Monday, April 28, 2008

Leek Town 1 Eastwood Town 3

We woke up Wednesday to the tragic news that there had been a death in the family. Max and Paddy are no more; well Max is no more. He was only two and was found floating on top of his goldfish bowl at 7am on April 23rd. There were no suspicious circumstances. I carried out the post-mortem and filleted the little fellow myself. Cause of death: drowning.

Keyworth Utd U10’s raised the bar once again this morning. They played the perfect game in the YEL Cup Final at nearby Gotham United FC. They completely bamboozle and bewilder a team from Mansfield. Bless them, they looked frightened to death.

I had a close scare with food poisoning whilst at the final. The burger I purchased for £1.40 ought to have found its way to the Trading Standards people. It was nearly as bad as the burger served up and chewed on by White Van Man at Matlock Town FC a few months ago.

I leave the boys to their cup celebrations and head off to the car park of the Sun Inn. I meet up with White Van Man, but there’s no time for a refreshing pint of Everards Tiger; we’re off to Leek, Staffordshire.

There’s an incredible choice of games to choose from today. A glance at the Unibond Premier League table suggests that two teams from a possible ten will fight to avoid the dreaded drop today.

Eastwood Town need a win to secure a play-off spot. Opponents Leek Town require one point to guarantee safety. They could even lose and still stay up.

Screats’ dad is driving; his son Ian plays for the Badgers. We’re speeding down the A50 towards Stoke. We pass a Renault Megane driven by an incredibly attractive dark haired young lady. WVM is having palpitations. “She’s a bit rowdy” is his trademark comment.

Thankfully there’s no Heart FM on the car radio; we listen instead to Chelsea v “United.” WVM is giving it the big un that he’s blagged some tickets for the Barcelona clash on Tuesday night; he soon shuts up when Ballack puts Chelsea one up.

We’ve come off the A50 and are travelling towards Leek. We hit a place called Meir; I saw their football team play in September. My God, it’s a depressing, run-down area. Pub after pub is boarded up, the only business that appears to do a roaring trade are the suntan salons.

We trawling down the streets of Leek; it’s a charming town. There’s a shirtless beast of a man strolling down the road, he has a huge tattoo that covers his back. He gives us directions to the ground; we all say thank you!

Leek has a population of 20,000 and lies on the River Churnet. Love cheat Anthea Turner is from the area. She broke the hearts of Radio DJs Peter Powell and Bruno Brookes. Big Eamonn Holmes didn’t mess about; he soon arsed her off GMTV. Her fall from fame has been spectacular; I’ve not even seen her on Sky TV.

Leek Town were formed in 1946. Paul Ogden is joint manager at the club; it’s his fifth spell in charge.

It’s £7 admission (I treat Screats’ dad for driving) and £1.20 for a great value programme. It’s full of articles, profiles, tables, squad stats and a review of the season. It also has a great quiz question: Who is the only outfield player to have played EVERY minute of his team’s Premier League games this season?

Harrison Park has an old school feel about it and is saturated in glorious spring sunshine. An old elevated main stand runs along the touchline. The ground is surrounded by housing and the odd factory.

The pitch doesn’t look great; I should think the final run-in at nearby Uttoxeter Racecourse is in better condition.

The music is drab and dreary. The PA announcer is a 80s fan. He plays Big Country, Meat Loaf, Rod Stewart and Status Quo. It’s hardly the music to pump up the players for a relegation battle. A bit of Prodigy or Chemical Brothers might have been more apt.

The Badgers make a flying start. They don’t waste time in taking the lead. Full back Ricky Hanson hits a delightful curling 20 yard free-kick into the top left hand corner of the goal.

Leek, like Eastwood are quite direct. They are looking to play the ball into the corners in an attempt to win throw-ins. They have two guys who can hurl a ball onto the penalty spot. Eastwood defend manfully. Walshaw and Colin “Junior” Daniel (a former Badger on loan from Crewe) end the half strongly. They are unfortunate to be a goal down and get very little from a young referee.

We’ve been stood to the left of the Leek dugout. There’s a little old bloke stood in the technical area. He’s wearing a crumpled old suit and what little hair is left on his head is windswept. He’s a jibbering wreck,continuously chewing gum, swigging Lucozade from a plastic bottle and wiping beads of sweat from his ageing forehead. It’s Paul Ogden, and the guys going through hell. No wonder he resigned earlier in the season due to ill-health. The poor sod.

