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

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