Monday, 22 August 2011

Silence At The Lamb

Another bright and early start as I meet John W at Euston at 6:30am - unfortunately the anticipated breakfast stop at the nearby Double Six is off the menu - the place is shut, not sure if that is permanent and so we wander back to Da Vinci's instead.

Maybe it is a bit too early for earnest conversation - either way we have a nice, quiet trip to New Street where we are joined first by Tony and then by Steve and his Villa-Hearts supporting mate, Neil.

We head to the Wellington - we're a bit early but the door is open so we wander in and find we're not the first customers. However the staff are still sorting out the tills so we still have to wait until 10am for the first pint.

The TV screen with the full menu is not working but there is choice aplenty - Salamander Peruvian Torch, Crouch Vale Yakima Gold, Derby Penny's Porter, Oakham Citra, Purity Mad Goose, Otley Thai-Bo, Titanic Last Porter Call, Blue Monkey Big Blue, Sadlers Green Man and Wye Valley HPA.

(left) Graeme ' Spike' Lee is first to the ball

As we were getting stuck into our first pint, Lance joined us - he was originally going to join us at Tamworth but had decided to meet us here instead - a wise move as it turned out.

Needless to say he was soon telling us all about his recent trip to Los Angeles to see his Hollywood sweetheart, Rhonda Fleming. The trip of a lifetime apparently and it seems she didn't get bored of hearing about his other great love, Darlo!

As we were tucking into our third pint, the bar staff asked us to leave the premises - a problem in the cellar rather than a dislike of football fans it seems and the fire brigade were on their way! We finished our beers outside and then it was time for us to head on to Tamworth, leaving Steve and Neil to head off to Villa Park.

At Tamworth station the taxi drivers seemed loath to take us to the Robert Peel and encouraged us to walk instead. I didn't mind but Tony and John were desperate for the gents and it wasn't a pleasant walk for them.

We found Colin and Trevor outside the Robert Peel - not sure why as the place was open - Tony and John rushed in ahead of us.

A relatively decent selection of beers - the pick of these were Oakham Inferno and Dark Star Sunburst.

Last year we had a mass game of pool - mainly as a quick and easy way to raise funds for the Youth Development - but this year we didn't have Brian to organise it for us.

Instead we were were content to play some golden oldies from the 70s on the pub jukebox - the likes of Jethro Tull, Budgie, (early) Yes, King Crimson, ELP, etc - with a little bit of punk to show we're not totally out of touch. The barman must have liked it too as he cranked up the volume.

We all leave in good time for the walk to the ground - I sign in and get pitchside and find irregular DAFTS Pete Stockill has joined the gang, complete with a new flag. Very posh!

Also in attendance today and in the seated away section, is Wrexham manager Dean Saunders, who has come to check out Tamworth, their opponents next Tuesday.

(right) James Walshaw up for the ball

Confidence was high amongst the 193 away fans after the midweek draw at Fleetwood - supposedly one of the favourites this season -but the first half was very uninspiring.

The home team worked hard, keeping lots of possession and giving the Darlo defence a torrid time with Russell pulling off one excellent save but not having to do much else.

Darlo had one good chance themselves but the home keeper was alert enough to push the ball away. And er, that was about it in the first forty-five.

Very disappointing and as a result Bowman made away for MB-W before the break in an attempt to get things moving.

Darlington came out early for the second half and looked to have more about them in the early stages of the half but it wasn't long before Tamworth started to dominate possession once more and created some half-decent chances.

It looked like being a goalless draw until Ben Purkiss lost control of the ball in his own box - in trying to regain possession he knocked over a Tamworth forward. The ref blew - penalty!

A tad harsh perhaps but after the penalty was converted it was difficult to argue that Tamworth didn't deserve to be ahead.Darlington had nothing to offer in the last few minutes of the game and as the ref blows, the Darlo fans voice their displeasure at this lack lustre performance.

We trudged back to the station and wait for our train back to New Street. Originally John and I intended to have a few more beers in Brum before catching the train back to Euston but quite frankly we couldn't be arsed. Bugger!

Monday, 15 August 2011

The Season Starts Now

Sky Sports have been excitedly telling us that the season starts today - obviously they mean no disrespect to the League teams (yeah right) but they are right - today sees the start of the Blue Square Premier season.

