Away In A Mazda - A Tale of Two Cities (Towns) Part 1

In a week that saw three games in seven days with a fourth in ten due on Tuesday (at time of writing) I thought it pertinent to reflect on our/my experiences from our respective visits to Spennymoor and Altrincham.

Firstly to Spennymoor. A 300 mile round trip on a dismal night in December against a backdrop of historically poor midweek away performances hardly made for a confident outcome. Add to that the home side’s seemingly unstoppable goal scoring prowess and a playing surface that, well,…….  I shall illuminate on later (which is more than the floodlights did!)

Departing with a travelling partner from SK2 at around 3.15 PM good progress was made until ever increasingly thick fog was encountered around the Darlo/Scotch Corner area of the A1. Our worst fear was that the infamous Spennymoor surface would indeed be playable but for our marathon of a drive to be all in vain should the fog render the game impossible.
 Upon arriving in Spennymoor at around 6 PM I parked up near the ground and found liquid sustenance – a britvic orange at the ‘The Moors’ pub close to the ground which even at this time contained around 30 or so away travellers. Feeling a little peckish we ignored the food van parked outside ‘The Moors’ and walked the short distance to the ground.

Should Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley ever meet in the next world their corroborative novel should begin with the sight of the ‘Brewery Field’ football ground on this very night. A light delicate fog hanging in the air moistening all it touches. Curtains of mist permeating through the under achieving floodlights that lit up the flanks a treat but failed to cast more than a couple of candle power down the central part of the pitch.
 The temperature, although above freezing was tempered by the clinging fog. Undeterred, myself and my travelling companion felt the need for sustenance and like a pair of failed bloodhounds set off in the direction of the arena. This actually happened to be in totally the wrong direction. After a mini trek that took us in front of the main stand, over a rather quirky draw bridge, past the marquee that apparently was only serving drinks but might be serving pies ( Ed: they were...they were)we transversed the end behind the goal where we stood last season (in my shorts, height of summer) that now has nice new seats and then made a hangar left onto the bench/film platform side.
The Marquee serving beer and very good pies!

 Still, no sustenance was in sight. 
On enquiry we were pointed to the very end of that stand, in other words about a 30 second stroll from where we first entered the ground. This was the ‘Mary Celeste’ of food outlets. 
Not Brewery Fields.

Burgers were happily sizzling away on the griddle, steam was blowing out of the geyser but not a soul in sight. 

Eatery later- fully staffed at rush hour!

“ Hello” I enquired, my voice resembling that of an 85 year old spinster.

I was now becoming concerned for the very one sided cooking of the burgers and wondered if I should lean over and flip them. At that moment a young lady appeared carrying two huge full water flagons. My fellow traveller offered to carry one for her but was met with, well nothing, no reply, no retort. She looked more than capable anyhow. We summoned up a couple of cheese burgers, the quality was average but the size was impressive. I thought about complimenting the lady on the size of her baps but given the already rather obvious sense of humour bypass and cautious of a law suit I thought better of it.

Turning away to enjoy my calories I was keeping a beady eye out for Mr Ian Brown. Having promised my wife that I only ever eat lettuce and occasionally a stick of celery at away games Mr Brown inevitably photographs and publishes pictures of me gorging on some dead animal. 

Ed; I only shows it, how I sees it !

Thankfully he was nowhere to be seen.

Having polished off our evening meal my companion and I retraced our steps. Mistake. We were met with the sight of a Skoda estate car coming at us across the flat terracing. Now, I have fled the worst that Burnley, Stoke and Milwall have thrown my way across the years but never have I been pursued by a Czech made VW offshoot inside a football ground. Turns out the Candy (sweet shop) we passed on the outskirts of town and wondered how it traded successfully sets a stall up on the terrace and the Skoda was delivering the stock and the display table. Given that I had already exceeded my calorific content for the next three months and successfully evaded Mr Brown’s camera lens once I did not risk any further gastric abuse.

Did I mention the pitch? Well documented after last season’s multiple postponements the locals filled us with stories of local housing developments ruining the water table and other such geology based tales. Tractor marks abounded and at the junction of the ‘Skoda’ terrace and the ‘new seat’ end, a scaled down WW1 trench albeit lacking barbed wire and a machine gun post appeared.

The game itself was a welcome relief although not without incident. As I viewed what seemed like considerably oversized pitch markings and rather curious hieroglyphics that  made up the corner flag quadrant markings I was taken to admiring a rather nice Birch tree, I think, that was hanging over the end of the ground we were stood on.
Corner Flag ( pic courtesy Keith Lee)

 As I was contemplating what the FA/League rules might be on a tree encroaching the field of play – if you played a one two with an upper branch and scored would the goal stand? County scored and thoughts of tree assisted goals vanished.
The tree ( in summer)

Only other first half points aside from a rather unfortunate booking for Sam Walker and his excellent free kick/goal ( pictured here:-)

............was when my colleague fielded the ball back to the home goal keeper who rather rudely did not say thank you. My colleague harangued him and to his absolute credit Mr Goal Keeper apologised.

 Our referee tonight was Mr Cox who started off having a reasonable game but following a half time tunnel torrent of abuse from the home team/staff decide to don a black and white shirt for the second half and whilst gently humming the tune to ‘Blaydon Races’ proceeded to give every possible advantage to the home side. 
When Sam Walker had the temerity to be fouled not once but twice and with the assailant nervously awaiting a card, Mr Cox did not disappoint and quickly, very quickly, in fact so quickly only modern imaging equipment was able to spot it sent Sam Walker off. 
Walker nonplussed !

Still not satisfied with his handiwork, a horrible, dangerous, two footed, studs up, knee high frontal assault on Scott Duxbury was a no brainer red card. To his credit Mr Cox did issue a card……..whilst in mid whistle of ‘Howay the lads’ he carded Adam Thomas for pointing out the leg breaking content of the challenge and then rather belatedly yellow carded the assailant who cancelled his call for the early bath water to be run.
Duxbury....poleaxed !

A late Nyal Bell Yeovilesque  (Mulhern) goal calmed our nerves and the game was won. A fog strewn journey home and I was all duvet up by 12.15 AM

Adrian Caville


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