It was a mad moment. Nicktor really wanted to watch Aldershot in the fourth round of the FA Cup. When the balls were picked out and we copped a match against Middlesbrough, he frowned but was still quite keen. So, bright and early this morning, we set off for the north.
Poor James had to get up earlier than is right and proper for a teenager, so he slept for most of the four hour trip. He did, sort of, wake up at the services where we stopped for breakfast but that was about it.
Eventually, we pulled into the Morrisons car park in Boroughbridge where we were to meet Richard. Richard was a chap that Nicktor used to work with before they both changed jobs. I met him at a few of our Old Trafford cricket days. Nicktor is trying to make him an Aldershot supporter. He lives in Harrogate. Still, because he’s quite close to Middlesbrough, Nicktor thought it would be lovely to catch up.
So, we arrived in Middlesbrough and found a car park where it was okay to park if you were going to the football. We almost parked in the part of the carpark that you are not allowed to if you’re going to the football. Phew! Close call. We then walked across to the Riverside Stadium where we were told that we couldn’t buy a ticket until the away supporters ticket office opened in around an hour.
Now, we were standing in the ticket office and home supporters were buying tickets but she couldn’t (or wouldn’t, according to Richard) sell us a ticket. This is just bizarre. She had the means but not the inclination.
Not that we let that spoil our day. We just walked back into Middlesbrough (not the prettiest place I’ve ever visited though, to be fair, we didn’t really see a lot of it) and through the doors of an away fans friendly pub (Doctor Brown).
And what a lovely pub it was. It was recommended by the Shots fans forum and also by David the security guard outside the Riverside. It sold real ale and was friendly…what more could you ask for.
We enjoyed a few pints at Doctor Brown’s before heading back across to the football ground. This was where we were treated to some real Middlesbrough hospitality in the guise of a gang of 11 year old boys with filthy mouths and appalling aim.
They thought it would be fun to sing songs with a lot more than the necessary swear words in them and throw snowballs at us. Naturally the songs mostly concerned the appalling crimes of Aldershot and its fans and the snowballs missed. It was all a bit funny (given they were only 11) but I do wonder if they kiss their mothers with those mouths…though perhaps their mothers swear just as much.
Still, they were but a mindless blip on an otherwise charming day. Actually, the biggest blip came a little bit later.
We managed to buy tickets without a problem (ignoring the fact that Richard was charged £15 for a £10 ticket for which he returned and demanded his extra £5 change and ended up being interviewed on Aldershot TV about it) and went into the big, plastic and concrete, soulless Riverside Stadium.
I have to report, however, that as soulless and without decent beer, the stadium may be, it has delicious pies. Fortunately they’d run out of hot dogs so I thought I’d try a pie. What a pleasant surprise. It was delicious. Though, I have no idea whether it had any horse meat in it.
Eventually (after I’d finished slobbering the pie all over my face) we took our seats and sat and waited for the off.
And it all started well enough. The game was fairly evenly matched and both teams went in at half time with the score level at 0-0. There had been a few very close shaves which our goalie, Jamie Young (Australian by birth) managed to deflect with the skill of an international football player. And I’m not just saying that!
The singing was strong and loud from the travelling fans as the second half started. We felt like we could win and the almost 800 of us voiced it loud and strong. We must have done something right because we scored. A wonderfully worked pass which saw Danny Hylton slot it home. We went mad. Middlesbrough had already scored and this put us back on equal terms.
And everything looked perfect for a replay at the Rec. There had been a bit of a problem with an injured linesman which held up play in the second half and this saw six minutes of stoppage time at the end of the match. This was to prove our undoing.
Clearly not thinking, we had a corner and decided to try and play keep the ball for the final two minutes. This, I feel, was why we didn’t progress. Had we taken the corner properly, we may have scored. We may not have scored as well but the tempo of the game would have changed and the dying minutes would just have died quietly.
Instead, on the 96th minute, directly as a result of the stupid corner tactic, Middlesbrough clinically finished us off. And so it ended 2-1 and a bit of a damp squib.
There was a lot of chat about the game and how we played well and, perhaps (and according to the manager), deserved the draw, as the fans filed out along the road back to the car park. We retrieved the car and headed back to Morrisons in Boroughbridge.
It was then into Harrogate to check in to the Crown Hotel, our bed for the night.
Naturally, being a boys weekend, we had a few beers (in the Fat Badger, an excellent pub with excellent beer) before indulging in a rather fancy Chinese restaurant that looked like a Regency Assembly Hall. Finally, though, bed was a welcome sight and I fell into it gladly.