It’s the Easter holidays and Mrs P has took the kids to Asda to kill a bit of time, before her luncheon date at the pretentious haunt of footballers’ wives and peroxide blondes – Fire n Ice in West Bridgford. I take a call at work from a sobbing Sticky junior, he’s begging me for permission to buy 50 Cent’s latest offering. I tell him there’s more chance of me buying a D***y County replica shirt, with Claude Davis printed on the back, than allowing him to purchase that crock of crap. He lets rip with a verbal volley that the New York hip-hop star would have been proud off. It’s a straight red for junior.
There’s no White Van Man tonight, he claims to be playing table tennis again. Man United play Bolton at Old Trafford; it’s beauty versus the beast. Luckily The Taxman is in the swing of things; I pick him up at 6.40pm.
It’s a fairly uneventful journey down the A50 and A38. When we reach Mickleover we pull over and ask for directions to the Mickleover Sports Ground. We’re parked up in the spacious car park for 7.30pm.
Runaway leaders Winterton Rangers from Scunthorpe in Lincolnshire are in town tonight. They have plunged the NCEL into disarray by not applying for promotion into the Unibond League. It’s their second successive promotion. They have scored 89 league goals this season, at an average of three per game.
It’s £5 admission and another £1 for a top notch programme. I bump into the programme editor, and congratulate him on his fine publication. I also tell him he has way too much time on his hands.
Mickleover is a suburb of D***y and is two miles outside the city centre. Tomorrow’s World presenter Judith Hann was born down the road in Littleover.
Mickleover Sports FC were founded in 1948. They share this complex with the cricket club. Along one side of the ground is a splendid three hundred seater cantilever stand.
There is a huge turnout of groundhoppers this evening. On Friday the Central Midlands League hold their annual groundhop. It’s a chance for groundhoppers of the world to unite and get a few grounds in. I have a chat with a guy from Beverley, who is in the area on business. He is, like me, not a proper hopper, but a lover of the beautiful game.
The game has a frenetic start. I’ve not seen anything quite as fast and furious as this since a Vase qualifier at Gedling Miners’ Welfare last September. The Winterton defence and midfield are all over the show. Their goalkeeper Ben Simpson looks a bag of nerves. This is evident on ten minutes when he has to deal with an impossible back pass; all he can do is head it straight to Mickleover’s Mark Finlay, who finishes superbly.
Winterton Rangers are not at the races, as their manager keeps saying “it’s too easy.” Mickleover miss out on a chance to make it two. There is a massive hole in the centre of the park, as both teams throw men forward; it’s like a cup-tie.
Winterton’s Nathan Would hoists a ball in from the right, so high, that when it comes down from the night sky, it has snow on it. The ball is nodded down for leading scorer Rob Northern to smash home.
Both goalkeepers are kept busy, as the shots come thick and fast. The game ebbs and flows. Shortly before the break Winterton’s David Watson makes it 2-1 after Mickleover fail to clear their lines.
We take a stroll to the Tea Bar at half-time. The Taxman hasn’t lost his touch and chats up a rather posh lady, who originates from Stamford, but now resides in nearby Burton. She appears more suited to the horse and hound fraternity.
There’s a noisy groundhopper queuing up for a brew. He shouts out loudly, to anyone prepared to listen, that this is the best game he’s seen this week; it’s only bloody Wednesday.
The second half is one-way traffic. Winterton Rangers prove to all and sundry why they are top of the tree. They are a youthful outfit, who shrewdly pick up young lads rejected by the likes of Scunthorpe, Grimsby and Hull. They remind me of Staveley Miners’ Welfare, who I saw a few weeks ago.
Their best player on show tonight is leading scorer Rob Northern. He is a chaser of lost causes and is nimble-footed. He harries and harasses the Mickleover defenders for the entire evening. Northern sets up Watson for his second of the night with a slide rule pass. His partner Holt’s persistent is rewarded, following more hesitancy in the Mickleover defence, to put the game well and truly to bed.
Winterton have been worth the sixty mile worth trip, and we talk of nothing else, during our pint and a half at The Plough at Normanton-on-the-Wolds, after the game.
Mickleover 1 Finlay Winterton 4 Watson (2) Northern and Holt.
Attendance ? Nearly all hoppers
Man of the Match: Rob Northern.