Brighton, 29th November 2014

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Ground: The Amex Stadium
Competition: 2014/15 Sky Bet Championship
Result: Brighton 1 – 2 Fulham
Pie: BBQ Pulled Pork
Price: £4.2o (probably less)
Comments: Looking at the fixtures at the start of the season it was clear to most that Brighton was the most anticipated away day of the Championship. Maybe it was the prospect of visitng a new ground, maybe it was the fact we might actually win or maybe it was the fact we all like to be beside the seaside. Whatever the reason, the Amex away end was filled to the brim with over three thousand Fulham fans in attendance.

I’d heard rumours of award winning pies from the mouths of unreliable sources like pub drunkards and pirates facing the gallows on a remote Caribbean Island, yet I’d never truly believed them. But then I saw it myself, the rumours were founded in reality.

A guest pie was on offer, a pie that changes with every visit! This was the most innovative idea in football since the backpass rule or that really shit Henry/Pires penalty back heel thing. This week’s offering was, wait for it, BBQ pulled pork. This was the most excited I’d been for a pie since I ate two at Stoke in 09.

The pie’s pastry was sound, nothing spectacular, but once I bit inside the true brilliance become glaringly apparent. Juicy chunks of stringy pulled pork lathered in a succulent, flavorsome mix of sweet potato, onion and a sweet BBQ sauce. As co-reviewer Nick Smith quipped, “it’s a bit like Coq au Vin”. You’re not wrong Nick, you’re not wrong. A trendy, BBQ coq au vin hybrid. Genuinely one of the best pies of my reviewing career.

I expect most people missed out on enjoying their pies as they were probably too busy trying to take gloating Darren Bent’s head off with one. Luckily goodness prevailed and Fulham got the last laugh, cancelling out Bent’s opener with a 2-1 win. A top pie, great win, trip down to Brighton and two fingers to Bent make for a sterling away trip. The day was topped off with a trip to see Morrissey at the 02 in the evening- Heaven Know’s I’m Not Miserable Now.

Rating 9/10

Brentford, 21st November 2014

Brentford 21 Nov, 2014
Ground: Griffin park
Competition: 2014/15 Sky Bet Championship
Result: Brentford 2 – 1 Fulham
Pie: Chicken Balti
Price: £3.00
Comments: Arriving at Brentford by train on dank, winter Friday evening to be faced with a heft police presence and a subsequent police escort signified the birth of a proper derby for Fulham. Being a relatively young Fulham fan I’ve only ever been aware of underwhelming rivalries with Chelsea and QPR. Chelsea have bigger fish to fry with their money laden squad, while QPR only have ten fans which makes playing them rather underwhelming for Fulham’s black and white brigade. Arriving at Griffin Park, after a rather ludicrous police escort, it suddenly became apparent that this was more than just another local away day, this was a proper, angry derby between two sides who hate each other due to geographical coincidence.

When Brentford deservedly landed a late winner it was emphatically celebrated with a mini pitch invasion and two Fulham fans vaulting into the away end fists flying. Fulham fans fighting at the football?!?! Cor Blimey this was the derby we’ve been craving!

Griffin Park may have a pub on each of its corners, but when it comes to puff pastry it’s limited choice. Pukka Fukka strikes again. Pukka’s pies are very repetitive these days, however when it’s as cold as it was last Friday then a toasty slab of Balti filling is a lifeline. I was tempted to ram my fists into two pies in order to thaw the frost out of them. Looking back, the sheer embarrassment of being outplayed by Brentford coupled with a mediocre pie make for a very soul destroying away day.

Rating 5/10

Wigan, 1st November 2014

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Weather – Bloody Cold due DW’s doubling up as a wind tunnel
Ground: The DW Stadium
Competition: 2014/15 Sky Bet Championship
Result: Wigan 3 – 3 Fulham
Pie: Chicken Balti
Price: £3.00 (probably less)
Comments: Here we are back in the heartland of Northern pie making, glorious Wigan! Over the years the pies at the DW Stadium have been an odd mix of upside down stodge, school dinner-esq much and  generic pastry offerings. While the pies may keeping evolving, revolving and devolving, the one constant is Wigan’s wonderful Phoenix Club style bar in the away end. Like a lifeguard leading you out of the sea of misery that is cramped, cold stadium concourses, the Roy Walker lookalike beckons you into the cozy cavern under the away end.

