How England fans in Preston watched the World Cup drama unfold

It gets tense at the Golden Ball in Longton
It gets tense at the Golden Ball in Longton
0
Have your say

England fans are still daring to believe . . . even though Gareth Southgate's penalty nemesis almost came back to haunt him.

For more than 90 minutes the pubs and living rooms were buzzing as Harry Kane and Co looked to be on their way to the quarter-finals and, in the favoured half of the draw, who knows where after that?

It gets tense at the Golden Ball in Longton

It gets tense at the Golden Ball in Longton

But even though the same old frailties looked to have legged them up before the winning post, it wasn't just this young group of buccaneers who stayed strong until the end.

For once the fans, so punch drunk from World Cup knockouts and penalty shoot outs of old, kept with them right to the wire.

"We're going to go all the way," said Dave Farish, who watched the nail-biter at the Black Bull in Longton. "We made it extremely tough for ourselves - as usual - but for once we did it."

His pal Paul Carney added: "Normally we would have gone out after that. It was hard work and then it was the dreaded penalty shoot-out, for goodness sake. But we got there in the end. And I'm still confident."

Considering England had not won a single World Cup knockout game since 2006, the supporters who gathered in the alehouses of Lancashire were surprisingly upbeat going into the game with Colombia.

A fresh new squad, and with it a brand new belief, seemed to put fans in an unusually positive frame of mind for this last-16 game.

Even though the match remained tight and goalless for almost an hour, the mood in the scores of pubs who laid on special events to mark the occasion remained upbeat throughout.

Down the road from the Black Bull, the Golden Ball had set up the "Longton Fanzone" in its front beer garden - complete with free bacon butties at half-time. And captain Kane's opening goal from the spot was greeted with wild scenes.

"He never misses, he's a machine," said Mick Hodgkinson.

Back at the Bull supporters, many in England shirts, gathered round three separate screens to urge their team on.

Yet just when it seemed Southgate's side were easing through, the mood darkened after some slack defending handed Colombia a lifeline in the third minute of stoppage time.

Half and hour of extra-time brought the inevitable claims of "same old, same old." And when the penalty shoot-out got underway there were the knowing nods as Jordan Henderson saw his spot kick, England's third, saved.

But when Colombia slammed their fourth against the bar and Jordan Pickford - one of us for a while during his loan spell at PNE - became the hero by saving the fifth, the lid came off.

"That's the most difficult game we will have before the final," said Aaron Carney at the Black Bull. "I said before the game that I think this England side will win the World Cup and I still think that, even though we made it hard for ourselves tonight."

Peter Eckersley said: "The thing is we won't get roughed up like that from now on in. We've got through the toughest between now and the final."

And Graham Barton added: "I still fancy us go all the way as long as we don't get any injuries to key players like Harry Kane. Colombia was the hardest game we will play until we get to the final - and who says we can't get there?"