Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Hope Begins To Ebb Away

At this time of year I usually head home for a long weekend – it is my Mum’s birthday and there is usually the Spring Thing beer festival.  This year my visit coincided with the Darlo Tykes race night which was raising funds to buy shares in Darlo 1883. 

As I arrived at the Working Men’s club, there was already a healthy crowd raring to go, including some good folk who’d travelled from Darlo, including Rich and Andy.  Rich, like me, was a bit non-plussed by the beer on offer – smooth flow or Newcastle Brown.

Once the racing started I was a winner on the first race and then it all went downhill.  My chum Richard joined us and he proceeded to win his first three races before retiring unbeaten with a smug expression on his face.

Paul Johnson on-loan from Pools
We left before the end and headed to the nearby Tithe Bar as we were desperate for some good beer but it was great to hear that over £1400 was raised – well done to Geoff, Steve, Rich and all the others who made this a very enjoyable and profitable evening.

Next day there was the faintest semblance of a Newcastle Brown fuzzy headiness – all those nasty chemicals no doubt - but by the time I’d walked to the station my head was almost clear.  There were a few train spotter-types around and I soon saw why when I noticed a plume of smoke south of the station.  A minute later the City Of Truro thundered through on its way north. A nice start to the day.

Once in Darlington, first stop was Alfie’s for breakfast in the covered market – excellent as always and with a great vantage point from which to watch everyone going about their business.  After that I had a wander round the shops, popped into Taylors for pies and then arrived at the Quaker dead on opening time – first one in!

And on the bar we had: High House Farm Auld Hemp and 5th Anniversary, Storr Peerless (lager), Naylors Aire Valley Bitter, Hadrian & Border Ouseburn Porter, Jarrow Red Ellen, York Terrier, Wensleydale German (lager) plus a rugby beer, Belhaven Grand Slam, which I ignored out of principle.

The two lagers were not too bad at all and so I stuck to them once I'd done the rounds of the other new beers.

And then up at Number Twenty-2 we had another great range - Hexhamshire Whapweasel, Scottish Borders Dark Horse, Little Valley Pontius Hebdenus, Marston English Pale Ale, Hill House Farm Nel's Best, Hambleton Bitter and the usual house beers.  I couldn't get through most of these but the Whapweasel and Pontius Hebdenus stood out for me.

And then to the main business of the day - our match against Ebbsfleet who'd we played off the park just a few weeks ago with what we had hoped was a revivial of our fortunes. Instead we have a pale imitation of the side that won three pints that day. 

Pickford collects
As ever we're almost down to bare bones and we've had to bring in a young lad – Paul Johnson - on loan from Hartlepool who will partner Kris Taylor in the centre of the defence.

The new pairing were quite busy in the first half but seemed to be holding up well but at the other end Darlington had little to offer with Ryan Bowman not really making keeper Cronin work too hard.

The first half was far from memorable apart from when a woeful shot - or backpass - came straight at yours truly but  I'm pleased to report that I was able to calmly head it away. One of the few things to get a cheer at that point in the game.  I'm wasted on my stool, you know. 

Darlington came out for the second half as if they'd had a rollocking but any positive movement was cancelled out within minutes as the new central pairing failed to pick up Enver-Marum who hit home from close range.

And two minutes later the Kentish men had doubled their lead after more lax defending allowed Ughu to slot home from just inside the box. 

Darlington rallied a little but it was powder-puff stuff and other than Bowman hitting the woodwork, we never looked like pulling a goal back.  Too many players seemed out of sorts and the end of the game couldn't come quick enough for the fans.

After such a performance I was glad I only had the ten minute trip back to Northallerton.  I met Martin at the station and then we were joined again by Drewe Broughton who was once again on the train back south.

Drewe made no attempt to hide his frustration at the result and was at a loss for the apparent communal off-day.   
During my brief stint on the train we chatted about his fitness business -- used by many lower division pros when they're getting fitness back after injuries.   You can see that it is something he really enjoys which is probably just as well as his time with us must be very frustrating. It is certainly is for us...

Sunday, 11 March 2012

You Can Lead A Cat To Water...

We should be on our way to Newport but they're still involved in the FA Trophy - was it only a year ago we were playing Gateshead in the semis? - and our game in south Wales has now been rescheduled to a Tuesday night in April.

Obviously this leaves a few of us with time to fill and as we all know, nature abhors a Saturday without a lunchtime session so for me I head into town and the Euston Tap for noon opening - no prizes for originality there.

Let's face it, no one needs photos of me having a drink in a pub so in an effort to plug the entertainment gap here is a clip of Devin, our male Abbysinian, having a paddle.

We're told cats hate water but if we don't get into a drawn bath pretty toute suite then we'll find him getting in and wandering round.

All very amusing until he decides he has had enough, jumps out and pads his wet feet all around the house.

We're now on the hunt for a few aquatic toys (e.g. rubber duck) that might encourage him to be more active so who knows where this all might end? Water polo for cats?

Don't worry, dear reader, you'll be the first to know of any new development..

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Hatters Leave Quakers Pointless

A relaxing journey north with little of excitement until we pulled into York where there were masses of train enthusiasts - all here to see the magnificent 70000 Brittania which was under steam and on it's way to Carlisle via Settle.

