Sunday, February 25, 2007

Gainsborough Trinity 3 Droylsden 2

Thrills, spills and goals galore to report from Northolme as Gainsborough Trinity entertained Manchester's Droylsden in the Nationwide North this afternoon.

My cover was blown last night, somebody asked me in front of Mrs P where I was going today, I had failed to tell her I was to embark on a 100 mile round trip to deepest Lincs, like any other normal bloke I paid the price, tonight I have to cook her a meal.

My boss from work joins me today, I hope it's not 0-0 otherwise he'll have me mashing tea for him all next week. There's fat chance of these two teams drawing a blank, league leaders Droylsden have conceded 42 goals, whilst fifth from bottom Trinity have one less, 41.

The market town of Gainsborough stands on the banks of the River Trent, Dame Sybil Thorndyke and the actor John Alderton were both born here. The current Lincoln City manager, John Schofield, spent many years playing here, before signing for The Imps.

Droylsden is in East Manchester, and is where comedian Steve Coogan originates from. I'm sure Alan Partridge will be hoping The Bloods leading scorer, Terry Fearns, can find the "back of the net" today.

Gainsborough relies heavily on agriculture and food processing companies for its employment, this is evident when I have my weekly meeting with yet another Eastern European couple. "Can you tell me where the football ground is please?" "sorry non speak English"

The social club is a gold mine, it is rammed, Fulham are playing United on a vegetable patch of a pitch. The Droylsden fans look resplendent in their Man Utd replica shirts! There is a huge roar, Ronaldo has scored, I'm too busy perusing the team sheet the secretary has kindly handed out.

The pitch is like a glue pot, and proves to be a great leveller. Droyslden have one of the best playing surfaces in the league, their passing game will be thin on the ground today.

The Trinity fans on the club's message forum are not happy, their manager Paul Mitchell is getting lots of stick for his negative tactics, he has promised in the local paper that his team will play "sexy football" today. It's going to be difficult, the pitch looks like something from the cult football highlights show Star Soccer, with that dreadful commentator at the helm, Hugh Johns.

Droylsden have a couple of nightclub bouncers on the door in the centre of their defence, they can head, and clear a ball, but on the floor they are finding ex Blade Ryan Mallon's speed and trickery too hot to handle. Thankfully for The Bloods Mallon and strike partner Simon Bird couldn't hit a cow's backside with a banjo.

The Bloods Terry Fearns can finish, he walks one into the back of the net in the 34th minute, following a mix-up in the home defence.

Droylsden have a forward called Jody Banim who didn't quite cut the mustard at league level with Shrewsbury, he looks like he enjoys a pint of Newton and Ridley's at the Rovers Return, but on the ball he is poetry in motion, he scores the goal of the game in the 54th minute, an exquisite lob over Trinity keeper Sollitt 2-0.

They are coasting, and make a double substitution (they have a game on Monday night) Fearns is subbed, I have been disappointed with him he has done nothing.

Jamie Tandy is one of the subs, and comes out to play on the left. I'm told that on a night out, when he was an apprentice at Man City, that the love able scouse rogue, Joey Barton, famously put out a lighted cigarette butt into the youngster's face. Let's hope the new owners of Manchester City invest in some ashtrays for their bar!

I'm stood next to Droyslden's left back's Dad, we engage in conversation. The Bloods give away a needless penalty, which sub Ross Hannah, a player I saw at Belper earlier in the season, converts. The Bloods have clocked off 20 minutes too early.

Two minutes later Gainsborough's inspirational midfielder, and best player, Danny Anson, rounds the keeper to equalize. You can smell a winner, Ross Hannah obliges 5 minutes later, he has changed the game. Droyslden's midfield are not picking up the runners, the doormen continue to play the offside trap, a tactic that has failed miserably all afternoon. There is a grandstand finish. Droylsden clear off the line and there is an almighty goalmouth scramble at the other end.

Gainsborough hang on, and fully deserve their win for their never-say-die attitude. The left back's Dad is mortified, speechless, he is hurting badly for his boy. What fantastic parents they must be to follow their boy all round the country. He was exposed today, because he had no protection in front of him. Tandy the sub, lasts 25 minutes, they have conceded three goals while he has been on the pitch, but now he has a torn hamstring, which is nearly as painful as that cigarette burn from a few years ago.

