taxi was going to get up a road that the police was blocking off. I heard the roar that greeted the final whistle. I saw all of the Linfield fans getting out of Dodge and then waited with increasing stress for my taxi to turn up.

Waiting for the taxi.

Then he did and cursed the police, the weather and the protesters in an equal no holds barred way. “Unfortunately” he said, referring to what I presumed was both the police and protesters of various persuasions, “we are blessed with an incredible number of arseholes in this country”. I laughed but I didn’t really agree 100%. I have to say in a couple of really short visits to Belfast that I’ve found the people to be the friendliest and most genuine in the UK. That’s not glossing over the fact that Belfast is a mental city and there is an undeniable edge to the place and to everyone who lives there, but I love the place and watching football there. I can’t wait to go back. Does that make me mental as well?

Badges!

They do do that though, don’t they though la?

The long walk

Using up one’s leftover annual leave days near Christmas can be a wonderful thing. For the last couple of years it’s meant Germany, sausage, beer and football. But not this year.This year’s trip has been postponed to February. So what to do? People who know me are fully aware, especially when it comes to football, that I like to procrastinate a little bit. Personally speaking, I do wonder whether there is a finer joy in life than planning where to go and watch football on a Saturday morning. There have been a few exceptions to this rule. German trips but even last season’s highlight of Glentoran V Linfield in the Bel-classico saw both the match ticket and the plane ticket booked on the Friday before the game.

The impressive stand

So over Lidl coffee (Gold Bel Arom, very good) and Warburton’s crumpets (double toasted for optimum top crispness) I scoured the interweb for inspiration. Merthyr Town maybe? Haywards Heath? Cunningly I was too late for Scotland, but to be honest only a Pollok/Greenock Morton double header will shift me over the wall in the icy land of the hairy deep-fried skag beast these days. By 0945 I still hadn’t decided but I was ready to go. By 0950 I’d decided. Marine V Witton Albion and by 1000 I was out the door.

Teams walk out

The last time I was on Merseyside was back in 1982 during a week’s holiday with the family in Southport. My father, on the way back, decided to do one of his famous excursions and gunned the Ford Escort Popular Plus (in Signal Red) through Ainsdale, Formby, Great Crosby, Waterloo through my first taste of urban depravity and boarded up windows in Bootle and onwards to Liverpool city centre and through the Kingsway Tunnel to Birkenhead. Once home to Peter Storm jackets and awaydays. Cue the guitar riff from Magazine’s “The light pours out of me”. It had to be better than Dunstable Town V Chertsey Town, which was the blandest ground I’d ever been to. Cold and unfriendly people also. They didn’t even bother doing a minute’s silence for Nelson Mandela. Absolutely disgraceful in this day and age ;)

Marine on the back foot

It was a fairly uneventful drive up the M40 and M6. No real traffic issues which I have to say surprised me a little bit. A little bit more traffic on the M62 passing such places as Warrington and St Helens before I decided to ignore the Garmin and detour around Liverpool a bit on the M57 before veering left after Aintree and heading towards Sefton on Dunning’s Bridge Road before hitting a roundabout with a Beatles mural in the walls of a few houses. I muttered something about Paul McCartney being a massive bastard and then turned right at Sefton Docks and a few minutes later I found the ground on College Road in the suburb of Crosby. Birthplace of Anne Robinson and the former Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie. Although if you’re counting the neighbouring areas of Waterloo and Seaforth then you can include Cherie Blair and Kenny Everett as well.

Seen it all before.

Marine AFC were formed in 1894 by a group of local businesses and college students. The name “Marine” came from the name of the Hotel in nearby Waterloo where the club were formed. They moved to the current ground (Rossett Park) a few years later in 1903. Marine hold the post war British record for the longest serving football manager as well in Roly Howard who won 30 trophies in his 33 years and 1,975 games in charge. He was appointed manager in 1972 and retired in 2005. Some record indeed. A bit of trawling on the internet for notable former players includes the likes of former Accrington Stanley and now Southport manager John Coleman and none other than Jason McAteer who was spotted by scouts from Bolton Wanderers whilst playing for Marine. MK Dons manager Karl Robinson played for them back in the early noughties as well as ex Torquay United player Neil Sang who mustered 14 appearances for the mighty yellows back in the 1991-1992 season.

Narrow guage

The ground, now known as the Arriva Stadium is a fairly unique one. They’ve crammed most of the space into the ground behind one end where there’s a smart seated stand with terracing to the bottom and right of the stand. There’s just a wire fence and the dugouts on one side of the ground, some very narrow covered terracing on the other side with an open terrace down the other end. I stopped off in the club bar before the game for an inexpensive pint of mild and to watch the final 20 minutes of the Man City – Arsenal game.

