Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Hayes and Yeading Do The Double

We haven't had much chance to visit Maries for breakfast this season so as we had a leisurely start to the day John W and I decide to begin the day here. The place is very quiet and so we're served nice and quickly - as ever the breakfast is A1.

As we're ahead of schedule so we pop into the Ian Allan bookshop. I potter round the Military section and end up buying an interesting looking book on trench warfare in WW1. Is it only me that finds this sort of thing fascinating?

From here we head over to Paddington where Trevor is waiting for us and we catch a local commuter train and just fifteen minutes later we're in sunny Hayes.

The choice of pubs in this neck of the woods is probably the worst we've had all season and as a result we've highlighted the local Wetherspoons as the only decent place to go.

The Botwell Inn isn't that bad when we get there - it has a decent choice of beers on offer, some of which are leftovers from their recent national festival.

However the one thing that bugs me about Wetherspoons is that if there is a handpump with a pumpclip it doesn't necessarily mean the beer is on as we soon find out. They refuse to turn the pumpclip round as most other pubs do and so your expectations are raised.

The first beer we have is Daleside White Bier which is in the style of a Belgian white and it is quite good - certainy refreshing. It is quite cheap as well of course, certainly by London standards and whilst price is rarely the criteria I use for selecting beers, it is good when you get a decent beer for a modest cost.

Other offerings included Windsor & Eton Windsor Knot and Black IPA , Zeunerts Ale, Greene King Abbot and Courage Directors.

(left) Sam Russell fails to keep Hayes & Yeading from scoring a second goal

Geoff Luke then joined us - and then Howard - whilst John had to go and collect Beverley from the station. For someone who works for London Transport she doesn't have the greatest sense of direction!

From the pub it takes about fifteen minutes to walk to the ground - probably the neatest we've visited this season but nice and homely nonetheless. I sign in at the main gate and am left to my own devices on the pitch - no long list of do's and don't here.

The weather is lovely and it all has the hallmarks of an early season friendly but for Hayes & Yeading this is a must-win fixture.

And judging from their first-half performance, Darlington were looking to do everything in their power to help them.

Hayes were out for a result from the kick-off and were in the lead after 20 mins after Adam Quinn was out-paced on the wing and from the resulting cross the ball was bundled into the Quakers' net.

(right) A smug Geoff with his winnings

No lessons were learnt from this and Hayes could see that Darlo were not up for it - Russell made two decent saves before the lead was doubled after about 30 minutes.

By now the Quakers looked well out of it and qjuite likely to concede further - thankfully we got to half-time without Hayes increasing their lead.

The break saw some joy however as our chum Geoff Luke won the half-time draw and he came back to us flashing a fisful of twenties! Sadly it was to be the highlight of the afternoon.

As the second half kicked off, there was certainly more endeavour from Darlo and some positive work up-front but the game was more or less killed off when Hayes counter-attacked at speed and made it 3-0.

Michael Smith worked himself into a good position but failed to slot in from a slight angle just a few yards from the line with no one to beat. It more or less summed up our day.

His blushes were short-lived though as Darlo surprised us all and scored two goals in quick succession.

The first was an own-goal after a Hayes defender knocked into his own net after the keeper had initially stopped a goal-bound effort from MB-W.

The second was a debut goal from Greg Taylor who was first to react and poked the ball home from a few yards after Miller's header came back off the bar.

(left) Greg Taylor scores his debut goal for Darlo - not enough

Darlo then huffed and puffed but failed to create an equaliser and so Hayes and Yeading earned a vaulable three points in their battle for survival.

Meanwhile we trudged back to the station and headed back to Paddington and from there to the Euston Tap where Geoff was keen to spend his winnings on us. Who we were to refuse?

There were a couple of cracking beers on tonight from the very well regarded Summer Wine Brewery - Odyssey Pale Ale and Nerotype Black IPA - and these helped put the poor performance to bed.