After explaining to Martin for the umpteenth time that I wouldn't be calling into Taylors for pies - the long queues eat into the lunchtime session - I tried out a different butcher in the covered market today in order to find something more interesting for him.  Talk about high maintenance!

Trev was tucking into his first pint as I arrived at the Quaker.  A very interesting range at the bar: Salopian Lemon Dream, Jarrow McConnells Stout, Hadrian and Border Ouseburn Porter, Houston Gemini and Tartan Terror, Bristol Virtue, Black Hole Asteroid, Wylam Shot Pit and Consiton Thurstein Pilsener.

I managed to try most of them and unsually for me I decided to concentrate on the more maltier beers from Scottish brewer, Houston - the Tartan Terror especially, a dark ale but well balanced so that it was very easy drinking.

As the session went on we were joined by John B, John & Bev and then Brian.  No Tony today as he was busy down at the Arena.

There was also a rare sighting of Darlo exile, Steve Wilkinson, who I'd not seen since the youth cup tie against Arsenal at Underhill last season.

Although he'd gone against his normal Eeyore-ish nature and bought himself a season ticket, this was actually his first home game of the season. Still it was good to see him and to see that he is back on the ale trail with his mate Paul, I hope we see more of him.  We need his enthusiasm and sunny disposition!

Wainy back in a Darlo shirt
There was also another rare sighting - Brummy Tony was in town for his first home game of the season too and was bragging about his record.

As I got chatting to Steve, a collective decision was made to stay in the Quaker and not venture up to Number Twenty-2.  Suited me, I was happy to stay and drink more of the Tartan Terror.

We picked up a cab from the rank by the covered market - I almost ruined things by leaving my bag of pies in the boot but the driver was quick to spot them.  Worth his £1 tip!

Predictably we were back to the usual sort of crowds before the recent dramatic events raised our profile and my crowd prediction was 2,500.  Slightly optimistic as it turns out - the crowd was about 2,200 - but I don't think it was a great surprise to most of us.

One new face in the squad as we become the 22nd club for veteran striker, Drewe Broughton. He was very popular with Rotherham fans and Liz has often said he'd come to us and sure enough here he is.

We also have a not-so-new face as Neil Wainwright has come back to help out - if he's as prolific on the pitch as he is on Twitter then we should be in for a treat.

Stockport are down the bottom of the diviosn but have been on quite a (relatively) decent run of late and they certainly look the more likely candidates as the game settled down.

They made the home defence work hard with Broughton spending as much time amongst the back four as he did leading the line.

Stockport made a few opportunities for themselves, especially the tall Tom Elliot who was profligate throughout, and Jordan Pickford was beaten only for the ball to bounce back to safety off the bar. 

Wainwright was working hard but finding it difficult to get into the game - Broughton was working their defence but was often outnumbered whilst youngsters McReady and Bowman showed some good touches but with no end product.  Very frustrating.

Ryan Bowman racing down the wing

Going in at half-time with the score at nil-nil was the best we could have expected from the first-half performance and I'm sure we were hoping Lidds would sort things out at half-time.

But there was little change in the way there was going and Stockport continued to press and were rewarded when the referee awarded a penalty as he adjudged Rob Ramshaw of tripping a Stockport player as a melee of players tried to control the ball in the box.

It looked harsh from my position - dead in line but at the other end of the pitch - but it was no surprise as we'd had nothing out of the ref so far.

The ref booked Ramshaw - his second yellow and so he was off - it looked harsh as at worst it seemed to be a mis-timed tackle and not something deserving of a booking.

From then on, Darlington never looked like getting back on equal terms - especially when Wainwright was replaced by Keltie who was booked for a poor challenge just seconds after entering the pitch.  Broughton missed a decent half-chance from a Brown corner but that was about it. Another defeat.

A very disappointing result, especially the manner of the performance - the new faces were far from match sharp and should improve but we will start to run out of games soon.

Martin had beaten me back to Bank Top station - no doubt he had a lift from Claude - and he and Trev were deep into post-mortem about the game.

Drewe Broughton jumps for joy
after joining Darlo
Drewe Broughton then turned up in his new DFC tracksuit so we had a natter with him.  A real friendly bloke, he told us Lidds had been in touch to see if he'd be interested in joining us. 

Drewe had stopped playing as he now coaches some of the youth teams at Luton but having read about our situation he decided to come up and try to help out.

As our train came in, we went to our designated seats but found they'd been double booked.  The train was fairly empty so we found seats in anothe carriage and it was only then I'd noticed we'd got the wrong train - we were on the 17:59, we were booked on the 18:59!

Having been advised to always speak to the conductor if we had an issue, I went to find him and he was happy to let us travel.  Phew!

After pulling into King's Cross, we popped along to the Euston Tap where the staff were urging me to try the Magic Rock Dark Arts.  I did.  Very nice too.

Other beers worthy of note was the Red Willow Fruitless - a superb beer - and the De Molen Vuur and Vlam IPA.  Martin had a pint of the Marble Manchester Best and a Timmermans Peach Lambic.

Tke London Millers were just over the way in the Doric Arch as it was their annual raffle draw.  I was going to join them but the beer choice there is Fullers only so they came to me. Despite buying a few books of tickets on behalf of DAFTS we'd not won a thing.  Just not our day, I suppose...