Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Worcester City 1 Vauxhall Motors 0

It seems an age since I did a midweek game. I have suffered Mrs P’s TV soap schedule in silence. I’ve earmarked this fixture and ground for a while now. I’ve waited so long to run my eye over the sought after Vauxhall Motors’ forward Paul Taylor. The former Manchester City youngster has rediscovered his appetite for the beautiful game. He’s spent a while on trial at Nottingham Forest. And the Motormen have turned down a £50,000 bid from League Two strugglers Chester City.

The Flying Scotsman makes his debut tonight on the groundhop. He used to live and work in Worcester and is looking forward to his trip down memory lane. The Taxman joins us after a four week self-imposed exile. White Van Man fails to make the trip, he's still feeling the ill-effects of a dodgy burger from Saturday.

We are in buoyant mood. The Flying Scotsman coaches our sons’ football team. Yesterday they produced a cup upset, knocking out the much-hyped Priory Celtic U12’s. They were poor losers, which made it even sweeter.

We coast down the M42 in rush hour, without delay. We hit Worcester in less than ninety minutes. The Flying Scotsman drives around the local rat-runs in search of his favourite chippy. The fish is delicious at the Ambleside Fish Bar and is served with a smile.

We arrive at St George’s Lane at 6.30pm. It’s a grand old ground, with blue iron gates. Worcester City were formed in 1902. They are managed by The Flying Scotsman’s friend and former Southampton, Birmingham City and Notts County defender Richard Dryden. I once saw him score for the Pies in a local Derby at The City Ground in 1993.

Both he and The Flying Scotsman finished their careers with Keyworth United Veterans. He also coached my boy, Joe, at the Nottingham Forest Development Centre. We bump into him in the Club Office. He’s suited and booted. He looks a shade nervous. His team need a win to stay in touch with the play-off pack. Realistically, he cannot live with the big budgets of Kettering Town and AFC Telford. He’s building for next season.

Worcester has a population of just over 90,000. It’s most famous resident was the composer Sir Edward Elgar. The River Severn runs through the town centre, literally. Worcester Cathedral looks over the beautiful setting of New Road, the home of Worcestershire County Cricket Club. Worcester is also famous for its Royal Porcelain and Lea and Perrins Sauce. Kays catalogue was founded in the city. Mrs P single-handedly kept that company afloat until 2007.

We retire to the cosy Legends Bar and wash down our fish supper with Banks’s Bitter and Mild. We have a saunter around the ground. I’d put it in my top ten. There are different buildings built in different decades. What a shame they are soon to move. The old Main Stand is magnificent. The seats are wooden. Some would call the ground rickety, I call it romantic. I’d love to see it full. The pitch is as flat as a pancake

Vauxhall Motors FC were formed in 1963, and are based in Ellesmere Port, in Cheshire. They are managed by former Wolves’ forward Andy Mutch. Wolves’ legend Stan Cullis and Nottingham Forest European Cup winner Ian Bowyer were both born in Ellesmere Port

We take our place in the stand, and observe a minutes silence for an official and former player.

Paul Taylor has an immediate impact on the game, with his skill, trickery and pace. But it is Worcester who take the lead, as early as the third minute. A George Clegg cross is headed out to Worcester’s Graham Ward, who swings the ball in for skipper Chris Smith to rise and head home.

It’s one-way traffic for the rest of the half. Dryden’s men play a sweeping, flowing and penetrating game of football. Former Magpie Ryan Clarke and Ward are magnificent down the Worcester right. They put in an endless supply of crosses. But this team have more than one dimension.

They can play down the middle two. Forwards Craig Wilding and 18 year old youth product Matt Dinsdale are a formidable front pairing. They know each other’s game inside out. Their touch, movement and awareness are not the norm for this level. Wilding rarely wastes a ball and is intelligent. Dinsdale can cushion and kill a ball. He plays way beyond his years.

The Motormen offer very little. Their defending is desperate. Paul Taylor is well shackled by the home defence. He has worked hard but the service is dire. There is no plan B. Dryden looks on with pride. He has calm and positive coaching style.

