Monday, 23 March 2009

Shots Down In Flames

As I'd been visiting my Mum in Northallerton for a few days, it was nice to have only a ten-minute train journey through to Darlo for our game against Aldershot.

Breakfast was taken at the apostrophe-free Rockys Tasty Bites on Victoria Road - this had been recommended to me and it has to be said that the Rooster breakfast had about everything you could want in a breakfast but was probably not the thing to eat before trudging up the hill to Ballantynes hotel to meet Steve.

We had been hoping today would afford us a good opportunity to finally get some decent shots of the Northern Echo Arena for the DAFTS site - and since it was a bright, sunny spring day we drove on down there.

(left) North and East Stands of the Arena

After a few minutes wandering around the exterior of the stadium, we were approached by Paul the stadium maintenance manager who was curious as to what we were doing. After a quick chat he could see we were friendly and let us into the ground so I could get some interior shots - the first time I'd been pitch side for quite a few seasons.

Paul originally came to Darlo as one of George Reynold's team and has worked hard at looking after the ground ever since - his recent tasks have varied from tarting up the dressing rooms for Elton John's visit last summer through to three days spent repairing the recently wrecked toilets under the south stand (the mind boggles at the idiocy of the fans who did this to their own ground)!

(right) The less well known nature area of the Arena

Following a good bout of snapping from all angles, we headed back into town and joined up with Cath before heading down to the Quaker. Still no sign of a new name over the door so we've still got Linda and Steve providing a great choice of beers.

It looked as it would just be the three of us for the day as we headed up to Number Twenty-2 - although we did bump into Aldershot fan, Jim, who I'd met briefly in the White Lion when I last visited the Recreation Ground earlier in the season.

We arrived at the ground about 20 minutes before kick-off and I managed to buy one of the last campaign t-shits with Dave Penney on the front doing his best Lord Kitchener impersonation. I've not tried it yet but it appears to be a one-size-fits-all. So that will be snug then!

The game was a bit of a stuttering affair in the first half - Aldershot had probably more chances than Darlo, most courtesy of their on-loan striker Jake Robinson but the linesman managed to thwart him on the rare occasions he escaped the clutches of the defence. Oakes also made a couple of decent saves.

We were all prepared for a nil-nil scoreline at half-time when Curtis Main popped up and neatly passed the ball into the net following a partially cleared corner - there were a few half-hearted offside appeals from the Shots defence but to no avail - the ref was not for turning. A great boost for half-time.

The second half was not much different from the first - fairly even - and following a great tackle from skipper Foster to prevent what looked like an equaliser, a tidy piece of work from Rob Purdie (my MotM) and a neat finish from Danny Carlton put the Quakers two up and gave Darlo a bit of breathing space with about 20 minutes to go.

The game should have been wrapped up beyond any doubt when Carlton had an open goal but he blazed wide. Nevertheless we held out without too much trouble and earned what was a good three points without playing particularly well.

(above) The replica engine plate in reception

The journey home was going to be a bit of a stuttering affair too - the normal 17:57 service would go no further than Huntingdon - from there it was a slow bus journey to Hatfield with a driver who had a worrying habit of catching the kerb on bends. I was on my own too since Martin was too ill to travel - it's not often we see that.

We finally made it to Hatfield in one piece and thanks to Jim and a couple of his Aldershot mates, I avoided getting the slow train to Kings Cross, catching a fast train instead just a few minutes later, which meant I was in the Betjeman Arms for 21:30 for drinks with the London Millers.

This allowed me to finally try the Betjeman Ale brewed specially for the pub by Sharp's - it's quite light at 3.6% but is a surprisingly drinkable quaffing beer - and it seems in much better condition that the others on cask. DAFTS Recommended!

No comments: