Monday, October 22, 2007

Eastwood Town 0 Bamber Bridge 1

They’ll be dancing in the streets of Leeds tonight and not just because of another jammy late winner, no, but because they’ve just landed their first piece of silverware for the season. It’s been a gruelling twelve months and apparently it was nip and tuck to the death, but I’m proud to announce they’ve topped the Home Office league table for the most banning orders issued last season (30) 118 in total, putting them three clear of arch rivals Cardiff City. Well done lads, West Yorkshire are proud of you.

Mrs P’s business empire goes from strength to strength, following a crucial piece of doorstep selling earlier in the week. High fives and a hip hip hip hooray to a Mrs Jones in our village, who bought the entire back catalogue box set of Wurzel Gummidge DVDs for £40. Please feel free to pop round for a cup of tea and a slice of cake anytime, Mrs J.

It’s a re-visit today to Coronation Park, home of Eastwood Town FC. Professional gambler and poker club owner, Robert Yong, is the new Chairman of The Badgers and he is throwing some money at it. Eastwood now bid in five figure sums; they’ve just landed free-scoring 6’4” striker, Matt Rheed, from Kidsgrove Athletic. According to highly-rated manager, Paul Cox, it’s the first of many new signings.

I head off up north early today; I want to check-out the D.H. Lawrence Museum in Eastwood Town Centre. I drive down the A610, and up through Giltbrook in glorious sunshine. I pass the Man in Space pub, and throw a left down a cul-de-sac, and park up, adjacent to the war memorial.

I pass a man walking a rottweiler, then a woman with an Alsatian, and a bloke walking his Pit Bull Terrier: it’s not a town for Poodles and Chihuahuas; if you must have a dog, it’s a proper dog!

I walk into town; it’s an impressive bustling high street. I turn right into Victoria Street, the birthplace of David Herbert Lawrence. It’s like a step back in time, the street is comparable to the old Hovis advert, and it’s magical and mystical.

I pay £2 to enter the house where he was born. I’m given a guided tour through all the rooms in the house, and a talk on his life story, it’s fascinating and turns out to be more entertaining than the FA Trophy tie I’m about to see. There’s even a cafĂ© on the street called The White Peacock, named after Lawrence’s first book.

I bump into a fellow groundhopper in Lawrence’s bedroom. (no gags please). I buy a copy of Sons and Lovers for £1.99.

I run down the high street. I’m late for the game. I dive into Woolworths for some pick ‘n’ mix. It’s £7 entrance and £1.50 for the programme. I adore this ground, it has a feel of football to it and a sloping pitch.

Bamber Bridge, from Preston, are the visitors and I love the way they play football. I saw them last season at Gresley and they were good value. Ryan Salmon, their leading scorer, is missing today. I’m gutted, he’s the bees-knees. They play a league below Eastwood, but will fancy their chances today.

I’ve seen The Badgers on three occasions, and although their results suggest different, I’ve rarely been impressed. They’re quite direct, and hit the front two early, but struggle to keep possession. Eastwood has a hotbed of local talent, midfielder Colin “Junior” Daniel has recently joined Crewe Alexandra.

Brig can smell a cup upset; they play with two wingers and always look to get around the back. The home keeper, Ian Deakin, is a busy bee in the first period, denying Spencer and O’Neil with fine saves.

Deon Meikle and Liam Hearns work the visitors’ keeper at the other end. In the 23rd minute Mrs P phones up to ask if I want Red Thai or Chicken Balti: “Actually darling, the game could do with a goal”. On the stroke of half-time Daniel Mahoney strikes the Eastwood post after latching onto a McCormick goal kick.

I check on Lincoln City’s progress in the fine social club at the break. We’ve picked up a useful point against free-spending Posh in an early kick-off. My mood darkens when I find out Peterborough have scored in the 89th minute. I have a Diet Coke, and chuckle when I see they still sell Stones bitter, I bet D.H. used to drink that.

Brig take a deserved lead in the 53rd minute, Adam Tong launches a long throw which O’Neil flicks into the net.

Eastwood striker, Lindon Meikle, who has had trials with Yeovil and MK Dons in the summer has been anonymous today and is substituted. Brig look untroubled, their centre pairing of Williams and Tong have been impressive. They have further chances to kill the game off. They are worthy winners, their left-back, Tom Ince, is a tidy player; who always has time on the ball, and has a sweet left foot.

