Sunday, October 16, 2016

Cradley Town 3-0 Dudley Sports

We're both traipsing out of Lancaster City's wonderful Giant Axe Stadium with heads bowed and shaking with rage. The afternoon and wonderful experience has been marred and tarnished by a blatant racist remark by some neanderthal on the terrace.'The bloke behind me' has shouted to a young black player, who is dragging his heels after being substituted, "hurry up, you've got a boat to catch."

Three pints of real ale at the Borough, in Lancaster city centre, with its leather sofas, chandeliers and antique tables, fail to lift my spirits. It's the night's talking point. I fire a tweet off to the Club asking for email contact details. They say they'll look into it. The player's Dad tweets me - he is distraught. I'm hoping Lancaster City act fast, so I don't have to take it further with the Lancashire FA.

It's Sunday afternoon and I'm slumped in a chair in the back room of the King Billy, which is nestled in between high-rise flats in inner city Sneinton. I sink two pints of Snake Eyes from the Black Iris Brewery, situated in Shipstone Street, Nottingham.

A visitor invades my Twitter timeline. The clown is from the 'Groundhopping Gestapo' - to be honest he's reminiscent of Corporal Jones from Dad's Army - I block the blithering idiot after clocking a tweet he sent to his flock, flaming me.

The Taxman is a late withdrawal from the East Midlands Counties League fixture between West Bridgford and Dunkirk. White Van Man rocks up, before kick off, on a chilly evening, sporting a pair of shorts - I'm wearing a thermal vest. We're treated to a 4-4 thriller, with the game being played at a furious pace but in a wonderful spirit.

I catch a good football question thrown out there by Perry Groves on talkSPORT. Who is the first player from the USA to score 50 goals in the Premiership ?

I pop into Keyworth Cricket Club's HQ at Platt Lane on Friday evening for the Junior Presentation Evening. It's great to bump into folk who I've not seen in a while. I help out a bit with the Under 10s and Kwik Cricket teams - to be honest it's banter and encouragement, I can't coach for toffee. I did spend over 20 years playing for this great Club - and have taken away so many memories, with long-winded stories to tell.

I'm sulking on Saturday morning after taking a good gubbing at Pointless from Ms Moon last night. I'm down the tip for 8:00am on the dot, where a very friendly chap helps me unload the rubbish from the 'Rolls Royce.' I drop into Morrisons to pick up some bits and bobs for supper - Brian Matthew is playing 96 Tears by American psychedelic rock band the Mysterians - it's head and shoulders above The Stranglers cover version.

Ms Moon has shot over to Colwick to pick up her Mum. Auntie Val is off to Cornwall on her holibobs with her son and daughters. The meeting point is the Windsor Castle in Lye, near to Stourbridge. Poor old Sticky is relegated to the back seat of the on-loan Merc, as the 'Queen' waves on the throne with her walking stick in the front seat. Graham Norton plays the excellent Tom O'Dell's (born in Chichester, Sussex) new single - 'Here I Am.'

We stick the car in Lye Town's ground - it's a corker if you haven't been. No disrespect is intended to the local residents, but you wouldn't expect to unearth a jewel in the crown like the Windsor Castle around here.

We've booked a table for five. Sticky is already necking a pint of 'Mellow Yellow' when the rest of the 'Moon clan' tip up. Ten real ales are on show from the Sadlers Brewery. We're shoe-horned into a snug corner table. I shout up a 'Double Decker Windsor Club' sandwich that even Scooby Doo would struggle to polish off. We wave off Auntie Val and Ms Moon's sisters.

Cradley Town's ground on Beeches View Avenue is only a couple of miles away. Cradley is a village in the Black Country and Metropolitan Borough of Dudley, with a population of just under 13,000. It was once the centre for iron-making, with nearby Cradley Heath once producing the anchor chain for the ocean liner, RMS Titanic.

Former D***y County footballer, Steve Bloomer, was born in Cradley. He was named in the Football League Top 100 Legends, after scoring 317 goals in 536 appearances in the old Division One (now Premier League) - second only to Jimmy Greaves. There is a bust erected of him at the i-Pro Stadium. He also scored in his first 10 appearances for England - a record held to this day.

Cradley Town FC were founded in 1948 and are nicknamed the Hammers. Players to have made it into the Football League include: 'the 'Flying Postman' John Williams ( remember him beating Notts County's Kevin Bartlett in a sprint-off at Wembley at the 1992 League Cup Final to win £10,000). Larger than life goalkeeper Alan Nicholls played for Cradley having been released by Wolves. He made 65 appearances for Plymouth Argyle before tragically losing his life in a motorcycle accident at the age of 22 years old.

I fish out of my pocket the tried and trusted ten year old dictaphone. The 'Hold' button has fallen off. It's a gonna. I have to Google how to use the Voice Memo on my i-Phone - that's how thick I am, folks.

The ground is situated in the middle of a housing estate. Ms Moon shoots off to fill up with diesel, as I trek up the gravelled path towards the ground. The incline is steep, when I finally reach the summit I'm very kindly pointed towards the turnstile by a friendly secretary.

Gasping for air, I pay £5 on the gate and another quid for a really good programme. I love the article about the first 'Footballing Playboy' - Leigh Richmond Rouse, who was killed in the Battle of the Somme in 1916 - check him out, a great story.

Blimey Charlie, the ground is a belter, probably the best of the season with its Club Shop, Snack Bar, and the red and black painted corrugated iron stands. The views out to the Worcestershire hills are breathtaking.

The sun's out and so are the teams. Ms Moon is fuelled up. We stand opposite the dugouts on this three-sided ground. Cradley are full of confidence after two wins on the bounce, they play like a team, encouraging one another. They score an early goal and increase their lead with a smart finish from their best player the No.10 jacket.

