Away Day Robins
Norton - Story 1
The latest report from the famous Blackburn & Darwen Robins comes from the FA Cup tie at Norton & Stockton Ancients in August.
4-15a.m. Dragged myself out of bed to slice the ham for the players sandwiches.
4-35a.m. Gave Patsy a brew and some cereal in bed.
4-38a.m. Dragged her out of bed and told her to get making two dozen ham tea-cakes.
4-39a.m. Off to work.
10-40a.m. Finished work then picked up Auntie Sheila and Fat Phil on the way home. Jimmy ‘Mad-dog’ Hughes and Andy ‘The-hat’ soon joined us. Loaded up the car with flags, bugle, scarves, food etc. and set off for the Showground. Because of the lateness of Harwood’s progress into the Preliminary Round of the FA Cup, Bill couldn’t get hold of a ‘proper’ coach and we had to make do with a 24-seater. Thankfully, there was just enough room for the ‘crew’. Amazingly, the players were all there on time and we set off at 11-15. We were soon getting stuck into sandwiches, bananas and chocolate bars with Fat Phil trying to persuade the lads to let him test the food first. As we passed Embsay, Jimmy jumped up and started cheering. “Look! There’s Thomas the tank engine!” If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to put the smile on a child’s face, it’s the sight of a steam train! Until we got past Harrogate, the weather was atrocious with very heavy rain, but as we approached the East Coast, the sun came out and it developed into a glorious warm afternoon. The ground was in Norton which is a really nice little village/town, well looked after with no visible signs of graffiti, litter or vandalism-such a nice change from East Lancs. As we pulled into the Sports complex, there was a cricket match taking place so after we’d parked up, we armed ourselves with a few pints and sat in the sun for an hour watching Chester-le-Street battle it out with Norton & Stockton. Before that I took the kit into the dressing room and wished the lads all the best. The place was like a morgue which didn’t fill me with optimism. A rugby match was also taking place on an adjacent pitch and like the town, the complex was well looked after with a smashing pavilion and clubhouse. Chester-le-Street were batting and the number 4 and 5 batsmen both hit centuries while helping the visitors to a fine score of 260 for 3 declared, sorry, I almost forgot, this is a football story! Got into the ground at 2-50 and set up the flags on the half way line. There were only about ten Robins supporters at the game but believe me, the only noise coming from the crowd was created by us. The ground was small with just a ‘bike-shed’ roof down one side with about 40 seats. The pitch though was immaculate with very short grass and ideal for knocking the ball around. After a quiet start Harwood attacked on 6 minutes and following a goalmouth scramble, Mark Beard, starting up front with Eastie, smashed the loose ball into the net to send the travelling few into a frenzy. The rest of the half was fairly quiet with chances at a premium and defences well on top. The Norton centre forward and main danger man John Outhwaite was winning plenty of headers but the Robins defence made sure that they conceded no corners or free kicks around the box where he could cause us damage. The only time in the first 45 minutes where we looked to have a problem was on 35 minutes when the defence went AWOL and a shot crashed against Bobby’s right hand post. Unfortunately the ball fell straight to the feet of the Ancients top scorer…….who then fell over his own feet as he attempted to slide the ball into the empty net. That was the signal for Harwood to step it up as it had all been just a bit too comfortable so far. After Beard and Eastham had gone close, a shot was saved by the keeper but the ball fell to Sam Pope 10 yards out and he rifled it home into the bottom corner to just about seal the game. As Norton kicked off, the ref. blew for half time. Fat Phil disappeared into the snack bar and returned with hot dog. No onions, no mustard and no ketchup. “What a load a rubbish!”
The 2nd half continued in the same vein with the home side unable to make any impression on the Robin’s rearguard. 15 minutes from time Harwood clinched the tie after a 3rd goal from midfield dynamo Ryan Fisher. A break down the left ended with the ball being played to Ryan just inside the box and he finished with aplomb to send the Reds into the next round. The Norton number 13 came on and despite being only 4’8” tall, he proceeded to kick anything that moved and was soon booked for his troubles. Rumour had it that he was appearing in a travelling circus that had set up just outside the town. The Ancients tried to push forward for a consolation but it was Harwood who looked far more likely to add to the score with subs McCash and Rogers causing problems to the home defence. Darren almost added a 4th but got his reward 5 minutes from time when he received the ball just outside the box. A quick burst, turn and curling shot into the top right hand corner put the icing on the cake. The home right back, a contestant in the recent ‘World’s most silly haircut competition’, was then taken off much to his disgust. He ambled towards the bench then kicked the water bottles and dug out (Ouch!), before limping away. A last minute run into the box by the Ancient’s midget substitute ended with him being tackled by Joel Burnside right on the edge of the box. Seeing as the Ref’s son was in the Norton’s line-up, he decided to let them have a spot kick just to add a bit of respectability to the score line. The injured player needed treatment but the home physio had by this time lost all interest and refused to treat him! With 90 minutes on the clock it was purely academic but a great save to his left by the unbeatable Bobby Harris, ensured that the Robins kept a clean sheet. The unfortunate number 13 then very slowly limped off the field with the Norton management team showing not the slightest concern. The full time whistle blew to rapturous applause and cheering from the Harwood faithful. We then discovered that Jim Thompson’s dad was at the battle of the Little Big Horn when he was a lad and could play the bugle like Eddie Calvert played the trumpet! Off to the clubhouse for a few more celebratory drinks and to watch some more cricket.