Brig look to play the beautiful game, they have width and technique. Eastwood are workman like and industrious, they could do with a playmaker in the midfield to provide some service for Lindon Meikle.

I walk back to the car and notice Chairman Yong, he has two dogs on a lead, wrapped in Eastwood scarves, they look useful too!

Eastwood Town 0 Bamber Bridge 1 O’Neil

Attendance: 174

Man of the Match: Tom Ince

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Ilkeston Town 1 Buxton FC 2

Irony reared its ugly head last weekend. I was washing 'Sally Gunnell' and Mrs P was cutting back some bushes with the hedge cutters. I heard the sickening noise of metal on bone and winced at the seeping wound that she had inflicted on her ring finger: “You will be alright to do the ironing still won’t you love?” was the best I could come up with.

It was convenient of the good lady to slice her finger open at this time of day as “The Skipper” had a party at the Baltimore Diner, just round the corner from the Queen’s Medical Centre. Talk about killing two birds with one stone!

As you know Sticky spent six hours in A&E a few weeks ago, with a similar injury. Now Mrs P is an attractive lady (I have to say that she reads the blog), she flutters her eyelids at them dozy junior doctors, and is in and out in less than three hours. I pay the price for having an ugly mug and ears that stick out like West Brom’s manager, Tony Mowbray.

The Nuclear Scientist picks me up today, he’s got the sat nav on, I tell him to turn it off, I’ve been to Ilson more times than he’s had hot dinners. Half an hour later we’ve (I’ve) took a wrong turning and are being treated to the delights of Cotmanhay; it’s a real eye opener and we’ll leave it at that. NS is not happy!

Ilkeston, as mentioned in previous blogs, has a population of 38,000. It’s most famous son is the thespian actor Robert Lindsay. So sad is my life now, I find myself on Friday night’s curled up on the sofa with Mrs P watching repeats of My Family and occasionally laughing (?) (I’ll do anything to get a game of footie in on a Saturday)

Good news for people from Ilkeston with sleeping disorders, local lad William Roache (Ken Barlow) has just published his autobiography: Soul on the Street (I bet it took him months to think of that title) I read a couple of paragraphs on the net and fell asleep for a full 12 hours in my computer chair. I guarantee that half of Ilkeston will overlay on Monday morning, if Soul on the Street is their bedtime read.

Nigel Jemson’s Ilkeston have won two on the spin and have a few back from injury. Buxton are struggling for form at the Silverlands but are unbeaten on their travels. We dash into the bar for a swift pint of Greene King IPA. There’s a minute’s silence for club stalwart and the Chairman’s brother Barry Millership who recently passed away.

I’m raving to NS about Buxton 6 jacket Anton Foster, the boy has everything I look for in a footballer. He has an immediate impact on this game, he wins a ball he has no right to and shrugs off two challenges and plays an exquisite pass down the left flank, a cross is clipped in, and met on the forehead of on-loan Owl, Jason Bradley. 1-0 Buxton. The goal and movement are sheer class.

Foster is running the show, he can make the ball walk and talk, his feet are quicksilver, and he dances on the ball. He’s mugging Walker and Holmes in the midfield. He threads a ball through to Bucks winger Jordan Hall who smacks his shot against the upright.

It’s a compelling spell of attractive attacking football. Big Jason Bradley is only 18 but he’s way too good for the home defence, he is built like a Sherman tank.

Pettinger saves a Reed header from a Ridley corner and Towey has a shot cleared off the line. It’s one-way traffic. Ilkeston equalise with their first serious attack of the half. Lee Featherstone delivering a fine cross from the left and central defender Nathan Winder planting a firm header over keeper Hartley. It’s unjust and unfair and 1-1.

He even bored Mike Baldwin to death!!

We try and get a cup of tea at the break but the queue is enormous. The bloke on the public address system plays the Scissor Sisters; I’d expect a full scale riot if anybody put these freaks on a jukebox on a night out in Ilson!!

