Sunday, 25 April 2010

Grimsby Fiendish

Today was the last home game for Howard and myself and so it would be our last visit of the season to Da Vincis for breakfast. All was well until the waiter clearing away our dishes asked Martin, for some unknown reason, how old he was.

"Have a guess" said Martin. "Fifty-five" said the waiter.

Cue spluttering from Mr Deans who although only three years off this age, continues to delude himself that he's a young looking chap.  No tip today then!

(left) Howard in the Quaker

Quite a few fans of all creeds on-board today - Newcastle fans out in force as soon as there is a bit of silverware to be seen but also a few AFC Wimbledon types off to see their team at Gateshead. 

And an Oxford United fan was sat at our table as we continued recent discussions about the Conference although she wasn't off to their game. No point I suppose now they're firmly in the play-offs.

It was a beautiful day in Darlo when we arrived and made our way to the Quakerhouse.

A handful of Grimsby fans had beaten us but thankfully they'd decided to sit outside in the sun and left "our" table free.

(right) Lesley in her new Darlo hat

On offer at the bar today were: Dorset Ammonite, Castle Rock Dingy Skipper (part of their Wildlife portfolio), Tyneside Blonde, Green Jack Trawlerboys Best Bitter, Allendale Tar Bar'l, Prospect Blinding Light, Highgate Davenports Bee-zone and Bards Tale and Jarrow Brewery Willie Would've.

Mr Wilson was already waiting for us having travelled up the previous night - and before long Tony also joined us, sporting a black eye which he claimed he received playing 5-a-side. Yeah, right...

Of the beers, the Blonde and Dingy Skipper were very nice - perfect for a warm day - but the Tar Bar'l was very good too - a dry stout.

After a few pints, Howard headed off to get the pies and we three headed up to Number Twenty-2. Relatively quiet today as seemingly the Grimsby fans didn't get this far.

Tony's father-in-law joined us for a quick pint and then we got a taxi to the Arena. The car park was exceedingly quiet - it's probably busier when we have a car boot sale.

(left) Tony trying his luck - Mary sells him a 50/50 ticket

We had a quick scout round the club shop to see if there were any bargains but there wasn't much to be had unless you want Darlo curtains, duvet cover or waste bin.

We met Lesley at the ground which gave me the opportunity to give her the Darlo hat I'd recently bought for her - she'd bought one at the start of the season but it was too large for her petite head but just right for my brainbox-curls combo so she have it to me.

Thankfully the replacement fitted her perfectly even if it wasn't the weather for wooly hats.

Despite the rumours of a huge horde travelling from Grimsby - rumours of 2000 fishy fans coming to the game - it seems that only two or three hundred fans had made the effort.

A pleasant surprise was the appearance of Tadhg Purcell as earlier reports suggested he was out for the season.

And it was Purcell who went closest for Darlo in the first half on a couple of occasions but the Grimsby keeper was in fine form and did well to keep a clean sheet.

Grimsby of course still had their league position to fight for and they were out to win this game from the very start.

They scored after 20 mins when slack marking by Milne allowed Lancashire to head past Liversedge.

Other than the efforts by Purcell, Darlo had little to offer - Diop again flitting around the opposition half to no real effect - and it wasn't a huge surprise when Grimsby doubled their lead just before half-time.

(right) You must be f**king joking - it's our only pleasure these days

Mark Convery replaced Groves at the restart and was probably our busiest player in the second half - he brought a good save from the Grimsby keeper and worked hard, trying to get things moving but other than Gary Smith, his team mates did not appear interested.

It is hard to be critical given that this seventh game in three weeks but I'm sure it will help Simon Davey make his mind up when it comes to the end-of-season clear out.

As so often this season at home, the final whistle was a blessing and I walked back to the station with John.

I'll miss visiting the pubs in Darlo over the summer break but not going to see the football. I still can't wait for the fixtures for next season though...

(above) South stand concourse

Monday, 19 April 2010

Seaside Sojourn - Day Two

I was up and about quite early - the habit of getting up in good time for travelling north is a hard one to break - and so I watched the F1 Grand Prix qualifying as BBC1 was about the only channel I could get with my titchy aerial.