Leek Town are pumped up for the second period and play as if their lives depend on it, they are all over Eastwood like a rash. They are denied a penalty and Junior Daniel’s header is disallowed for offside.

They finally get their just desserts on 53 minutes when Daniel pounces on a loose ball and smashes it home. They are rampant now and hunt for a second goal. But their parity only lasts a few minutes. Chris Shaw finally finds his radar and floats in an exquisite ball in from the left, Meikle is on to it in a flash, takes one touch and fires it towards goal, the keeper gets plenty on it but it trickles into an empty net. It’s harsh on the Blues.

The game is over as a contest on 65 minutes when a Shaw free-kick is diverted into his own net by joint manager Wayne Johnson.

Eastwood manager Paul Cox still has time to chew the referee’s ear off; he’s always chipping away. Both he and his assistant John Ramshaw have previously been on the Leek Town payroll; they are enjoying this hard earned victory.

They send on Iain Screaton to quieten down Leek danger man Junior Daniel. He scythes him down within minutes of entering the field of play. He is correctly cautioned; his dad and I have a good old chuckle.

Wayne Johnson has had a wretched afternoon and is finally substituted. He has come out second best with his tussle with Eastwood forward Matt Rhead. He has talked the talk in the local press but failed to walk the walk. He exchanges a few words with Ogden, and storms off down the tunnel, kicking a few objects on his way. His face is red with rage; he look like he’s been on a sun bed at one of the tanning shops in Meir.

Eastwood Town receive a standing ovation from the vocal travelling contingent. Leek Town fans are also in good voice; they believe they are safe. Robert Yong the likeable Eastwood Chairman walks his dog past us all. He poses for a photo (the dog, not the chairman.)

I arrive home and immediately log onto the Unibond Premier League final league table. Tragically Leek Town have been relegated on goal difference. Nearly all the basement teams have won. Nigel Jemson’s Ilkeston Town survive on goal difference after a four goal hammering at Whitby Town.

Leek Town 1 Eastwood Town 3

Attendance: 459

Man of the Match: Paul Mitchell

Quiz Answer: Stephen Kelly Birmingham City

Monday, April 21, 2008

Shepshed Dynamo 0 Nantwich Town 3

It will be a game that lives long in the memory. Notts County’s Meadow Lane yesterday witnessed a game full of skill, passion, emotion and total football. Of course it wasn’t miserable moaning Minnie Ian McParland’s Pies on display, but of course Channel Four’s crap north-west soap Hollyoaks Showbiz X1. Over 3000 screaming girls witnessed a seven goal thriller at The Lane, as Nottingham’s AC Broxtowe stuffed the crap actors 5-2.

Sticky Palms arrived at the ground, for a wedding reception, as the hysterical teenagers were mobbed around the players’ entrance. I’ve got to admit I did look a tad Hollywoodesque in my new Italian number purchased from The Suit Shop at Macarthur Glen for £99. You could hardly blame these young girls for mistaking me for one of these soave and sophisticated actors. They were all a tad disappointed to see me drive away in my battered old Citroen.

I attended a schools tournament at Ruddington this morning; it was nice to see children enjoying their football and not have the pressure of playing for their club, with their parents breathing down their neck. I bumped into former Forest player and now Ilkeston Town manager Nigel Jemson. We had a quick chat; I didn’t want to bore the bloke to death. He was concerned that his injury-ravaged squad were being sucked into a relegation battle. He’s normally cocksure, today he look worried.

I’m driving down the A6006 towards Hathern, the home of legendary groundhopper Richard Panther. I’m currently reading his book Dennis the Astronomer; it’s superb!

I hook up with The Auctioneer at the Pied Bull in Shepshed. We discuss “Dirty Dirty Leeds” pending appeal over a pint of Hook Norton. It’s spoilt by the dreadful 'I Have a Dream' by Abba in the background.

The Auctioneer claims to have past the ground on the way in so I follow him back into town. The clown takes us up a one-way street, the wrong way!

Butt Hole Lane is in millionaires’ row. I park outside a mansion and I’m guided into a parking space by a very courteous club official. Across the road is the Black Swan pub; in hindsight I wish we’d gone there now.

It’s £6 entry and another £1.50 for another delightfully put together programme. I also purchased a raffle ticket off a very nice lady. I don’t know why as I’ve never won one all season.I love this ground, it ticks all the right boxes. Martin O’Neill cut his management teeth here many moons ago.

