Monday, December 13, 2010

Notts County 2 MK Dons 0

I’m in the Rolls Royce driving back from Peterborough. I feel gutted for the 132 Rochdale fans who are making the long, tiring journey home, to the Lancashire mill town.

There was an icy chill blowing off the River Nene, down the ground and into the away end. I was shivering for most of the second half. I’ve got the heaters on full blast. My nose is streaming and my throat is on fire.

To make matters worse my car radio has auto tuned into Peterborough Heart FM – bloody hell readers, they’re only playing the awful ‘Dancing on the Ceiling’ by Lionel Ritchie. I quickly hit the ‘search’ button. I’ve never been so relieved to hear the dulcet tones of Pete Waterman on Smooth FM.

I’m back home just before midnight, having dodged a couple of foxes on the A1. Mrs P has had a girly night. There are a few wine bottles stacked up. I’m stone cold sober; everyone appears to be talking gibberish. I climb the wooden hill and leave them to it.

I’m awake for 7.30am. I’ve promised Sticky jnr I’ll give him a dig out with his morning papers. I quickly check the Daily Mail for its front page headline, as it’s a constant source of amusement. For once it’s not about Princess Diana, Zola Budd or the Labour Party; instead they’re slaughtering the son of Pink Floyd star David Gilmour, for swinging on the Union Flag at the Cenotaph during the student riots, earlier this week.

I’m back in the house for a bit of Marmite on crumpets for breakfast. Mrs P is off to Tesco in Loughborough. I decide to have a quick run-around West Bridgford to see if I can spot any talent (footballers not women).

I’m driving down Station Road towards Plumtree when suddenly my wing mirror falls apart off ‘Sally Gunnell.’ Mrs P has conveniently forgotten to tell me that she caught it on the garage door yesterday. I have to make some running repairs.

I glance at the non league fixture list. Plenty of games have succumbed to the weather. I’m not taking any chances today. I ask the lads if they fancy an afternoon at the oldest football league club in the world. They both love coming down ‘The Lane.’

It’s an easy passout for Groundhopper when the kids tag along. Mrs P will turn a blind eye to two games in less than 24 hours. Before all that though, Sticky Palms Cleaning Services are called into action. My best pal, Finley Palmer, the rabbit, needs a cage make-over.

He’s sprawled out on the floor enjoying a brief spell of winter sunshine. He’s still got the monk on with me that he’s banned from having a trot out in the garden following an unexpected overnight stay (he escaped) a few weeks back, when the dirty stop out didn’t come home until 8am.

I have chicken soup, cheese and bread for lunch. I snatch the last five minutes of Dan Walker on the BBC’s Football Focus. He’s live at Villa Park. They show a wonder goal from Dalian Atkinson, ironically against Wimbledon, from back in 1993. It’s a mazy run, starting in his own half. He finishes it with an audacious chip.

‘Sizzers’ and ‘Growler’ are on board. We have to nip up Martins newsagents as jnr wants to buy a 3 litre bottle of pop. He’ll never smuggle that past the eagle-eyed stewards.

We park in County Hall. I notice that the ‘world renowned Trent Bridge Inn’ has its windows boarded-up. It’s been snapped up by controversial pub chain J D Wetherspoon. The Groundhopper blog’s resident drunk, Mr Trumpy Bolton, will be cocker hoop with the news.

The kids are at an age that they’d rather be seen dead than sit with Dad at a football match. They make their debut in the Kop Stand and leave me to gather my thoughts at the back of the Derek Pavis Stand.

I sit with The Nuclear Scientist and legendary Keyworth Utd Reserves manager ‘Jacko.’ Rumours are sweeping around the ground that ‘Jacko’ has blagged his way in as a pensioner.

Milton Keynes is a town in Buckinghamshire with a population of just under 200,000. It was, like Peterborough, designated a new town in 1967. The only time I’ve ever been was when Joe Kinnear’s Tricky Trees played at the National Hockey Centre a few years ago. My abiding memory of that evening was another inept performance by Marlon King.

I found the town to be soulless and short on character and pubs. I suppose it was only to be expected with it being a new town.

Milton Keynes has no dedicated radio station, just the Home Counties Heart FM – I don’t think Sticky Palms will be tuning in when he’s in the vicinity.

Well known folk from the town include: Arsenal first team fringe player, Mark Randall and Somerset batsman James Hildreth. The Formula One motor racing team Red Bull are based in MK.

Milton Keynes Dons were founded in 2004, under very controversial circumstances. That story is for another day. They play at Stadium: MK, which has a capacity of 22,000.

Scouser, Karl Robinson is the youngest manager in the Football League, having only just turned 30 years of age. His assistant is John Gorman. Former German international, Dietmar Hamann, is on the coaching staff; he will be joined early in the New Year by ex Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler. Luke Chadwick is also in the squad.

The Pies have had a change of manager since my last visit. Paul Emerson Carlyle Ince has instilled discipline and a hard work ethic since his arrival. There’s certainly a steelier look about them in the first half. The defence appears to have found a backbone.

Sticky’s favourite, ‘Rocky’ Ravenhill is patrolling the middle of the park. He tops the roll call with 20 appearances this season and also the disciplinary charts with 9 bookings and a sending off. He makes it double figures with a caution for persistent foul play.

MK Dons don’t look particularly interested in attacking Notts. Aaron Wilbraham cuts a lonely figure in their forward line. He has a fine first touch for a big fella and can hold up play. He also receives a yellow card for leaving a flailing elbow into Mike Edwards’ upper torso.

Neal Bishop lacks the composure to put the Pies one to the good, he blazes horribly wide from a good position. He sinks to his knees, with exasperation all over his face.

The much coveted Magpies’ midfielder Ben Davies has had 48 shots at goal this season, 29 have been on target. He races onto a Mike Edwards through ball but is thwarted by a fine stop from Dons’ ‘keeper David Martin.

Notts will rue those missed chances at the break but Ince will be encouraged by a 20 minute spell of attractive, high tempo football. NS treats me to a coffee – it’s stone cold, apparently the machine was on the blink.

I have a flick through the superb matchday programme. I looking for the Colin Slater column as he often has something interesting to say. He’s a big admirer, like I am, of York City manager Gary Mills. He has just been made Manager of the Month in the Blue Square Bet Conference. Don’t rule out a late charge for the play-offs.

I have a quick chat with my boss Mick. The youth team have had a run out at Loughborough University this morning. They are due to play Liverpool on Wednesday evening in a FA Youth Cup 3rd round tie.

The second half is drab and dreary. Both sides give away possession cheaply. With 15 minutes to go Wilbraham slings another elbow out and is asked to take an early bath.

The Dons manager who has been laughing and joking with the crowd starts moaning at the fourth official. He dressed more for a round of golf than to coach a football team. He wears a sweater, a Simon Cowell collar up shirt, trousers and shoes.

Ince’s final throw of the dice is to throw on his lad Thomas and the prolific Lee Hughes. Young Ince’s impact on the game is instant. He seizes upon a poor clearance and rifles home a shot from the edge of the box.

Five minutes later it’s game, set and match to the Pies with a sublime, curling shot from Hughes which bags all three points.

Attendance: 5172 (322 from Milton Keynes)

Man of the Match: Mike Edwards


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