Sunday, December 22, 2013

Barrowby 4-0 Blidworth Welfare

It's the evening of the Real Ale Trail Christmas Party. I'm dabbing on some of the lads' Shockwaves gel. There's just time for a quick spray of the old Joop, before scurrying down the alley and hopping onto the Trent Barton rush-hour bus to Nottingham.

A smirking Zuffler is already quaffing a pint of Shipstone's bitter in the Ned Ludd on Friar Lane. They have a fine selection of premium lagers, rocket fuel ciders and micro-brewed real ales. We trudge up Maid Marian Way towards Canning Circus. Taggart joins us in the Organ Grinder, where we enjoy a couple of Blue Monkey ales. Much of the night is a blare. I recall Taggart clearing one pub, not with his party-piece fart, but by playing B A Robertson's 'Bang Bang' on the jukey.

My head is certainly bang banging on Saturday morning and so is The Zuffler's, who according to Twitter gossip didn't turn in until 02:00am. Mrs P is watching the BBC News. I sit silently on the sofa reading Hope and Glory by the journalist and broadcaster Stuart Maconie on my Kindle. There's a fascinating chapter about 'Thankful Villages.' Fifty one villages in England and Wales have no war memorial because their soldiers sent to war returned home alive. One of these is Wysall, just over a mile from my home.

Those jokers from the BBC Weather Centre are predicting a sea of blue all over England today. It'll scupper any hopes of Trumpy and I visiting St Ives in Cambridgeshire. He texts in to say he'll be viewing Leicester at QPR in the lunchtime kick-off.

I scour the Interweb to see where the nearest ground in the Non League Pyramid is, that I've yet to chalk off. Barrowby FC, of the Central Midlands League South, are entertaining Blidworth Welfare from north Notts. I put a call in to the Mayor of London at his Southfork Ranch, just a few miles away from the ground. It's a date.

I abandon the cleaning of the inside windows. "Half-a-job again", remarks Mrs P. Murphy the budgie is swinging on his perch. He's listening to Stevie Wonder's 'Yesterday' on Radio 2's Sound of the 60s show.

I'm in the 'Rolls Royce' enroute to the village of Harby in the heart of the Vale of Belvoir. I'm playing 'Radio Roulette.' I chance upon Radio Leicester who are at Loftus Road. I recall their hilarious commentary from Vicarage Road at the fag end of last season, when the Foxes missed a penalty and Watford raced-up the otherend to score.

I drive past the Stilton cheese creamery and into the village of Colston Bassett. I'm soon pulling into 'Southfork.' 'The Mayor' has just returned from a cricket coaching session at Trent Bridge. I'll be assisting him with running an under 10s side at Keyworth next season.

I'm in 'The Mayor's' study, glancing at his bookcase. He is a True Blue (Tory). He has every Conservative MP's autobiography that has been published since 1725. It makes me weep. He only moved back here from London to be near the birthplace of Margaret Thatcher. We'll probably have to lay some flowers outside her old green grocers in Grantham. I'll lob a lump of coal through the front window, for old times' sake.

'The Mayor' fancies the first half of Liverpool v Cardiff. We drop into his local - the Nags Head. I enjoy a pint of Jennings Cumberland. Luis Suarez, once again is in superlative form. We depart at half time, to make the short journey to Barrowby, 2 miles west of Grantham. The village is in the South Kesteven district of Lincolnshire with a population just shy of 2000.

As we drive through the village we notice the fire-ravaged remains of the Royal British Legion. "I bet there is a story to tell there", says 'The Mayor.' We pass the White Swan and The Cakehole cafe and deli. The ground is situated on the edge of the village. I'm not saying it's a hike from the visitors' car park to the main pitch, but we considered booking a cab.

We make a detour to the brick-built, Football Foundation funded clubhouse to pay our dues. Today's attendance will just about cover the three officials. It's £3 entranance, including an excellent programme.

I've already warned 'The Mayor' about the standard of football. Step 7 ain't been at its best this season. I notice a little bloke in a Blidworth tracksuit directing traffic from the technical area. It's Mickey Gould who used to work with me at Meadow Lane. We have a chinwag between breaks in play.

'The Mayor' is having a tough induction with Step 7. He lets a ball go through his legs and chases one or two stray ale-house clearances to retrieve the ball. Barrowby are bossing it and are 3-0 up at the break. I bump into my old boss at Notts County Youth, Darren Heyes. He invites us back to the boozer for a swift one. I take a look around the cottage he's bought adjacent to the pub. It'll take more than Nick Knowles and the DIY SOS team to put it right.

Conversation in the pub turns to the fire at the Royal British Legion two years ago. Darren asks the landlord if he has benefitted from it. He nods in agreement. I start to make a few routine enquiries (PC Palmer) but I'm met with a wall of silence. It's like Royston Vasey, readers. The fire is shrouded in mystery. A committee member was bailed over  a year ago on fraud and embezzlement allegations.

We have a sweepstake on what the score is going to be as we walk back to the ground. A jockey is riding a racehorse up the street. He stops for a natter. Tommy Hawkins is an 8 year old point to pointer, who races at nearby Garthorpe. He used to live at Jonjo O'Neill's yard.

