Saturday, August 7, 2010
Stratford Town 1 Dunkirk 2
The cat’s out of the bag. ‘The Skipper’s’ stitched me up. We were in Kidderminster a few weeks ago, ‘The Skipper' was buying pop and snap in a newsagents. I noticed a pet shop next door. There was a sign outside that said ‘BABY BUNNY’S NOW IN’ (awful grammar, I know).
I was intrigued. Let’s face it Finley (my beautiful rabbit) has some miles on the clock. I viewed the baby bunnies. I didn’t leave a deposit. They’re not in the same league as my Finley.
When we get home, ‘The Skipper’ breaks his neck to tell Finley that there may be a ‘For Sale’ sign being hammered onto his cage on Monday morning. Finley is not amused. We’ve not spoken to each other in days.
The weekend gets off to a bad start on Friday evening when Sticky Palms manages to spill Mrs P’s glass of Co-op’s special offer wine all over the new carpet and new settee. The rest of the evening is spent in silence.
It’s Saturday morning. The Groundhopper is up em and at em. I’m all excited, it’s the first league game of the season.
At 7.30am I drive into West Bridgford for a ‘holiday haircut’ at J&J Hairdressing on the Melton Road. John, the proprietor, has cut hair here for over 50 years. I’m back into the car and head into town, the ‘Rolls Royce’ needs a couple of new tyres on it.
I have to wait for a chubby mechanic to eat his bacon cob, slurp a cup of coffee and blow a couple of smoke rings from his rolled-up cigarette, before he opens up Big City Tyres for business.
I’m back home before 9am. Mrs P soon whisks me off to the Riverside Retail Park in Lenton for a spot of pre-holiday shopping. The good lady is not in the mood for gags or larking about this morning, she has a very important haircut on her mind at Topknot at 1pm. I remind her to avoid those menacing Huddersfield Town fans who will be lurking around the Trent Bridge area before the season’s opener against Craig Short’s Notts County.
I spot a pair of bright red swimming trunks in Boots. I waltz up to the counter to pay for them. I swear to God I’d knock the Portuguese women dead wearing these readers. Mrs P tells me not to be so ridiculous and to put them back on the shelf.
I wash and valet both the cars - the lawns were cut the previous night. I knock myself up a ham sandwich and watch Billy Smart’s circus (the Pakistan cricket team) on Sky Sports 1 for half an hour or so.
Me and Finley hold peace talks at 12.30pm, outside his cage. The little fella gets all amorous and grabs my ankle – ‘not now Finley.’
I pick up the Nuclear Scientist at just before 1pm. I ask him to sit in the back because he’s that small he can’t see over the dashboard ,or out of the windscreen without a booster seat. The Taxman ambles to the car in his own time.
The pair of them have just missed an entertaining joust between Five Live reporter Pat Murphy and for now, Nottingham Forest manager Billy Davies. The fiery Scotsman is on top form. I love to hear his pre-match and post match thoughts on the excellent ‘Matchday’ programme on Radio Nottingham: he speaks from the heart and shoots from the hip.
Sat Nav takes us down the A46, M1, M69 and back onto the A46. I’m that busy gassing that I manage to miss a turning at a huge roundabout. The little lad in the back takes the rip out of me for the rest of the journey.
We skirt the edge of Stratford upon Avon and drive out towards the village of Tiddington. Mrs P and I once spent the weekend in the birthplace of the playwright and poet, William Shakespeare. I remember us holding hands together in the corner of The Garrick public house as we watched Manchester United thump Millwall 3-0 in the 2004 FA Cup final. – I know how to treat a girl.
Stratford upon Avon is a market town in the civil parish of south Warwickshire. It has a population of just shy of 25,000. Apart from William Shakespeare, the only other person of note, that I could find, who was born in the town, is the celebrity chef Anthony Worrall-Thompson.
