Away Day Robins
The latest report from the Blackburn and Darwen Robins comes from the long trip to Staffordshire on April 1st.
After Dennis Hill had pleaded and begged me to deliver a bagful of his mail so that he could meet the rest of the team on time, and more importantly crossing my palm with silver, I rushed round the Livesey area of Blackburn chucking mail through letterboxes with some of it being delivered to the correct addresses. Home for a quick bite to eat then picked up Jimmy ‘Mad Dog’ and Billy ‘The Kid’ Hughes and Auntie Sheila. Shot over to Rawtenstall to collect the Whitworth Branch of the supporters club, Phil.
I’d already phoned up Eccleshall to make sure the game was going ahead after heavy rain throughout the morning but the guy at the ground said he wasn’t sure and to phone later. That’s just what we did as we joined the M6 and after a pitch inspection at two o’clock, it was given the go-ahead. Arrived in the very nice village of Eccleshall at half past two and found the ground a mile or so into the countryside in the middle of nowhere-it’s amazing that they get the attendances they do.
The car park was already full thanks to the hoards of Harwood supporters and we had to park in a field behind one end of the ground. As we sunk two foot into the mud I was thankful that we had a big enough crew to drag us out after the game.
On entering the arena it was obvious that the game had only just got the thumbs up and that another heavy downpour would have caused a postponement, but with the strong wind and sunshine in between the occasional rain we were going to be O.K.
The ground was pretty basic with two very small covered areas on either side of the pitch. If it had rained heavily the crowd of 70 would have been pressed up like sardines under the covers.
The strong wind chilled us to the bone and we decided unanimously that what we needed was a hot pie and coffee. Jimmy made his way to the tea-hut and soon returned with the grub. Unfortunately the pie did nothing to warm us up as it was colder than a penguin’s private parts. “Never mind,” said Auntie Sheila, “It won’t seem too bad when swilled down with hot coffee.” Yeh, apart form the fact that the coffee was also cold. Your catering facilities need sorting out Eccleshall!
Although there were only about 15 supporters from Harwood, they made it seem like a home game as usual and the players responded by going on the attack from the first whistle despite playing against the wind. Trying to play from the back, the Robins monopolised possession almost from the first minute to the last with Dennis Hill behind most of Harwood’s best moves. Hill more than anyone made a mockery of the conditions and refused to sink to the ‘safety-first’ tactics employed by the majority of the other players on the pitch. Most of the Eccleshall attacks ended with through balls that were carried by the wind to the safety of Bobby Harris’ goal area. On the couple of occasions that danger threatened, the home forwards finished wildly but at the other end, the keeper was also largely untroubled. That was until the 25th minute when a cross into the box was mis-headed by an Eccleshall defender and as the ball looked as though it was going out away from the danger zone, Ryan Fisher nipped in to head it back across the goalkeeper and into the far side of the net for Harwood’s first goal in four games. That strike seemed to knock the stuffing out of the home side and the Robins took complete control of the game. Sporadic attacks presented Eccleshall with two great chances to draw level but on each occasion the shot was slightly too high.
The half time whistle saw the Reds’ players congratulating each other as if the game was over and the away supporters checking their watches to make sure that they hadn’t missed the first half!
Off to the snack hut where we were disappointed to find that the pies and coffee still hadn’t warmed up. The snow and hail began to fall and we feared the worst but luckily it stopped after about five minutes. The boys started the 2nd half as they’d finished the first and after a couple of near misses, Vasiliss Theophanous was crudely fouled on the edge of the box. Four of our players then began squabbling about who was going to take it but thankfully Vaz took control and curled the ball exquisitely into the bottom right hand corner to put us firmly in the driving seat.
A minute later, a great move down the right saw the ball passed along the edge of the Eccleshall goal area and eventually find its way to Ed O’Neil with an open goal from 15 yards. Instead of finishing the game off, Ed tamely shot towards the keeper who made an easy save. Even after that poor miss, Harwood never looked in danger of conceding and always looked the more likely team to add to the score. That was until 12 minutes from time when a long through ball found the Harwood defence too square and as Bobby Harris dashed out of his area, he found himself ten yards from the ball by the time De Matteo reached it and the home forward stroked it into the net with the minimum of fuss.
That strike was the first goal that Harwood had conceded in over 400 minutes of football and could have started panic in our defence but we still looked the more likely scorers right up until the final whistle. After five successive draws which had seen the team fall away form the promotion places, we’d finally got the result that the performances had deserved and we now looked forward to a run of three home games in under two weeks. Nine points would put us in a great position but it was easier said than done.
We packed up the stuff and decided to stop in the town for a couple of bevvies and check out the football scores at the same time.
Our convoy of cars stopped off outside the Royal Oak and the staff and customers looked nervously towards our desperate-looking crew, but were mightily relieved to see us make our way to the Tudor-Style wine bar further down the street. Unfortunately for us, the establishment was only an off-licence so it was back to the Royal Oak. We arrived as they were boarding up the windows.
“Expecting trouble?” Said Billy as he finished off the last dregs from a whisky bottle and flung the empty through the undertaker’s window across the road.
“Not us”, said one of the bouncers before quickly disappearing into the gents.
“Five pints baldy”. Shouted Auntie Sheila to the landlord.
“And give us the darts before I stick my finger in your eye.”
We got the beer but unfortunately we only got two darts so the prospect of hitting 180 was somewhat remote. Instead we had a game of bar football and as usual I embarrassed Jimmy by giving him a good thrashing!
Had a couple of pints, checked out all the futty results and took the mickey out of the local half-wits before heading off for home at six o’clock.
As usual, the Blackburn and Darwen Robins had enjoyed another successful away day, if only we could play all of our games away from home.
On the way home Auntie Sheila’s phone rang.
“Hello mum, it’s me, Dave.”
“What’s up son, do you want to know how Harwood have got on?”
“No thanks, can you bring me some supper home?”
“No worries.” Said Auntie Sheila.
“I’ll get a family feast at Kentucky.”
“Great.” Said Dave
“And get yourself something at the same time!”
Got back into Rawtenstall at 7-30 and dropped Phil off before heading back across the moors to drop off the rest of the troops.
Another great away day for the Blackburn and Darwen Robins.
Why not join us for the next trip, the team perform far better away from home than they do at the Interlink so let’s see you all at the next away game, and remember………..
Rally round the robins!