Wednesday, 9 August 2006


Accrington Stanley 0-2 Darlington

After weeks of high-level diplomacy, Kofi Annan announced yesterday that twouptwodown had secured the official nod for its first night off.

It was time to flee the metropolis and follow the hoards north toward the small-but-spreadeagled Lancashire (former) mill town of Accrington. There, in the alma mater of the Monkees' Davy Jones, the local first eleven were about to play host to the mighty Quakers in their second game of the season.


As ever I had consciously opted to limit my chances of a timely arrival by assuming that the ground would be either signposted, blindingly obvious, or that four halogen stars would make themselves manifest on the eastern horizon.

As usual I was very much mistaken. After acting the tourist in one of those places you'd never go otherwise (Oswaldtwistle is part of the Accrington connurbation - a town unto itself in theory, but a sweetly serpentine kebabfest, basically), I chose the process-of-elimination method from a town centre crossroads, once the "follow the crowd" method failed miserably due to the lack of any obvious crowd. For those in the know, it wasn't quite as desperate as trying to locate the "big game" after alighting at BR Wellington, Salop ("Change Here for Hades").

This revelatory plan clicked into place after I belatedly detected a limp fragment of brown aluminium. This was draped artfully around a lamp post with the aid of a rusty screw. Detailed analysis by experts at the University of Massachussets have since suggested that this may once have been a directional sign to a relevant local attraction, perhaps back in the days when Accy last hosted a football league game, some 40 years ago.

After an hour of pinball-about-town, a piece of Escort-ensconced shiny polyester glimmered keenly in the rear view mirror, offering imminent hope. Lo and behold, there in front of me were the fluorescent jackets, the traffic cones, and a gaggle of ground-bounds. Still almost an hour to kick-off and all.


Only six cocktail-stick floodlights betrayed the existence of a football stadium, squatting wearily behind some rather low-rise local authority housing. Behind the crouching colloseum, a new-build housing development stood disdainful and pretentious, like the rearguard pieces in a plastic chess-set (note to self: when you've got forty smackers handy, get down to Webberley's and buy a proper one).

A single turnstile offered refuge from the imminent downpour. But the surprising presence of a queue (and coppers on motorcycles... and closed-off streets... at a Darlo away game!?) signalled the fact that Stanley, used to a visiting complement of 10 from the like of Gravesend & Northfleet, had run out of coins by 7pm.

A shaven official in a black bomber jacket stalled the crowd in clearly the only way he knew how - by starting an argument with the next guy in the queue over how he couldn't take his bike helmet and keys into the ground ("Err, thing is mate, I'm not being funny, laark, but you could knacker someone with that, couldn't you.")

Inside, I was joined by increasingly enthusiastic Darlo fan Willo and a couple of Liverpudlian hangers-on, who had reached the front of the queue for *cough* the "Main St. Diner" prior to my arrival. We all made our way cheerily to the open terrace, standing immediately behind the goal. The heavens promptly deposited their contents on Lancashire, and the hangers-on began to look regretful.


It seemed like the travelling Quakers had filled almost half of the ground, though that only required some 760 of them, probably the largest complement I've ever witnessed. The overall attendance was just over 2,600, Quakers gave us many reasons to be cheerful (both Vale defectors turned in good performances), and The Bald Messiah looked like he'd never been away, falling over and getting himself off-side a lot.

Sadly, Stanley struggled with their big occasion, despite the enthusiasm of the "Accy Ultras" (trouble is, there aren't many of you), and will struggle on, especially if they lack resources. It also seems likely that they might see a sub-thousand crowd at some point, maybe scraping their first win around Christmas. It's sad, really.

Other limited highlights included a chat with some ver pleasant Forest supporters at Charnock-something-or-other services, but that's about it, really...

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