Nasty looking clouds

It was a gritty game. Though the poor Marine (pronounced Meeeeerrreeeeenne) goalkeeper struggled to boot the ball further than no man’s land between the D and the centre circle as the wind howled in off the Irish Sea. Marine looked the more dangerous and created 3 or 4 decent chances but the visitors Witton Albion look the more assured, especially in their approach play. The wind defeated all in the first half. I retired out of it briefly to treat myself to a warming Chicken Soup. Very good soup. Hotter than the sun but very good. It still beggars belief that non league clubs can do such good food when compared to their Football League counterparts.

Darkness descends in Scouseland.

Witton scored early in the second half and looked good value for their lead but somehow Marine responded and through Jonathan Goulding on the right wing and Matty Devine began to really take the game by the scruff of it’s neck. Jamie Rainford equalised with a neat header on 75 minutes before Matty Devine managed to score the winner in the last minute. On the 2nd half showing Marine just about deserved their win. A first win in 6 games.

Still prefer black and white photos

Decent game. Nice ground. Friendly people. Quality soup. A nice three hour drive home with a brief detour for chips in Crewe.

The equaliser

Hungarian. Zoo. Flaccid. Tapir. Penis.

Paying respects

I must admit that the sight of a tapir’s penis wasn’t something I was expecting to see last Saturday afternoon. It had been a German football night the night before with 1.FC Koln triumphant away to St Pauli, a night spent in a german pub in Vauxhall. So I followed this up with a trip up to Scunthorpe on Saturday. A trip I made, as the Official site reminded me, almost ten years before. It wasn’t a good day back then in 2003. Train delays meant that I missed my connection at Doncaster and I didn’t get to ground until 5 minutes into the game, despite the best efforts of a local Taxi driver who even made an outrageous short-cut through a local park in order to beat the traffic. An awful game. We were 1-0 up and Scunthorpe were down to ten men. Yet we still managed to gift them, with the aid of the referee, an equaliser before Alex Calvo-Garcia hit a 25 yarder in the top corner to earn the Iron an improbable victory. Nothing more miserable than a train ride back home after a poor away defeat.

Blanford Park

I also didn’t have fond memories of Scunthorpe United from the late 1980’s either. After 44 games in 1988 we needed a point from the last two games to go up automatically. A Tom Kelly back-pass led to a 1-0 defeat at Burnley before we faced Scunthorpe United at home in the final game of the season. It wasn’t to be and in a feisty and rather hostile match that involved a couple of Scunthorpe players being stretched off (and being gobbed on), the visitors ran out 1-2 winners which dropped us into the play offs. Have a guess who we got in the play offs? Yep, Scunthorpe. So a week later we met them again and ran out narrow 2-1 winners. My abiding memory is Torquay centre half John Impey shouting “Fucking hell” as Andy Flounders grabbed a late goal back. But we held out in the return leg (The last game at the Old Show Ground) only to lose 5-4 on aggregate over two legs against a Swansea City team containing current Torquay manager Alan Knill, who joined us after being sacked by Scunthorpe. A small world, innit?

We enjoyed a nice breakfast (bacon and egg butties) in North London first before making our way up the A1 (M). JB losing his bottle of flavoured water (the screaming metrosexual) in a bizarre incident in an Texaco Garage. Somehow the bottle had been transferred from passenger area to roof. As I pulled out of the garage I heard a mini thud. “What the fuck was that?” I said. JB shrugged. Then half a mile up the road “Where’s my fucking bottle of (flavoured) water”? Mystery solved. We pulled in at the next garage for a couple of cartons of 59p Ribena instead. We turned off at Newark (or Wanker if you will) with the Beta Band in our ears and headed to Lincoln on the A46. Lincoln by-pass and then hung a left onto the A15 past RAF Scampton (once the home of the Dambusters, Guy Gibson’s dead dog, and now the home of the Red Arrows) before emerging onto the M180 and short hop into Scunthorpe. We stopped for a pint at the Sam Smith’s pub near to the ground. Pint of mild costing £1.34 served by a sturdy young lady who would do me very nicely. A friendly bunch though, one Scunny fan even decided to take the piss out of Pikey, which produce a stifled giggle from the great man.

£21 quid to get in, which is naughty this far north, even if Scunthorpe is an “Industrial Garden Town” that was the birthplace of Tony Jacklin, Liz Smith, Graham Taylor and Howard Devoto from the Buzzcocks and Magazine. The turnstiles were too snug for my hourglass figure. Even the slender JB gasped. But the stewards were relaxed and friendly. They’d (Scunthorpe) also put up small posters with ex Scunthorpe (and now Torquay) Striker Karl Hawley saying “Thanks for travelling 298 miles for your team. Enjoy the game and have a safe trip back”. Quite a nice touch really.