Stratford Town FC were founded in 1941 but have played at the DCS Stadium on Knights Lane since 2008, following a £2 million grant received from the Football Foundation. I saw them in a FA Vase game a few years ago at Leicestershire side Quorn. They had a fantastic striker called Tony Robinson, who later went on to play for Tamworth in the Blue Square Conference.
Car parking is free of charge; we are shepherded into a spot by a fluorescent yellow-jacketed steward. We are pointed in the direction of the ‘Social Club.’
NS and The Taxman both order a lager; The Groundhopper settles for a bottle of water. The room is plush and fresh. Horse racing from Haydock Park on the TV set attracts little or no attention from the supporters in the room.
I get chatting with an elderly Stratford supporter. He’s optimistic about promotion after their 3rd place finish last season. I warn him not to take The Boatmen too lightly. I mention they play with pace, spirit and can battle when the chips are down. I sense the home team think they have this game in the bag.
I’m still purring over Dunkirk’s 4-2 smashing of Rainworth in the Notts Senior Cup last season. The football that night was total, the pace frightening.
We stand next to the Dunkirk dug out. ‘Uppo’, their manager, trudges across from the tunnel. The PA system is crystal clear. The announcer stimulates the crowd with Marvin Gaye’s ‘Sexual Healing.’ Good job I didn’t bring Finley with me.
Two more characters from the Dunkirk camp stroll across the pitch. The shaggy haired Dave Harbottle is joint manager, Danny Boyes is his coach – I know them both. They look nervous.
When you watch Dunkirk their technical area reminds me of the set of the Guy Ritchie movies ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ or ‘Snatch’. Today, everyone is seated.
Dunkirk are magnificent in the first half, I knew they wouldn’t disappoint. They run Stratford ragged. They play a 4-4-1-1 formation with the fleet-footed Darren Garmston sitting in the hole behind livewire striker Lee Day, who bagged 28 goals last season, attracting the attention of Championship side Swansea City. His partner in crime, Shannon Grant, is stood next to me, as he is serving a three match suspension.
The Boatmen have knocked on the door for a while but open the scoring in sensational style. Garmston picks the ball up 35 yards out, he nutmegs his opponent, waltzes around him, knocks the ball out his feet, sets his sights on goal and thumps a dipping, vicious shot over the keeper and into the roof of the net. It’s a show-stopping moment that makes my spine tingle. There won’t be a better goal to be seen in the overpaid profession of football today. The three of us clench our fists with delight.
Dunkirk are wasteful in front of goal. There’s no response from the home team, they seem content to lump the ball up to their lumbering, clumsy striker ‘Smiffy.’
On half-time Dunkirk deservedly double their lead. Tony ‘Chink’ Gregory converts a chance after a marauding run by the Dunkirk full back.
I shout the teas and water up at the break. The DJ sounds like he’s auditioning for Smooth FM by playing the dreadful Lionel Ritchie’s ‘Dancing on the ‘Ceiling.’
I meet an Ilkeston Town fan who always follows Dunkirk when ‘Ilson’ are away from home. He buys a pie and a burger – he looks capable of shifting both.
Some black clouds have rolled in so we decide to take a pew in the stand. Dunkirk just can’t finish them off. Lavelle White exchanges passes with Day, only to see his effort come back off the post and Theo Smith fluffs a sitter at the back stick.
Stratford slowly begin to turn the screw. ‘Smiffy’ has been replaced by the more mobile and energised 18 year old Nathan Eddington. He reduces arrears with a smart finish after a long ball is not dealt with.
It’s backs against the wall stuff now. Shots are blocked and cleared as Stratford lay siege in the Dunkirk area.
Substitute Westcarr hits the upright for Dunkirk. Harbottle and Boyes are up on their feet and looking tense. All I can hear is ‘Uppo’s’ dulcet tones – “stop giving the bloody ball away”.They manage to hang on for a fully deserved win.
We depart to Doris Day’s ‘Que Sera Sera.’ Shakespeare’s ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’ would be more apt for The Boatmen.
Man of the Match: Dwayne Soar (class act)