Thursday, 27 September 2012

Northern League Debut

Get back in the football groove - that was the plan for today as I left the house at 5:30am and headed off to Kings Cross.  Thankfully Da Vincis opens early so I was able to have a comprehensive breakfast before we caught the 7:30am train north.

Given the early hour, it wasn't a surprise to find the train was not heavily loaded.  Just as well as the seat reservations hadn't been printed, confusing passengers as they joined en route. 

John, Martin, Steve, John and Cath
in the Bacchus
As we pulled into Bank Top station it felt wrong not to be getting off and heading into town.  John Wilson was on the platform waiting for us and joined us for the final leg to Newcastle Central station.

Before we went to the first pub, we had a wander round the famous Grainger Market where, as a student in the early 80s, I used to get 28p a pound ox liver.  Martin commented he'd never seen so many butchers under one roof and it was hard to decide which of their pies to plump for.

The first pub of the day was an old favourite - helped by the fact it opens at 11am - the Newcastle Arms. Given it's proximity to St James' Park the Sports Direct Arena the pub would normally be busy at this hour on matchdays but thankfully Newcastle's game had been moved to Sunday.

The beers at the bar were Anarchy Brewery Sublime Chaos (7.0 breakfast stout), Big Lamp Golden Star,
Temptation 7 Deadly Sins, Triple F Moondance, TSA Sherrifmuir and Wensleydale Gold.  Of those I tried the breakfast stout was very tasty but a half was more than enough.

From here we crossed the city centre to the Bacchus, pub of the year for the fourth time in a row, and where we found our Gateshead chum Steve waiting for us.
Geoff T spots me

The Bacchus strikes me as a larger version of Number Twenty-2 and there is a good choice of cask and nu-key beers. 

Best in show for me was the the excellent Tempest White Light - excellent albeit at 7% not something to overdose on. Summer Wine's Dr Paracelsus looked interesting but a taster was enough - far too much spice to this one.

At the bar I bumped into Ken, a ticking type from Durham. We used to regularly see him in the Quaker but Newcastle has got such a vast array of good pubs these days, he has more than enough beers here to keep him busy.

Also joining us was Cath, one of my chums from my university days in Newcastle.  After graduation Cath stayed in the area and her Cheltenham burr has long given way to a subtle Geordie tang.  It was good to see her again.

After a few beers Steve suggested we wander to the Bridge Hotel - another of my student haunts - where we met a few of his buddies.  After a few more beers - and some cheek from the barmaid - we took a taxi ride to Dunston.

The UTS stadium is a large flat ground with just a couple of stands, surrounded by trees and feeling quite rural.  It was clear to see there was a healthy Darlo contingent in attendance, swelling the attendance to  almost 800. 

The players were warming up as we came in and it was hard for me to put a name to any of them save the Purewals and the guy who seems to love tanning machines - well scary.

I had a reduced set of camera gear with me today and didn't really have a need to be pitchside.  As a consequence I ended up doing more talking than usual - catching up with a lot of familiar faces - and so paid less attention to the game than normal.

The first half was pretty even and it looked as if the home side would take the lead when they were awarded a penalty.  The spot kick wasn't brilliant but Norton did well to save it. 

Dunston would regret this almost instantly as Darlo scored within a few minutes when Joe Tait (apparently) scored with a close range header.  The score remained the same when the ref blew for half-time.

In the second half it remained a fairly even game with Darlo shading the number of goal-scoring chances but neither side being able to put the ball away.

Tait and Scott celebrate
as Darlo go 1-0 up
It was Darlo's turn to be awarded a penalty after about 70 mins as the uber-tanned Leon Scott was brought down - Reay showed the way to take a penalty and put Darlo 2-0 up.

Darlo scored a third in the dying seconds as young Lowes rounded the keeper to put the game well beyond reach.

As we left the ground and waited for our taxi, about five police vehicles turned up - trouble at the far end of the ground apparently after the game but I have to say we were oblivious of it all.

We caught a taxi back to Central station where some of us went for a final pint in the Forth on Pink Lane, an avenue of disrepute in my student days but now quite a decent little cut-through with nice pubs and cafes.

And then it was time for the the train back to Kings Cross, most of which was spent snoozing.

Since Martin had already had a few halves, I ended up going to the Euston Tap on my own but it wasn't long before I was chatting to some of the other regulars.

Nothing particularly interesting on cask tonight so I went for a few nu-keg beers - Red Willow Ageless & Wreckless were both excellent whilst Tempest Face With No Name and Hop Studio Pilsner were pretty decent.

All in all, mission successful - I feel well and truly back in the groove...

Thursday, 20 September 2012

And finally...

....after a bit of a hiatus since the last post, I'm finally going to see Darlington in action when we visit Dunston UTS on Sat.

I had prepared the final reports of last season but hadn't got around to actually posting them - I may well do so in the next few weeks purely to plug the gap and finish things cleanly. Should satisfy my mild OCD.

And as for all the shenanigans during the season? Well I thought there was more than enough being written about our journey out of administration, the attitudes of our former chairman as well as the intransigence of the FA over our new status without adding any more needless comment.

My view was, and remains, the same - the club needs to be run by the fans and the fans need to step up and do their bit.  Those of us who are exiles cannot really do much of a practical nature but many of us have been happy to invest hard cash and allow the locals to put theory into practice.

And so far, everyone seems to have risen to the challenge and on all fronts we've made a promising start to life in the Northern League.

And what is very heartening is that the attendances are very solid and people do seem to be enjoying going back to grassroots - it does help that we're winning mind!

I had planned to attend some games by now but a mixture of home improvement works on the house and then some fixture rearrangements by the club have meant I've missed the opening eight league games.  I don't think that has happened since the late-eighties.

As an exile the rearrangement of some fixtures has been less than welcome given the 12-week advance window for buying cheap tickets on the East Coast mainline. 

Of course, some of these have been unavoidable due to other clubs being in various cup but some of the others could have been handled much better to help those travelling long distances.

The move to Wednesday for midweek games hasn't affected me at all other than have to rearrange the timing for Martin's rail tickets (and the additional cost).  A shame this change couldn't have been considered at the start of the season and built into the fixture list from day one.

And then we have the games moved to Friday where Heritage Park had already been booked up for weddings and the like.  It was annoying to hear about the first one but then to wait a few weeks before announcing the next one?

Apparently it can take the club a while to rearrange a fixture - I don't have an issue with that - but to keep the fixture in the calendar when the club knows full well the game won't go ahead? Less than useful.

As a result I'm keeping my attendance more limited that I normally would - it won't affect the club as they have my season ticket money - and I can find other enjoyable things to do on a Saturday that don't involve getting up early and making a round trip of about 500 miles (not to mention not having to carry my usual photographic load).

Other than the performances on the pitch, it will be interesting to see how things shape up as the interim board moves to a new elected board and how the CIC develops alongside the club.  Hopefully there will be plenty of locals looking to put themselves forward to help.

See you all at Dunston...