Saturday, September 5, 2009
Church Warsop MW 3 Bentley Colliery 1
We’re driving back home from Basford United’s ground. The Groundhopper’s mood has darkened with the news that Lincoln City have been trounced by Dagenham and Redbridge. ‘The Skipper’ says he’d like to pop up ‘The Rec’ to watch some cricket.
We drive up Nottingham Road; there’s not a soul in sight. We must have been skittled out. We cruise up to the Salutation Inn. All the players will be getting sozzled. Nobody is in the pub. I phone up Bobby. He delivers the devastating news: all ten strips on the wicket have been dug up by vandals. Somebody didn’t want the game to be played. Mmmm.
The Twenty20 game on Bank Holiday Monday is in doubt. A willing army of volunteers give up their family time on a Sunday to repair the wicket with a broken-hearted groundsman. The pitch is turned around 90 degrees.
Sticky junior and I are on opposite sides. I stroll into bat and nurdle the ball down to third man for an easy single. Junior is bowling his final over. I finally get on strike. He has three balls left. The ball loops out of his hand. The Groundhopper plays down the Bakerloo Line, unfortunately the ball travels down the Waterloo Line.
I hear the death rattle click as the ball clips the bail. I walk back to the pavilion a disconsolate and sorrowful soul. The little rat has got me out two years in a row.
It’s a busy week. I have to ref a very ring rusty ‘Skipper’s’ team on Wednesday. On Thursday I make the short trip to Cotgrave Colliery Welfare to watch Notts County U15’s.
I don’t fall out my pit until 8.30am on Saturday morning. I had a few real ales with ‘The Nuclear Scientist’ last night. I smashed him out of sight at table tennis. I won the final game 21-19. He lost his temper and crushed the ping pong ball.
I broached the subject of my day ahead with Mrs P a few days ago. I was nervous to say the least. ‘Erm love, I’ll be leaving at 10am and won’t be back until 6pm. It was met with a wall of silence. “Perhaps we can watch X-Factor later this evening together?” It was a last gasp conciliatory throw of the dice. I think she fell for it.
I drive up the A60. A boy has been pestering me for weeks to go and watch him. I am as soft as shit and don’t want to let him down. I turn left down the A38. Danny Baker has a new phone-in on Five Live. The guy is a genius. His wit is razor-sharp. His callers are intelligent and comical.
I finally arrive in Sutton-In-Ashfield. The boy is way too tense. He knows I’m here. He tries too hard and is not on top of his game. It will be a ‘we’ll monitor his progress’ call. He’s not quite what we are looking for.
I’ve three hours to kill. I stop off in Mansfield Woodhouse and grab some snap at a local bakery. A steak pie, a cream iced bun and a diet coke are just the cure for a ravenous Groundhopper. I take a peek at the Manor Sports Complex to see if any games are being played but the place is deserted. It’s the same story at the impressive John Fretwell Centre. Although they are spinning up a coin for Bassetlaw League cricket match.
I drive through the village of Spion Kop. It’s named after a hill in South Africa, which was the scene of a battle in the Second Boer War. Football grounds used to name their terracing after the steep hill at Ladysmith, in South Africa where the battle took place. I know readers; I’m a fountain of knowledge (Wikipedia).
It’s been a wasted morning; you sometimes get days like these when you are scouting for youth. The good days outweigh the bad ones. At least I’ve got the Church Warsop v Bentley Colliery game to look forward to.
I park on the edge of the village, close to the river and church. Some fool is getting married. Fathers and sons fish the river. Sticky Palms takes a few snaps.
Church Warsop is one mile north of Warsop. It has a population of just over 2000 people. It was built in the 1930s by the Staveley Coal and Iron Company to house colliery workers and their families who worked at the nearby Warsop Colliery.
Sporting stars from the area include Notts and England wicket keeper, Bruce French and former Everton full back, Neil Pointon.