It’s a cracking cuppa tea at the break. I could quite happily die here. What a ground.

Saturday’s game takes its toll in the second half for Worcester. They need fresh legs. Vauxhall Motors still offer very little threat, although Taylor wastes their best chance, failing to lob a stranded Worcester keeper’. It’s an amazing last ten minutes as the home team exploit the gaps and up the tempo. But they find on-loan Preston goalkeeper Andy Murphy in the shot stopping form of his life. He pulls off a string of spectacular saves, leaving Wilding, Dinsdale, Clegg and Smith shaking their heads in disbelief.

Dryden is on edge and biting his nails. He can’t believe his side have failed to take advantage. But the visitors never trouble Worcester keeper’ Cameron Belford.

The game is over and I can’t help but mention referee Carl Dennis from Newcastle-under-Lyme. He has had a cracking game. Probably the best referee I’ve seen this season.

On this performance Vauxhall Motors are doomed. But for Worcester City the future looks bright, particularly with Richard Dryden at the helm.

Worcester City 1 Smith Vauxhall Motors 0
Attendance: 564
Man of the Match: Andrew Murphy Vauxhall Motors

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Alfreton Town 0 AFC Telford 1

It’s Super Saturday. Two games in one day. It’s gone down like a lead balloon, but it would feel like a missed opportunity. White Van Man picks me up at 11.30am. Our aperitif is in the Derbyshire Dales. Matlock Town are playing Eastwood Town and WVM likes to watch his mate Screats, who plays for the visitors.

We’re treated to HEART 106 FM on his car radio. They play three in a row from Spandau Ballet, Anastasia and Robbie Williams. I think I’m heading for a nervous breakdown

WVM is coughing and spluttering. He’s missed out on his Full English this morning. There’s no runny egg, just a runny nose. We’re driving up the M1. He drives like he’s playing Grand Theft Auto on the PlayStation. I’m amused by it all but The Taxman, when he can be bothered to attend, is a quivering wreck.

Parking is tricky in Matlock Town Centre and we settle for a spot in Sainsbury’s. We just miss the kick-off. The game is as poor as the food on offer at the Tea Bar. WVM has an inedible beef burger. Eastwood are woeful. Their manager Paul Cox seems more interested in talking to the linesman, rather than coaching the tripe his team are serving up. Eastwood’s eleven jacket Lindon Meikle is worth the admission alone. His feet and movement are lightning.

Matlock win the game because their delivery is better. But the game is not a good advert for the Unibond Premier League.

We’re dashing out the ground. Next destination is North Street, the home of Alfreton Town FC. We pass Screats’ Dad on he way out. He’s had the misfortune to befriend a groundhopper who has travelled up from the New Forest. He’s waxing lyrical about all the grounds he’s visited but we haven’t time for a chin wag.

We’re flying up the A515. WVM skilfully negotiates the side streets of Alfreton, as if he’s lived here all his life. We dump the car outside the turnstile.

It’s £9 to get in. And the programme is top notch. There ‘s a great view of the ground from outside the ground, above the turnstile.

Alfreton Town were formed in 1959. The town has a population of 20,000. I came to a night game versus Kettering last season and could not believe the amount of public houses in this town. It’s an area decimated by pit closures. I conveniently forget to tell WVM there’s a Thorntons chocolate factory down the road.

Telford is a new town in Shropshire. It has a population of 130,000. IT companies EDS and Fujitsu are major employers in the town. A local businessman invested heavily a few years ago ( I thought it was Coldseal Windows, but that must have been elsewhere) As is the norm in Non-League, it ended in tears. AFC Telford has risen from the ashes of Telford United and are currently second in the Blue Square North.

Boy, I love this ground. It doesn’t matter where you sit; you’re tight to the pitch. We’re perched up in some seats in the corner, the view is ideal. WVM has left his mobile in the car. He’s ably assisted by Alfreton Town FC Director Dave Gregory, who organises a pass out for WVM.

