Or: Two great pubs and the hassle.
The 8.30 train from B.T.M. had reserved seats for Peter de Meteor, Mumbles, Right-Wing Ronnie, Coventry Bob, myself and Lord Powell. Our route was via Cheltenham, where we had to change seats in pass the parcel style, through Birmingham New Street and on to Northampton for 11.20. Readers of my blathering will know full well that I hate Northampton Town with a passion reserved for only them, Wycombe and Bristol City. Perfectly pleasant people in real life, when they assume the colours of the club shirt, change into some weird form of alien being for a few hours, only to return to charming normality a few hours later when they have the reality of their actions pointed out to them. Witness this drivel from a highly regarded formal pupil of mine sent before the game.
More of this later but now back to the record of events.
Northampton Town bugbear number one. The scarcity of good real ale pubs.
It is pointless heading out to the ground so we normally end up going to the regular pubs of many a past visit. We wanted a change and I had identified two such new pubs for the chaps to test. The first only opened at 12 so would be left now for after the game. The second involved a 20 minute walk through the town and its Harley Davidson / Hell’s Angel fest, via unsigned underpasses and derelict boot factories and on to inner town terraced suburbia.
The Good Lord was in Grand National mode and despite finding a perfectly good Ladbrokes he felt the issue so important he had to devote more time before placing his ill earned money on the nag / nags of choice. The others arrived, relieved of their tenners and with high hopes that the quarters would be good omens in Liverpool.
The bar person saw us waiting waif-like outside, and welcomed us in 10 minutes early. This pub is excellent and has yet to disappoint. Three of us had visited before on a day trip to watch Coventry Bob’s home team a few years ago. It had six handpumps, a mix of standard classics of the new beer age and some local offerings to tempt our newbie beer tickers. A 20 minute walk does nothing for me when thinking of the next pub to find so we decided, rather early on, to stay put and do the line between us. I was also determined that the foul folk of Northampton Town F.C. would not have my dinner money, no matter how hungry I might become. For once, and once only, it would be eat in the pub time. I unwrapped my metaphorical hankie for change to buy a superb Lamplighter burger and the left over kitty from Nottingham paid for pints of Oakham JHB (8), Bradfield Farmers Blonde (6) and then a Radcliffe Stout (6)
If you have not visited here before it is well worth the detour. The room is spacious enough for good conversation. The beers are well kept and interesting. The staff are charming and always welcoming and chatty. If only Northampton had more such examples out near the ground.
Of our conversations, we must have bored Martyn as he decided to leave us and place his own, now more considered, bets. In reality I think he just wanted to find another pub, or bus, or bus, or pub to tick off his list. We chatted on Ronnie’s new nickname of Right Wing Ronnie, the chances of Cameron surviving another week and the state of the society in general. For once football didn’t enter our collective thoughts. The way we have played this season appears to have tempered our natural pre- match pessimism to the point of breeding an assured confidence in the team’s potential to do well.
We booked a taxi for 2 and it duly arrived and shuttled us to the ground for 2.30
Northampton Town bugbear number two. Taxis back to town
Would he get us a return taxi after the game? Would he heck. Phone the depot was all he could offer. Guess what? The taxi company had gone to unresponsive voice mail messages. They had of course to deal with the record crowd at Sixfields and the largest league crowd since 1987. Any attempts to accommodate this with extra buses? No way, this is Northampton, land of the self-contented. So it was we took to our now unreserved seating and joined in their promotion party.
On this point I should reinforce the point that we all knew this would be their party and I for one was glad that my old friends might enjoy their moment. I have always thought that the fans deserved so much better than what the club serves up to them. Despite their acknowledged reputation and “style” my friends had watched them with commitment that was all too often blind to what they were subjected to. Obviously they are, and were, a good side, and a draw here would be a great result. The best we might hope for was a good performance and to delay their well-earned party by a week or so.
Why then was there so much hostility from the maroon hordes near to us? If fact, why at all would they be at all interested in goading away fans when this was to be their day of celebration. In true 80s fan style the full gambit of inappropriate hand and body gestures were offered to our end as apparent intimidation. There certainly appeared to be a lot of pent up sexual frustration in the male population if the amount of self-flagellation was to be taken as a sign. One helpful lady Rovers fan decided to relieve their frustrations with a quick flash of her ample cleavage but this only encouraged the popish stewards to suggest more modesty might be appropriate.
