Monday, September 3, 2007
Nuneaton Borough 2 Stalybridge Celtic 1
Apparently it was a bit chilly today at Elland Road, home of Leeds United, still minus 3 at 5pm. My new friend Dennis Wise collected another three points, courtesy of another Tresor Kandol goal.
Memories came flooding back for me this week, with the sudden collapse of Leicester defender Clive Clarke at The City Ground. Seventeen years ago I was on a stag weekend in Amsterdam, it was a gorgeous day and we all congregated around the TV to watch Final Score with Des Lynam.
Lincoln’s game at York was match abandoned, Sticky was flapping, my Dad and brother were there. A quick phone call to mum left me with the devastating news that Minsterman midfielder and former Forest apprentice, David Longhurst, had died on the pitch at Bootham Crescent, at the age of 25.
Today it’s Liberty Way for me, the new home of Nationwide North club Nuneaton Borough.
Nuneaton is the largest town in the county of Warwickshire, with a population of 70,000. Famous people born in the town include: camp 'comedian' Larry Grayson, film director, Ken Loach and footballers John Curtis and Matty Fryatt.
It’s no coincidence that QPR have had a miserable run since Curtis joined them. My favourite footballer of all-time, Sir Trevor Peake, was born in Nuneaton; he has the freedom of Lincoln.
I’m driving down the A453 towards the A42; a Boeing 737 hangs beneath the cotton wool clouds, waiting to land at East Midlands Airport. I’m getting old, I’m listening to Radio Nottingham; the nauseating tones of Ronan O’Keating fill the airwaves. ”You sound best .. when you say nothing at all” .. couldn’t have put it better myself Ronan!! Mrs P has cooked many a Sunday Roast singing along to this clown.
The football question is good on the radio this week: Who is the only Englishman playing in the Spanish Primera Liga?
I turn off the M42 onto the A444, it’s interesting road with a plethora of pubs and hotels. I pass the Battle of Bosworth Visitor Centre: final score Henry 1 Richard 0.
One man and his dog give me directions to the ground, it’s out of town and on an industrial estate, and it reminds me a little bit of Hinckley United. I park the car for £2 (tut tut) and walk down a dusty dirt-track.
It’s £10 to get in and £2 for a programme that has over 20 pages of adverts. The guy on the turnstile has a wad of tenners in his grasp, a cigarette dangles from his lips, he reminds me of a shady bookmaker.
The pitch is lush and wide. I have a mosey round the social club; there’s a real vibe in here. It’s £1 for a glass of coke. Sheffield Wed are playing Bristol City on Sky, no-one is watching it, The Owls are losing. Brian Laws will be throwing plates of Chicken again. Pictures of the current squad hang on the wall.
The DJ is playing the best track I’ve ever heard at a football ground: The Killers, 'Everything will be Alright.'
Cheerleaders greet the players as they make there way to the pitch. Celtic’s squad looks strong, Tricky Tree goalkeeper, Paddy Gamble, is in the nets, I’ve seen him down the Academy and like him. Former Imp, James Dudgeon, is at the heart of their defence. In midfield they have Ashley Burbeary, who caught my eye for Alfreton last season.
Nuneaton have a few injury/suspension problems and have not started the season well, I fancy an away win. I’m leaning on the wall, level with the eighteen yard area, a steward tells me to move, she’s unfriendly and I don’t like her tone, I ignore her.
Nuneaton start well, their right back Simon Travis gets down with increasing ease. Celtic keeper, Paddy Gamble, has safe hands. Neil Moore goes close for Borough. Stalybridge take the lead, a cross from the right by Sykes is flapped at by Borough keeper Darren Acton, on his 200th appearance for the club; Chris Hall heads home. Hall recently retired from the professional game with Oldham and is now an actor by trade; he’s still only 20 years old.
Borough are undeterred and press forward but they lack a cutting edge. I get my first touch of the match ball on 20 minutes. Lee Ellington and Barlow go close for Celtic. Former Stag and Pie, Tom Curtis, equalises from the spot after a blatant shove on Collins by Stringfellow. It’s a fast, flowing and entertaining game.Both sets of fans swap ends at half-time; it’s the beauty of non-league.
I‘ve noticed a Dutch groundhopper behind me at half-time. He has an Ajax shirt on and has bought plenty of Borough memorabilia. I was going to engage in conversation with him but he looks so bloody miserable. It’s just another ground for him to tick off. I can’t imagine him with his finger in a dyke preventing his homeland from flooding.
Nuneaton start where they left off, with Travis having more success down the right flank, and it’s from one of his many crosses that Collins wins the game for Borough with a bullet header; Gamble is helpless. Acton tips over a Barwick screamer in the dying moments, it would have been unjust had it sneaked in.
Celtic are mediocre second half, Ellington and Hall are starved of any real service, they never get it wide. Even a blind man can see that Nuneaton keeper Acton is suspect from crosses but they never exploit it.
For Borough the midfield are strong and tenacious, they look to play it wide. Bradley Pritchard, who I believe is at Loughborough University, has great poise and balance on the ball. The experienced Neil Moore at the heart of their defence has a muscular approach. They could have won by more.
Nuneaton 2 Curtis and Collins Stalybridge Celtic 1 Hall
Man of the Match: Simon Travis.