Manchopper in….Sunderland

 

Result: Sunderland 3-0 Southend United (EFL League One)

Venue: Stadium of Light (Saturday 27th October 2018, 3pm)

Att: 30,894

Finally getting back on the ’92’ trail, I decided to ‘tick off’ one of the longer-term trips I have left on the cards, though also one that was on the easier side, compared to some others. The Stadium of Light has been a ground I’ve long had as a target to visit and so I reckoned that there was no time like the present, especially having not been to a league game for almost two months, since being hamstrung by my aging past the limits of the 16-25 railcard. Of course, with the news of the new one being rolled out nationwide, my quest becomes all the easier on the pocket and so, having booked tickets a couple of weeks before, this would end up being something of a needlessly dear do. Ah well, to Sunderland it was!

Being dropped off in Manchester, I caught the service from Victoria at just after 8.30 and via a swift changeover at Northallerton onto a rubbish bag filled Grand Central service which was also full of both home and away fans en route to the game, I arrived into Wearside at just after 11.50am. After a short time getting my bearings outside the station, a cut through the nearby shopping centre had me heading towards what was my first planned stop of the day, the quite unfortunately named Ship Isis, or as the guy there conceded, he’d take it, quite understandably, as simply “The Ship”. In here, I opted to start off on something refreshing and opted for a pint of the Grapefruit ale they had on. It was bloody lovely stuff too, though at only 2.5%, it was somewhat premium at £4. Moving on, the nearby Museum Vaults was sadly shut it seemed and so I returned towards the Sunderland Minster and to the Dun Cow, where a pint of Moretti set me back an unexpectedly eye-watering £4.90. OUCH!! Entertainment here was supplied by a pint being knocked over the table and the resultant furniture re-organisation taking a fair bit of time. A guy did remind me to take my bag with me though, which helped relieve my shock which I was obviously still suffering from!

Sunderland

Ship Isis

Dun Cow (and neighbouring theatre)

Sunderland is a city in the Tyne and Wear area at the mouth of the River Wear. The earliest inhabitants of the area were from the Stone Age and nearby Hastings Hill was of particular significance to the early dwellers. It is also thought the Brigante people occupied the area spanning both sides of the Roman-era in Britain, while legend has it the Romans had constructed a fort where the former Vaux Brewery stands, though there’s no evidence of this to date. Historically located in County Durham, there was originally three settlements in the area that Sunderland now occupies, while Monkwearmouth to the north of the river was settled in 674 AD when King Ecgrifth of Northumbria gave land to the North of the Wear to Bishop (St.) Benedict Biscop (now the city’s patron saint) to found the monastery there.

The Bishop was later granted further land to the south of the river and this village became known as “soender-land” as it was separated from the monastic community and this would grow into a fishing community prior to being granted a charter in 1179. Meanwhile, Bishopwearmouth made up the trio in 930. On a side note, the “finest book in the world” – the Codex Aminatus and the ‘…History of the English People’  was created by the “father of English History, Bede, at the monastery. The Vikings raided the area in the 8th century and the monastery was abandoned soon after. After the Civil War had seen skirmishes in the local area, Sunderland would continue to grow as a port throughout the years, largely trading in coal and salt before ships began to be built on the river during the 14th century and the world’s second iron bridge was built there in 1796 which was, at the time, the largest single-spam bridge built.

Sunderland

Sunderland Minster, surrounded by scaffold….

By the 19th century, the port of Sunderland had absorbed the nearby areas of Monk and Bishop-wearmouth due to the ever-growing importance of the shipbuilding industry there, though it was also the first place to be affected by the era’s cholera outbreak that later spread across the country, taking the lives of 32,000 people, including Sunderland Naval hero Jack Crawford. The Borough of Sunderland was later created in 1835 due to demands. However, the 20th century saw the decline of Sunderland’s traditional industries begin to decline after the wars (during which Sunderland experienced regular raids on its ports and factories) and this continued throughout the century, these being replaced by the expanding automotive industry, whilst also taking on science and technology companies too. It received city status in 1992.