Thank goodness for the healing properties of beer - where would I be without it?

Friday, 8 April 2011

The Ugly Face Of Football

John W and I meet up at King's Cross, waiting the arrival of the 6:30am departure from Darlo and on it, hopefully, was Tony.

Well it looked like Tony but it was strangely quiet version as we headed down to the tube. It seems he'd been out on the town last night and wasn't quite with the rest of us yet.

As we jumped on a packed Victoria line train I suddenly realised all was not well - there was an incident elsewhere on the line so we opted for the Piccadilly. From here we had a convoluted trip that saw us exit Westminster tube.

From here it was a five minute walk past Scotland Yard and the Channel 4 offices to our first calling point of the day, the Regency Cafe.

We first came here at the start of the season - an excellent breakfasterie and it didn't let us down today. All aspects of the meal were first class, including an old-fashioned pint of orange juice to perk us up.

From Victoria we had a 50-min trip to Crawley and we timed our arrival more or less perfectly for the opening of the Swan.

This is a decent pub with some nice beers - Dark Star Hophead and M&M Porter, Northern Two-Tone Special, Gadds IPA and a couple more - but the majority were 5% or more.

We settled in the small quiet bar and it was a pretty slow going - Tony had a pint of lemonade whilst I had a half of coke to accompany my pint of Hophead.

(left) Liam Hatch wins the ball

We then got on with the serious business of working out who would be needing a ticket for Wembley so that we could try and get them all together.

John B arrived followed by Iain and Paul - a relatively easy trip for them - and we settled to watch West Ham take a two-nil lead over Manchester United. "3-2 to United" I suggested as the final score - I was nearly right.

John B had estimated via Google that it was a thirteen minute walk to the ground but we set off in good time anyway. Just as well as it took almost double that and I walked into reception with less than ten minutes to spare before kick-off.

The Broadway Stadium is a neat little ground with one main stand and two standing terraces behind the goal with the home fans given the chance to change ends. The Darlo contingent were given one corner of the ground so I positioned myself close by.

On the pitch, Paul Terry was making his full start since coming back from injury and he had his work cut out for most of the day, especially as Gary Smith went on to have a very quiet game and MB-W was also far from his best.

Despite Steve Evan's earlier comments to the contrary, we know that Darlo are not a long-ball team and it was Miller and Burn who spent most of the first-half heading away long-balls pumped to the Crawley striker McAllister.

For the most part the Crawley threat was nullified although there were a couple of times when Sam Russell had to tip shots round the post.

At the other end Liam Hatch was getting little out of the game - he worked hard but the Crawley centre-backs held firm. And should Hatch actually win a ball, he usually found that referee Whitton pulled him up for a foul.

Whitton though seemed to let similar things go unpunished when made by Crawley players and some of his decisions beggared belief.

John Campbell almost got on the end of a cross from MB-W but he was eventually subbed after half an hour for Nathan Modest.

On the sidelines Crawley manager Steve Evans and his assistant were pacing the technical area, berating the officials for any decision that didn't go for them. Mark Cooper meanwhile kept his own counsel and didn't react.

Darlo continued to work hard in defence to keep Crawley at bay and it was goalless when the ref blew for half-time.

The second-half proved to be just like the first - Crawley high balls, Darlo defending, the ref making poor decisions the home bench screaming blue murder.

However on the hour Crawley took the lead - and ironically it came about via a stroke of bad luck as Miller made a good tackle only for the ball to fall to Smith who fired in off the post.

Darlo upped their game in a bid to get an equaliser but Hatch continued to be thwarted by poor decisions from the referee. He did go close on one occasion but the home keeper pushed the ball to Burn who put the ball over the bar.

Crawley brought on sub Richard Brodie to try and put more pressure on Darlo - a nasty piece of work, always sniping at other players and falling over in bids to win fouls - sort of a cross between Plug of the Bash Street Kids and Paul Dickov - and let's not forget it was Brodie's theatrical antics that saw Brown sent off at the home fixture in November.