As I rock up on ‘The Fronts’ I notice to my right the old pit houses. They are dilapidated and in a state of disrepair. A pimped up Astra pulls up opposite ‘Sally Gunnell.’ Two houses are boarded up and abandoned. Sticky Palms puts the Krooklock on ‘Sally Gunnell.’
Sticky Junior phones me up. He’s loitering round Nottingham city centre. He’s laughing like a mad man down the phone. I ask him what’s his beef? He replies that he’s bought the ‘Big Issue’ off ‘some nutter.’
I have a quick mosey up the road. The Church Warsop Miners Welfare has been closed down and put up for sale. Good old Margaret Thatcher has killed another community.
It’s an hour before kick- off. I’m not too keen on strolling into a local hostelry around here and ordering a diet Coke. I listen to Radio Nottingham, instead, for half an hour. They have intriguing interviews with Notts County Chief Executive, Peter Trembling and Director of Cricket at Nottinghamshire CCC, Mick Newell.
They’re just setting up the trestles at the gate as I stroll up to the ground. A concrete fence hides the playing surface. It’s £2 admission and £1 for a very well edited programme. I’m the only paying spectator in the ground.
Two boys are playing football in the goalmouth. They start chattering away to me. They’re both ten years old. One is called Nathan, the other Charlie. They sound like Billy Casper off the film Kes. What a pair of chatterboxes they turn out to be. They amuse The Groundhopper.
They tell me that Didier Drogba and Shaun Wright Phillips both play for Church Warsop. When the teams trot out for a warm-up I see what they mean as they have a couple of dead ringers for the Chelsea pair.
Nathan and Charlie’s constant chitter-chatter has worn poor old Sticky Palms out. I retire to the Refreshment Bar. The lady in there is also up for a chat. What a friendly bunch they are up at Church Warsop.
I stand to the left of the Bentley Colliery dugout. The South Yorkshire team kick down the hill in the first period. I spot almost immediately that have a selected 4-5-1 formation. They have a nice balance about them and keep the ball on the carpet.
‘Shaun Wright Phillips’ has pace to burn. The Bentley full back is no slouch himself, but struggles to contain the wee man.
Bentley hit the crossbar with a glancing header from Devine. He doesn’t waste a second opportunity five minutes later. ‘Tilly’ flights a ball in from the right touchline, Devine peels off a ball-watching defender, takes a deft touch and smashes the ball into the bottom corner of the net.
But former Shirebrook Town forward, Simon Johnson, is a constant menace. Bentley Colliery struggle to cope with his movement. He makes no mistake from close range on the stroke of half-time.
I avoid Nathan, Charlie and the Refreshment Bar at the break. They’ve all worn me out. A groundhopper from Chesterfield comes ambling towards me. We exchange pleasantries for a short while.
Church Warsop replace their goalkeeper. He came out the worse from a 50/50 challenge earlier in the game. Their balding centre half takes over in between the sticks.
On 50 minutes I text Mrs P to see if Strictly Come Dancing is on TV tonight. She replies with a negative.
Church Warsop play a better game down the hill. The Bentley midfield look fagged out and fail to support their lone striker. ‘Tilly’ does hit the base of the post but they spend most of the second half pegged back.
The home team take the lead. Good work by the busy Johnson finds the ball at the feet of Daniel McLane, who strokes the ball home.
There is a frenetic finale. With two minutes to go the referee awards a penalty on the linesman’s say-so. The Bentley bench are furious. One individual, particularly, lets himself down. The resulting penalty is brilliantly saved by the Bentley ‘keeper.
A minute later another penalty is awarded to the home team. The reaction of the Bentley dugout is indescribable. Full marks to their charming and articulate manager, Mick Devine, for defusing the situation. Simon Johnson steps up and puts the game beyond doubt.
Bentley Colliery are furious with the officials. As a neutral I have to say that I thought the ref did quite well. He tried to give advantage where possible. His only downfall was failing to punish the Church Warsop players for constantly kicking the ball away in an effort to waste time.
Man of the Match: Nathan and Charlie.