Barrowby are in a cruise control and have already bagged another goal. Poor old Gouldy. The only thing we can both talk about is the fire, though. New Scotland Yard are going to have to drop the Lucan Case for now, remove Clouseau and Cato and wheel out Hercules Poiroit from retirement in Brussels. Who, if anyone, torched the Royal British Legion?

Attendance: 31 (Head count)

Man of the Match: Ned Ludd

Monday, December 16, 2013

Clay Cross Town 2-0 Phoenix FC

It's a blustery Sunday morning at Keyworth United's Platt Lane ground. I'm setting up for my under 18s. I've already spotted the referee in the car park. I don't rate the guy; he has no connection with the lads. I'm usually positive in my match reports about refs.  I rarely speak to officials apart from to welcome them and pay them. This guy loves to get his notebook out and wind the boys up.

He wanders across to me to ask who will be running the line. I take the flag off him and he remarks to be careful as the black plastic cap keeps falling off it. The game is played and managed badly. He'll be using his pencil sharpener when he gets home. There's no dialogue from me with him during the match. He collects the flag off a parent and marches towards me. The black plastic cap has fallen off and he wants to charge me £10. I burst out laughing. He says he's going to report me to the Notts FA. Where do they get these guys from?

It's Friday evening and the 11 day detox is complete. No more celery, raw carrots and Greek yoghurt. I sample a couple of Stella's and some red wine. It's an early start on Saturday morning. Murphy the Budgie is squawking and chirping at a reckless shot played by England's Kevin Pietersen, who has once again thrown away his wicket.

I'm on a scouting mission for the Pies in the old mining town of Hucknall. We've been tipped a boy. The reception on Five Live is dreadful. I can barely hear the squeaky dulcet tones of South Londoner Danny Baker.

I pull into the car park of former FA Trophy finalists Hucknall Town. I bump into an acquaintance. We chatter away as I view the game. I form an opinion quite quickly on the intended target and report in to the Head of Youth.

I've plenty of time to kill, but decide to head up to North Derbyshire as quickly as possible. I join the M1 motorway at Junction 27 and exit at the next turn-off. I skirt through the town of Alfreton, passing its War Memorial as the skies darken and the wind picks up. I'm on the A61 travelling through the village of Shirland. There's a table-top sale at the Village Hall as an alternative if the game is not up to scratch.

Bloody hell, there are speed cameras everywhere. There's no way I'm going to contribute towards  the Derbyshire Constabulary Christmas party. I got nicked for speeding for the first time in over 30 years of driving the other day.

I clock the old winding wheels of Parkhouse Colliery in the town of Clay Cross. I park up the Rolls Royce and take a few snaps. There's a memorial for the many men and boys to have died at the mine. Forty five lost their lives in an explosion underground back in 1882.

The town has a population of just under 10,000. In 1969 the coal mine closed. 'The Beast of Bolsover' - Dennis Skinner was born here in 1932. He has been Member of Parliament for Bolsover since 1970.

The High Street is crammed full of take-away establishments. There's Kathmandu, Pirate Pizza and Mr Wongs. The town has sold its soul to Tesco and its £22 million re-development. If I'd chanced upon a decent pub I'd have grabbed a sandwich and a soft drink. Hey-ho, it's a West Country Cheddar cheese and pickle sandwich, a bag of crisps and a bottle of Tropicana in the £3 'Meal Deal.'

Tony Blackburn's 'Pick of the Pops' is on Radio 2. I once went to an 'Abba Tribute Night' in a hotel in Nottingham. Blackburn was the compere. He was bragging about huge listening figures on his Gold Breakfast Show. He asked the audience if anyone listened to it. I shouted out "No, it's crap." I wasn't invited back by Mrs P's boss the following year.

I leave the car in the community hall. I can see the players warming-up at the 'I Want Pet Foods' ground on Mill Lane, just a short walk up the road. The club's stadium was re-named 'The Devil Made Me Do It' ground back in July 2012 after a local tattoo studio won a raffle to provide a new name. I can remember this making the headlines on East Midlands Today.

I'm greeted by two jolly fellows on the gate. It's £3 admission, including a free programme, with over 40 pages packed with information. No wonder it wins Programme of the Year for the Central Midlands League, with it also climbing to 12th position in the National Listings. Well done lads, it's a cracking effort. I enjoy the piece on Celtic and their Intercontinental Cup game against Racing Club of Argentina in 1967. Five players were sent off in a stormy encounter.

"Enjoy the game" says the gateman. I love the personal touch. I pass a wooden table with boxes full of old programmes. There are badges and Clay Cross merchandise on offer. I buy a 50/50 ticket. Domino's Pizza's are donating some prizes.

The crystal clear PA is banging out Shane McGowan and Kirsty MacColl's 'Fairytale of New York.' I walk past the ground's one and only covered stand. Housing from the old pit estate backs onto the far goal. The remaining three sides are open, with 'The Tunnel Cafe' tucked away to the left of the main gate.

The pitch is rolled and in immaculate nick for this time of year. Clay Cross Town believe in tender loving care. I do two laps of the ground before settling in my grey tip-up seat, shielding myself from the gusty conditions.

