Friday, January 6, 2012
Burton Albion 0 Accrington Stanley 2
It’s Monday January 2nd. I’m sat up in the Gods of the Derek Pavis Stand at Notts County’s Meadow Lane. Lee Clark’s Huddersfield Town are the visitors. They are here to spoil the Magpies’ 150th birthday party. Legends from the past are paraded around the ground (my boss Mick is one of them). 150 black and white balloons are released into the sea-blue sky.
It’s a scrappy first half, chances are at a minimum. Notts refuse to let the Yorkshire Terriers steamroll all over them. I’m sat with ‘The Angler’ and cigar-smoking Keyworth United legendary Reserve Team manager Alan Jackson. Jacko celebrated his 60th birthday in style last weekend by scooping the Notts County Lifeline jackpot draw. It’s his second pay-out in 30 years.
Huddersfield are coasting at 2-0 up with 20 minutes to go. They gift the Pies a blatant penalty, which is dispatched by Northern Ireland midfielder Jeff Hughes. Their talismanic striker, Lee Hughes, finishes emphatically with five minutes remaining. It’s been a pulsating and breathtaking second half. I record my third 2-2 in three days. Right now, I really can’t half pick em.
After three games on the spin, kindly rubber-stamped by Mrs P, I’ve had to keep my head down and buy into the good lady’s hectic night-time TV schedule. She unearths a gem on Wednesday evening. Sticky’s favourite, Anna Friel, headlines in the BBC drama ‘Public Service.’ The star of the show, though, is the brilliant Daniel Mays, who plays the role of a ‘convicted murderer’, adjusting to life after a ten year prison sentence.
It’s Friday morning. It’s been manic at work. I’m been pulled here, there and everywhere, but hey-ho it makes the day fly by. I’m walking through the Warehouse door, where I see booking-in legend ‘Shifty Edwards’ skulking about the place, looking a bit sheepish. And no wonder why readers; he’s only listening to a re-run of the ‘Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show’ on 6 Music, without asking Sticky Palms to join him.
I’m spitting feathers folks. We always listen to ‘Craigy Boy’ together. To top it all, our favourite band Smoove and Turrell are live in session. I trudge back upstairs to my office. I’m proper sulking. I surf the net at lunch and notice that Smoove and Turrell are playing The Maze, on Mansfield Road, in Nottingham, on March 10th. I bag a couple of tickets at £13 apiece and wave them in the air at Shifty. The Geordie duo are the best thing to come out of Newcastle since Joe McElderry (lol).
I spend the afternoon in our ‘Production’ department. It’s bloody torture listening to both sides of Now 79. It’s as if someone has just tuned in to Capital FM.
I’ve asked permission, by text, to attend tonight’s game. After a table tennis text rally and a few “I love you xxx”, I finally get the thumbs-up. Accrington Stanley are one of the few teams in the Football League that I’ve never seen play.
I bolt out the works’ door at 4.30pm. I’m straight into the garage searching for the hay and sawdust. Keyworth’s friendliest rabbit, Finley Palmer, needs the Kim and Aggie treatment. Accrington fans may not be aware but Finley is famous for his crap score predictions. He fancies a 1-1 draw tonight. “Both sides are struggling to find the back of the onion bag”, he remarks, whilst chewing on some raw broccoli.
After a quick whizz around the bathroom with Mr Muscle, that Mrs Doubtfire would be proud of, I just have time for some chicken stir fry before Dafty rings the doorbell bang on 6.30pm. We avoid the A453 and hurtle through the backstreets of Kegworth and onto the A50. Talk Sport are chatting the usual shit on the car radio.
The conversation soon turns to talented 8 year old ‘Sport Billy’, ‘Gangsta.’, who is Dafty’s youngest lad. He’s currently training with the Tricky Trees and The Pies. Burton Albion are also expressing an interest in the speedy winger. He’s on trial at more clubs than Robbie Keane.
We park up at the back of some industrial units, across the road from the Pirelli Stadium. I still pine for the old ground at Eton Park, with its filthy, beer-stained 1970s flowered carpet and its Phoenix Nights good-feel factor.
Having paid £14 on the turnstile, and £3 for a programme, we enter the ‘Popside Bar’ and meet up with Robbo, who I’ve known for over 40 years. He was a decent player back in the day, but still holds the record for the most own goals scored (apart from Richard Dunne) in a season.