I’m scratching my head wondering how Ilson performed a smash and grab at high fliers Gateshead Utd last week. They play with more fluency after the break, their striker Adam Muller is seeing more of the ball. Eastwood Town have recently bid £10,000 for his services. He has performed of late like a man who is unsettled. Buxton bounce back into the lead on 58 minutes through Bradley again, following a scramble after a corner.

After 75 minutes we finally get a cup of tea and a tray of home-cooked chips, they are gorgeous. Ilson keeper Paul Pettinger had a spell at Sincil Bank and looking at his frame, I’m surprised he wasn’t in the chip queue too!!

Ilkeston have their chances and edge the second half: Muller, Featherstone and Ross all go close. The game is over Buxton have been excellent.

My main man Anton is storming off to the changing rooms, he looks distressed and is not shaking hands. The Buxton assistant manager beckons him back onto the pitch, and throws an arm round his shoulder, and calms him down.

The sponsors today are Greene King Brewery; they nominate Ilson forward, Neil Ross as man of the match. I can only deduce from this decision they must have all downed a gallon of IPA and picked his name out of a hat: Ross is awful. Buxton skipper Terry Bowker has him in his pocket.

Ilkeston Town 1 Winder Buxton FC 2 Bradley 2

Attendance: 384

Man of the Match: Anton Foster (Different Gravy)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bilborough Pelican FC 3 Dunkirk FC 1

I was meant to be watching the film Control tonight. It’s about the life of Joy Division cult lead singer, Ian Curtis. Apparently it’s more depressing than being a season ticket holder at Field Mill.

My mate Taggart, (miserable Scotsman) is stuck on the M25 and can’t make the film. Sticky jnr is on a residential trip with school in Derbyshire and “The Skipper” is training with his team down the Powerleague.

I surf the net for a fixture and come up with a gem on football mitoo: a blood and guts local cup clash between Bilborough Pelican FC and Dunkirk FC.

The Taxman is up for it and we arrange to meet White Van Man at the Brian Wakefield Memorial Ground on Lenton Lane.

It’s a bargain £2 entry, including programme and parking. I bump into a few junior managers I know from my scouting and coaching days; they express concern that I no longer coach. “The Skipper” is sought after, but he just enjoys playing for his village, with his mates.

Bilborough Pelican FC is an amalgamation of two clubs; this season they have dropped back into the NSL. They share this venue with Unity Casuals Cricket Club. Dunkirk play in two leagues above. I rate them highly; a few weeks ago I saw them blow away Blackwell MW with a powerful display of high tempo football.

The midfield engine-room has departed since then: Marquin Smith has gone to Carlton and Jack Reid to Heanor, they will be missed. Dave Harbottle’s men dug deep into their reserves last weekend, with an epic encounter against Gedling MW in the FA Vase.

The mist rolls in off the chilly waters of the nearby River Trent. It’s an absorbing game of football for the neutral. Tyrone Cairns is Dunkirk’s centre-forward this evening; I prefer him on the right wing, but his pace unsettles the home defence. He wastes two good chances early on.

It’s a man’s game, without malice. There are personal battles all over the park, but total respect. Everybody wants it; Bilborough Pelican that little bit more.

Roy Sharp has done the rounds, but tonight he looks lean and mean, and more importantly, hungry. He is dynamic. He cushions the ball and is full of ideas and not afraid to unleash the trigger. He opens the scoring, turning his defender, finding space, and expertly curling a delicious shot over the visiting keeper, Lowe. He’s denied a penalty before the break; he has plenty to say about that one. Bilborough Pelican are impressive.

I’m informed by an official of the Notts FA that tonight’s referee is being fast-tracked through the leagues, he is young and ambitious. I hope for his sake there’s no referee’s assessor here tonight, he blows his whistle louder and more frequently than Tony Blair’s mate, Dr David Kelly. There are five or six unnecessary bookings. The tackling is hard but not crude.

Footballing journeyman, Mark Nangle, has landed at Dunkirk, he’s still got it, but BP’s big number four is dishing it out. Nangle is to be commended for showing tremendous restraint. Young Joel Wilson is absent tonight, both he and Nangle will be a formidable partnership for The Boatmen.

A familiar pattern continues in the second half with BP playing the better football. Sharp converts a left wing cross, to put them two up. He draws breath on an imaginary cigar, playing to the crowd, he is loving it.

