Game 49 Bristol Rovers V Dagenham and Redbridge 7th May 2016

Or: We are going up, say we are going up.

The last day of the season has various rituals to be performed. Winning promotion is never one of them. Writing this blog all season was all about this end result and how it turned out was as dramatic as dramatic could be. It true Stedders style it started and ended in the mundane and gloriously normal.

Pre-Match Pubs

Volunteer Tavern

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Of course I was early

The usual bus rides 625 and No 73 and then a walk through Cabots Circus to the pub. There were zombie-like youngsters congregating in the park nearby, why Bristol? Why today? Who knows? Who cares? I arrived the customary ten minutes early. The boys were on Rolls Royce time and tried to claim that three minutes late is within, and I quote, “vital tolerance”. No wonder British Industry is in the state it is when this sort of behaviour is tolerated. Precision engineering from such a workforce? I think not. The Plain IPA (7) was a very good starting beer. In all honesty, the initial conversation was somewhat stilted and disappointed. Ronnie tried to blame his mood on yesterday beers but the tension of the event and prospects was there to be witnessed. He was in a Rovers worry induced grump and we all had to grin and bear it. So Bob and I did such and waited for the happier bunny to return.

Mumbling Andy joined us at the next pub.

The Bridge

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Dark Star Hop Head (7) is almost always my choice here. It is always good and not easy to find in Bristol. We settled for a street table and got into more normal thoughts. We all were confident of a win today but is was in these very same seats a few years ago that we were joined by Mansfield minions. They were full of gloom that day and promised an easy day for the Gas. What followed was the worst of Rovers days as we were relegated in similar summer sunshine. I couldn’t help thinking, if not saying, that doing the same pub trip as then may not have been the best of ideas.

On to:-

The Cornubia

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Ronnie finding better conversation with a pigeon

The Outstanding Stout (6) did not merit its name. We had now drifted to talking of other sports, i.e Rugby south of the river tomorrow for them. The universal comment was that we had all voted Labour in respective elections. Unfortunately mine was only for the police commissioner and they had blotted out my choice by tactically voting for the incumbent independent who was duly elected. We don’t often talk politics but the Mayoral thing here in Bristol has provoked a reaction. George, it seemed, was certainly due to feel a reaction to his Mayorship. RPZ’s yes, popular with Ronnie who benefits locally. The Arena plans, a big NO. The lack of change in public transport, a massive NO. His personal ego, another NO.

2 o’clock taxi to:-

Drapers Arms

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I was happy to leave them to it but out of courtesy stepped in to the pub. I told Bob I was leaving for the game but it was too late. I hesitated and started chatting to Andy who was desperate that,should there be a playoff, I would sort a ticket for him. The GWB Oatmeal Stout (6) was in my hand and a one up manlike Ronnie was in my ear. I had apparently committed a hypocritical sin and dawdled while they went to the bar. It couldn’t and wouldn’t be explained away so I had to suffer 10 minutes of gloating while I tried to chat with another old friend Kevin. We had recently chatted on social media about the Junior Doctors strike and so it was good to reinforce that differences of opinion are only that. Kevin and I will remain good friends. The pub, the street outside and all the business along the Gloucester road were manically busy. I wanted to be in time to get the atmosphere and boy was I glad to do so.

Bristol Rovers 2 Dagenham and Redbridge 1; Attendance 11,130 (400 Daggers)

Away terrace  full at last with Gas

I have never witnessed a Rovers home crowd in such a mood. It was noisy, happy, bouncing and joyous well before kick-off. The standard routines were being carried out with an enthusiasm that comes around only once in a lifetime. I had never felt this enthused by the noise of others. I was introduced to a friend who had brought his wife for her first ever game. I hope she would realise this was not anything like normality. It was difficult to hold a normal conversation, the noise was that incessant. I did gather that Damon and Jonny would be bottling out of our later crawling to go home and dog sit. I think that is what he said. I couldn’t fully comprehend why that would be so, but felt it best not to ask more.

We all knew that Dagenham would score first. Didn’t we? We did. We also knew that we would win. Didn’t we? We did. That we would miss 32 chances in getting to the final one was not so certain. That Tom Lockyer would for the first time ever, suffer a bout of nervous indecision was unpredictable. That Matty Taylor would miss two open goals in the last ten minutes was possible. Wasn’t it? That we would clear the ball of the line with five minutes to go was certain. Wasn’t it? That the second open goal chance should rebound off a post to Lee Brown who would take a lifetime and extra willing from the crowd to “PUT IT IN” was inevitable. It flipping well was. We all went as bananas as bananas could go. They were on the pitch but we knew that it wasn’t quite all over. To be fair around me no one had been checking or giving updates and in the pressing of my Samsung BBC page the result came through. It was party time, big time.  No matter that the corporate Sky wanted to grab their share of the stage by bringing a few fireworks and bottles of champagne. The Gas were having none of it. We had dreamed of this party for a lifetime. I had never been at a home game when we had won anything, ever. Southend in 1974 we heard on the radio to the commentary of Howard Gillions in 1974 was won with a party south of the river. In 2007 it was Wembley so too was last years’ nervous event. What do we do now? Well we party don’t we? How though?

