Saturday, January 31, 2009

Deeping Rangers 4 Cogenhoe United 1

I had a day with the family last Sunday and tried to put behind me that dreadful game White Van Man picked at Hucknall last Saturday. We nipped into PC World, as I’m hanging my nose over a cheap laptop. I said to the salesman give me your best pitch. He failed miserably and I walked out the shop empty handed. We had some cheap vouchers, so had a half price meal at Pizza Hut. We nipped round to the Nuclear Scientist’s to watch the Liverpool v Everton game on Setanta; it was average.

Good and bad news to report on Mrs P’s television schedule. After over 15 years of tossing it off, and making more cups of teas than arrests, ITV have announced that the axe has finally fallen on quality TV drama Heartbeat. PC Alf Ventriss will never boil a kettle again. Hip hip hooray to the BBC, though, for their excellent third series of Not Going Out written by and starring northern comedian Lee Mack. The gags are rapid fire; they even brought a smile to Mrs P’s face.

BLOG celebrity Trumpy Bolton has been pencilled in for the trip to Market Deeping for over a month now. I’ve already arranged to pick him up from his girlfriend’s house in Cosby, Leicestershire. He’s tipped me off that he won’t be a picture of health, as he was on a nine hour bender yesterday. It was someone’s 21st birthday party. It was staged at Leicester City’s Walkers Stadium, at one of the banqueting suites. Apparently it was ‘The Foxes’ biggest crowd of the season.

Mrs P has gone shopping with her mum in Loughborough. I ask her kindly if she can bring the Rolls Royce back for midday. I do a few chores around the house and take Mrs P’s empties up the bottle bank. Trumpy phones up. I wish he’d text as he would make more sense, even if the letters were jumbled up.

The Architect arrives and we head across to Leicester. Stoke are playing Man City at the Britannia Stadium; it’s on 5 Live.

We soon arrive in Cosby and have arranged to pick Trumpy up, surprisingly, at a pub; it’s called The Bulls Head. He comes stumbling out the door, almost falling down the steps. He‘s carrying a white plastic bag. He has a bottle of cider inside it. It’s only 1pm and he already confesses to having downed two tins at home and a couple of pints in the pub. The white plastic bag might come in handy at this rate as a sick bag.

There’s a bit of a commotion on the radio, long-throw specialist Rory Delap has been red-carded. The Potters have took the lead though James Beattie. Mark Hughes will be under scrutiny again in tomorrow’s Sunday papers.

We eventually pull up in Market Deeping and park in the picturesque square. Trumpy’s got his eye on The Bull. His ambition in life is to make a credit card transaction in every village in England; they don’t do credit. The Architect is a relieved man as this establishment had a few unsavoury characters in the bar area.

We stroll around the corner to the delightful Old Coach House; we are made to feel welcome. We watch the dying moments of Man City’s latest disaster. Trumpy stares into space and not into his pint. His day worsens when he gets the hiccups I gate my Kronenburg 1664.

The Factory Manager knows his way to the ground and leads the way. It’s about a mile away on the outskirts of the town. He’s an old school friend and lives in Whittlesey. His step son plays for Deeping Rangers Reserves.

Market Deeping is an historic town in Lincolnshire and lies on the banks of the River Welland. It has a population of over 6000 people.

Deeping Rangers were formed in 1964 and have played at Outgang Road since 1985. They currently top the Eagles Bitter United Counties Premier League. They were winning at a canter but have stuttered of late as the chasing pack close in. Recently released Leeds United striker Malcolm Christie once played for the club before moving onto Nuneaton, D***y County and Middlesboro.

Today’s visitors Cogenhoe are from Northamptonshire (pronounced Cook-no). Former Blue Peter presenter Peter Purves once lived in the village. Graham Taylor’s yes man, ex-Liverpool defender Phil Neal, was once president of the club. Watford’s Darren Bazeley is among a number of former youth team players who have made a living from the game.

The car park is a mass of mud and water. It has rained heavily in the earlier part of the week. It’s £4 entry (cheers Trumpy) and £1 for a decent programme (Cheers Architect).

Deeping Rangers FC is part of a complex which has a cricket ground and tennis courts. A young lad is being coached and catches Trumpy’s eye. Trumpy was a fine player in his day, sadly he called time on his career over 30 years ago. His tennis playing days met a premature end when the club unveiled its new licensed bar. He tries to roll back the years and coach the young lad; the coach is not amused.

Trumpy has a long blue coat on. It has a Leicester emblem on it. A lady selling raffle tickets asks him if he is a scout.

Someone shouts the teas up as The Factory Manager and The Groundhopper survey the surroundings. The ground is impressive and is bordered with ten foot conifers.

