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The Annual Scottish Awayday – Hibs 1-1 Raith Rovers

October 5, 2014

I love Edinburgh. With its castle, stunning architecture, great pubs and friendly people, it’s just a great city to visit and a place I can’t get enough of.

Which made it the perfect destination for this year’s Annual Scottish Awayday.

When it comes to Scottish football, Hibs are Varls’ team, so Hibs vs Raith Rovers in the Scottish Championship was an easy choice.

It was still pitch black at 6am as I met Varls at Burton station. Normally you can travel direct from Burton to Edinburgh, but engineering work meant we had to first travel south to Birmingham (where 1 of Ronald McDonalds finest bacon roll’s and hash browns were purchased) before heading north on the West Coast Mainline to Carlisle.

From Carlisle we would travel direct to Edinburgh, through Lockerbie, Carstairs, and some absolutely stunning scenery.

I mentioned in my Annan blog last year about how stunning the scenery also is on the West Coast mainline as you get further north; for me this is all part of the experience of going upto Scotland, and takes me back to my childhood and travelling to my Grandparents on Loch Lomond, gazing out of the train window up at the hills and mountains with a solitary farmhouse perched on the side, sheep grazing nearby. Simply beautiful.

As well as the scenery, 1 of the other good things about travelling by train is sometimes the conversations you strike up with random people. Varlsy was busy boring me (only joking mate!) about that Michael Portillo documentary where he travels around on the train being posh, and a particular trip to Switzerland.

A scouse bloke in his late 40’s/early 50’s on the table opposite interrupted us. “Er sorry to interrupt lads, but I was actually on that train this week, when I went over to watch Liverpool play…” The scouse bloke’s name was Billy, Kirkcaldy-bound to visit his mother. For the remainder of the journey we discussed Liverpool, Balotelli, Burton Albion, Billy’s European and World Cup jaunts, he was a nice bloke and we shook hands and wished him well once reaching Edinburgh.

After Varls had let us out of the wrong exit of Waverley station, we walked the long way around to what is one of my favourite pubs in the land – The Guildford Arms, West Registar Street. It was a couple of years ago when up for the Olympics that we discovered this pub, and with its great choice of beer, beautiful décor, and friendly bar-staff, I highly recommend a visit.

 Guildford Arms-selfie!

2 pints of Tennants were purchased and conversation struck up with a girl behind the bar with a proper London accent. She was a West Ham fan herself, I told her they’d beat QPR today no worries, and she told us the Iona bar near the Hibs ground was worth a visit, duly noted.

We soon left the Guildford to head towards Easter Road to purchase match tickets, before getting back on the ale. I can’t remember the name of the next pub we went in, it was showing the Leeds vs Sheff Weds game with ex-Brewer Jacques Maghoma featuring. Another swift Tennants later, and we were in the Iona bar.

There was a few in here, and it became a lot busier as kick-off approached. More Tennants was supped, and also a couple of “£1.80 House Whiskey’s” which was Chivas Regal, and extremely nice it was too. We put some Oasis and Smiths on the jukey, before I told Varls to put some Lightning Seeds on. “Which one?” he asked, “As long as it isn’t 3 Lions mate.” we settled for Life of Riley.

An old bloke Varls had been chatting to said bye on his way out, “Och ya dunnae want to be wearing Hearts colours son!”, he turned and said to me, pointing at my Adidas top, which I’m sure is red and not purple! But not a lot I could do about that now.

To the ground. We had bought seats in the main stand just behind the dugouts, choosing a different view to where we usually observe our respective clubs from. Easter Road is a very smart ground with vast stands, and a capacity of over 22,000. You can read more here –

Hibs lined up 3-5-2, hoping to build on Monday’s brilliant win at Rangers, but were unfortunately without ex-Brewer David Gray with injury. Another former Brewer, Mark Oxley, was in goal for the Hibees though – he’s even managed to score for them this season! Raith lined up 4-5-1, meaning the midfield area became pretty crowded.

The game started, and I tucked into my Scotch pie (good, but not as good as Annan’s last season.)

Hibs liked to knock the ball around, especially at the back, but every time they tried to get the ball into their front 2 of Cummings and Malonga, the ball just seemed to come back.