Having seen a large group of people heading into the unspectacular looking The Rabbit a few doors back down (they seem to like animal-named pubs around here, by the way), I decided to go and have a look in case I was missing anything. To be honest, I wasn’t really although it did allow me to watch some of the game on TV with a Hop House (£4.60) before I crossed over the road to pay a visit to the interestingly named Vesta Tilley’s, whose cheap beer sign outside had peaked my interest on my earlier passing. It was duly packed inside and didn’t let me down either, a pint of Woodpecker coming in at just the £2.45, somewhat allaying my earlier shockers! The place was decked out in numerous Hallowe’en decorations too which gave it a different feel too, though I did want to give myself some time to head over the road to the old Fire Station bistro/bar place which looked quite cool. I didn’t expect too much in the way of cheapness in there, but that consideration went out the window almost as soon as I went in as I saw Blue Moon on draught and I didn’t care about prices any longer. £4.75 it ended up being, which wasn’t too bad overall, and I headed over to the rear of the building, it being standing room only once more. However, this did end up allowing me to meet with Dad and Son duo David and Joe, two St. Mirren fans who also follow the Black Cats. Joe has had a good start to his live footballing life, his previous St. Mirren game being the Championship presentation and this, his first Sunderland game, had all the hallmarks of a good clash too. David was even kind enough to offer a few Love Lane-themed extras if I ever visit St. Mirren’s ground, so thanks again for that!

The Rabbit

Spooky Vesta Tilley’s

Old Fire Station

It was soon time to move out and having managed to get Joe do partake in a real handshake via the medium of his Dad’s persuasion, I headed onwards directly towards the Stadium of Light, which is easily visible from a fair way out. Crossing over the dual foot/road bridge, I was soon coming up towards the Wheatsheaf, a pub just across the way from the ground which I’d been recommended by “Jimmy Sirrel’s Lovechild” on Twitter. I never thought I’d type that….Anyway, the Wheatsheaf proved a fine tip and also offered a former taste of home up in the North East in the form of Boddington’s. Of course, I would have to accept the fact this would be in plastic, though this didn’t affect things too much. In a bit of a rush by that point, I forgot to take a both a photo of the pub or a note of how much the Boddies cost (sorry, Kenny, please let me off on this one!).

With the time heading towards half-two, I reckoned I’d make my way round to the nearby cash turnstiles, as I wanted to be in the ground for the wreath laying and minute’s silence with regard to Remembrance Day, this fixture being Sunderland’s last home game before the 11th. Sorting out a programme en route (£3), I headed to the turnstiles for the usual bag check prior to handing over my £20 entry fee and heading up into one of the corners of the ground, taking what looked like the final Chicken Balti (£3) pie with me as I went. Nice too. Finishing up just in time for the aforementioned acts of remembrance, the minute’s silence was observed impeccably after the initial roar from some forgetful/unaware fans in the away end prior to the game being all set to go.

Over the bridge…

Forces guard

The Stadium of Light is quite an impressive ground in my opinion and offered fine views from my vantage point in between the North and East stands. The ground is obviously an all-seater stadium, being built in 1997 to replace the now departed Roker Park. Being named during construction as “Wearside Stadium” and “New Roker Park”, its “Stadium of Light” name was eventually revealed just before the ground-opening game against Ajax, its name deriving from the area’s coal mining heritage and Monkwearmouth Colliery site – more specifically the Davy Lamps the miners used, the name “…allows the image of this light to shine forever”. A lamp is duly located outside the ticket office. The name was initially taken with mixed reactions, with some fans unhappy with the name already being associated with the ground of S.L. Benfica, the Estadio da Luz. The ground itself sees its West Stand hosting a higher upper tier (known as the Premier Concourse) than the remainder of the ground, and also is home to executive boxes and the dressing rooms/tunnel. The North Stand also has an upper tier and hosts an executive bar area, whilst the East and South Stands are of similar size. On a side note, the pink seats around the ground are in the process of being replaced and this seems to be a very important and joyful happening! That’s the Stadium of Light in a nutshell and this is the story of the Black Cats of Sunderland….