While he has gone that bloody boring groundhopper has reappeared on the scene. He’s
telling me he’s only got one ground in England and Scotland to do. I ask him where his wife is and he replies that she’s in Thailand. I can’t say I blame her. Thankfully he buggers off to Hucknall Town for the second half.

The first half is average. Alfreton seem intent on launching the ball. Their football is quite ugly. Their manager is Nicky Law who had relative success in the Football League as a manager. He did well at Buxton FC last year. I remember him as no nonsense centre half at Notts County a few years ago. His son Josh plays on the right hand side today and looks a tidy player.

Both teams strike the woodwork. Alfreton smash another ball over the top which their striker Brian Cushworth runs onto. He only has the keeper’ to beat but slices badly wide.

The whistle goes for half-time. WVM is eyeing up a Full Monty (Pie, Chips, Peas and Gravy) at the Food Bar. It’s just a pot of mushy peas with mint sauce for Sticky Palms. Alfreton make and serve food with style. Matlock take note. The Disc Jockey plays a rave and rock and roll medley.

We walk around the ground and mingle with the away support, who are a loud and jolly bunch. AFC Telford turn up the heat in the second period and show their class and mettle. They go close on several occasions before Jon Adams converts a tap in at the far post, following great work by Gary Birch. I remember Birch when he played at Sincil Bank. He always looked partial to the occasional Full Monty. He’s way too good for the Blue Square North, though.

Ex Lamb Lee Moore, Telford’s number 10, is full of running and a very clever player. He is the creator supreme but the visitors cannot put the final nail in the coffin. What Alfreton lack in quality they make up with endeavour. Lawrie Wilson, son of Hartlepool manager Danny forces a fine save from Telford’s Ryan Young.

Rob Smith, the Telford manager, brings off his strike force and shuts up shop. The final whistle is blown; the game has reached its conclusion. And it’s Telford who grabs the points, despite an edgy and nervous ending.

Super Saturday is just like Sky’s over-hyped Super Sunday. It’s turned out to be a bit of a damp squib, although Telford were good value.

Alfreton 0 Telford 1 Moore

Attendance: 635

Man of the Match: Lee Moore

Monday, February 18, 2008

Nottingham Forest 1 Swindon Town 0

Scott Dobie has slipped out the Forest exit door almost unnoticed. It only got a one-liner in the Nottingham Evening Post. He had his leaving do at The Park Hospital, where naturally he’s on first name terms with all the doctors and nurses. They had a whip round and bought him a first-aid box. He’s due back at The City Ground on Monday March 3rd, with his new pals at Carlisle United. Get your mortgage on him hitting the onion bag. (Bugger, just been told he's not eligible to play)

It’s “The Skipper’s birthday party today. Both my boys have been as good as gold of late. Threats of a visit to Meadow Lane for poor behaviour have not been required. We shall visit there in March, when the League Two form team, my team, Lincoln City are in town.

It was announced this week, from Sincil Bank, that our manager Peter Jackson has throat cancer. The team have responded in the right fashion, winning five on the bounce. Get well soon Jacko.

I’m with eight kids and Big Al, a Glaswegian. We park off Musters Road. We’re walking towards the cricket ground. The memories come flooding back of this famous road: McKays Café, Harvey’s Bar and EMPICS were all once on this road.

We walk past Forest legend Ian Storey Moore’s betting shop. He‘s now Chief Scout for Martin O’Neil’s Aston Villa. At the end of Musters Road is my summer holiday home, Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club. The Parr Stand has gone, replaced with a stunning piece of architecture.

People are pouring over Trent Bridge. West Bridgford is bathing in glorious sunshine. The vible feels good around this famous old club. Cautious Colin Calderwood has criticised the Forest faithful this week, foolishly in my opinion. Their patience is beginning to wear thin. Forest have only taken six points out of a possible eighteen. It leaves them hanging onto fourth spot. Could it be a case of déjà vu?

Swindon is in Wiltshire and has a population of 150,000. Famous Swindonians include: Diana Dors, Dean Ashton. Mark Lamarr, Melinda Messenger, Billie Piper and John Francome. Honda, BMW and Intel are major employers in the area. The best selling book, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, is set in the town, as is A Touch of Frost.

