Monday, 27 April 2009

Bees Sting

I knew deep down that I should have ended this season's attendance at Spotland last weekend - a truly excellent day out as Bill (or Ted) might have said - but instead habit drove me along the usual early morning trail to King's Cross to take in my final game of the season.

In theory it was a last visit to Da Vinci's for breakfast - I'm now known by the staff and no longer have to order - "your usual, sir?" and a nod from me is now enough to get me my early morning plate of plenty. And it's been consistently very good throughout the season. However I'm sure I'll find an excuse to pop in during the close season.

The journey north was pleasant enough - we were sat with a nice chap from Reading who was a Leeds fan - off to Hartlepool for his sins.

In fact to qualify for an away ticket he'd had to attend a minimum of 19 away games - very credible, or very sad, depending on your point of view. Although I subsequently heard that a lot of Leeds fans got around this by simply paying cash on the day to go into the home areas.

Arriving at Bank Top station at 10:30, there were a few police awaiting the expected hordes of Brentford and Leeds fans - in fact there were a handful of Bees fans waiting expectantly outside Hogans.

As ever all the handpumps were in use in the Quaker today - and quite a few dark beers amongst them too - which included York Brewery's Terrier and Last Drop Bitter; Quartz Heart, 3 River's Delta Mild (not too popular it seems - had been on over a week and still some left!), Stump Cross Ale from the Richmond Brewery, Hadrian & Border's Secret Kingdom and from the Jarrow Brewery, Venerable Bede and Rivet Catcher.

There was a decent quota of DAFTS on parade too - John Wilson had travelled up the night before, Steve Duffy had flown up to Newcastle from Cardiff and Keanu Reeves body-double Brian Elsey had travelled up from Sheffield - obviously no Hollywood duties this weekend.

(left) Keanu Reeves - it had been a hard week

As usual we then wandered up to Number Twenty-2 for an hour or so - there looked to be an interesting stout on offer but it was just too warm for that. By this time we'd been joined by Tony and Lesley plus John, her Dad, neither of who had been to a home game for quite a while.

Arriving at the ground it was interesting to see a bunch of bulky rugby league players handing out leaflets to the fans - it seems that Gateshead Thunder are playing their Challenge Cup tie against Oldham at the Arena on the 9th May. Let's hope they get a decent crowd for that.

I wandered off to reception before the game for my usual quick chat with John and Eric - today I was also picking up Steve Foster's away shirt, sponsored by yours truly for the second season running, as I wouldn't be attending the official presentations following the All Stars Game.

Any misgivings I'd had about attending this game were put to bed within seconds of the kick-off as Alan White's careless (and that's being diplomatic) aerial challenge on Damian Spencer fully deserved a red card - the Brentford man suffering a fractured cheekbone in the process proving he wasn't making a meal of the clash.

It's not the first time Whitey has been sent off for a challenge like this - I seem to remember something similar at Exeter a few weeks ago and overall it's his fourth red card with Darlo in two seasons - and it put paid to any chances we had of getting any sort of result from this game. And what is most frustrating is that it the challenge was on the touchline - not even in a dangerous area - and totally unnecessary other than to make a strong first impression on an opposite number. Well, that was certainly achieved - well done...

There was a rapid reorganisation and Darlo looked to be holding out quite well despite a lot of Brentford possession until the Bees were awarded a disputed corner - the refereee apparently over-ruling his linesman - and from it they scored.

And then any expectation of beating the odds a la Lincoln were extinguished when Billy Clarke headed a second just before the break - at least he had the good grace not to celebrate too frantically in front of us.

(above) Three wise something or others
A shame really as we'd had a couple of good chances - including a cracking free kick from Franz which clipped the bar.

The second half saw Brentford get the benefit of some further dodgy decisions from the referee - Franz went down (rather theatrically of course) after being taken out in the box but it was a stonewall penalty. But no, not a sniff from the ref.

Instead Brentford got the ball down the other end very smartly and Clarke made it 3-0.

Despite fears of a rout, Darlo tightened up and even pulled one back after Abbott slid the ball under the keeper. The last few minutes were a bit fractious - one their defenders should certainly have followed White for an early bath after manhandling Abbott but the ref was happy to only book both parties - an equal opportunities ref obviously.

These decisions would probably had no impact on the overall result but it just left a bad taste - fair play to Brentford on their promotion but it was hard to take when we really should have been in the mix as well. With this in mind, there were plenty of anti-Houghton chants throughout the game and apparently he made himself scarce in the second half.

Whereas Bank Top station at the end of last season saw Dagenham & Redbridge celebrating their eleventh-hour retention of their league status for another season (and look where they are now), this time it was Brentford fans raising the rafters.

Our carriage was full of them chanting all the way to Kings Cross - some dotty old passenger optimistically asked them to "please stop singing" - some hope dear. Thankfully my walkman and the fantastic new album from Mastodon came to the rescue whilst poor old Martin simply had to suffer in silence.

On arrival back into Kings Cross the celebrating Bees all headed straight down into the tube, back to Brentford and champagne in the Griffin (or so they were hoping) allowing Martin and I to escape to the relative peace and quiet of the Betjeman Arms where we met Paul, our Wycombe chum, and his friend Dave.

Paul had been up to Stoke to see Wycombe settle for a point at Port Vale - and so they're still short of automatic promotion for another week - whereas Dave had been to Derby to see Charlton get beat in front of a very respectable 33,000 crowd. A season of highs and lows for all of us.

Also in the pub were a pack of London Wolves who were still celebrating their promotion to the Premiership - last time we saw a couple of these chaps in the Doric Arch they'd been very much the worse for wear but they still recognised me from our chat that day - "Hey, Beardyman!" - well, I assume they meant me...

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