Away Day Robins

Atherton - Story 1

The latest report from the famous (or should that be infamous) Blackburn & Darwen Robins, is from the trip to Atherton Laburnam Rovers.
My car was once again rather sick so it was up to Michelle to ferry us hooligans to our chosen destination. She picked up Dave then called for me, Jimmy ‘Mad-dog’ and Billy ‘The Kid’ Hughes from my garage where we were having a game of darts. Seeing as three of us had been working till nearly lunchtime and the other two had been delivering the ‘evening’ papers, we hadn’t got time to go down to THOMCO’S for some quality building supplies and expert advice, but we were happy in the knowledge that the people who did get down there, would be getting the very best.
As with most games in this league, we arrived at the ground within 40 minutes of setting off and as usual, most people in the clubhouse were from Harwood, not that we’re heavy drinkers of course. Despite it being bitterly cold I decided to make the most of not driving and got stuck in to the beer whilst Dave proceeded to empty the pie oven. They must have been expecting us as they had about forty pies warming up, one for everybody at the game!
Something had changed since we were last here and we found out that they’d had a ten foot wall with barbed wire put round the whole ground at a cost of £62,500. Like Harwood, and most other non-league clubs, Atherton had been having big problems with vandalism, something that we could see for ourselves as the side of their impressive stand had lots of damage and many of the seats had been smashed.
With the strong wind and big slope against us, it was agreed that if we could go in at half-time just a goal down then we’d have done quite well, but we were in for a shock as a lethargic home side looked as though they only needed to turn up to thrash us.
We saw our chance and immediately took control, with Hill and Steele once again combining well, and McManus and Rogers looking lively up front. After just 4 minutes of total Harwood supremacy, panic in the home defence saw a defender knock the ball back to the keeper who inexplicably picked it up. The Ref. immediately blew for a free kick just inside the area. Dennis ran to the dug out to make sure that his hair was in place, just in case someone took a photo of his forthcoming effort.
As he attempted to curl the ball into the top corner, it hit an onrushing defender and looped over the keeper and into the net. The crowd went mad; well the three of us behind the goal did, while the rest of the Harwood faithful responded with polite applause. More Harwood pressure was applied and the only surprise was that it took another 13 minutes for us to add to the score, and when it came….WOW! Good work by Steele, Rogers and Hill ended with the latter putting over a great outswinging cross which was met full on the volley by the impressive Liam McManus, who smashed it into the top corner for what was arguably the best goal that we’ve scored this season.
Even the ‘old-brigade’ at the side of the ground couldn’t help but get excited and the cheering and singing behind the goal saluted what was going to be our first victory of the current campaign. All those demoralising away trips now seemed worthwhile as we started a ‘It’s just like watching Brazil’ chant.
Things it seemed, couldn’t get any better but they did, as Harry scooped the raffle prize of a tray of meat. ‘Harry, Harry give us a chop, Harry, give us a chop!’ We were on cloud nine, but suffered slight setback when some slack marking allowed Bennett to pull a goal back after 25 minutes. No worries…oops! 4 minutes later it was two apiece as Howard lashed in a wind-assisted blockbuster from 25 yards.
Oh well, up the hill, against the wind, two-two at half time’s not that bad. But just a couple of minutes later a Ged Walsh hand-ball gave Crompton the chance to put Rovers ahead from the spot, but luckily he blasted the ball over the bar and through the window of the passing 3-30 train to Bolton.
As the break arrived we were quite relieved not to have conceded any more and we went off for another pint and to see if we could scrounge some sausages off Harry.
Kicking down the slope, we were joined behind the goal by more Harwood fans eager to be close to all the action in the Atherton goalmouth. The anticipated attacking never materialised as it looked like the lads ran out of steam in the second half. The sorties into the L.R. half were few and far between and only some last ditch defending and good work by Harris kept us level. The pressure had to tell and it did, as Crompton made up for his earlier penalty miss with a converted one after 65 minutes. It was still one-way traffic and Crompton put the result beyond doubt when he scored Atherton’s fourth 6 minutes later.
Chris Steele was injured following a bad tackle which went unpunished and had to be replaced half way through the second half. Dennis Hill once again came in for some heavy punishment by the over-aggressive Atherton midfield, something that became much more apparent in the second half. Maybe the home manager had issued instructions after we’d dominated the opening quarter of the game.

With 20 minutes remaining and some players having given up the ghost, we feared the worst but a combination of poor finishing, acrobatics from Bobby in goal, plus some desperate last line defending meant that the only addition to the score was a Cavanagh goal 2 minutes from time. By the end of the game, tempers had become frayed as frustration got the better of some of the lads and the manager. The poor referee also came in for some ‘ear-bashing’ and was last seen on the floor of the tunnel after being pole-axed by a T-Bone steak thrown by someone in the crowd. Police are looking for a Great Harwood supporter with a part-full tray of meat!
We tried our best by encouraging the lads throughout but the second period was most disappointing and we left the ground very disheartened.
We decided to stop off at a local pub to drown our sorrows and discuss where it all went wrong.
Found a nice looking pub just outside Atherton called the Silly Cow and when we saw the look of the landlady we could see why.
“Now Michelle, I know we’re all disappointed but don’t upset anyone or they’ll kick us out.” I pleaded.
“You know me Dudley,” she said, “I wouldn’t dream of upsetting anyone!”
Oh Yeh ! Here’s how the conversation went:
“Five pints of lager please landlady.” Chirped our driver for the day.
“Certainly young lady.” Replied our hostess, who I must admit looked as though she just been auditioning for the remake of Frankenstein’s Bride.
“You’re pretty.” Said Michelle as she was handed the second pint.
OH NO! What’s coming up next?
“Why thankyou,” replied mine hostess.
“Yeh, pretty ugly.” Came Michelle’s punchline.
“GET OUT, GET OUT NOW BEFORE I CALL THE POLICE, YOU’RE ALL BARRED!” Screeched the indignant poor woman.
“Good, I didn’t like the look of the beer anyway, it looks like your face has turned it off you old hag!” Was Michelle’s parting shot.
On the way home Billy’s girlfriend rang.
“Yes my little fruit cake, I missed you too, I’m counting the minutes till I get home, Byeeee.”
“Ah, that’s nice Billy, do you call her your little fruit cake because she’s sweet and delicious?” I asked.
“NO WAY! I call her that because the raisins in fruit cake remind me of her shrivelled up and wrinkled face!”
And they say that romance is dead! Join us for the next trip and don’t forget………