History Lesson:

Sunderland Association Football Club was founded in 1879 as Sunderland and District Teachers AFC and would later join the Football League in 1890, replacing Stoke who’d failed to be re-elected. In doing so, they also became the first “new” club to join the league since its formation. They won the title in 1892, just the club’s second season in the League and successfully defended their title the next season, scoring 100 goals in the process, a feat which wasn’t matched until 1920. They continued to be successful in the lead up to the turn of the century, finishing runners-up in 1894, but did win back the championship in 1895. They would then go on to play Scottish champs Hearts in the “Championship of the World” match, with Sunderland winning 5-3 and being declared as the World Champions. They would again finish as league runners-up in 1898, which was their last season at their Newcastle Road ground, the club moving into their new home, Roker Park.

After finishing runners-up for a third time in 1901, their fourth title win came the next year and achieved their record win, 9-1, in the league in 1908, this coming over arch rivals Newcastle United. A fifth title arrived in 1913, though the club would miss out on FA Cup success in their first final, losing out to Aston Villa by 1-0. Post-war, things would become slowly more difficult after an initial strong start in finishing runners-up once again in 1923, Sunderland narrowly avoiding relegation just five years later. However, the 1930’s would see an upturn in form return and a fifth league title was won in 1936, with a first FA Cup success following the next campaign, after a 3-1 triumph over Preston North End. The remainder of the decade saw the club drift into mid-table, priory to the outbreak of WWII. Wartime football was maintained in the form of the Football League War Cup, with Sunderland having a best of beaten finalists in 1942. Post-war, the 1949-’50 season saw the club record their best finish since their last title win with a 3rd place, though 1958 would see financial troubles affect the club and eventually result on their first relegation in their 68-year league history, as Sunderland dropped to Division 2.

Arriving at the SoL

Their absence from the to flight would last six seasons, Sunderland returning to the First Division as runners-up, though would be relegated once more back to Division 2 come the end of the decade. However, 1973 would see the club lift their second FA Cup title as they bested Leeds United, though this would end up being their last major trophy to date. In winning the Cup, Sunderland qualified for the Cup Winners’ Cup- their only European competition appearance to date, where they beat Vesta Budapest before bowing out to Sporting Lisbon over two legs, despite winning the first game at Roker Park.

After again spending six seasons in Division 2, Sunderland returned to the top flight as champions, but were immediately relegated back after one season. 1985 saw the Black Cats record their first League Cup final appearance, though this would end in disappointment, as they lost out to Norwich City and things got even worse three years later as Sunderland were relegated to Division 3. However, this drop would only be a brief blip, Sunderland returning back to Division 2 at the end of the season. The next season saw them achieve a second straight promotion in strange circumstances, as the club was promoted instead of Swindon, who’d defeated them in the play-offs, after the Robins had been penalised for financial irregularities. Their return to the top division would only be a short one, though, as they were relegated again two seasons later, just prior to the formation of the Premier League which ended up meaning Sunderland stayed in Division One, just at a lower level.

Sunderland would reach the FA Cup Final in 1992, losing 2-0 to Liverpool and after a flirtation with relegation during the earlier part of the decade, Peter Reid was brought in as manager and he achieved promotion from Division One to the Premiership in 1996. The club’s first Premiership foray would be brief, though, as they were relegated after a single season, though would return in 1999 as champions, their second season playing at the Stadium of Light, having left Roker Park in 1997 after an OCD wrecking 99 years. At the time, the new ground was the largest post-war ground built. The end of the seasons saw a highly credible 7th place achieved, with Kevin Phillips securing the European Golden Shoe in the process.

