Football, outings and assorted finery.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Come on you Pies...

Pete is a colleague of mine and an exiled Notts County fan.  Having worked with him over the last few months I decided to join him on a trip to Carlise to see his team in action. With 'The Pies' promoted last season to League 1, Carlise represented the nearest away game to Edinburgh and the best opportunity to see Notts on the road without the lengthy journey! 

The day started with a 10am meet at The Haymarket Bar and an early pint.  I managed to get there at about 10:35 thanks to travelling via what was quite possibly Edinburgh slowest available bus service (is it really necessary to have a bus stop every 20 metres?)  My slightly late arrival meant we only had time for a quick drink before heading over the road to Haymarket station and boarding the 11am train. 

As we walked through the station the platform at Haymarket wasn't exactly a hotbed of football fans, however, I did spot one (blind) man in Carlisle colours heading down to the match.  The train journey down took just over an hour and was a fairly uneventful, almost sedate affair which allowed the three of us (myself, Pete and his friend Matt) to have a chat and a can of beer and we sped our way over the border.  Arriving at Carlisle which plenty of time to spare we exited the station and chose one of the nearest pubs in which to grab a beer.  The first place we called in at was ok.....ish, none of us are particularly bothered by the rougher pubs of this world but there was something about this place which made us feel less than welcome (and it wasn’t just the Stone Island clad guys playing pool).  Surmising that this pub was probably more intended as 'one for the locals' we crossed the road and opted for the safe haven of a Weatherspoons.  After a couple more beers we ventured away from the town centre in the general direction of Carlisle’s ground Brunton Park.

We hadn’t encountered any (obvious) Notts County supporters around town yet and as such Pete was determined to have a drink amongst his fellow fans prior to kick off.  Word had it that the best and closest place to Brunton Park in which to grab a drink was in fact Carlisle RFC’s clubhouse, ideally situated next to the football ground, so we walked towards it, checking with some local lads (off to watch the rugby as it turned out) that we were on the right track.  Upon reaching the rugby ground we were met by some friendly stewards on the gate who happily let us in and pointed us towards the bar (I guess they’re glad of the extra revenue from travelling football fans!).  The clubhouse was that of a typical rugby club but modern and fresh at the same time, we were pleased to see there were plenty of Notts fans enjoying a pre match drink along with Carlisle fans going about their regular pre-match routine.  The atmosphere within the club was pretty vibrant, sets of fans from both football clubs were mixing happily along with rugby supporters and those associated with Carlisle RFC.  All ages groups were present within the clubhouse with gave the place a homely, family friendly feel.

Notts fans in the stand prior to kick off

Shortly before kick off (and by this stage, reasonably inebriated) we made the short walk over to Brunton Park.  Upon determining how to access the away section we each bought a ticket, made our way through the turnstiles and grabbed a seat amongst the County faithful.

Carlisle's home end

It’s hard to judge the away numbers when you’re sat right amongst them but the away support seemed to be fairly sizable and generated some impressive noise in support of their team.  Having seen a few pictures after the match the support perhaps wasn’t quite as large as I’d first imagined, but it was still pretty impressive given that Carlisle is one of the more arduous away days for the Notts crowd.

 The away fans (we're two rows behing the girl in the Notts shirt, apparently she's not missed a match home or away in seven years!)

Another view of the away support

As the game kicked off in front of a fairly full Brunton Park, Notts took the earl initiative and continued to play the better football as the first half progressed.  Before too long the interval arrived and saw us heading into the concourse of the stand to chat with a few of Pete's acquantances and take advantage of the fact that alcohol is served within football stadia in England (by now you'll notice a theme forming here).  The second half kicked off and warmed by a can of strongbow and a pie we looked forward to the final 45 minutes with optimism given how Notts had essentially bossed the match thus far and played the better football to boot.

Looking out over Brunton Park

Much to the anguish of the travelling fans, however, it was Carlisle who made the break through with a slick move culminating in a well taken goal by Gary Madine.  Notts were to rue a host of missed chances as this goal proved to be the emough for Carlisle to take the spoils.  Ultimately Carlisle did all they needed to do to secure the points and could have scored a second, but Notts could feel hard done by to take nothing from a game that they dominated for large spells.

Notts put some pressure on at a corner

As the final whistle blew we exited Brunton Park to the strains of 'Run For The Hills' by Iron Maiden, I'm unsure if this is a regular club anthem or if the chap in charge of the PA was issuing a thinly veiled warning to away fans!  On that note though, I must say we saw no hint of trouble all day and found the local fans to by friendly and welcoming.
Another view towards the main stand

The open terrace which occasionally houses away fans

With about an hour to spare before the return train to Edinburgh we grabbed a quick pint in Weatherspoons before heading over to Carlisle's Walkabout to meet the guys who had sat in front of us during the match.  It transpired through speaking to them that they too were from Edinburgh and had travelled down via train to support their friend and relative Kevin Smith, the Nott County winger (and interestingly the brother of the young Hearts striker Gordon Smith....although I only learnt that during the match thanks to his mates).  It was a nice end to the day when Kevin joined us in the pub, fresh from his post match shower and wearing his Notts tracksuit for a beer before we all went our seperate ways.

With our departure time fast approaching our final act in Carlisle was to walk (in as straight a line as possible) to the train station, board the train back to Haymarket and enjoy a final beer during the journey.  Despite the amount of alcohol cosumed we'd paced urselves pretty well and were able to have a civilised enough conversation on the way back to least we thought so, I hope our fellow passengers were in agreement.

So that was about it as far as I was concerned.  Pete and our travelling comapnion Matt headed into town to meet friends and have another drink (they didn't manage many I'm told).  I on the other hand, with the propect of an early morning swimming trip with my daughter looming on the horizon, decided to call it a day, head home and much to my wife's amusement, I promptly fell asleep during the latter stages of X-Factor.

I guess on top of the afternoon's offering at Brunton Park, that was just too much excitement to handle in one day!

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