Trumpy has gone AWOL as Cogenhoe kick-off proceedings. They are awarded a penalty in the first minute, when their forward is upended. The goalkeeper is sent the wrong way. Trumpy comes waltzing out the Refreshment Bar and appears unfazed he’s missed an early goal. He walks past the home ‘keeper and chants: “you’re not singing anymore.” The goalie is pissing himself.

Cogenhoe string a few passes together. Their centre forwards have flicks, tricks and pace.

We stand next to the away dugout. Trumpy is hanging now and has already introduced himself to the Cogenhoe management team. He’s took a particular liking to coach Ian Blair, who appears as eccentric as Trumpy.

The standard of play on show is not as great as Glossop North End, Bridlington Town or Dinnington Town, who all play at Step 5. It is on a level to Stewarts & Lloyds, who I saw a few weeks ago, perform poorly at Glossop.

Cogenhoe are cruelly denied a second goal with a clearance off the line. But Rangers are beginning to find their feet and are peppering the visitors’ goal. Most of their shots are aimed straight at the ‘keeper. Trumpy smells danger and instructs ‘The Cooks’ substitutes to warm-up.

Belfast born former Posh and Imps winger Ryan Semple is on the wing for Rangers today. His pace and technique are beginning to bother ‘The Cooks.’ His crosses are searching and meaningful.

We all potter round to the Deeping Sports & Social Club. It’s all very lah- de- dah. They have a proper steward on duty in a blazer and tie. It’s the first time in a while that I’ve seen real ale for sale. I’m driving though, so settle for a half a lager.

Lincoln, Forest and Notts County are all losing. Trumpy has made a slight recovery and is tucking into a JHB Bitter from Oakham. Signed shirts by Malcolm Christie hang in frames on the wall.

We leave Trumpy in the bar and go and ask the lady for the raffle numbers. Trumpy has missed out by one strip of tickets. It’s a huge relief as the first prize is bound to alcohol.

Deeping continue to press the game. Coegenhoe play too deep and too narrow. They’ve lost their spark and energy and look vulnerable. With 25 minutes remaining Rangers are back on level terms with Ashley Stevens lashing the ball home. The DJ plays That’s The Way I Like It by KC and the Sunshine Band. Dave Cornell puts the home side ahead on 79 minutes following a cross from Semple who is now running the show. This time we are treated to the Austrian born DJ Otzi.

The game is all over 81 minutes with Ashley Stevens scoring his second of the afternoon from the penalty spot: Cue Tom Hark from Brighton band The Piranhas.

Trumpy has rejoined us by now. He’s trudged his way round the ground and barged his way through the technical area. He’s been telling the stony-faced Cogenhoe manager Darren Collins how he’s got his tactics wrong. He wrestles with Ian Blair over the number cards for the substitutions. Blair lets him hold up the numbers.

Ryan Semple sends in an inch perfect cross at the death, it’s teed up for giant striker Sam Bettinson to head home.

The match has been excellent and both teams have played their part but there can only be one man of the match.

Attendance: unknown

Man of the Match: ‘There’s only one Trumpy Bolton.’

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Nottingham Forest 2 Sheffield Wednesday 1

Grassroots football looks like taking a backseat over the next few weeks as I go against my principles of watching modern football. Tonight I enjoy a fringe benefit. A week on Saturday is ‘Kids for a Quid’ versus QPR, so I will take those pair of muppets down The City Ground. On Valentine’s Day it’s Birmingham City away – Mrs P’s not coming, although I did dangle the carrot of the Bullring Shopping Centre - but Sticky junior is. There’s the Derby FA Cup clash a week on Wednesday; I’ve got us three tickets, I’m not that bothered myself, and hope to offload my ticket to ‘The Architect.

Sticky junior is a massive Tricky Tree fan but he was caught red-handed by the television cameras on Saturday, celebrating Notts County’s first goal, by jumping up and down in front of all, sundry and the BBC. He reminds me of when I was a kid; he loves to watch both Nottingham clubs just for the craic, sadly I am now bitter and twisted, having once worked for ‘The Pies’ and won’t pay at the gate again!

I fly home from work and manage two or three games of cribbage with ‘The Skipper’, before bolting down a pasty and getting ready for the game.

The Architect picks me up at 6.40pm. USA mainstream band REM’s music is droning out the car speakers on Radio Nottingham. We pull up at West Bridgford Library and are sat in our seats in the Main Stand Block E, a full half an hour before kick-off.

Forest play Bolton Wanderers in the FA Youth Cup 5th Round tomorrow evening but I’ve yet to negotiate terms with Mrs P for another night out: it’s looking like Kirsty and Phil and a bottle of Pinot Grigio.