SAFC

After again being relegated in 2003 with a then record low 19 points, Mick Mccarthy was brought in and he guided the club to the Division One title in 2005 and they duly returned to the top-flight. However they went one better the next season, but not positively, as the Black Cats went down with just 15 points to their name and McCarthy duly left soon after. Under Roy Keane, the club went 17 games unbeaten to secure a return to the Premier League as champions. Keane would be out after an up and down start to the 2008-’09 campaign, and a change of ownership saw Steve Bruce installed as boss. Further managerial changes followed, with the likes of Martin O’Neill, Paulo Di Canio and Gus Poyet taking the reigns. Poyet did lead the club to the 2014 League Cup final, in which they lost out to Manchester City at Wembley, though he would also be out by early 2015 and replaced by veteran Dutch manager Dick Advocaat, who kept the club in the Premier League.

Unfortunately, his early success didn’t translate into the new season and he resigned just eight games in, with Sam Allardyce taking over. He also saved Sunderland from the drop, though after he left for his ill-fated one-game spell as England boss, David Moyes took the job and oversaw Sunderland’s worst start to a Premier season. They were duly relegated come the end of the 2016-’17 season and things only got worse last season as both Simon Grays on and Chris Coleman came a went prior to Sunderland’s relegation to League One for this campaign, which had started in promising fashion, under new ownership.

The game got underway with the hosts taking the initiative early on, Jerome Sinclair seeing an early header fairly comfortably saved by Southend stopper Mark Oxley. Lee Cattermole saw an effort on goal fly wide of the mark for Sunderland, whilst the visiting Shrimpers’ early efforts came through Dru Yearwood and Taylor Moore, though neither hit the target. Southend were forced into an early change after 20 minutes when Ben Coker seemed to land awkwardly and was resultantly stretchered off and ten minutes later they suffered a further setback when the Black Cats took the lead, George Honeyman guiding a header into the corner from a Lynden Gooch delivery.

Match Action

Match Action

Southend came on strong after going behind and Simon Cox went close to levelling the scores soon afterwards, but saw his shot go narrowly wide before Harry Bunn saw his effort kept out by home ‘keeper Jon McLaughlin, but the game slowly turned into one of quite a number of fouls as the half wore on and after Cox had also forced McLaughlin into action, the sides headed in at the break with just the one goal still separating them. The half-time period came and went with little to speak of happening so let’s get on with the game, shall we?

The second half began with little of note occurring until the 53rd minute, when Yearwood saw an effort kept out before Sunderland duly countered and the ball ended up at the feet of Chris Maguire who unleashed a rocket of an effort that flew into the top corner, leaving Oxley with next to no chance of keeping it out. Aiden McGeady was introduced in the aftermath of the second goal and despite Southend continuing to create chances for Cox and Shawn McCoulsky seeing his goal-bound effort well kept out by McLaughlin, the points were made safe by McGeady himself when he latched onto Josh Maja’s pull back to slot home. 3-0 and the game was up.

Maguire celebrates netting the second

Match Action

Both sides would fashion one final chance each to add to the scoreline, Maguire seeing his shot blocked and Sam Mantom responding with an effort flying just over, the result would remain as it stood and Sunderland would secure their clean sheet and record a comfortable win over a strong-looking Southend side. As for me, a quick exit had me heading back through the gates and back over the bridge to the Peacock, where I was asked by a group of women what was housed in the tents in the square across the way. I said I thought there was a bar or something, but did stress I didn’t really know, though I was told not being local wasn’t an excuse and I was up for blame if I was wrong. I sincerely apologise if I was!! Anyway, after opting for a pint of Rekorderlig Passion Fruit in here (£4.95, God, what is happening?!), I headed back out to try and find an apparent “speakeasy” bar nearby.