Word on the touchline spreads that some cars have been broken into. I nip and check that Sally Gunnell (not much to look at but a bloody good runner) is OK.. By the time I return James Hendry, who has bust a gut tonight, has made it 3-0.

Dunkirk are not at the races, they are disappointing and play without width. They camp in the BP half for the final 15 minutes and have a late rally, scoring from a corner.

They find the BP goalkeeper in fine form. Ian Barker gives a master class in the art of goalkeeping. His handling, punching, kicking and positioning are first-class. Too much is often mentioned about outfield players. Barker has been a major influence in his side’s cup upset tonight.

We finish the night off with a couple of pints of Thwaites Lancaster Bomber in a nearby country pub, with a roaring log fire. It’s the perfect end to the day.

Bilborough Pelican 3 Sharp (2) Hendry Dunkirk FC 1 Pratt

Attendance: Unconfirmed (nearly 100)

Man of the Match: Ian Barker

Monday, October 8, 2007

Retford United 1 Nantwich Town 2

Did you see Dida, AC Milan’s goalkeeper at Celtic Park the other night? Christ almighty, he went down quicker than the Italian Army in the Second World War. Fair play to him though, have you ever smelt a Scotsman’s breath after a dozen tinnies of Tartan Ale?

I’ve had my eye on coming to Retford for a while now, and this mouth-watering fixture versus Cheshire’s Nantwich Town fits the bill perfectly.

Retford is a market town in North Notts with a population of just over 20,000. Famous people from this area include: Stoke City’s Liam Lawrence and the greatest fielder the world has ever seen (apart from me) Derek Randall – Arkle to his friends.

103 year old resident, Esme Collins, has been in the news this week; she was turfed out a nursing home after the owners insisted on a further £100 a week. Sadly she didn’t last a week at her new abode.

The A46 and A614, which I travel up today is a drive down National Coal Board memory lane. I pass signposts for Cotgrave, Calverton, Blidworth, Rainworth, Bilsthorpe and Ollerton; the pits are gone but never forgotten.

I drive past Clumber Park and skirt around Retford town centre. Cannon Park is on the edge of Retford, it’s a handsome setting, and parking is free. It’s £6 to get in, with a further £1.50 for a supreme programme.

It’s 2.30pm and already busy. The Cannon Park Social Club is a hidden treasure, as good as it gets, only Gainsborough Trinity has topped it for me. Everything a clubhouse should have is here: endless photos on the wall, trophies, replica shirts, table football and a pool table.

Three generations of families sit together, unfortunately they’re watching the rugby, thankfully my back is turned to the telly. I ask you, who wants to watch a bunch of Coppers and barristers throwing an egg around? I swig my pint of Grolsch at £2.60.

Retford United are managed by ex-Blade, Peter Duffield, whilst the visitors, Nantwich, have former Barnsley defender Steve Davis as boss. Both teams are bang in form and something has to give. Retford’s Barbadian international, Neil Harvey and former Sheff Utd winger, Adrian Littlejohn, are both absent today. That’s disappointed me.

The Badgers have had a meteoric rise up the non-league rankings; it was only a few years ago that they played in the Notts Alliance. They were only formed in 1987. Nantwich Town won the FA Vase in 2005/2006.

The hosts look nervous from the start, as if the weight of being league leaders is a burden on their shoulders. In comparison the Dabbers are not short of confidence and are on an unbeaten run of their own.

Retford try to out muscle them and after a few heavy challenges pay the price. Impish winger Danny Griggs catches the home defence cold with a quickly taken free-kick, 1-0 Nantwich. The visitors are cavalier in their approach and are always looking to play their wingers in.

Retford continue to give away possession cheaply and it’s soon 2-0, with a firm header from Bott from yet another accurate cross from Griggs, after he had once again shown the home defence a clean pair of heels.

Retford are all over the show and swap full-backs to no avail. Nantwich 7 jacket, Ashley Carter, is a class act, he is poetry in motion on the ball; he runs inside and out and bamboozles the Badgers’ defence on every occasion. He is like a gazelle. Retford are lucky to be only two down at the break. Everyone is having a good old moan about the ref, but for me he allows the game to flow.