I'm not expecting much, as it's a League that often falls short on quality. At least the home side try to play it on the carpet. How the Phoenix Club are above them, Lord only knows. Max and Paddy are disappointing, and there's a no-show from club mascot Gerry the Berry.

The visitors' goal has led a charmed life, when the Millers finally take the lead following a corner which hangs in the wind and is nodded in at the back stick by the big number nine.

The West Country Cheddar has caused quite a thirst. I shell out £1.10 on a Lucozade Sport at the cafe. Slade are blaring out of the PA. I hook up with a guy in the second half who lives up at New Mills. He has a good geographical knowledge of the Manchester and Cheshire non league scene. He tips me grounds at West Didsbury and Maine Road, which are now on my to-do list.

We're joined by Clay Cross Jack-of-all-trades committee member 'Martin.' His passion for the club is awe-inspiring. I get a run-down of the club's history. He invites me up to the Woodthorpe Inn for some after-match hospitality. What a splendid gesture. We applaud loudly at the stunning second, and what turns out to be, winning goal. What a day out I've had. All for £3.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Newcastle Town 2-0 Carlton Town

It's approaching midday on a Saturday morning. I heard Sticky jnr crash through the door at 07:00 after a heavy session in town. He's fumbling around the bedroom, getting ready to watch the Tricky Trees of Nottingham. His glum face appears in the kitchen, accompanied with a hacking cough. He slopes off down the alley towards Sainsbury's to purchase 20 tabs.

He returns moments later in all of a fluster. Smoke is coming out of his ears, readers, but it aint from cigarettes. The lass on the till has challenged his ID and called it fake (it was his 18th birthday a month ago). He's bashing away at the keypad on his phone. I check my timeline on Twitter to read his outrage "Absolutely disgusted with #sainsburys telling me my ID is fake #w***ers." Fair play to Sainsbury's though, they tweet him within seconds to ask if he would like to make a complaint. My boy doesn't want to get the girl in trouble though, so he declines #class.

It's been almost a month since I last ticked a ground off. I've not been myself recently, the strain of running two football teams is taking its toll, as is also a 10 day detox programme I'm putting myself through. I'm in desperate need of a football fix.

The console on the phone lights up with the words 'Trumpy Bolton.' He's necking a few in a Wetherspoons in Brighton, before his beloved Foxes take on the Hove Albion. I arrange to pick him up at 3pm on Tuesday.

I leave the office just before noon. There's a dreadful beginning to my half day's holiday, when I switch the radio on to hear the 'Greatest Love of All' by Whitney Houston. I skip down the drive, through the back door and immediately make a beeline towards his cage. Murphy Palmer, the budgie, and Norwich City's number one fan is two years old today. I unwrap a 45p treat I've bought from Wilko's in Clifton: I like to spoil the little fella.

He's still sulking about The Zuffler's remark on Facebook. He reckoned that WBA chants of "You Fat Bastard" during the Canaries 2-0 win at The Hawthorns, were directed at the wee man. I've got to admit he has put a bit of timber on. It's his winter coat.

Trumpy calls to say the BT Broadband engineer has completed the installation and that he's ready for collection. I clock him walking out of the 'Bronx.' Regular readers my recall him in tears as we walked (he limped) back to the hotel in Yeovil. It's now six weeks since his hip replacement.

The ruddy face and faithful plastic litre bottle of dry cider are on his person. He enquires whether we have got tickets for the Carlton end. He's proud to announce he can now put his own pants on, without Mrs Trumpy having to give him a helping hand. He tested his new hip out on Lincoln's notorious Steep Hill. He passed with flying colours, having had a tipple or two at the many hostelries in the City.

Trumpy has been up since the crack of dawn waiting for the BT engineer to bring him into the 21st Century. His late arrival scuppered any chance of a lunchtime session at the Keyworth Tavern. He waxes lyrical about the weekend in Brighton. He chanced upon Mr and Mrs Nugent, the parents of Leicester star striker David Nugent. "What a charming and down to earth couple they were" he remarks between large swigs of cider.

Trumpy has a Marston's new build in Uttoxeter to chalk off. He sinks a couple of real ales as Sticky Palms stares vacantly into his glass of apple and raspberry J2O. We have a round of sandwiches and listen to the 'Office prat' on a Christmas party deliver an endless stream of boring and predictable double entendres with the lasses in tow. Trumpy taps his toe to David Essex's Christmas classic, 'Winter's Tale.'

We've soon spotted signs to the ground of Newcastle Town, which is actually situated in Clayton. Newcastle under-Lyme is a market town in the county of Staffordshire, with a population of 73,000. Cricketer Dominic Cork and footballer Robbie Earle are one of their own. The town, back in the day, was well known for hat-making, silk, cotton mills, coal mining and brick manufacturing.

We can see the well lit ground, with the stand-out feature being the velodrome, in the distance. After doing a couple of laps we finally chance upon a turning into the ground.

The car park is dimly lit. It doesn't stop Bolton scurrying across the car park, diving into the Clubhouse and shouting up a pint of draught Bass. Just my luck, Bass on draught and I'm on a health kick. Club officials in jackets and ties appear all hot and bothered. It transpires that only half the Carlton team have rocked up, with further bad news that the kit is in the secretary's car, who is stuck in traffic. It gives Bolton the chance to neck a few more, to add the two he had in some characterless Fayre and Square pub close by.

