Middlesbrough v Luton Town, Saturday 10th December 2022, 3pm

It seems ages since we’ve been to the Riverside, but it’s just five weeks. In that time though I’ve seen ten games elsewhere including fixtures in Latvia and Qatar, so it’s little wonder that the memories of the draw against Bristol City on the afternoon of Bonfire Night have already faded.

Jen and I drove back from Cumbria on the morning of the game. We’d stayed over the night before after a Boo Hewerdine gig. The trip had also given us the opportunity to do a little bit more of the Hadrian’s Wall National Trail. We did the good bits in the middle of the route ten years ago, but have recently been completing the sections at the western end. There’s not much wall to see, but it’s easy walking and well-signposted, so requires little preparation other than remembering where we left the trail on the previous visit.

On this occasion we had time to walk for six miles from Crosby on Eden to Rickerby Park and back. The temperature rarely got above zero and we saw little wildlife other than geese and robins, but it was great to be out in the fresh air before the daylight faded.

The gig was very good too. Boo was playing in the village hall in Armathwaite which has a capacity of less than one hundred. There was no bar, but everyone was encouraged to bring their own drink and we had a great view from the front row. Jen was a bit worried that he might think we were stalking him as we were front row in a small club in Bradford for one of his gigs last year, but I don’t think he recognized us.

I remember being front row for Mark Lamarr at the Comedy Store in Leicester Square thirty-five years ago. I had my beer resting on the stage and then my feet. Lamarr and I exchanged a few words during the show, culminating in him asking if I thought I could do better than him and then challenging me to step up on to the stage. I accepted his invitation and did an impression of Mr. Whippy having a shit. It got as big a laugh as he had done all night. Thankfully for the people of Armathwaite, the stage was too far away for me to put my feet up and there was no reprise of my brief stand-up career.

Having dropped off Jen, I picked up Harry and Alistair and we made our way to the Riverside. Talk was all about how Carrick was likely to have benefitted from the World Cup break with him having had the chance to get his ideas across the players. We also wondered how Riley McGree would do after the career high of playing in a World Cup against Messi.

Initially it looked as if there had been little benefit to us from the World Cup break as we struggled to assert ourselves against Luton, but we grew more into the game as the first half progressed. McGree looked more confident than usual, so perhaps there was a Qatar dividend. With time running out another Crooksy cameo goal took the three points and moved us into the top half of the table.

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