This trek didn’t go well and I soon decided to give up on this fruitless task and instead pop into one of the Wetherspoon’s, the William Jameson, just along the road from the station. Finishing up my Sunderland visit on a cool day with a fitting bottle of the Russian beer Baltika, I headed back off to the station and its strange shadow display opposite the platform. It’s quite eerie in a strange way, especially if its quiet I’d presume. A small delay meant I would have a little extra time upon my arrival into York and so I took a visit to the York Tap on the station where a half-drunk guy made an effort to get me served as I’d spoke to him, despite there being no-one else waiting at that point. I appreciated the effort though! After a pint of Aspall’s in here to refresh, I grabbed the train back and pecked a lad by the name of Christian’s head until his eventual detraining at Huddersfield. I bet he was relieved!! I arrived back in Manchester to meet my parents, who’d been at a Rick Astley concert, in the Irish Bar near Victoria, where I would take advantage of their taxi back and I could definitely say I’d had the more enjoyable Saturday and concert the previous night, courtesy of Enrique. Sorry, Rick.

Back to the centre

Post-match visit to the Peacock

So ends my trip to the Stadium of Light and Sunderland itself. It had been a good, if pretty costly one, though was worth a visit. Despite the dear drinks around town, the £20 ticket was well worth the money, the game was decent and the pie was good. The programme was a fine read and transport went largely untroubled too, so not too perturbed. That’s that then and its a return for a proper “tick” next week as I head over to somewhere famously linked by ferry….

Manchopper in….Huddersfield

Result: Huddersfield Town 3-2 Preston North End (EFL Championship)

Venue: John Smith’s Stadium (Friday 14th April 2017, 3pm)

Att: 21,254

The second game of my Easter weekend sees a visit to the upper echelons of the English system and a fair change from the previous evening’s venue! A barred-off pitch to a 20,000-plus seater stadium is a bit of a leap in ground standard to say the least and with me ideally needing to be back at a fairly early time, high-flying Huddersfield & their John Smith’s Stadium fit the bill nicely.

Setting off over the Pennines at just before 11am, I arrived into Huddersfield at just after midday. Joining a few other earlier arrivals from both sides in the station’s Head of Steam pub, I plumped for an Orchard Pig cider, costing around £3.50. It even came in one of those old-school dimpled glasses, which is always something of a plus….God, how sad does that sound…?

Head of Steam at the station

Huddersfield looking a bit soggy

Anyway, after remaining in here for a good half-hour and creating something of an itinerary for my tour de Hudds, I upped sticks and headed off for the town centre, being collared by some guy selling booklets in support of dementia charities whilst heading through the town’s pedestrianised area. Now, I’m usually careful when it comes to things like this, but I reckoned a pound either way doesn’t mean anything, even if it wasn’t kosher. So, with good deed for the day done, I reckoned I deserved a treat and this came in the form of King’s Bar and a pint of an old favourite of mine, Warsteiner.

This was actually an unplanned diversion, as I was originally headed for the neighbouring Wetherspoon’s, the Lord Wilson, but King’s looked the more interesting of the options and I always like the sort of small, hip bar thing they had going on. The Warsteiner wasn’t too pricey either, but having paid around the £4 for my previous two pints, I decided the ‘Spoons would have to come up next, if only to readdress the balance somewhat.

A good combination: King’s Bar & ‘Spoons

The Vulcan

“Hi, do you have any Punk IPA left in there?”, came my question. The answer brought a chill to my spine as the barmaid replied “Oooh, doesn’t look like it”. No Punk IPA. In a Wetherspoon’s. This was clearly the work of the lone Magpie I’d been unlucky enough to spy earlier in the day. Alas, I decided the 5AM Saint would be a fairly decent softener for my disappointment.

With the Lord Wilson being the usual ‘devoid of any atmosphere’ modern ‘Spoons outlet, I quickly downed the red ale and headed off in the general direction of the ground. Of course, with a good hour and a half to kick-off, it was still far too early to get to the John Smith’s Stadium and so I instead made a pit stop at the bustling Vulcan pub, which is definitely the one to be in for nearby drinks it seemed. Fans from both sides mixed well in here and got on with no issues. I was also able to grab an issue of a fanzine in here, just to negate the loss of my £1 earlier. Yes, I’m that turgid with money.

