Away Day Robins

Accrington Stanley - Story 1

The latest report comes from the VMI Trophy game against our very good friends and hosts, Accrington Stanley.
Jimmy ‘Mad-dog’ and Fat Phil came round at 7 o’clock and we set off to meet Michelle, Auntie Sheila and Billy ‘The-Kid’ at the ground.
We managed to find our way there quite easily so with half an hour to spare we had a game of footy in the car park. Several seconds after starting, the lure of the snack bar, which was protruding from one of the exit gates, proved too much for Phil to resist and off he went in search of chips and gravy. That left us without a keeper and some old guy who was watching us volunteered to take up position in the ‘nets’. He said his name was Dribble, or Dabble, or Double, or something, said he used to play for Man City!
“Push off Grandad, you’ll probably have a heart attack with us raining shots in at you.” I shouted.
The old chap went sulking away off towards the home dressing room.
“He’s probably going to tell the Stanley players about what it was like when he played for them in the old 3rd Division days,” said Jimmy.
The rest of the crew turned up and we went in the club for a pre-match pint.
The programme was………well, best not mention it; come to think of it, there was nothing in it worth mentioning! A half decent crowd had turned up, in all likelihood, the biggest attendance that we’d play in front of this season, apart from the FC United games. I remember when we started playing Stanley on a regular annual basis, in the days of Paul Baker and Pete Smith and we’d always have a decent following of around 50 but times have changed and there can’t have been more than 20 Robin’s fans today, with less than 10 from Great Harwood itself-very disappointing.
Stanley looked to have put out a strong side and were soon on the attack and came close to scoring within the first few seconds.
It was soon obvious that they were well up for the game and were determined to win back the Trophy which they lost last year. Harwood’s best chance came just before the interval when,-blimey it was the old codger from the car park!!-Andy Dibble, the keeper, grabbed hold of the ball outside of his area. In a League game he would have been sent off but the referee used his common sense and didn’t even book him. Deano belted it through the wall but it hit Grandpa and bounced to safety. With the pressure on the Harwood goal incessant during the first 45 minutes it was inevitable that the breakthrough would come but our heroes held on as best they could. Despite several close calls, Stanley went in at the break just one goal to the good. As the whistle blew for half time, Fat Phil cheered like mad. “Calm down Fat-boy,” I cried, “It’s only half time and besides which, we’re losing. What’s all the pandemonium about?”
“We’re going round to the end where the snack bar is.” Replied our whale- sized chum.
Unlike last season, they didn’t make wholesale changes at the break reaffirming the seriousness of the game to them.
The Robins made several changes and they began the half well on top with sub. Eastie looking very lively. That period of play lasted about two minutes before the pattern of the game continued in the same manner as the first half with Stanley looking dangerous going forward. An early goal looked to have killed us off but the players gave it everything and at no point did they throw in the towel. One goal for us would have made the end of the game interesting but it was Stanley who scored twice more with the quick forwards proving too good for our defence-no disgrace there, these are quality Conference players.
Half way through the half, a fat lad ran on to the pitch with number 42 on his back.
“Phil! Get off the pitch! You’ll get banned for life for encroaching onto the field of play!” I shouted.
“That’s not Phil, he’s over there, next to the sign that says ‘Everything half price’” said Billy, who pointed towards the snack bar.
And he was right, the huge bloke in the Demis Rousos style red caftan was in fact the Stanley manager John Coleman who growled up at us on the terracing, obviously unammused by the comparison with our pie-eating pal. “Sorry our kid, just joshing,” I shouted, not wishing to lose my boyish good looks!
The last few minutes saw Harwood still battling to get on the score sheet and two golden opportunities fell to Mark Beard. Cutting in from the right after receiving a defence splitting ball, he hit his shot wide of the old chap’s left hand post. Two minute later, he found himself in similar position although this time he was only a few yards from goal, but once again he sliced the ball wide of the same post.
The P.A. informed us that the Trophy would be presented in the bar after the game, or at least I think that’s what he said. I think he was stuffing his face with a plateful of spud pie at the time. Bring back Bob Slinger the ace Showground P.A. man and king of his craft!
We decided to skip the jubilations and instead headed off to the pub to discuss our plans for the REALLY important game. The FA Cup tie at Oldham in four days time. If you missed the VMI Trophy, you missed out on some excellent football, from both sides. Well done to Stanley and let’s hope that both sides have more things to celebrate over the next few months and don’t forget……….

Rally round the robins!

