Wednesday, 17 April 2013

West See Red - Darlo Revenge

A relatively easy start to the day with an excellent breakfast at the Pompidou on Pentonville Road - slightly dearer than some other cafes in the area but well worth it for the quality of the bacon and sausage.

A little excitement at King's Cross as the Tornado is steaming up as it prepares to take a trip up north. It may be a brand new loco but it still evokes my childhood years, watching the trains steam past my bedroom window.

A healthy showing of DAFTS personnel - John, Trevor and Brian were already ensconced by the time I arrived at the Quaker.  Also present were Tony, Colin, Paul and Iain as well as fellow London exile, Steve Wilkinson with his buddy Paul Robinson.

Ticket to ride for John
A decent selection at the bar too: Outstanding 3.9, Truefit Trembler, Long Man Brewery Sussex Pride, Sonnet 43 Blonde, York Dragonslayer, Cottage Light Bridge, Summerskills IKB 1859, Elland Best Bitter and Jarrow's McConnell's Irish Stout.

This was more than enough to keep me happy for the lunchtime session and we decided to stay here rather than venture to Number Twenty-2.

We left just before 2pm to get the bus to Heritage Park and there was a sizeable queue when we arrived.

After some moving and shaking I got some grub and we settled on the grass bank as the game kicked off - there air was thick with tension as all but a few West fans were craving revenge, both for our defeat at their place and the raising of ticket prices for that game.  

It had certainly transferred itself to the players as they got stuck in from the start and the first yellow was shown to a West player for barging into home keeper Bell.

The game was quite even for the first twenty minutes until Galbraith had put Darlo into the lead from a well-taken free kick, Dowson having been fouled outside the box.

Shortly after, a second yellow was issued to Stephenson for using his hands to stop the ball as Darlo looked to break free on goal. The crowd went wild as he walked off and those fans around the dug-outs laid into the West Auckland bench. 

There were more bad tackles and another yellow issued to a West player - who could easily have been sent off for another offence seconds later - and clearly this had got to the West manager Dixon who was sent off for foul and abusive language just before half-time - presumably all directed at the young linesman on that side who stood his ground admirably. 

Despite the one-man advantage Darlo didn't really make the most of the extra man and the chances they created and so it remained one-nil at the break.

Darlo take an early lead

West Auckland remained resolute early in the second half with Darlo old-boy John Campbell - predictably drawing plenty of stick from Darlo fans who'd never really taken to him - being their main threat. For their part the Darlo defence  kept Auckland at arm's length whilst our forwards wasted several opportunities to extend the lead, West keeper Atkinson acrobatically tipping a shot from Gott onto the bar.

Finally though the resistance was broken and Darlo doubled their lead when Galbraith unleashed a rocket which gave Atkinson no hope.  Finally Darlo fans could start to relax a little with just over ten minutes remaining.

But any thoughts that the game might peter out were wide of the mark as West clearly felt the pressure from the crowd.  John Campbell was sent off for something he said to the referee and then his team-mate Vipond - on the touchline after being subbed - was shown a yellow card for dissent, earning a full red after an earlier yellow card.

This game just kept on giving and I almost felt sorry for the West Auckland fans close to their dugout.  But no, they were as nasty a bunch as their team and they were due all the stick they got.

The busiest man on the pitch
Apparently the three red cards brought West's total for the season to 14 - it isn't hard to see why with the sort of attitude that emanated from their manager and which was taken up heartily by his players.

The celebrations afterwards from the majority of the almost 1,800 crowd were joyous as we knew this the sternest of our remaining games although they come thick and fast next week.

Paul had ordered a taxi for our trip back to Darlo so that he and Iain could be sure we'd make our connections. We did and with plenty of time to spare.

On the train back we got chatting to some women from Northallerton who knew my sister and who'd be getting an old CAMRA chap from Hereford all excited. He settled down as they got off and talked beer and pubs until he left us at York.

After all that excitement Martin and I both snoozed for the remainder of the journey back to London. Kings Cross was quite busy as Wigan fans were causing a nuisance. They had to travel back this way after the late kick-off of their FA Cup semi-final against Millwall meant there were no trains home from Euston.

It was this and the persistent rain that led me to go straight home and give the Euston Tap a miss for once.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Coast To Coast

I finish early on the Friday afternoon and head up to Euston for my trip to Preston.  I arrive early and I have a bit of time on my hands so pop into the Tap for a few halves - it would be rude not to.

It was a fairly decent run on the tran to Preston - excellent value at £14.50 - and the journey passes quickly given I nod off for over half of the journey.  I arrive on time where I find my chums Trevor and Margaret waiting to greet me.

They take me on a tour of a few pubs - first the Market which is next to the town's market - not a brilliant choice, Brains or Adnams. We don't linger.

The next stop is the Black Horse which is on CAMRA's inventory of historic pub interiors. Trev tells me it has recently been refurbished and they've done a great job. However it is a Robinson's pub, a brewery I'm not keen on, and even their hoppy beer Hoptimus has that tell-tale Robbies tang to it. One pint does it.

