Friday, January 25, 2008
D***y County 1 Preston North End 4
Things are bad at home. Mrs P is sick and tired of the football, cricket and occasional little bet. Anyway, I booked a table for two last night for 8pm. And by 9 O’clock things were ten times worse. She hadn’t even potted a single bloody red ........
Mrs P has let it slip that she pays £25 for a haircut at Topknot. Having recovered from this earth shattering news, I, myself, have decided to go upmarket.
Word is out at work that I’m off to watch D***y County at The Sheep Dip. I’m booed and hissed at in every corridor. I’m undercover and heading towards the land of the lamb sarnie. I’ve been looking for a cup shock all week. And all eyes are pointing towards Pride Park. Preston North End are red hot favourites. But I think the Rams can produce an upset.
I’m driving down Brian Clough Way. I cross the border. I’m in bandit country. A Sheeps***er at work has tipped me off that there’s some wasteland near KFC, where I can park. I’m queuing up to pay and dangle a fiver out the window: “£8 please mate.” I nearly choke on my lamb sandwich. I could get one and half haircuts on our patch for that price.
I’m strolling towards the ground. It’s 1.30pm. I take the camera out of my pocket, to take a few shots. Those pair of clowns (my sons) has put dead batteries in my camera. I have already decided the punishment: they will be forced to watch a whole episode of Dancing on Ice tomorrow night. Amongst the maze of takeaways and retail parks is another Nottingham Secret Agent. Boots the Chemist provides me the batteries, sandwich and drink I so desire.
I saunter up to the Ticket Collection window. I booked yesterday. The girl on the phone was first-class, and has sorted me out a prime seat. I only queue for a few minutes: “Enjoy the game sir.” This club do not lack in customer relations. Perhaps Nottingham Forest FC could send over their staff for a training day?
Derby lies on the River Derwent and has a population of 236,000. It’s famous for Rolls Royce, Railways and Toyota. Actor Alan Bates and the engineer Richard Arkwright were born in the area.
Preston North End has a population of 180,000, Famous people born there include: Sir Tom Finney, Andrew Flintoff, John Inman and the nauseating Mark Lawrenson.
The Rams snared the sour-faced, lemon-sucking Billy Davies from North End. He was found out in the Premier League; just like many of his signings.
My team, Lincoln City, signed their greatest ever player from PNE. His name is Gareth Ainsworth, and we paid £20,000 for his services. He is a Lincoln legend.
I take my pew; it’s a birds-eye view. I’m on top of the tunnel. Injured, suspended and unwanted D***y players sit close by. The ground is fairly unremarkable. The playing surface is more superior at nearby Burton Albion’s Pirelli Stadium. A Girls’ Aloud rancid tune ‘Love Machine’ filters out the speaker system. According to the morning papers Ashley Cole is one human love machine.
The Sheep, not unlike Forest, have a good track record of youth. They have nicked a few from Nottingham, including Lionel Ainsworth and Tom Huddlestone. Giles Barnes was once at the NFFC Academy, but he didn’t like it.
Preston settle very quickly. Their play is bright, inventive and incisive. They pass and move. . Already the Rams look ill at ease and laboured. Argentinean striker Emanuel Villa is making his third appearance for the club today. I hope they’ve checked his passport. The last one they had, Esteban Fuertes, had a very dodgy one.
This Preston side is packed with pace. New manager, Alan Irvine, is now flying solo, after a few successful years as David Moyes’ deputy. Andy Todd is under pressure from North End’s Chris Brown, he’s dispossessed. Brown cleverly waits for support. He lays the ball back to Karl Hawley. He still has a little bit to do but finishes clinically. The D***y flock around me are livid. I wear my secret smile.
Todd and his partner in crime, Claude Davis are causing me endless entertainment. They are like Laurel and Hardy. Billy Davies shelled out £3 million for this clown. He barely wins a header all afternoon. And rarely finds a white shirt when attempting a pass.
Brilliant interplay from Sedgwick, Hawley and Carter, sets-up the influential Simon Whaley to strike home the visitors’ second goal. Around me they are frothing at the mouth.. The bloke behind me is having kittens. He’s been ranting and raving since the first whistle. And so has Rams’ Assistant Manager, the ruddy-faced Stan Ternant. He stands in the technical area, heading and kicking every ball. Read his autobiography, it’s a classic.
PNE are desperate to put the game to bed and score the goal of the game on the stroke of half-time. It’s another patient, subtle build up. Todd contributes with another ghastly error. Hawley has found space and curls the ball around the outstretched hand of D***y keeper’ Lewis Price. Their defending has been shambolic. Hawley and his teammates salute the Preston faithful. “Can we play you every week?” The Rams predictably are booed off.
The day becomes even more beautiful when the disc jockey plays Mr Brightside by The Killers. D***y are booed back onto the pitch. Andy Todd has been carted off to the funny farm.
Paul Jewell has shuffled his pack and his team begin with more purpose. Earnshaw pulls one back on 55 minutes. And then, shortly after, the most overrated player in the Premiership, Robbie Savage hits a lazy left foot swinger into the goalkeeper’s hands when it looks easier to score.
The bloke behind me goes on and on and on. My patience finally snaps on 71 minutes when I ask him why he doesn’t write in for a trial. He’s not amused, he’s 65 years old.
Preston still pour forward; they’re a pleasure to watch and worth the £15 admission fee. Karl Hawley has been different gravy. He’s run himself into the ground and milks the applause when he is subbed. I’m the only person in the West Stand to applaud him off. People look at me as if I’m from out of space.
They rattle the woodwork twice, before ex-Kopite, Neil Mellor, escapes the flimsy offside trap, but is pulled to the ground before he can pull the trigger. Welsh international Lewin Nyatanga is sent off. Mellor tucks the penalty in the bottom right hand corner of the net. I think it’s four. Where’s my abacus? They celebrate as one, in front of the magnificent 1300 travelling support.
I’m walking back to the car, smiling like a Cheshire Cat. My sides are still splitting. I’m firing texts off to a few Forest fans. A police car flies by, its lights flashing, sirens blazing. Is it on its way to the home dressing room to arrest Claude Davis for impersonating a Premiership defender?
D***y 1 Buckteeth PNE 4 Hawley 2 Whaley and Mellor (Pen)
Man of the Match: Karl Hawley