After the break, Retford play with more purpose and passion, there’s more movement and pace. Godber reduces the deficit and the visitor’s baton up the hatches for the final quarter.

Ryan Hindley drives forward with the ball but it’s not meant to be. They pay the price for a sloppy first forty five. Rob Hackney, the Dabbers’ keeper uses his large frame to effect and makes some fine blocks.

Simpkins and Chambers are powerful at the rear for Retford, they aren’t up against any real pace today, but where the visitors are really clever is that there front two play in the wingers on both flanks, where they get round the back. I can’t wait to see Nantwich again; they could be this season’s Cammell Laird.

Retford Utd 1 Godber Nantwich Town 2 Griggs and Bott

Attendance: 238

Man of the Match: Ashley Carter.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Long Eaton United 0 Pickering Town 2

Mrs P has entered into the world of free enterprise. The good lady is delivering catalogues for Kleeneze cleaning products. Naturally I’m delighted, it means I can, with the extra revenue generated, visit more upmarket grounds, such as Stevenage, Rushden and Diamonds and Worcester City.

If you would like any cleaning products, egg timers or Christmas Cards please leave a comment on the blog.

White Van Man has been on the blower, he’s been asked to scout for a Unibond Premier League club and tonight’s target is playing in this Northern Counties East League clash.

He’s got the hump, he saw a 0-0 on Saturday. I text him all 5 goals from Boston. We’re there in 20 minutes, although, I cock it up, and miss a turning, despite having been here a few times before.

WVM has tickets on the gate. He has gained V.I.P. status. I came last year to a FA Cup tie against Warrington. Long Eaton were dire that day. I’m hoping for an improved performance tonight, on a level playing field.

Long Eaton, unfortunately for Notts’ exiles, is in Derbyshire (just), I can confirm this from passing a signpost on the way in.

It has a population of 38,000, from which a miserly 42!!! turn up this evening. In 1981 Sticky P bagged an away win on the pools coupon in Donovan’s nightspot, when he stole a young bride from beneath the preying eyes of The Sheep, and whisked her back over the border into the Mecca better known as Nottingham. I even treated her to a single ticket home on a Barton’s Bus in the morning, seeing her safely back across the cattle grid.

This area is a breeding ground for footballers: Mark Draper, Lewis McGugan and Nottingham’s No.1 carpet fitter, Garry Birtles are all from this area. Birtles was certainly more entertaining on the pitch than he is as a summariser on Sky Sports.

It’s £4 admission fee and a £1 for the programme. We nip in the bar; Sticky has a quick half of Caffreys. I think they could do with a new carpet in here, but the bar staff are friendly.

Long Eaton have played at Grange Park for over 50 years. Jim Fairley is the Chairman; in fact Jim Fairley is everything: Long Eaton is his life. It’s a hive of activity tonight as three or four junior teams are training down here.

We elect to sit opposite “The Big Jim Stand” in another small seated area. There is only one person sat in there and I know him from years ago; we exchange pleasantries.

Pickering, tonight’s visitors, are from North Yorkshire. It’s a lovely little market town, if you get the chance to visit it. We hired a cottage up there one Christmas a few years ago; I don’t remember a better Christmas Day in my lifetime. Neil Warnock signed Craig and Chris Short from Pickering Town, whilst he was manager of Scarborough.

The pitch is bumpy and bobbly. The Pickering coach tells his defenders to “clear their lines.”

Long Eaton have a good spell of attacking football in the first fifteen minutes. The Pickering 'keeper looks nervous on crosses and the home team go close on several occasions.

Pickering begin to get a stranglehold on the midfield, they are dominant down the right hand side. A sweeping move on 22 minutes ends with Matthew Biggins side footing home a cross from the right. I haven’t a team sheet tonight and I’m struggling for players’ names. Pickering hit the bar; the home team’s heads are down.

We have a stroll round the ground at half-time and partake in a tea and Bovril at the snack bar, where WVM has some banter with the girls serving.

We stand on the opposite side of the pitch and Pickering really up the tempo. It’s no surprise when Biggins makes it 2-0 on 73 minutes.

Pickering are impressive and move the ball around nicely. Long Eaton hardly have a shot of worthy note. Greening, Pickering’s No.10, has ran the home defence ragged. Long Eaton are sponsored by McDonalds; they’ll be no Happy Meal tonight.