I joined Tony, Lesley and Brian in the restaurant - the breakfast was rather disappointing in terms of quality but was served by a young girl in her first day on the job who was very polite. Brian confused her somewhat though by asking for just two rashers of bacon but was twice given a full breakfast.

After breakfast, five of our group took the M1 bus (great value - £5 for five people for all day travel on that bus route) and headed off into the centre of Bournemouth.

We had a wander through the Lower Gardens where we resisted the lure of a static balloon ride - not difficult when they're charging £12.50 per person.

(left) Tony with some Darlo-style rock for Neil

We headed to the pier where we bagged some traditional seaside rock - proper break-your-teeth stuff, not the sweet soft stuff you often find these days.

Tony bought some black and white striped 'Darlo' rock for Neil though whether he ever receives it remains to be seen.

It was a bright sunny day so we actually strayed onto the beach and dipped our feet into the sea.
And then after a quick butchers around the aviary, where we admired the collection of exotic finches and teeny-tiny quail, we headed off towards the matchday pub.

It was quite a schlep - a bit further than we realised and in hindsight a bus might have been quicker for most of the journey - but it was just as well as I'd been misled about the opening time.

Getting there at ten minutes to noon and finding it closed wasn't quite as annoying as it would have been to get there at eleven as I'd been advised.

After a few minutes the Cricketers Arms opened and we headed to the bar. Just three ales on offer - the regular beer is Fullers London Pride - and there were two guests; Youngs Kew Gold and one of the Piddle beers.

Most of us stuck to the Kew Gold which was the perfect beer for a nice warm day. Tony had a quick try of the Piddle but some returned to the Gold.
(right) Cricketers Arms

The Cricketers Arms has recently been announced as pub of the year for 2010 for East Dorset. I had a chat with the landlady and she was a bit surprised at winning the award given she has a relatively small range of beer.

We sat inside out of the bright sunshine and played the jukebox - various stragglers joining us - first Bev and then Iain, who'd caught the train from Sussex, and finally Steve.

From the Cricketers it was a 15-20 minute walk to Dean Court (or the Fitness First Stadium if you prefer).

There was a big home crowd plus the usual hardcore of Darlo fans, most of who also appeared to be making a weekend of it.

Darlo had a few injuries so Madden replaced Arnison who has been one of the better players of late. Only five subs were named due to the lack of available players.

In the first half, Darlo more than held their own - Bournemouth were certainly a well-drilled team and had a game plan of getting the ball up to their big forwards, not pretty football but it has worked well for them so far this season.

The Cherries had quite a few opportunities but all efforts were blazed wide or tidied up by the defence. Upfront, Darlo had a couple of efforts on goal but nothing for us to get too excited about.
In the second half, our work rate diminished as Bournemouth moved up a gear and our defending became more frenetic.

(left) Lunchtime DAFTS

Bournemouth broke the deadlock close to the hour mark - a cross ball was met by the head of Robinson and the ball appeared to slip through Redmond's hands. It looked soft from where we were sat.

Inevitably this energised the home side and they upped the pressure even more. The lead was doubled when the ref awarded a penalty for handball by Madden - more a case of ball to hand and very harsh.

It certainly didn't look deliberate which is what Law 12 says it should be but we didn't get the rub of the green from the ref (not that it would have affected the outcome) throughout the game.
For the remainder of the match, Darlo struggled to get the ball out of their half and make meaningful progress up front - Michael Smith was introduced but was inffectual whilst Redmond made a great save close to the end.

After clapping off the team, we made our way via a couple of buses back to the hotel for a quick change into glad rags (for those that had them). A few of us then headed back to the Porterhouse and then the Goat for more beers.

In the Goat we came across John Gray, Richie Parker and chums who were doing their best to get through the eleven handpumps and the conversation turned to the pubs we'll be trying out in the Conference next season.

From the Goat it was a short walk to the West Beach Restaurant more or less right on the beach close to the pier. This is supposedly the best place in town, concentrating mainly on seafood dishes.

Those that had stayed at the hotel had beaten us but we found that our table wasn't yet ready - not a good start. In the end it took about 15 mins for them to get our table ready which did at least allow time for use to fully peruse the specials board.

