Monday, 14 March 2011

Darlo Sneak A-Head

A very quiet journey north on the train today - a handful of Southend fans who got off at Peterborough and that was about it. You'd have thought we were the only ones playing in the north-east.

As usual I popped into the covered market for some pies - hopefully I'll not leave them in the pub/taxi as I did last week. No doubt someone got a pleasant surprise when they found my bag of goodies.

Brian was the first in the pub today as Tony wasn't able to join us until noon - John Bell wasn't far behind.

At the bar today: York Centurions Ghost, Saltaire Cascade Pale Ale, Quercus QPA, Consett Red Dust, Crouch Vale Santian, Purple Moose Dark Side of the Moose, Rudgate Sea Fight and a couple from Yard of Ale, Chinook and Hop'd Scotch.

Of these the Crouch Vale Santian was by far the pick of the bunch - with Santian hops from Oregon it was described as zesty and spicy - not sure so about the spice but it was certainly full of bite - just a shame I didn't start with it.

As we prepared to wander along to Number Twenty-2, a couple of Gateshead fans overheard us and asked if they could follow us there since they weren't quite sure where it was. Of course, we are the Friendly Club after all.

N22 was much busier than it has been for quite a while with a few more Darlo fans than usual - normally it tends to be just our little DAFTS contingent and a handful of others such as Durham Tony. DT was there today and had brought a few glory-hunting friends!

On the bar today we had Beatown Bearskinful, Daleside Best, Titanic Steerage Best, Hexhamshire Whapweasel, Taylors Ram Tam and Allendale Golden Plover. The latter was a lovely pale beer but once I'd seen Ram Tam was available I got stuck into that.

I had ordered three taxis today and we left promptly at 2:20pm when the first arrived.

It was just like the old days - a queue of cars as you came to the roundabout on the A66 so the taxi driver dropped us off outside the ground on Neasham Road. Looks like being a good crowd - Raj will be pleased.

(left) Former Quaker Adam Rundle gets ready to punish Darlo

I had to go to the ticket office for my press ticket - thankfully inside as the queues outside were quie long - and as I arrived pitchside with 25 mins to kick-off, there was already a healthy crowd in and the atmosphere was building up nicely.

The Quakers started well and after about 10 mins thought they had taken the lead through Verma but it was disallowed for offside.

Gateshead raised their game and started to get far too much possession on their left-wing - Arnison not having a good game - and Darlo narrowly survived one scare before Nathan Fisher found space in the box to fire past Russell.

From then on, Darlo were on the back foot as Gateshead applied more pressure - Russell tipped over a Rundle header and it was the former Darlo player who scored from the resulting corner after he prodded home a goal-line clearance by Chandler.

At this point you could feel the waves of negativity pouring down from the stands - it was just so typical of Darlo to do this whenever we had a good crowd in the Arena. Half-time couldn't come soon enough.

Gateshead nearly made it three-nil just seconds after the restart but thankfully their shooting was off on this occasion.

Darlo then started to up their game and finally pulled back a goal through Mark Bridge-Wilkinson. Hatch pushed the ball forward but was fouled as he did so.

(right) Smudger (G) hitches a ride after Hatchy scores the equaliser

Thankfully referee Boyeson - who hitherto was never one of my favourite refs - played advantage which allowed MB-W to slot the ball home from a tight angle (though strictly speaking I think it glanced the post and went in off a Gateshead defender). But quite frankly I didn't care - come on!!!

It was now Darlo's turn to look dangerous and we started to put the Gateshead defence under pressure with Gary Smith being denied by Farman and then Verma going close.

Darlo won a free-kick when sub Nathan Modest was fouled out on the right wing - from the resulting Brown cross Liam Hatch headed home and the Darlo fans went wild.

I think at this stage I would have taken the draw but thankfully Darlo had other ideas. Hatch picked up a mis-cleared ball on the edge of the box, raced towards goal and slipped the ball past Farman to make it 3-2. Brilliant!

Hatch continued to work his socks off and chased a ball to the by-line but ended up narrowly missing me by inches as he fell badly.

He looked to have twisted his back as he fell so I moved my gear and made room for him to get treatment. He came straight back on but was subbed a few minutes later.

(left) Hatch puts Darlo into the lead

At the final whistle, most fans probably couldn't believe what they'd seen - this wasn't the Darlo we're used to and the team went off to a well deserved ovation.

As everyone says, it is only half-time in this tie and we only have a slender one-nil lead to take to the second leg but it could have been much, much worse.

An excellent crowd too by recent standards - it was announced as 4,243 with just over a thousand in the Gateshead end - and it made for a great atmosphere which shows that the Arena isn't always crap.

As I left the ground, some of my old Northallerton chums gave me a load of abuse for damaging Hatch but I soon put them straight. As if I'd damage the Capital Quakers' sponsored player!

There was a small police presence along Neasham Road and at the station keeping an eye on thinsg but there seemed to be no trouble as the Gateshead fans headed off home.

Thankfully I hadn't left anything behind today so we had a celebratory cup of tie and a pie once we'd got settled on the way home.

Back in London, there was time for a quick couple of pints in the Euston Tap - Martin choose our first beer, Dark Star Partridge Best, which he liked but I was not keen on. They had quiet a few Dark Star beers including the limited edition Hophead Citra which I'd had that earlier week at the Wenlock.

Instead I opted for a pint of locally brewed Camden Bitter which is served in keg form (or draft as they insist on calling it) but the beer is not pasteurised like normal old-school keg. It was quite tasty but too cold and a bit too gassy - which isn't surprising I suppose. I would much prefer it on cask but it seems that is a bit too old fashioned for them...

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