I leave Trumpy watching Munich v City as I start to make my own enquiries. Carlton manager Les McJannet says that kick off will be delayed by half an hour. The ground is gobsmacking, with its panoramic views and quirky stands. It looks even better under the lights.

Bolton staggers out the bar as the teams kick off, I've already walked the circuit once. If I'd bought my bike I could have cycled the velodrome. He scans the teamsheet and enquires where Shearer and Ginola are. I have to explain it's Newcastle Town and not United we're watching.

He starts chatting to an elderly gentleman from Nottingham, who bless him, has forgot to put his teeth in. Neither of them can understand a word they are saying. Newcastle (Town) take the lead with a cleverly executed goal. A corner is played back towards the full back, who smashes his shot through an army of players and past an unsighted 'keeper. Sticky and Trumpy don't do 0-0s.

The Millers (Carlton) play some good football, but are toothless and without energy or aggression in the final third. The temperature begins to dip as we return to the bar again, allowing Bolton to rekindle his love affair with the Bass handpump.

We watch in disbelief as City overturn a two nil deficit with a James Milner winner. "This is taking the match-fixing saga a bit too far" remarks a sozzled Trumpy. Newcastle score early doors in the second half  and also see a penalty attempt screwed horribly wide. Carlton continue to look lacklustre. Their best attempt, from former Notts County scholar Alex Troke, is beaten away by the home 'keeper.

Trumpy has caused quite a commotion amongst the home officials when enquiring about the purchase of a hot pie. The blazers start to squabble with one another on why they have run out. We sneak out with five minutes to go, as Carlton are never going to trouble the scorers this evening.

Attendance: 64

Man of the Match: Trumpy Bolton

Friday, November 8, 2013

Stevenage 2-1 Portsmouth

It's Sunday October 25th and I'm stretched out on the sofa, with Murphy the budgie perched on top of my head. Gerard Houllier and Ray Parlour are performing the FA Cup first round draw from the Grand Connaught Rooms in central London. The Mayor of London and I have struck a deal to attend a tie at a ground that neither of us have ticked-off before.

The draw is complete, Murphy has flown back to his cage; he wasn't particularly interested as Norwich City won't be rocking up until the third round. I peruse the draw, excitedly, looking for a romantic tie in the North. A game suddenly catches my eye: Stevenage v Portsmouth. It will be another chalk-off in my quest to join the 92 Club. The romance is that Pompey won the Cup in 2008 but now lie in 16th position in League Two. I punch out the Mayor of London's number on my phone. It's booked in our diaries for Nov 9th.

I'm driving across the Vale of Belvoir towards 'Southfork' where the Mayor lives. He's back in town following 20 years of hustle and bustle in the City of London. I pick him up just before midday and head out towards the A1 at Grantham. Fighting Talk is on Five Live. They've had to draft in Sticky P's favourite comedian, Leyton Orient fan Bob Mills, as a late replacement. He's talking about last Sunday's game between Cardiff and Swansea - he calls it 'El Taffico.'

The Mayor is chattering away about a forthcoming question and answer evening at Cotgrave Golf Club that he is organising as a fundraiser for our local cricket club. It's called 'Lifting the Lid.' starring  Derek Randall, Chris Read and Mick Newell.

We breeze down the A1, sweeping past Peterborough. Within 90 minutes the 'Rolls Royce', despite it's serious health problems, is rolling into the huge free car park on Broadhall Way opposite the Lamex Stadium.

Stevenage is a town and borough in Hertfordshire, 30 miles north of London. It has a population of 80,000. It was designated as a 'New Town' in 1946. Notable folk born in Stevenage include: Lewis Hamilton, Ashley Young and Jack Wilshere. Well known former players include: Steve Morison, Barry Hayles, Lionel Perez and D J Campbell. Record transfer received is £260,000 from Peterborough Utd for the services of winger George Boyd.

We have some craic and banter with a few old boys from Stevenage and Pompey. We dash across the busy carriage way. I clock Pompey's most famous supporter climbing out the back of a van. John Westwood is covered from head to toe in Pompey tattoos. He poses for a photo before continuing to put all his clobber on including his stove pipe hat.

The social club is packed to the rafters with both sets of supporters. We down a couple of 4% Stella's as we watch Reading v QPR. Well known philosopher and professional thug Joey Barton bags a sublime free kick. A blue replica football shirt sits in a frame on the wall. It has the number 21 on it with the name Cole above it. It's in memory of former player Mitchell Cole who died suddenly at the age of just 27 years old. He left a young family and a wife named Charly, the sister of West Ham midfielder Joe Cole.

I'm keen to stand near the huge away following. We pay £22 on the turnstile and a further £3 for the programme. We accidentally find ourselves in the 'Away End.' I like the low roofs on the stands and how close you are to the pitch.

We're both a bit peckish. The Mayor splashes out on a couple of double cheeseburgers piled high with onions. Staff, stewards and catering staff are all obliging. It's a friendly club which still has its Non-League values The turnout from Pompey is staggering. The posh PA announcer plays a couple of foot-tappers from Moloko and S-Express.