With pint in here finished, I made my way through the crowd and out onto the streets. I was now headed for the ground, but it wasn’t the end of the pre-match drinking yet Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, oh no (DISCLAIMER: I don’t recommend it to the latter two categories, though. Well, not until you’re 18 anyway). I’d decided it was probably best to beat the queues now and pick up my ticket from the ticket office before the masses engulfed the area and it proved a shrewd move (even if I do say so myself), and I was swiftly in possession of my match ticket and back en route to the Yorkshire Rose pub, a short walk away.

Final stop at The Yorkshire Rose…

…before heading to the ground…

…via this lovely footbridge.

Having been directed there by a steward in the car park, I arrived just as the place had begun to empty out, which was handy. One further pint was had in here (the dearest of all I’d had during the day, though I can’t remember what this one was) and, to be honest, very little happened in this recent build place and so I swiftly finished it and headed off, properly this time, to the ground for the big game of the day: Huddersfield Town vs Preston North End.

Arriving at the ground via the footbridge over the neighbouring canal, I made my way around to the North Stand, in within which I would be situated in the lower tier, pretty much behind the goal. After going through the turnstiles, I decided to head for food pre-game and so set my sights on the trailer in the open concourse. For £3.50 I was in possession of a decent sized chips & curry. But not for too long though.

The stadium is a pretty decent one in my view, helped by it having a bit of a unique shape to it (a little Bolton-esque to my eye) and with the tree-filled hill behind the East stand. All stands are largely similar, though the North and Riverside (Main) Stands are two-tiered and host the posh boxes. The South Stand was playing host to the large, vocal band of PNE fans today and also features a large, electronic scoreboard which was much-needed as it told all in attendance just who sponsored each goal-kick. Essential. Anyway, as for Huddersfield Town….

History Lesson:

Following the birth of Rugby League in the town in 1895, an association football team, Huddersfield Town AFC, was formed in 1910 and took up residence at Leeds Road. After an initial season in the Midland League, the club quickly moved up into the Football League after just one season. Fans then staved off a move that would have seen the club move to Leeds in late 1919 and replace, the then recently defunct, Leeds City at Elland Road.

In something of a celebration of Huddersfield retaining its football club, Town reached the 1920 FA Cup Final as well as winning promotion to the Division One come that season’s end. This post-war success continued with the club lifting the 1922 FA Cup and, later, three successive Football League titles, spanning 1924-’26, as well as finishing runners-up for the two seasons immediately after their hat-trick of titles.

HTAFC

After WWII, and a fire at Leeds Road that saw the club actually end up at Elland Road for two games, the club entered a decline which saw them eventually relegated from Division 1 in 1952. Despite coming straight back up the following season as runners-up, they were relegated again just three years later. They would remain out of the top-flight for the following fourteen years, returning in 1970, but were relegated after just two years back in Division One, which signalled the final time the Terriers have competed in the English system’s top division…so far!

The drops continued for Town, finding themselves in the third tier in 1973 and 1975 saw the club languishing in the Fourth Division, the Terriers dropping from the top-flight to the bottom rung of the League within four seasons. However, their recovery began in 1980 with promotion as Division Four Champions. They followed this with promotion back to Division 2 in 1983, though a blip did follow with Town relegated back to Division 3 in 1987.

After missing out on a return to the second tier in 1992, ’93 saw them end up there anyway, of sorts, with the formation of the Premiership meaning Division 3 became the Football League’s “new” Division 2. 1995 saw Town return to Division One after defeating Bristol Rovers in the play-off final. They remained in the second-tier until 2001 when they were relegated once more.

Current ground sponsors

Back in Division 3 by the time the 2002-’03 season came to its conclusion, their stay here lasted just one season, another play-off success seeing Town overcome Mansfield Town on penalties in the final. With further renaming seeing Division 2 becoming League 1, the club missed out on promotion to the Championship on two occasions, defeats in the play-offs in 2006 & 2010 seeing them remain in League One until they got lucky at the third time of asking, defeating Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United on penalties at Wembley. Since being promoted, Town have mostly struggled to lower mid-table positions. However, this season has seen David Wagner and his side get the Terriers to within sight of automatic promotion and a likely play-off spot, the club currently sitting in fourth position.