Essex Kev turned up. “Guess what I saw in Budapest?”. The Escape to Victory stadium? Nope, Tapir porn from Budapest Zoo. Including a fair sized but flaccid penis. This only happens in my circle of misfits. This photo was shown before the one with the Torquay scarf wrapped around a statue of Ferenc Pukas. Priorities.

1-0 to Scunny

The game kicked off after a minutes worth of applause for a Scunthorpe fan who’d recently passed away. A little bit of Torquay pressure. Then a little bit of Scunthorpe pressure. Simple run, simple pass, simple cross, mini mix-up, simple finish. 1-0 down after 6 minutes. “Fucking hell” I groaned inwardly. Then we gave away a cheap corner after Aaron Downes got caught out again. Downes, our player of the season last year, has awful positional sense which forces him into making last gasp “get out of jail free card” challenges. He seems, since his last injury, to have picked up a strange looking physical reaction to these positional mistakes which I can only describe as being like a pissed-up and blindfolded giraffe trying to run away from a lion in suction mud.

Aaron Downes hoofs the ball skywards

From the resulting corner the ball got whipped into across the 6 yard box, got missed by everyone including our keeper rooted firmly in his usual place (on his line) and inadvertently thudded into young Anthony O’Connor’s face and into our top corner for an unfortunate own goal. 2-0! It was an awful shame for the lad as he’s done very well since joining us from Blackburn Rovers on loan. Not one of our senior pros went over to him though which I found hugely disappointing. It doesn’t feel speak volumes about our team spirit at the moment. A poor show.

We had a couple of half chances and played a bit of football leading up to half time, with Nathan Craig hitting the bar with a vicious free kick. You got the feeling that one goal would get us back in the game as the home side weren’t that great. A first half formula consisting of gifting the opposition two quick goals, a complete lack of confidence and lack of belief to pass the ball at the tempo which might bear some fruit, then add a lack of ability to finish the few chances that come your way then you have a recipe that is only going to get you relegation. How a side that continually gift-wrap awfully soft goals to the opposition hope to win games is beyond me.

The second half was a little better. We enjoyed a little bit more possession and passed the ball a little bit better. Nathan Craig brought out a good save from the Adam Ricketts-esque Scunny goalie Sam Slocombe who turned the incoming shot around the post. On the hour Aaron Downes got done like a kipper and Scunthorpe’s youngest ever player, the wonderfully named Hakeeb Adeola Abiola Ayinde O. O. J. Adelakun raced clear to slot home and score his first ever goal. 3-0! A really good finish.

Nathan Craig goes close with another free-kick

To be fair to our lot they kept plugging away and got a merited goal back through the useful looking John Marquis (on loan from Millwall), who turned acutely and smacked a low shot into the corner. But too little, too late to make a real difference to proceedings.

Off the pitch the atmosphere in the sparsely populated away end got a bit toxic. Lots of voice calling for Knill’s head. Some of our lot joined in after Scunthorpe fans started signing “You’re getting sacked in the morning”. A lack of class all around really. Singing “it’s a miracle, it’s a miracle” and sarcastic cheers when Knill made a substitution, and then singing the signature song of the player (Elliot Benyon) who’d been substituted but without booing him being substituted.

Some second half pressure

So, beaten 3-1 by another average team. I feel very sorry for Alan Knill at the moment and I’m very concerned about the direction the club is heading in. The #knillout brigade on Twitter are in their element at the moment but I really don’t think that they are really grasping the actual situation. Sacking the manager and having to pay him and his assistant off for the next year and a half isn’t going to provide his prospective replacement with any room for manoeuvre. Unless of course the board are resigned to life in the Conference and we’re about to appoint Lee Mansell and Kevin Nicholson as the new management duo. Time will tell and the January transfer window will tell us all we need to know. A keeper who comes off his line and a centre half who doesn’t run around like a pissed up Giraffe would be a huge step in the right direction, or perhaps a few senior pros who actually give a shit about playing league football.

Haddock, chips, curry sauce and Vimto in Gainsborough on the way back. Maybe not quite up to Chesterfield standards but not very far off at all.

