Bolton Wanderers V Bristol Rovers 28.2.17

I had a plan and this was it.

Pick up Pete at 1.00  
Pick up Bob 1.20  
Drive to Bolton via M5  
Park at Macron 4.30  
Catch train to Bolton 4.40  
  Sweet Green Tavern
  Great Ale at the Market
Train to Macron 6.45  
  Rovers draw at Bolton
Drive home by 1 Text Ronnie with the result

All was going well until we hit the “50 mph M6”. Timings went out the window as we crawled to junction 24.  You will know of course that would be J25 as there is no northbound exit at 24. Then through Ashton in Makerfield and arrive at the stadium at 5.30.  We parked for no cost between the station and ground and a ten minute train ride later we emerged on to the sign less and map less streets of Bolton. I headed off left from the station and soon realised we should have gone right. You will by now know I don’t do retracing of steps so we (Bob and myself) decided to do the tour in reverse. Andy Gray texted that he was in the Ukrainian Social Club, a bit too far for our shortened timetable.

Pre-Match pubs

Great Ale at the Market (11)

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This pup is smack bang in the middle of the Market Hall. It was nearing closing up time at 6.30 so we had to get a beer and soon move on. It was fortunate that our re-routed tour meant we didn’t arrive to a closed market. The Major Oak beer was excellent and those of us (about 10 people) were the only ones left in what looked like an interesting market.

Beer: Milestone Major Oak (8)

A five minute walk to:-

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Sweet Green Tavern (10)

I really wanted to get here to meet up again with Landlord Kevin. When I moved to Colne he was very supportive and gave me some good advice that came from his personal experience. I introduced Bob to Kevin with some personal advice that Kevin was a bit of a legend and a real character. The pub was as it was when I last visited ten years ago. Bob was soon in tutting mode as he saw some homemade draftsmanship of plans to develop the pub were on the wall. I noticed that the fantastic photos of the past were gone. The pub websites commented at the pub being somewhat run down. This was soon explained when Kevin told us of his numerous clashes with his pub chain landlords over the last ten years. If you are a landlord and want advice on challenging the pub bullies with court action Kevin now has a large amount of personal experience.  One consequence was that the pub has been deprived of investment as Punch still look to get Kevin to walk away from his investment. Kevin went on to talk about his international football experiences; he still plays at 60 and has no intention of stopping soon. I am a bit doubtful that he should be allowed to play for Scotland, England and the Rest of the World. I suspect his charitable thirst is behind this madness. I couldn’t have a drink but there is a determinations to return again so hopefully Bolton will miss out of promotion and we have a Saturday fixture next season.

Beer: N/A

A two minute walk to the station. If we had come out of the other entrance on arrival I would have seen the pub across the road.

The train ran 20 minutes late and was busy with commuters rather than fans going to the game. The Lord Powell and his mates joined us and we shared tales of respective visits to different pubs.

The Game

Bolton Wanderers 1 Bristol Rovers 1 Attendance 13,383 (843 Gas)

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Yet another draw but this was a very good draw and Bolton can count themselves extremely fortunate to get their point. I drew it for the Rovers by pointing out after about ten minutes that Sinclair and Bodin were struggling to get on the ball and that their right side centre back was a disaster waiting to happen. Cue the awakening of the bearded one and the arrival of Montano as tormentor in chief of the Bolton defence. We were still losing at half time but we fans were purring at just how well we were playing. It would surely only be a matter of time before the ball broke kindly and we went on to win.  One great pass from Billy and we were level. Three other chances were thwarted by chests, deflections and inexplicable misses. The Bolton fans were as frustrated with the ref as we were. He was just incompetent. If he was a Homer, he had his slippers on and had lit the fire but also had a not so surprising surprise up his sleeve by going on a yellow card spree that resulted in the inevitable “second yellow” sending off.

We played with one regular forward up front and Ellis did the Ellis thing by getting a good chance with a team challenge only to roll the subsequent self made chance wide of a narrow angled target. He then compounded his recent bad luck with being carried off injured. I thought Luke James, his replacement, did well and added to the confusion in the Bolton back line. Finally, I should observed that we have an opportunity to compare the top teams in recent weeks. If their performance against us is a guide than Bolton are by far the least likely to get promotion . In fact my prediction now is for Sheffield, Scunthorpe and Fleetwood to be promoted.

My Ratings

Joe Lumley 7 Daniel Leadbitter  7, Ryan Sweeney 8, Tom Lockyer 8, James Clarke 6, Billy Bodin 6  Chris Lines 8, Ollie Clarke 7, Stuart Sinclair 7, Ellis Harrison 5  Cristian Montano 6

Subs: Byron Moore 5 Luke James 7

Man of the Match: Tom Lockyer

Entertainment Value: 3

The Bolton experience is generally a good one. The seats have room for 6ft four bodies. The concourse comfortably accommodates pre-match drinking and food. The views are good. The Bolton fans have had too much of the corporate times. Music after their goal, a drummer, large open spaces in most stands were minus points yet a 13000 crowd did generate the build-up of noise towards the end. You would have thought by now there might be a well organised system for getting the car parks to empty after a game. This aspect was poor, very poor

Pub of the Day:  Great Ale at the Vaults

Beer of the Day: Milestone Major Oak

The journey home

We eventually set off at 10.26. We met our first road closure near Wolverhampton. Of course they had a diversion sign posted. It went straight into a set of roadworks and single carriageway. Then, so to reduce the impact the first sign after re-joining the motorway, the next announced another closure further along the route. The diversion this time was along the M42 and apparently in to a “u” turn back into the same junction. I had enough, so set off to Evesham by the country routes and to the motorway at Cheltenham. It was 2.30 when I started to drop off my passengers. I filled up the car with petrol at 3 and was home by 3.30. And to add I had three hours sleep before getting up to take the car to Gloucester for its annual service by 9.30. It was late but I was still purring.

Next up

Oxford Away 4.3.17

P.S. My original view of the Sweet Green Tavern.

It was great to meet Kevin and so be able to put the Sweet Green into this year’s guide. It is a well-established stopping-off point for many real ale and footie fans, not only those going to watch Bolton. Kevin is a bit of a footie nut which always helps when you first enter a new pub. On a similar vein, the staff are famous for knowing their customers and making others welcome. Cheers Jan! There isn’t enough space here to do this place justice. Spotless, cosy, yet lively and eclectic – it has something for everyone and is comfortable for all folk. It is host to many groups, including blind and deaf groups as well as being sponsors of (trivia question alert!) the oldest football team in England, as well as Bolton Ladies. Add in the brilliant art work of Paul Titterton and you get a flavour of how Kevin wants for, and gives, something special to his customers. There is a strict no swearing policy, further helping to create the ambience of being a treasured friend rather than what it might be; a lonely, post – regeneration, Sainsbury’s car park anachronism. You can imagine sitting in midwinter beside the award-winning natural coal fire and wanting never to leave for that last train or to put the shopping away. As for the game, the train will take you fairly close to the ground, or why not stay longer and get a taxi with the regulars. (Trivia hint, not Notts. County)

RS

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