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I’m only human, I make mistakes – but that might not be enough on Saturday

I’m only human, I make mistakes
I’m only human that’s all it takes
To put the blame on me
Don’t put the blame on me

‘Cause I’m no prophet or messiah
You should go looking somewhere higher

I’m only human after all,
I’m only human after all

Rag ‘n’ Bone Man – Human

Fair play to Darlington Mowden Park.

In what they readily bill as the biggest game of their season, they’re doing their bit to generate as much interest in this weekend’s clash with Coventry as they can, with a countdown to the game on the homepage of their website and a call to  all supporters to:

Invite your friends and spread the word to help us get the biggest crowd of the season, Mowden need your support!

And they certainly do if Cov are to have any say in the matter…

It’s no more than you would expect and indeed you’d want  Cov to be doing something similar in the return fixture in 8 weeks time, although I ‘m rather hoping (but not necessarily expecting) that we might have something approaching an unassailable lead by the then.

Whilst the journey up to the Northern Echo Arena, both in terms of time and cost, might understandably be one that puts many of Coventry’s traveling faithful off the trip to support their team this weekend, Darlington have gone to great efforts to ensurethat watching rugby there is  less expensive than at most National One grounds.

Ten pounds entrance and £2 pounds for a burger at the bar represents great value, especially when the facilities there compare very favourably to  most grounds outside of the Premiership.

A quick shout out for the Supporters’ Club at this point – the last time I journeyed up to Darlington to watch Cov, it cost £120ish  by train to make the journey.

This year, just £25 return on the organised coach.

That’s a massive saving and given it cost a similar amount to get to Plymouth and not far short to travel to grounds like Blaydon and Hull, it’s no wonder that there’s been a big uptake on the away day travel this season. Saved me a fortune, too….enough for a season ticket  to watch Cov in the Championship nest year, hopefully.

Still not enough to by Quent a drink though… 🙂

Darlington’s ground is unlike any other we visit in National One…a 25,000 all seater purpose-built football stadium once owned by Darlington Football Club and purchased by DMP for £2m back in 2012/13.

And for just £16, you can get entrance into the ground and a pre-match curry – which in my book represents pretty decent value given that it’s £18 for parking and entrance into the BPA and few would complain at that (£21 if you include the cost of the programme).

Visiting Mowden’s ground  is definitely something of a marmite experience for most supporters visiting there for the first time. Me, I’m very much a ‘love it’ kind of guy, although there are those who take a completely opposite viewpoint and believe it to be soulless and lacking any sort of atmosphere.

And there is some truth in that, and were I to watch my rugby  regularly at the Northern Echo Arena, then I might well feel somewhat differently, but as a one-off experience each season, well it’s different and the folk there have always been extremely helpful and courteous and the supporters loud and passionate…which is just as it should be.

For those who have never been to the Northern Echo Arena, I’ve dug out a couple of photos from a previous visit just to highlight how different this ground is:


Seating around the stadium is pretty much completely covered and supporters are only allowed to sit along the stand running the length of the equivalent of the main stand at Coventry, so three quarters of it is left unseated – and hence lacking a lot of atmosphere at times.

(The first of the photos isn’t mine and wasn’t taken at a rugby game as the football posts indicate – but I’ve included it as it does give a 360° view, near enough).

With supporters tending to sit fairly closely together, it means the noise is intensified in the populated area which makes for an interesting experience. You can also  sit immediately behind and around the player dugouts, spots usually taken by the younger element of the Darlington crowd who take great delight in banging on the side of the dugout and on the advertising hoardings, much to the annoyance of some supporters and players.

It’s no big deal though, and nothing compared to what the players would have to face in a football context. They’re professionals these days and will know exactly what to expect. Not that that makes it right, of course. However,  it’s just one of those things that they’ll have to be prepared to put up with as and when it happens. And besides, if truth be known, Cov supporters haven’t always been exempt from winding up opposition teams and their supporters.

I’ve always found the DMP supporters there pleasant, knowledgeable and appreciative of good rugby and whilst there are some grounds where you sometimes don’t always feel quite so welcome, for me the Northern Echo Arena definitely isn’t one of them. It’s unique, a total one off as far as grounds at this level are concerned and always a really interesting place to visit.