Blue Storm Rising

 

Early Bury Pressure

In between the Glossop match and last Saturday afternoon I unfortunately watched my beloved Torquay United capitulate meekly to a very average Burton Albion side at the Pirelli Stadium. It was a performance so clueless and aimless that are, unfortunately, more common than not in the old Division 4. It was the width of a gnat’s arse better than Aldershot away last season, Grays or Eastbourne Borough away in the Blue Square Premier days or Peterborough away back in 2005 or 2006 when I snapped after the left flank (Stephen Reed and Kevin Hill) surrendered and let The Posh go 5-2 up. I had enough, decided to walk out, then changed my mind, went hunting for Bovril instead, Tea Bar shut, went for a “lucky” piss instead (a “pipe dream” piss more like) and then got doused head to toe in ice cold water whilst washing my hands under the tap holding back an Iguazu Falls volume of water.

Storm clouds gather overhead

Since Burton I was unable to kindle any sort of joy for football. I went to visit mother in Devon but avoided the Pompey game (a 1-1 draw). I didn’t watch much Match of the Day and I didn’t bother to stay up to watch The Football League Show and get treated to Steve Claridge mentioning that “so and so who manages that team” have at least now got the team “set up right”. I didn’t even bother looking at midweek non league fixtures. Post November football depression it was. Burton seemed to point the way down the well trodden path towards a season of painful struggle before arriving at Relegation Battle Parkway towards the end. Police Dogs and Football League Ground Regulations can only save us so many times.

The Beast watches on, hopefully.

However as the week continued and, after I survived Hurricane Jude and South West Trains twatting about more than normal,  I found myself not fancying any of the other matches around so I texted JB on Friday evening and before I knew it we agreed that Saturday would be Destination Gigg Lane. Proud home of Bury FC and two times winners of the FA Cup who incidently, still hold the record score in a cup final when they put Derby County to the sword and won 6-0 in 1903 at Crystal Palace in front of 63,102. 63,101 of those wearing flat caps, the other 1 being a bearded Frenchman sporting a Beret.

I picked him up from his Gym on Saturday morning. Diesel bought at a BP Garage up the road and the full limitations of the BP Meal Deal were cruelly exposed when we both chose Pickled Onion Monster Munch instead of the regulation Gary Lineker specials. The Ham, Cheese and Pickle wasn’t bad but I couldn’t taste much Oak, either aged or smoked. We sped up the M1 and then turned off at Chesterfield for a re-enactment of the Glossop run a couple of weeks before. A very beautiful county is Derbyshire. How Yorkshire got placed 3rd this week in the Lonely Planet’s guide of best regions to visit is way beyond my comprehension. Have they not seen Ferrybridge? Yorkshire is to Derbyshire what Cornwall is to Devon. A second rate county where the locals haven’t discovered the benefits of wearing shoes yet. ;)

There was still time for watching a driver in a Fiat Grande Punto brick himself as both he and a lorry both headed towards the same sharp bend just on the way to Barlow. Just a small dab on the brakes there Sir. Then a short hop over Snake Pass down into Glossop and then smack bang into a right ho’ of a traffic jam which saw us make about 50 metres progress in 30 minutes before we decided to have a small detour around the backstreets of Glossop which eventually saw us emerge at Glossop Caravans after visiting Glossop Bowling Club twice and Hadfield once, which as some of you may know doubled up as Royston Vasey in The League of Gentlemen.

The other stand.

The jams continued though before we emerged onto the M67 and headed past Denton on the M60 then heading past, Hyde, Ashton-Under-Lyme, Audenshaw, Failsworth, Chadderton, Oldham, Middleton and finally onto the M66 for barely a couple of miles before pulling off into Bury. To my absolute amazement I managed to right across the road from the ground outside a house called Shakers View. Shakers indeed. Named so after a past Chairman said before the 1892 Lancashire Cup Final that of their stronger opponents “We will give them a good shaking. Indeed we are the Shakers”. Or something a little less Victorian.

Hailstorm

The first pleasant surprise was that we only paid £15 to get in. Still more than most German Bundesliga clubs but I’ve run out of fight arguing the toss over that sore point. I wasn’t sure if the full security pat down was absolutely needed for the 157 souls who chose to sit in the away end that afternoon. The bloke didn’t find my camera anyway. Some nice ample turnstiles as well. The Tea Bar was visited. Tea and Pie more like. Very tasty if a bit expensive. The sight of JB aroused the Tea Bar lady. “A hunk” she cried “A hunk”. She lovingly rubbed her ample bosoms as well. Not something you see everyday.

So onto the match. Rice in goal. Tonge, O’Connor, Downes, Nicholson. Not a back four blessed with pace, apart from young O’Connor who is on-loan from Blackburn Rovers. Midfield of Chapell, Mansell, McCourt (a kid on loan from Leicester) and Azeez (kid on loan from Charlton) and up top we had Elliot Benyon (jesus wept) and Paul McCallum (kid on loan from West Ham). A strong looking bench though of Karl Hawley, Damien Mozika, Pearce, Poke, Sullivan, Tom Cruise and Nathan Craig. Cruise and Hawley in particular must have been wondering what on earth they’d done to upset Alan Knill in the week.

