BACK in the 1990s when I was a teenager, I only got to go to a handful of away games per season. Inevitably, they were the same places. The roads to Rochdale, Scunthorpe and Scarborough were travelled on an annual basis.

When you’re young, the future means very little. If you’d asked me back then where I would be travelling to watch Darlo play in 2019, the answer would almost inevitably be Rochdale, Scunthorpe and Scarborough. The footballing world known by a Darlo fan was a pretty narrow-sighted one. On the fringes was the possibility of a decent cup run culminating in the chance of a big game against top opposition but ultimately it was about following the paths regularly trodden. We were the footballing equivalent of ants.

If travelling to the likes of Spotland and Glanford Park wasn’t glamorous back then, a lot of water has passed under our bridge since. Back in the day, pulling off at junction 20 of the M62 meant turning right, passing under the “Rochdale – birthplace of co-operation” railway bridge and heading for the annual trip to Spotland.

Nowadays, like ants following their trail, we turn left off the motorway instead. Long gone are the days of regularly playing to the north of the Greater Manchester conurbation. We are now much more likely to be found in and around Tameside. Between Curzon Ashton, Mossley, Droylsden, Ashton United, Hyde and Stalybridge, we’ve been down there a fair amount in recent years.

Even FC United is Tameside adjacent. The car pretty much drives itself there. In the Dog and Pheasant just north of Ashton town centre the barman who works on a Saturday afternoon, Bruce, almost considers us to be regulars. The banter between him and us is based on a degree of familiarity that has developed over recent years.

As is usually the case when we turn up to Curzon Ashton’s Tameside Stadium, we begin to think about how amazing it would be if our local authority knocked us a ground up to this sort of standard. I’m sure Curzon’s rather small but (I guess) exclusive support will no doubt be grateful for it. Hopefully they will forgive me for being a little green with envy. Curzon’s pitch, usually right up there as one of the best in the league certainly took a battering from the rain as the afternoon went on.

The football on it was surprisingly entertaining for two teams which have rarely lit up the division this season. The hosts certainly kept us honest with their full backs and wingers doubling up against our wing backs. They were keen to get the ball in to the box as soon as possible and that caused us some problems. That said, over the ninety minutes, I thought we were by far the better team and deserved more than the solitary point that returned with us back over the M62.

With a little bit more quality in front of goal and perhaps a referee willing to more favourably consider a couple of strong penalty shouts, we could sealed a massive win which would have taken some pressure off us.

That said, this was yet another game where you couldn’t fail to come away feeling pretty positive about the performance. A couple of months ago, we would have lost this game after going behind but there seems to be a bit more resilience about our side and they dug in deep to get the least they deserved.

Knowing a bit more than what I did as a teenager, trying to predict whether Darlo will still be travelling to Curzon Ashton in 20 years time is a difficult one to predict. With David Johnston talking about slower, more sustainable development of the club, we might find ourselves knocking around in the National League North for a few more years. I don’t believe that would be as disastrous as some may think. For me, turning left off the M62 is no less enjoyable than it used to be when turning right.