My favourite DJ is towing the line tonight and sticking to his selection from the HMV Superstore. He plays tunes from Leigh band the Tin Tings and Leeds indie group the Kaiser Chiefs.

We have a snigger at the Forest goalie coach warming-up Paul Smith. He’s struggling with his kicking and ends up on the greasy surface twice, when losing his footing.

Sheffield is in South Yorkshire and has a population of over 500,000 people. It is the fifth largest city in England. The River Sheaf flows through its city centre. Sheffield has an impressive history of producing iron, steel and coal.

Unibond Division One South club Sheffield FC lay claim to be the oldest football club in the world. Nearby Hallam FC, who play in the Northern Counties League, play at the world’s oldest football ground.

The films The Full Monty and When Saturday Comes were based in the city. The World Snooker Championships take place at the Crucible Theatre every May.

It has had a strong influence on the British music industry. Well known bands from the area include: Human League, Heaven 17, ABC, Def Leopard, Pulp and the Arctic Monkeys.

Famous people born in the city of Sheffield, and I apologise as there are so many I have missed: Gordon Banks, Naseem Hamed, Peter Stringfellow, David Blunkett, Sean Bean (sorry Owls’ fans) and Michael Palin.

I had my saddest ever day in football at Hillsborough on April 15th 1989; it killed my enthusiasm for the game for years, and increased my disdain and disrespect for the police. Chief Superintendant David Duckenfield continues to enjoy his early retirement. The truth will never out; it’s just brushed under the carpet. The Nottingham Forest fans were a credit to their club and the game of football that day, the same cannot be said of the South Yorkshire Police Force. We all just went to watch a game of football!

Former Reds and Owls’ striker Nigel Jemson is guest of honour tonight. Other players to have graced both teams include: Gary Megson, Viv Anderson, Des Walker, Trevor Francis, John Sheridan, Danny Wilson and the stylish Chris Bart-Williams.

The atmosphere is spot on. The turnout from Wednesday on a Tuesday night, during the economic downturn, is exceptional. Yes, it’s not far to travel but I bet they’ve shelled some money out at the turnstiles.

Both sets of fans trade insults: ‘scabs scabs scabs’, shout ‘The Owls’ fans ‘A’ Block retort with ‘you’ll never work again.’ It’s a harsh and unwarranted statement as steel company Corus have just announced heavy job losses in South Yorkshire.

Forest stutter and splutter from the start. They look short on confidence, everything appears rushed. Tonight they are without Bennett, Anderson, Morgan, Moussi and Cohen. The bench is young and inexperienced.

It’s Wednesday who make the brighter opening. Their passes are crisp and hug the ground, their movement is mesmeric. Jamaican international Jermaine Johnson is fleet of foot and running the Forest defence ragged. He’s as slippery as an eel and appears on both sides of the pitch. The Owls paid ‘The Bantams’ of Bradford £500,000 for his services; he’s like an El Hadj Diouf without the spitting and snarling.

Wednesday take a deserved lead on 27 minutes, and to be honest it’s been coming. Potter’s corner is headed down by Wood for Johnson to finish smartly from close range.

Nottingham Forest winger Gareth McCleary is constantly coached by Davies, ‘Ned’ Kelly and Julian Darby. Nothing is going right for him, his touch is poor, as is his decision making. He swaps flanks with another player low on confidence, winger Arron Davies.

Forest keeper’ Paul Smith makes a poor throw to former Manchester United Academy youngster Joe Heath. Heath gets himself out of a tight area, the ball falls to McCleary in space, he soars up the field eating up the ground and releases a defence splitting ball through to Tyson, who leaves the defence for dead, with his blistering pace, to smash the ball past a despairing Wednesday ‘keeper Lee Grant. It’s a quality goal that’s not in keeping with the game.

The Owls are reduced to ten men on 40 minutes following a reckless challenge on young Heath by Francis Jeffers. The tackle is out of character, but is malicious. It could make the game unbalanced.

Referee Scott Mathieson blows the half-time whistle. The game thus far has been dull and dreary, despite two goals. I hope Brian Laws isn’t hurling plates of chicken bones about the dressing room.

I get a text from Barthez at the break; we arrange to meet in the Monkey Tree after the game for a few shandies.

Forest begin the game as badly in the second period as they did in the first half. Breckin gives away a needless free-kick with a ridiculous tackle in full view of ‘A’ Block. Michael Gray whips in a dangerous ball, Smith is rooted to his line, somehow Tudgay contrives to head over with the goal at his mercy.