Anxious last 5 minutes

I cringed when the first pro-Lee Mansell and Kevin Nicholson songs were sung. On Friday Captain Mansell had come out to moan about abusive tweets he’d been receiving from “mindless idiots”. Nicholson had also been receiving some less than complimentary feedback via Social Media. The problem is that they are both coming to the end of their league careers and are both on a decent wedge after previous manager Martin Ling quite surprisingly renewed both their contracts. Lots of money is being spent and very little in the way of value is coming back. Nicholson is looking slower every season and Mansell is living off the back of the one stand-out season he had under Ling the season before last. Both use twitter a fair bit. Both were quite happy to take the plaudits when things were going well but are now realising that there’s another darker side to twitter when the form dries up and the moronic #believe tweets start to grate. Both are likely to be offloaded in the transfer window, well hopefully anyway. The problem is that I’m not even sure that they are Conference standard any more and with the amount of money they are currently being paid I can’t see anyone willing to take them on. The compounding problem is of course that our budget has been slashed this season hence the arrival of talented kids both on thrifty youth loans or on low-cost permanent deals who, for obvious reasons, haven’t been able to consistently show their worth. As for the senior Pros. Poke, the first choice keeper has been injured since the start of the season. His replacement Martin Rice isn’t that commanding. Aaron Downes has been injured, likewise Ben Harding The highly rated Krystian Pearce has been diagnosed with a type of sickle cell just as he was beginning to settle in and both the other new arrivals Dale Tonge and Karl Hawley have suffered a bit trying to cover areas unfamiliar to them, although Tonge seems a bit ordinary to say the least. We’ve waited years to sign a proper right back (probably since Paul Holmes came back to us after spells with Birmingham City, WBA and Everton). If you then throw in the Mansell and Nicholson situation and it’s not really hard to see why we are where we are in the table.

After the storm and the final whistle

Still hope springs eternal and all that. Bury started off the stronger and forced several corners so it was a bit ironic that we’d open the scoring down the other end from a corner with Aaron Downes heading home after 18 minutes. Then the Shakers equalised through Nathan Cameron who took full advantage of another defensive mix up to score and then got himself a daft yellow card celebrating. We then scored again 5 minutes later when West Ham loanee Paul McCallum headed home past Brian “The Beast” Jensen in the Shaker’s goal. We weathered the slight Bury squall until half time, but not before I’d told perennial cheat merchant Shaun Harrad to “fuck off”. So two-one up at half time. Unexpected and largely unexplainable by anyone to how we were winning with such a lack of attacking intent. Football is a truly bizarre game sometimes. The conclusion we arrived at was simply “they’re much shitter at the back than we are”.

The second half started. They almost scored twice. Young McCourt making a decent clearance for one and Rice making a good save for the second. Then Elliot Benyon surged down the right and put in a decent cross. The Bury defender slipped and McCallum finished with class. 1-3 away from home.

Bury fans trudge home through the puddles

Then the rain was replaced by thunder, bolts of lightning, torrential rain and a massive hailstorm. Bury were shot. Their fans just resorted to cheering every crack of lightning instead. Jak McCourt almost made it 1-4 when he ran onto a decent ball, controlled it fantastically and slotted it past The Beast only to hit the post. Mansell almost scored as well. Thank goodness he didn’t though. We were all spared the over-the-top-badge-grabbing fist-pumping goal celebration with the fickle moronic supporters in a kind of surreal Lourdes moment where nobody actually meant it. I afforded myself a wry smile. We were worried however that the ref would call the game off but thankfully the storm abated and the standing water stabilised at acceptable levels. We were lucky. The game down the road at Spotland was interrupted when lightning struck of the floodlight pylons. No repeat of that at Gigg Lane. A handsome 1-3 away win. Man of the match went to young Anthony O’Connor who showed composure, strength, two good feet and good concentration. He’s far too good for us and he’ll go on to be a good Championship player.

I have to say that Gigg Lane is a lovely ground. The Stewards were relaxed and friendly. It was also cheap by League 2 standards to get in. I was also impressed that the club don’t do the normal annoying trick of trying to ram everyone together in a small block of seating. It’s nice to spread out a bit and distance yourself from those who don’t share your ethos.