It’s one of the grounds where you  ‘pays your money and make your choice’ – or rather in this case you make your choice and pays your money. It was never one I was going to miss though, irrespective of how the season panned out…

Despite the size of the stadium and the relative success of the club, attendances have been on the decline there since Darlington’s promotion into National One in 2014 (when they beat Ampthill in added time of extra time in the end of season play off no less):

This season they average  gates of just 875 which is surprising in many respects, given this is the most successful season in the club’s history. The table below shows how attendances in previous seasons in National One have dropped at the NEA, with a very slight increase this season.

Season Av  Attendance   League Position
2014/15    1054                  9th
2015/16    1013                  7th
2016/17     842                   10th
2017/18     875                    2nd

Whilst Coventry has been able to increase its average gate by a whopping 35% this season on the back of a promising end to the previous season and a run of results that has seen us top the league for several months now, Darlington has only enjoyed a mere 3% increase on it’s average attendance this season, this despite a 100% home record and performances good enough to see the club enjoy a sustained run in second place behind Cov and still with the possibility of topping the league by the end of the season.

Darlington’s season high is 1,122. although I imagine that might well be surpassed this weekend as Coventry bring up a few supporters of their own and interest in the fixture is heightened with the game being the top of the table clash and possibly the best chance Darlington have of clawing back some of that points difference, other than perhaps when Cov travel down to Plymouth next month.

The early signs of a bumper gate look promising, with the DMP website advising that:

Ahead of Saturday’s game, all hospitality boxes have been booked. The game promises to be a cracker as the top 2 in the National One table face off as the Noethern Echo Arena. Mowden are unbeaten at home this season, setting up a blockbuster of a game against the league leaders.


The Mowden website, which is pretty comprehensive, although somewhat less easy to navigate than Cov’s, contains the highlights of last week’s away defeat at the hands of Plymouth Albion. Albion must now fancy themselves as having a real chance of finishing  for the second year running, with an outside chance of gaining the top spot if Cov falter, and falter badly at that.

The video is worth a watch, although with the actual match highlights being little more than 3 minutes long it’s not possible to draw any real conclusions about the performance of either side. Pump up the volume and listen to the lyrics that accompany the video – I reckon they are significant (see later).

It remains to be seen just how much that defeat took out of Darlington. It was a game that they really needed to win and on what looked liked a heavy pitch against a side that dominated much of the game by all accounts, well it must have been demanding both physically and psychologically, especially as they were on the back foot for so much of it. This Saturday’s game is pretty much a must win one for Darlington, and whilst it remains a very important game for Cov, with a 4 game buffer the result doesn’t carry quite the same significance for the away team.

I do wonder if that takes a little pressure off Coventry – if we can keep it tight and keep the scores at least close going into the final quarter, DMP will be under huge pressure and at home that isn’t something they’ve been that used to this season having been unbeaten in their previous  11 games. And whilst of course Coventry will be going into the game considering no other result than the win, as a supporter if we did lose then it wouldn’t be the end of the world by any means and a 4-1 defeat would only reduce the gap by 3 points which probably wouldn’t be enough for the teams chasing us.

One particularly promising statistic for Cov  is that whilst DMP have scored a health 382 points at home this season, in the same number of games Coventry have amassed a staggering 447 on their travels, so the omens are good there. On the other hand, DMP have only conceded 191 points at the Northern Echo Arena whilst  Coventry have leaked 215 away from home in the same number of games, although that includes the Blackheath result in which we shipped 61 points in just the one game. That encounter aside and it’s advantage Coventry again.

Cov were planning to travel up to Darlington the day before for the December fixture that was postponed because of the inclement weather and so will presumably leave on the Friday which will means they can avoid the potentially tortuous journey  on the morning of the game – with kick off an hour earlier than normal at 2.00 pm. If that is the case, then at least they should be far better prepared than those most teams visiting the Arena.

The countdown is under way, the week has been ‘humped’ and we’re on the downwards slope to the weekend.