Northampton Town 2 Bristol Rovers 2; Attendance 7,579 (944 Gasheads)
And so to the game. For the first 20 minutes Northampton barely touched the ball. Without threatening much ourselves we dominated possession and looked comfortable with their rare attacks. On the 23rd minute of course Northampton scored and we looked to have paid for not making the possession count. To be honest for much of the next hour it might well have been a bit of a Portsmouth. If possession swayed slightly to them the chances went heavily in their favour. A second goal eventually came and a 2-0 defeat would normally have been a good and flattering way to go home unthrashed. This, however, is the Rovers of 2015-16 and they don’t do meek performances. It would just need one back and we all knew that anything could happen with this team. Matty scored one with a typical front post instinctive touch. He is so much better when he hasn’t time to think in front of goal. Ellis Harrison did what Ellis Harrison does and added the equaliser with 2 minutes to go. Who was having the party now? Well actually they were, as results came thorough to confirm the Cobblers were up and the draw would be enough.
Sid sent me his view of us from the home side.
So back to Gareth’s Facebook challenge of above.
Timewasting – from the time of the first goal to the time of our equaliser the side time wasted with some considerable finesse. Best example, other than that of the area wandering goalkeeper, was the well trained ball boy who managed a perfect impression of a Denbigh School student rushing to take part in a Mandy Monaghan P.E. lesson. Even you, Gareth, could catch and throw a ball with more enthusiasm than that.
Diving – Why was Nicky Adams Booked? I think it’s called simulation nowadays. Plain old cheating if you ask me.
Elbows in the head / chest? Poor old Tom Lockyer had two of these to deal with.
Referees and linesmen? Thought they did o.k. other than not sending off the elbow merchant.
JJT – I thought it was you who was asking if we wanted him back. He played o.k. but didn’t worry the defence too much. He seems to fit well into what looks a decent midfield.
And finally, beaten by a better team? That will have to wait won’t it?
Entertainment Value (Out of 5): 4
The old boy Northampton fans at the bus stop after the game were fulsome about the game itself. They thought it was a great game and both sides were good. They were of course enjoying the celebrations from a distance because they knew the consequences of not catching the bus before the masses left the game.
Man of the Match: Ollie Clarke
Northampton Town bugbear number three: An out of town stadium with only token commitment to public transport.
The others decided to walk the mile and a half back to town. I wanted to take the bus in the interests of scientific research. Three buses heading for Daventry came and went between 5 and half past five when one to town came in to view. It was of course a single decker that filled up completely and is part of what is a half hourly service.
Northampton Town bugbear number four: Fantasy island conversations
As I am liable to do I got into conversation with the locals. One topic was the chances of success next season and the potential game with MK Dons. Then came this humdinger. Apparently, according to one Northampton lady fan it is all down to MK Dons that the new stand is unfinished. Nothing to do with corrupt chairmen and dodgy accounting of council loans. No, it is purely down to the council changing their mind and giving money to Mk Dons rather than the Cobblers. I did raise my eyebrows a bit and asked why Milton Keynes council should subsidise Northampton. No silly, it was Northampton council that had apparently subsidised Mk Dons. Now I know when not to take a conversation further and left it at that but all was right in this ladies world and Northampton had achieved their success despite the apparent bias of the council towards MK. Never had Cobblers been a more appropriate nickname.
I alighted at the station and had beaten the others to our predetermined post-match meet at the Old Black Lion. This pub has had a somewhat precarious real ale reputation but is convenient for the station. No doubt I was given some fine beer snob comments as I left just one minute after entering. I chatted briefly with Gashead friend David W and enquired as to the real ale on offer. There was none, so I decided to thank them and move on.
With limited time available a decision had to be quickly made. I led the charge to the
Albion Brewery Bar
What a great find this was. This was intended for pre-match but now would do nicely. If you are unaware this is the brewery bar for the Northampton Brewing Company. This firm has re-brewed the old Phipps recipes of local fame and they have quickly established this comfortable and airy, purpose built, brewery and bar. With local skittles and bar billiards tables, an obviously well used performance area and brewing kit on view; this is a beer lovers treat.
I had what had to be a quick NBC Phipps Gold Star (6) with a Bison Brown (7) to follow. We fully dissected the ramifications of the day’s results. The Lord tried to nail down confirmations for next week’s cake eating at the Annexe (Don’t ask, all will be revealed then).
We promised to return here next season. That will of course depend on the next five/ eight games to work in our favour.
Pub of the day: Albion Brewery Bar
Beer of the day: Oakham J.H.B. in the Lamplighter
Our train home allowed the others a swift half in the Shakespeare near Grand Central (New Street) Station. I was home in time for match of the day, not that I could care.
This was a day to remember. One would be churlish to deny that Northampton are worthy champions. I still hate the club and what it represents. The lack of care towards their customers and the difficulty for any fans to enjoy watching the club in a location makes watching here just painfully hard work.
I must offer personal congratulations to Gareth, Sid, Fletch and Craig. Should you read this, well done, enjoy the good times, and keep your faith.
Next up: Yeovil Town H Saturday 16th April 2016 Meeting: Kings Street Brew house at 12.