Some Bolton fans were dedicated enough to go up to Arbroath. You can read one of their stories here.
On Tuesday night, Phil Parkinson took his squad up to the beautiful and sunny Angus Coast on the west coast of Bonnie Scotland for a game against the Scottish League Two champions Arbroath at Gayfield. As someone who was hoping for a continental break to watch the Wanderers, a five hour trip by rail would have to suffice and after departing Manchester in a bluster of wind and rain and arriving into Edinburgh to be greeted by more wind and rain, even the most insane of the insane rag tag bunch who’d made the trip could rightly question their own level of insanity.
After crossing the Forth rail bridge, something I personally have always wanted to do, things took a turn for the better and the spectacular scenery was greeted with blue skies and bright sunshine, something the locals advised me is a one in 23 year occurrence in these parts. For once I was glad I’d stuck a pair of shorts in the bag, you know, just in case.
The train arrived into the pretty little fishing port of Arbroath and after working out I was on the same train as fellow Bolton fan Joe Norris, we promptly bumped into each other leaving the station and found we were both staying in the same hotel, basically after booking the first thing that came up on booking.com. We weren’t the only ones to do this either.
A quick check in and freshen up was followed by a pint in the hotel (pub) bar and a wander round the harbour towards Gayfield and the next pub of the afternoon, Tutties Neuk with a very hospitable host Carol, situated right across the road from the historic, proper old school ground.
More beer and a chat with fellow idiots who`d made the trip, some of whom weren’t even Bolton fans but fairly local before the team coach arrived given a rapturous welcome and the Arbroath players car sharing and parking on the pub car park had to run the gauntlet past Parky’s bunch of merry idiots.
As kick off approached, I wandered over to the ground to sample the catering on offer, I fully recommend the Steak and Black pudding pies, with one of those and a Bovril, we were on the coast, literally and when the breeze picked up and the sun dropped, the shorts didn’t seem like such a good idea any more, all coming in at the reasonable price of £3, it emphasised that this was a real community club with the fans very much at heart. The covered terraces, the freedom to roam all invoking a nostalgia in even the youngest of fans there.
As for the game, well, it was your typical pre season fayre against a lower ranked team, Bolton starting the game with a blend of youth in the form of Harry Brockbank, Cole Lonsdale, Jack Earing, Jeff King and Connor Hall, the experience of Mark Howard, Mark Little, Dorian Dervite, Chris Taylor, ALF and trialist Haris Tabakovic. The early exchanges were, not so much dominated, but it was the home side looking the more likely to make the breakthrough, especially with the tricky livewire number nine Steven Doris. The Lichties created the first two half chances of the game, firstly Doris dragging a shot wide after getting beyond Brockbank and then someone else clearing the stand after good work by Doris.
It took 20 odd minutes for the Whites to register a meaningful effort on target with Jeff King dragging a shot narrowly wide. The Wanderers did take the lead however after being awarded a penalty. I’ve been told it was very soft but I’ll be honest, I didn’t see it. ALF rifled the penalty home to give Bolton a somewhat fortunate lead. It didn’t last long however, when approximately 60 seconds later, Mark Howard clattered Doris in the box and the ref had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. After his earlier industry, Doris finally had his Day (pun intended) sending Howard the wrong way and smashing the penalty home.
The rest of the half passed without much action, just one minor scare for Bolton after a lack of communication from Howard saw Brockbank put the ball behind for a corner which ultimately came to nothing. The teams went back to the sheds at half time tied at 1-1.
The Whites made one change at half time with Alnwick replacing Howard in goal. A couple of minutes into the second half, the ball was played through to Connor Hall who got in behind the defence and despite some very close attention, managed to pull the ball back for a Lichties man to steer it past the fantastically named Ricky Gomes to put the whites in front, a lead they never looked like relinquishing, especially when the ‘seniors` came on on the hour. Stephen Darby added industry down the right, giving signs that the battle between him and Mark Little for the right back berth will add a healthy level of competition to the squad and Will Buckley showed some craft and guile down the left. The middle of the park was well marshalled by Jen Karacan and Madine offered an outlet up top. Without really threatening and creating, the Whites saw the game out to register a second win of pre season and send the travelling whites fans back over the road to Tutties for a post match pint or three relatively content with what had been seen.
A few beers and a chat with Carol resulted in an invite, should we be in a condition to for a trip into the boardroom the following morning to see the Scottish League Two trophy and a look round the ground. After waking up with a slightly cloudy head, a brief walk along the sea front soon saw to that before returning to Tutties in time for opening to again be greeted by the lovely Carol who took us for a walk over and a look round.
It was surreal being given carte blanche to walk around, go on the pitch and hold a real trophy. It was a surreal experience. Then it was back to Tutties for a couple of scoops before saying goodbye to the charming little town and setting back off down south before returning on Friday for a trip to the Premiership bigwigs of Dundee on Friday.