In contrast to the novelty of being afforded a pleasant place to drink before the game, the pies were sadly ruddy bloody Pukka. Same old shit. The balti was fine, not too burnt on top and not soggy or cold either. For somewhere as famous for pies as Wigan you would expect something a little more local or unique beyond the standard Pukka monopoly. To make up for this disappointment Fulham and Wigan decided to play the whole game with no defence whatsoever making for a riveting piece of end to end play. Sendings off, penalties, last minute goals and a Ruiz header created another memorable away trip. This Championship lark is much more of a laugh than that premiership toss.

Rating 5/10

Rotherham, 21st October 2014

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Weather – Cold Wet and Raining (most of the day)

Ground: The New York Stadium
Competition: 2014/15 Sky Bet Championship
Result: Rotherham Utd 3 – 3 Fulham
Pie: Steak and Kidney
Price: £3.00

It’s the evening after the remnants of Hurricane Gonzalez hit Britain – so near perfect football conditions for early winter football. Suprisingly apart from going on a half mile walk to actually find a point at which you can cross the River Don to get to this very impressive but totally inaptly named The New York Stadium – this is actually a very decent new ground that holds 12,000.

Tonight’s pie is standard issue – from Pukka Pies – a steak and kidney offering. I’m impressed that one of the new stadium stands is named The Eric Twigg Pukka Pie West Stand. Thinking I might be at the Holy Grail home of Pukka Pies and that maybe Eric Twigg is the creator of Pukka pies and a Rotherham home lad, I am disappointed to discover Eric Twigg is a mere wholesaler and supplier of Pukka Pies and that they actually come from Leicester. So no trivial for storing for that pub quiz from tonight’s game.

The pie – well you know what you are getting with a Pukka pie. They don’t come wrapped in plastic, they look like pies and they taste like a real pie. But there is always that lingering question why do all their pies always look pale an anaemic – a white pasty look – or with at best a light tan. There’s still flaky – just they don’t look as inviting to the eye. Contents same reliable and slightly spicy/tangy twist. Pastry chewy at the end. Ok but not really memorable and now becoming a bit predicable. Fortunately the Fulham performance with “Prima Donna” Bryan Ruiz rested put in a strong and gutsy performance and despite being behind come away with a hard earned 3-3 thanks to a 90 minute equalizer.

Rating 6.5/10

Middlesbrough, 4th October 2014

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Weather – turning autumnal
Ground – The Riverside, Middlesbrough
Competition: 2014/15 Sky Bet Championship
Result: Middlesbrough 2 – 0 Fulham
Pie: Chicken Balti
Price: £2.80

Due to our roving reporter now being based now north of Watford this is a local match and only a mere 2 hour drive. Easy to find as if you don’t stop at the stadium next big stop is somewhere out in the North Sea. Fulham come into the game on something of a major run (that’s not saying must after the last 2 years of woeful performances and non existent form) – a three match winning streak and Middlesbrough also being in fine form, this could be a decent match. The ritual pie purchase bodes well – it’s a chicken balti pie for £2.80, though it’s a deal for something more with a pint of lager thrown in. No plastic rapper on these pies and nice white paper bag that could almost make you think it was a fine linen napkin. The pie is decent with the right balance of flavour and spice to make it to truly resemble a chicken balti pie. Pastry and cooked nearly to perfection – crisp outside, succulent inside – but tinged with a hint of dryness (though not Sahara Desert dryness like a Hull City pie from several seasons back). I’m soon ready to join the other 16,000 fans occupying the wonderful half empty stadium.

