Saturday, December 15, 2007

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Frickley Athletic 3 Lincoln United 1

While I agreed with the 15 day jail sentence dished out by the Sudanese judge to English teacher Gillian Gibbons for having the brass neck to call a classroom teddy bear Muhammad, I thought it was bit harsh though to have to put her through a deportation to Liverpool too! And another thing, I’ll be bloody careful next time I’m at the Village Show and I have a go on the “name the teddy bear” stall.

It was an early start this morning. I nipped into town, early doors, to buy Mrs P a few bits and bobs for Christmas. The old credit card got some hammer in the Marks and Spencer lingerie department, I can tell you.

I’ve some new grounds to visit in the New Year so the Christmas presents have to be top notch to put the good lady in the right mood for when I present the groundhopping itinerary across the kitchen table for 2008.

It’s been a filthy morning. “The Skipper’s” home ground is a bleak and dismal place. The rain looks set for the day. His team are sublime and keep another clean sheet. All that is on my mind, though, is where the hell am I going to find a match on this afternoon?

White Van Man comes to the rescue. His best mate plays for Lincoln United and they’re playing up at Doncaster. The player’s dad is driving up there to watch his son and WVM asks me if I’m up for it. Too right I am.

I haven’t the bottle to tell Mrs P how far we are going; it’s a 125 mile round trip, I just say I’ll be back after 6pm. I’m going to have to rustle something up pretty special in the wok tonight to pull this one out the bag.

We’re driving up the M1, M18 and A1; it’s raining so hard you can barely see out the windscreen. Games are being called off all over the country but Frickley Athletic is on. Not that the club are much use. I phone their number six times and keep getting answer phone.

The player’s Dad has Smooth FM on his car stereo. I recognise the DJ as John Peters who blagged his way through many years on the Radio Trent Breakfast Show. The best the useless lump of lard can come up with is 'Hang on in There Baby' by Johnny Bristol.

Frickley Athletic (previously known as Frickley Colliery) is in South Elmsall, West Yorkshire. It’s an area that has been devastated by pit closures. But it looks a lively and prosperous place as we are skilfully navigated through the town centre streets by WVM.

It’s still lagging it down. The town has a population of 18,000. Famous folk from round these parts include Geoff “my Nana could have caught that in her pinny” Boycott, the late, great, Spurs player, Cyril Knowles and the old ITN newsreader, Leonard Parkin.

It’s £7 admission and £1.50 for a thick programme that has done very well on the advertising side. Frickley Colliery FC was formed in 1910. And they have spent a considerable time in the Northern Premier League. To date they have only won one game this season and are already on their third manager, with Billy Heath the latest man to be unveiled.

Lincoln United have recently parted company with their manager John Ramshaw. Chris White is currently performing a caretaker role. They managed to turn a 3-1 lead into a 4-3 defeat last week against Leek Town. Nothing is going well for them right now. I saw them at Matlock Town back in August; they were p**s poor.

The main stand at Frickley is magnificent. It looks out onto the old colliery spoil heaps which are still not grassed over. The mine closed in 1993. It is said during the Miners’ Strike of 1984 that two men were escorted to work by 400 police; such was the solidarity of this community. It’s all gone but never forgotten.

Lincoln start well and their best player, Gio Carchedi, forces a good save from Frickley keeper Adam Nicklin. It’s while I’m having a walk round the ground that Frickley open the scoring through left winger Chris White. Lincoln’s confidence begins to sap. They are at sixes and sevens at the back and fail to come on to the home attack.

I’m stood on the covered terrace opposite the main stand. It’s like the Last of the Summer Wine. Groups of pensioners are giving referee Mr McGrath an earful. “Thas shite ref” is the best they can muster. The referee is awful and doesn’t take into consideration the foul conditions.

Billy Heath has Frickley up for this one and they swarm all over Lincoln. And they deservedly increase their lead on the half hour. Lincoln keeper Ben Scott appears to be impeded after the punching the ball away but it is a smart finish from Craig Marsh that puts the Blues two up.

Lincoln show a rare moment of passion shortly before the break. Their midfielder Iain Screaton, is clearly frustrated and embarrassed to be associated with this inept performance. He sees the red mist and commits a two footed lunge on the Frickley full back. There’s a mass brawl; they don’t do handbags in West Yorkshire. It’s a straight red and a second consecutive sending off for Screaton. I look at his father who has travelled all this way to watch his son. It’s a sad moment; he is hurting for his boy but puts a brave face on it.

Things go from bad to worse during the five minutes added time when Morris scores with a diving header from a White cross.

I don’t frequent the social club at the break, no-one seems in the mood for it. But I get the teas in, instead. It’s the least I can do to cheer up Screaton’s Dad. White Van Man does his party trick of making a Puuka pie disappear in two bites. He really should apply to go on Ant and Dec’s Britain’s Got Talent.

Caretaker manager White rings the changes and hauls off both his strikers at half-time and replaces them with Douglas and Good, who both put in a good shift. The ten men play with more flair and spirit.

By now Screaton has come and stood with us below the main stand and is chatting to his Dad. Justin Jenkins the Lincoln striker is with him and keeps yawning. He can’t be tired from playing football as he barely broke sweat for his team.

Ben Brown scores a consolation goal with a header at the far post. And Nicklin makes a great save to keep it at 3-1. But Frickley have outpassed and outplayed Lincoln United. It’s the visitors who now face a battle with relegation.

