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Tor’s travels – Bolton

I like Bolton. There. I said it. Call me a big softie but I like the fact that we were promoted along with Bolton and Blackburn and we’ve all stayed up since. I hope that continues, despite a slightly rocky season for them both (and us earlier on). Also, Sean Davis is at Bolton now and I don’t think my love for him will ever fade so wherever he makes his home will have a little place in my heart… *sighs*

I also really like visiting the Reebok. I like driving up the motorway and seeing the floodlights on your right as you approach. It’s quite a unique structure compared to other grounds, it’s certainly easily identifiable even without the branding. The away fans area is enormous, especially when the last away trip was Villa which… ermmm… isn’t, there are good facilities (I’m talking toilets, it’s important) and the people are friendly. I’m starting to get fussy about which grounds I visit now but the Reebok is definitely high on the list for repeat visits.

Obviously yesterday’s trip was boosted by the team’s performance and the convincing manner in which we won. Bolton fans will have to blame one of the stewards for Dempsey’s second because as we were singing “we’re gonna score in a minute” he looked at me and said, smiling, “No you won’t”. Ahem. But I think we deserved to be 2-0 up going into the break.

Half time entertainment time. Zorbing. I’d love to do zorbing, it looks like excellent fun. I didn’t manage it but Billy was picked to represent the travelling fans and did quite well and got a medal for his troubles. Jealous.

More greatness in the second half. I was actually quite relaxed which is quite something when we’re winning away as usually I’m hiding behind my hands. There was too much going on though: Kacaklinic’s first start, in which he did himself proud; Trotta’s league debut; Diarra’s first goal for the Whites (first of many, I hope)…

BUT. There’s always a but when things start off this well and that’s the two things that marred yesterday. The home fans booed Bryan Ruiz as he was being treated and subsequently substituted off, and later there were reports of Bolton fans attacking the Fulham fans’ coach with a brick. Frustration and anger can manifest themselves in unpleasant ways but the actions of a small number of Bolton fans then reflect badly on the rest and that’s a shame because, by and large, they’re a good bunch.

I still hope I get the chance to go back next season though, and for many more after that. Next time I may even be able to find the McDonald’s nearby…

Tor’s Travels – Aston Villa

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I wasn’t going to go. I had made other plans. About 9am yesterday morning I had a wave of optimism, cancelled my plans and decided to go. Hmmmmm. In fairness, we were on the verge of seeing history in the making – Fulham haven’t won four Premier League matches on the bounce (largely, I’d imagine because our away form is so poor) but we were seemingly flying and Villa…. er…. less so.

Thing is, I’m not keen on the Midlands clubs. The fans are…. odd. And in the case of some, more than a little abusive. So I’d kinda said to myself that I wouldn’t bother going to any of those grounds again. But as I drove along the M6 and caught a glimpse of Villa Park I did start getting excited. And not just because QPR had just had a perfectly legitimate goal disallowed. Villa Park is an impressive ground. Not necessarily in size or snazziness but how beautiful is the Holte End? If you’ve never seen it, go. The picture above simply doesn’t do it justice.

Anyway, architecture aside, it’s not the most away-fan-friendly ground. There are loads of stairs up to a narrow rabbit run barely large enough to take the 1,000+ fans that made the trip. But they do have tellies which everyone was glued to, willing Bolton to score again. At times I thought people were more interested in the result of that game than of ours. Bolton scored, cue lots of singing about Mark Hughes and then the rush to the seats.

The atmosphere wasn’t great but pockets of the travelling fans were in fine voice, baiting the home fans and making me chuckle. Something needed to.

You know what happened next. I don’t need to dwell on it. Lork will probably do his player ratings later and, for once, I won’t be begging him to give Stephen Kelly 1,000,000 out of 10 because, frankly, he doesn’t deserve it. Unfortunately, neither do any of the other players. It seemed as though none of them were at their best. A team can normally cover one player having an off-day but what happens when they all are? We were lucky to only lose 1-0 to be perfectly honest, it just feels so much worse because it was conceded in the dying seconds. I’d have walked away happy with a point. That late goal was a kick in the stomach.

*sighs* Onwards and upwards. It wasn’t a must-win game. We’re still in the top half of the table. There will be lessons that we can learn and we’ll come back from this. It’s the Fulham way, innit.