A lady makes her way around the ground selling raffle tickets. I'm in a good place having seen a few goals and touched the match-ball. We splash out on two strips - bearing in mind I've had two wins in ten years, I pray to God it's not a bottle of Pinot Grigio or Lambrusco.  I enquire what the prize is, and I'm delighted to hear it's a box of Family Circle.

It's 2-0 at the break, but all I can think about is that box of Family Circle - I'm having a sugar rush despite the 'Scooby Snack.' Ms Moon has wandered off up to the Tea Bar to grab a couple of hot drinks. I've clocked a bloke wandering around the ground with a pint glass full of raffle tickets. I've a feeling it's going to be our day. I ask for the numbers, my ticket is a strip out - it's a formality, Ms Moon has the winning ticket.

I phone the good lady up who is queuing at the counter. There's no reply, she's teasing me. Ms Moon arrives back with two piping hot drinks, minus the tin of biscuits. It's been won by some lucky bugger, who bought the strip before us and who is now parading the biccies to all and sundry. Bloody hell, I can't even dunk one into my tea.

Cradley bag another as the game peters out. The officials have done well despite the 23 year old ref getting earache off a whinging Dudley Sports manager as the teams walk off at the break. The father and son (only 16 years old) assistant refs have done well too.

Attendance: 50 odd

Man of the Match: Scooby Snack

Quiz Answer: Clint Dempsey

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Lancaster City 1-1 Droylsden FC

What a wonderful day out we have had at Harworth Colliery. Honest, lovely, kind genuine people we met up there. We drop in for a quick drinky poo at the World's End, a Marston pub in the village of Lowdham, before settling in for the night.

Sunday morning's sky is blue-painted and sun-kissed. We stroll down the banks of the River Trent, past The City Ground, before taking a left turn down the Radcliffe Road, with Trent Bridge cricket ground to our right. We soak up the rays on wooden benches outside the Larwood and Voce Pub and Kitchen - a 'Best Sunday Roast in the UK' winner in 2015. Lunch lives up to expectations - we'll give them a good write-up on Trip Advisor, despite an unsupervised 4-year-old Darcy (obviously from West Bridgford) tearing around the restaurant, with her Liberal-voting Mum oblivious to it all.

We tune into BBC2's 'Savile' on Sunday evening. British documentary filmmaker Louis Theroux is on some sort of guilt trip as he retraces his steps of a fly-on-the-wall docu with serial sex offender Jimmy Savile in 2002. The witness interviews are harrowing and haunting - Ms Moon is in floods of tears.

There's not much doing during the week. I spend the night on Monday at a Premier Inn adjacent to Stansted Airport. The following day I race around Suffolk and Cambridgeshire visiting clients. I'm dog tired on my return to HQ and unable to crank myself up for my midweek football fix.

I noticed the Nottingham Post tag me in on some photos they've published on their Twitter account about the county's craziest pets. One is of Murphy Palmer the budgie, who was listening to the final day's play in an exciting finish to cricket's County Championship.

I begin the weekend by sinking a couple of pints of Oompah from the Greene King Brewery in the Starting Gate in Colwick, as Ms Moon nurses a pint of Strongbow cider. We see the night out with the usual, intense battle of BBC's Pointless game show. I scroll down my Twitter timeline before bedtime and notice that little old Dunkirk FC have dumped Lincoln City out of the FA Youth Cup at Sincil Bank 5-4. That's embarrassing for the Imps.

We're up and at 'em early doors on Saturday morning. I wash a few pots up and iron a few shirts with Murphy perched on my shoulder whistling Reflections by Diana Ross and the Supremes - I daren't tell my little lad he's woefully out of tune, as he might stick the beak in.

We're returning to Lancaster, the reviews of the Giant Axe Stadium have sucked us in. The Sun Hotel and Inn on Church Street in the town is a hidden northern gem, with ten real ales on offer. There's a stroke of luck as Ms Moon pulls into the Charnock Richard services off the M6 - Graham Norton is playing the intro to Robbie Williams new single 'Party Like a Russian' - it's limped into the midweek chart at No.53 - help is available to you all who have downloaded it.

Lancaster is gridlocked with traffic, Ms Moon somehow chances upon a spot in the St Nicholas Arcades car park. We wander around the town admiring the Georgian architecture. I'm drooling over a greasy £1.30 sausage roll at a local bakery as Ms Moon tries to bag a jumper in Next. We're reunited outside the changing room as Next FM plays 'My Star' by Ian Brown - what a cool track. 'Mooney' tries on more outfits than Naomi Campbell. I would have bought a copy of the Big Issue off a lady selling them in the street, but it had a photo of Craig David on the front cover.

We sling Ms Moon's courtesy car ( no sign of the injured Audi) into B&Q, before wandering over the road, crossing a bridge and entering the Water Witch a canalside Good Pub Guide entry. The place is bustling with folk, with a 45 minute wait for food - we'll grab a pie at the ground later. I have the pint of the season - 'Off the Wall' from the York Brewery - I daren't have two or I might be giving the assistant referee some grief for a dodgy offside decision.

Lancaster is the city and county town of Lancashire with a population of just under 50,000. It's situated on the River Lune and has a strong real ale scene which we'll discover this evening. Former Blackburn Rovers and Southampton striker James Beattie was born in the town. So was singer John Waite who had a worldwide hit 'Missing You' in the 80s.

It's £8 a piece on the gate and £2 for an information-packed programme. Great question: First 'keeper from outside the UK to play over 500 games in the Premiership ? The ground is to die for. I've seen so many photos from respected photographers Onion Bag and David Bauckham. There are two bars on either side of the ground serving real ale. We drop into Dolly's Diner for pie 'n peas and snap up a couple of raffle tickets for the £40 draw. The music from the PA is random, ranging from Emeli Sande to Mott the Hoople. Sticky Palms is reduced to tears when a Little Mix single is played - poor old Murphy is missing out on this potential Mercury award-winning toon.

