Or: Here we go again: A long weekend watching sport.
A 6.15 Train. I must say this twice because I still cannot believe we left B.T.M. at 6.15. I can only think that the Dear Lord was desperate to get started and wanted us to share his excitement at being able to get back to his core travel organising function with a surer alarm. My clock was of course set at 5 to make the 6.15 from Temple Meads courtesy of a kinder than kind lift from the overly tolerant Rose. All I therefore needed on the journey up was recovered sleep. Fat chance of that. The team members of Peter de Meteor, Mumbles and myself had slumber potential to die for. Martin, however, had sheets to fill and detail to confirm plus sadly, the energy to do so. We arrived at Sheffield at 9.15 with an hour-long onward journey to confirm and time to kill. The more sensibly timed travellers, Bob and Ronnie arrived from their overnight, post test match, stay in Birmingham.
What to do at 9.30? In the back of my mind was a dangerous thought of breakfast and a pint in Wetherspoons. As usual Pete had the best plan and went his own way agreeing to meet again at 1 for the onward train. I now had two shadows who had no plan and wanted me to come up with one. That is hard when all you want to do is find a bed and recover some sleep. I half-heartedly led them around for 10 minutes before declaring U.D.I. and stating “you can go and find breakfast and a beer without me, I will be getting breakfast at the station and will be in the Sheffield Tap at 11.” So M + S became my café and the “Sheffield Urinal” my window seat on the world until opening time.
My view at breakfast
Sheffield Tap (11.5)
Arrived at 10.45. It said it opened at 11 but who was I to complain? Darren was in situ but soon to move on so it was a pleasure to make the new season with a choice from a board, all on my own.
The board had:-
The Sheffield tap board
A choice of 11 but a promise to myself led me to the Jaipur (score 4 (out of 5)), later followed by the Tapped Brew Stout (3) and Tapped Rodeo (3). By 11.20 the full team gathered and drinking team photo was taken.
The Drinking team is reformed.
Where does conversation start when a new season begins? Surprisingly little was about the game or the coming season other than collective moans about Bolton and Sheffield games being midweek and therefore useless for beer drinking to our travelling band. More important to the others was the impending fixture clash. Should Gloucestershire win on Wednesday in the T20 QF then the Southend game will present a dilemma for those who might chose Edgbaston and T20 finals rather than at trip to the Essex coast. I have no such qualms. I am not paying the inflated £80 plus for tickets to watch a T20 final even if the mighty Gloucesterhire are playing and Southend will therefore be my only choice. Phone calls were coming and going between the Leeds Contingent and travel HQ. Roger Right Hand would meet us later, so too Craig, but unfortunately not Clive or Paul
The Tap has been usefully extended and is pleasantly popular yet comfortable. I had to notice that a large group of female shoppers, i.e. fully laden with shoe shop bags and off to party, were meeting at a table fully laden with empty beer glasses. Now the pub might well have cleared the table before they arrived but any group of which I am member would surely have just cleared the table to the bar before sitting around a table. Not this troupe. They stared intently at each other and then at the bar staff. Eventually the table was cleared and instantly the group sat around the table as if it was now suitable for habitation rather than being a badly kept public urinal.
The platform for our train is outside the now open window but we did resist the wish to jump through the window and on to the now delayed Cleethorpes express. We cleared our own table of glass wear and left in good time for train and as taxi to the ground.
Beer choice 5 (out of 5)
Beer Quality 3.3 (average score of beers chosen, out of 5)
Staff and service 3 (Out of 5)
Total 11.3 out of 15
This is my scoring system for the season. This will only be done in detail on the best pub of the day.
Scunthorpe 3 Bristol Rovers 1 Attendance: 4636 (approx. 1000 Gasheads)
Rovers Rating /10 New for this season. Players with more than 7 or less than 5 will get a comment as to why.
Mildenhall 7, Lockyer 7, J. Clarke 6, Hartley 6, Brown 6, O. Clarke 7, Lines 7, Harrison 6, Bodin 5.
Leadbitter 4 he was like a lost child, left to waving from a distance while the team played their own game. He struggled to get wide and deliver something telling partly because his right side partner was equally ineffective. Did better when as an orthodox right back and it was easier, oddly, to get the ball in space going forward.
Sinclair 4: Struggled to get in to the game and resorted to chasing shadows with malice. He seems to be under pressure whenever he gets the ball and isn’t able to create space to look up and pass.
Gaffney 4: He worked really hard but couldn’t get beyond a losing battle with the centre half and the referee. He rushes things when he gets space or a chance to shoot.
Montano 4 Couldn’t make any meaningful passes despite several opportunities late in the game.
Taylor 8: Looked confident, took his goal well and found space easily. Looks likely to score, or at least get a shot on target, whenever he gets the ball near the penalty area.
Entertainment Value 3
At half time all was well. One nil up and relatively comfortable we were all thinking of making sure we stayed ahead and perhaps another might come on the break. Our only worries were that Sinclair and Leadbitter were not really in the game and that Scunthorpe surely couldn’t be as poor in the second half. Sure enough they had some quality finishes and two goals flew in at pace. Mildenhall had already made one good save but we could only comment that the first two goals came from mistakes high up the field and somehow it was they who had scored on the break. The third was cruel and a result of our getting too many forward looking for a late equaliser. On another day this game would have finished 1-1 and everyone would have been happy.
My 10 to 3 away fan photo
Rovers fans were loud and, if the reception as we left was anything to go by, not at all dismayed by the performance. Scunthorpe had some quality but we had more than matched them for most of the game. I expect them to be in the top 10 and just like last year, we may lose to the top teams but still do well.
Man of the Match: Matty Taylor
The Honest Lawyer (7)
When a Landlord promises me beer for life it is perhaps best to retire before paying out. So when we arrives via taxi after the game what was stark was a lack of real ale polish in this newly owned bar. Alan the Landlord has moved on, and it showed. There were only three beers despite many more pumps. I settled for a Thwaites Blonde (5) and a warm conversation about the game in the darkened and sparsely decorated back area. A Rovers fan offered what I can only guess was a Midlands-living induced miserable opinion on the need for wholesale changes to the midfield. I resisted the urge to bite back and left him to dream of his lonely return to West Midlands gloomdom.
The train home had changes at Sheffield and Birmingham. The first leg was standing room only and very Gaseous. Many of them pulled a fast one at Doncaster to secure seats on our train when we boarded at Sheffield. Mid-journey a plan was hatched from home for me to join Clarkie and his son Wes at the final day of the test at Edgbaston tomorrow. I made the stupid decision to try and book tickets online, on a train, on a mobile, in a crowded carriage when all around want to either sing or sleep. I almost succeeded, only to be thwarted by being timed out of access while walking between platforms at New Street.
The train ran to timetable and the Lord and I alighted at Bristol Parkway at 10. I was ported home by a now overly anticipated lift from Rose.
Best Pub: Sheffield Tap
Best Beer: Thornbridge Jaipur
Next up: Cardiff (H) Thursday 11th August
The Cricket cost £16 for adults and a fiver for Wes. That is the proper value of a test match and a great day was enjoyed.
Our view from The Hollies Stand