As to the football – awful. These two sides look more suited to League One. Passing the ball freely in your own half isn’t anyone’s idea of attractive attacking football. The match looks more like a training session. Fortunately and predictably Fulham’s defence opens up twice in the second half like Moses passing through the Red Season and it game set and match to Middlesbrough. Maybe a trip to Rotherham in late October will be more embracing.

Okay but nothing spectacular.

 Rating 6/10 –  (Nick Smith)

Derby- 23rd August, 2014

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Ground: iPro Stadium
Competition:  2014/15 Sky Bet Championship
Result: Derby 5-1 Fulham
Pie: Chicken Balti
Price:£3
Comments: The season hasn’t started ideally for me or my beloved, for the time being anyway, Fulham. Whilst Carry On Fulham has run into its second season with Penfold directing a new band of merry mishaps, I’ve been left underwhelmed by a constant stream of tedious Holland’s pies. My joyous dream that pies in the Championship would be uniquely gorgeous to each club has been shattered already, it’s looking increasingly like whether it’s Derby, Ipswich, Rotherham or Brentford I’ll be ill fated to plant my face square down into the mucky bottom of yet another Holland/Pukka Pie. Of course, the light at the end of the tunnel is the away trip to pie Mecca Wigan with their nightclub-esq bar under the away end in the DW.

Pie wise it was a Balti as usual, and it was fine. The Pastry on top was fairly grim but the innards were spicy chunks that tasted far better than the cat sick that it so convincingly resembled. As tends to be the case these days, the pie proved was, despite its unwavering mediocrity,  the highlight of the game as Fulham imploded to their worst performance since a festive drubbing at Hull last season.

After the game, to add salt, vodka and hydrochloric acid into the gushing 5-1 shaped wound, Fulham owner Shahid Kahn openly backed Felix Magath to lead the club to glory this season, this hope surely based on the fact our manager refuses to play anyone in position and will literally sign anyone who has much as looked at football, not even a good one, just one of those erratic, crap petrol station bargain bucket ones.

Before the bright lights of Wigan are the two impending positives for my Fulham supporting, firstly a trip to Reading with the promise of some fancy pancy hospitality, and secondly the deadline day arrival of Matt Smith. Not only does Smith have a bloody good name, but he also went to Manchester University like myself, and he’s big ol’ bastard, what’s not to like!?

Rating: 6/10

Exeter- 9th August, 2014

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Ground: St James Park, Exeter
Competition: League Two 2014/15
Result: Exeter 1-1 Portsmouth
Pie: Steak and Ale & Steak Pasty
Price: £2.50
Comments: Horray! The season has begun! It’s that joyous time of the year when all are hopeful little infantile dreamers living in the impossible belief that this will be our season. For Fulham it really couldn’t get any worse than last year’s 38 game horror show, in fact it’s already been an massive improvement as John Arne Riise, along with his massive arse, wonky left leg and dead crow on his head, have been turfed out of the hallowed pitch at Craven Cottage.

Yet rather than venturing to Ipswich to see Fulham embark on their promotion push I found myself going to see football league giants Exeter City as part of my lads holiday. This is what happens when you fail to book a real holiday, take note kids.

Nevertheless, this was an excellent opportunity to sample a new pie from a new ground I’m unlikely to ever visit again, unless Fulham go completely tits up and do a Portsmouth. With Baltis off the menu as some fat bastard had gobbled five up for himself, it was back to good ol’ steak and ale. Adopting the usually less enjoyable rectangular shape the pressure mounted early on the pie’s crunchy topping, luckily once inside the pie provided a moist, juicy filling probably, but by no means certainly, beef. On the downside the pie had probably been a bit frazzled in the oven heater, meaning the pastry itself erred on the dry side, when will clubs learn?

While by no means a vintage pie it was a considerable improvement on the brick disguised as a pasty that my poor friend Sam suffered. Drier than Thomas Gravesen’s cranium, this pasty, from near the Cornish mecca, was one to be avoided at all costs.

So a new pie to start the season, solid without ever threatening to dazzle. At least that’s better than Fulham- different league, different team, same shit result. Derby next on the pie agenda.

Rating: 7/10 (Steak & Ale)
2/10 (Pasty)