Droylsden are experiencing a miserable run without wins, Lancaster, on the other hand, are 'on the up' but without their big cheese Jordan Connerton, who has 'a slight knock.' The Bloods from Manchester look menacing before the hosts take the lead on the counterattack with Jacob Gregory keeping his cool having hoodwinked the full back to put Lancaster 1-0 up on five minutes.

There's always an undercurrent to the game, which finally boils over when Droylsden's Ryan Winder is shown a straight 'Red' after an off-the-ball incident. Droylsden rally with 10 men and continue to look the better team, playing out from the back with the excellent Dominic Rouse - Lancaster prefer to get the ball forward early.

The visitors bitch and moan to one another. The ball isn't sticking up top. Their number 10 whinges and complains - he couldn't trap a beach ball in a telephone box. Droylsden are a constant threat from corners, so it's no surprise that their equaliser comes from the head of giant defender Josh Heaton. I get chatting to a former director of Lancaster at the break who tells me they were a tad unfortunate to bow out of the FA Cup to Conference North team Kidderminster Harriers last week.

The second half is a turgid affair, with neither 'keeper troubled. Droylsden are seeing out the game, happy to replay this FA Trophy tie, with £2,600 going to the winners. The Bloods make their final substitution at the fag end of the game. Their No.7, a black lad, is dragging his heels as he traipses off the pitch. A voice behind shouts out: "Hurry up, you've got a boat to catch." I repeat the words over and over again. The sense of rage that rises within is hard to control. I have dealt with this scenario twice at Sincil Bank, once in the most intimidating of circumstances. Ms Moon is visibly distressed.

We exit the ground in silence. Four blokes are stood behind us, one is smirking, but we have no proof. It takes all the enjoyment away from a beautiful experience and fantastic Club.

NB: I contact Lancaster City FC to complain, they ask for a 'brief description' of the details. I await their response.

Attendance: 233

Man of the Match: Dominic Rouse

Quiz Answer: Mark Schwarzer

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Harworth Colliery 6-0 Dinnington Town

It's Wednesday evening and I've just mopped up a tray full of kebab meat and chips in the car park at Keyworth United's Platt Lane ground. 'The Keyworth Georgie Best' (my lad) is sat on the substitutes bench. After a good start by the Greens, they start to get sloppy. Southwell City tighten their grip on the game and bully Keyworth in the middle of the park. Heads begin to drop as they go 2-0 down. The game is crying out for some creativity, but poor old Sticky Junior remains on the bench as an unused sub. Southwell drive home the final nail in the Green Army coffin with a beautifully executed give and go third goal. I drop Junior a text to tell him to keep his head up.

I check the scores on my phone as I walk back to the car. Norwich are beating Newcastle Utd 3-2 up at St James' Park. They've just got to play-out a few more minutes injury time. Canaries supporter, Murphy Palmer the budgie, will be doing the Michael Jackson moonwalk on one of the bars in his cage. He'll be lining up the Jaegerbombs on his table. I arrive home to a lounge plunged in darkness, with a towel draped over his cage. I check my phone, those nasty thieving Magpies have scored in the 95th & 96th minute to pinch a win. Murph will be nasty in the morning.

We arrived back from Whitby the other weekend to be met by a police helicopter circling above the house with its search lights on full beam. The place was mobbed out with Rozzers. There was an attempted murder in the woods behind the house. Four people were later charged.

The following morning I was awakened by a man crying and wailing. He was shouting out the name of his four year old daughter who had been missing for five minutes. By chance I see her walking through the front door of a neighbour's house. I reunite Mum and Dad with their little 'un, it's a magical moment, my heart is racing ten to the dozen.

It's Sunday afternoon and I'm sat in the beer garden of the Bulls Head in the affluent village of Woodhouse Eaves, near Loughborough. I'm with former Notts County and Chesterfield goalkeeper Mick Leonard. We drive through a security barrier at Welbeck Defence Sixth Form College. In the distance four football matches are taking place. Mick and I worked together at the Notts County FC Academy. We've come to see how the lads are getting on. It's great to meet all the parents and kids again. We've not worked at the Club for two years now, but have left a legacy. I won't step into Meadow Lane again until the owners have upped sticks.

Monday morning is eventful too. Ms Moon is sobbing down the phone at 8am. Some idiot has driven into the back of the Audi at a roundabout near Donington Park Services. That bloody car is jinxed, its spent more time in the garage than Kevin Webster and Tyrone Dobbs.

The news this week has been dominated by Big Sam's sacking as England manager. What's even sadder is that Dudley-born Allardyce has pulled out of the unveiling of a blue plaque in honour of 'Busby Babe' Duncan Edwards who grew up in the Dudley area and tragically died in the Munich Air Disaster in 1958 at the age of 21 years old. Sir Bobby Charlton, a teammate of Edwards, stepped in at the last minute.

I'm in the kitchen on Saturday morning knocking up a chilli. The excellent Colin Murray has returned to the chair in Five Live's award-winning show Fighting Talk. One of the panelists is asked who the nicest person in sport is. They tell a tale of a 100 Sunderland fans stranded at Bristol Airport a few years ago following a 1-0 win in Cardiff. The fans are raucous and jovial on the plane. One even waves his false leg in the air.  An overzealous easyJet pilot is having none of it and boots them all off. Sunderland chairman, Niall Quinn stumps up over £8000 to ferry the supporters the 310 miles home in a fleet of taxis.