We’re in the beer-making capital of England and I’m waiting at the bar with thirty other folk. Four people are trying to change a barrel in the cellar. It’s a comedy moment that only a football club could throw up. Honestly, you couldn’t make it up. I opt for a Coca-Cola, which I spill all over Robbo.
Accrington is an old mill town on the western edge of the Pennines, in Lancashire, close to Blackburn and Burnley. It has a population of 35,000. Accrington Stanley were formed in 1968, although a previous club from the town, Accrington FC, were one of the original twelve founder members of the Football League in 1888. They play at the Crown Ground, which has a capacity of just over 5000.
Notable people born in Accrington include: the cricketer Graeme ‘Foxy’ Fowler (who informed his second wife by FAX that he wanted a divorce, cricket commentator David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd, Jon Anderson, the lead singer with the rock band Yes, Julie Hesmondhalgh (Hayley Cropper) and Vicki Entwhistle (Janice Battersby) from Coronation Street and the astrologer Mystic Meg (“what’s that Meg, 2-0 to Accrington?”).
Stanley arrive at the Pirelli on the back of an eight match unbeaten run. AFC Wimbledon and Morecambe have been amongst their scalps on their recent travels. The Brewers have stuttered of late, only winning once in their last five outings.
The first half is a non event and short on action, as both teams play a safety first game. It’s Accrington Stanley who are pleasing on the eye. They play a short passing game that in my experience is pretty alien in this league, particularly on a shoestring budget.
Stanley are managed by Liverpool-born John Coleman, who was a formidable non-league striker back in the eighties. It has always mystified me, why after 12 years of performing a minor miracle, no other league club has took a punt on him.
I used to love coming to ‘The Albion’ when they were a top-drawer non league team under Nigel Clough. I miss the passion of Darren Stride, the jinking runs of Keith Gilroy and the speed and shooting prowess of Shaun Harrod. It says it all when one of their best players on view tonight is 19 year Callum Driver, who Mrs Brady has loaned to her husband (Paul Peschisolido) from West Ham United.
I’m desperately disappointed with their journeymen centre forwards Calvin Zola and Justin Richards. Robbo remarks that the injured Billy Kee, with a 12 goal season tally, is more direct. Dimunitive Irish midfielder John McGrath, an old favourite of Sticky’s, is also struggling. His passing is off the radar and his legs look heavy.
The game is in need of a goal, it arrives on the half hour. Stanley are awarded a free-kick 22 yards from goal. Former Birmingham City and Charlton Athletic midfielder, 35 year old Bryan Hughes, is lining it up, it’s cleverly rolled to Kevin McIntyre who fires home a deflected effort. Phew, I don’t do 0-0s.
The Brewers spurn a golden chance on the stroke of half-time, a quickly taken short corner is whipped in, but Zola heads over totally unmarked.
We’ve been joined by Robbo’s two teenage sons. The eldest is like a chip off the old block, young un is also very sociable. Jessie J is the pick of the half-time toons. Word spreads around the ground that Oldham-born Jordan Rhodes has rediscovered his shooting boots and has already bagged a brace at Wycombe.
The second half is entertaining as the game opens up. The Brewers play with more width. I’m astonished when the tricky Maghoma is withdrawn, although two wide men (Cleveland Taylor and Jimmy Phillips) are flung on.
Accrington’s 19 year old Congolese centre half Aristote Nsiala, on loan from Everton, has been immense this evening. He’s substituted on the hour following a clash of heads. He’s replaced by Tom Bender, who’s also on loan, from League One Colchester United. He hit the news headlines back in October when a JPT game between Stanley and Tranmere was abandoned after he was carried from the field unconscious.
Accrington put the game to bed on 62 minutes when a Craig Lindfield corner is misdirected towards his own goal by Tony James, it clips the underside of the bar and hits the roof of the net. Stanley have played a beautiful game with the veteran Bryan Hughes and Andy Proctor bossing the midfield. They’ve been powder puff in attack. They desperately miss the goals of Bobby Grant, who was sold to Scunthorpe United in a deal worth up to £260,000.
As for Burton, they need to get their walking wounded and suspended back quickly or on this performance their season will just fizzle out.
Man of the Match: Andy Proctor