Atherton - Story 2

The latest report from the famous Blackburn & Darwen Robins comes from the recent Lancashire derby at Atherton Collieries.
It made a nice change not having to pick up Jimmy ‘Mad-dog’ and Billy ‘The-kid’ Hughes and they are both staying with me at the moment. After the last away trip at neighbours Bacup, I dropped the lads off at their Darwen home, only for them to discover a note pinned to the front door;
Dear Billy and Jimmy, Me an yer dad ‘ave gone on our hols so we’ll see yu in a fortnight.
Love Mum an Dad xxx
P.S. We’ve locked the doors as we don’t want you two ‘ooligans messing up the house.
Off we set at tea-time after we’d picked up some top quality building supplies at Thomco, the complete building supplies. Picked up Dave and Fat Phil but once again Michelle couldn’t make it, I think it’s got something to do with her getting us banned from every pub in the North West. Got to the ground in plenty of time to park just 10 feet from the turnstile. Phil went for a pie(s) while the rest of us went into the club for a pre-match pint and a game of table football. What a surprise – the club was full of Harwood supporters! Despite the team struggling on the pitch, the supporters have stayed loyal and each and every one of them is a credit to the club. Heaven knows what the attendance would have been without the lads and lasses from East Lancashire. After I’d shown the rest of the boys how to play table footy, we hot-footed it to pitchside where we hadn’t even time to put the flag up before we had a golden chance to take the lead. Unfortunately Mash and Co. couldn’t force the ball home, even though the ball rolled right along the goal-line. Despite the vociferous vocal support of the Robins followers, Atherton slowly began to take control, belying their lowly league position. It wasn’t too great a surprise when they took the lead courtesy of a poor back-header by Neil Kennedy, allowing a nippy forward to beat Bobby Harris to the ball and put the Robins on the back foot. Half-time came with just the one goal in it, leaving us with hope for the second period, especially if it was like the game three days earlier when instead of surrendering, we got stronger as the game went on. We had time for another pint and game of footy while Phil managed to do a bit of bartering with the snack bar staff. Instead of paying £1 for each pie, he bought the last half dozen for a fiver. It proved to be a good bit of business as two hungry punters paid him £1-50 each for a couple of them.
The second half saw the lads up the pace and looked good for an equaliser before Atherton took a two goal lead against the run of play just eight minutes into the half. This was the signal for the away supporters to really get behind the lads with a non stop barrage of shouting and singing which must have been a great lift for the players. Sure enough, we continued to pile forward and it was no surprise when a cross was smashed in by Greeny, up from the back to help the attack. As the noise from the terraces increased, Alder Street had seen nothing like it for years and the few home supporters tried, unsuccessfully, to complete with the noisy Harwood hoards.
By the middle of the second half, it was one-way traffic and only the heroics of the home keeper kept Colls in it. The home side nearly sealed the win ten minutes from time when in a rare breakaway, the centre forward shot narrowly wide of the empty goal. Bobby Harris was so bored, he was chatting up a young girl behind the goal!
The boys in red swarmed all over the home goal in a desperate attempt to get the equaliser which they deserved. Atherton brought ten men back as they hung on to their slender lead. Anywhere would do for the home defenders as ball after ball was despatched out of the ground. Eastham, Mashiter, Hamlin and Kennedy all came close before another dreadful miskick by a Harwood defender, flew past Bobby before heading towards the unguarded net, then spinning just wide for a corner, PHEW !
Cometh the hour, cometh the man – Mash. He received the ball 30 yards out on the left hand side. He set off towards the box, left one midfielder on the floor, entered the penalty area, side-stepped one defender to the left, immediately side-stepped another to the right, bamboozled yet another who scythed him down - penalty ! YEEEEESSSSSS !! For the second away game in a row, Mash stepped up, nerves of steel to equalise for the Robins. This time though, we had about ten minutes to get the winner and we poured forward in numbers. Atherton, seeing their seemingly unassailable lead snatched from their grasp, tried to regain their advantage, and at this stage it was anyone’s game. The whistle blew with both sets of players and fans grateful and disappointed at the same time. From our point of view, it has to be said that a couple of weeks ago, if we’d found ourselves 2-0 down away from home, we’d have thrown in the towel and probably lost by three or four. Now we have much more fight and belief and if we can continue that in the coming months then we have a slight chance of avoiding the drop.
Having parked so close to the turnstile, it wasn’t too surprising to be coming off the Darwen turn-off the M65 at just gone 10 o’clock. As we came off, Billy’s phone rang, it was his girlfriend.
“Yes, 2-2, that’s right, I’ve missed you too, I’ve been counting down the seconds, see you in five minutes my little cream doughnut.”
“Ah, that’s nice Billy, is that your pet name for her ?”
“NO WAY !” Snorted Billy.
“I call her that because she’s round and full of fat!”
And they say that romance is dead!
There’s never a dull moment when the Blackburn & Darwen Robins are on tour, so why not join us for the next trip.

Rally round the robins!

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©2009 J Fenton