Thursday, 2 May 2013


Once again my match day starts with a superb breakfast in the Pompidou Cafe - and I need one today as I'm feeling as nervous as I did before the FA Trophy final. Thankfully nerves rarely affect my appetite!

Nothing much to note regarding the journey north except for the odd sight of hordes of Charlton fans getting off at Northallerton as they change for their trip to the Riverside.

We all gather in the Quaker with everyone in a high state of excitement - or as much as we can muster as our ages. I forget to make a note of the beers on offer today - just not myself at all. There were plenty of good 'uns as once again we decided against popping up to Number Twenty-2.

There was even talk of the game being off at one point after heavy rain during the night. There was a call for volunteers to fork the pitch - their efforts were rewarded after we passed a noon pitch inspection.

Purewal puts Darlo into the lead
There was a good turnout for the bus to Bishop and it was good to see plenty of people queueing at the turnstiles - should be close to a full house.

Plenty of old faces in front of the main stand - Chris and his Mum, Mark & James Meynell, Geoff Thompson and various others, all here hoping for the result that will cap off a remarkable year.

I should have been more confident than I was but that is what almost forty years of supporting Darlo does to you.  And we'd already slipped up against Team Northumbria earlier in the season so let's not count our chickens, eh?

My worries were justified during an exceedingly nervy first-half with the away keeper coping with all that Darlo threw at him. Lots of possession from the Quakers but no end result.

And then a few minutes before half-time, Team Northumbria took the lead - a free-kick leading to a headed goal and you could hear the home fans groan under their breath.

Thankfully this was not the Darlo of seasons past where the goal would have caused the players to retreat into their shell.  From the kick-off Darlo attacked with Thompson crossing for Chris Emms to poke the ball past their keeper.

Nervous? Me? Nahhh...what gave you that idea?

Darlo looked much more confident as they came out for the second half and it wasn't long before Darlo took the lead.  Amar Purewal headed home from a delightful cross from Harrison.  This was more like it.

Martin Gray celebrates the third goal
Sadly this wasn't the precursor of a goal fest and despite the almost constant attacking, Team Northumbria held firm and you suddenly remember what a tenuous thing is the one-goal lead.

Everyone in the ground started to pay close attention to their watches and as time ticked by, the chants started to become more confident.

All worries were finally put to bed when Purewal ran though the away defence to slot home from the edge of the area. The. Crowd. Went.Wild.

Some fans came on the pitch to join in the celebrating management team and bench - a mixture of relief and jubilation no doubt after all their hard work had paid off.

Another minute or so before the final whistle blew - the ref smart enough to blew from near the tunnel - and a large percentage of the crowd ran on to the pitch.

I waited a while and then wandered through the throng to get pictures of the ecstatic Darlo fans gathering around the tunnel. More familiar faces - not saying much, just smiling.

The players came out and celebrated with the fans - and then came Martin Gray who got the biggest cheer of all as he joined in with the fans, even crowd surfing at one point. Well done that man!

Slowly people started to drift away and when the players finally retreated to the dressing rooms, we all headed off for the bus back into town. The mood was subdued - an overall feeling of relief for many as we finally made it impossible for Spennymoor to catch us.

It was straight back to the Quaker for more drinks - not much room but who cares - get me a pint (or maybe two halves).
Martin Gray celebrates with the fans
Finally it was time for Martin and I to head back to the station - we travelled back with Richard (MK Darlo) and a very pleasant trip it was too. And then plenty of time for more celebratory beers at the Euston Tap.

So for me this is the season end - no more games for me - and even though I've only been to a quarter of the games I'd normally attend, it has felt a long old season. Promotion at the first attempt was something we didn't dare hope for but here we are - one step forward on our return.

Click here for the full set of shots I took on the day.

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