A story about David Beckham is also told. Becks is walking down a street in London when he passes a paramedic treating a pensioner who has stumbled and fallen on the pavement. Beckham returned ten minutes later with two piping hot cups of tea and coffee for the distressed pensioner and paramedic.

Destination today was meant to have been Great Wyrley in Staffordshire where we were taking in Wolverhampton Sporting Community v Ellesmere Rangers in the WMRL. The Met Office are forecasting monsoon-like conditions over there. I quickly scan a fixture oop north where the weather is kinder and plump for Harworth Colliery v Dinnington Town in the CMFL North Division. I notify the club on Twitter of our impending visit. Joint manager Lee Danysz asks to see me before the game as he very kindly would like to donate some money to the Parkinson's Disease Charity.

Murphy the budgie is still being mardy. I stick my hand into the cage and wedge a piece of fresh brocolli (38p from Aldi) in with a clothes peg. I'm a little slow in removing my hand and feel the full force of Murphy's sharp beak - the vicious little b**ger. Revenge is a dish best served cold - I re-tune the radio into Radio 1 Xtra - he'll think twice before doing that again.

The route to Harworth is straight forward enough. It's the A614, A1 and A614 again. Mylene Klass on Smooth Radio is playing Woman in Love by Barbara Streisand - it's one of my guilty pleasures. We pull into the car park of the Recreation Ground on the Scrooby Road in Bircotes, half an hour before kick off. A guy in a mobility scooter does three circuits of the car park before disappearing up the road.

Harworth is a town in Nottinghamshire 8 miles north of Worksop with a population of 8000. The local colliery opened in 1921 and served the power stations on the river Trent. In the mid 90s the pit was mothballed. The headstocks were demolished in 2015.

World champion road cyclist Tom Simpson was raised in the area. In 1967, at the age of 29, during stage 13 of the Tour De France, Simpson collapsed and died climbing the ascent of Mont Ventoux. The post mortem examination found that he had mixed alcohol with amphetamines. His body was returned to Harworth where his internment took place in the local church. There is a small museum dedicated to his achievements in the sports and social club.

I remember the team I support, Lincoln City, picking up a 'keeper from Harworth Colliery called Lee Butler. He was in tip top form for the Imps. We sold him onto Aston Villa. He went on to have a good career in the game and is currently a 'keeper coach at Bolton Wanderers.

It's £3 on the gate. We snap up a couple of tickets for the meat raffle. I like the ground immediately. The playing surface looks lush, with the perimeter of the ground on the far side being tree-lined. We nip into Tom's Cafe. Ms Moon has eyed up a packet of Foxes Golden Crunch Cream on the top shelf. The lady behind the counter won't sell them, but very kindly lays some out on a plate. The biscuits turn out to be custard creams. Ms Moon, a fussy eater, doesn't like them and annoyingly nicks some of my Bounty bar.

I introduce myself to Lee. The first thing he does is put his hand in his tracksuit pocket and donate to the charity. He's a cracking bloke and we wish him well for the game as we wander over to the far side of the ground, walking past the Robert Needham Memorial Stand - a club stalwart who sadly passed away earlier in the year. A procession of planes queue up to land at the nearby Robin Hood Airport.

It's Step 7 football, the same level my lad plays. Harworth are well on top. They take the lead from a corner when a header crashes off the woodwork and is toe poked home. The diminutive No.10 scores a second goal before half-time. I've managed to get my grubby mitts on the match ball on two occasions. Another skew-wiff clearance was coming my way to complete my first ever hat-trick until its scooped up by a beady-eyed five year old boy  - he gets the daggers off Sticky.

I've noticed a chap perched on top of a grass mound viewing the game from outside the ground. The cheeky sod could have splashed out £3 to watch it. He almost looks offended when he has to fetch a few stray balls that are off the radar.

Harworth run riot in the second half and score a further 4 goals without a reply from the visitors. They have hit the frame of the goal on five occasions. Chief culprit is Tom Pick, who looks up to the heavens when he finally scores at the fag end of the game.

Man of the Match: Josh Davies (Great delivery - dodgy haircut though)

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Bolehall Swifts 0-2 Shifnal Town

We're both fagged out on Sunday morning following our week long jaunt in North Yorkshire. I still manage to drag my weary body off the sofa and down Daleside Road in the general direction of The Embankment (HQ). The late summer sunshine is an added bonus, as I sink three guest ales in the beer garden, whilst poring over the Non League Paper.

I'm working from home this week. It's not as glamorous as it sounds. It does allow me to keep tabs on the exciting end to a three horse race for cricket's County Championship. Kevin Howells and Simon Mann on Five Live Sports Extra make it feel as if the game is being played in your front room.

I tick a new ground off on Wednesday evening, when taking in Bilborough Town v Unity at the Harvey Hadden Sports Village. It's an interesting venue with grass banks and steep views - you need a pair of binoculars to watch the game across the eight lane athletics track. The match is woeful, but at least I get the chance to catch up with Unity head honcho Morris Samuels, MBE and legendary Nottinghamshire groundhopper, Malc Storer - better known as the 'Bearded Wonder.' League leaders Bilborough ground out a 1-0 victory.

It's Thursday evening and don't ask me why, but I'm eating an 'All Day Breakfast' in The Roebuck, a Wetherspoons establishment on St James's Street in Nottingham city centre. I've signed up to a mindfulness and meditation evening at Cafe Sobar on Friar Lane - don't worry folks I'm not having a nervous breakdown, but have had a lot of change in my life over the past year or so. I have a pint of Dutch courage (Punk IPA) before the tree-hugging session.