Next is the Greyfriar, a Wetherspoons, and one of the better examples of that chain.  They have a nationwide beer festival on currently and a good choice is available so we get stuck in. They've also cordoned off a corner of the pub for a tasting of Hawkshead beers.

We then make our way towards the University of Central Lancashire and their union building, 53 Degrees, where Hawkwind are playing.   Opposite the venue is a great little boozer called the Bitter Suite. It is full of elderly rock fans in denim and leather getting stuck into some local microbrewed beer.

The Polish support band, hipiersoniK, are just finishing their set as we walk in the venue and so we wander through the crowd to stand towards the front. 

Hawkwind are currently touring one of their classic albums, Warriors At The Edge Of Time, and it has been getting some positive reviews including this one from the Gruniard.  The first half hour is a mixture of some well known tracks plus some new numbers which leave me a bit cold. The WOTEOT set though is much better and goes down well. Trevor really enjoyed it - first time he has seen them since the 70s - though I'm not sure what Margaret makes of them!

DAFTS supping in the Free Trade Inn
 Next morning it is a bright early start - Trev scrapes the ice from his windshield and drops me off at Chorley station for the 6:31am train to Carlisle.  Quite a relaxing journey - the train is quiet as we pass through Lancaster, past Morecambe Bay and skirt the edge of the Lakes.

Less relaxing is the trip from Carlisle to Newcastle - I'm next to a swarm of middle-aged Glaswegian women who all try to talk at the same time. I close my eyes and turn up my music.

The train pulls into Newcastle Central at 10am and I head to the Stateside Diner on Pink Lane - a venue DAFTS have used in the past and the breakfast was excellent. I headed back to the station - Tony and Pete Stockill had already arrived and soon afterwards Martin, Carl, Claude, Trevor and Brian joined us.

Tony, Trev and Brian joined me in a taxi as we headed straight off to the Free Trade Inn in Byker - we just had to after our last visit.

A good selection at the bar: Tyne Bank Peleton Pale Ale, Durham Magus, The Brew Company ABC, Alchemy Citra Burst, Loch Ness Wilderness, Fyne Muckle Flugga IPA all on cask and on keg there was
 Summer Wine Citra Pacer, Marble Vuur & Vlam IPA and Hardknott Rheteric II.  More than enough to keep me and everyone else happy!

The more I visit this pub the more I like it - landlord Mick always has time for a chat whilst he is scurrying ruond trying to ensure there are no pumps without beer. An excellent attitude that has seen them recently awarded Tyneside Pub Of The Year. It must be a strong contender for North East POTY.

Hillheads Park, home to Whitley Bay
After an hour of so, John W joins us after visiting his aunt in nearby Heaton.  At some stage I mention that there is a jazz festival on at the Sage over the river.  This has the same effect as saying the words "Nick Knowles" to Steve Duffy - wild-eyed apoplexy! Who'd have thought it?

As kick-off time nears, Tony declares he might give the game a miss and I'm tempted to join him but that would leave a lot of time for drinking, maybe too much. We eventually reach a compromise and just leave the pub late so that we don't get to the ground until 3:30pm.

On arrival we find the gates are locked but we attract the attention of a steward and they re-open them for us, even knocking a pound off the entrance fee even though we offer to pay full price. The turnstile steward informs us that we're one-nil up, "from a penalty" he adds.

We're not long stood on the terrace when Darlo attack and a Bay defender clips the heels of Thompson for a stonewall penalty - the ref agrees and there are no arguments from the home side.

I spend the rest of the half chatting to former neighbour Geoff Thompson and then as I head to the other side of the ground, I meet more former neighbours, Dave Lewis and his daughter Julie.  It is good to see them again since we all started going to Feethams together in the early 1970s.
I must admit I don't pay a lot of attention to the second half - we're clearly in command but we're making harder work of it than we should.  Whitley Bay don't really have a lot to offer other than cussedness.

We eventually score a third goal from a corner (or maybe a freekick) - the ball is whipped in and at first it appears Tait has headed home but there is a suspicion - correct as it later turns out - that a Bay defender made the all important touch and it was an own-goal. Thoroughly deserved nonetheless.
Darlo go three-nil up
As the final whistle blows, John, Trev and I are off pretty smartly and manage to get to the Metro station just as a train pulls in.  This allows Trev to get back to Central station for an earlier train - John follows as he has an earlier train than Martin and I.

I head off to the Town Wall to have a few more beers - first a Wylam Gold and then the (keg) Wylam Haxan which is a black wit.  Both are OK but nothing special.  Martin and Claude then join me for a quickie before we return to the station and catch out train home.

After Claude gets off at Darlington, we get chatting to a guy sat at our table. He turns out to be a Lincoln fan on his way back to London after he'd been playing at the jazz festival at the Sage.  Phew - just as well Mr Wilson headed off earlier. You wouldn't like him when he's angry...