Or: Thankfully no fireworks at Crawley.
Ronnie arrived the customary three minutes late but I was able to make up the time and pick up Coventry Bob as the stroke of Ronnie’s watch reached 3 minutes past 8 and the radio played the 8 o’clock pips. This was a rare Saturday where we were taking our own strain courtesy of striking Southern Train Rail Staff and a 12 o’clock kick off. This would also have explained why the travelling hordes were somewhat fewer than normal as the guarantee to get to the game by 12 must have been severely limited by the intransigence and poor management of Southern Rail. Another three of our gang were being driven by Geoff the unnamed. Their car would arrive and deposit them on the terrace. Not literally of course but as the photo shows, Geoff, The Real Lord Powell and Peter de Meteor were together and happy to win the prize for spotting Roger Radio first and standing with him throughout the game. We decided the seated tent that ran along the side would offer more protection from the biting cold and maybe afford a better view. Neither of those factors were true.
Roger Radio (Orange / Sainsbury’s?) out-bagging the Lord on the Away terrace at Crawley
We had an easy journey only complicated by taking a roundabout too many in our approach from Peas Pottage. The upshot was we found an excellent parking location within a hundred or so yards of the stadium that would be remembered in future journeys to this unfortunate new town.
I was driving and we had arrived at 10.45. The nearest pubs were a 15 minute walk away so by the time the chaps would be there it would be time to walk back again. The Redz bar was open behind the home terrace in the optimistically named Fun Zone. I was not drinking anything vaguely alcoholic so the boys were left to sample the keg options in this pleasant but, as Ronnie would call it, definitely nun-league bar. The big screens were showing the sky sports things. The scarfed and shirted Gasheads had taken most of the seats as they had arrived first. The locals were friendly enough but the fun zone didn’t offer much of a diversion to children of any age. One coke is enough for me so I left them to their nitro keg and wandered around to the away entrances just as they opened.
Perfect passing of the Coke from the half headed Boy Racer
BUG BEAR ALERT No. 1
First Come first served and football tickets
The Rovers fans were separated, as mentioned earlier, into ample seats or more ample terrace. The steward advised me that I should sit in the allocated seat and perhaps spaces might be available just before kick-off should I wish to be with my friends. Now I know we take more than most to away games but was he really expecting 500 plus seated fans on top of the 300 or so in the covered terrace? As it was, I duly took my hot dog and Bovril to A7, my allocated seat number, and had a solitary grump. A7 fell into the category of punishment seat. It was like I was deliberately on a naughty step for daring to get my ticket early. I guess I must have been seventh in the queue for a ticket on that early morning a few weeks ago when I booked my place by visiting the club shop. Having dried off the seat because the front row definitely didn’t lie beneath the cover of the tent, I also had the prospect of watching the action from behind a supporting post that obscured the distant goal. It took me twenty minutes to evade the now watching steward and moved to the middle of the temporary stand where I could view both ends and see more than the knee caps of a covering full back.
Crawley Town 1 Bristol Rovers 1 Attendance: 2,281 (518 Gasheads)
This game showed just how much we have improved over the last few years because for once we dominated a game, didn’t win and left feeling a bit flat after a worthwhile away cup draw. It also was a chance to look at a few alternative options in the team and make some sort of assessment as to their potential to be regulars in the team later in the season. The old boy in front of me had some interesting opinions on what he thought the team should be and was happy to share them. He wanted to see Lee Mansell and perhaps Liam Lawrence thrown into the team. Gaffney up front would be his choice. He also noted the Under 18 goalkeeper on the bench and ventured that perhaps Roos might be dropped. I am all for experimentation but I think he was maybe playing devil’s advocate or perhaps was on some recreational alternative to alcohol to get him through the match.
Rovers should have won and won comfortably. Crawley had a couple of periods where they put our defence under some pressure and at one point in the second half the team played too deep and invited a bit of Crawley attacking. When they went down to ten men it appeared that they were happy with a draw and resorted to killing the game with classic delaying tactics that the referee accepted as part of the game.
I reserve comments for a few key players.
Connor Roberts – It appears to me that he is very much third choice at full back. I would put him well behind Daniel Leadbitter and James Clarke. He falls very much into my o.k. category of footballer. In years past he would be rated as good but the team has moved in and he offered neither the support that the players in front demanded nor the reliability the back line deserved.
Hirem Boeteng – I think he gets treated as being more experienced and therefore more competent than he actually is. He does some very nice stuff when on the ball and can be a real threat when taking it forward. Defensively he is, in my opinion, a liability. He tends to put himself in positions where others can easily run in behind him. The midfield had to sit deeper because he often was left chasing back to fill the space he should be occupying. Watching the goal again this morning it looks very much like his man, the sneaky blighter, was running through behind his back to score their goal.