The latest trip for the famous Blackburn & Darwen Robins took us a few miles down the road to Accrington Stanley, and to what will always be known as the Crown Ground.
No need to set off early, we know the way as we go there most seasons to pick up our annual Hyndburn Trophy runners-up medals !
Picked up Jimmy ‘mad-dog’ and Billy ‘the kid’ Hughes from Darwen, then Fat Phil from the chippy. “You’re late having your tea, aren’t you Phil?” I asked. “No, I had my tea almost an hour ago, and now I’m starving.”
I needed some quality building bits and bobs and some expert advice but with it being late I decided to stop off at THOMCO BUILDING SUPPLIES the following morning. Instead we stopped off at THE CO-OP on Queen Street where we picked up a load of great bargains. Beer for me, food for Phil, sweeties for Billy and……well, you know what Jimmy wanted but they don’t sell those kinds of magazines there.
Got to the ground at 7-30 and was surprised to see that it was a fiver to get in. Playing Harwood isn’t much of a big deal for Stanley fans, so the turn out of 301 wasn’t bad at all. It had been chucking it down all day and rained all through the game, but as usual the pitch was like a bowling green.
As Phil pounced on the mobile snack bar, we made our way to our usual spot on the side terracing. The stand side now has seats running all the way from end to end and once they put some cover behind the goals, it will be a superb ground. Just think, if Eric had stayed at the Showground and put in a few of his millions, we could have had a ground and pitch like that.
The Harwood following was very disappointing-about 30, although with Phil on the ground our side was quite full. Stanley were soon on the attack with some excellent passing and moving. Everytime the home players got a sight of goal, even when 30 yards out, they took a shot, although most of the long stuff was off target, and they’d no chance of beating Bobby from that range anyway. The Harwood boys stuck to their task and gradually got more into the game, although we rarely troubled the Stanley keeper. A great cross and almost perfect header saw the ball crash against the underside of our bar before being scrambled clear. That was halfway through the first period and although Bobby had to be at his best on at least a couple of occasions, the interval came with the sides level. The second half saw more of the same but Harwood saw much
more of the ball, and played some great passing football of their own. As Stanley brought on several substitutes in a desperate attempt to find the winner, a cracking shot from one of their forwards, smashed against the top of the post so hard that it went out for a throw-in near the half-way line! Soon afterwards, another long range effort struck the crossbar and flew up into the night sky before disappearing in the direction of Clayton-le Moors! All these long range shots were because the Harwood defence and midfield played so well, and tackled so ferociously that Stanley couldn’t get within 20 yards of our goal.
New boy Steele almost won the game for the Robins with a fantastic 30-yard strike of his own. With the lads sensing victory, we swarmed all over the Accy defence and as the ball was cleared, Steele hit a perfect shot towards the top corner which brought a magnificent tip over from the Stanley keeper. The whistle blew for full-time so it was down to penalties-just like last year.
Up stepped Pete Smith to settle the nerves with a great shot into the corner. Up stepped one of the Stanley boys to try the impossible and beat Bobby-no chance as our top keeper made the save look easy.
John Eastham then slotted in before Bob saved another with consummate ease.
Chris ‘Rooney’ Heslop thumped home to make it 3-0 before Fat Phil’s favourite player, Paul ‘Cook’, shot wide, though Bob may have got a touch. After many years of trying and failing we’d managed to beat our high-flying neighbours and the players were ecstatic.
So, all that was left for us to do was celebrate on the way home.
We stopped off at the Fat Ox as Fat Phil said that it was a free house and they did a ‘natty’ pint - nothing to do with the big sign that said food available then?
“Could I have a look at the menu cock?” Asked our portly pal.
“Certainly! You can look at it all you want Fatty but we stopped serving food at nine o’clock!” Replied the comedian behind the bar.
“Let’s go somewhere else,” said Fat Phil. “The beer sucks in here anyway.” “NO!” I shouted. “We’re here now, come on, your round.”
Having learnt a thing or two from Michelle’s school of diplomacy, Phil said: “I’m glad that you’ve finished serving food because last time I had one of your sandwiches, it was so stale that I broke a tooth.”
“Stick around here and I’ll give you a broken nose to match!” Retorted the barman flexing his 26 inch biceps.
One day we’ll actually get served in a pub.
On the way home Billy’s phone rang.
“Yes, yes, O.K. yes, see you soon Lassie, bye.”
“Ah, that’s nice, Billy. Is Lassie the ‘pet’ name for your girlfriend?
“NO WAY! I call her that because she’s got a face like the Border collie next door!”
And they say that romance is dead!
Never a dull moment on our trips, so join us for the next one, and…….

Rally round the robins!

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©2009 J Fenton