The evening was a success. I manage to meditate for half an hour at Friday tea-time, before strolling down the banks of the Trent in glorious late afternoon sunshine, past The City Ground, onto Trent Bridge, before quaffing a couple of ales in the 'World Renowned' (lol) .. Trent Bridge Inn. The exciting finale of the County Championship is too much for me. Middlesex's Toby Roland-Jones sensationally takes a hat-trick to clinch the title for his team.  I'm asleep for nine bells following a couple of glasses of Punk IPA and a glass or two of Red.

I'm as fresh as a daisy on Saturday morning. Murphy is hanging upside down on his swing, whistling away to 'I'm a Man' by the Spencer Davis Group - listen to the Smoove remix on You Tube, it's a belter. Murphy and Radio 2 DJ Brian Matthew have had a spat, as Murph forgot to send Uncle Brian a card for his 88th birthday last week.

I take a wander across the road, passing Nottingham Racecourse on my left. A drunken tramp emerges from the bushes swigging from a strong can of lager, before hurling his empty can into a hedgerow and disappearing down a footpath. I'm mightily relieved to be honest, as the chap looked a bit of a menace. I turn off onto a public bridleway. Joggers appear from out of a clearing in the woods. I'm intrigued as to why there are so many of them. Turns out it's a weekly 5km Park Run. I get gassing to one of the organisers and promise to sign up for next week, despite my nagging calf strain.

Funds are tight after our lavish lifestyle in Yorkshire last week. We spent a King's ransom oop north, so have no choice but to stay in the Midlands for the next few weeks. Ms Moon has been dispatched to Aldi to buy some bread and jam rations. I'm playing on Twitter and talking to a mardy Murphy, who is pecking away at some hard skin on the bottom of my foot - he's a better chiropodist than Neil Warnock. We're both astounded to see that Southampton fan and R&B, Garage 'singer' Craig David has 353,000 followers on the social network - Jesus wept, what is the World coming to.

It's twenty years to the day since Lincoln City beat Man City 1-0 at Maine Rd in the second leg of the League Cup, to win the tie 5-1 overall. I missed the 4-1 thumping we dished out at Sincil Bank due to it being my wedding anniversary - it was just after Steve Coppell's 33 day stay as manager.

There's just time for a 'bread and jam sandwich' and packet of crisps before making the short journey to Tamworth. Leicester City are taking a thumping at Old Trafford. Even Bronx-born DJ Paul Gambaccini is getting in on the act as he plays 'Last Waltz With You' by Leicester singer Engelbert Humperdinck (who was actually born in Madras).

There's quite a heavy police presence in Tamworth. I presume it's because of the visit of FC United of Manchester to Tamworth FC's Lamb Ground. Bolehall Swifts play literally around the corner. Tamworth is a large market town in Staffordshire with a population of over 75,000. Notable people born or brought up in the town include Teardrop Explodes frontman Julian Cope and Leicester City winger Marc Albrighton - one of the greatest Bosman transfers in Premiership history.

There's a nice feel about the place at Swifts' Rene Road ground. They were founded in 1953 and their floodlights were officially opened a few years ago by Stoke City manager Mark 'Sparky' Hughes. We're greeted by club secretary Mark Brooks, who gives us a potted history of the club and also very kindly donates £10 to the Parkinson's Disease Charity that we're raising money for. Today is an FA Vase tie with £800 prize money up for grabs.

I love the ground with it's rickety old stands, sloping pitch and community feel. We chance upon an FA match observer (mentor). I mention that it's great to see two lady assistant referees. He's a lovely chap who tips us the wink on a few cool grounds to visit in the Coventry area. We leave him be, as he frantically places a few last minute bets before the 3pm kick off.

We bump into a Shifnal supporter as the teams kick off, he says they are a decent passing team. I might need to arouse this guy with some smelling salts at half-time after watching his team lump the ball forward for the entire first half. The Swifts are more pleasing on the eye and have the game's stand out player, a left-footed lad, who can play on either wing.

Ms Moon is wearing a black leather jacket, I ask her if she ever went out with Arthur Fonzarelli ? She gets the hump and changes her set at the break, preferring a blue jacket purchased from TK Maxx. We splash out on a raffle ticket, but already clock that the prize is a bottle of Echo Falls, which I wouldn't fancy stripping paint with. The guy selling tickets says £1 a strip or £2 for him to strip - thankfully the prize is claimed at half-time.

The visitors must have had an almighty bollocking as they play with far more purpose in the second half. Poor old 'Tickle' up top, couldn't hit a cow's arse with a banjo. One of his shots clears the bar by a country mile before hitting the window of an old people's home awakening the residents from a Saturday afternoon snooze.

Shifnal have a centre forward as tall as 'High Tower' from Police Academy. His feet barely leave the ground when there's a chance of a header. Remarkably he scores with his bonce after a faux pas by the home 'keeper, who has been outstanding throughout. Even the industrious Tickle gets in on the act, putting the game beyond doubt, after rounding the 'keeper and rolling the ball into an empty net.

Attendance: 54

Man of the Match: Kyle Bache (Swifts' 'keeper)

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Northallerton Town 0-0 Stockton Town

The flat we're staying at in Whitby is on the West Cliff. It looks out onto the beach and North Sea. Today, Wednesday, it's shrouded in mist - an absolute pea-souper of a fog. I check the BBC weather app for the inland market town of Beverley. The forecast is for clear blue skies and wall to wall sunshine.

We toast some slices of fruit loaf and smother them in butter, before heading over to East Riding of Yorkshire. Sat Nav takes us on a cross country route through small towns such as Driffield, before pitching up in the picturesque town of Beverley. There's 'Bob Hope' of a parking spot in the Market Square, so Ms Moon sticks the Audi in a Tesco car park.

I place a couple of bets at Beverley races on the first and last race at a local Coral bookies. We sit on benches in the Square, eating fresh cobs purchased from Thomas The Baker on Toll Gavel. The racecourse is only a five minute drive away. It's £14 each on the gate. I snap up a racecard, we may need some help, as the form book is thrown out the window. A majority of the races are for two and three year olds.