The hailstorm had also exfoliated my car of all the accumulated pigeon shit. An extra bonus. We went the same way back as we come with a slightly more direct route through Glossop. A slightly wetter driving back over snake pass and then we treated ourselves to Fish and Chips in Chesterfield. The usual impeccable standards from the North Sea Fish Bar on Sheffield Road. Best Chipper in the land. A Michelin Star wouldn’t go amiss. JB says that it’s the only Chippy that’s made him question his Atheism.

I tweeted Captain Mansell over a strong coffee and buttered Crumpets on Sunday morning. No reply or retweet as yet.

A drinking club with a football problem.

 On the road to Snake Pass

Apologies again for the lack of activity on my part. I don’t know what it is, but this year I can’t seem to motivate myself to write many posts. I could blame work, I could blame several things but it’s just bone-idleness on my part quite frankly.

It was the 1st round proper of the FA Vase last weekend. Last year the Vase gave me three of my most enjoyable football matches of the season when I watched both legs of the semi final between Tunbridge Wells and Shildon, plus Newport IOW beating Brighouse Town. There’s something quite magical about the Vase. Relatively speaking the standard of football is very good. It’s open to teams who play below Step 4 or Level 9 of the English Football League. Five divisions below Torquay (four by the end of the season). 535 teams entered this season with 2 preliminary rounds before the 1st round begins. I guess for these 535 clubs, it works a little in the same way that the Johnson’s Paint Trophy works for League 1 and League 2 clubs after they’ve lost out in the whatever the frig they called the Carling Cup or the FA Cup,  just as the FA Trophy is seen as extra flavour for clubs who fail in the last hurdle of the FA Cup first round proper qualification. For clubs below Step four it’s a very good chance to win a bit of silverware and crown themselves in a bit of glory and it’s my belief that the motivation to win it is so much higher.

Looks like the Glossop captain has been on the pre-match Tic-Tacs


Last year’s FA Vase was won by Spenymoor Town who beat Tunbridge Wells 2-1 in the final after both teams knocked Guernsey (on the crest of a Crawley Town style bankrolled wave) and Shildon respectively. Teams from the North East have been particularly dominant in the competition for the last 6 or 7 years, but the Northern League is probably the strongest Step 5 league around.

 The arty net shot

They’ve got used to me at work now. Colleagues ask me where I’m off to and give them the name of a place they’ve never heard of, or they don’t believe the place I mentioned even has a football team. Bromsgrove. Staveley Miner’s Welfare. Belper Town. Desborough. Beer Albion. Seaton Town. Plus a couple of glory trips in the FA Cup to see Harrogate Railway Athletic and Hemel Hempstead. I’m sure that they think I’m a little odd. Last Friday the vacant looks I got when I said “Glossop” meant that I had to add references to the Peak District, Snake Pass and somewhere in between Manchester and Sheffield. Vacant faces. The product of too much armchair football. Too many Super Sundays.

 The world’s biggest Cappuccino frother

So off to Glossop we went. The long suffering wife of the designated driver (and fellow photographer) did us mighty proud by packing us up with Ham and Salad rolls (with chopped spring onion), imitation monster munch (which tasted absolutely fine), Lemon     Drizzle Alpen bars (79 calories), Iced Gems (rather more than 79 calories) and cartons of Ribena and a Tesco own brand Orange Drink rather naughtily called “Fruit Splash”. We belted up the M1 at a reasonable rate. The Citroen Xsara Picasso loyally clinging to the middle lane with the briefest of forays into the other 2 lanes. Love you Andy. Then a brief stop over in Chesterfield to try and buy 35mm camera film as I’d packed the old Minolta 7000. No joy in Tesco or Lloyd’s Pharmacy but I did point out the North Sea Fish Bar to Andy. We shall dine there sir. Haddock the length of a computer keyboard. Humongous portions of Haddock that are harpooned rather than “line-caught”.

 The main stand

We set off again cross country going through the village of (Ken) Barlow before emerging at the fantastically over-elaborate Owler Bar Roundabout. The Hanger Lane of the Peak District. Before driving through the quite well to do Hathersage en route to Bamford and the Ladybower Reservoir. After that it’s a brief left onto Snake Road and the Snake Pass. The very same Snake Pass made famous the world over by John Shuttleworth’s “Incident on Snake Pass” and where the Inspiral Carpets shot their video for “This is how it feels”. It’s lovely scenic road and when you pop over the summit and descend towards Glossop you get to see the Manchester skyline in the background rising up like it belongs in the Game of Thrones opening credits. You also get to see the derelict Ferro Alloys chimney which towers 250 feet above Glossop standing like some gritty version of the Washington Monument. It was at one point attached to the Armament factory and only built in 1977, but now it’s standing alone in a pile of rubble whilst various authorities and groups try to work out if it should be demolished and who’s going to foot the bill when it does and more importantly who gets the proceeds if they find out it’s got a bit of Titanium in it.