A pall of disappointment has hung over the Forest camp this week. Victory was snatched away from them by referee Mark Halsey at “Dirty Dirty Leeds.” Jermaine Beckford, once again, proved to be their nemesis.

Today looks to be a home banker. I wonder if former Robins’ manager Lou Macari will be having Forest on the coupon, like he had Newcastle, when Swindon played them in a cup tie a few years ago.

Both Calderwood and his assistant David Kerslake have played for Swindon Town. The visitors are without recent acquisition and leading scorer Simon Cox.

We’re sat in the Main Stand. The boys are hovering around the tunnel collecting autographs. Nathan Tyson won’t put pen to paper, to avoid a wrist injury.

It’s a lively start from both teams, in the first five minutes. Tyson closes down Swindon’s giant Slovakian keeper’ Peter Brezovan, he fires the ball straight at Tyson and is fortunate to see the ball loop back up in the air and straight into his hands.

Swindon try the extra pass, when it’s crying out for a shot. It’s the stalest of stalemates. There’s no Essien to feed Junior Agogo today. The front two are starved of any service. The Forest midfield look leggy and weary.

Forest keeper’ Paul Smith is cheesing me right off. I can get ready for a night out with Mrs P quicker than it takes him to perform a goal kick .He constantly picks the ball up, putting it back down again. And he never shows the slightest bit of urgency.

It’s been a turgid affair. I don’t think Big Al will be in a hurry to come back. The game’s flat and the “A” Block are subdued.

Both teams up the ante in the second period, throwing more men forward. Tyson latches onto a Lockwood through ball, down the Forest left flank, and shows the Swindon full-back a clean pair of heels. He smashes the ball into the back of the net from the tightest of angles. The Swindon keeper’ will be disappointed.

Forest have a golden fifteen minutes. Tyson is running riot. He puts in an inch perfect cross which Junior Agogo fluffs. He’d have buried it in his Ghana shirt. McGugan also blazes over.

Tyson has been limping for a while now and is replaced by Arron Davies. Cautious Colin shelled out £750,000 for this guy on the strength of a one man demolition for Yeovil versus Forest last spring. John Curtis was the Forest right back that horrible Friday night. Even Mrs P could dribble round Curtis. Davies hasn’t reproduced anything like that sort of form for the Tricky Trees and rarely starts a game.

Swindon substitute their best two players, livewire winger McNamee and industrious striker Blair Sturrock, son of Paul. Christian Roberts enters the fray and that cheers me up. I always rated him at Exeter City and Bristol City and was saddened to hear of his fight a few years ago against alcoholism, a battle which he is winning. Despite it being only a cameo performance, he still shows he can cut it at this level.

There’s still time for incompetency from the referee, Mr Foster, and the official on the Main Stand side. Tyson and Agogo are too quick for the linesman and marginal offsides are flagged. Sinclair is hauled down on a one on one but no yellow card is shown. It reduces Calderwood, dressed immaculately in his Armani cloth, to boot a water bottle away in frustration at a free-kick awarded against Commons for a clean tackle.

Wes Morgan had to leave the field earlier in the game after a clash of heads. He returns with his head swathe in bandages. Both he and Kelvin Wilson have firmly shut the door on the Robins’ forwards. Morgan is head and shoulders man of the match today.

Swindon are disappointing. They have lacked self-belief and quality. And return home empty handed, although left-back Jamie Vincent is pleasing on the eye.

Forest 1 Tyson Swindon 0

Attendance: 23,439 (1264 from Swindon)

Man of the Match: Wesley Morgan

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Cotgrave CW 0 Caribbean Cavaliers 6

An 80 year old man was sitting on a park bench sobbing, when a young man walks by and asks him what's wrong. Through the old man's tears he answers, "I've fallen in love with a beautiful 25 year old woman." "What's wrong with that?" asks the young man. Between the sobs he answers, "You can't possibly understand. Every morning before she goes to work we make love. At lunchtime, she comes home and we make love again, and then she makes my favourite meal. Then after supper, we make love once more."The old man breaks down, and is no longer able to speak. The young man puts his arm round him. "It sounds like you have a perfect relationship. Why are you crying?" The old man answers through his tears, "I've forgotten where I live."