Nantwich Town were formed in 1884. They won the FA Vase in 2006. They play at the Weaver Stadium, which is a brand new four million pound complex. The playing surface has been wretched and may have cost them a consecutive promotion.

There’s a good turnout of Dabbers today, as they aim to secure a play-off spot. I saw them back in October football Retford Town off the park for 45 minutes; they were hanging on for dear life at the end. I’m looking forward to seeing young winger Ashley Carter perform today.

We take a stroll around The Dovecote ground; both teams have hung up numerous flags. We poke our heads in the social club. I notice an old programme is printed and pinned to the wall. It shows the line-up from an FA Cup tie between Shepshed Charterhouse and Preston North End. Denis Jenas played that day for Shepshed; his son Jermaine plays for Tottenham Hotspur.

I will be forever indebted to the Shepshed committee member who I came across on my last visit. He told me I must take time out to watch Cammell Laird. It was the best bit of advice that anyone in Non-League football has given me.

Shepshed Dynamo have fallen on hard times. Manager Lee Wilson has been drafted in from Northern Counties East team Gedling Town. He’s brought half the squad with him. He’s performed a miracle to stabilise this club with limited resources, but it’s a big step up for some of these boys.

The Shepshed public address announcer has clearly been in his loft and dusted down a few old CD’s. We are treated to Don’t Cry for me Argentina by David Essex and Oxygen by Jean-Michel Jarre. He saves his joker for half-time.

There’s a stiff cold breeze and a cloudy grey sky. Dynamo elect to kick with the wind. We take our place to the left of the Nantwich bench.

It’s pretty uninspiring stuff for the first 45 minutes. There are a couple of old guys next to me who are taking the rise out of Shepshed ‘keeper Gary Hateley. I did notice on the Dynamo player profiles that Hateley was into fashion. These two jokers next to me claim that Hateley wants to fit a mirror to one of his goal posts and that he also likes to comb his hair in between crosses. The Auctioneer and I are in stitches.

What Dynamo lack in class and style they make up for in endeavour and hard graft. Millns and Saunders do well in a competitive opening. But for all their huff and puff Dynamo lack quality in the final third.

Nantwich look uncomfortable and become frustrated. They can’t get their two wingers into the game. I notice their Hungarian left back Gyorgy Kiss has played in the Champions League and UEFA Cup. Captain Phil Parkinson is absent today; he was very influential in their win at Retford.

The highlight of the half is on 32 minutes when The Auctioneer, cigarette and lighter battle against a fierce wind.

Now I have trawled my way to over 50 games this season, but it has took until Saturday April 19th to hear the worst song on any PA system. The Shepshed man on the mike must be the biggest practical joker in the shire; I cannot believe my ears. The song reached number 31 in June 1979 and is called Head Over Heels in Love. It’s by none other than Newcastle boss Kevin Keegan.

The PA guy is now in overdrive. There’s no love lost between Shepshed and Quorn. He tells the crowd three times that Quorn are losing 2-0 at Kidsgrove; it’s very amusing.

We have a cup of tea, a pie and a pasty. The tea is poured from an urn. We mark it with a seven, but give ten out of ten for the friendly service. As per usual I’m nowhere near on the raffle.

Nantwich kick with the wind and look a different prospect. Hateley is caught in no-man’s land, Nantwich forward Kinsey forces the ball back into the six yard area, and it’s headed into his own net by Norwood.

Andy Kinsey is running the show. He may look like a fat version of Steve Claridge but he also possesses the same work ethic. His run off the ball takes away two players, leaving space for Beasley to run into, Griggs plays him in and he finishes smartly.

Kinsey wraps things up on 90 minutes smashing the ball home from the edge of the area. “He’s fat, his round, he’s worth a million pounds.” The Dabbers salute their hero.

I ‘m driving home and hearing that things are hotting up at the bottom of League 2 (Division 4). Notts County have lost and Mansfield Town have won. The Stags entertain Rotherham United next week. Now that will be a game.

A very tired and emotional Glocko rings from Birkenhead; Cammell Laird have been promoted to the Unibond Premier League.

Shepshed 0 Nantwich Town 3 Norwood (og) Beasley and Kinsey.