This is comfortably the most entertaining game I've seen this season, why Gainsborough are in the bottom half I do not know.

The left back's Mum says Harrogate Town are worth watching I notice they are at Worksop Town on March 31st but don't tell Mrs P will you?

Gainsborough Trinity 3 Hannah 2 Anson. Droylsden 2 Fearns and Banim

Man of the Match: Danny Anson, Gainsborough Trinity.

Attendance 370

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Carlton Town v Mickleover Sports. Waterlogged Pitch

I phone The Bill Stokefeld Stadium at 6.30pm, the game is definitely on. On my trip down Gamston Lings Bar there is a deluge of rain which lasts the entire half an hour of the journey.

Radio Nottingham are saying The City Ground surface for tonight's game against Blackpool is heavy: what chance is there for Carlton? When I arrive the players are already heading home.

On my return journey the crowds are beginning to swell on Lady Bay Bridge. I am not tempted one iota!

Two televisions are on when I return home, the wretched Holby City on one, and another tiresome soap opera, the Champions League, on the other. I decide to swot up on Gainsborough Trinity and Droyslden, who I intend to watch at the weekend.

People are asking for an MFI bed update, so here it goes. The whole operation was put on hold a few weeks back due to the said company being out of stock of a headboard. The wife had phoned the distribution centre in West Bromwich and told them not to deliver until all the parts were ready.

So imagine my surprise when white van man turns up the other Sunday: I was particularly cheesed off as I was writing the Radford match report up at the time.

There was no headboard, but we took delivery anyway. Mrs P, in her wisdom, said we may as well swap the mattress, so I tossed the old one out into the pouring rain, onto the back garden.

An hour later I unwrap the new mattress only to find it's soaking wet, the van it had been stood in must have had more holes in it than Boston United's back four.

A very embarrassed and crestfallen Sticky had to trudge down the garden to retrieve the old, and by now, wet mattress. It seems West Bromwich's poor choice in management (who can forget Robson and Megson) has spread to the bedroom department of MFI. To be continued

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Eastwood Town 0 Cammell Laird 2

It's a Unibond Division 1 play-off rivals clash today, this one caught my eye whilst scanning the fixture list a few weeks ago. I will be looking at this game from a different angle today - the BBC have asked me to record an audio diary of the day's events.

The author and poet D H Lawrence was born in Eastwood in 1885. He died of TB at the age of 44. It would appear from research that he led an unhappy and controversial life. He was once accused of being a German spy and was banished from Cornwall, but it was not a great career move to marry a German girl shortly before the outbreak of The First World War!

Cammell Laird are from Birkenhead, near Liverpool, they also have a bit of history, this year they are celebrating their centenary. It is of course a famous old shipyard, The Ark Royal was built there. It sadly went into receivership in 2001. Coal mines, shipyards and steelworks may have disappeared but the communities live and fight on.

Only two sides in England are sponsored by Carlsberg and one is The Laird, and looking at the size of their goalkeeping coach I would say he too has enjoyed the fringe benefits of this sponsorship.

Eastwood Town has been a breeding ground in the past for future professional footballers. Alan and Steve Buckley, Martin Bullock, Richard Liburd and Ben Hutchinson all had spells with The Badgers. The latest kid on the block is teenager Lindon Meikle, I liked what I saw of him on my last visit.

Cammell Laird's most famous export, not the Carlsberg variety, is Peter Davenport, who Brian Clough bought for a song, and was later sold to Old Trafford for £600,000.

Paul Cox, the Eastwood manager has done an incredible job for this club, they are second in the league and he has just signed a two year contract, unheard of at this level, but Cammell Laird will be a stiff test for his young team.

I have waited to watch The Laird since a Shepshed committee member told me they were the best team to visit The Dovecote this season. They didn't disappoint me.

Eastwood kicked down the slope first half. The interplay between their forwards Peter Knox and Meikle was a pleasure to watch. Knox is all brute strength and hustle and bustle but he can hold a ball up too. Meikle's pace and ball skills were beginning to trouble the away team's defence. He wastes a host of chances, which his movement and pace create, but his left foot is for standing on and may hold him back. Energy and desire he has in abundance.