 Getting the young ‘un to sleep down the quiet end

A quick drive through the bustling town center and we negotiated our way to Surrey Street past a industrial unit with a several different examples of Saabs including a beige Saab 96 in decent nick. 6 quid to get in. A very friendly welcome from a couple of club officials and the kitman. I bought myself one of their very nice (Award Winning according to club photographer Jim) Steak and Potato Pies with northern ectoplasm and gravy. A bargain at two quid. How in god’s name football league clubs are allowed to charge more for an inferior product I’ll never know. At northern non league grounds you also don’t get 16 year old acne-clad oiks of both genders serving you food either, it’s sturdy ladies with honest smiles and warm hearts.

 As I said, a lovely place to watch football

The club has a fairly unique history. Founded in 1886 they had a pretty meteoric rise from an amateur club, to the Combination in 1894, turning professional, to the Midland League and then finishing up as runners up to Manchester City in their first ever season in the 2nd Division. They were subsequently given the first 2nd automatic promotion spot and became members of the first division. The dropped the North End part of the name in order not to get confused with Preston. They were largely bankrolled in those days by Samuel Hill-Wood who later left Glossop to pile his money into Arsenal and was instrumental in bringing Herbert Chapman to the club from Huddersfield. If he kept his coin in Glossop who knows what might’ve happened. Glossop North End 1 Borussia Dortmund 2 anyone? Instead Glossop have been in steady decline since and now ply their trade in the North West Counties Premier Division (Level 9). Their opponents for the day were a team from called Kinsley Boys who come from Kinsley which is loosely in between Barnsley and Pontefract or in between Hemsworth and Featherstone if you really know your Yorkshire onions. Lots of Miners Welfares around those parts. Kinsley Boys play in the Central Midlands Football League North Division which at level 11 of the pyramid.

 First half action

It’s a wonderful place to watch a game of football. Peak District scenery, a proud little ground and 250ft Chimney behind “The Trenches”. Poor old Kinsley Boys were 3-0 down before that knew what hit them. To be fair the gulf in class was only evident in the final third of the pitch. Better chances and better finishing the order of the day. The burly Kinsley number 5 got frustrated and started effing and jeffing until the Sergeant Major ref decided to get hold of him and give him the full treatment. They rallied somewhat after a half time bollocking. They created one or two decent openings. They forced a corner. The Kinsley number 8 got all excited and decided he’d try a Spartacus style call to arms. “One goal gets us back in this, just one goal. Come on lads, lets do it for the cunt”. I presume that the cunt he was referring to was the manager or was it an inner demon?

Getting a bit nippy in the high peaks

But after that brief interlude, Glossop North End gradually turned the screw and began to dominate. Kinsley Boys looked knackered although the sweary number 5 decided that a man-and-ball type challenge was need. He caught the bloke and the ball right on the sweet spot. The ball flew like an exocet through the open fence and almost took an Alsatian dog through the wall into Surrey Street. The Alsatian let out a Scooby Doo style yelp and then couldn’t work out what to do next. I was hoping for full attack mode but after a minute or so of looking perky and wondering what the fuck happened, he settled back down again. Glossop ended up winning 7-0. “Men against Boys” said the GNE Official Website. I couldn’t sum up it any better.

A massive shaft


Anyway it was a really pleasant day out. I’ll certainly keep an eye out for their results now as well as wear the scarf on the commute into work. I like how I can show off the word “Glossop” as the scarf sticks out of the coat. No doubt I’ll find some dullard who thinks it’s a Pompey scarf or, god forbid, a Chelsea one. Although, on a sour note, I read after the game that the social club had been broken into and a fair bit of damage was caused. I hope that the gits who did it get the appropriate punishment. Dangle the buggers from the top of that chimney, perhaps.

Our day finished off with a Sunset over Hope Valley and then Battered Minkie Whale and Chips in Chesterfield. The best chipper in England. Although I think I may have mentioned that before.

The Alsatian, just before the number 5 leathered the ball at him
Oh and one of the sunset.
A local shop for local people




Keep running them channels, Jesus.

 Harrogate Railway Athletic’s basic Station View ground

“Jesus is Lord” said the lorry trailer in a field near Wakefield on the drive up the A1(M) on Saturday. The sign was wrong, Jesus plays for Harrogate Railway Athletic. My seemingly Bi-Annual visit to York and to visit an old vegetarian friend. “I’ve had a fry up” he informed me. “Quorn Sausages and Eggs” no doubt to soak up a barrel full of overly hoppy beer. In my book it’s not really a fry up if the word Quorn is involved but as I get older I try to turn a blind eye to such fallacies of weak inference.

