Monday, 2 March 2009

No Gifts From These Grecians

An overrun of tube engineering works on an already reduced service meant that I was delayed so both Martin and Howard beat me to breakfast. Raffles is the best of a mediocre bunch in this neck of the woods and whilst it was filling, it was a bit of a non-descript effort.

A further delay on the train leaving Paddington due to "a technical hitch" was looking like a bad omen for the day but in the end it was only for ten minutes and once we were underway, our mood improved - plenty of birdwatching for me as the train went on the scenic route to Exeter - jays, buzzards, kites, egrets and the odd deer kept me occupied.

Steve Duffy was already ensconced when we entered the Great Western Hotel just by the station - often the local CAMRA pub of the year with a very good choice of mainly local breweries - we started on the pale but interesting O'Hanlon's Yellow Hammer before shifting onto the RCH Pitchfork - both very tasty.

Howard and Martin were keen for a wander round the city centre so supped up and caught a bus into town. Steve and I went to the Well House - a pub bang opposite the cathedral.

The last time we were drinking here was in Feb 2000 (a 4-1 victory) when George Reynolds was holding court in the pub - it being the early days of his reign when he wasn't the persona non grata that he is now.

We tried quite a few of the local brews on offer here - Otter, Cottage Wessex Porter, Red Rock and even a pint of Richs Farmhouse cider to clear my palate. Howard rejoined us after a while, muttering about the lack of decent pies (and pasties) to be found.

From the Well House, it was just a short walk to St James Park - the Darlo fans were on the small terrace behind the goal - very cosy but more than enough space for the 177 fans who'd made the trip.

I've always liked this ground, especially the Cowshed, their equivalent of the TinShed, which was constructed several years ago as a new standing terrace - nice to see that Exeter decided to listen to their fans and not simply turn everything into seated terracing.

It makes for a good atmosphere and is reminiscent of the home end at Aldershot.

I bumped into an old compadre from the Isle of Man tour days, Gavin Ellis, who was wandering around with a grimace on his face - he said this was due to his anger with the chairman getting us into so much debt plus his new Doc Marten's were giving him gip. He wasn't a happy chappy but being the trouper that he is, he still managed to treat anyone within earshot to one of his "jokes" - is there no end to the misery we have to suffer as fans? More corn than Kelloggs...

The Quakers were fielding a depleted team - no Gerken, Foster, Ravenhill or Hatch - and we started the game a little gingerly, defending well for the most part but not offering much in the way of attack. And we certainly had no help from referee Atwell after being on the wrong end of some decidedly OTT tackles, especially on poor old Danny Carlton, but we managed to go in level at half time.

The second half started much as the first half finished and a nil-nil was starting to look a possibility when the ref lived up to his past exploits and awarded a dodgy penalty for a handball in the area by Neil Austin. Given the speed the ball was travelling, it could only have been ball to hand but this new ref seems determined to prove he's his own man.

The goal had more of an affect on the home team and we would have been further behind if not for a couple of great saves from Oakes. I've never been totally happy when he's been in goal but today he couldn't have done much better.

Any lingering hope of getting anything out of the game though was extinguished with less than ten minutes to play when the Grecians got a second from a header. No way back after that.

The defeat we could just about handle - but Abbot going off injured and then White getting sent off just leads me to believe that someone, somewhere has it in for us.

After the game we returned to the Great Western hotel - the place was a bit busy as they were getting ready to show the England-Ireland game at Twickenham. Exhibiting our usual disdain for rugby union, we sat under the TV so we didn't have to watch it.

Another pint of Pitchfork and then a half of the beautiful O'Hanlon Port Stout - smooth as a baby's bottom and absolutely divine - a shame we had to leave and catch our train.

A decent day out, result notwithstanding - I only hope we're still around to make a return visit next season...

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