Hibs went close in the 29th minute, but a lob was adjudged to be offside, then on 33 mins a shot fell the wrong side of the post.

The deadlock was finally broken in the 44th minute, when Scott Robertson, formerly of OHD Leuvren (on my FIFA 13 career) scored to put Hibs 1-0 up at the break.

Inside Easter Road Inside Easter Road

After more food, a pizza at £2.79 (pretty standard), we settled down for the 2nd half. There was about 100 Hibs fans in the stand opposite who got through plenty of singing and drumming, and they were having such a good time they decided to let a smoke bomb off, green smoke clouding high in the air.

Both sides again battled in vain, but Hibs just couldn’t score that 2nd. Striker Jason Cummings was becoming frustrated, manager Alan Stubbs shouted some instructions over to him which the young lad didn’t appear to take kindly too, flapping his arms around and having a little in-game strop.

For Raith, big lone striker Christian Nade was posing the odd problem for the Hibs backline, and it was the Frenchman who shot low and into the net in the 68th minute to draw Raith level.

The 200-odd away fans celebrated and raised their own noise levels a bit, but in reality you couldn’t see either team scoring a winner, and I think a draw was a fair result as the game finished 1-1.

Apart from the 100-odd Hibs fans who sang a fair bit, the Hibs support was mainly pretty quiet and became more frustrated (understandably) as the game went on. The last few years haven’t been great for the Hibees, with relegation last season from the Prem, and I just got the feeling that even after the win at Ibrox last Monday that there wasn’t a lot of belief around the place.

The Hibs players all seemed to put a shift in, and defender Jordan Forster was a deserved Man of the Match, but in my opinion (with admittedly limited Scots footy knowledge) I don’t think there is enough skill and craft in this Hibs team to win promotion, and Easter Road didn’t appear to be full of supporters who firmly believed they can bounce back to the Scots Prem at the first attempt.

I think I expected more from Hibs especially after that confidence-building win at Rangers, but then again maybe I’m not giving Raith enough credit, and maybe striker Farid El Alagui was a big miss for Hibs.

I obviously watch plenty of League 2 football, and on comparison I think Burton would’ve competed well against Hibs or Raith and been comfortable against Hibs front line.

We wished farewell to Easter Road, and headed back in the autumn sunlight towards Waverley station. Some cans of Tennants were bought for the journey back, and come 17.34 we were sat on the train heading out of Waverley.

Then the fun started.

Our train was literally a few hundred metres from Carlisle station when we stopped. There had been a landslip between Carlisle and Newcastle, which had caused delays on that route. Once our train got into Carlisle, it would be having a crew-change. The problem was, the crew were delayed on another train coming the other direction, so we weren’t allowed into the station as there was no crew available to take this train forward.

We were sat for well over an hour and missed all trains heading south back to Birmingham. I was getting a bit stressed, wondering how we’d get home, “Mate, there’s nothing we can do, so no point getting stressed. If we’ve gotta stay in Carlisle, so be it.” Varls was right, as he cracked open his 23rd can of the day.

He soon got chatting to a middle-aged woman sat behind us, “I’ve known Jamie since we were 4, and the thing is he’s half-Scottish, so he’s dead tight. But I’m used to it now.” Cheers mate!

We finally arrived into Carlisle. After chatting to the staff at the station, who did a fantastic job, we simply had to wait for a taxi to be organised to take us back to Burton – fortunately paid for by the train companies!

Varls took this opportunity to purchase some more ale for the cruise back, and finally we had a taxi driver willing to take us south, Richard.

I popped toilet, and when I got back Varls filled me in on the arrangements. “This is Richard the taxi driver, he says we’re fine to drink, and to just shout up when we need a piss-stop.” Sorted!

Richard typed my postcode into his sat-nav. 184 miles. Great.

To be fair, we flew back. With 80’s tunes playing on Radio 2 and a few beers on the go, the journey didn’t seem to take too long as we looked back on the day and discussed potential destinations for next seasons Away-day.

Come 12:45am, we were back home. Varls, being the gent that he is, tipped Richard £20, and we thanked him and wished him a safe journey back.

What a day!

Score – Hibs 1-1 Raith

Attendance – 9,954

Match ticket – £22

Train fare – £50 (advanced tickets bought in August)

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