A quality dugout.

So off to York Station via his excellent local boozer which is now a owned by it’s clientèle. The unnecessary intellectual hippies have taken over. The Frank Gallagher drawing is still on the walls of the pisser but there’s been a shift in the clientèle. Swampy types. Ear-rings and clothes directly from Exeter College circa 1991, but disappointingly I saw no army surplus bags with Mega City Four drawn on with permanent marker. The bums lost Mr Lebowski, the bums lost. However now they own one of York’s finest Boozoirs. Father of the swampy son trying to hide the evidence that the family had been eating Patisserie Valerie cupcakes in a beer garden when there were three varieties of pork pies on offer in the bar. The horror, the horror. What the fuck has happened to the north? They’ll be a social stigma attached to wife beating next. Although my friend tells me that you still have to go to Leeds to buy the better trainers.

Early West Auckland pressure

York railway station is a delight. A little bit like Bristol Temple Meads but without the rural stench of Bristolian accents or confused Welshman wondering why everyone has shoes on. It did, outside, have groups of metro-sexual northern lads dressed in Hollister, chinos with elasticated bottoms and those pointy girly espadrille type slip-ons as well as groups of gaudily-clad orange-skinned sturdy girls swigging chilled Rosé from Red Bull style cans.

 A pleasing backdrop of terraced houses.


So platform 8 and off to Starbeck we went via Poppleton, Hammerton, Cattal and over the rather scenic viaduct at the equally scenic Knaresbrough. The little two-coacher chugged willingly into our destination. A short 5 minute walk and we arrived at Station View for Harrogate Rail Athletic’s FA Cup tie against West Auckland Town of the Northern League. So in theory it was a Step 4 v Step 5 clash but as we know the Northern League is more of a step 4 and a half. The best players in the non league are quite happy to stay in that league as moving up the non league pyramid sees crowds decrease and travel costs increase. Three Northern League clubs have won the FA Vase for the last 6 seasons.

The stairway to….a bloke having a piss around the back of the main stand.

But first things first. Food. A first for me. Hot pork pie with mushy pies and mint sauce. The best thing I’ve have ever tasted especially for the £1.90 I paid. The hot crusty pasty, the warm river of peas, the tangy mint sauce and the hot pork meat. Utterly amazing if it looks a bit suspect. Well more than a bit suspect to most eyes.

It may look like Shrek’s toothpaste but it were reet tasty.

Station View is a fairly basic ground without many redeeming features. It has a big sideways slope, two open sides, a tiny covered Arena style seated stand and a half seated, half standing concoction all the way behind the other goal. It’s not really the most photogenic of grounds but the row of terraced houses behind it gave it a half decent backdrop.

West Auckland Town were much the better side in the first half. Stronger, faster, quicker and they carved out the better opportunities. They played the better football as well. Harrogate had one or two as well but were incredibly wasteful in possession. The number 7 persisted (a cross between Earl Crabtree and Robbie Savage) in trying to play Stevie Gerrard type Hollywood balls but they rarely came off enough to warrant trying them in the first place.

       
 Packing them in. all 157 of them.

After only 15 minutes West Auckland United went ahead. A decent cross into the bit in between the 6 yard box and the penalty spot cause havoc and Richardson prodded home. Half time and 0-1 to the visitors. The Rail trudged off in trepidation of the half time hair dryer treatment.

 A small slope.

The second half carried on from the first half. West Auckland looking far more likely to score than the home side. Five minutes later West Auckland’s John Campbell latched onto a ball over the top and smashed it home. 0-2! Down and dusted. The coach load of West Auckland supports certainly thought so.

 Bend it like….

But no, gradually the Rail got themselves into the match. Jesus getting plenty of encouragement from the touchline. “Keep running them channels, Jesus” said an old fella with a lovely North Yorkshire accent. A cross came in from the right and Jesus Martin-Farina skilfully took a touch and then hit it past the keeper. 1-2!  Ten minutes from time the comeback was complete. The wildest of hacks on The Rail’s Jon Maloney and the ref gave the season’s most clear cut penalty. Centre half Dan Thirkell punted the ball into the roof of the net. 2-2! Still West Auckland weren’t done for the afternoon. Steven Richardson engineered himself a half chance and hit the post. The second half was worth it alone for the banter between several pissed up Rail supporters and the West Auckland bench.

West Auckland clear their lines in the dying moments.

So it ended 2-2. 157 fans turned up. We trudged off back to York and a beer festival. West Auckland won the replay 4-2 a few days later.