Saturday, February 19, 2011

Coalville Town 4 Dunkirk 4

I’m having a spot of lunch at work. I’m browsing the Internet. I take a slurp of tea from my ‘Budgies are Cool’ mug. My attentions turn to a photograph I’ve just spotted on the BBC Football website. I suddenly start coughing and spluttering. I’ve spat tea all over my desk.

I’m laughing uncontrollably. Oh man, my sides are splitting. Tears fall down my face. ‘The Auctioneer’ becomes concerned and asks if I’m OK. I can only point in the direction of my monitor, as I hold my head in my hands, and try to compose myself.

‘The Auctioneer’ leans over my desk. The photo brings a smile to his face. It must be a practical joke played by some wind-up merchant on the BBC Sports Desk. The headline reads: ‘Chris Sutton linked with managerial vacancy at Ross County.’

Is this the same Chris Sutton who had 14 wins in 51 games at Lincoln City, a club I’ve supported for over 40 years? A man who once refused to play for his country. Later in the week Ross County appoint Jimmy Calderwood as manager, it’s the nearest of near misses.

It’s Saturday morning. I’m regretting my rediscovered love and zest for red wine. At least there’s no paper round duties today.

I can hear the wind and rain battering the window sill. Plans were to have a shufti around Derby and then to head up to Kidsgrove or Newcastle under Lyme. The rain has put the kybosh on that.

Firstly there’s a bit of grovelling to do. I volunteer for a few domestic duties, much to Mrs P’s surprise. She asks me to fetch her glass of water, when I mention I might rustle up a Chilli Con Carne this evening.

I browse the Web. Fixture after fixture is falling victim to waterlogged pitches. The kids have got Soccer AM on. They are showing 10 of the best goals of the season. Shaggy-haired former Lincoln City legend, Gareth Ainsworth, is nominated for a 35 yard blockbuster for his current club, Wycombe Wanderers.

I switch to the cricket World Cup. India have racked up close on 400 against Bangladesh. Two players have bagged tons.

The last game I really fancied has bit the dust (Greenwood Meadows v Ibstock). At this rate I’ll be off to town with Mrs P and the gang.

I make one last desperate attempt at finding a game. I pick up my mobile and press ‘U’. Ian Upton, manager of Midland Alliance side Dunkirk picks up the phone. The vibe sounds good; he’s not ranting and swearing down his handset. He confirms their game against high-flying FA Vase quarter finalists Coalville Town is ON.

I make no secret of my support for Dunkirk. I’ve viewed them 4 or 5 times this season and consider myself a lucky charm. I ask Uppo if the ‘Three Degrees’ are up front for them today. Sadly one of them (Lavelle White) is on his hols in Ibiza.

I slip out the back door. Finley wants a quick chat before I leave. He’s on fine form this week, since he joined Twitter. I’ve been less than impressed with some of his Tweets. He’s proper rinsed Sticky Palms. He predicts a 2-1 win for Coalville.

Talking of Finley, I have to fill up the car with petrol at his favourite village, which is called Bunny. I drive past Keyworth Playing Fields; it is damp and deserted.

There is a bore-off on the radio between Chelsea and Everton. Rammers’ hero, Graham Taylor, is the match day summariser. He is the greatest manager ever to grace Sincil Bank.

I drive through Gotham (no sign of Batman and Robin) and onto the notorious A453. A posse of police cars act as a welcoming party for the bus loads of Cardiff City fans who are en route to The City Ground for this afternoon’s game of the day in the Championship.

Five Live news reports that police have fired teargas and rubber bullets at protestors in Bahrain.

People will be turning Radio 5 off in their droves now, as Mark Pougatch interviews Sheffield Wednesday manager Gary Megson. Who could forget the turgid, mind numbing route one garbage he served up in his short stay in Nottingham? No doubt he’ll have the top button of his shirt undone and will be vigorously chewing on a piece of gum.

I come off the M42, following signs for Conkers, Calke Abbey and Snibston Discovery Park.

I’ve earmarked the Three Horseshoes public house in nearby Whitwick. It was recommended in the lucky dip section of the Good Pub Guide.

The area was decimated by the pit closure programme of the 1970s and 1980s. I notice a boy push off on his skateboard and head down a slope. He overtakes ‘Sally Gunnell.’

I must have passed a dozen pubs or more, but can’t see the Three Horseshoes for love or money. I head into Coalville and after a couple of wrong turnings, I take a left down Owen Street, the home of the Ravens (Coalville Town FC).

Coalville is a market town in North West Leicestershire with a population of over 30,000 people. It is an area rich in history for coal mining. A fire at nearby Whitwick Colliery in 1898 claimed 35 lives.