Deakin, the Eastwood keeper, makes a brilliant one-handed save from a Laird free-kick. Honours are even at the break, Eastwood are more direct, Cammell Laird play with style and panache. The game deserves a goal.

I counted the number of passes in one Laird move, 15 in total, amazing. Their winger Eddie Jebb is a feisty little character, he is buzzing and at times shows outrageous skills. Apparently he is unsettled, I am not surprised he's too good for these. His Grandad must have worked in the engine room at the docks because this boy can motor.

I have a wander. The club shop is full, an army of volunteers at the tea bar are rushed off their feet and in the crowded bar it takes me ten minutes to get my half a mild. Eastwood Town FC is quality, they should be proud of it. 210 people show their appreciation today, not a bad turnout.

Cammell Laird are now playing down the slope, are Eastwood going to regret all those chances that went begging earlier in the game? 9 jacket Cooke makes it 1-0 to The Laird two minutes into the second period, with a back post header following a corner.

It's game set and match three minutes later when leading scorer Ronnie Morgan makes it 26 for the season after Cooke, who has the turning circle of The Ark Royal, is allowed too much time and space to cleverly set Morgan up.

Eastwood huff and puff to no avail. They have an effort chalked off by the linesman's flag. Knox and Meikle are dealt with by The Laird's defence. There is no other outlet. The north west team can't put the game out of reach, Cole goes close to making it three.

The Cammell Laird bench are aware of my audio diary. I had earlier interviewed some of their fans behind the goal, "are you lads from Liverpool?" they are offended by that "no we are from Birkenhead." The goalkeeping coach is ripping me to shreds with a series of one-liners (he looks like Benny from Crossroads with his woolly hat on) The BBC can broadcast it, but it will have to be after the 9pm watershed. He is funny, very very funny!

Cammell Laird are to visit the beautiful setting of Belper Town's ground in March I will be there and it will be a cricket score.

The Badgers return to their sett hurt and wounded, Cox for once is speechless. They have been second to the ball for much of the game, they remain second in the table, but the pack is closing in and the injuies are piling up.

Eastwood Town 0 Cammell Laird 2 Cooke and Morgan

Attendance 210

Man of the Match Cammell Laird's Eddie Jebb

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Radford FC 1 Greenwood Meadows 1

Pilates has been postponed and a pass out has been provided. The inclement weather of late has produced a virtual fixture wipe out but the Central Midlands Supreme League has a couple of games on, I can be in Radford in 20 minutes and it's a local derby.

I endure a horrific journey, taking the customary wrong turning, and end up asking an Eastern European family where Asda is (the ground is close by) I stumble across the ground by chance, this is the lowest level of football I have seen this season, but I am impressed. Radford have a lovely set-up and the folk are friendly.

The admission fee is £2.50, a bargain, and I grab the last programme from behind the bar, as well as a pint of Kimberley Cool, but they'll be running out of that soon; Greene King have bought them out, another Notts brewery bites the dust.

Radford and The Meadows have a poor and unfair press, yes there is a drug dealer turf war but is it any different to say Birmingham, Bristol or Manchester? Radford Road is a vibrant and multicultural area of inner-city Nottingham. The streets are packed with shoppers and littered with small cafes, shops, real ale pubs and curry houses; the trams make it easily accessible.

The ground backs onto the main road, it has a social club and there is a small stand behind the goal seating 100. One side of the pitch is lined with conifers, the pitch is heavy, wide and on a slight slope, it reminds me of Gresley Rovers.

They have not sold their soul and moved away from their community like Grantham Town, quite the opposite. Thirty years ago Radford played in local leagues at Melbourne Park to the west of the city, they have now returned to the heart of their community.

I like this ground and club, they are on the up and well supported. I note, in the excellent programme, that Radford state they are a multiracial club, but today there are no black players in their starting line-up.

Nottingham has produced some fine young black and mixed-raced players in the past, Jenas, Pennant and Andy Cole to name a few. When I first began scouting for The Pies I deliberately targeted Hyson Green, St Anns, Radford, The Meadows and Clifton and formed friendships with their communities. This is where you will find future professional footballers, not in leafy West Bridgford, where children live life within the comfort zone.