(right) Brown takes a throw-in as the Crawley bench kick a spare ball onto the pitch

As the final seconds ticked away, Aaron Brown took a throw-in on the half-way line as Darlo looked to make one final attack. As he did I noticed a loose ball was kicked by one of the Crawley bench onto the pitch - presumably to get the ref to interrupt play and get the extra ball off.

The ref blew for full-time at that point anyway so it made no difference but that simple snide act from the Crawley team personified exactly why they'll not be missed next season. Good riddance.

We made our way back to the station where the service back to Victoria was running a few minutes late. When we got on-board we were then delayed by someone walking on the track just ahead of the train.

It probably took about twenty minutes for the guy to be finally persuaded to return to the platform before we got underway. And then the driver announced the train would terminate at the next station!

After detraining at Three Bridges, we caught a train to London Bridge. Unfortunately it was a stopper so John B jumped out at Gatwick to get a quicker train so he'd not miss his Euston connection.

We sat and enjoyed the slower journey but still managed to get to the Euston Tap just after 7pm. Tine for Tony to have a quick pint of Ossett Corker and see what all the fuss is about.

John B and I stayed for a few more beers then finally called it a day - a frustrating and disappointing day but at least we can console ourselves with the fact that we don't have an odious git for a manager...

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Jokers Wild

Waterloo station is not a particularly exciting place, especially at 5pm on a Friday night as everyone heads towards the station for their commute home.

I was here to find a decent pub before going to see Killing Joke at the Royal Festival Hall. One contender was the famous Hole In The Wall pub next to the station but on our last visit a few years ago it wasn't up to much.

Instead I headed down the impressive Roupell Street - like stepping into the past as you walk past the wonderfully preserved Victorian workers' cottages - to the Kings Arms.

This pub is a real gem - two bars with four ales on each including Dark Star Hophead and Patridge,Brakspear's Oxford Gold, Jenning's Cumberland Ale and Ringwood Boondoggle - and it wasn't too busy so I got a seat at the bar.

I tried the Dark Star Partridge and was so impressed I stuck to it - darker than the Hophead but just as drinkable.

One of the barmen noticed my camera bag - he told me that he was a freelance reportage photographer and so we got talking about camera gear and how best to capture the moment.

The pub steadily got fuller as the working day came to a close and after several more pints I was joined by Andy and Clarkey who were also going to the gig.

I'd been advised the band would hit the stage at 8:30pm and so we left in good time even though it was only a few minutes away.

The Royal Festival Hall is often thought of as a venue just for classical music but it has been putting on rock bands for quite a while.

(left) Jaz Coleman in full flow

We had great seats in the middle of the front section and as the lights dimmed at 8:30pm exactly, the band hit the stage and KJ fans left their seats and hit the front.

Although tempted to join them I stayed where I was as I had a perfect spot for taking photos.

Unlike most venues you're not frisked on entry and they seem to have no issue with you taking photos. I felt sorry for the those freelance photographers down at the front who were now swamped by hordes of fans.

The sound was superb - not surprising as the hall was totally refurbished a few years ago - and the band rumbled through their back catalogue.

As this stretches back to 1979, there were always some favourites that would be missed out but the likes of Change, Eighties and Wardance showed that this bunch of fifty-somethings can still cut it.

There was a huge backdrop on which film and animation projections were being played - these were all produced by Darlington lad Mike Coles, supremo of Malacious Damage records and designer of the early KJ album sleeves. They were very impressive and complemented the songs brilliantly.

The band is back to the original members - front man Jaz Coleman strutting the stage in his trademark boiler suit, Geordie chopping away on guitar and the pumping rhythm being provided by Youth and Paul Ferguson. On stage they're joined by youngster Reza on keyboards.

A great night and probably the finest gig I'd ever seen them play - good to see them maturing nicely like the rest of us...