Sunday, 15 March 2009

Time To Draw A Vale

Probably the one redeeming feature of a train journey from Euston is it allows me to sample the delights of the Double Six where I can have a great breakfast and listen to the cabbies yakking like only cabbies can. I know it's stereotypical but it is true - they do talk bollocks.

I was worried that I might get caught up in the frantic hordes heading to Manchester for the early kick-off - some team in red versus some other team in red - but I found that I was on a slow train to Crewe and it was quite a relaxing journey, especially being in first class (it was cheap).

Arriving at Stoke I bumped into various other DAFTS - including Howard and Martin who had set off after me but had overtaken my train at some point. Martin had left the rail tickets for their trip at home - not the first time he's done that this season unfortunately - and as he didn't have time to go back, he had to buy new ones to get them both to Stoke. At almost £100 he was not a happy chappy.

From Stoke we took the short trip by train to Longport and then had a mini-route march to the Bulls Head pub in Burslem. Along the way we lost Tony, Ray and Lance - or rather they lost us as we sprinted to the pub, arriving just a few minutes after opening.

However we'd been beaten to the pub by Paul and Mary - a couple of Leicester City fans who also follow Darlo - and who Steve and I had last met down in Exeter.

The Bulls Head is the brewery tap for the Titanic Brewery and as the sign outside says, it welcomes away fans. I've been a fan of their beers for several years as they rarely disappoint - and so we took full advantage of the wide range on offer - Steerage, Anchor, Iceberg and New World plus some more of the McConnell Stout from Thornbridge that we sampled in Number Twenty-2 last weekend.

Interestingly they have their own stout on keg - it would have been nice to have the cask version again as it's an addictive pint - but apparently if they have it on keg it means that they don't need to stock Guinness - and who can blame them? At least they'll be spared the St Paddy's day tat that they hand out in a few days time.

Once again we were taxing pints at £1 a pint and most people were more than willing to contribute - predictably the conversation was mainly centred around the club's chances of survival and the recent decline in form. No wonder we're driven to drink.

From the Bull's Head, we walked passed a shop called What Women Want. Neil couldn't resist the photo opportunity.

It's just a short walk to Vale Park - a new ground for me this season - and on arrival I bumped into Geoff, one of the leading lights of the Darlo Tykes, who proceeded to take £20 off me for some raffle tickets. Not everyone would get away with this but Geoff and I grew up together and we started going to see Darlo with each other in the 70s.

On the pitch, the early signs looked good as Darlo played the ball around well. And after about half an hour it looked like our luck had changed as Danny Carlton put us in front. However just before the break, the defence dithered and allowed Vale to equalise with a bit of a jammy deflected shot.

In the second half Vale came more into the game and took the lead - I thought Oakes might have done better but that may be unkind. I missed their third goal as I'd gone to the loo in the hope I might miss us scoring - well, it worked against Macclesfield last week. There was a goal but it was simply the final nail in our coffin for this particular game.

We got a taxi back to Stoke railway station and after some pleading with the train conductor, I was allowed to catch an earlier train and travel back with Martin, Howard and Chris. A pleasant journey too - the Manure fans on board were suitably subdued- and with only one stop we were back in Euston by 7:30pm.

Still time for a couple of beers at the Doric Arch to mull over the day's events - then after Howard and Martin left I got talking to some well-oiled Wolves fans before being rescued by the London Millers who had just returned from their victory at Rochdale. They were extolling the virtues of the Baum, a pub I aim to visit when we play there next month.

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