I used to enjoy a flutter in my teens - Cheltenham and York were my usual haunts. I've been way off the pace for years. My advice to Ms Moon is to stick a pin in the newspaper. It's advice I should have taken myself, as a 66/1 winner sees off an odds on favourite in the opening race.

I spend the entire afternoon sprawled out on the grass, plastered in Factor 50 suncream. Ms Moon places more bets than Paul Merson. She brings the bacon home with a 66/1 third place and a 25/1 second place. Her namesake, Savannah Moon, nicks second place by a short head, at 28/1, to ensure a decent return on our bets. We celebrate with a fish stew at the Magpie Cafe in Whitby. I experience a bigger sneezing fit than Trumpy Bolton, when he mixes real ale with cider - I put it down to a reaction from the grass.

The mist returns on Thursday, ruining a whistle-stop tour of Robin Hood's Bay and Runswick Bay. We pack up on Friday and head across the North Yorkshire Moors. We break for lunch at Helmsley in Ryedale. Ms Moon spits her dummy as the waitress at the Feathers Hotel mucks up her order.

We arrive at the Forresters Arms in Kilburn for the night, on the final leg of our tour. I spot a two mile circular walk in a welcoming pack in our room. As we walk out the village we can see the cut out figure of the White Horse in the hillside.

I sink three pints of 'Striding the Riding' from the Helmsley Brewing Company. The evening meal is spot on. There are some Trivial Pursuit cards on each table. Ms Moon loves a competitive quiz. A huge fry-up is wolfed down in the morning. Sausage, eggs and bacon are locally sourced.

First port of call is the horse-racing market town of Thirsk. Blue plaques are positioned throughout the town. Sticky hasn't done his homework, so is aghast to see that he didn't realise Thomas Lord, the founder of Lord's cricket ground, was born here.

I need to chalk a pub off in Bedale. Ms Moon has a wander - bet her cigarette puffer is bust again. I have a quick pint of Theakston's Lightfoot. I climb the stairs to the loo and chance upon a poor chap stranded and clinging onto the end of the stair rail. I help him to the toilets. Bless him, he had a stroke 15 years ago and is not too mobile.

I get gassing to the guy and his wife in the bar. It transpires that his sons have bought him a surprise birthday present. Tomorrow they'll be visiting a raceyard in the area that's owned by one of the best trainers in the country.

We arrive at the Calvert Stadium in good time. Gambacinni on Radio 2 is playing 'Sons and Daughters by Level 42 - to be honest, when you've heard one of their tracks, you've heard them all. Northallerton is a market town in the Hambleton district of North Yorkshire, with a population of 15,000. It has been the County town of North Riding of Yorkshire since 1974. Richmond Foods' HQ is in nearby Leeming Bar. They are Europe's third largest ice cream manufacturer. They make Fab and Rowntree's Fruit Pastilles ice lollies.

Hull City captain, and former Nottingham Forest and Tottenham Hotspur defender, Michael Dawson, was born in the town. All three Dawson brothers were on Forest's books at one time. Dawson initially was a centre forward, but was quickly converted to a centre half under Paul Hart's guidance. We stopped in an hotel in the Algarve over the summer, the whole Hull City squad rocked up - they were as good as gold.

Northallerton Town FC were founded  in 1895 and are the most southern-based team in the Northern League. It's £6 on the gate and £1 for a chunky programme. We dive into a plush clubhouse and shout up chilli, chips and cheese. I notice that Eric Bristow is here for a Q&A and game of darts on November 15th.

The DJ is pumping out Utah Saints, but blots his copybook with Sam Smith and Robbie Williams. We sit on the concrete steps behind the furthest goal, as the ground is three-sided, and there is no access to the dugouts on the far side of the ground.

I don't know what it is, but I've struggled for goals at this level. The visitors are technically better and work harder, but I can't for the life of me see where a goal will come from. The first ten minutes resembles a game of head tennis. I get a touch of the match ball on 14 minutes - it's the highlight of the first half. Ms Moon dashes down the terrace to chase a stray shot down -  who said she was allowed to play ?

The second half isn't much better. Neither 'keeper has chuff all to do, it's got 0-0 written all over it. The referee's blast of the whistle puts us all out of our misery, nice day out, but fairly average game.

Man of the Match: 2 Jacket for Norton

Attendance: 108

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Whitby Town 2-1 Ilkeston FC

We head over to North Yorkshire from Lancashire on Sunday morning. It's a glorious day as we arrive on the West Cliff in Whitby. We bask in the afternoon sunshine on the veranda of the Abbey Wharf which looks over the estuary.

Monday is spent walking up to Sandsend, before returning to Whitby, where we make our debut at the Humble Pie and Mash Shop, on Church Street. Dinner is washed down with a couple of pints of Silver King from the Ossett Brewery stable at the Station Inn. As I retire for bed, news is filling my twitter timeline of the abandonment of a Non League cup tie between Brighouse Town and Shaw Lane. A player has collapsed and news of his condition is unknown. It preys on my mind as I fall to sleep.

I toss and turn for most of the night. I switch my phone on first thing in the morning, the news is devastating. Daniel Wilkinson tragically passed away, he was only 26 years old. Daniel was a former student at Loughborough University, who had his whole life ahead of him. It's so, so desperately sad.

I'm fairly quiet on the trip to Scarborough. My mood darkens even further when Ken Bruce spins Michael Buble's new single. I'm hoping the baking sunshine and clear blue skies will cheer me up. We park in the North Bay, close to Peasholm Park. Those robbing bastards at Scarborough Council fleece us for £6 - no wonder folk think twice about parking illegally.