Stevenage manager Graham Westley is having his third spell at the Club following an unsuccessful stewardship at Preston North End, where his unconventional style of management didn't go down too well with the players. Portsmouth are managed by former goalscoring legend Guy Whittingham. A minutes' silence for Remembrance Day is a beautiful and moving moment. The shrill of the referee's whistle and the roar of the crowd make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.

Pompey start like the clappers. They soon have John blowing his bugle and ringing his bell as a strike from Jed Wallace bounces off the upright. Stevenage striker Francois Zoko, recently released by Notts County to free up the wage bill, pounces on a loose ball following a cracking save from Trevor Carson; he buries his shot into the corner of the net.

Stevenage are direct from the back but play some neat football in the opposition's half. Portuguese wingers Bruno Andrade and Filipe Morais switch wings and torment the Pompey full backs.
Michael Doughty, the son of the late Nottingham Forest owner Nigel Doughty, is pulling all the strings in midfield. Ivorian forward Zoko makes it 2-0 with a left foot drive on 38 minutes.

I like the little touches that Stevenage as a club make. In the toilets there are pictures of Portsmouth players and management and one with the slogan 'Play Up Pompey.' I take a snap on my phone infront of a couple of baffled visiting supporters.

The Pompey faithful are sobering up from their beer-fuelled lunchtime. They don't hurl abuse at their team though, as they still believe. The bloke behind me is uncooth and without banter. He has a foul-mouthed rant at Stevenage 'keeper Chris Day for no apparent reason. John's bugle is out of tune and the drummer is missing a beat.

Another former Magpie makes the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Gavin Mahon is deemed to have left an elbow in after a clattering aerial challenge in midfield. He is dismissed from the field of play.

Robert Carlisle lookalike David Connolly has replaced the ineffective Patrick Agyemang. He acts as a catalyst, springing new life into the visitors as they up the their energy levels and tempo of play. Pompey are given fresh hope with a close range finish from Connolly. They are camped out in the opposition's half as they search desperately for an equaliser.

The Mayor and Groundhopper don't hang around for stoppage time as that bloody car park and road will be a bottle neck. We're on the A1 by the time referee Mr Sutton blows for full time in what has been a splendid cup tie for the neutral.

Attendance: 2829

Man of the Match: Michael Doughty

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Dronfield Town 2-1 Hall Road Rangers

It's Friday Oct 11th and I'm boarding the 09:55 Trent Barton bus into Nottingham city centre. Bloody hell, my mother in-law has clocked me. How am I going to wriggle out of this one? "Not at work today? Where are you off to?" "Ooh, er, pub", I blurt out. "At this time of the morning?"

Don't worry folks, I'm not the new Trumpy Bolton. It's the Nottingham Beer Festival. We all hook up at The Roebuck, a Wetherspoons boozer on St James' St, just off the Market Square. I'm with 'The Zuffler', 'The Auctioneer' and Samuel Jackson. It's an hour's wait for breakfast.

We have a swift one in the newly-opened Ned Ludd on Friar Lane. We walk across Maid Marian Way and head up towards Nottingham Castle; the venue for the real ale festival. We sample a few of the 1500 beers on offer. After a five hour session, we stagger up to the Canning Circus and Alfreton Road area of town. More alcohol is consumed in The Falcon and Organ Grinder, Blue Monkey's finest. I bid farewell where it all started, in the Ned Ludd. I hop back on the bus and wolf down a kebab and chips, before collapsing in a heap on the settee. Murphy the Budgie is disgusted.

It's Saturday Oct 19th. I'm wandering around one of my favourite venues scouting for youth. Vernon Park is now known as Queen Elizabeth II Playing Fields. My boss at Notts County kindly arranged for Sven Goran Eriksson to open the new pavilion during his short stay at the Club in the Munto era. I view a few games and chat to one or two folk. I bump into Pablo and his lad Warren who plays for Notts County.

I'm soon back in the 'Rolls Royce' snarled up in traffic in Bulwell. I notice that The Oxford pub is showing Forest v Bournemouth live on TV. I exit the M1 at Junction 29. In the distance is Chesterfield's famous old crooked spire. I turn right at the roundabout, onto the A61 towards Sheffield.

I'm soon in the north east Derbyshire market town of Dronfield. It has a population of 20,000 and lies in the valley of the River Drone. It is twinned with the German town Sindelfingen, home to the Mercedes Benz. Notable people born in Dronfield include: one-armed Def Leopard drummer, Rick Allen and Chelsea and England international footballer Gary Cahill.

There's only one pub to go to in Dronfield, or so I thought. The Coach and Horses is situated next to Sheffield FC's ground, who are the oldest football club in the world. The pub is as dead as door nail. A disinterested barmaid pours me a real ale. A dreadful American rock ballard is piped out of the speakers. I'm greeted with the news that Chef has gone AWOL. Bugger.

I'm delighted to find 'Stan's Guide to Dronfield Pubs' on a Google search. I plump for the Miners' Arms in Dronfield Woodhouse. Three youths are playing pool. Blackpool and Wigan is on the box. I order a pint of Wainwrights and a sausage and onion baguette at a bargain £2.99. I try to strike up a conversation with one of the lads racking up at pool. I tell him that old 'Orville' - Paul Ince - has been banned from football stadia for five games. "Who?" he replies.