Attendance: 171 (probably 50 from Nantwich)

Man of the Match: Andy Kinsey.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Quorn 1 Cammell Laird 2

It should have been a weekend double-header watching the beautiful and majestic boys in blue from Birkenhead near Liverpool: Cammell Laird FC. Mrs P has finally put her foot down and scuppered all my plans of sloping off to Spalding United; she’s off shopping. Naturally I’m disappointed, but I’ve no complaints. Let’s face it; I’ve racked up some matches this season.

It’s Saturday lunchtime and I’m with a few friends at the Nottingham Forest Academy. Youth Cup finalists Manchester City U18s are on show today. Forest give them a game in the first 45 minutes. The second half, however, is an onslaught. The visitors are not flattered to win 4-1.

Throughout the afternoon I’m updated with score flashes from the Lincolnshire fens by Cammell Laird Programme Editor Paul Mcloughlin (Glocko) Crowd favourite and wing wizard Eddie Jebb ensures victory, with a last gasp goal


On Saturday night the players stop over at the Holiday Inn near East Midlands Airport, whilst the fans stay close by at the Travelodge at Lutterworth.

Cammell Laird FC have been thrown a lifeline, runaway leaders Retford United have failed the ground grade inspection, required to enter the Unibond Premier League; they will not be eligible for promotion.

It’s Sunday and the Lairds play their second game in twenty four hours in the picturesque setting of Quorn in Leicestershire.

It’s just over a year since my last visit where I witnessed a storming FA Vase tie against Stratford Town. Quorn won 2-1 that day, but have since changed managers twice. They have also lost defensive lynchpin Robert Betts, who has immigrated to Australia.

Quorn FC were formed in 1924. Former players include Dion Dublin and Charlton Athletic’s Luke Varney. When Quorn sold Varney to Crewe for £2,500,000 there was a 25% sell-on clause. It was bingo for the little Leicestershire club when Varney was transferred to The Valley. The money has been used wisely by Chairman Stuart Turner and his committee. They have almost finished the completion of a covered terrace behind the goal.

White Van Man is driving, and we are joined on his debut today by The Reaper. WVM has had his Sunday lunch and will not be partaking in the fine cuisine available in the Quorn clubhouse.

It’s £6 entry and £1.50 for the programme. I finally meet up with Glocko. He’s a bit of a Jasper Carrott lookalike. He got me a programme, as they sold out at 1pm and has also brought me some goodies down from the north-west. He’s a top lad.

I’m not ashamed to say the the Lairds are my favourite Non-League team. They pass the ball quickly and with purpose. They look to get the ball wide and play a crisp passing game. I saw them put in slick performances at Belper and Eastwood last season. Star performers Jamie McGuire and Ronnie “Rocket“ Morgan have both flown the nest.

The threatened heavy downpours never arrive. All credit to the Quorn ground staff; the pitch is in perfect nick. The PA system is crystal clear as the players run out to Get It On by T-Rex.

We stand to the right of the Lairds’ dugout. Eddie Jebb’s ball skills and trickery are already causing endless entertainment for the fans who sit in the stand on the far side of the ground. He’s upended in the early stages; it’s a cast-iron penalty. Former Buxton striker Mark Reed puts his spot kick too close to the Quorn ‘keeper, who beats it away.

Quorn are not as slick as they were on my previous visit, and try to get the ball forward quickly. The orange booted Liam Hearn is impressive, and works the channels well in the final third of the pitch. His partner today is former Lincoln United striker Justin Jenkins; White Van Man is not a big fan. He is forced to choke on his free peanuts at the bar, when on half an hour Jenkins rises unchallenged to head home a corner.

The Lairds look weary from yesterday’s excursion. They are seriously under the cosh as Quorn try to grab the initiative. Despite the efforts of the visitors nothing is really happening. They restore parity on 42 minutes with a smart finish from former Northwich Victoria striker Ian Cooke, who has won everything in the air today, following a cross by Chris Adamson. The Reaper comments that Adamson reminds him of former Runcorn and Forest winger Ian Woan.

I notice that Quorn’s Assistant Manager is ex-Notts County defender Charlie Palmer. The Notts County roadside used to sing to him: “We’ve got Charlie Palmer he smokes marijuana la la la la.”

It’s a cold Guinness for The Reaper and me and a cup of tea for WVM. The barman is an elderly chap with a few interesting tales to tell.