Jack and Joe continue to go boxing in the Meadows area of Nottingham. They are coached by former World Champion Jawaid Khaliq. It’s beginning to pay off as both are showing tremendous endurance and stamina when playing football. Both their teams have kept clean sheets. But “The Skipper’s team continue not to pass the ball.

There’s renewed hope for Premiership strugglers D***y County, with the announcement this week that “defender” Calamity Claude Davis has been ruled out for the rest of the season.

I was having a surf the another night, Mrs P was at Salsa Dancing, or so she says, when I came across a cracking question. Who is the only player to have winners’ medals in the Champions League, Premiership, UEFA Cup and FA Cup, as well as an Olympic Gold Medal? Answer at the bottom.

It’s another short trip today to Woodview, the home of Cotgrave Colliery Welfare. It’s almost a year since I saw them clinch the title at Keyworth United’s Platt Lane courtesy of a Paul Nicholls daisy cutter. They looked nervous that day and were fortunate to take the points. I’m driving through Plumtree, past The Griffin Inn. The Magpies are one up at Villa; Owen has scored early-doors.

NSL pacesetters Caribbean Cavaliers are today’s visitors and are riding high on the crest of a wave. They can equal Clifton’s league record of 18 games unbeaten if they avoid defeat today.

Cotgrave is South-East of Nottingham and has a population of 7000. Olympic silver medallist Nathan Robertson is from the village. I’m sat in Cotgrave’s number one real ale pub, the charming Rose and Crown. I’m supping a fine pint of Willie Brewd from the Church End Brewery in Nuneaton. It’s 4.5%. Christ I’m getting boring. The pub is thriving. A gang of youths gather outside smoking cigarettes in the glorious sunshine. Ironically ELO’s Mr Blue Sky is on the jukebox.

I drive up to Cotgrave Country Park; it’s on the old colliery spoil heap. Newcastle have leaked two goals during my swift pint. I “worked” at the mine in the late 80s. To be honest I tossed it off in the Time and Wages dept. Happy days though. There’s a fire engine parked up outside the country park, its lights are flashing. All the firemen are inside. It must be an important game of cards they’re playing.

I drive up Candleby Lane, past the precinct and Cotgrave Futures. I take a right turn at the Leisure Centre into the Welfare car park. It’s free admission but there is no programme or team sheet issued.

The first person I bump into is Scooby. He’s on the Cotgrave coaching staff. We played cricket together for years. Both he and his late brother Biffa, were a pair of characters. Biff was cruelly taken away from us all last summer. I loved that bloke.

Cotgrave were formed in 1946. In the 60s there was an influx of Geordies and Mackems that came to the village to work at the colliery. They’ve always been a tough, uncompromising side to play against. Lee Penley, their big cheese, is stuck on 99 NSL goals. The Evening Post photographer is hoping it’s his ton up today.

Caribbean Cavaliers were formed in 1978. A friend saw them play recently in a spicy encounter at Southwell’s Memorial Ground. They didn’t cover themselves in glory that day and finished with only eight men. They have signed the coveted Michael Grinnion. It’s a no show from him today.

I elect to stand the opposite side to the dug outs, with the sun behind me. The pitch is in good condition. They have floodlights here and often play midweek.

There’s nothing to choose between the teams in the first 25 minutes. The Cavs’ keeper’ is way off his line and Vipond tries to lob him but doesn’t quite connect properly.

The Cavs finally unlock the home defence. Brown and Burke exchange passes; Brown continues his run down the right flank and delivers a dangerous ball into the box which the advancing Justin Evans bundles home.

The home team go into their shell and it is only the endeavour of their pocket rocket midfielders that keeps them in the game. Impressive Cavs’ winger, Wes Burke, recently back from a five week ban and forward Juree Staples both fire wide. The Cotgrave defence begin to buckle and are pinned back in their own half.

