Semi for Citeh

Middlesbrough hadn’t been in a FA Cup semi-final since 1997, when they required a replay to beat third-tier side Chesterfield after a thrilling 3-3 draw at Old Trafford. So the Riverside was pumped up for the visit of Man City, and with the new rule brought in for this stage of the competition meaning that there would be no replay, Boro fans sensed victory.

However, the buzz prior to kick off in the town centre and in the pubs quickly evaporated, as David Silva sliced the ball beyond Brad Guzan after just three minutes.

In fact Guzan produced a number of fine saves to deny Silva, Leroy Sane and deflect an Aguero shot on to the post, as City dominated play.

After the break, Boro had a few moments that panicked the City back four, but the result was put beyond doubt when in-form Argie Sergio Aguero converted from Sane’s low cross to earn his side a Wembley semi-final.

For me, getting a ticket once again came by virtue of a supporter’s kindness. Paul Brockett, a Boro fan and goundhopper who was registered with Boro to get tickets, answered my appeal on Twitter. He got me a ticket for the game and I paid him via bank transfer. Unfortunately, due to Paul’s love of ground hopping, he’d made a mammoth trip down to Somerset, so I never got to meet him in person. But massive thanks to him for his help.

I suspect I shall need the same kind of social media assistance if I’m to bag a semi-final ticket. I came close to winning one when one of my videos of Boro fans drumming prior to this game got nominated for ‘Best Tweet’ in the official FA Cup Twitter account’s #CupStory poll. I lost out in a 4% swing. Gutted. So if any Man City or Arsenal fans are reading this, please get in touch. I’m true to my word and always stick to my promise of paying. A Viles always pays his debts.

Snow Upset at City

In the end, the result was perhaps something of a formality. For me personally, my trip to Manchester was anything but a formality as I suffered a slight accident on my return. More of that later.

On the pitch, Huddersfield, who had more than matched their illustrious opponents in the original tie, were once again fielding a weakened side, with their aspirations of joining the likes of City in the Premier League at the forefront of coach David Wagner’s priority list.

So it came as a huge surprise when, after just 7 minutes, Town’s Harry Bunn shot through Claudio Bravo’s legs to open the scoring. Huddersfield’s army of fans – roughly 5,000 of them – were ecstatic but that goal only served as a wake up call for City.

Tap-ins from Leroy Sane and Pablo Zabaleta, with Sergio Aguero’s clinical penalty in between, turned the replay in City’s favour before half-time.

After the break the game fizzled out as both sides preserved energy. After Sergio Aguero had added his second and City’s 4th with a neat finish from a Raheem Sterling cross in the 73rd minute, many fans started to head home, myself included. This meant I missed substitute Kelechi Iheanacho’s goal, which was essentially the last kick of the game. As that went in I was already awaiting my tram back to Ashton.

So City cruised through after an initial shock. And talking of shock’s, mine was yet to come.

Back in the car, I set my sat nav instead of following my natural instinct to use the M60 towards Stockport and join the A6. This decision proved costly. As I drove away from the park and ride at Ashton, it was raining. It continued to rain until I reached the south end of Glossop, through Charlestown, where the A624 begins its climb up Chunal Hill.

In daylight, this is a pleasant drive, as the views across the Peak surround you. And I could cope with rain, but as I made my ascent I noticed the rain was beginning to turn to sleet. Then the sleet became snow. Then the snow became big bloody flakes and suddenly – almost an in instant – the landscape was white over and the road – still an incline – was becoming more and more treacherous.

There were two cars in front of me, so naturally I kept my distance, but at the same time I was aware to the fact that if I stopped I’d probably struggle to get up the hill such was the slippery conditions.

As the road began to level out, a car behind me overtook all three vehicles. This car was a police 4×4, but the driver had neglected to switch on his blues and twos so to me, and I assume to the other drivers too, he looked like a lunatic. As the cop pulled in front of the leading car in our three-car convoy, that car braked, making the car in front of me brake and making me brake. Sadly for me, I began to skid. And I just kept on skidding, gathering speed and momentum for a good few yards. I had two options: skid into the back of the car in front, which I knew had four people in it, or go into the verge. I chose the verge and hit something – the kerb, a rock, a log, who knows? – with a massive thud.

Shaken, I continued, but at this point I hadn’t surveyed the damage. I rolled down to a slight dip in the road and – to my delight – I saw a pub. So I pulled in safely to assess the damage, and as you can see from the images below, the wheel was buckled. God knows what I hit but it was hard. I could have changed it there and then, but with the snow still cascading down, and with me still shaking, I decided to see if the pub – The Lantern Pike in Little Hayfield – had any rooms. Thankfully they did, and in fact, as the staff returned from a celebratory night out, they too had to spend the night in the Inn, as the road had now become completely impassable.

In the morning, after an excellent fry up by the way, I changed the wheel, checked the brakes and made my way back home as most of the snow had disappeared.

I’d never seen snow envelop a road as it did that night. It was scary stuff.

I’d like to thank all the staff at The Lantern Pike for their hospitality, and for providing me with not only a bed for the night, but a stiff drink on arrival too! I needed that!

Bloody snow!

My buckled wheel

The Lantern Pike. Never have I been so glad to see an inn!

The damage in daylight.