Frickley 3 White Marsh Morris Lincoln 1 Brown

Attendance: 177 (3 supporting Lincoln: Groundhopper, WVM & Screats Dad

Man of the Match: Lee Morris

Monday, December 3, 2007

Glapwell FC 0 Pickering Town 0

It’s not often I have sympathy for the rozzers but I did feel sorry for the City of London Police this week. I mean the thought of seeing Harry Redknapp at six o’clock in the morning is enough for any human being to retch up their breakfast.

Recently the groundhopping has been as hectic as Mrs P’s soap schedule. The previous Friday I dropped in at the Pirelli Stadium, the home of Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion. He certainly has his father’s Midas touch as they play a beautiful game of football on one the finest surfaces the East Midlands has to offer. Unfortunately they met their match in a resurgent Cambridge United; going down 2-1.

Last Wednesday was a day I have waited for all my life. My team are Lincoln City and for the first time in 50 years we played Nottingham Forest in a competitive game at The City Ground. It was a stroll in the park for the Reds. But a very young Lincoln side didn’t disgrace themselves.

Today I head across the border into bandit country (Derbyshire). I’ve missed “The Skipper’s” game, to get some jobs done around the house. His team keep a clean sheet. He’s as happy as Larry.

Glapwell is just off Junction 29 on the M1 and lies between Mansfield and Chesterfield. White Van Man fails to make the trip. He claims to have a big house move on, followed by a heavy drinking session in town. It’ll be more than likely a pot of tea for two at CafĂ© Keyworth!

I pick up The Architect; he’s had the green light as his and my kids are skating on the ice in the Market Square. It’s a trip for the mums.

We’re on the A617 driving through Glapwell, past Ma Hubbard’s and the Young Vanish public house. We pass a winding wheel, which acts as a monument to Glapwell Colliery, which closed down in the 1974. We turn left towards Bolsover and park in the club car park adjacent to Glapwell Nurseries.
Glapwell FC were formed in 1985 and are having the season of their lives. They got to the FA Cup third round qualifying stages, losing to Corby Town. And they remain unbeaten in the Northern Counties Eastern Premier League.

The village has a population of 1500 and their football team are punching above its weight. This club refuse to stand still. They are developing the ground in anticipation of promotion to the Unibond League.

Pickering are today’s visitors. It’s a beautiful market town in North Yorkshire with a population of 7000. I had a wonderful Christmas there a few years ago.

Cult television series Heartbeat is filmed in the area. You won’t find PC Alf Ventriss walking the beat though; he’ll be more than likely making a brew. Craig and Chris Short both began the football careers at Pickering Town and had successful period at Neil Warnock’s Notts County. Brian Clough’s assistant, Ronnie Fenton, was born in the town.

The Pikes have won nine on the spin and are unbeaten in 14 games. I saw them at Long Eaton a few months ago and was impressed. One of their star performers that night, Matthew Biggins, has since emigrated to Australia.

It’s £5 entry and a further £1 for the programme. We are harangued into buying a raffle ticket. It never bothers me, and I always oblige, as this is how clubs like Glapwell survive.

The clubhouse is one of the smallest I’ve been in and is crammed full of fans. They have Sky on. We watch Joe Cole score for Chelsea. Why can’t he do it on the international stage? The Architect has a lager, I have a shandy; it’s £3.90. The Pickering fans tuck into that famous northern delicacy: pie and mushy Peas.

The pitch is on an amazing slope. It looks heavy. The rain has been relentless up north this week. One side of the ground has a small seated stand and further along the touchline a covered area.

We stand on the opposite side, which is open to all the elements. The rain keeps off but it’s bitterly cold. We have a chat with a Pickering fan. He tells us a lot of their players are from Whitby. They can’t get a game for Whitby Town because their hometown club only sign Teesiders.

Pickering kick up the hill and soon begin to display their passing game. But Glapwell look dangerous on the counter-attack. The game needs a goal and the referee fails to play advantage on more than one occasion. I get a touch of the match ball on eight minutes.

Glapwell are managed by former Stag, Les McJannet. He is ably assisted by John Gaunt and Kev Gee. I worked with both of these characters at Notts County’s Centre of Excellence. Their coaching experience is proving invaluable.

There seems to have been a steady influx of players arriving from Sutton Town. One of those, Ian Brown, is full of running and is proving to be a handful for the Pickering defence. He goes close several times.

Glapwell keeper Neil West makes a fine save from a Mark Swales free-kick on the stroke of half-time. It’s nip and tuck; there’s nothing to choose between the two teams. Darkness descends on Hall Corner and the referee shouts to the bench to get the floodlights on.

There’s a horrendous queue at the tea bar and we haven’t won the raffle. We endure a miserable half-time. I nip in the club shop to check the line ups. Apparently even the boardroom is a portakabin.

There’s a familiar pattern to the second half. Neither team wants to lose and both go for the win. Glapwell hit the bar and score a goal that is ruled out for offside. Pickering go close through Swales and Whitfield (we call him June because he’s wearing gloves).

Ricky Greening is the Pikes’ right winger and brother of WBA’s Jonathan, who once played for Manchester United. He has all the skills and pace of his brother but has no end product to his game.

Glapwell’s Brady and the Pickering both miss sitters at the death to win the game. It’s been entertaining fare and no one deserves to lose. Varley and Brown shine for the hosts but it is Pickering captain Joe Connor who catches the eye.

Glapwell FC 0 Pickering Town 0

Attendance: 97 (including 4 car loads and mini bus from Pickering
who were all loud and had an opinion)

Man of the Match: Joe Connor