Lee Penley keeps the Post photographer on his toes with flashes of brilliance. But he is often isolated. His team don’t lack effort, just quality and ideas.

“Cookie” doubles the visitors’ lead, shortly before the break, with a calm finish, after escaping the attention of the home rearguard.

The Cotgrave bench are unhappy with the performance of the man in the middle, accusing him of bias and blindness. Scooby lets his frustrations boil over, and vents his fury at the man in black. He is banished from the dugout and is forced to stand alongside The Groundhopper for the remaining 45 minutes. The Cavs stay out on the pitch at the break. According to one of the players the away dressing room is roasting.

The second half is a rout. Cavs’ midfielder Winnie Brown gives a performance alien to me at this level. He is a man mountain, rangy, attacking box to box midfielder, who could surely perform at a higher grade. The Evening Post photographer is perfectly positioned to snap the excellent Staples nod home a Burke corner.

By now Penley has sussed he won’t be make his ton today. He asks to come off. He’s disillusioned and disheartened. There’s good news for Scooby on the hour, his beloved Mackems are one to the good.

Cavs’ substitute Dwayne Brade scores a fifteen minute hat trick. Cotgrave keeper’ Springthorpe keeps the score respectable. A home spectator mocks Cavs’ full-back Ryan Perkins. He is put in his place by the young full-back. “Go back to your farm” he tells the villager.

On 85 minutes Scooby decides he’s had enough and invites me over to the Welfare for a pint. I kindly decline his offer. I always watch the full ninety. At full-time there’s a text from Barthez. Keyworth have demolished Wollaton 4-0. They continue their pursuit of the leaders and have plenty of games in hand. I will watch them soon, maybe at Notts Police. And I will be in the away end, that’s for sure.

Cotgrave 0 Cavaliers 6 Brade (3) Evans (2) Staples

Attendance: 27

Man of the Match: Winston Brown
Quiz Answer: Kanu

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Ruddington United 1 Clifton FC 1

Chesterfield’s Jack Lester, the leading scorer in League 2, (Div 4) is currently taking his coaching badges. This week he was meant to have coached my local village team. Anyone who has seen Jack the Lad play will know he has perfected the art of the dying swan. Watch Keyworth United’s penalty count spiral out of control, as they take on board his crash course in the art of winning a penalty.

I was looking at Cooperman’s Leicester City season ticket before I handed it him back. On the front of the ticket it says ‘Leicester City .... One Team One Dream’. After what I saw it should read ‘One Game One Nightmare.’

No game for “The Skipper” today but his brother aint half chirpy after a cheeky 4-1 win away in Sutton-in-Ashfield. His two week swimming ban, dished out by Keyworth Leisure Centre, for high jinks and tomfoolery at inflatable fun, comes to an end today. We did talk about him dressing up in a sombrero and wearing a false moustache to avoid detection. But we didn’t think that even them jam fool lifeguards would fall for that one.

It’s a ten minute drive today. I park outside the White Horse public house. I was here two weeks ago, at a wake, to pay my respects to a Plumtree Cricket Club legend. A lad called Kevin Pickaver. He died so young and had so much more to give. An all-round top bloke.

I stroll around the village and take a few snaps. I work on the industrial estate up the road. One hundred and twenty people lost their jobs on the estate this week, with the shock news of the closure of IT software firm ZEDA. I saw the barrier was down when I was driving into work. They were turning people away. The food at the Three Crowns Pub and Ruddington Fish Bar is first-class and served with a smile.

I’m in the White Horse lounge supping a pint of Batemans XB. A couple sit nearby, bickering. She wants to walk around Rushcliffe Country Park, he wants to watch funny ball. They retire to the bar to watch the egg chasing.

They sell Black Rat Cider behind the bar. It’s 6.3% and available to take-out. It’s like rocket fuel. I was hoping to bump into The Comedian today, but he’s a little hen-pecked, and has gone shopping with the missus.

