Thursday, 7 March 2013

Ton Up For Darlo...

Thanks to an offer on East Coast trains, I'm travelling to Darlo on the 13:30hrs train, hopefully beating the Friday afternoon rush.   A first class ticket was just £30 (with £10 for a standard ticket) but due to a dodgy stomach I didn't really feel like taking advantage of the free fare on offer (beef lasagne which looked and smelt very tempting).

The train is pretty busy but pulls into Bank Top on time and I head straight off to Number Twenty-2.  My first visit in four months and as I approach the bar, landlord Ralph greets me with a "Hello, Curly!". Some thngs never change.

There are the usual Village Inn beers on offer plus Golden Dragon Pippin and Bitter, Jarrow Radgie Gadgie and Ringwood's Boondoggle. I opt for the Pippin which is nice but due to my digestive problems, I'm not at my drinking best.

Before I finish my first pint, I'm joined by Paul Brown who has also travelled north this afternoon and then as we get the next round of beers in, Tony completes our trio.

We're not long into our beers before the Twitterverse is alive with the news of the resignation of Dennis Pinnegar from the Darlington board.  Tony had vacated the board along with some of the other well-known Darlo faces a few weeks ago and so the rumour mill was busy with idle speculation. Just what was going on?

What was not going on was communication.  There'd been a severe lack of any hard news or information in recent weeks and months from the board.  When would we see our share certificates for instance?

DAFTS in reflective mood
Well, very soon as it happens according to a just released statement from the DFC board - whoever was still left on it - that was reported on the Echo website.

Apparently the share certificates were in the post to the 28 individual share holders (which no doubt includes a healthy percentage of DAFTS)!

After a few more pints, Paul was finally summoned to go and get some tea for him and his missus whilst Tony and I opted for a take-away.  Hopefully a bit of spice would sort out my stomach so we wandered off to Cafe Spice in Clark's Yard.

Sadly I wasn't able to make much of a dent into the food I'd ordered - which wasn't a great deal, very unlike me - but it did mean that Tony would be very well catered for tomorrow!

Next morning saw some improvement though all I could really manage to eat was some cornflakes.  We wandered up to the station, got our tickets and joined Trevor as his train pulled into Darlo.

At Central station, Martin's train wasn't far behind ours and the four of us jumped into a taxi and headed off to the Free Trade Inn in Byker. The pub opens at 11am and I for one wanted to maximise drinking time.

By a stroke of good luck, the pub had hosted a Meet The Brewer event a few days earlier featuring the excellent Magic Rock brewery.  They had a couple of my favourites left - Clown Juice and Human Cannonball - plus one of their new beers, the 2.8% Simpleton, which was so full of flavour for a low percentage beer.

Not only do they produce great beers but all their pump clips and promo material are works of art though to be fair they can't claim the credit -  that must go to graphic designer Richard Norgate.

The pub stands on the banks of the Tyne and there is a cracking view down to the quayside. As we admire it the sweating forms of Rich, John and Andy come into view - they took the mick about us getting a taxi but we're a pint up and not sweaty.

Local CAMRA stalwart Eric Larkham pops in later on - I met Eric and his other half in the Euston Tap a few weeks ago and found we had mutual friends and history in Newcastle CAMRA.

View from the Free Tade Inn - nice eh?
 One thing that stood out for me was the friendly attitude of the staff, especially landlord Mick Potts who didn't hesitate to offer tasters.

One of the pub locals was a home-brewer and had brought in a bottle of his first attempt at a saison-style beer which was handed around. Not a bad first effort.

It was quite a bind to leave all this behind but we dutifully headed off to Byker metro and travelled the two stops to Walkergate. From here it was a ten minute walk to the ground.

I bumped into Mark and James Meynell as we enter - I've not seen either of them for quite a while and it was quite a shock to find that young James is now 30 and a parent.  Another thing to make me feel old.

All the talk was of Pinnegar's resignation and the statement from the DFC Board.  The news has unsettled everyone and once again the main moan is about the lack of information from the club and what is rumoured to be a short-fall in funds.

The game starts and it is Benfield who loook the liveliest, putting our keeper under pressure from a couple of freekicks and shooting narrowly wide.  I hope we're not in for another Team Northumbria-style performance!

Ever so slowly though, Darlo start to dominate possession, making inroads into the Benfield half without puting their goalkeeper under serious pressure.

Darlo finally break the deadlock after twenty minutes or so - Purewal set up nicely by a Dowson header and he didn't waste the opportunity to score Darlo's 100th goal of the season!

A second goal was created and once more Dowson was the provider - he nicked the ball before the home keeper could collect, passing to Thompson who scored.

Before the end of the first half, Dowson finally got on the scoresheet himself as Thompson returned the favour with a neat pass, leaving Dowson to slip the ball pass the advancing keeper.

As the half-time whistle blew, it was hard to see how Benfield would get back into the game.

I tried some chips and mushy peas at half-time but was still not 100% and eventually I decided to leave and head back to the station where the facilities were rather more civilised (if you know what I mean).

In the end I only missed one more goal as it seems Darlo took it easy in the second half and didn't score again until almost full-time.

All those travelling back to Darlo had to take a replacement bus service but thankfully for Martin and I, the trains to King's Cross were still running, albeit via a scenic route that took us via Sunderland and Hartlepool which added an extra hour to our journey time.

And for once I decided that it was probably wise to avoid the Euston Tap and head straight home.
Dowson slots home Darlo's third goal