The restaurant is a cut-above the normal sort of restaurant DAFTS tend to visit on their away trips but given that we're celebrating a few people hitting their half century this year (try and guess who), it was nice to visit somewhere a bit special.

Debbie McGee was also dining at a nearby table - sans hubby who was performing for the Round Table in a nearby hotel - so it's obviously the in place to be in Bournemouth (if you're a former assistant to a magician, that is).

The food was excellent, not quite the quantities that trenchers like us are used to but still very filling, and as the restaurant offered free water and wine in lieu of our extended wait, the meal didn't break the bank either.

All in all a fine finish to a very pleasant weekend away - good company, good beer and good food - what more do you want?

Now all I have to do is get my deposit back...

Seaside Sojourn - Day One

Whilst waiting for my train at Waterloo station, I saw a familiar figure shuffling along the concourse- it took me a few seconds to work out who but it was Bernard Cribbins, looking old and frail, but despite his recent appearances in Dr Who it appears no one else recognised him.

I'd taken the Friday afternoon off in order to beat the rush-hour frenzy and head off to the south coast - a quiet journey just a little under two hours with some nice views of the New Forest along the way - where I met Steve and Cath at Branksome station.

(left) Branksome Railway Hotel

We were staying at the nearby Branksome Railway Hotel - we wandered over and checked in.

After paying for our rooms we were rather dischuffed to find that we also had to pay a deposit in case anything got damaged. Damn cheek - do we look like the types that would smash up our rooms?!

After checking in and dropping off our luggage, we decided against a beer in the hotel and wandered off down the Poole Road into Bournemouth to our first port of call, the Porterhouse.

This is a small pub belonging to Ringwoods serving three of their regular beers - Best Bitter, Fortyniner and Old Thumper - plus guests Harviestoun Bitter and Twisted and Martons Old Empire IPA.

Being mid-afternoon tt was nice and quiet and the beers were in good condition so we settled back to relax for a couple of hours. We were joined by Tony and Lesley who'd driven down from Darlington.

After a couple more beers we wandered off to one of our old haunts, the Goat and Tricycle on West Hill Road.

Several years ago a group of us had come down, not just for a Darlo game but also for Neil's 50th birthday. We stayed at a hotel just down the road and the Goat became our local pub.

(right) The Goat and Tricycle

Neil, along with his other half Mari, had been planning to join us for the weekend but they became one of the early casualties of the Icelandic volcanic dust which was grounding most flights in northern Europe.

As then, the pub had a large range of ales on offer - it's a Wadworths pub so there are quite a few from their stable such as Bishops Tipple, Horizon, 6X, Strong In The Arm and Henry's Original IPA.

There were also a good few guests on offer: Tom Wood's Springtime, Cairngorm Howler, Ushers 1824, O'Hanlons Yellow Hammer, Everards Tiger, Holden's Wind Blower and White Horse Saracen.

On the way in I bumped into a guy who asked if I was from CAMRA? I mean - just how did he guess that? It turned out he was from Sheffield and his local CAMRA mates had asked him to bring down various newsletters but he only knew this pub. Ever organised with my trusty map, I soon put him straight on the places to visit.

John and Bev were next to join us and as well as sampling the beers we also had some food. A very decent menu, the pick of which was the trio of steaks for less than a tenner - gammon, pork and rump steak plus chips, tomato and fried egg - very good quality, well cooked and quickly devoured.

A surprise guest joining us was Gavin Ellis who was looking for some people to tell his bad jokes to.

We remember his comedic talents all too well from pre-season trips to the Isle of Man and Eire several years ago. Suffice to say they've not improved.

(left) Have you heard this one, Ted?

Gavin told us that he'd taken the coach to Rochdale, had taken the train down to Bournemouth and was going to the next game at Cheltenham in his taxi. He's going to take a few fans with him - I hope they're taking cotton wool with them.

Brian was the last to join us - he'd been to see some cricket at Trent Bridge before driving down to complete our merry band - and after a quick pint, we wandered off back to the Porterhouse.