The game got underway and it quickly became apparent that this was going to be an open affair, with both teams going for it from the off. Elias Kachunga’s deflected effort was saved well by Chris Maxwell early on, as the hosts began brightly, but the visitors grew into the game and in the 23rd minute they struck, Aidan McGeady firing in a stinging, rising drive from 20+ yards that flew beyond the despairing dive of Danny Ward. 0-1 to Preston.

Match Action

Match Action

Both teams continued to really go on the attack and although little was created in terms of clear-cut chances, the game was very watchable. But, just a couple of minutes before the break, Town got the leveller when a corner from the right flew over the lost Maxwell and Elias Kachunga nodded in from around six-yards. Half-Time, 1-1 and cue Alan Kennedy (I think I remember that rightly and it actually was him!) doing the draw while dodging the sprinklers!

Alan Kennedy dodging the spray

The second half continued in the same vein as the first, with Kachunga again being the first player to go close, firing into the side netting after good work by Town’s impressive Aussie midfielder Aaron Mooy. The game got a bit tetchy here and there, with yellows being dished out on a regular basis and little really happening going forward for ever team. See the resemblance?!

But, on 70 minutes, the Terriers took the lead with a quick-fire move that saw a cross-field ball being run on to by full-back Tommy Smith and his first time ball in was met by sub Jack Payne’s head and the ball hitting the net sent the home fans into raptures.

However, their delight wasn’t to last too long. Within ten minutes the Lancastrians were level, Jordan Hugill powering a towering header beyond Ward and this time it was the band of Lilywhite fans who were up and cheering. 2-2 and a grandstand finish looked to be all set up. However, who would it be who would get that one final chance to take all the points.

Match Action

Match Action

Well, it looked like it would be no-one as both teams struggled to create that one big final opportunity. But, as anyone knows by now, there usually is one that arrives through some means, and this time it was through Hugill’s utter stupidity. The ball had just been cleared away when Hugill squared up to Kachunga. Now, all he had to do was walk away and his side would surely have come away with a more than creditable point. But no, Hugill decided to floor the home striker off the ball, leaving the ref no option but to award a penalty, the assistant doing well to have seen the issue. Being right behind it, it was a clear spot-kick.

With 95 minutes on the clock, up stepped Mooy. Faced by Maxwell and his clever gamesmanship, that sadly earned him a yellow (I love a bit of mind games), it was the gloveman that came out on top to push the pen away and seemingly secure that point. That is until the ball fell at the feet of recent sub Colin Quaner and the big German striker gleefully slid the ball under Maxwell and into the back of the net. 3-2, the home fans went wild and that was that. Great game to watch and credit to Maxwell for his, seemingly genuine, applause to the opposition fans after the game.

Chris Maxwell’s pen save was in vain…

….as Quaner sends the home fans crazy!

A quick exit was made to ensure I made the earliest possible train back, which I did without any issue. It was only as I jumped on the train that Paul managed to alert me to his presence! Paul was on his way back from watching some egg-chasing antics at Castleford and we just happened to be on that same carriage. Spooky. Anyway, this all made the journey pass quickly and I was soon back in Manchester and on the way home.

In summary then, it was a decent day in Yorkshire, with the worst of the weather missing us for the most part. A few decent pubs were visited, a good ground was ticked and a great game was seen. Can’t ask for much more than that. So, next up is the third of four games over the Easter break, with a visit to the home of red squirrels and a nice beach. They may no longer have a team carrying the Formby name, but the ground still plays host to someone. Who? Well, you’ll have to find that out…what do you mean you’re not interested….

RATINGS:

Game: 8

Ground: 7

Programme: 7

Food: 7

Value For Money: 7