England Women v Canada Women, Thursday 17th February 2022, 7.45pm

I probably wouldn’t have bothered watching a non-Boro game at the Riverside as it’s a stadium that has been well and truly ticked off my list of grounds. However, Harry had heard the game being promoted and asked if we could go. That’s a good enough reason and so I got us a couple of tickets online at the concessionary price of a fiver each.

Harry qualified for the cheap rate by being a kid and I took advantage of having a student card. I rarely use it, mainly because I don’t want people to think that I’ve been kept back at school for the last forty years but also because at places like Northern League clubs they need the couple of quid saved more than I do. I doubted I’d have to prove my student status on the basis that I probably look like an OAP anyway.

The walk to the ground was quieter than normal and so it looked as if ticket sales hadn’t gone well. We were almost outnumbered by the scarf sellers who, judging from their accents, had come from all parts of the country. It took me back to the days of Rav and Juninho when we probably kept half of China in work producing flags, scarves and giant out-of-focus posters. Harry got one of those half and half matchday scarves. I presume whatever gets unsold go straight to landfill.

We were handed some sunglasses that advertised the competition sponsor Arnold Clark. Harry put them on despite it already being dark. Maybe we should have kept them handy for watching Boro games from the East Stand. When the sun is just over the top of the West Stand you have to watch with your hand across your forehead.

Our seats were in the lower section of the South Stand. There were a lot more women and kids at the game than you’d usually see at the Riverside, probably due to the pricing policy. Some of the kids were sporting their newly acquired half-term haircuts with shaved sections timed to grow out sufficiently before the return to school. Seeing toddler heads with shaved sides and a permed top never fails to make me smile.

The evening went well with both sides playing a decent passing game. A crowd of over eight thousand got behind England, albeit in a higher-pitched tone than you’d get at most games. England were the better side in the first half and went in a goal up, but Canada edged it after the break and got a deserved equalizer to secure the draw.

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