Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Rainworth MW 2 Dunkirk 4
I arrive home from work to a flood of tears. Both of them beat the ground in despair shouting: “why us?” It’s like there’s been a death in the family. They texted me and phoned me at work, earlier in the day, to deliver the grim news. It’s going to be a long, cold, dark depressing evening in our household.
They are both lost for words. I give them a consoling pat on the back. Tears still stream down their faces – yes, you may have heard readers, Sony have found a glitch in their PS3 system. Nobody can play Call of Duty online until further notice. It’s like the world has come to an end.
I’m driving home from Platt Lane – the headquarters of Keyworth United Community Football Club. The Greens have just tonked Bilborough Pelican 6-2. Swifty is cowering around the back of the clubhouse. Big Glenn is letting off steam in the changing room.
Groundhopper turns over the car engine and flicks on the radio. Nottingham Forest concede two goals at the Walkers Stadium on my short journey home. The wheels have come off and so have their shooting boots.
Uncle Colin reports on brighter news from Meadow Lane: the youngest player ever to have worn the Tricky Tree red shirt – Craig Westcarr – has bagged a hat-trick for Notts County. He was bought for a song from non-league Kettering Town. Amidst the huge signing-on fees and high wages the journeyman footballer was signed by Ian McParland in the summer.
It’s Sunday February 28th. I can hear ‘The Skipper’ fidgeting about in his bedroom. It’s 7am and the youngster is excited. Today he is 12 years old.
He has a joint football birthday party with his mate. Sticky Palms is in the nets. I‘m nutmegged, mugged and even shown up by my 8 year old Godson. I miss the food fight to retire to the lounge of the Keyworth Tavern for a quiet pint.
It’s Tuesday morning and The Groundhopper is in a quandary. I’m desperate to chalk off Friar Lane and Epworth’s ground but can’t help but notice the mouth-watering Notts Senior Cup tie between Rainworth MW v Dunkirk.
Rainworth is a village near Mansfield in north Nottinghamshire. It has a population of just under 8000. Rufford Colliery opened in 1911 and closed in 1993. The colliery provided housing for over 400 families, recreational facilities such as the football ground and even a lido, which was in disuse by the end of the Second World War.
One night in December 1975, two police officers noticed a man acting suspiciously outside a post office in Mansfield Woodhouse. The man was a serial killer and Britain’s most wanted fugitive – ‘The Black Panther’ – Donald Neilson.
The rozzers were bundled into their own car and driven at gunpoint towards Rainworth. The car sped out of control outside the Junction Chip Shop in the village. Unfortunately for Neilson, a bevvied up group of miners, coming off the afternoon shift at Rufford Colliery, were queuing up for a late-night fish supper. They beat him up to a pulp.
In 1976 he was found guilty of the murder of three sub-postmasters and 17 year old Lesley Whittle, whose body was found hanging at the bottom of a drainage shaft.
Sticky’s all-time favourite Welfare is situated bang opposite the Wrens’ Kirklington Road ground. We’ve even ticked off another Co-op, which is on the left hand side, before turning right at the lights, past Potters Snooker Hall.
We climb the steps up to the Welfare and past the bowling green which looks in pristine condition for the time of year.
The Nuclear Scientist knows that the beer will be subsidised and volunteers to get the round in. They have Mansfield bitter, Groundhopper has a cold Guinness. It’s £6.40 for the three drinks (Sticky later buys the same three drinks at The Plough at Normanton-on-the Wolds for £8.60).
We sit in the lounge. A couple of people stand in the doorway, sheltering from the cold, smoking cigarettes.
I’m comfortably the youngest person in this room. The One Show is on the huge TV set perched up in the corner of the bar. Frank Lampard’s girlfriend - the gorgeous Christine Bleakley – is learning to water ski for Sports Relief. She’s bawling her eyes out – perhaps she’s heard she can’t go online on her PS3.
I suddenly hear a familiar theme tune. A tune that depresses me and angers me the more I hear it. EastEnders has started. Mrs P will be curled up on the sofa, with her hot chocolate and custard creams, with a huge satisfying smile on her face. We neck our pints and head across the road.
At the back of the ground there’s a big top – the Rainworth Circus is in town. Never mind watching Wild at Heart on a Sunday evening, get up to Rainworth and see the real deal. I tell the lads to keep an eye out for any elephant shit.
It’s a revisit for The Taxman and I. We came two summer’s ago when Uriah Rennie refereed a friendly against Eastwood Town.
Admission is £4 with another £1 for a top programme, plus team-sheet. Groundhoppers and casual visitors are welcomed in the programme editorial.
I immediately bump into a scout from the Forest academy and a few folk I know from Dunkirk. The ground has been transformed since our last visit. The playing surface looks flat and the grass shaved.
We stand on the opposite side to the dugouts. There’s an army of people in the Dunkirk technical area – it’s akin to a scene from Guy Ritchie’s Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
I notice former Ilkeston Town manager Danny Boyes amongst the thick of it – he’s another character that the city of Nottingham seems to throw up from time to time.
Rainworth Miners’ Welfare were founded in 1922. The proudest moment of their history occurred in 1982 with a Wembley appearance in the FA Vase final. The village was empty that day. Only 80 make the effort to turn up tonight.
The Wrens haven’t won in their last four outings. In contrast, the Boatmen have only been beaten twice in 23 league games. It’s ripe for a cup upset.
Dunkirk fly out the traps. They play the game at a high tempo. Their wingers hug the touchline. Their forwards make darting runs.
Nineteen year olds Shannon Grant and Lee Day lead the line for the Boatmen. I remember them at junior level for Meadows Colts and Wilford Mavericks respectively. Their development since then has been spectacular.
Only textbook goalkeeping from Wrens’ stopper Mark Hales prevents Day from bagging a hat-trick inside half an hour. The Dunkirk management team of Dave Harbottle, Ian Upton and Danny Boyes will be purring about this performance.
Right winger Lavell White is as slippery as an eel; he leaves the left back for dead, drills a ball across the face of goal, to leave Aaron Brady the simple task of a tap-in.
Ten minutes before the break the visitors once again counterattack at a breathtaking pace. A passage of one and two touch football results in White doubling the lead from close range.
Rainworth are short on confidence and have half an eye on their top of the table clash at Bridlington Town’s Queensgate Football Ground this Saturday. They have enjoyed their fair share of possession but fail to pull the trigger in the final third.
The Taxman and NS have thoroughly enjoyed the first half. The bargain £4 entry is nearly as good value as the round of drinks NS bought in the Welfare.
I’m taking a few snaps on my camera phone, when a chap enquires if I’m ‘Sticky.’ It’s only Rainworth superfan ‘Dudsey.’ He’s a regular reader of the blog and so is his wife, Mrs Dudsey. She touches a raw nerve with Sticky though, when she asks if Mrs P has bought me a budgie yet. I reply that I’d rather not talk about it. She’s a right laugh.
Dunkirk are magical and spellbinding in the second period. I’m chatting to poor old Dudsey who is shocked and hurt by the scoreline and performance levels of Rainworth. He can be proud of his brother-in-law’s performance in the Rainworth goal.
White bags two more to complete his hat-trick. We bid farewell to Dudsey and make our way to the exit. The Boatmen clocked off yonks ago. Their night is soured as Rainworth score twice in ‘mystery time.’
All Sticky is thinking about is Lee Day’s performance. We had him down Notts earlier in the season. But the cash has dried up. There’s no reserve team and next season he’ll be too old to be a scholar. If only the Pies had kept open their centre of excellence fours ago. Who knows by now, Lee Day might have been signing his first professional contract.
Man of the Match: Lee Day