We amble past some plush new apartments that they've stuck up on the seafront. Dogs are bounding in the sand, retrieving balls launched from their owner's automatic ball throwers. The town is stacked out with tourists, despite the schools returning.

Bloody hell, Ms Moon's electronic ciggy thingy is kaput again. It's had more breakdowns than her flipping Audi. She tootles off up to the Vape Shop to have the coil repaired, whilst I have a mosey around.

I stare up at the castle, perched high up on the hill. I made 'The Auctioneer' traipse up there on a sweltering hot day a few years ago, we were both gasping for air when we finally reached the summit. I notice that Billy Pearce is at the fag end of a six month season at the Scarborough Spa. It's ironically called a 'Laughter Show - it'll be a relief to us all, after the final show, that we can get back to laughing again! I see a huge puff of smoke billowing in the air up the High Street. Ms Moon's electric fag is fully functional again - now that does bring a smile back to my face.

We have luncheon at a French cafe before Ms Moon has a solo run up the South Cliff funicular railway. There's just time to pop my head into Scarborough Cricket Club on North Marine Road, where Yorkshire and Notts 2nds are playing, before the short journey back to Whitby.

I leave Ms Moon to watch the latest gripping episode of Emmerdale Farm. I wander up the West Cliff before taking a left turn along Upgang Lane. Mist is rolling in from the North Sea, a pea-souper of a fog is forecast for tomorrow. I may have seriously under-clubbed on the clothes front, as I've still got my shorts on.

Whitby is a seaside town in North Yorkshire with a population of just under 15,000. It is situated on the east coast at the mouth of the river Esk. The Irish author Bram Stoker began visiting the town in 1890 and it is believed that this was behind the inspiration for him to write his Dracula novels.

On 30th September 1914 the hospital ship Rohilla was sunk after hitting rocks at Saltwick Bay. Of the 229 people on board, 85 lost their lives. Most of them are buried in the churchyard at Whitby. On the West Cliff there is a statue of James Cook, who served his apprenticeship in the town.

Notable folk from the area include: Downton Abbey maid and voice of Wendy from Bob the Builder, Joanne Froggatt, Yorkshire and England cricketer Adam Lyth and former Southampton and WBA forward David Mills, who became Britain's first £500,000 player. His career was cut short by a serious car accident, which claimed the life of his father. He is now Head Scout at Leicester City and responsible for many of the signings that helped clinch the Premiership title.

Whitby Town FC play at the Turnbull Ground on Upgang Lane. They were formed in 1892 and play in the Northern Premier League. The Whitby Gazette mentioned that they won an FA Cup tie last week for the first time in four years. They are currently on an eight match unbeaten run.

The groundsman of the adjacent Whitby Cricket Club is cutting the outfield with his mower and as pay £10 on the gate and £2 for the official matchday magazine. I clock Big D chin-wagging to Ilkeston chairman Nigel Harrop. Dick and I go back a long way. His son, Ross, is in the nets tonight for Ilson, having recently been released from Nottingham Forest, after 7 years at the club.

The Turnbull Ground is a little belter. There is a huge main stand which gives the supporter a panoramic view, with further covering on the far side. The playing surface is immaculate, you could play Crown Green bowls on it. The DJ means business as he pumps up the locals and small gathering of loyal Ilson fans with 'Firestarter' by The Prodigy.

Both teams look incredibly young as they walk out to the centre circle. Big D remarks that Ilson's oldest player is only 23 years of age. There is an incredibly moving one minute's silence in memory of Daniel Wilkinson and recently passed Whitby supporter.

The Seasiders are all over the visitors like a rash, as Ilson try to come to terms with rather disjointed formation. Young Ross, in the nets, commands his area and comes for everything. He is courageous and fearless. As Dad says, he'll even resort to a Jackie Chan unconventional martial art kick if need be. He's already made a couple of smart blocks before the inevitable and well deserved goal is scored for Whitby by Dale Hopson on his birthday.

Ilkeston are awarded a free kick shortly after. Left back Rory Coleman lines up a shot like a rugby player does for a conversion. Big D pipes up that he hasn't enough power in his technique to score from this distance, just as the ball sails over the wall, evading the outstretched hand of a floundering Whitby Town keeper, before hitting the top corner of the net. "You can quote me on that one", chuckles Big D, as an Ilson fan greets the goal by ringing his bell.

Ilson need half-time desperately to regroup, it can't come quick enough as the ball is not sticking up top. One cross too many comes in from the left hand side and is superbly executed by Matthew Tymon, ghosting in from the right wing. It's all too much for the Seasiders PA man who at half time plays 'Diamond Lights' by Hoddle and Waddle, before being carted off to the Funny Farm.

Whitby continue to waste chances in front of goal. They find young Durrant at the top of his game. The match is played in a wonderful spirit and refereed superbly by Mr Whatling from Driffield. Ilson forward Anthony Dwyer, who has had spells at Notts County and Mansfield Town pings a shot from just outside the area, only to see Shane Bland tip his effort onto the crossbar.

The full time whistle is blown, ending a very entertaining game. I wish Big D a safe journey home across the Yorkshire Moors and make the ten minute walk back to the warmth of our holiday flat. I can't half pick em.

Attendance: 242

Man of the Match: Ross Durrant

Monday, September 12, 2016

AFC Darwen 1-2 Pickering Town

I'm still buzzing from my day out with Trumpy Bolton in Evesham, where we saw a pulsating FA Cup tie, as Ms Moon and I take a wander around Attenborough Nature Reserve. We sit on a wooden bench watching what will probably be the final Sunday League cricket fixture of the season. Lunch is taken at the Victoria Hotel in Beeston, before ticking-off the White Lion in Bramcote.

