Tuesday, 7 September 2010

God's Waiting Room

The transport situation is back to normal today - engineering works on the tube are in place as they will be for most weekends this month - but I'm up and away in good time to meet Tony at King's Cross at 8am though he had the worst of it having to catch a train at 5am.

We take the Victoria line down to Pimlico and meet up with Liz outside a new breakfast venue, the Regency Cafe. I've heard a lot of good reports about this place so today's trip to the south coast offered an ideal opportunity to pop in and try it.

(left) Tony tucks in

It's quite different from most cafes in that you order your food at the counter and then you'll be called to collect the food when it's ready. The woman at the counter has a quiet voice when taking the order yet turns all Windsor Davies as she barks out that "Set Breakfast and Chips" is ready. What a voice!

The breakfast is truly excellent - both bacon and chips are all well cooked, the sausage is meaty, the black pudding is thick and moist, the bread is crusty and the tea is strong. Well worth another visit when we're next in the area.

We take the short walk from here to Victoria station - there are a worrying number of police and fire brigade around when we arrive with the entrances to the underground taped off but thankfully the rail services are unaffected.

We board our train but not before the ticket barriers have played silly buggers and I've had to give the station staff the benefit of my views - I'm already ranting and we're not even at Eastbourne, it's going to be a good day at this rate.

Our Argyle chum Geoff joins at the front of the train once he has got a pastie for his breakfast (you can take the boy out of Cornwall etc etc) and then once we're underway, John Bell joins us at Gatwick as flying is the only way he can get there and back in one day.

We pull into Eastbourne where Brummy Tony is waiting for us - Colin's mate and local resident Andrew is also waiting - and we head over the road to the London and County, a Wetherspoons pub. John has to drive later so he volunteers to go and check out if our main pub is open yet.

There are some local beers on offer - Blonde and Gold from the White Brewing Company plus Grainstore Ten Fifty. The White beers are attractively priced at £1.99 a pint so we have some of those - they're OK but not brilliant so when John texts us to say our main pub is open we sup up and move on (leaving just as Steve Duffy arrives and is getting a pint).

The Eagle is just a couple of hundred yards away and is a bright open pub with some local beers and big screens for the TV sport. They're showing the MK Dons v Hartlepool game but no one pays it any heed.

(right) Brummy T and Pat chew the fat

On tap they have Harveys Sussex Best as well as a couple from the Rother Valley Brewing Company - Wealden Bitter and Levers Alone - and Bee-Head from 1648 Brewing Company.

We try the Wealden Bitter but it isn't brilliant - not quite off but not quite right - we move onto the Bee-Head, a honey beer that isn't too honey-ish, and which is really tasty but then runs out. We settle on the Levers Alone which is the best of the bunch having just been put on.

A myriad of folks then join us - Ian Swalwell and one of his mates, Chris and Simon (aka comeondarlo and spyman in messageboard parlance), Rich, John and Andy from Darlo, Pat (Steve's Villa-supporting chum), Alisdair (Steve's old university chum) and Steve's brother Martin who lives down the road in Hove.

Colin is the last to join us - with other half Gill - but he is not partaking this lunchtime as he's helping out Ray Simpson with the match commentary. Taking his role seriously, he has been busy doing his research and has reams of notes.

Quite a few people are tucking into the pies that the pub offers - they're produced by Pieminister and are a little different to the normal pie.

They are proper pies (in that they have a pastry lid, bottom and sides) but unusual fillings such as Thai Chook (thai green curry), Matador (beef & chorizo) and Heidi (goats cheese and sweet potato), all served with a little pot of gravy. A bit poncy for my basic tastes but those who partake really enjoy them.

Various people then wander off to the ground - Steve and a few others take a taxi whilst Iain offers Liz, Tony and I a lift. We arrive about ten minutes before kick-off which means I have to run off and get my press pass.

The ground is quite small - three terraced sides and a small main stand with about ten rows of seats - very cosy and tight so that you're up close to the players.

(left) Liz, Tony and Martin at half-time

There seems to be a decent crowd with some Brighton shirts on display as their game against Argyle was off due to international call-ups - hard to believe that - plus today is Non-League Day when fans of Premiership and Championship teams are being encouraged to come and see their local teams.

The match kicks off and there was little to choose between the sides initially - Darlo probably had the edge and made more attempts at goal whilst Sam Russell was relatively untroubled.

The first real incident of the game was when Eastbourne left-back Jenkins took out Gary Smith with a two-footed tackle. Apparently he'd already been giving the young linesman a load of verbal prior to that so it is little wonder that he got short shrift from the men in black and he was red-carded.

And then just two minutes later, keeper Banks collected the ball outside the box leaving the ref with little option but to wave the red card for the second time.

Midfielder Smart took over the keeping duties - he'd been quite useful in midfield for Eastbourne up to that point and he nearly kept a clean sheet until Senior scored with a diving header just before the break.

During half-time I received a text from the Northern Echo - apparently John Terry was at the game and could I get some shots?

(right) Martin points out a handsome photographer to Ron and Howard

I wandered over to the small main stand and bumped into Martin Deans - Terry had gone to the bar apparently.

I hung around chatting to Martin and JT was back just before the restart, smiling and signing autographs for children.

With a two man advantage you would really expect Darlo to go on and score some more goals, wouldn't you? But let us not forget that this is Darlington and absolutely anything can happen.

Darlo proceeded to make hard work of the depleted Eastbourne side and several good chances were squandered - Offiong and Hone shooting the wrong side of the post whilst Michael Smith and sub Josh Gray were both denied by last-gasp saves from the stand-in keeper.

The second half was not without its lighter moments. Gary Smith was close to me at one point and I told him how much he'd improved since he sorted his hair out and ditched the Alice band. After a quick double-take, he laughed, obviously not used to expert hair advice from someone who hasn't cut his hair for several years.

Encouraged by Darlo's failure to extend their lead and presumably still smarting from the double sending off, Eastbourne were pulling out all the stops, managing to make some headway at the other end.

(left) Stand-in keeper Smart denies Michael Smith

Eventually Darlo were made to pay for their wastefulness when Taylor headed past Russell to level the score.

The home crowd went wild in celebration whilst Darlo fans just shook their heads in disbelief.

With twenty minutes still to play it was now more a matter of hanging on for a point rather going for the win.

And so it was and at the final whistle Smart was hailed as a hero whilst the Darlo players simply looked embarrassed and trudged off, presumably to get some words of advice from Mark Cooper.

In the aftermath of this result, there was a lot of over-the-top reactions as some declared this the lowest point in Darlo's history, etc etc. Clearly that is just rubbish but it is not a result that will bring any credit to us but these things do happen.

Perhaps I'm being more fatalistic these days and refuse to let results spoil my day out. Or perhaps now that I'm back on the touchline I have to be slightly removed from the tension so that I can take shots and capture the action.

Eastbourne should also be credited with a very spirited performance as they never let Darlo get into any rhythm and Smart showed he could have been a full-time keeper but for the fact he's my height!

I certainly think that Richard Offiong will find that we won't be extending his loan - he has failed to show that he is going to be in any way productive for us - perhaps this will allow Curtis Main (a sub today despite newspaper reports he was at Bury on trial) a chance to show us whether he has improved.

After the game, Iain kindly drove us all back to the Eagle where we had a couple more pints before we headed off back to London, saying goodbye to the Duffy bros at Lewes.

We got home - Tony with us as he'd decided to spend the night at our place - and we popped along to the Udaya, our local southern Indian restaurant, so he could try out some kerelan cuisine. Other than the result, it had been a very enjoyable day.

Liz also has her own report of the day out over at the London Millers blog.

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