Frankie Goes to... Exeter City with Hartlepool United (but almost doesn’t make it back)

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Exeter City and Torquay United are for me Devon’s answer to Hartlepool United and Darlington FC.

Exeter being the better relations just as we are up here in the North East.

I can say that quite safely, after all we have been to Torquay already this season and my comments will long be forgotten by the time we go back again.

After the way my club has been playing just now, I feel that I could put aside the horrid 343 mile journey for the drive down, and if we win or draw the game the fast passing 343 miles back home again afterwards.

So there I was, 7.45am pulling up outside the house of my new reporter buddy Richard.

Richard is a Poolie too so he’s ok in my eyes, anyway, I digress... filling up at Wolviston with fuel and lots of breakfast stuff (well it was a long trek) we set off down south.

Richard has never been to Exeter before so I excite him with my expert guide to the very best coffee houses around the fantastic Exeter Cathedral.

If we have some time when we get down there, I enthuse that we can take the mile or so walk from the ground into the city to chill for a bit and grab a light lunch in one of those smashing coffee houses.

It was at that point that Richard made a revelation to me by sheepishly saying that he doesn’t drink coffee. What?! A writer who doesn’t drink coffee? At that point I should have got the feeling that it was going to be one of those trips.

The company pool car had just been serviced and you could tell it as well. You know that quick reaction you get when you put your foot down in the outside lane of the M1, just after you join from the M18 as you glide past the National Express bus that is playing tig with a pair of Eddie Stobart 16 wheeler’s... great isn’t it eh?

I have to say the M1, A42, M42 and M5 is an easy drive down to Devon as long as you have a stop or two.

Arriving in Exeter with over two hours to kick off, me and my new best mate (well for Pools games anyway!) take a walk into the city.

For those of you who have never been to Exeter or for whom it has been a wee while since your last visit, the city centre is a good mix of old historic buildings with new modern glass fronted and open plan shopping areas. Oh, and did I mention it’s got plenty of rather nice coffee houses?

After grabbing a Cornish pasty for lunch (and a take out coffee of course) we made our way to the ground stopping to take a few snaps of the Cathedral.

Exeter City’s ground has a very old, small, wooden stand down one side that holds the dressing rooms and has about six single floodlights running along its roof. You know the type, they look as if they came from the chairmans old Ford Cortina.

Mind you they do have a rather nice modern stand running along the other side with what can only be described as a very high, covered terrace behind one goal for the rather lucky home fans.

I do mean rather lucky because if you are a travelling supporter you have to stand out in the open behind the goal and pray that (as happened at York) it does not rain, although you can if you want to sit in the far corner of the old wooden stand.

As for the game, well it had to be a win for Pools after the week that we’ve been through with two away wins in the previous two games before the long trip down to Devon. All 144 Pools fans were in fine voice and returning back up North with three points and a great performance was no less than we deserved.

So after our work was done and I sent my images back to the office with Richard doing his copy for the Hartlepool Mail website we head back to the car park for the rather long but happy drive home.

You know when things are going so good that you kind of get the feeling that something is about to go massively wrong? Yeah you know the feeling, when you get home from work and no ones home so you start to enjoy that relaxing long red hot shower that you’ve been promising yourself all day. Then suddenly, without warning, the damn water is like ice running down your back. You jump, you shout, you slip on the soap as you try to get out of the shower and bang your elbow on the controls only to find that the Mrs had come in and put the washing machine on?

Well that was me when close to Strensham services on the M5 I saw the oil light flashing on the dashboard. Surely not. I try to tell Richard how it was only serviced yesterday but he’s far too absorbed in his match report to worry about a little thing like this and starts asking me who my man of the match was, as if I’m meant to see the game through my massive lens.

I manage to get us the two miles into the service area, pull over and run like Mo Farah to grab a litre of engine oil.

I top the car up and the oil light on the dash stays on at first then goes out just as it should. Then, as if I had just dropped the baton on the final lap of the 100m Olympic relay final, the light came back on again.

I move the car back a couple of metres and see that there’s enough oil to fill up two car engines not just mine. The only thing left to do was call the breakdown people. Yes, they can come and rescue us! Only problem is it would be two hours before they could actually get to us.

Now Richard being new to this sports reporting lark since he is from news, he comes up with the idea that while we wait for our knight in shining armour (well an AA man in orange overalls) that we should take over a corner of the service station and set it up as our make shift office.

I have to say we did give the locals something to talk about with our heads down working away late at night, him typing up his match report and me going through my pics to dig out the three goals for Monday’s Sports Mail. In the end it turned out that the oil pressure switch had split so we had a two hour wait for a 10 minute repair before getting back on the road again.

A home game next week followed by Scunthorpe away, let’s hope for a similar result – but hopefully not another journey to replicate this one!