We left at 5-30 and made our way home but as we approached Thirsk, the driver heard a strange rumbling noise and decided to stop off to investigate. The players went for a pint while the Blackburn & Darwen Robins went for fish and chips. The driver had his head under the bonnet when Fat Phil walked past.
“That’s the noise!” He cried pointing at Phil’s gigantic belly.
“Well I haven’t had anything to eat for half an hour!” Said our Billy Bunter look-a-like.
We all sat on the monument in the middle of the town, eating our tea and basking in the warm sunshine-another cracking day out!
Because of all the ‘comfort stops’ for the players and an accident over Blubberhouses, we didn’t get home until 9-30. The great day was enhanced by our jovial driver Laurie who stopped whenever asked and wasn’t bothered about rushing home. He did have one rather nasty habit though-he kept playing with his knobs. Next time Laurie, put Radio Lancs. 70’s night on the radio and ignore the shouts form the whippersnappers at the back for Radio One.
If you didn’t make it to Norton, you missed a marvellous day out so make sure that you join us for the next trip.
Norton - Story 2
FA Cup 27th August 2005
The Robins returned to the Middlesbrough area just 7 days after their last visit hoping to make it a double over Northern League 2nd Division sides.
The game kicked off before a sparse crowd on an excellent surface akin to that of the Interlink Express Stadium. The hot weather would ensure that the game wouldn’t be played at ‘100 mph’ and it began slowly.
Six minutes in, the games opening chance fell to Mark Beard, playing up front with John Eastham, and the summer signing made no mistake from 10 yards. The Norton midfield and attack were making little impression on the Harwood rearguard, with the Reds defending from the front. The midfield of Fisher, Dean, O’Neil and Pope were proving too good for the hosts with their danger man, centre-forward John Outhwaite, restricted to winning headers near the half way line. The one chance they did create was tem minutes before the break when a great shot hit Harris’ right hand post before rebounding to the feet of Outhwaite. As the Harwood players and fans waited for the net to bulge, the unfortunate number 9 fell over his own feet and the chance was gone. That was as near as Norton came to scoring until the last few minutes of the game.
Just before half time it was all over as a cross form the Harwood right eluded the defence and fell to the feet of Pope who buried his left foot shot into the bottom right hand corner. There was just time for the kick off before the whistle blew for the interval and the body language of the home players told that there was no way back for them.
The 2nd half was similar to the first with Harwood keeping it tight and never looking as if they’d concede. The first corner for either side was over an hour coming, but it was wasted by the Ancients, despite Outhwaite’s dominance in the air.
15 minutes from time Norton were put out of their misery when Ryan Fisher, the season’s outstanding player, lashed in his 2nd goal of the campaign. The Norton sub. then came on and looked lively, and a great shot struck the Harwood bar before our own sub. Darren Rogers came on and finished things off with the goal of the game. Controlling the ball and turning his man in one movement, he curled the ball into the top right hand corner of the goal from left hand corner of the area. There was still time for Harris to earn his money with a last minute penalty save. The number 13, Norton’s best player, dribbled into the corner of the box and was tackled by Burnside who was harshly adjudged to have fouled him.Harris dived full length to his left to pull off a tremendous save with the last action of the game.
Norton - Story 3
This week: Norton United 2004
The latest report from the famous Blackburn & Darwen Robins comes from the trip to Norton, which was the last league game of the season. With it being a new ground for all of us, and with the heavy tea-time traffic, we set off in plenty of time in case we got lost in Stoke.
At 5 o’clock, Big Dave, Jimmy ‘mad-dog’, Fat Phil (plus fish and chips) and Billy ‘the-kid’ came round and we set off.
We didn’t need to get any quality building supplies from THOMCO, as I’d been down to Harwood earlier in the day. Seeing as we got lost going to Colne, it came as quite a surprise that we arrived at the ground at 6-15 without any hold-ups or mystery tours en-route, so we had plenty of time to find a local pub. Without Michelle the prospects of us getting a pint were very good until I asked the barmaid if it would be OK for the young lads to come in.
“Are you football hooligans?” She asked.
I had to tell her that we were the Great Harwood ‘Inter-City Crew’.
“That’s OK then, in you come!”
It was a Free House with a fine selection of beers and after a pint Fat Phil said that he was hungry so we went round the corner to a really grotty looking kebab house. The food had that much chilli sauce on it that it went down OK, but Billy’s chicken leg was so full of germs that it walked across the counter on its own. No worries because everything that we left, Phil finished off.
Got back to the ground with enough time for some bugle practice which brought an irate local pensioner out of his back door.
“Shut that bloody racket up you damned hooligans!” Shouted the cantankerous old goat. Bad move Grandad, that just made us make even more noise.