Brian Laws is positive, like he was as a player, and shoves two up top. The injured Earnshaw is replaced by Joe Garner, who looks like a boy they’ve picked up from the local rec. His hair is cropped and his shirt hangs out his shorts, but he has fire in his belly.

Matt Thornhill comes on for the ineffective Davies and plays in an advanced midfield position, allowing Perch to sit in front of the back four. Thornhill is magnificent and never wastes a ball.

Tyson and 19 year old Owls’ defender Mark Beevers are having a terrific tussle, but this is a new Tyson we are seeing: he is braver and stronger than before and is lightning quick.

With 15 minutes to go Forest win a corner, McGugan curls the ball in for Chambers to head home.

There are further chances for Tyson and Garner as the ten men of Wednesday begin to tire. Jermaine Johnson has been long gone; they’ve not posed the same threat since his departure, the boy has run himself into the ground. Wednesday are worth a point, but come away with nothing after an entertaining second half.

Attendance: 22,618 (3587 Owls)

Man of the Match: Tyson

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Hucknall Town 0 Southport 0

Sunday nights are grim in our front room, as ITV pull out all the stops to proper cheese me off. First up is Strictly Dancing on Thin Ice starring squeaky Schofield. After two hours of this dross being shown, whilst I peruse the Times Sport or the Non League Paper, they follow it up with a third series of Wild at Heart – has there ever been a more dire programme shown in the history of Independent Television? For those of you who saw an antelope writhing about in agony on the ground as if he’d been clattered by Julian Bennett, I can confirm that he just had a mild bout of rabies which an African witch doctor soon cured. Anyway it’s been crap since Amanda Holden got burnt alive in the jungle.

Sticky junior arrived at home from school the other day waving a Notts County v Port Vale ticket in my face. Of course he’d not paid for it; apparently there was a buy one get six free at the school tuck shop. The rumour was that the girls’ football team won a competition which meant the school received 200 free tickets. I’d also heard the head teacher was dishing tickets out rather than pupils serving detention.

We were round The Architect’s house last night for the D***y v Forest FA Cup clash. Forest were a tad fortunate to come away with a draw, but would have been encouraged by the second half performance. We did see a red card; unfortunately it was given to Mrs P’s Godson for a minor off-the ball offence in The Architect’s lounge.

It’s Saturday morning and I really do need to increase my scouting activities; the weather is killing me. ‘The Skipper’ has a big cup tie this afternoon versus Dunkirk. The manager lives in Heanor, so I do him a favour and pop down to our home ground and inspect the pitch. It’s white over and there is a small patch of ice in one goal area. The sky is sea blue and the sun shines brightly; I give it the green light. It’s on to West Park to check out some junior games but the place is deserted.

Clubs have a nasty habit of overreacting when it comes to postponing games. Council grounds and local clubs become overprotective about their pitches. Secretaries get caught up in the pomp and ceremony of it all. How can all these amateur games be called off so quickly when no rain is due for twenty four hours? At least you can take a rain check in the morning.

White Van Man and I had been looking forward to seeing ‘The Mighty Lairds.’ I’d arranged to meet Cammell legend Glocko at the New Manor Ground. I check the White Ball Project forum to find the pitch is waterlogged. I phone Glocko; he’s just warming up ‘The Rattler.’

I scour the internet for alternative fixtures. I’ve never seen Southport play in my life; north-west teams are normally good value. I’ve enjoyed watching Marine, Skelmersdale, Burscough and the beautiful Cammell Laird over the years.

I phone White Van Man up; he doesn’t fancy travelling too far. Hucknall it is then.

I watch the first forty minutes of ‘The Skipper’s’ cup tie against staunch rivals Dunkirk. We are one goal to the good when WVM appears on the scene tooting his horn. I’m wracked with guilt that I can’t be here for the end of his game.

We drive down the ring road. WVM has been driving down ‘The Smoke’ all week and tries his normal party trick at Crown Island, darting into the right hand lane, only to drive straight on, cutting up all and sundry in his path. He roars his head off with laughter.

We arrive at Watnall Road a good half an hour before kick-off. WVM snaffles up the final programme; it must be a small print run. I take a few snaps.

It’s £9 entry and a staggering £2.20 for the programme. The publication is fine .... but £2.20??

Everything seems expensive; I begin to smell a rat, this club have fallen on hard times. Tea is £1 and marked with a six out of ten. Hucknall Town only remained in the Blue Square Conference North because of the financial struggles of other clubs. Mick Galloway, their former manager, was sacked a few weeks ago. The veteran Bryan Chambers has taken over, ably assisted by former Middlesboro and Notts County defender Richard Liburd.

Hucknall is seven miles north-west of Nottingham and has a population of 30,000. Footballers from the area include: tough tackling Crystal Palace midfielder Shaun Derry and ex-Spirerite Stephen Blatherwick.