Unlike earlier, the pub was absolutely crammed - it seems to be a real locals place and age-wise the clientele reminded me a little of Number Twenty2. We had another quick pint before heading off back to the hotel for a relatively early night.

Update: Read about Gav and his taxi ride to Cheltenham here.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Conference Calling, Conference Calling...

And so the outcome we've been waiting for all season has finally come to pass - Darlo are heading back into the Conference despite a wonderful victory at Spotland - an impressive third away win on the trot.

Despite this win - which put the champagne on ice for Rochdale's promotion for just a little longer - results elsewhere meant that the fat lady can finally start singing.

It is difficult to say whether the recent upturn in form is due to the dismissal of Staunton - and presumably a feeling of relief from some of the players - or the fact the pressure is off or possibly the immediate impact of the new managerial team.

Regardless of the reason, it has at least brought back a bit of pride in the club for the fans and something for us all to cheer about. And perhaps we can now look forward to next season with a sense of optimism - plus enjoyment as we'll be revisiting a few old haunts as well as off to some new towns and grounds.

I thought it was appropriate to have a few beers to mark the occasion and decided to visit the Eleanor Arms in Bow.

The Eleanor Arms is a Shepherd Neame house which Steve and I popped into earlier in the season.

(left) Colclough's Landlady - a special brew

Liz was already at the bar when I got there - sat chatting with our Leyton Orient and cider festival chum, Mick Lewis.

This week they've had a special brew available - Colclough's Landlady - a beer brewed in Shep's pilot brewery.

Each year they brew a "Four Tenants" ale where the style and strength are prescribed by their tenants and this year this was to be four of their London-based landlords, one being Frankie Colclough who runs the Eleanor.

The Eleanor had four barrels of the beer, the first of which came and went earlier this week.

It's a very tasty drop with a pleasant hoppy edge to it - due to the inclusion of some Slovenian hops apparently - and it is devoid of the usual Sheps tang which I'm not a big fan of.

Also on offer was Solar Eclipse - also from their pilot brewery - as well as Canterbury Jack and the Double Stout from the main brewery. I stuck to the Landlady.

Frankie was not on duty tonight - his wife was doing the honours which I suppose was appropriate - but we bumped into him outside Mile End tube as we headed home.

He'd been for a bit of a crawl around some Sheps pubs and was rather the worse for wear as a result. Nice to see a landlord who enjoys beers and visiting pubs.

Whilst on the subject of special one-off beers, check out your local Wetherspoons as they have their annual international beer festival on.

Liz and I went to their flagship outlet, the Crosse Keys, in the City of London last week to check it out.

(right) Hawkwind - the beer for space rockers!

There are a lot of beers brewed especially for the festival including a number brews by foreign brewers, including one from Hawaii who had produced a coconut stout.  I left that for another day.

But what else did I find? A pint of Hawkwind!

Finally a brewery, Elgoods, has realised the worth of the band and brewed a very nice brew in their honour! Try it before it's too late...

Monday, 12 April 2010

Is It Over Yet? Unfortunately Not...

I have to admit that it was difficult to summon up a lot of enthusiasm for this home game against Accrington Stanley - the prospect that results may mean we'd be relegated wasn't the problem - the season just needs to be put out of it's misery so we can put it behind us and get on with looking forward to next season.

Chris was back with us this morning and so it wasn't long before the fatuous arguments on the quality of the Conference teams and our progress next season began between him and Martin. As ever I kept well out of it well until it finally subsided. A no-score bore draw.

The journey was somewhat of an odd one too - we were the first train out of Kings Cross going to the north and the first stop was York but due to a small stretch of engineering between Stevenage and Hitchin it took about 90 mins just to reach Peterborough. Very frustrating.

It was almost noon by the time we pulled into Bank Top station - the platform was awash with Newcastle fans going up for their game against Blackpool - no doubt to celebrate their promotion back to the Premiershite.

By the time I got to the Quakerhouse I found that all the tables had been taken by a group of Sheffield Wednesday fans. They were playing the Boro but had taken the sensible decision of drinking in Darlington first.

