Dons, Blades, four points and a joyous week

MK in the sunshine!

MK in the sunshine!

Two contrasting away days quickly followed each other this week. One, an end of season stroll in the sunshine, the other played out with pace, passion and power.  Four points secured but to be honest something much more than that.

The story began at 11am last Saturday as 3 packed CTSA coaches made the short transfer to Milton Keynes. On arrival Reds fans poured out into wonderful spring sunshine and for once there was warmth in the air. The new MK stadium is built in a trading estate with all the household names very close by. The Kentucky and McD’s were doing great business.
Around 380 Reds made the effort and were soon sitting in the sumptuous padded seats high up behind the goal.  Most of you were probably eulogising about a beautiful stadium, huge in structure, modern and with potential to increase capacity.  Personally not sure myself. Having been to a lot of modern stadium here in England this one doesn’t really stack up against others, take the Ricoh for instance. Also as eluded to on many occasions this season a team playing in a big stadium one third full looks a bit naff.
Anyway the game kicked off with both teams passing the ball well.  However, it soon became clear that Mk needed the points more and started to press. Lowe scored the first of his three offside goals plus was denied by a world class Paul Jones save. The gods were smiling on CTFC as the game ended goalless.  How we never conceded was beyond my comprehension.  In fact, late in the first half a ball fell invitingly to an MK forward who somehow missed an open goal from 2 yards! In terms of Reds attacks, “that’s all she wrote!”
Still, a great point on the road in warm sunshine and as we all trooped back to the coaches a relaxed satisfied vibe ensued. Young Liam Wilson (14) of Furnace Green said, “we only deserved a point today as we got lucky with the linesmans flag. Mk seemed bigger and fitter than us and at no time did I feel we might make a breakthrough. Connor Essam stood out as my man of the match, he made some telling blocks.” The civilised away day came to an end as the three Clarkes coaches pulled back into base at around 7pm.
"If you're happy and you know it, raise your hands......!"

“If you’re happy and you know it, raise your hands……!”

An all together different experience awaited the 185 Reds fans who made the long mid week journey to Bramall Lane on Tuesday. If you want banter on the coach, intense terrace celebrations and bedlam on the way home this was the away day for you. It all started when one we pulled away from base at 1.30pm and made our way around the M25 and up the M1. After a meal stop at Leicester we were pulling up around 6pm. Nice trip especially as yours truly picked out Sheffield United on the football card for my first ever win.  Mick and I sought out the Devonshire Cat for one or two ales before entering the ground around 7.30pm. Now Bramall Lane is a proper traditional hulk of the stadium. With 18,000 plus home fans all singing it made for an imposing atmosphere, and I bet John Denver never felt he would be the author of a football anthem!

During an open and entertaining opening period it was clear that the home side were in for a tough night. Our boys got stuck in, competed for every ball and attacked with purpose.  Nil nil at the break. More of the same during the 2nd half and it was no surprise when Billy popped up with the opening goal. Sub Hayes took advantage of a slip in defence and calmly squared to Clarke who made no mistake. With them pushing for a leveller they got robbed at the back and Hayes completed a brilliant super sub performance.  The second goal was greeted with the most intense goal celebration ever.  A right old melee erupted which was fantastic to be a part of.
Who's that skinny bloke in the middle?

Who’s that skinny bloke in the middle?

Banter, singing and noise were all high on the agenda as we pulled away from the ground and headed back down the M1.  Thanks to Clarkes for another brilliant day out which finished when we pulled up at around 2.30am.

That’s 9 away league victories this season, every one wonderful in its own way.  I believe there are about 20 of us who have seen them all each with their own favourite.  Surely Tuesday’s stunning victory against the biggest team in our league has got to be right up there!
Words and pictures from Colin Bowman, CTSA Press