The actor Robin Bailey is from the town. The poet Lord Byron is buried in the local church.

The biggest employers in the area are Rolls Royce and the insecticide firm Doff Portland. Hucknall Colliery closed in 1986; an Aldi supermarket is now on the site of the old mine. Hucknall is the northern terminus for the Nottingham tramline.

Southport is a seaside town in Merseyside and has a population of nearly 100,000. Famous people born in the area include: Soft Cell singer Marc Almond, the historian A J P Taylor, the actress Miranda Richardson, Red Rum’s trainer Ginger McCain and English Indie rock band Gomez.

They are former members of the Football League and play their home games for over 100 years at Haig Avenue. I visited it four years ago on my charity whistle stop tour of clubs to have played in the League since 1964. It was a beautiful summer’s evening and the players were training.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard was recently arrested in Southport following a late night brawl at the Lounge Inn in the town.

Earlier in the season Southport sold winger Craig Noone for a record fee to Plymouth Argyle. He had trials at Royal Antwerp a few seasons ago. I saw him play for Skelmersdale at Belper a while back; he was quality. The rumour is that the Premiership awaits him.

The Hucknall DJ is spinning Michael Jackson’s Greatest Hits. To make the Southport fans feel at home he plays a duet featuring Paul McCartney; it’s called ‘The Girl is Mine’, I can feel my cup of tea coming back up.

We observe a minute’s silence for a club and League official. I spot an old friend in the crowd who I used to work with at Linby Colliery. We holidayed away in Ibiza, Corfu and Tenerife in the mid eighties. Dunkirk director Mark Harbottle is also here, spying on the opposition they have been drawn against in the Notts Senior Cup. I get a text from Mrs P, it’s bad news for Mark’s team, they’ve just been knocked out the YEL Cup, ‘The Skipper’ will be ecstatic.

We stand near the end that Southport attack as they are third in the League, whilst Hucknall are rooted to the bottom. But you wouldn’t realise it in the first 45 minutes. Hucknall look organised and determined. The visitors play like they just have to turn up to get the three points.

Ricketts and Sucharewycz go close for town. Southport’s only real effort is a curling shot from midfielder Alan Moogan. The pitch is not in great nick but they’ve done well to get the game on.

The highlight of the half occurs on 41 minutes. WVM is digging me in the ribs; I look up from my programme to find him frothing at the mouth. She’s tall, blonde, wearing leather boots and tight jeans. Now I know why we were charged £9 at the gate.

I treat WVM to a hot dog and I’m fleeced for £2.50; I wouldn’t mind if it went to the club but it appears to be ran by an outside catering company. They have already run out of pies and peas. WVM appears to be slavering again; it turns out to tomato ketchup from his hot dog.

We go in the social club; it is on par with any other I’ve been in. WVM gets me a Grolsch. I chat to a Mansfield Town fan who’s wearing an Alfreton Town scarf. He’s relieved to hear that his team are one up at Lewes. We briefly see the half time scores before someone puts back on the Channel Four Racing.

The second half is a scrappy encounter; Hucknall play five at the back and are hard to break down. Players I’ve seen perform so well for Burscough and Marine in the past are distinctively average today. Kilheeney and Booth flatter to deceive. Hucknall Town scrap for everything but lack the quality to upset the applecart.

The girl with the boots and jeans has another outing. I turn to WVM and say: “It’s a football match not a bloody catwalk”, but he is mesmerised.

Southport push forward in search of a winner but they have neither craft nor desire: how on earth are they third? A lady Southport supporter, sitting close by to us, complains all the time about Hucknall stealing a few yards at free-kicks and throw-ins. Her bleating and moaning irritates me. Robinson, Moogan and Duffy waste opportunities for Southport.

Timons and Sucharewycz defend resolutely; they put up the shutters. It’s petering out to be a 0-0 bore draw: “We don’t do 0-0’s son.” At least the Hucknall PA man didn’t play Michael Jacksons Thriller at the end of the game, now that would have been a good Mickey take.

Sticky junior rings in from Meadow Lane, he's seen a six goal thriller. It must be the first time Notts have scored four at home since about 1906. He's ripping me to shreds: "0-0 dad, 0-0." We can't half pick em!

Attendance: 354

Man of the Match: Gary Sucharewycz

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Dunkirk 1 Borrowash Victoria 3

There’s certainly not room for two in our rabbit’s hutch; I can vouch for that after Saturday evening’s events. Finley snored for most of the night and he had more of the blanket than me. I didn’t think much to breakfast either; those bloomin pellets aint half hard to swallow. I will probably get a solitary carrot for Sunday lunch. I didn’t dare ask Mrs P whether they won the jackpot on Family Fortunes.