Ellis Harrison – I thought he played well. Others around me did not. I think we have a different role for him this season. Gone are the days of getting him to collect the ball and run at tiring defences. He, and DC have perhaps decided that this is best left to others. He has obviously worked on being the big bloke target man for the long ball out of defence. HERE COMES ONE OF MY STATS ALERT! I counted again today. Like I used to do with Chris Lines passes I thought it was time to count the number of headers he won and perhaps compare that to Gaffney, when he got on the pitch. There were 23 occasions when he went up for a headed ball against the centre half. He won 18 of them. Now in my book that is a pretty good percentage of headers won. Unfortunately Gaffney didn’t get to play but I would be amazed if he managed a 78 % success rate. I must also comment on his self-discipline. He was targeted by their defence for some serious winding up. His response was admirable. He was very harshly booked for daring to jump for a ball near to the keeper. If he hadn’t done so then there were plenty of Gasheads who would have let him know why he should. In the past it might have resulted in a fracas and perhaps he being substituted. He stood his ground and took the booking like the player I hope he might grow to become.
Byron Moore – If ever there was a player that needs games it is Byron. He started with plenty of the ball and room in which to run at their defence. After a few failed efforts he resorted to the safer option of cutting back inside and laying the ball off to others. It was the safe option but not what was needed. He crossed from deep and when put in to the corner crossed too deep. We have the luxury of another game on Tuesday and he should start if only to get some match fitness. He isn’t helped by having a reluctant overlapping full back to work with.
Finally. A thought. Where is Billy Bodin?
Rovers Rating /10
Roos 6, Roberts 5, Lockyer 8, Hartley 8, Brown 7, Sinclair 7, Boeteng 5, Clarke 6, Easter 5, Harrison 7, Taylor 6, Subs, Montano 7 Moore 5 James 5
Man of the Match: Peter Hartley
It felt odd leaving the ground at 2 and stopping half way home for a team pint.
The Swan Three Mile Cross
The Inglenook at the Swan
This pub is located just south of junction 11 of the M4. In days of guide writing they contacted me to ask whether I might include them in my guide for Reading. I would have described these features within it. Three rooms, wooden beams, Inglenook fire, limited but good beer range. I wouldn’t have mentioned the odd smell of sick cider drinker carpets. I would have commented on the London Irish connections. The Madjeski is a mile or so away across the motorway junction. They have famous Irish wolfhound mascots who are kennelled at the pub. They also have a blind and deaf dog that enjoys tripping up the unwary. We arrived at 3.10 just as the last of the Irish were venturing to the match. The obvious question was to ask about the kick off time. You could hear the collective whirring of the boy’s tiny little minds at the prospect of ticking off a match on the way home. “Why they start at 3.00. Don’t worry about the local boys, to be sure they always arrive late and they will be back again at least ten minutes before the game ends”. Not that the landlady was herself Irish but you get the drift of her love of her customers. The chaps settled to passable London Prides. I managed a couple of soft American drinks. For the next hour we went all American. Ronnie explained why he cannot make the Tuesday game at Portsmouth. He isn’t protesting. He is off to the States to rescue the world with his rational input into the Elections. The cream of British Imprecision Engineering is meeting at Rolls Royce expense (!) and taking a week to get there and back. I daren’t ask what size suitcase he was advised to carry with him. Bob suggested they had done their ethics training and everyone knows that one always come back from the States with more luggage than when you left.
Best Beer: Fullers London Pride
Best Pub: The Swan at Three Mile Cross
Beer choice 4 (out of 5) 2
Beer Quality (average score of beers chosen, out of 5) 3
Staff and service 5 (Out of 5) 4
Total: 9 out of 15
I must now mention the evening entertainment. I dropped the chaps off in town as they wanted to find a pub and watch the rest of City being beaten at home by Brighton. Rose and myself decided on a more local option and went to the Kings Arms in Pilning.
The Kings Arms Pilning
BUG BEAR ALERT No. 2
Children in pubs.
I can tolerate them in pubs designed for family usage. The Charlie Chalks of this world don’t work for me. I rarely visit my local but would firmly put the Kings Arms into the category of basic village boozer where the rough and ready enjoy their own company. We go in ready for plenty of the rough. True to form the banter was flying as the City game ended and the Guano carriers were reminded of their fallibility. I relayed the game to our non-travelling Gashead friends and settled to a pint or two and the completion of a prize crossword. Then for the second time running we encountered a family trip to the pubs Kebab style takeaway. Remember this was around 7 on November the 5th where a sit in one’s own back garden would get any family a free pyrotechnic show. The father, or maybe grandfather, of the group had it only partly right when he commented on the child being a bit of a nightmare. Perhaps he might have stayed at home and looked after the three children, one of which was a babe in arms as they ventured out for their Saturday night entertainment in the invective rich air of their local. By now the children’s diet of full fat coke and crisps was having the expected effect. I was almost ready for the sight of a full blown nappy change in the bar when relief was had and our own take away arrived. We curtailed our conversation with a local about gun toting holidays in South Africa (his, not ours, I must add) and we retired to Casualty and 8 out of 10 Cats doing their counting stuff on the TV. I say we, but I went quickly to sleep and woke up to the usual end refrain to Match of the Day.
Next up: Portsmouth Away 8.11.16