Greenwood Meadows have won 4 games out of 26 and have conceded 83 goals. I have brought the abacus. Radford management pairing Julian Garmston and Pete Kelley are a double-act and interact with the crowd with regularity. They are calmness personified, despite a sorrowful first half.

Greenwood Meadows belie their lowly league position. Their central defenders, Kitchener and Simms are no-thrills but resolute. The front three, Munn, Manders and TJ Majoni wreak havoc with the Radford defence who are unsettled with their movement. TJ scores a terrific goal, in off the post, following a diagonal run. Meadows are good value, the natives are restless.

I pop into the social club at the break, Ceefax confirms Lincoln are hammering Torquay 1-0. Radford up it a gear in the second period, but Simms is magnificent for Meadows, cajoling and encouraging his team. Radford striker, Matt Eastwood restores parity with a thumping drive, he has just joined from rivals Bilborough Pelican in an acrimonious transfer, angry words from both managers are found on the Radford guestbook.

The game ebbs and flows, with chances at both ends. 1-1 is the final score, it's a fair result.

I have sympathy for Greenwood Meadows, they have worked hard and have impressed me. I will watch them again I am only 10 minutes from their ground, Kitchener (your club needs you) and Simms have been a colossus at the back. Referee, Mr S Fisher, deserves a special mention he was that good I hardly noticed him.

Radford FC 1 Eastwood Greenwood Meadows 1 TJ Majoni

Man of the Match Simms, Greenwood Meadows

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Ilkeston Town v Guiseley Match Off Frozen Pitch

Last Saturday's game at the Football League's oldest establishment hasn't half whet my appetite for the beautiful game. Regular readers of these ramblings will know of my fondness for "Ilson"and their manager, Nigel Jemson's idiosyncrasy. Jemson is often the victim of unfair criticism on the Ilkeston message board, The White Ball Project. He has shuffled his pack since Christmas, particularly in defence, Lee Featherstone has arrived from rivals Alfreton and 19 year old goalkeeper James Annerson, on loan from Sheffield Utd. They play a game for the purist, 4-2-4 and have, in Leon McSweeney, one of the best players I have seen at this level.

I am looking forward to this one, reports on Guiseley suggest they are a strong and organised unit. A stroll round Ruddington Country Park at lunch concerns me, the temperature hovers above freezing.

I arrive home from work and whizz Sticky Junior up to his Basketball game. My lawn is crisp underfoot. A call to the New Manor Ground confirms my worst fears "the pitch is glistening sir" game off. Faced with the prospect of Eastenders and Holby City I meet a friend at my local for a couple of beers, but he too is not on great form - he supports Nottingham Forest.

Mustn't finish this entry without mention of the previous incumbent at Ilkeston Town. Phil Stant has had more clubs than Tiger Woods and at most has been good value. Who can forget when at Sincil Bank the Marshall Mathers look and a mouth to match the Michigan Rapper. He had a heart as big as a bucket and goals a plenty. Sergeant Stant they used to call him down the lane. I recommend you read his book, Ooh Ah Stantona, if only for the two chapters on his active service in the Falklands War, moving indeed.

More good news last night, MFI phoned, the delivery of the new bed has been put back until Sunday much to Mrs P's disgust, naturally I'm upset too, particularly when she informed me she has a Pilates and Aqua Aerobic class booked on Saturday afternoon and I'm in charge of the kids. I knew I shouldn't have bloody well bought her a Health Club membership for Christmas. Oh well there's always Keyworth Vets v Pelican Vets on Sunday afternoon ........ on second thoughts I'd rather put the bed up!!

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Notts County 3 Lincoln City 1

No non-league today, the kids have been naughty all week, the punishment is Meadow Lane. You can only support ONE team, I have lived in Nottingham for 40 years, I like County and Forest, but I was born in the City of Lincoln, and Lincoln City are my team. My heart beats twice as fast when I watch them and Keyworth United U9s and U11s.

I used to work at the Notts County Centre of Excellence, this is the club that paraded a group of 9 year old boys in front of a bumper crowd versus Bury with the words "this is our future" a week later and the whole operation is closed down, severing links with the community and wondering why they only just broke 3000 versus Barnet on Tuesday night.

Their board consists of a property developer, a solicitor and an estate agent; Meadow Lane is ripe for development but not in youth! Lincoln City have just made £1 Million from their youth academy, Jack Hobbs has gone to Liverpool and keeper Scott Loach to Watford. Thommo you need a youth team you can not survive with journeymen for ever!