Ruddington United FC were formed in 1993. It was a merger between Ruddington FC and Ruddington Village. I could be wrong here, but there doesn’t seem to be a roadmap between Ruddington Colts and Ruddington United FC.

It’s free admission. The ground is pleasant, although the clubhouse is cold and soulless. There’s no vibe. They share this ground with the cricket club. I took a stunning catch here a few years ago. And no, before you start, it wasn’t with a tennis ball.

I pay a £1 for a programme. It’s a decent effort. Andy Littlewood’s manager’s column tickles me. He’s quite clearly feeling a bit sore about the 3-1 reverse the previous week against Keyworth United. He labels them a long ball team. I glance at the league table and notice the Greens are thirteen points in front of Rudd with two games in hand. Perhaps he necked a few Black Rat Ciders before he wrote his notes. Keyworth are unbeaten in ten and Barthez is in the form of his life. He has kept more clean sheets than Sketchleys.

Clifton is one mile down the road. It’s a club steeped in history. Famous players to have worn their brilliant white shirts include: Jermaine Jenas, Jermaine Pennant, Garry Birtles and Darren Huckerby. I rate the Clifton striker, Karl Mitchell, very highly. He plays with his heart and is all-action. Today he is suspended, along with two others. He will be missed, particularly by me. Discipline appears to be a problem.

Clifton FC had a wretched end to the year. Club stalwarts Norman Archer and Steve Brodie sadly passed away. They intend to name their new facilities in Norman’s honour.

Clifton are out the traps the quickest. The tackles are flying in but this referee is good, very good. He officiates with common sense and talks to players like men not children. Ruddington, as their defender keeps shouting, are ‘second best’ in the early stages. Waddley goes close for Clifton. I get my first touch of the match ball on five minutes. I cushion it superbly.

Ruddington score totally against the run of play. A ball comes sailing in from the right; they are all queuing up at the back post. It’s Riki Blagg who makes the decisive header. White Van Man texts on the half hour. He’s on the lash in Newcastle. He tells me Forest are already two down on the South Coast. Bloody Hell!

Clifton remind me so much of Kimberley MW, who I saw a few weeks ago at Wollaton. They are frustrated and give away possession cheaply. They look to blame the officials and not themselves. Tempers boil over at the break. There’s an angry exchange of words between the Clifton manager and referee. For me, the referee has been spot on.

I’ve been talking to the father of Clifton defender Michael Hartshorn. I express my disappointment at the absence of Mitchell. He tells me an amusing tale. The Clifton chairman bet Karl that he wouldn’t score 20 goals in a season and not be sent off all campaign. Mitchell won his bet. The 20 goals were nailed on. His prize was a barrel of beer.

I bump into Sean and John from Clifton at half-time and have a natter. Clifton improve slightly after the break. But Ruddington continue to look dangerous on the break. They counterattack with pace. They have on view today the game’s outstanding player. Neil Curtis(it says Russell in the programme but White Van Man assures me it's Curtis) has grabbed this game by the scruff of its neck and has delivered the ball into dangerous areas all game. He never shirks a challenge. His corners, in a swirling wind, are accurate and pinpoint. Left back Michael Holtham also looks a very tidy player.

Clifton’s Chris Waddley hits a ball in from the right, the Ruddington keeper can only wave at it, the ball smacks the bar. Clifton gamble, leaving gaping holes in their defence but the home team fail to punish them. Clifton’s number eleven starts pulling the strings. He hits the ball of the day, a fifty yard cross field pass on a plate for Clifton full-back Adam Waddley to run on to.

Ruddington are desperately running down the clock. The linesman on our side is having a good game. He has a disability but does not let it hamper him. We banter with him. I remind him of a shirt pull he missed earlier in the game. He’s laughing. Clifton manage a last gasp equaliser with Steve Langsdale smashing the ball home from close range. They have got out of jail and have been disappointing today.

Ruddington 1 Blagg Clifton 1 Langsdale

Attendance: 41

Man of the Match: Neil Curtis (Russell)