I came here a few seasons ago and saw Loughborough Dynamo turn them over. A new tick-off is not priority today, I just want to see a good game.

I park the car in a puddle covered car park. I pay my £5 entry and snaffle up a glossy, brilliantly edited programme for a further £1. I head straight to the Clubhouse for a cold drink.

The DJ has plonked a retro disco album on. First up is Barry White’s toe-tapper: ‘You’re My First, My Last, My Everything.’

I ring my boss Mick. Notts County Youth Team have drawn 1-1 at Lincoln City. It’s a good result considering we had six under 16s in the squad.

Three blokes are sat in the corner discussing the Royal Wedding. One guy is effing and jeffing. He says he’d like to torpedo Buckingham Palace – charming.

I speak with The Architect. Unfortunately his Granny has taken a tumble, so he won’t be watching Forest this afternoon.

I bump into ‘Uppo’ who is leant against the railings having a lucky pre-match smoke. Dunkirk are unbeaten in eight. He’s sporting his rugged, unshaven look. With his tea cosy hat he looks like Benny off Crossroads.

The ground is surrounded by the old colliery slag heaps. In the distance, towering in the cloudy skies is the winding gear from a disused colliery. The pitch has stood up well to the rain.

Coalville sweep forward from the off. The Ravens’ forwards Moore and Murdoch look menacing. Ironically Dunkirk spurn the first opportunity of the game with Jarrod ‘Jazzy’ Westcarr (brother of the Pies Craig) whipping in a pinpoint cross which Shannon Grant fails to convert.

Tragedy strikes on 7 minutes, with the unfortunate Ross McCaughey heading into his own net. The Boatmen are rocking, with their defence and midfield all at sea. Shots flash agonisingly past the post.

The pressure tells on 20 minutes with a needless lunge by Beck. Cameron Stuart sends 17 year old stand-in keeper, Jake Want the wrong way from the spot kick.

Dunkirk’s dug out is like a scene from the Guy Ritchie movie ‘Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.’ One or two (supporters and all) let themselves down by abusing the referee. Uppo tries to redress the situation by humouring the man in black: “just give us one, hey ref, give us one.”

No-one can blame the ref for the third one, with a harmless, trickling shot by former Tamworth striker Jermaine Murdoch, after a short corner, is left by Elliott and Want, with both believing the other was dealing with it.

More vitriol and abuse is aimed at the officials, as it is alleged that the corner was taken from outside the quadrant, with a moving ball. I can’t see the ref giving the Boatmen too many 50/50s today.

One of the Coalville centre forwards is heard saying in passing that he fancies the Ravens to hit double figures today.

Dunkirk are underestimated. They have bigger bollocks than any team in this league. They play with heart, soul and spirit. Theo Smith fires a cross in from the right, a mostly redundant Bowles is waving at the crowd, ‘Jazzy’ bundles a shot over the line.

A minute later ‘Jazzy’ pounces on a loose ball down the left, burns the full back off for fun, floats a cross in to the far post, where it’s met with a textbook downward header by Shannon Grant: game on.

I’m mesmerised, captivated and taken in by the events. There’s no chance to draw breath. Dunkirk go for the jugular. Grant and Atkin run amok, Coalville’s number 6 is turned and turned again. Both scuff shots when it looks easier to score.

At the other end young Want redeems himself, tipping a Stuart free kick over the bar. The whistle goes for half time. The DJ plays Side 2 of his 70s Disco album: Harold Melvyn and the Bluenotes ‘Don’t Leave me This Way’ being his choice of track.

The Boatmen are up and at em in the early stages of the second half. Bowles makes a smart save from Grant, whilst a Garmston free kick whistles over the bar.

There’s an appalling challenge by Woodward on the improving former Forest scholar Daniel Elliott. Woodward escapes with just a caution.

With 15 minutes remaining Grant stabs the ball home from close range to set up a frantic conclusion. Eight minutes are left when Coalville attack down the left, the ball is played across the face of goal, where substitute Gardner rolls the ball into an empty net.

Jake Want beats away two efforts from the Ravens as the home side press up the pitch in an effort to finish off the Boatmen.

The game is in its dying embers. Dunkirk look like they are going home empty handed. Grant plays a ball back to McCaughey who whips a cross into the danger area, substitute Jordan Alls lays it off to Theo Smith who smashes home a first time shot which ripples the bottom corner of the net.

Sticky Palms tells Uppo to shut up shop, but he sounds like Russell Osman in the film Escape to Victory, when he bellows at the top of his voice: “Come on lads we can win this one.”

I ask the ref if we can play next goal’s the winner, but the spoil sport blows for time.

Attendance 132 (including a boat load from Nottingham)

Man of the Match: Anthony ‘Chink’ Gregory (Class Act)

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