Thursday, 7 April 2011

Darlington Town - Feethams

3rd May 2003

Darlington 2-2 Orient

There is probably nothing that attracts Sad Anoraks more than these “Last Ever Matches at Such and Such Ground”.  There is something quite special about sharing in a club’s farewell party, even if you do feel a bit of a gatecrasher at times.  This was one such, with Darlington Town leaving behind their home of 120 years – Feethams - to move to a new purpose-built stadium on the edge of town. 

It was the first football trip Son decided he wanted to come on, so in order to reduce the amount of time spent driving I devised an, as it turned out, unnecessarily convoluted set of travel arrangements.  

Driven to Inverkeithing station by Wife and Daughter, Son and I got the train to Darlington.  For there we jumped into a taxi to nearby Teeside Airport to pick up a hire car.  By car, it was back to Darlington for the match, thence to an Aunts in Thornaby for an overnight stay, before driving across to a game at Bradford on the following Sunday.  Whence to drive back up to Edinburgh to drop off the car, and train home.  

It seemed logical at the time of arranging, but written down here the sheer daftness of it is apparent.



Darlington's Brick-Train sculpture.


Darlington's own Twin Towers.


An excited Son anticipates
the pre-match entertaininment


The timings did allow us a leisurely lunch in Darlington itself, then a brisk walk to the ground.  There had been promises of loads of pre-match entertainment, so we ensured we were seated a good hour before kick-off.  Crushingly, the “entertainment” consisted of a seemingly endless procession of former players, who were introduced to the crowd in threes before proceeding to walk around the pitch.  

Now I am sure most of these names were known to the true Darlington supporters, and that a number of them had probably made significant contributions over the years, but as pre-match entertainment goes it does not really get much drier.  Marco Gabbiadini was the only name which meant anything to me, and it was only by continually plying Son with Yorkie bars that I managed to get him to sit through the interminable parade.



The pre-match "Entertainment"



I cannot recall if this was one of the Darlington goals or not. 
I do not see the ball anywhere.


Only three Darlington forwards up for this corner!


Despite what the writing may say, this small stand housed away support.


Leyton Orient, the club’s final visitors to the ground, did their best to spoil the party, building up a two goal lead through Matthew LOCKWOOD (26) and Gary ALEXANDER (37), before Jimmy CORBETT (looking way offside) pulled one back for the hosts two minutes before the break.  

It took until 14 minutes from time for Darlington to finally make their second-half pressure pay, when substitute Neil WAINWRIGHT headed in what was not only a deserved equaliser, but also the last ever league goal to be scored at Feethams.

There was the inevitable crowd invasion at full-time which Son and I joined in, before everyone just stood around on the pitch feeling rather silly.


Final whistle mayhem on the last day at Feethams.


Son as pitch-invading hooligan.

Panorama of Feethams, Darlington.

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