Phil hurried off to get a pie and we were surprised to discover that almost everyone in the ground were Harwood fans, over 20 in fact which is fantastic for this level. The rain started just before kick-off and gradually got heavier, soaking us despite being under the little tin roof. Knowing that only a win would be good enough, we were on the attack from the start and three minutes in, Sam crossed for Paul to side foot the ball home. With the players obviously up for it, we fully expected a rout with the wind and rain behind us, but the game developed into a tough battle with many of our attacks ending with the offside flag of a liner who seemed to be a bit confused about his role in the game. Every time they kicked the ball out of play, they were awarded the throw-in, and every 50-50 tackle ended with a Norton free kick.
After a couple of near misses, the home side equalised and worse was to come when just before the break a speculative punt into the box from somewhere near the dug-outs, sailed over Snape in goal, hit the post and went in.
It seemed that the chances of us winning were slipping away but the second half was a different story with the lads getting the ball down and playing their way through midfield, something that we hadn’t seen enough of this season.
Two or three good chances came and went with only the odd breakaway from Norton. Mash was causing their defence plenty of problems and when he raced into the box with about 15 minutes left, he was brought down. He picked himself up and buried the ball in the back of the net to set up a Grandstand finish.
For the last few minutes it was like the Alamo with subs. Denning and Nelson both prominent, and just a few minutes from the end, after a goalmouth scramble, the ball was finally despatched into the net by Mash to complete his hat-trick. Still the blue shirts attacked incessantly and it was no surprise when Nelson added number four in the last minute.
Tired, wet and muddy, the players trooped off the pitch with the cheers of the supporters ringing in their ears, and it was particularly nice to see the lads salute the fans on their way.
Cold and wet, we rushed to the car and gave ‘grandad’ a final god night blast on the bugle. We hadn’t got time to stop on the way home as the lads had to be up for school and Fat Phil was desperate to get to McDonalds just after closing time-they let him have the left-overs cheap!
For the fourth time this season the Robins had scored four times in an away game to make it another successful outing for the Blackburn and Darwen Robins.
Norton - Story 4
Norton United 2 Great Harwood Town 4
The Robins went into their last league game of the season knowing that a win would secure fifth place in the NWCFL 2nd Division. The top four would be promoted but no one knew for certain if they would all meet the ground grading requirements for the 1st Division, so a win in Staffordshire was still of the utmost importance.
On a wet, windy and cold evening, Harwood, wearing their changed strip of Navy Blue, attacked the clubhouse end with the driving rain behind them. The usual excellent following of around twenty, saw the Robins get off to a dream start, scoring within five minutes after a great run and cross from Sam Pope on the left wing, ended with Paul Mashiter applying a deft touch on the edge of the six yard box to send the fans into raptures. Andy Taylor, playing as a forward, was then left with a one-on-one with the keeper after a poor back pass from a defender but missed out after a last ditch tackle. Gradually, Norton came more into the game helped in no small way by some strange decisions by the Referee, and some even stranger ones by the linesman who gave the home side every encouragement. Attacking down the flanks, the home wingers put over several crosses to the far posts, one of which was headed towards the bottom corner of the Harwood net. With the home players already saluting the goal, stand-in keeper Paul Snape produced a superb save to keep the Robins ahead. Sadly the Red’s defence didn’t heed the warning and after another right wing cross to the far post, the equaliser came.
Harwood battled to regain control but their attacks often came to halt with an offside flag. Then, right on half time, disaster struck when a deep cross from the left wing, went high into the night sky before dropping over Snape, onto the post, and into the net.
The second half saw Harwood go all out in attack, knowing that a draw would be of little use. Playing against the wind, the midfield began passing the ball around with renewed confidence, the defence battled as if their lives depended on it , and the strike partnership of Taylor and Mashiter began to worry the hard pressed home defenders. Around the 70 minute mark, the lively Mashiter dispossessed a Norton player and dashed into the box, but after side-stepping a couple of defenders, he curled his effort just inches past the post. Not to be outdone, just a few minutes later he burst into the box and managed to get in front of his marker who foolishly dived in with a challenge from behind and gave away the inevitable penalty. Up stepped Mashiter to register his second goal of the game and his 21st of the season. Substitute Denning, Parr and McKenna completely took over in midfield as Harwood poured forward in search of the winner. Little was seen of the Norton attack but Snape was called upon to make a fine save in an isolated raid. Five minutes from time the Robins deservedly re-took the lead when, after a goalmouth scramble and a terrific save from the keeper, Mashiter completed his hat-trick from close range. The Harwood fans were now dancing on the terraces and their joy was further enhanced a minute from time when substitute Neville Nelson completed the scoring. Harwood broke from midfield after some superb pass and movement and a line of four forwards raced towards the box with just a couple of defenders for company. Mashiter crossed into the middle to Taylor who knocked it onto the left where the unmarked Nelson gleefully smashed the ball into the roof of the net. The final whistle was greeted with loud cheers from the Harwood faithful who were rewarded by a show of gratitude by the players and management who all stood in front of the fans and gave them their own ovation.
So Harwood deservedly achieved the victory they needed and now had to wait to see any future developments on the promotion front. The Reds finished the League campaign with a six match unbeaten run including two draws against Champions Colne. Would it be enough?
Rally round the robins!