Thursday, 26 January 2012

It's Not Woking For Us

Four our evening game against Hayes and Yeading, I decided to take the afternoon off and have a few relaxing beers before kick-off.

Normally this wouldn't be possible as Hayes has a distinct lack of decent pubs - as we found out last season - but since Hayes and Yeading sold their ground and their new one isn't ready, we're making the trip to their temporary groundshare home, the Kingfield Stadium, home of Woking FC.

I'd invited Geoff Luke to join Liz and I and we all met on the concourse at Waterloo.  Just behind was Old Hairy Hands himself, Richard Keys, presumably toddling off home after doing his radio slot in the nearby Talkshite studios.

Geoff and Liz with the LM flag
It is only a 25 minute journey to Woking - real suburbia but a pleasant run when you avoid the rush hour - and on arrival we headed off to the Railway Athletic club.  We're not members of course but since it's in the Good Beer Guide, all CAMRA members are allowed in.

Not surprisingly it was not very busy - they had a couple of cask beers on, local beers but I forgot to make a note of what they were.

Both beers were fine but not worth hanging around for so we made the short walk to the designated DAFTS pub, the Sovereigns.

There was a much more expansive range of beers here - Elgoods Black Dog, Wooden Hand Pirate's Gold, Brentwood Blond, Itchen Valley Treacle Stout and Adnam's Gunhill.

We bumped into our new chum from Braintree, Michael, who'd met up with another exiled Darlo fan ne found on his travels.  Martin called me - he wanted directions to the pub so I passed him onto the barmaid.  Within minutes he was with us.

Of the beers the Pirate's Gold and Blond were good easy drinkers but the Treacle Stout was surprisingly good - quite dry and not at all sweet as you'd expect from the name.

Other DAFTS turned up - Neil, Paul and Iain - and finally John W just as we'd decided to walk down to the ground - only about fifteen minutes away (less if you find the proper entrance!).

Martin and Stocky
A strange stadium - very non-league on three sides but behind one goal there is a huge stand - closed tonight of course - which completely dominated.

The squad was warming up as I got pitchside - I noticed David Stockdale had arrived and was busy catching up with Thommo.  Liz and Geoff had put the London Millers flag - a bit of lower league solidarity - before joining us so she too could have a chat with Stockers (who'd spent time at Rotherham on-loan).

Doug Embleton and wife Ange were down - as was Shawn Campbell with former Chelsea player Paul Canonville - so I had a quick chat to see how they were coping with all the media attention.

There was a healthy contingent of Darlo fans in evidence tonight - plus quite a few from other clubs who had seen the drama earlier in the week and wanted to come along and give their support.  The crowd of 550 was significantly above the home average for the season as a result.

Unfortunately any thoughts amongst the travelling fans about us pulling off a positive result were dealt a mighty blow after we ended up two-nil down after just ten minutes.

The Quakers didn't look very confident right from kick-off - later I learn that Graeme Lee was injured in the warm-up and I suspect that didn't help as Scott Harrison had to then play in central defence.

The first goal came from a penalty when Jordan Pickford clattered into one of the Hayes' forward and was adjudged to have fouled him.  Pickford was given no chance from the spot.

Pickford was again heavily involved with the second goal - his throw out was not the best and went to the opposition.  The Quakers defence then let Wishart run through the defence more or less unhindered and he shot home from close range.

A disastrous start and the last thing that any of us had expected.  We may not be in the best of form but after a solid, albeit fruitless, performance against Fleetwood, we had expected a close contest tonight.

Earlier in the season, the Darlo fans would have turned on the players but they continued to get behind the team and encourage them.  And the players did finally make some headway as they put their stamp on the game and put pressure on the home side but without really troubling their keeper.

And despite that very shaky start, Pickford recovered and managed to make a couple of very decent saves.

Ange, Doug and Neil
In the second half Darlo came out looking very strong and almost pulled a goal back after Kris Taylor was denied by a clearance on the goal line.

But it wasn't long before the home side extended their lead as Collins scored a solo effort from his own half to seemingly put the game beyond Darlo's reach. And the lead could have been a lot worse but for some woeful finishing.

As the game started to run down for the last quarter I was hailed by Spencer Austin, better known as the Gloryhunter, who'd spent a couple of months following Darlo a couple of seasons ago. It was nice to see him again - he told me he'd been spending time on safari in Africa and had also taken up birdwatching. There's hope for the cockney boy yet!

As time started to run out Darlo pulled a goal back when one of the youth team, Jamie Barton, shot (or crossed) from out wide on the wing and the ball looped over the keeper.  Did he mean it? 

The celebrations were muted on the pitch as the Quakers no doubt thought it was a case of too little, too late.

However another of the youth team, Danny Lambert, was having a very busy debut and he crossed to Ryan Bowman.  He shot but the keeper saved it only to see the ball hit defender Pele and trickle over the goal-line in slow motion.

Ultimately it was too little, too late but as the players got a tremendous ovation from the away fans, we did leave feeling that if only we'd not been so careless in the opening quarter of the game, we could have got something out of this game.

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