I am in the doghouse for arriving home late from groundhopping duties at Glossop North End. I don’t really care as ‘The Hillmen’ played a beautiful game on a gluepot of a pitch. I notice that they have rearranged fixtures at both Alsager and Congleton; I hope to be at both.

There doesn’t seem much point in mooching about the house (hutch) this morning, as I’m getting the Sunday silent treatment. I head off down ‘The Academy’ to watch Leicester City soundly beat “our” Under 14s. I like ‘The Foxes’, they are a steady, family orientated club. I’ve fond memories of trips away with Coops and Trumpy Bolton during Brian Little’s reign at the club.

‘The Skipper’ has an indoor cricket league game at Bingham this afternoon. I’m ducking and diving out the way of Mrs P and volunteer to head off up the A46. I drop him off at Bingham Leisure Centre and sneak off to The Horse and Plough for a pint of Batemans. The pub is bustling, but I spot a small table in the corner, and a single chair. I take a pew and pen the Glossop BLOG.

I return to watch ‘The Skipper’ in action for the final hour. His team are playing a smug-looking outfit from Radcliffe-on-Trent; they attract all the best players south of the river. They are cricket’s version of AFC Vernon (a top boys’ football club in inner city Nottingham.) Joe runs out their star batsman without him facing a ball; it’s made his day.

Tuesday evening is spent, coincidentally, in Radcliffe-on-Trent. Sticky junior’s team, somewhat bizarrely, have to train there, despite having similar facilities in our village. I’m not complaining though, as it gives me the chance to sample a real ale or two at The Horse Chestnut, on the Main Road.

Games locally are a little bit thin on the ground tonight; it’s either Dunkirk or Gedling Town. We choose the former ,as it’s a wee bit closer to home.

It’s slinging it down with rain as I drive round to The Taxman’s crib. I hand over some Family Tax Credit literature, via Mrs P, for him to give the once over. Mrs P reckons a Mr G Brown is taking the piss.

It’s a short ten minute drive down the A52 Nottingham ring road. The ground is on Lenton Lane, close to Boots and the Players’ cigarette factory. Ooh John Player Blue, those were the days. Also on the same stretch of this narrow lane are Bilborough Pelican, Greenwood Meadows and the Michelin star restaurant, Sat Bains.

The car park is chock-a-bloc. Car crime is rife down this dimly lit area, but thankfully there is security on the gate.

It’s still teeming it down with rain so we head straight for the bar. The Taxman queues for a cup of char. I don’t enquire whether it was poured from the pot; I doubt it though, and mark it with a 6 out of 10. I know my marks are so harsh these days.

Coronation Street is on the TV set in the corner of the bar. Mrs P and ‘The Skipper’ will be tuning into it back home, watching this gritty, enthralling, northern soap opera ( ... cue Harry Hill big yawn.) Boring builder Bill Webster is bleating about some Manc scallywag who has arf-inched some lead piping from the yard. Erm .... I wonder who’s committed that crime readers? Perhaps producers will call in Belgian sleuth Hercules Poirot to crack the case. Thankfully, the players are coming out the changing room.

Dunkirk FC were formed in 1946 and are called The Boatmen. They play their home games by the banks of the River Trent. Nottingham Forest muscleman, the vastly underrated Wesley Morgan, used to ply his trade here, as did former Notts County winger Jake Sheridan.

Borrowash is on the outskirts of D***y. The club were first formed in 1911. They currently top the table of East Midlands Counties League.

I am a bit of a Jonah when it comes to watching The Boatman. Looking back at two years of groundhopping I have watched them five times and they have lost the lot.

The pitch looks heavy and is bound to cut up. Dunkirk play with two wide men called Theo Smith and Adey Bascombe. They have electric pace which we probably won’t see tonight because of the heavy surface.

Borrowash quickly find their rhythm and produce a crisp passing game. I saw them a year ago at their Asterbowl ground, but tonight they are unrecognisable from that abject performance. The shaven headed number six in centre midfield is already calling all the shots. Their front pairing of Spencer and North have rattled in 32 goals this season.

They take a quick throw in on our side of the pitch after 15 minutes, the ball falls to Tom Leighton on the edge of the box, he takes a swing at the ball with his left foot, which Dunkirk ‘keeper Wheater-Lowe can only help into the net.

It’s not long before they are two up. With their confidence rising by the minute, a measured cross comes in from the right, giant striker Channon North miscues a header which fortuitously falls to the left footed Jamie Pawley who drives the ball home, leaving Wheater-Lowe with little chance.