On the bar today: Captain Cook's Endeavour and Black Porter, Salopian Lemon Dream and Springtime, Ironbridge IPA, Rugby Victorious, Keltek Pat's Ale and Grays Best and Summerskills Hopscotch - the latter two both hanging on from our visit earlier in the week.

It was a quiet DAFTS turn-out today - just Tony and myself. John Bell was to have joined us but had called in complaining of a dodgy stomach - he'd make the game but couldn't face the beer.

We wandered on up to Number Twenty-2 where we met Durham Tony. My chum Paul was also in with a couple of his Scottish mates - as ever he had a bet on the game, fully confident of a win.

(left) Only Durham Tony can raise a smile

Some interesting beers on tap: Brass Monkey Silverback, Green Jack Excelsior, Copper Dragon Scotts 1816, Hambleton Nightmare and Allendale Curlew's Return and Best Bitter.

I've had a few Allendale beers recently and they've all been excellent but the Curlews Return was outstanding - probably the best I've had for a while.

The Silverback was also an excellent pint - a 5% golden bitter with bags of flavour.

John Bell popped in to join us when it was time to catch the taxi and off we went to the game.

There were a few newbies in block 11 today - no doubt due to the closure of the West Stand - and it certainly looked like we were back with a sub-2000 crowd.

In the away stand, Accrington seemingly had more flags than fans but despite their lack of numbers, their drumming made enough noise for everyone.

On the pitch it looked as if the players were as enthused as I was - Stanley had nothing to play for and our fate is now all but sealed - chances were few and far between and the game was quite a chore to watch.

The most interesting part of the day was when Tony and I started to heckle the assessor that constantly seems to pester the stewards. The stewards work towards an NVQ and I've seen some of the papers which they have to fill in - it really is making what should be a quite simple case of using common sense into a over-regulated nightmare. No wonder stewards look confused all the time.

Back on the field of play the defence played quite well with Arnison the pick of the bunch at right-back but in midfield and up-front we looked jaded. Chris Moore worked well early on but faded fast as did Purcell.

Youngster Michael Smith - who replaced the inept Diop - reminds me of a lower-league Peter Crouch but he failed to make any impression on this game though due to the lack of service he was often a solitary figure up front.

Old boy Mark Convery made another late appearance as a sub but made little overall impact on the game.

A final score of nil-nil was the predictable outcome and I suspect everyone was relieved and happy to head on home.

The Quakers had technically avoided relegation but this formality should be confirmed at Spotland in a twist of fate that sees the two longest-serving clubs finally get out of this division - it is just so typical of Darlo that we do it in a downward direction.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Boxed In

An early start today - 7:55am from Kings Cross - made worse with a full package of Easter weekend engineering on the tube. This and a late opening of Da Vincis means I only have time for a takeaway bacon and egg sarnie rather than the usual sit-down.

Martin is with me as usual - Chris was to have been with us too but he and his girlfriend Suzy are on the last leg of their tandem ride from London to Darlington (via Burton). Hopefully they'll still be engaged when they reach Darlo.

An early departure means an early arrival into Darlington - Tony meets me at the station and we wander into town and pick up some pies at Taylors.

(left) Tadhg Purcell takes on Hereford defenders

In the Quakerhouse today we have Marston Moor Little Owl; Keltek Grays Best and Beechers; Hadrian and Border Byker Light, Jarrow Brewery Slake, Ringwoods Boondoggle; High House Farm Auld Hemp and Matfen Magic and Summerskills Hopscotch.

The pick of the bunch for me are the beers from Keltek - amber beers full of flavour - in fact there are quite a few malty brews on offer today with very few golden ales.

Tony is quite smartly dressed today as is Steve who meets us in the pub - the reason being that that we're in a hospitality box for the game - I've made the grand concession of ironing my t-shirt because as far as I'm concerned I'll look plain scruffy whatever I'm wearing.

John, Bev, Neil and Trevor then join us as the pub finally starts to get busy - as usual, Number Twenty-2 is shut on bank holidays so there are a few refugees from there joining us.

We get talking to a Hereford fan who remembered me from my last visit to the Barrels in Hereford last season - like us they're looking forward to the end of the season but only because they're going nowhere. Lucky buggers!