Pie manager Steve Thompson is a Lincoln legend, and has performed a miracle at this cash-strapped club. There was a lot of hate when he first came, he was Colin Murphy's assistant after the Warnock era in the 90s.

The Murph is not popular down the lane. Do their fans understand football? His signings were shrewd: Steve Finnan, Darren Ward and Ian Richardson, to name a few.

Thompson has won the fans over, he seems an engaging chap, and has struck up a fantastic repartee with Radio Nottingham stalwart Colin Slater.

Thompson used his time wisely as a summariser for Radio Lincolnshire last season and in the transfer market has raided Boston United in particular, resurrecting the career of old pineapple head and ex Imp Jason Lee.

Moans and groans and much ridicule on the arrival of the Adonis Lee, 13 goals later and as many bookings but 100% committment, he now has cult status.

I don't go to Sincil Bank these days, since I lost my father, it's too painful. I prefer to travel. A glance at the programme sends a shiver down my spine.

Moses and Brown are centre defenders today, we have lost McCombe to Bristol City and McAuley to Leicester, captain Paul Morgan is also missing. I am concerned, the clean sheets of the Keith Alexander era have disappeared of late.

I go with a mate, who's wife is from Lincoln, she wants Notts to win as she cuts Thommo's hair. Yes he still sports his scary glam rock perm last seen in Les Gray's Mud.

Just lately I have a habit of seeing early goals, today is no different, Jay Smith a recent signing from Southend rifle's one in after a poor clearance on 2 mins. My stomach is already churning.

Notts are on fire, the tempo is high, wake up Lincoln!! Notts pinpoint and target left back Paul Mayo, who Watford once foolishly laid-out a six figure sum for. The game is quality. Notts keep creating. Lincoln find their feet, Stallard and in particular Forrester are full of running.

Ex Pie Stallard misses a host of chances. Lincoln youngster, and Sheffield Utd bound 19 year old Lee Frecklington (another from the academy) is dancing through the Notts defence, he is fleet footed. Northern Ireland international Jeff Hughes contrives to somehow hit the upright after another mazy run and cross from Frecklington. Yes I am biased but we are all over them.

Disaster strikes on 44 minutes, Forrester kicks ex Pilgrim McCann off the ball 10 yards from my seat, my mate shouts "you're off son" referee Uriah Rennie (who was excellent by the way) agrees and produces red.

Game over, well it is when Lee who has been causing havoc all game, makes it 2-0 on half-time, Alan Miott the goalie is unlucky and so are Lincoln, Notts don't deserve to be "two to the good" as Colin Slater would say, but they have took their chances and we haven't.

I'm still mystified at how well Notts left back McCann is playing, a previous visit a few months ago saw him put in an all-time worst display against Wycombe winger Kevin Betsy, he seems to have a fitness level now and has shed a few pounds. Then again will he mark a less effective player than Lincoln's right midfielder Ryan Amoo, he is awful.

The second half is like the Alamo, Lincoln go three at the back and Notts exploit this. Silk ( I like him) and Pipe are rampant down the Notts right. Pipe's crossing is excellent, in the past it has often been his Achilles heel, but not today. Dudfield makes it 3-0 the floodgates are open but we block and rely on luck. Weir-Daley a youngster on loan from across the Trent scores a consolation goal. We even manage to miss a penalty in injury-time, Pilkington makes a tremendous double save. It's just not our day we are well beaten, we make Notts look good. When Kevin Pilkington comes off his line you know something is wrong.

Pipe, Lee, Silk and Dudfield are outstanding for Notts, Frecklington is subbed with 20 minutes to go, we'll save him for a rainy day. Special mention for Lincoln 2 jacket and Welsh u21 international Lee Beevers, he is immense.

At the end of the game we hang around, the players warm down, they chat and sign autographs for the kids, Junior Mendes is very kind to the boys. Thompson has done well with this set of players, you can tell they respect him, and more importantly, they are polite and charming off the field. Now what about a youth policy Thommo?

Notts County 3 Smith, Lee and Dudfield Lincoln City 1 Weir-Daley

Man of the Match David Pipe.