Stevenage V Bristol Rovers 19th April 2016

Or: Football without a mobile phone

Going to football for me has many rituals that must be completed. One deviation may cause intolerable hardship and invoke poor results as a consequence. So it was that by 2 o’clock I knew we were going to Stevenage with no hope of victory. I arrived at the requisite 3 minutes to the agreed hour and reached for my mobile phone to confirm arrival with the late walking Rolls Royce twosome toddling around the corner. It was not in my pocket, coat, or on the floor of the car. I had left it at home. I had a decision to make? Go home and delay the trip to the game or go without it? The prospect of delay is even worse, as is retracing routes, so it was all or nothing. We set off without my phone and I would have to just grin and bear it.

Ronnie and Bob were in post work mode and once initial recaps of the week were made the radio became the best way to drown the sound of their snoring. The future of British Industry is in safe hands when the workforce need a nap when clocking off at two in the afternoon. We decided that the progress to Swindon would determine whether we took Motorways or country roads to the game. At Didcot I detoured via Abingdon, Thame, Wendover, Dunstable and north of Luton to our rural pub stop.

Pre-Match Pubs

Lilley Arms

lilley arms

The village of Lilley had a pub that I had visited post Luton school days over 10 years ago now.  It is, of course, now closed but the village alternative does have a range of Greene King and guest beers. Ronnie and Bob took the IPA and Abbott options while I did the diabetic challenge and went Coca –Cola silly. The pub was busy post-work and has potential for further visit. We were now in match analysis mode and for once quite excited about the upcoming game.

Drive on to Stevenage

I gave Ronnie permission to navigate around the rural routes to the town thus avoiding Hitchin and going through Knebworth. That mistake had to be corrected when we missed the second turn off and a trip on the motorway beckoned. Bob didn’t help much either by pointing out the roads we had just missed. Well that would work then. Do a U turn and take the last left?  Are you mad? We have routines and rituals to follow you know? Getting lost is definitely not one of them.

I dropped the chaps off at the pub and parked up near the ground.

Our Mutual Friend


They reported they had six beers and loads of Rovers fans. The place was well run and organised. Unfortunately for them they had standard beers in the bar they used and 3 more interesting guests in the other bar.

It was time to check out the news on my phone.  Grrrrr

Stevenage 0 Bristol Rovers 0; Attendance 3,836 (1,327 Gasheads)


Spotted in standing mode. Thanks Ronnie

stevenage a

An internet photo of the gas before kick off. Thanks person on Twitter.

Stevenage does an outstanding Boro Burger for a fiver. It does not do the usual Pasty or Curry Pie but the queue was manageable. It was so well run that they ran out of food well before the game. We sat in allocated seating. Note to self.  When next buying tickets for key matches look at the blokes in front and behind you in the queue. Somehow pone man was about to be squeezed in in seat by two mammoths, of which I was one. You could see the dread on his face when I announced that seat A 12 was mine. Our hearts fell at the thought of such intimate contact as was anticipated for the next hour and a half. There was a sort of unstated gentleman’s agreement that we should stand as much as possible so that swaying room might provide a little arm room. The away end was full as seen in the pics. Ronnie kindly took a photograph of me and away fans at 10 to kick off but of course I couldn’t share it to Facebook. Another ritual event was not to be.

The game to a pattern familiar to those who have watched the gas away from home. Half time nil-nil would lead to an upping of tempo and possible change of formation in the second and a 1-0 win would be nicked late on. The blokes behind me were in anxious moan mode that soon spread to others. We are leaving their full back too much room they complained. What do you expect when we are playing 3-5-2 and under pressure I confided to myself in my frustrated state? We had the best chances of the first half without playing well but no it was all gloom and doom in my left ear from behind. In the last twenty the game became more open as we stretched the game and went for that now elusive goal. I was now worried that a Carlisle style late goal might be a worse scenario to contemplate. So it was that the game drifted to a tense and relatively dull draw.

We trooped out to the sound of celebrating home fans lauding the success of their home game timewasting. They would be in this league next years and maybe so will we. I reached for my pocket to get the results of other promotion candidates. Grrrrrr

Entertainment Value (Out of 5): 1

Man of the Match:  Tom Parkes

The car was handily around the corner. One thing that is good about the ground is that ten minutes later we were well on the way down the A1 (M). It also meant we caught the football scores that were a true mixed bag. Radio Five promised an updated league table to follow but then didn’t do so. Ronnie did his own Maths in the car and we had dropped to fifth but are still only a point off automatic promotion. It wasn’t long before we shifted through pheromone concerts on Radio 3, Wurlitzer classics on two and eventually to Max and his Strathclyde Symphony as the music of choice on c.d. We were home by 1 in the morning with limited Janice Long. This time included a mass Gashead stop at a Reading Service Station that was helpfully virtually closed. The flashing lights encourage you to take a break if tired yet provide no facilities other than a queue for Costa Coffee when you take that advised gap in driving.


Pub of the day: Lilley Arms

Beer of the day: N/A

Next up: Exeter City H Saturday 23rd April 2016 Meet at King Street Brew House for breakfast at 11.

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