All but Tony and I leave early for a meal in the Ron Greener lounge - we're both quite happy to stay and have a few more beers. Lesley joins us for a quick pint and then we're on our way to the game.

At one time DAFTS used to take a box once or twice a season - it's always fun to see the other side of the club though you do feel a little cut-off from the fans - but we've not done it for a season or so.

(right) Old boy Ryan Valentine tangles with Curtis Main

We finally got to meet Damon Shaw who is the club's Community Liaison Officer and who seems to be doing a decent job in acting as a conduit between the club and the fans - something that's been a bit of a poisoned chalice in the past.

He had pooped in to hand over Steve Foster's away shirt that I had been sponsoring until his departure a few weeks ago. For the rest of the season I've moved my affiliations over to Gareth Waite who was duly struck down with injury and is now out for the rest of the season - typical!

The atmosphere at the game was a bit muted despite a larger than normal attendance - by recent standards - and the game was much the same.

Despite keeping faith with the side that won at Burton - or maybe perhaps they were all knackered after such a hard-working performance - the Quakers and the Bulls more or less cancelled each other out.

There were few chances for either team in the first half - certainly nothing of note to tempt Tony and I out from the warmth of the box and the delights of Jeff Stelling - although Hereford probably made Redmond work harder than his opposite number.

In the second half, Darlo hit the woodwork after the keeper got fingertips to a shot from John Gray who continues to impress since Stuanton's departure. Purcell also went close with a header.

(left) Main watches as Josh Gray's shot hits the post

Hereford then took the lead - Pugh ran at the defence and was given space to shot past Redmond across the goal - White content to watch the striker run at goal when he should really have been closed down.

Our third Smith of the season, Michael of the youth team, was given his debut outing and both he and Gray made tentative runs towards goal but nothing to trouble the Hereford defence.

Darlo probably didn't deserve to get beat but as for most of this season, we failed to show enough invention when attacking and if we can't score, then it's going to be very hard to win games.

Of course, it offers Simon Davey the chance to witness the squad and see the issues we've been having all season - I'm sure he wasn't fooled by the win a few days earlier.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Tailor-Made Day Out

It's been a while since we've had a new club to visit so Howard decided to join me on our trip to the East Midlands.

I met him in Da Vincis who have finally realised that the best way to get my tea just the way I like it is to give me the milk (I like it good and strong, a concept that has evaded them).

The breakfast was excellent too and as we boarded the 8:55am from St Pancras we were looking forward to a good day out.

On arrival at Derby station less than two hours later, we found Tony, Neil, Trevor and Brian already waiting - they hurried across the road for their own breakfast whilst Howard and I - along with John Bell who had just arrived - wandered pub-wards.

(left) The Brunswick Inn

The Brunswick Inn is just a hundred yards or so from the station and as we were early, we had a wander round the nearby streets as they looked quite interesting. The houses are all railway cottages, apparently the earliest such development in the country, built in the 1840s.

Both the houses and the pub survived proposed demolition plans and were sold by the council to a local trust who restored and modernised the houses and the now-listed pub.

The landlord opened up ten minutes early to let one of his locals in so we tagged along behind. The pub is a multi-roomed delight and there are three sets of hand pumps serving various beers in addition to those brewed in the on-site brewery.

The beers on offer from the Brunswick Brewing Company were Railway Porter, Old Accidental, Station Approach, Second Brew, White Feather, Triple Hop, Father Mike's and Tim's Soar Head (a beer brewed during a training course at the pub's brewery).

Beers from elsewhere included Martsons Pedigree, Everards Beacon and Flourish, Taylors Landlord, Burton Old Cottage Pastiche, RCH East Street and Burton Bridge Maschine Mann.

We stuck to trying the brewery's own beers and all of them were decent brews - I especially liked Station Approach. The breakfast boys then joined us as did Colin.

Just as at the Black Lion back in October, the main topic of discussion was the recent appointment of Simon Davey as Darlo manager. I think it's safe to say that we're all much happier this time around - I don't think we could have realistically expect anyone much better to come to Darlo.

After a couple of beers we wandered back to the station and joined a few familiar Darlo faces for the short train journey to Burton.