The real ale and sausages are accompanied with Eminem, S Club7 and Caesars 'Jerk It Out.' I sidle out of the pub back door unnoticed. Sat Nav takes me past the Stonelow Road ground. I park up on some snazzy housing estate.

The ground is part of the Gosforth Fields Sport Complex. It has a state-of-the-art 3G pitch which was opened by Sir Trevor Brooking in 2010. I amble across the adjoining Coal Aston Cricket Club. It's £3 on the gate and £1.50 for a copy of the 'Talk of the Town.'

The pitch is nestled in the bottom of a slope. It's another hidden gem. There's just the one, covered standing area. It's three-sided, with the far side out of bounds to supporters due to it not being hard-standing, I presume. The dug-outs are situated over there, so they'll be no banter to be heard today.

I have a little chat with Poppy the dog. I tell him that Finley my rabbit has predicted a 3-0 win for the visitors. Poppy cocks a deaf un. "Don't worry son, his predictions are usually wide of the mark."

I've racked-up a few grounds in the NCEL Div One. The standard isn't great, but there are plenty of goals in this League. Don't forget readers, Sticky doesn't do 0-0s. Today's visitors are Hall Road Rangers from East Yorkshire, near Beverley. They play in blue and white hoops similar to QPR. Dronfield don the Manchester City away strip of deep red and black stripes.

The form book suggests an away win. On the first half display, nothing could be further from the truth. Dronfield camp themselves in the visitors half, but don't look capable of finishing a dinner. Hall Road show glimpses of form on the counter-attack, with no end product. Dronfield take the lead just shy of half-time through Nick Horsfield.

Tea and coffee are served in the cricket club pavilion. I sit on the wooden bench looking out to the square, basking in the late autumnal sunshine. Twitter suggests that Sticky jnr's favourite player, Henri Lansbury, has scored a 'banger' for the Tricky Trees. Dronfield appear to have put the game to bed when an unchallenged Dan Wood squeezes his shot into the bottom corner.

Hall Road find their feet as the Dronfield skipper and 'keeper clash in a war of words. A cleverly crafted goal with 20 minutes remaining sets up a grandstand finish, with Dronfield deservedly holding out following a heavy spell of pressure from Rangers.

Man of the Match: Stan's Pub Guide

Attendance: 45

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Altrincham 4-1 Guiseley AFC

I'm traipsing out of a rain-soaked Huish Park in Yeovil. The Foxes have beaten the Glovers 2-1. A rather grumpy and drenched blog legend, Trumpy Bolton, is limping up the single track road with his dodgy right hip. It's a miserable mile and a half hike back to the soulless Premier Inn.

He rivals White Van Man in the snoring stakes. Sticky only grabs a few hours kip. Trumpy still manages a couple of pints with his breakfast at Wetherspoons in the village of Street - it's only 10:00. We call in at Evesham and Coventry for a beer on the way home.

It's Friday evening and I'm at the headquarters of Keyworth Cricket Club. I present a trophy in memory of my father to the 'Professor' who has broken a few Club records this season. I only have a couple of pints and am back home for News at Ten.

I begin to research the history of Altrincham FC. I follow their former captain Mark Maddox on Twitter. Mark was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease three years ago at the age of 37. His fundraising has been immense. In April of this year he became the first person to complete the London Marathon with MND. I really want to meet him tomorrow, so text him my number.

I drive up through what they call in our village 'the Bronx.' White Van Man' has invited me up for breakfast. Bacon and eggs are sizzling in the pan as I admire the panoramic view out of his back garden, of the church in Bradmore.

The 'Mayor of London' picks us up at 10:30; 'Dafty' is also on board. After 20 years of flogging himself to death in 'the City' the 'Mayor' has finally returned home to roost. He's renting a huge farmhouse in the Vale of Belvoir; it's like Jock Ewing's Southfork Ranch in Dallas.'The Mayor' is soon blowing a fuse at 'White Van Man's' bleeping and hooting sat nav. WVM is ordered to press the mute button.

We're treated to an ancedote from the 'Mayor' about the time he played a charity cricket match in Barnsley against a Coronation St and Emmerdale XI. That miserable bugger Boycott was sat in the stand. Anyway, that fat ginger lad, who's always stuffing himself with sweets from Dev's shop or hanging around the kebab shop, came on to throw a few pies (rather than eat them). The 'Mayor' dispatched him all over South Yorkshire; leaving the boy in bits. His Mum and Dad caught up with the 'Mayor' at Tea to give him a ticking-off.

That bloody A50 has let us down again - 'Workmen in the Road.' We pull into the Smoker pub just off the M6 in the village of Plumley. It's a 400 year old thatched roofed coaching inn. I'm straight on the Robinson's 'Dizzy Blonde' as we get comfortable on the swanky furniture, chewing over the crud. Jazz-rap group US3's 1993 hit Cantaloop is playing in the background.