Dunkirk play too narrow, their balls forward are aimless. They need to get their clever striker Aaron Brady involved.

On thirty five minutes the visitors take a short corner and make a complete hash of it, Theo Smith is lurking 80 metres from goal, he picks the ball up and drives forward , splashing through the mud and standing water, he leaves a trail of players in his wake, his finish is emphatic; Dunkirk are back in the game.

We’re back in the clubhouse at the break. We’re all staring at the television again. Detective Chief Inspector Jack Meadows from TV’s The Bill is scratching his head at another unsolved crime for Sun Hill Police Station to deal with: whilst you are at Jack can you find out who nicked Bill Webster’s lead piping?

Dunkirk are on the ascendancy and play with spirit in the second period. Brady is excellent on the ball and brings others into the game. They start to create chances. The Borrowash ‘keeper comes flying off his line, with Dunkirk winger Adey Bascombe through on goal, he rounds him, but can only find the side netting from a tight angle, with an empty goal gaping.

There’s a goalmouth melee, with the Borrowash ‘keepermaking two brave saves, it just won’t go in. It looks like Sticky’s jinx has struck Dave Harbottle’s men again.

In the dying moments, with persistent rain still falling from the skies, Pawley spots Darren Wheater-Lowe off his line, he’s over 40 metres from goal, he hits a nonchalant, curling shot over a despairing Wheater-Lowe, into an empty net. He’s mobbed by his teammates.

It’s harsh on The Boatmen who have given their all in the second half. Centre half Dwayne Soar has been outstanding for them in the heart of the defence.

It’s back to the Normanton Plough for a pint of Jennings Bitter. We meet up with a bigwig from the Referees’ Association. We tell him how good tonight’s ref Stuart Boswell has been. He had the game in his pocket and allowed for the conditions. He’s contributed towards another excellent night out. Now where’s that lead piping?

Attendance: 68

Man of the Match: The two Borrowash centre-halves.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Glossop North End 2 Stewart & Lloyds 1

The detox diet is over and boy did I celebrate. The kids and I made our debut at the new KFC, which was the old Magpies pub, close to Notts County’s Meadow Lane ground. We didn’t mess about and ordered a ‘Family Bucket.’ Mrs P missed out she was chilaxing at the Eden Hall Spa.

It’s Saturday morning and Sticky Palms is in big trouble. Nottingham Forest Academy have asked me to go and scout a game at the glorious setting of Wollaton Park, and from there it’s straight to Glossop. Er indoors is not best pleased, as I won’t be around for most of the day.

My sole contribution to the upkeep of the house is to clean the bathroom; Mrs P has nipped up to the ‘Under Wraps’ lingerie store in the village ....... steady on readers, Match of the Day is on at 10.15pm!

BLOG sensation Trumpy Bolton calls me up as I’m pouring Domestos down the toilet to arrange our impending trip to Deeping Rangers on Jan 31st. He’s currently on a tour of duty (on the piss) in Oxfordshire.

I jump in the ‘Rolls Royce’ (Mondeo) and drive to Wollaton Park. The game is an under 8 fixture. I feel very uncomfortable scouting at this tender age. It feels immoral to take these young boys away from their mates and shove them into the harsh environment of a football academy. But the proof is in the pudding. For example both Jermaine Jenas and Lewis McGugan were both at NFFC at the age of nine. You normally get a good brew at Wollaton Park, but sadly the tea bar is closed today.

I pick up The Auctioneer in the Plank and Leggitt pub car park in Sawley, Leicestershire. He lives a quiet life on a narrow boat on Sawley Marina.

He immediately puts some toons on the CD player. There’s some good stuff on it, including New Order and The Charlatans. He has a Punk CD tucked up his sleeve for the journey back.

We take the scenic route down the A50 and travel up through Ashbourne and Buxton. ‘Sally’ on the Tom Tom is annoyed that we’ve not took the motorway, but we’re in no rush.

The D***yshire Peak District is bathed in glorious sunshine. It’s stone walls are a feature throughout the journey.

We drive past Chapel-en-le-Frith and arrive in Glossop at 1.30pm. We park at the back of Glossop railway station, in the Co-op car park. We’ve bought the Good Pub Guide with us and intend to hunt down The Star Inn and The Globe, with its micro brewery.

The Star Inn is a spit and sawdust real ale house, with no frills. The Auctioneer has Timothy Taylor’s and The Groundhopper a weaker 3.8ABV golden ale. It’s only a swift pint as the music from the CD player is none too tasty. REO Speedwagon and Dean Friedman ensure a hasty retreat.

We stretch our legs around this old, quaint mill town. It’s unspoilt and has kept its beauty. We find a local bakery and tuck into a bacon barm cake and a steak and onion pie. There’s no sign of The Globe, so we head towards the ground.