Lance and Ray Waters were already in Burton, ensconced in the Devonshire Arms so Tony and co. dropped in there for a quick pint or two.

Howard, John, Colin and I walked a little further to Coopers Tavern where we found Steve and Brummy Tony.

(left) DAFTS chaps in the Coopers Tavern

BT was at pains to set the record straight after I'd recently described him a jinx - he was one of the few of us who went to Salop last weekend for our victory and so he was keen to get some of the credit.

The Coopers Tavern is another great pub and you get a good vibe as soon as you walk down the passage to the pub. Originally it was the store for the Bass Imperial Stout brewed over the road and apparently brewers would pop over Cross Street and sample the stout - it later became the brewers tap for the Bass brewery before eventually opening fully as a pub.

The beer is still served as it is in all sampling cellars – direct from the barrel in the small back bar.

On offer whilst we were there: Bass, Castle Rock Harvest Pale, William Worthington Red Shield, Hoskins Old Navigation Ale, Thornbridge Raven, Storm Storm Damage and Backyard Brewhouse The Hoard.

Also on offer were a few ciders and perries too: Hecks Kingston Black, Broadoak Perry plus one from nearby Derbyshire producer, Scropton, with the wonderful name of Pig Winker - very good it was too.

The place was semi-busy when we arrived but most locals left after a while, presumably to see the Man Utd-Chelsea game. Either that or it was Lance's jokes or Brian's magic trick that scared them off.

Also joining us on parade today was Iain Swalwell making a rare visit to one of our games - as he was driving he was able to ferry some of us to the ground whilst the rest of us got a taxi (although John B insisted on walking - madness!).

(left) Howard struggles with a scratching - Iain finds it amusing

The Pirelli Stadium is a neat little ground holding about 7,000 fans and it was nice to have the whole of one end for the away contingent - standing too. The stewards and police on duty were very friendly.

We were a bit surprised to see that the landlord of the Brunswick Inn was with us in the away end - after having a quick chat it turned out he was there with a Darlo-supporting regular.

One disappointment - the only one of the day as it turned out - was that the faggots and peas (or poise as they're apparently called locally) were all sold out - it seems Mr Duffy had the last of them. They looked very tasty too.

The Quakers came out of the blocks as if they were chasing promotion - perhaps we really could achieve our third double of the season?

After half an hour it was a distinct possibility - a neat shot from Gray and then a close-range header from White put Darlo two-up.

There had been minimal threat from Burton but they pulled a goal back seconds before the break - a soft penalty given away by Arnison though the Burton forward added an impressive dive to convince the ref to blow for the foul.

(right) Who ate all the (faggots and) peas?

The second half saw Burton come more into the game though it could have swung back in Darlo's direction had the ref awarded a penalty by a Burton defender - apparently the ref apologised to Darlington after the game as he thought we were going to score from the rebound!

The defence were under pressure for the remainder of the game - Redmond made a few good saves and it was pleasing to see that he is now catching the ball rather than trying to punch everything.

I fully intend to take the credit for this after my 'advice' to him during the game at Northampton a few weeks ago.

Wasteful Burton finishing and the hard work of the defence eventually saw us through to the final whistle and a well deserved victory.

And now it was time to celebrate the win so we all (eventually) piled into some taxis and caught the early train back to Derby - Brian though had decided to hop on a bus to Derby instead.

We returned to the Brunswick and had a chat with the local Darlo fan we'd met at the ground - he lives a few doors down from the pub (lucky bugger) and must have been down here a while as he now has a distinct Derby twang.

(left) The warm afterglow of victory

Whilst some of our number departed to catch trains home, a few of us took Colin's recommendation and made our way to another pub.

The Smithfield was a bit of a convoluted walk away but was an interesting place with some decent beers (none of which I can now remember).

After a final pint I headed back to the station and caught my return train with just seconds to spare and eventually made my way (or more correctly swayed my way) to my seat at the rear of the train.

I have to admit that I don't remember much of the journey, suffice to say I woke up at St Pancras in an empty carriage ten minutes after the train had pulled in and with the cleaners about to start tidying up around me.

Now that's what you call a good day!