'White Van Man's' stomach is rumbling, despite a hearty breakfast. He clocks 'the Good Catch', 'the best chip shop in Hale and Altrincham' opposite Alty's Moss Lane ground. I manage a meat and potato pie. We decide to head to the Alty Social Club as Man City and Everton kick off for the second half. Dafty and I pretend we're back abroad again by sinking a few San Miguels. I've took a day off from coaching today; we're in the Cup at Newark. My mate texts me to say our 'keeper has come with two right-handed gloves.

A little ginger-haired chap (a common theme in this blog) gently persuades our group to buy a golden goal ticket. There's shock news on Twitter, apparently Feargal Sharkey has been named in the England squad. Roy Hodgson said: "A good Hart these days is hard to find."According to the comedian Bob Mills, Leyton Orient have the chant of the year: "We are top of the League, we are staying up."

It's a rather steep £13 on the gate, to stand on the terraces and a further £2.50 for a bumper programme, which is honest and to the point about last week's shock exit from the FA Cup against Evostik North club Trafford. It's a huge financial blow for Alty. Winnings from that tie alone would have been £4500.

Altrincham is a market town within the Metropolitan Borough of Trafford in Greater Manchester, with a population of 40,000. Former England and Lancashire fast bowler, Paul Allot, was born in the town. Altrincham FC were founded in 1891.  They have knocked out more League sides in the FA Cup than any other team. Former players include: Ryan Shotton, Alex Stepney and Duncan Whatmore, who was recently signed by Sunderland. Former Australian cricket captain Ricky 'Punter' Ponting is a shareholder at the Club. They were voted Conference North Community Club of the Year for 2013.
Today's visitors are Guiseley AFC. Regular readers may recall how I left prodigal son, Sooty the puppet in the Guiseley urinals last autumn. Former well known players include:Geoff Horsfield, Frank Worthington, Keith Walwyn and Dean Walling.

As I walk out the toilets in the bar, I notice all the dignitaries tucking into sarnies and slurping cups of tea in a private room. A lady is handing out team-sheets. "Could I have one please?" "No" comes her curt reply.

The ground still has an old-skool feel about it. The playing surface is outstanding. We position ourselves opposite the Main Stand. Mr Burns, from The Simpsons, is sat in a fold-up chair next to us. The teams enter the field of play to Emerson Lake and Palmer's 'Fanfare to the Common Man.'

The tallest guy on the pitch is the referee. But boy, oh boy, does he fancy himself, with his slick back hair, like the footman on Downton Abbey. His warm-up is extreme. "You're not playing mate", shouts out an amused 'Mayor.' He's as fit as a butcher's dog.

The visitors don't play like a side that have lost four on the bounce. They take an early lead on 3.05pm through Michael Potts, following good work by Swain. I rip open my golden goal ticket to find it has 6 minutes on it. I'm in the money. I'll donate it to the MND charity. Alty Twitter says 7 minutes, strangely at half time they announce 3 minutes. Apparently we kicked off late due to the referee having a final few looks in the mirror.

Alty have been poor in the first half; Guiseley look great value and could have easily added to their lead. Their's a slight delay to proceedings whilst the ref nips across the road for a facial. He's looked in more mirrors than Snow White.

Alty manager Lee Sinnott has made a double substitution at the break. They look fired-up and energised. Guiseley are blown away with a four goal blitz in an eighteen minute whirlwind as the game is turned on its head. I feel desperately sorry for the travelling support; some of who make a very early exit. Matters aren't helped that former striker James Walshaw has bagged a hat-trick.

Attendance: 838

Man of the Match: James Walshaw

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Yeovil Town 1-2 Leicester City

Folk are asking where has he been. It's almost October and so far it's been a no show from the legend. He phones me up on Saturday morning. He's holed up with Mrs Trumpy in a Wetherspoons in Loughborough. The pub is packed to the rafters with Barnsley fans who have stopped off to re-fuel on their way to the King Power Stadium. It's music to my ears. Terrace tickets have been snapped up and a double room booked at the Yeovil Premier Inn: It's League ground No.75 and the chance to spend two days with Trumpy Bolton in Somerset.

It's Tuesday morning and the legend is limping heavily down his driveway. He's scheduled to have a hip operation on 1st November. The trademark blue coat, yellow and blue striped Polo shirt and navy tracksuit bottoms are on show. He slides his hand into a grey bag and lifts out his new Garmin sat nav. His old one has finally bit the dust. "The girl who gives directions has alzheimer's" chuckles a perky Bolton.

A pint of Tanglefoot and three slices of pate on toast have engergised him into an early start. A litre bottle of cider has the top twisted off. His right hand clenches the plastic bottle in a vice-like grip as he guzzles the cider like my car does petrol. Recent booze fuelled holidays have taken place in: Wetherby, York, Cornwall, Kent and Scotland.

The hip operation means a six week lay-off from work. He frets about how he'll fill his time. I'll treat him to a few magazines from the local newsagents and I don't mean Match Weekly or Shoot, readers. Battle commences on the Ken Bruce 'Pop Master' quiz. Trumpy is out-of-sorts and off form; Sticky Palms struggles too. Trumpy sneers and tuts at a trailer advertising Sarah Cox's Sound of the 80s show. He can't abide her.