It’s an important Saturday of rugby for both teams, although I do feel more hinges on the result for Darlington than it does Coventry. Cov will have prepared well, I’m sure, and hopefully they’ll be able to field something approaching their strongest match day squad for the game, other than perhaps the forced absence of Andy Brown and Tom Poole (I’m hoping George Oram will be fit). Brown’s injury last Saturday didn’t make a quick return look too lightly. Max Trimble had been ill earlier in the week but he was one of the water carriers on against Cambridge so I’m hoping he’ll be available for selection against DMP.

Just what our strongest starting XV is as far as the coaches are concerned will become clearer when the team is announced on Friday…hooker/centres/the bench are probably the positions where there is most room for discussion

Looking forward to seeing who gets the nod…


Who’s going to win on Saturday?


I’m no prophet or messiah
You should go looking somewhere higher


I’m not quite sure why Darlington chose Rag ‘n’ Bone Man to accompany the video of the highlights of their game against Plymouth Albion, but anyone who has followed the blog for a while knows that I’m always keen to extract some sort of relevance from the lyrics to a particular situation.

‘Human’ is a haunting is song and carries the lines:

Some people got the real problems
Some people out of luck…

…some people think I can solve them
Lord heavens above
I’m only human after all
I’m only human after all
Don’t put the blame on me
Don’t put the blame on me

within it.

And maybe therein lies the clue.

To me, the choice of song was deliberate, suggesting as it does that DMP gave it their all against Plymouth and that no blame should be attached to the team despite the result, They were well-beaten…it wasn’t a question of making mistakes that can be simply ‘solved’, Plymouth were the stronger side and should be given the credit for that  – ‘don’t put the blame on me‘ – so-to-speak.

If Coventry put in one of their better performances this season, then Darlington will have to dig deep to match them and it might not be enough to be  ‘human after all’ against a team that is on current form the best in the league, home and away.

‘Only human’ and mak(ing) mistakes’ is exactly what Cov will be looking for and if they do sense a weakness, then they’re well-equipped to take full advantage.

That’s why they are top of the league.

Of course the reverse holds good, too, which is why Cov must be focused and disciplined for the duration of the 80 minutes. DMP conceded 10 penalties (with most of them in the second half), Plymouth just 3 and as a result Plymouth enjoyed 80% of the possession in the final 40. If Cov are to win, then they must strive to do something similar, otherwise the game will be a lot tougher than it otherwise needs to be.

Up the Cov!


There is only  one song on which to end on…so here it is:

6 replies »

  1. A good post Tim, agree that it’s a bigger game for them than us. If we win, that really will feel like it would be almost impossible to be caught, if they win, then we’re still in the driving seat, and 4 home wins will do it anyway. I’m sure the lads will be giving their all, sadly I’ll have to glue myself to your twitter feed, rather than be there. Good luck to all the team, staff and supporters for a safe journey, a great game, and hopefully a Cov win. Come on Cov!!!!

    • Yep…not the make or break game we were fearing a few weeks ago. Whilst there’s still pressure on Cov to win, it’s nothing like the pressure on DMP. It’s make or break for them…hopefully break….!

  2. I notice one of DMP’s tweets yesterday, saying that their attendances were up 23% on last year but no mention of the figures involved. I’m never really sure about Statbunker’ stats, or Wikipedia for that matter. Wiki has slightly higher average attendances: 918 (17/18 so far) and 885 (16/17). That doesn’t seem like a 23% increase to me. Incidentally, their crowds represent around 4% of the total capacity of the stadium.

    • Fair point Warren, although Statbunker seems to keep up-to-date with the Cov attendances well enough. The Wiki figures suggest under a 4% increase as well…so that 23% does seem odd. I imagine it will be approaching the 1300/1400 mark on Saturday at least if they’ve widely publicised the game…Should be a decent atmosphere in there despite the vast areas of empty seating. having everyone seated together does increase the volume somewhat!

  3. I hope Coventry can find their best performance of the season at DMP. Good luck to the squad and a safe journey to all those travelling up there. Gwan Cov!

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