The player that WVM has scouted has been ineffective; I’m amazed he wasn’t subbed. WVM gets the call from UPL manager on the way home, he’s kacking himself. “Just tell him the truth” I say, “You’re putting your reputation on the line.”

Long Eaton Utd 0 Pickering Town 2 Biggins 2

Attendance : 42

Man of the Match: Greening.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Boston United 4 Buxton FC 1

Mrs P has joined the anti-rugby brigade, courtesy of ITV’s decision to cancel Coronation St in favour of England v Tonga. Like I said before, surely ITV 4 is tailor-made for minority sports?

I could write a book on Boston United, being a Lincoln City fan I have little sympathy for them. The Taxman can’t come today; he spent enough time here during slimy Steve Evans’s period in charge, inspecting the “cooked” books.

For a five year period, they failed to declare over a quarter of a million pounds worth of PAYE and National Insurance contributions; cheating their way out the Conference at the expense of Dagenham and Redbridge.

Football never fails to surprise me; this crook is now at the helm of Sussex Blue Square Conference team, Crawley Town.

Still this little club court controversy, recently they signed full-back Rob Wesley, who is serving time at nearby North Sea Camp open prison. He took part in cash machine raids at supermarkets and slashed a horse to death.

In the programme they have a Q&A profile on him. One of the questions is what is your favourite electronic gadget? I thought his answer might be the electronic tagging device he probably has wear on match days. Sadly he shows no sense of humour. Playstation 2 is the predictable answer.

Crap author, Jeffrey Archer, had a short spell at Boston. Unfortunately this too was at North Sea Camp. He was jailed for four years, not for writing atrocious literature (although the judge should have added a year on for that) but for perjury and perverting the course of justice.

The journey to Boston is a shocker. You go through the bottle-neck of Grantham and along the dangerous and laborious A52. I park on a cul-de-sac and head for one of my all-time fave chippies, Eagles.

It’s £4 for fish and chips and I wash this down with a fine pint of Bateman’s at the snug Coach and Horses. There’s the sound of ambulances in the distance and the voices of Eastern European children in the streets playing. I imagine it to be a bit of a scary place at night.

Today’s game is an FA Cup tie, I pay £12 entry fee and a further £2.50 for a programme. York Street is blessed with beautiful sunshine today. Pre-match music sinks to an unthinkable low with Abba’s Lay All Your Love on Me. Neil Vickers is making his debut on the public address system, and he is having a nightmare. His microphone is Norman Collieresque and he stumbles and stutters his way through the starting line-ups.

The Pilgrims begin the game with wave after wave of attacks. Former imp Matt Bloomer fires a shot in from the edge of the box, the ball falls fortuitously at the feet of ex Ipswich forward Kieran Leabon, he makes no mistake. They are soon two up courtesy of a David Galbraith penalty following a blatant foul on O’Halloran.

Buxton begin to find their feet after their early wobble, Towey and Macpherson go close. An Ellender own goal puts them back in the game. Their approach work is tremendous but they are lightweight upfront. The Pilgrims’ centre pairing of Ellender and Crane are too strong for the slender front partnership of Bingham and Reed. The former is trying, the latter barely breaks sweat.

Adam Smith, is on loan from The Posh and is getting some joy down the left side, he floats a delightful ball to the far post for John Froggatt to make it 3-1. The game is no contest on 52 minutes with Leabon getting his second of the afternoon following good work by O’Halloran.

Buxton hit back and former Manchester United trainee Lee Crockett has to be at his best to keep out a Ridley drive and a follow-up from sub Paul Walker.

I see my best individual performance of the season from a player today whose side are 4-1 down. Buxton skipper, Anton Foster, is inspirational. He fights tooth and nail for every ball, closing down his opponent rapidly. His feet are quick, his passing incisive, he wants it so badly. At 27 years old it’s not too late for him to play higher up the pyramid.

I’ve enjoyed the day and not the drive, Boston played some sparkling stuff and it will be interesting to watch their progress in the Blue Square Conference North.

Boston 4 Leabon 2 Galbraith and Froggatt Buxton 1 Ellender og.

Attendance: 1347

Man of the Match: Anton Foster.