John McCormick writes:
I had one of Millwall or QPR pencilled in as my London weekend away. Circumstances meant neither could be but those circumstances also meant we could book some time away at the back end of winter. We chose to visit the Lake District as February changed into March.
I took the photo of Newlands on the Wednesday. I’d have taken one of Shap on the Thursday but I didn’t dare take my hand off the wheel.
Pete Sixsmith, in contrast, was looking forward to a weekend at home. Like my week away, it turned out out to be not quite as expected:
A SATURDAY OFF
The weather hasn’t been great in the Land of the Three Rivers this week. The Beast from the East (surely a reference to Chris Sutton) blew in long and hard and dumped a lot of snow on Sixsmith Towers on Tuesday and Wednesday. After a visit to the podiatrist in Crook on Tuesday, I only set foot over the doorstep to deliver the newspapers until Friday afternoon, when I managed to prise a loaf of bread out of the hands of an ancient and toothless crone outside the bakers.
Cabin fever was setting in. Football was off on Tuesday and Wednesday which meant that I could not experience the Durham Challenge Cup semi-final between Consett and Shildon and a rather humdrum Northern League Second Division clash between Darlington Railway Athletic and Hebburn. I had to watch television and sit through a deadly dull bird derby game between Swans and Owls and then witness the wonderful VAR controversy at Wembley where referee Paul Tierney looked like a supply teacher waiting for the Head of Behaviour to arrive to discipline his class, as the video referee took an age to make a decision. I have seen the future and it’s bloody awful.
I had decided against spending £100 on a trip to Millwall (the same applies next week at QPR) and quite looked forward to picking out a game that I might actually enjoy. By Wednesday morning, that hope was knocked well and truly on the head as the entire region was covered in the white stuff and it was fairly clear that the weekend would be a no-football zone.
By Friday, the Northern League programme had gone but Spennymoor Town were hopeful that their game against Leamington would go ahead. Covers had been borrowed from Hartlepool and Darlington, Spennymoor fans had volunteered in their droves to clear the snow and the forecast was for an improvement. Alas, the National League decided that it was not safe for Leamington to travel so that one went…..
There were games on at Carlisle (impossible to get there as all east west routes were closed) and Scunthorpe (I’ll save that one for next season) so it was a Saturday without top class sport – although some would say that any Saturday watching Sunderland falls into that category.
After a long wait for the papers to arrive (3 hours late due to the M62 being closed), I made a solid breakfast and waited for the team news at 2.00p.m. I read the papers, dozed in a chair, instinctively got my coat out at 1.00 and then sat down again. I was confused. I usually went out at this time. Why was I sat in the kitchen? It just didn’t seem right.
The last time I missed watching a game (football or rugby league) on a Saturday was the 5th January 2013 when I gave up a trip to Bolton for an FA Cup tie in order to attend my Aunt’s 90th birthday party in Alcester in Warwickshire. I tried to sneak off to Redditch United v Harrogate Town but was forbidden by my cousins who chained me to the tea table and took my phone off me so I had to wait to hear about Craig Gardner’s late equaliser. We lost the replay 2-0; Martin O’Neill was on borrowed time after that.
So, I read the paper -the sport, the news, the comment, the magazine, the financial pages, the food section, even the travel bit that shows you where the best and most remote beaches are. Alas, Filey was not mentioned.
BBC Newcastle was tuned in to at 2.00. The dulcet tones of Nick Barnes and the argumentative nature of Gary Bennett were a welcome sound. The team was interesting. Steele in goal, both wingers starting, Ejaria was back in the line-up. Nick suggested that Chelsea might have persuaded the FA to postpone Jake Clarke-Salter’s suspension so he could play…..those two jolly japesters seem to believe that The Pensioners have insisted that JC-S has to play in every game or else.
So, I sat and listened. When I am watching another game, I tune in (very) intermittently and only get a whiff of the chemistry between B and B. On the rare occasions I listen to a whole game they come across well and to someone who was brought up on John Cairns in the 70s, it is a huge improvement.
The game went as expected. A decent start, a good goal from Oviedo but an inability to push on and finish the Lions off. The two wingers did not really impose themselves, Fletcher was left isolated and did little and we never quite controlled the midfield.
It got worse in the second half as Millwall took control of the game and there was an inevitability about the equaliser. By the 80th minute I was pacing the living room. By the 81st I switched the radio off and stood in the kitchen gazing at the snow and not daring to press the on switch. I finally looked at the BBC Sport Website at 4.55 and scrolled down very, very carefully , taking some pleasure in Bolton and Birmingham losing but dreading a two next to Millwall, while desperately hoping to see the same number against our name.
It wasn’t a bad result if we were in the upper echelons of the league but it was a poor one for the team who were (and who remained) 24th. The games are running out and we need to win the next two. I shall be at the Villa game but not at Loftus Road. I may get a game in elsewhere. I couldn’t take another Saturday afternoon in the house.