Glossop is in High Peak Derbyshire and has a population of just over 30,000. It’s 14 miles from Manchester and 25 miles from Sheffield. If Mrs P finds out I’ve come this far I’ll be heading for the divorce courts! She never reads the BLOG; only the first paragraph.

The fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood was born in the area. Porn publishing king Paul Raymond also grew up in the town.

Glossop North End Football Club were formed in 1886. They were members of the Football League between 1898 and 1915. It is said that they were the first football league club in the world to register its strip as all-white.

The Hillmen have played at Surrey Street for over 50 years; it has a capacity of 2500. We take a hike around the ground; it’s surrounded by an industrial estate. There is a Tesco’s, Wickes and a KFC. The views up into the High Peak hills are stunning. At the back of the ground is a huge chimney where there was once a steel works.

Stewart and Lloyds are an old iron and steel works’ team and were formed in 1935. They are currently in third position in the Eagle Bitter United Counties Premier League.

It’s £5 on the gate and £1 for an out of this world programme. The Auctioneer shouts the teas up; we mark it with 6.3 out of ten. There’s too many people here for them to start pissing about making pots of tea.

We stroll past the Chris Ringland Lounge; it’s named after a player who was tragically killed in a plane crash whilst on business in Turkey.

We meet a groundhopper from Leicester who supports Northampton Town; he’s not your stereotypical groundhopper who bores the pants off you about his trips around the European non-league circuit, he’s actually interested in the football.

I spot people wearing hats from the following clubs: Yeovil Town, Oldham Athletic, Arnold Town and Curzon Ashton.

There’s a carnival atmosphere inside the ground. Behind one goal small children play in a sandpit, bantering with the visiting ‘keeper. At the opposite end teenagers congregate with a variety of inflatables that they wave in the air. The community have come together, as a whole, and the moment feels special.

Glossop North End mean business and start the game at a furious pace. In the second minute a ball is threaded through to tricky winger Dave Hodges, he knocks it out his feet and finishes with confidence.

Stewart and Lloyds are hit by wave after wave of attacks. The chances stack up for The Hillmen, who have a shoot on sight policy. A couple of shots fizz over the bar. It’s only the awareness and courage of the red headed Chris Logan that keeps them in the game. He spends the entire first period fire fighting the Glossop attack.

Glossop have incredible energy levels, we hope they don’t burn themselves out for the second half on this heavy surface.

S&L’s goalkeeper Richard Lavin makes an incredible save before the break, somehow turning a point blank volley onto the upright. Glossop will be anxious that they’ve not sewn the game up.

Cheerful news arrives by text: the Tricky Trees are two up, whilst D***y are two down. Nigel, you’ve made your bed, you better lie in it ‘young man.’

There’s no improvement from S&L as The Hillmen continue to pour forward. Steve Young is the Glossop coach, we have stood next to his dugout in the second half and analyse his behaviour.. Despite the numerous chances wasted he remains calm and positive, always encouraging his players, draping his arms around the waist of the substitutes going on, to gain their attention and deliver instructions.

S&L substitute Edward Matthews wastes a golden chance, but redeems himself moments later, producing a stinging shot which 17 year old Glossop ‘keeper Ashlea Gotham can only help into the net.

Glossop come fighting back. They hit the post. Morris, Bailey and Hodges all see efforts fly past the post. Steve Young encourages his youngsters to play a short passing game to tire out their opponents.

Extra time is moments away; Mrs P will never believe me. I’ll be sleeping in the rabbit hutch with Finley tonight. It’ll be gone 8pm by the time I get home.

Glossop win a corner in the 92nd minute. The manager’s son Dave Young whips the ball in, it’s inch perfect and met by the forehead of Dave Hodges, it canons into the roof of the net. Hodges has saved my marriage. There’s pandemonium and delirium. Everyone runs to the bench, there’s a massive pile on. People are in tears. Inflatables are thrown into the air. The Auctioneer and I raise our clenched fists with joy. I wouldn’t have missed this moment for the world. What an exceptional bunch of honest players this club has, led by an inspirational manager.

The final whistle is blown. The kids race onto the pitch to cheer their heroes off. What an amazing day out. All for a fiver.

Attendance: 393

Man of the Match: The whole of Glossop

Footnote: That clown, The Auctioneer, took me back home up the A57 and through Sheffield, where he reminisced about his university days during the rush hour traffic. There was a crash on the motorway. I walked through our front door at 8pm. Mrs P had a face like thunder. It was chilli for dinner and a chilly atmosphere in the lounge. The night ended abruptly when I refused to watch Family Fortunes.