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January 6, 2014

Paul Talbot at Whitby, just a bit of water hey!

Altrincham in ’99, Crawley 2001. Halifax 2004. Weymouth 2007, Bradford 2011, and now Bournemouth last Saturday… how many miles is that I’ve travelled, only to be told on arrival that the game is off?! Swear I’m jinxed.

But what can you do about it? Not much. Swear a few times then just get the beers flowing, whilst Holden gets Texas Greatest hits blaring!

The blow has been softened by the incredible act of kindness by the Bournemouth supporters. They set up a donation page to go towards funding coach travel for Albion supporters and it has raised just short of £3k. Absolutely unbelievable. Here’s a link to the page that will tell you why the Cherries fans wanted to do this –

I’ll be at the replay, but I won’t be using the free travel. I’ll be in the car again hoping we can produce yet another Brewers cup shock to get Luis Suarez, Stevie G and the lads down to the Pirelli. What an incentive.

Anyway, going to back to Saturday and the late postponement. I wish the ref on Saturday had been Alvin Dale from Doncaster, he’d have had that game on no worries.

See, back in March 2002, Mr Dale of Doncaster made sure that ‘Whitby Town’ wasn’t added to that list of games mentioned in the first paragraph.

The Albion were closing in on the Unibond title as well as enjoying a great Trophy run. March’s fixture list was ever-so slightly busy, with Cloughie dubbing it “Mad-March”…

The toughest week in that month was the first, Barrow away on the Saturday, Hucknall away on the Tuesday, Whitby away the following Saturday. I got to all 3 games, and my little sister Lauren was born that week too so yeah, it was 1 hell of a week!!

After victories at Barrow and Hucknall, it was onto Whitby.

I was on the Supporters club minibus, with 2 other coaches travelling up. I remember the bus going through the fog-filled Yorkshire hills; the snow turning into a blizzard, the wind blowing into the bus… It was Baltic, it felt like we’d been driving forever. Where the bloody hell was Whitby??

We got to the ground but it didn’t look hopeful. From the warmth of the clubhouse we looked out onto the pitch; rain, hale, snow, blizzard, sun… more rain.

Welcome to Whitby.

2 match officials and some Whitby players were caught in the weather, as Whitby’s ground staff refused to work on the pitch.

Albion were desperate for the game to be on, and I think with around 200-odd travelling fans the Whitby chairman wouldn’t have minded either.

Ref Alvin Dale remained adamant the game would be played, and despite kick-off being held back half-hour so the remaining match officials and a Whitby player could make it, and even though Whitby didn’t have any subs available thanks to the weather… we were good to go. (On hindsight, considering Whitby were in a relegation battle you can understand them not wanting to play!)

What followed was one of the most ridiculous games of football I have ever seen.

The sun was out again but large areas of the pitch had standing water. Within seconds, not minutes, seconds, the player’s kits were brown with mud.

Passing was impossible. A long punt forward would see the ball drop dead into a massive puddle. Dale Anderson, normally the quickest player on the pitch, tried to latch onto the long balls forward and dribble, but it just wasn’t happening. Passing was impossible, dribbling was impossible, football was bordering on impossible, but admirably, on the players went.

I am very sure I’ll never see anything like it again.

Whitby even suffered the bad fortune of one of their players going off injured in the first half. With no subs they battled on with 10-men, whilst Albion made a tactical sub taking off Hoyle for Webster in the hope of making the most of the 1-man advantage.

But it was never going to be that simple in these conditions. Whitby won a free-kick on the hour mark, Danny Logan shot hard, the ball flew of an Albion shoulder wrong-footing Matt Duke. 1-0 Whitby.

Wish it’d been postponed.

Obviously the Brewers then threw everything at Whitby, but it was Whitby who nearly stole the points late on with Rex Page’s words highlighting the farcical conditions;

“It almost came in the first minute of stoppage time when the ball plopped in a puddle on the edge of the Burton area, forcing Duke to miss his kick.

On any other surface, Merchant would have a free run on goal, but the water held him up long enough for Duke to do a double somersault with pike and dive on the ball.”

It was just as well, as a few minutes later new signing Paul Talbot’s 10-yard shot would fly into the net sending Micky and me mental (gotta love a late equaliser haven’t ya!), and whilst going mental we quickly realised we were stood amongst a group of pissed-off Whitby fans who were stood by the exits.

Sorry lads.

There was barely time for the game to re-start, and we gladly took another valuable point towards the title.

I wish Alvin Dale had been the ref on Saturday.


From → The Albion.

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