We came a long way for something.
A 560 mile round trip required either days off work for some, half day starts (Bob at 6.30 till 10.30?) or arranged meetings in the North East for others. 10.35 pickup for Bob it was then. M5, M42, M1, A1 A19. Just the two of us this time, we listened to the annoying Jeremy Vine for a way. break at Tamworth. At 2 O’clock we change to the Archers of course and arrive at 3.50. Time enough to drop off bags in the excellent Hillcarter Hotel and get to the Rat Race for its 4.02 opening time.
The Rat Race
In our two hours there we managed to talk to every customer and sample three out of the four beers. For those who have never been here before you should know that the pub only has room for 12 or so customers, has service from the cupboard to your table and a strict no standing / sitting zones enforced by the Accrington fan landlord Pete. There were two dark beers, one being the classic Elland 1872 Porter. Manchester Gas joined us, he had now finished the works meeting that just so happened to be in Newcastle this week. Andy, our serious beer ticker friend arrived. His route involved a flight to Newcastle, a four day ticking break that would involve the delights of Sunderland tomorrow and 36 new beers already discovered for him in Newcastle in the last day or so. Pete was in good form as were the confident locals. In their thoughts was a drubbing for the poor Bristolians. For me a 0-0 was the probable result.
When looking at all the other pubs I wanted to try something new. Pete informed me that this would be difficult. I remembered a long regarded friend who used to run the Jacksons Wharf and contacted me when he took over the Millhouse with an invitation to visit. He used to welcome fans to his first pub with a selection of away fan music, a signing in book and various customised flags and pictures in the pub. I was on the first page some 12 or so years ago. We entered, asked if he was still there, and in true landlord style, he had of course moved on. The pub is in the shadow of the ground and had a pool table. We settled on an honourable 1-1 draw at pool, sampled the average (was it keg on handpump?) Strongarm and moved on.
The Corner Bar
No real ale but Strongarm on Keg. Let me call it craft Bitter just to annoy my Brewdog friends. Manchester Gas and our new found Poolie mates had also moved on to here. We sat and chatted until we were ready for the way to the other corner of the ground and access to Victoria Park. £20 entrance, not cheap for a shallow terrace with seats bolted on. No pasties or curry pies but the replacement burger and pie were good and redeemed a fair few points.
Hartlepool United 0 Bristol Rovers 3 Attendance 3,788, (190 Gasheads)
The performance was as good as I can remember from Rovers in the last few years. Neat, quick, short passing, lots of movement off the ball, three goals and very few chances to the opposition. Hartlepool were made to look very ordinary. We had come a long way for a very good game of football, a great result and not bad company with friendly football fans. A top day out then.
Entertainment Value 4
Man of the Match: Mark McCrystal just because of the pass for the second goal.
Away Fans. 190 is pretty good for a Tuesday night so far from home. Noisy at the end but much spent in quiet wonderment at just how well we played. Moaners had nothing to moan at and jaws sounded to be collectively dropped.
On a Tuesday? We were on an away day so our luxury was to drop into the Jacksons Arms on the way back to our hotel. Black Sheep or another seasonal were on offer. Neither excited so I reverted to the Gin. The locals had been at the game so we indulged in some Darryl Clarke love in conversation. He is a legend here and there.
Pub of the Day: Rat Race
Beer of the Day: Elland 1872
And now for my Rant of today
Just before the game we checked messages for team sheets etc. and one message flashed up that the Cambridge V Rovers game had been moved to a Friday night. Speculation began to mingle with disgruntlement among the 190 regular away fans who had gone through considerable expense to watch this game tonight but would no doubt be inconvenienced by this decision. The Rugby world cup final appears to be the problem. You know, that RUGBY WORLD CUP final that we have known about for a very long time, involves RUGBY, probably NEW ZEALAND V AUSTRALIA, and is shown on TV all around the world.
Our Travel is made through the Real Lord Powell who spends immeasurable time and expense booking train tickets in advance so that we follow the Gas. In this case I had my Cambridge Tickets in my pocket, already purchased IN ADVANCE for £31.
No problem we thought, surely we can get a refund. There are no such refund on ADVANCE purchase tickets. For an administration fee (£10) and adjustment (£15) we could go on the Friday evening but there are no trains home after the game. “Perhaps Sir, you could book a room overnight and come back the next day.” (Average price of a room in Cambridge not booked in advance £100?) We contacted Cambridge FC. Apparently someone wants to be able to go to the final AND watch the game so an earlier kick off wouldn’t be a solution.
So there we have it. I can either:-
- Lose £31 and put it down to experience. This will now involve driving to Cambridge on a Friday afternoon with all that M25 and Friday traffic involves and journey home in the early hours of the Saturday.
- Lose the money but make my own weekend break of it. Book the hotel, take a friend and watch the Rugby in a pub.
- Travel with the original tickets plus adjustments and sleep on the station waiting for the first train home.
- Get really annoyed, go in to see the moron at Bristol Rovers who agreed this change and stuff the rail tickets in the personal railway tunnel of his choice.
Whatever I decide another little chunk of love towards Bristol Rovers FC has just been chipped off my very broad but shaky shoulders.
I think Bristol Rovers should at least make a gesture of compensation to those with train tickets booked in advance. Perhaps free tickets for the match at the direct cost to the Director who has a ticket for the World Cup Final.
Loyalty eh! Cambridge is already one long trip for nothing.