It was a full hour before we were in the pub to resume normal service. Voice, dignity, reputations, all were a lost as we cuddled strangers, danced like Dads dance, clapped, shouted, sang and some even cried.

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Hooligans on the pitch

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Entertainment Value (Out of 5): 6

Man of the Match:  Billy Bodin. If you ever want to see a George Best goal in modern football watch the first goal. In perfect respect for the occasion he beat three lunging challenges in the penalty area taking it from the corner of the 18 yard box to the corner of the 6 yard box before tapping it home. That alone would win many a man of the match award.

Post-match

Back to:-

Drapers Arms

And a Grey Trees Cardadogs Bitter (6). The conversation was a bit surreal. To be honest there wasn’t much sensible coming from any one. The pub operated a one in one out door policy. We eventually sat in the corner and just grinned at each other. No conversation, little comment, just inane self-congratulatory, cheesy grins of Gas filled delight.

By now the Rovers fans had closed off the Gloucester Road. The shops and the Vic were down to selling Cans of Natch, the latter had to close to do so out of the window. Only the regular buses were making it through the masses. Friends were dancing in the street, friends Mums (Hazel) were dancing on the pavement. The taxi came with an advisory to the driver that it was manic and extra time might be needed to get to us. We were going to leave the party. Should we have stayed? Maybe, but things would only get messy.

The Usual Clifton end of season pub crawl was about to begin.

First stop

The Beaufort

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The others didn’t make it so it was a five-some consisting our lunchtime crew plus Rose who joined us at seven. We sat outside and continued grinning at the evening sun. We hazarded where the others might be. Lord Powell was off to Forest Green Rovers. So Sad. Perhaps Geoff might join us later on. Some said they would be meeting at the White Lion very much later. I personally couldn’t see me lasting that long and had doubts about beers on the City Centre this evening of all evenings. All the while it was Andy getting messages of the party updates and Ron checking results on his magic box. The St Austell Tribute (5) hit its expected score and we moved on.

Coach and Horses

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This is usually where we meet the lads of Down League Sneyd Park celebrating yet another successful season. My research today shows they came fourth in the league. This is so rare that it is no surprise to find them not in attendance. We sat outside and discussed the various options for the evening. Rose joined in the grinning but none of us were in any form of reality. The nearby Port of Call had closed. No more marmalade to be had from the bar. The Sharps Atlantic IPA (6) promised much but was ultimately a little disappointing.

Jersey Lily

Next up was this recently refurbished and apparently Wickwar inspired bar. It had a decent enough choice but the place lacked some organisational polish. Two of the six beers were “turned around”. While the barman went to effect some change he neglected to remember any order of who was next at the bar. Time was wasting away and I was getting the hump as Bob apparently pushed in. Not his fault I felt, but he did then order five beers which might well have irked the neglected initial customer.

We settled to a new courtyard table. This was most welcome. We also amused a fellow pub user who wanted to tell us all about his enthusiasms for Portsmouth and Bristol Rugby. It was our party, not his, but we were polite and listened attentively to his inane drivel about Rugby in general and Bristol in particular. The Deuchars IPA (3) as a guest was as poor a choice as I have made in a while. Nostalgia is indeed, not all it is cracked up to be at times.

Our final pub came after a cursory look in the Black Boy. It was in full restaurant fitting and I felt we might feel somewhat out of place.

Penny

The outside seats here were perfect for watching the world go by as conversation waned and sleep looked to grab our normal somnambulant. He pretended to be looking at his phone but we could tell he needed a bar to stand against and keep him upright and a juke box to sing along with. Andy appeared to know virtually every young lady that strolled past the bar. Remember we are in the heart of student country when you question that statement and wonder further. The RCH Old Slug Porter (4) capped a run of disappointing beers. I was ready for home. The chaps were determined to get to the White Lion and left in a taxi.

Pub of the day: The Bridge

Beer of the day: Dark Star Hophead

We had a brief discussion of our away pubs of the year.

Nominees were:-

Carlisle; Moo Bar Discounted by me as I didn’t visit.

Mansfield: Brown Cow

Northampton: Albion Brewery Bar Its in Northampton so instantly discounted buy me.

Malt Cross: Nottingham

Accrington: Grants Bar

Exeter: Beer Cellar

Hartlepool: Rat Race

Oxford: Royal Blenheim

Plymouth: Fortescue

Portsmouth: Sir Loin of Beef

My Winner:MALT CROSS NOTTINGHAM

My beer of the year

Titanic Plum Porter

Purity UBU

Oakham JHB

Atom Schrodinger’s Cat

My Winner: TITANIC PLUM PORTER

Best Away food

SOUTHEND

Next up: 2016 -17 season and League Division one. New grounds for me at Sheffield United and Bolton Wanderers plus Coventry for watching Bristol Rovers.

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