If you really want to be pedantic (sit down Brian!) you could say that Forest Green and Stockport jumped the gun last night as their game was live on Premier Sports - free to air - but for once we'll drop the pedantry.

Martin and I had an early breakfast at Da Vinci's as the only cheap rail tickets were on the 7:30am departure - couldn't see any other football fans at that time but there were plenty of people off to Edinburgh for the fringe.

After all the recent wet weather it was nice to find that it was a very nice day in the north-east. Martin and I had a wander round the shops - popped into Millets for a new stool and got a Hawkwind DVD for a fiver from one of the stalls - talk about excitement!

It was certainly good to be back in the Quaker again after all these months though - just the same of course but it was nice to be sat on my stool at our table. We're back to normal.

A bit of a mixed selection on offer today - Hambleton Steeple Stuff, Idle Idle Dog, Sulwath Criffel and Galloway Gold, Hadrian & Border Premium Lager, Hambleton/Black Dog Rhatas, Jarrow McConnell's Irish Stout and Wall's Beater's Choice.

(left) Sam Russell collects - but is he excited about something?

We were given a taster of the Idle Dog and advised it was an acquired taste - we had a sip and quickly agreed.

The Premium Lager and Galloway Gold were both tasty - the Steeple Stuff was well liked too but my favourite was the Beater's Choice - and no bias just because it is a relatively new brewery in Northallerton.

A good turnout from DAFTS today - John W, Brian, Trev, John B, Colin and of course Tony who was handing out the season tickets he'd kindly collected for us.

Worryingly, I discovered my ticket was for block 9. OK, I don't use it very often but I like my seat up at the back of block 11 - the others didn't seem too bothered that I'd been moved though. Gits!

After trying most of the beers, we moved up to Number Twenty-2 which had Burton Bridge Top Dog Stout, Dancing Ducks Pale, Thornbridge Sequoia, Brass Monkey Son of Silverback and Jennings Cumberland Ale as guests.

The Sequoia is a lovely beer I've had a couple of times before so I stuck to that until our taxi arrived.

(left) Greg Taylor continues to impress despite dodgy coloured boots

For the second season in succession Darlo kicked off the season against the champions from the BS South though Braintree are much more of a non-league outfit that Newport County in that they are semi-pro.

One of the Braintree board was next to me pitchside taking photos in his blazer and club tie because if he doesn’t take shots for the club, no one else will.

And no overnight stays for their players and staff either – they’re used to early morning starts on a Saturday, he told me. Tell me about it!

Throughout the first half Darlo found it quite hard going – they had plenty of possession but failed to make the most of it, rarely putting their keeper under significant pressure.

In fact it was Sam Russell that was called into acrobatic action on a couple of occasions, once tipping over from a smart shot. He was not happy with his defence.

The 40-odd Braintree fans looked rather adrift in the away end but they had more to cheer than the home fans.

Thankfully there was some improvement from the Quakers in the second half – Greg Taylor continued his good pre-season form with plenty of attacking movement. He is currently standing in for Aaron Brown at left-back but he will be of more use to us if he plays in a more forward position.

In one rare flurry of activity Liam Hatch – once again sponsored by the Capital Quakers - hit the post and MB-W fired the rebound over the bar. MB-W and Chandler were both subbed – by their standards they'd been fairly quiet - McReady and Bowman coming on in their stead.

Bowman almost scored as he blocked a clearance from the keeper but the ball crept a couple of feet wide of the post. New striker James Walshaw was making little progress and was eventually replaced by John Campbell.

(left) Hatch is congratulated by a brace of Taylors

As time started to run out and a draw looked ever more likely, another new boy Kris Taylor found space at the edge of the penalty box and crossed towards the six yard box where Liam Hatch scored with a stooping – not quite diving – header.

A little cruel on Braintree but even then it wasn't all over as they almost equalised in stoppage time but all three points went to the Quakers thanks to a last gasp goal-line block from Graeme Lee.

So plenty for Mark Cooper to work on if we’re to be serious contenders this season and the next game at Fleetwood will be a much sterner test for the squad.

A slightly later train back to London for Martin, Howard and I but it ran non-stop from York and so we were in the Euston Tap - at Martin's insistence - before 9pm for a final couple of pints...