I wile away a Tuesday evening with The Taxman on the banks of the river Trent, as we watch Dunkirk thump Radcliffe Olympic 5-1. The rest of the week is spent holed-up in the leafy suburb of Holmes Chapel, in Cheshire, at a sales conference. I was hoping to catch Roy Keane walking his dog Trigger, in nearby Hale, but failed, miserably, to leave the hotel grounds during my short stay.

I down tools at lunchtime on Friday, that's me done for the week. Murphy the budgie has been booked in for a week's respite at Auntie Val's hotel in Colwick. I am in bits and so is Murphy. I pack his toys, towel and radio. To be honest Murphy is as thick as two short planks. Auntie Val is trying to educate him by tuning into Radio 4 - I haven't the heart to tell her she's wasting her time with old bird brain.

I nip into Wisdom's Barbers on Mansfield Road, where my Kurdistan friend gives me a short back 'n sides. I tick off the Hop Merchant on Upper Parliament St - it's the artist formerly know as the Turf Tavern. I down a pint of Farmers Blonde from the Bradfield Brewery. I have a spot of tea with my old pal Billy Snooks in The Embankment just off Trent Bridge.

I toss and turn on Friday night - I'm worried sick about Murphy and also excited about our road-trip to Lancashire and North Yorkshire. Auntie Val texts me in the morning to say Murphy's settling in nicely and has been listening to George Gershwin - they'll be none of that tosh when he's back in his yard.

There's a pit-stop at Costa Coffee - Ms Moon tends to see the red mist without a sufficient caffeine intake - before shooting up the A50 and onto the M6. The motorway is a breeze today. We stop for more coffee at Sandbach Services. A large group of suited and booted racegoers are heading up to Haydock Park. I get gassing to a Worcester City fan who is on a supporters' coach to Bradford Park Avenue. We're parked up at the back of Darwen Youth Centre at midday on the nose. We stroll past a memorial garden dedicated to 16 year old Sky Nicol, who tragically died of a drugs overdose in March 2016.

Darwen is a market town in Lancashire with a population of 30,000. It was once the centre for textile-manufacturing during the Industrial Revolution. In 1931 Mahatma Gandhi visited the town to see the effects of India's boycott of cotton goods. Soon after, this led to the decline of the cotton trade in Lancashire. Darwen is also the home to Crown Paints, one of the country's most successful paint manufacturers. Other notes of interest include The Beatles playing the Co-operative Hall in January 1963 and the TV series Hetty Wainthropp Investigates being fimed in the town.

Darwen FC were founded in 1870 and were the world's first football club to pay players professionally. They were a Football League member from 1891-1899. Their 134 year old history ceased to exist in 2009 when they were wound up in the High Court. The golfer Dick Burton was born in Darwen. He won the British Open in 1939 and held the Claret Jug until 1946, due to the competition being suspended because of the Second World War.

British pub aficionado, Trumpy Bolton, has tipped us the wink on the Old Chapel in the town centre. Wetherspoons have converted this old Methodist church. There is a spectacular, open staircase and balcony seating. Ms Moon has butternut squash soup and we both have a cheese 'n ham toastie. The pint of Shipyard pale ale is a tad flat though.

We have a wander around the town. I notice a pub called The British Queen that is decorated with a Union Jack, that flutters in the breeze. Ms Moon is running low on vapour liquid for her electric ciggie thingy. She's bought the Daddy of vapour, which costs more than 200 Gold Leaf. A search in Darwen for some more proves fruitless.

We already clocked the ground on the way in. It still doesn't stop us managing to circumnavigate our way around the whole town, before finally pulling into Anchor Road, the home of AFC Darwen. The town's main employer, Crown Paints, is situated across the road.

Coldplay are on the ground's PA, as I part with £11.50 on the gate which gets the two of us in with a programme, that is of the highest standard - congratulations to The Digest for his many contributions. There's an over-powering smell of deep heat coming from the changing room area.

Most folk are congregated on the patio area outside the bar. We wander over to the far side of the ground, opposite the main stand, positioning ourselves adjacent to the away dugout. Darwen see an early effort turned around the post by the Pickering 'keeper after just 7 seconds. Three minutes later the visitors take the lead through Robert Chipps.

The Pickering manager is dressed in a shirt, tie and v-necked jumper - he looks like he's about to set off to a Sunday morning service at church. His assistant is 40 year old Denny Ingram, who made 228 appearances for Hartlepool United. There's not much doing at half-time. I get chatting to the Dad of a Pickering player who is from Driffield, near Hull. I can't understand a bloody word he says. He could be talking in Swahili for all I know. Murphy will be cross again, he's missed 'Cake By The Ocean' on the Darwen PA system.

The Pikes look to have killed Darwen off with a fantastic goal from Cripps, who plays a give and go before smashing his shot into the roof of the net. Thirty seconds later a visiting player is caught dithering and dilly-dallying on the ball, they're punished by an alert Nick Hepple.

The referee is dishing out cards quicker than Postman Pat. The Darwen 10 jacket is shown two yellows. The official's patience is being tested as Pickering slow the game down at dead-ball situations. Poor old Sticky is running around like a blue-arsed fly and is lathered in sweat as he retrieves scuffed clearances from the undergrowth - he needn't bother booking me for slowing play down..

Denny Ingram strips off his shirt in front of a startled Ms Moon. He's looking rather hench and is proper tattooed up. A gooey-eyed Ms Moon begins to blush as Denny makes eye contact. I bet the bloke has never had a real ale in his life. He does manage to close the game down as Pickering go through to the next round of the FA Vase.

We're happy as Larry as we drive to the village of Laneshawbridge, in the Borough of Pendle, where we check into our bed and breakfast, before drinks and a meal at the delightful Emmott Arms.

Man of the Match: Auntie Val

Attendance: 174