Glocko’s phoning my mobile, he’s asking me where I am. He’s waving at me, I don’t recognise him as he’s now sporting a seventies wig. We watch from the clubhouse as Mark Reed is sent clear, only for him to dwell on the ball too long and allow the defence to recover.

I decide to have a saunter round to the back of the goal where all the Lairds’ fans are standing. I’ve been chatting away for only a few moments to Glocko when once again Jebb races away down the wing, his cross finds an advancing Reed, who kills it stone dead and fires it out his feet. The Quorn ‘keeper blocks bravely but the ball spins up, trickles over the line and nestles into the bottom corner of the goal. I find myself jumping up and down. “We’re” 2-1 up.

The away support is in buoyant mood and Glocko’s lad is banging on his drum; I don’t think Ringo Starr need worry just yet. We show no mercy on the appalling kicking exploits of the Quorn goalkeeper. This guy can shank and slice a ball for Leicestershire. At least six goal kicks go straight out to touch. He’s quite a hefty guy too, perhaps he ought to attend a couple of fitness guru Rosemary Conley’s classes; she lives in the village.

Cammell Laird’s right back’s dad is walking towards the away end complete with Rastafarian hat and dreadlocks. He maintains that sub Chris Nezianya is really his lad not ex Bury defender Derek Ward. Nezianya comes on and is greeted with this little gem: “Nezy is a Scouser, Nezy is a Scouser, but he’s alright, but he’s alright."

Cammell Laird are run off their feet; there’s very little left in the tank. They are dropping deeper and deeper. Their coaches are being a bit hard on them now. The two centre-halves are getting some grief, but have been magnificent. What a box of tricks Eddie Jebb has up his sleeve. But it is their number eight who has been star man today. His name is Joe Gibiliru and he has covered every blade of grass for his team.

The final whistle is celebrated like a cup final win. Six points in two days edges them ever closer to the Unibond Premier League.

We clap the players off and I say cheerio to Glocko and the boys. What a fantastic day out, both sides have played their part in an entertaining game.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Welbeck Welfare 0 Ollerton Town 2

It’s a filthy morning. I’m stood behind the goal at Dunkirk FC, on the banks of the River Trent. It’s driving down with rain. “The Skipper’s team are in cruise control mode. They are unbeaten in the league since September. Today they win 2-0; it could have, and should have, been more. Six of the boys perform at their optimum level. When they play like this they are untouchable. I feel privileged to have once been part of this. But I will never ever coach kids’ football again.

It’s Grand National day and yours truly has been dispatched up to the local bookies. “The Skipper” thinks it’s his lucky day and has produced a “bluey” from thin air. I don’t hold out much hope. We lay out £11 in total.

Sticky jnr is unusually quiet today. Tomorrow he has a big cup semi-final, and it’s preying on his mind.

It’s the Abacus Lighting Central Midlands Football League Manor Pharmacy Premier Division for me today. (Try saying that when you are pished) It’s a 50 mile round trip to Meden Vale home of Welbeck Welfare FC.

I’m on my lonesome today; I sometimes like it that way. White Van Man is working at The City Ground, and both The Taxman and Nuclear Scientist, for their sins, have invested in season tickets. Quite frankly I’d rather sand down the skirting board than watch that lot.

It’s a hectic lunchtime; there’s an FA Cup semi-final and a high profile Premiership game on. I choose to listen to, instead, Radio Nottingham’s excellent Matchday programme. Their front man Robin Chipperfield is a smooth operator. He has all the reporters at the grounds in a spin with the fiendishly difficult football question: Which Premiership player has had the most touches of the ball this season?

I’m driving up the A60 through Mansfield and it seems like I’ve been in the car for ages. My sense of direction is appalling and I start to flap that I’ve missed a turning. I’ve brought no map and do not have the luxury of a Tom Tom. It’s just me and Sally Gunnell.

I finally see a sign for Meden Vale and throw a right hand turn. I played cricket at the back of Welbeck Colliery Miners’ Welfare about twenty years ago and wonder if that’s where they play football.

Mansfield Town prospective owner John Batchelor is talking on the radio. He is reviled in the town and has been subjected to vitriol from the natives in the past few weeks. He is complaining that he has had to pay for his car parking and matchday ticket for today’s game against Barnet.

I chance upon a chav strolling down the street. In between blowing huge amounts of smoke, from his rolled-up cigarette, towards my direction, he very kindly informs me that the ground is at the bottom of this cul-de-sac. It’s a grim, tough and uncompromising area of Nottinghamshire.

