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Welcome Back Football!

By: Jack Johnson
Date: 19/08/2004

THERE was no doubting it; the new season was upon us at last! No more long lie-ins, going shopping with the missus, carrying out needless DIY chores and watching re runs of The Bill on UK Gold. The torture was finally over- well, at least until next summer.

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There was an optimistic buzz humming around Grimsby station. Laughing, joking and genuine feeling of excitement was circulating amongst the sleep deprived town faithful. The first leg of the journey went pretty quickly. Conversation came thick and fast on a whole range of topics, whether Russ will start with Reddy or Mansaram, who we thinks balder, Coldicott or Parkinson and which film to watch when we get home The Shawshank Redemption or Pulp Fiction?

Doncaster station was busy as usual for this time of year. Platforms were filled with a mixture of football fans, holidaymakers, pensioners and GNER staff- to which none were any help when asking for the train to Darlington. Luckily, me and my mate Bridgey Stumbled onto the 11:14 GNER service to Edinburgh and set about finding a couple of seats for the relatively short journey to Darlo. While searching for the elusive spare seats we came across this bloke wearing socks and sandals (you know the type) on his hands and knees blocking the aisle up because he decides now of all times to rearrange his suitcase. I'm sure I wasn't the only one becoming more and more frustrated as the tailback became longer than the queue for the buffet cart! When we eventually persuaded the man to perfect his packing another time we jumped into the nearest vacant seats and waited patiently for the Reynolds stadium to home into view.

When we arrived in the metropolis known as Darlington, Bridgey and myself decided to go in search of somewhere we could sample some culinary delights found in the northeast. Leaving the station we knew it was time to consult the map, just to make sure we were heading the right way. After crossing the footbridge (which looked a cross between a piece of 'beautiful' 60s architecture and a space ship from Star Wars) we were on the main road and most importantly within sight of a fairly popular fish and chip shop at 12.35 on a match day.

By the time we found the ground, empty bellies had been filled and with more than an hour until kick off we decided to go to the bar for a drink, talk tactics with some fellow town fans and have a quick flick through the match day programme (kind of the supporters pre match warm up). At about 2:30 the majority of the supporters began to amble out of the bar and take their seats ahead of the start of the game and a brand new season.

Despite it only being a small crowd in such a large stadium both sets of fans helped create a decent atmosphere. Wasted opportunities from Mansaram, Crowe and Sestanovich meant the team went in at half time goalless. The Mariners enjoyed most of the possession and created many chances in a half where midfield magician Thomas Pinault and Pacey forward Andy Parkinson dictated the play for Town. In the second half Darlington somehow took the lead from a well-taken goal by substitute Ian Clark. Clark's Goal was scored somewhat unfairly against the run of play. With the introduction of Reddy, Town came back at their opponents and were very unlucky not to earn what would be a well -deserved point when Fleming, Marcelle and Reddy all went close near the death. When the final whistle blew, fans, players and the management team alike couldn't believe we had lost. The word 'robbed' has never been used more accurately.

After the game disappointment was written all over our faces, such a contrast to that of the delighted Darlo fans. This cloud of depression was still lingering by the time we arrived back at Darlington station. In fact it looked to have become infectious when we spotted a Darlington fan looking pretty grim considering his team had just won. But who knows, he could be feeling a bit down because of anything; a train cancellation, falling out with a mate, forgetting to record 'Jonny and Denise' on BBC one- anything!

The Journey home was quiet and philosophical. I heard lots of talk of it being a long season, the team needing time to gel and that Michael Reddy's just coming back from a knee operation. All these statements were very true, but it couldn't stop our disappointment of gaining nothing from a game we dominated from first whistle to last.

By 8 o'clock Donny was surprisingly peaceful. All the Holidaymakers and pensioners had gone. Platforms were now filled with content shoppers carrying what looked like a whole department store under each arm, along with a bunch of mentally and physically exhausted town fans hoping and praying for a train to arrive and take us home. Eventually it did come- allowing us time to spare before Pulp Fiction started.

Welcome back football, we've missed you!

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