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Page last updated at 10:13 GMT, Monday, 5 January 2009
The football fans hoping for a cup upset

By Tamasin Ford
Newsbeat reporter

One of the great things about The FA Cup is that tiny teams are pitted against Premier League giants. On Saturday it was the turn of Barrow AFC to take on the might of Premiership side Middlesbrough, and Newsbeat spent the day with the plucky Cumbrian fans at the Riverside Stadium.

Barrow AFC fans
Barrow AFC have just been promoted to the Conference National league

It's nine o'clock in the morning and Newsbeat is the last one to make it to the bus.

Fifty excited Barrow fans are already eagerly waiting to leave.

As we drive through the Cumbrian town the streets are packed with supporters, dressed in the team's blue and white colours, waiting for other buses and cars to take them to Middlesbrough.

Seven thousand Barrow fans are making the trip, breaking the record for the highest number of away fans ever to go to the Riverside Stadium.

It's been more than 15 years since fans like Darren Boyle have seen their team play such a big game.

"People are comparing this match to Wembley. I was ten years old when we played there in 1990," he tells Newsbeat.

That was the year they won non-league football's biggest competition, the FA Trophy, beating Leek Town 3-0 in the final.
Everyone just went berserk and was on top of each other
Kieran Robson on the reaction to Barrow's goal

Darren's been a Barrow fan since he was a kid. "We always stick together and go every week whenever we can," he says.

"The journey's just as important as the game - that's why we set up this supporters' bus."

Kieran Robson is from the Barrow FC Independent Supporters' Club. He started the group up last April over a pint with his mate in the pub and is in charge of the away trips.

"This is what we've wanted for years," he explains, "to see our team at a Premier League stadium. It's unbelievable really."

Disaster on the road

Nine-year-old Heather Porter is making the trip here with her mum, dad and younger sister Emily - it's the first time either of the girls have been to a Premier League stadium.

"I just feel absolutely amazed," she says, "because Barrow is such a little team against such a massive team, so I just feel... wow!"

We've been on the bus for under an hour, but the songs have already started and people are happily munching on their picnics.
Barrow's Jason Walker
Barrow's Jason Walker celebrates after scoring on Saturday

Then it all takes a turn for the worse. The bus slows down and comes to a halt in the lay-by.

The driver, Matty, says he's not sure what's wrong but, after a little investigation, it becomes clear that the gears aren't working properly and it's not safe to carry on.

This is not what the fans wanted on such an important day. One by one, they start to get worried and around 20 of them decide to get off and thumb lifts rather than wait for the replacement coach.

Every single one of them manages to find a ride, leaving 34 of us in the broken-down coach with the promise another one will be here within the hour. It means the stop-off in the pub on the way is cancelled.

The bus does arrive, however, and we're soon on our way again.

Darren's not worried now, telling Newsbeat: "I'm feeling confident but I'll be happy when I can get a pint in me. We'll out-sing Middlesbrough no problem at all, don't worry about that."

As we get closer to the stadium we get escorted, along with more than 20 other buses, by a police convoy. They're checking all of the coaches for alcohol. Anything they find will be confiscated.

Underdog courage

Darren's words rang true once we were inside the stadium. Barrow's 7,000 fans were by far the loudest, out-singing more than 18,000 Middlesbrough supporters.

They sang when their team got the ball, they sang even louder when they got their goal and they were still singing when the whistle blew at the end of the match - signalling their exit from The FA Cup.

Barrow produced everything you'd expect from an underdog, true courage and determination.
Barrow fans Heather and Emily Porter
Barrow fans Heather and Emily Porter at Middlesbrough's stadium

At the end of the day, though, they were outmatched by a team 95 places above them in the League table.

In the last 10 minutes, it looked like they could have made it 2-2, forcing Middlesbrough to a replay, but Barrow walked away with a very respectable 2-1 defeat.

"I'm sad and happy, because it was such a really good game." says Heather. "I'm just amazed that I could come, so well done Barrow and well done Middlesbrough."

The fans from the Supporters' Club were just happy they scored a goal past the Premier League side.

"I don't really remember much about our goal, I was all over the place," says Kieran. "Everyone just went berserk and was on top of each other."

"It was an amazing feeling seeing my team walk out at the Riverside," Stuart Nichols, the secretary of the club, explains. "It was even better when we scored the goal as we never score away from home. I just went mental.

"At the end of the day I'm just proud of them all," he adds.

Darren's now looking forward to the trip home and a night out to celebrate.

"We didn't think we'd get past Brentford to be honest," he says, "but then to play like that against a Premiership side...

"We were outclassed in the first hour but then in the last half hour we really gave them a run for their money."

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