Parking is limited, but I manage to squeeze Sally between two cars. My new Krooklock, that Mrs P kindly bought for me, makes its debut.

The ground is tucked away in a valley. But it adjoins the most remarkable landmark I’ve seen football played at this season: a working coal mine. It immediately reminds me of Coalville Town’s ground.

Welbeck Colliery is one of the last few remaining mines in England. It probably only employs three or four hundred miners, but it is important to the economy of Meden Vale. It’s the second most dangerous job in the world: the most dangerous, of course, is playing alongside D***y County defender Claude “The Clown” Davis. That’s not good for anyone’s CV!

I’m sat in the car, there’s a huge hailstorm. Welbeck Welfare continue their warm-up routine; there’s no sign of table-topping Ollerton Town.

Welbeck Welfare Football Club were formed in 1991. They are mid-table but have scored an astonishing 91 goals. Sky TV should get their cameras down here as they have also let in 99. Unfortunately for Sticky Palms their leading scorer is at work today. I’m reliably informed it is 16 years since they have had a goalless draw.

I pay £2 admission and another quid for a well edited programme. I’m taking a few photos of Welbeck Colliery, when I’m pounced on by a little jolly fellow. His name is Rob Hornby and he organises the Central Midlands Football League Groundhop. He makes me very welcome and introduces me to the officials of Welbeck and Ollerton. He is with a guy called Rambler who is a groundhopper from Leicester.

I know one of the officials today. I used to “work” with linesman Tommy Sears when I pen-pushed at Calverton Colliery years ago. He was a useful goalkeeper in his day.

Ollerton Town are awarded a penalty in the first minute. It’s put away with ease by their number ten Dean Hankey. No chance of a 0-0 today. I text White Van Man immediately at the Nottingham Forest Ticket Office.

Ollerton make an assertive start and swarm all over the home defence. They are looking to fill their boots. There are already gaping holes in the Welbeck defence. But the Welbeck ‘keeper is in fine fettle. Injuries disrupt the game and Ollerton have to make two substitutions. It affects their game. Woeful finishing means that Welbeck are still in the game at the break.

Rambler and I have had a stroll around this charming ground and have perched ourselves at the top of a grass bank; it’s the perfect vantage point. We get some cracking photos of the game with the colliery as a backdrop.

I treat my new friend to a cup of char. It comes in a mug and is only 50 pence. I’d mark it 8.5. We notice Welbeck’s number nine pop out of the changing rooms for a crafty fag. He only comes alive when the ball arrives at his feet.

Ollerton get frustrated in the second-half and spurn further chances. Welbeck look like they have a goal in them but fail in the final third.

The Ollerton left-back is a useful player, he’s played in down the left hand side and has the chance to shoot, he cleverly drills the ball across the face of goal, Dean Hankey is lurking at the far post and scores his second of the afternoon.

I’ve had an enjoyable afternoon with Rambler, he’s tipped me off about some good grounds to visit in Leicestershire; I’m only ten minutes from the border. We arrange to meet again. I bid farewell to Rob Hornby.

I’m driving back through Mansfield. “Harchester United” fans are pouring out of Field Mill. They look despondent and dejected. They have thrown away a two goal lead. Barnet’s equalizer is a bitter pill to swallow as it’s scored by a former Stags player. Their final game of the season is at Dagenham and Redbridge. It could be the biggest game of their history. The Groundhopper might take that one in.

Next week my all-time favourite Non-League team Cammell Laird are in town. They play Spalding on Saturday and Quorn on Sunday. I’m tempted to go to both. Don’t tell Mrs P though!

Quiz answer Gael Clichy
Welbeck 0 Ollerton Town 2

Attendance: about 30, at least 15 from Ollerton.

Man of the Match: Welbeck ‘keeper.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Buxton 0 Fleetwood Town 2

I feel no guilt in slipping away from the family tonight. Tuesday is what I call “Mrs P’s Tic Tac Toe Night” EastEnders, Holby City and Hotel Babylon. The boys will watch the Champions League.

The Nuclear Scientist picks up The Taxman and Sticky Palms at 6pm on the dot. It’s a one hundred and thirty mile round trip. We avoid the rush-hour traffic by driving down the A50 and cutting across the A515, through Ashbourne, and onto Buxton.

