I’ve had nine days without a game and have enjoyed the break. I’ve concentrated, instead, on my scouting activities for the NFFC Academy. South Notts Boys, Ruddington Colts and Calverton MW have all had the pleasure of my company this weekend.
I did manage 45 minutes of the Nottinghamshire Senior League clash between Bilborough Pelican and Boots Athletic. The visitors snatched a late winner in an entertaining second half.
Pelican’s Jack of all trades, Neil Swift came swanning out the food bar with a huge chip cob in hand. I saw a ball bobble in the 79th minute, and mentioned it to Nottinghamshire’s numero uno groundsman, he wasn’t best pleased.
I’ve been relaxing with a good book by funny man Danny Wallace. And have scanned a bit of night time TV with Mrs P. We've sat on the sofa together and watched the brilliant Steve Coogan in the new BBC drama Sunshine. It’s co-written by the talented Craig Cash and Phil Mealey, who also wrote the cult BBC2 comedy Early Doors.
It’s my turn to pilot tonight; White Van Man is my wing man. The Taxman and The Architect complete the cast.
We’re in the Rolls Royce (Mondeo) I confess to not being the slickest of drivers. ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ is one of many nicknames. White Van Man had earlier sent me a text suggesting that he’d be bringing his pillow and sleeping bag for the ‘long journey’ – it’s only thirty miles.
It’s a smooth, incident free drive; I touch 61 mph at one stage and brag about it to WVM; he looks at me non-plussed. He’s too busy with his football trivia and tales of Eastern European lap dancing clubs.
There’s a build up of traffic as we approach the Pirelli Stadium car park. There’s a yelp of excitement from Sticky Palms; I’ve spotted the Burton Co-op Shop, it’s another one to chalk off.
We’re redirected to an overflow car park near the ground. WVM kindly pays the £2 parking fee.
Burton upon Trent is in Staffordshire and has a population of 60,000. It’s famous for brewing beer. It is said that the local water contains a high proportion of dissolved salts, caused by the gypsum in the hills around the town. Unfortunately Burton Albion FC choose to serve the appalling Coors lager in the ground, but then again, they are a major sponsor. There’s no sign of Sticky’s favourite, Bass bitter, on the premises.
The Marmite Food Extract Company was founded in the town in 1902. This by product came from the yeast at the nearby brewery. I often have marmite soldiers with a chucky egg on a Saturday morning.
Branston is a suburb of Burton and is where in 1922 The Branston Pickle Factory was founded.
The Peel family originate from Burton, and of course Peelers later formed the modern day police force. Personally I much prefer to call them plod, old Bill or rozzers.
The actor Paddy Considine was born in the town. He recently starred in The Bourne Ultimatum. I remember him in the dark and sinister Shane Meadows film Dead Man’s Shoes. I’ve hardly slept a wink since I watched that DVD.
It’s £12 to enter the stadium and £2.50 for a programme very kindly bought for me by The Architect. It has not improved one jot since my last visit. It has 25 pages of adverts and the articles are as a dull as dishwater.
I detest the bar and choose not to partake in an alcoholic beverage. I long for the old romantic social club, outside Eton Park, with its patterned carpet and smoke filled bar.
We settle for a cup of tea, generously bought by The Taxman. It’s rancid. It comes in a corporate, customised, PG Tips plastic cup. Yuk. The cup is covered in a plastic top. A tea bag floats on the surface. It does well to be marked five out of ten.
We take our place on the halfway line, a few steps down, close to the pitch. Discounting ‘The Tricky Trees’ Bilborough Pelican (eh Swifty) and my back lawn, is there a better playing surface in the East Midlands than ‘The Brewers have? I doubt it.
The Stags live life on a knife edge. I saw them pass Notts County to death last March. They still fell out the League Two trap door. They have fielded an ineligible player, believed to be Bulwell born Aaron O’Connor. It may cost them four or more points in the long run. Current form is poor; one win in the last six matches.
Daryl Clare and John Brayford have moved to pastures new, but the ‘The Young Man’ still has an eye for a player and has bought well.
The Burton Albion DJ warms up with a Ska track and Jeff Beck’s ‘Hi Ho We Hate Derby.’
Burton kick towards the vociferous 800 strong away following, who predictably heckle former captain Jake Buxton. It adds a bit of spice to this East Midlands encounter.
The game takes time to settle, there’s plenty of hustle and bustle. McEwan’s Mansfield play it cagey and nervously. They don’t want to come out and play.
Mansfield’s Paddy Gamble is the busier of the two ‘keepers. Twice he’s tested from distance by former Stoke City winger Marc Goodfellow. They are dealt with comfortably.
The Stags pick up the tempo and have a golden spell of intricate, exhibition passing. Naturally old ‘Pineapple Head’ Jason Lee is not involved, unless the lineman raises his flag for the half a dozen times he strays offside.
Jake Buxton doesn’t take long to make an impact, clattering into the back of D’Laryea to earn the game’s first caution.
The Brewers Andy ‘Ronnie’ Corbett normally saves his worst for us. Everything seems a huge effort for him, he lacks the basics. Mansfield’s nippy winger Nathan Arnold torments and teases him. Arnold puts his foot on the ball, his leg stretched out, inviting the challenge, when it comes, he just pokes the ball past Corbett, leaving him for dead. If only his delivery was as good.
Aaron O’Connor beats the offside trap and races clear. His first touch knocks the ball too wide. He gets in the shot, which Poole saves at the near post.
Burton take the lead on 43 minutes. The lively Goodfellow finds the industrious Irishman John McGrath on the edge of the area; he curls a shot into the bottom corner of the net. It’s slightly against the run of play, but Burton have worked the ‘keeper harder.
The Brewers Greg Pearson tops the Conference goal charts with nine. His first half performance is mediocre. In contrast his partner Lee Morris is just pleased to be out there following two serious knee injuries. He once fetched £3 Million when moving from Sheffield Utd to ‘The Sheep.’
Mansfield are shocking as a creative force in the second period and appear to be low on confidence. Their midfield does not have the killer ball in their locker. McEwan makes changes to no avail.
Between the 61st and 66th minute Mrs P and I have a text tiff about who’s on the rota for transport to football training tomorrow. I’m not impressed; you can tell that EastEnders and Coro have finished for the night.
Michael Simpson sees a speculative shot cannon of a defender for a corner when destined for the net, and there’s some desperate defending from former Man City trainee Jonathan D’Laryea.
Mansfield are camped inside the Burton half for the final quarter but offer little threat. Buxton wins countless headers from an aerial bombardment.
Two minutes from time Stags’ substitute Anthony Robinson drags a shot hopelessly wide from seven yards.
I’m disappointed with the quality served up, but both sides are organised and disciplined.
At least the local plod are on form. An Inspector Clouseau lookalike speedily waves us out of town, away from the gridlocked roads around the ground.
Burton 1 Mansfield 0
Man of the Match: Darren Stride