It’s twenty years since I came to this spa town; I brought Mrs P here for a weekend, and stopped in The Pavilion Gardens. My favourite band, Echo and the Bunnymen, played some awesome gigs in the town back in the early eighties.

Buxton is in Derbyshire and lies on the River Wye. It has a population of 25,000. Famous people born in the area include: Tim Brooke-Taylor, Lloyd Cole, Bruno Langley (Todd off Corro) and the worst DJ in British history (apart from Jo and Twiggy off Trent FM) Dave Lee Travis. It is allegedly the highest market town in England, at an astonishing one thousand feet above sea level.

Buxton FC were formed in 1877 and play at Silverlands. Their ground, naturally, is the highest in the Football Pyramid.

I didn’t phone the ground to see if the game was on, as the weather has been glorious around our way. Amazingly, nearby Leek Town are called off tonight and the Silverlands surface is heavy and wet.

We park on a side street and follow the crowds to the ground. They are expecting below four hundred because of the United match. White Van Man has missed the trip and is slumped in his armchair.

It’s £7.50 admission and £1.50 for a top-rated programme; it’s a fine publication.

The clubhouse is modern and clean. Sadly there’s no hand pull ale on, so I settle for a can of Stella. Two Buxton fans chat away to us like long lost friends. They review their season and fill us in on the playing staff. But I know their team inside out; this will be the fourth occasion I’ve seen them perform. They are my favourite team of the season and their friendly fans live up to the billing.

Fleetwood are tonight’s visitors, and are in a rich vein of form. They are chasing league leaders Witton Albion hard, and have come for the win. Their town is well known for the throat lozenge Fisherman’s Friend.

It’s a blustery old night, and we elect to sit in the main stand, looking out into the Derbyshire hills, as night falls.

The Bucks kick with the wind. My main man and crowd favourite, Anton Foster is strutting his stuff in the centre of the park. He is the victim of a dreadful challenge after only a few minutes. He reacts badly and is lucky not to see yellow, unlike clumsy Fleetwood striker Phil Denney. The visitors are certainly keen to contain Foster and rip the shirt off his back; he plays the remainder of the game without a number on his shirt.

Cod Army midfielder and ex-Evertonian Jamie Milligan has caught The Taxman’s eye. He has two feet, is graceful on the ball and passes accurately on a gluepot of a pitch.

The Bucks are disappointing. On loan Owl Jason Bradley works his socks off. But I’ve never understood the over-inflated Non-League transfer fees paid for his partner Neil Ross. I’ve seen him for Ilkeston and Buxton, but he’s never floated my boat. He’s not particularly brave, or blessed with pace. It’s difficult to see what he really offers; I much prefer the honest endeavour of sub Paul Walker.

The highlight of the night is the snack bar. We all go for the hot pork pie with a drop of brown sauce; it’s a real treat, just like Fleetwood Town in the second-half. The cup of tea is delightful too. It’s poured from the pot and marked with an 8.5!

The Nuclear Scientist misses out on the first prize on the raffle by one ticket. White Van Man texts in to say “United” are one up; I really couldn’t give a toss. I’m amongst friends, at The Silverlands, Anton’s playing well and the game is evenly poised.

The guy we met in the bar tells me the Bucks will play better against the wind, as he’s reffed here for 25 years and knows all the contours of the pitch; he couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Fleetwood turn on the style. Milligan finds himself in acres of space on the left, and fires home. Shortly after Buxton fail to deal with a long throw from the left, Phil Denney makes no mistake from close-range. Buxton are dead and buried.

There’s a succession of substitutions as the game’s played out. The margin could have been much greater. Fleetwood Town are sublime and are superior to anything I’ve seen at this level.

On eighty five minutes, an old guy gets up and starts to walk towards the exit. He’s on crutches, but manages to cover the ground quicker and slicker than Bucks’ striker Neil Ross has all evening.

Buxton fall short tonight. Their defence have hardly won a header. Their tactics are direct and disappointing. But their club and fans are a delight.

There’s a small cheer on the way home; Forest have collected all three points at Brunton Park. It’s “Kids for a Quid” at the City Ground on Saturday, but I’ve not told the boys, as I’m off to Welbeck Colliery v Ollerton Town.

Buxton 0 Fleetwood 2 Milligan and Denney

Attendance: 364

Man of the Match: Jamie Milligan