We drive at a steady pace down the old Fosse Way. New readers to this blog may need a cold flannel or a glass of water and a sit down when they read about Trumpy Bolton's sole mission in life. He has a crumpled, old dog-eared atlas with each village and town marked-off with a highlight pen where he has had a drink. This obsession has been going on for over 35 years. Today is the opportunity for two more tick-offs for him.

First port of call is the Nog Inn in the horse-racing town of Wincanton. I have a pint of Otter from the Otter Brewery in Honiton, Devon. Trumpy has a cider and real ale. We both have a fish finger sandwich. We're soon pulling into pub number two in the picture postcard market town of Sherbourne in Dorset. I plump for a pint of Badger. A chef emerges from the kitchen and serves up some warm complimentary home-made pork crackling to customers in the bar.

After what seems an eternity we arrive at a characterless Premier Inn adjacent to a retail park. Yeovil is a town in the county of Somerset with a population of 45,000. One of its largest employers is Agusta Westland, who manufacture Westland helicopters.

The Glovers - Yeovil's nickname due to the town once being the centre of glove-making - were founded in 1895. Huish Park (capacity 9565) has been their home since 1990. They are the only Somerset-based club in the Football League. Their previous home, Huish, had a sideline to sideline slope of eight foot.

The Club's record transfer fee received is £1.2M from Nottingham Forest for Arron Davies and Chris Cohen in 2007. Record fee paid is £250,000 for Argentinean striker Pablo Bastianini from Quilmes Atletico Club. Previous well known managers include: miserable sod Ron Saunders, Fedora-wearing and big fat Havana cigar-smoking Malcolm Allison, Graham Roberts and Russell Slade.

Trumpy necks a swift one in a neighbouring pub to the motel, before we jump into a taxi which has been booked by Brendan off Coach Trip in Reception. The legend engages in conversation with the driver. "Where you from then chap" "Bulgaria eh. Reckon your lads will beat Chelsea tonight." "Er Trumpy, that's Bucharest in Romania pal" whispers an embarrassed Sticky.

The town centre is in desperate need of some tender loving care. It makes Mansfield look like St Tropez. We book another taxi at 7pm, agreeing to meet the driver at the rear door of J D Wetherspoon's William Dampier. It's as cheap as chips in here. Trumpy slips into top gear as we quaff pint after pint of Dorset Knob and Piddle. A darker side of life emerges outside as we wait for the cab. Large groups of intoxicated teenagers stagger in our direction. A young girl collapses on the pavement like a punch-drunk boxer. Our taxi driver arrives just in the nick of time.

This time the guy is Romanian. Trumpy repeats his earlier conversation. We're dropped off outside the ground. Bolton slopes off in search of further liquid refreshment. I stand at the top of the open terrace, absorbing the atmosphere and admiring the huge away following. The PA announcer pumps up the crowd with tunes from The Jam, The Hoosiers and Calvin Harris. T Bolton appears back on the scene, but he's blowing a gasket having had an altercation with one or two suited and booted Yeovil officials. It's a dry house with no public bars for away supporters.

The pace of the game is frightening and is far removed from the non league scene that dominates my life. Leicester's Dyer and Knockaert hare down the flanks. Their million pound strike-force of Nugent and Vardy are lively and exciting to watch. It's not a level playing field, or shouldn't be, as the excellent Gary Johnson wheels and deals in the bargain basement and loan market.

I notice Joe Ralls is playing for the Glovers; he's on loan from Cardiff. My boss and I watched him for Farnborough Town under 18s in the FA Youth Cup a few years ago at Buckingham. It was at the time of Munto and Sven. He played a couple of trial games for the Magpies before Munto Finance were exposed.

The Foxes attack with speed but their shooting is off the radar, Nugent, Vardy and King fail to work the 'keeper. Yeovil come into the game. Former Crewe Alex and Wycombe winger Joel Grant poses problems with his trickery. Only last ditch tackles and some smart stops by Schmeichel prevent Yeovil scoring their first home League goal of the season.

Leicester come out for the second half more fired-up. Lloyd Dyer brings a smile back to a sulking Bolton's face by scoring in the 54th minute, after exchanging passes with Nugent. On the hour it appears that Nugent has put the game to bed by thumping a penalty straight down the middle as Leicester run riot. Dyer misses a sitter after Vardy chases a lost cause.

An exciting ending is set up after a needless challenge by Moore sees substitute Hayter, who holds the record for the fastest-ever League hat-trick, reduce the arrears from the penalty spot. Leicester see out an agonizing last ten minutes as the heavens open on an uncovered Trumpy Bolton. His hair frizzes up like Kevin Keegan's used to at SV Hamburg.

Attendance: 6476

Man of the Match: Lloyd Dyer 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

AFC Emley 7-2 Grimsby Borough

A long drive back from Chorley, was not helped by getting off the M6 a junction too early. There was an awful accident on the opposite carriageway of the A50. It later transpires that 70 people were involved in the pile-up; thankfully no-one was seriously injured.

It's Saturday morning. I wake up from a strange dream. I bagged a pair of jeans at the Next store on the  Riverside Retail Park in Lenton, Nottingham for £347. Mrs P wasn't too chuffed with the bank balance. The most I've ever splashed out on jeans is £30.

A bacon bagel is washed down with a pot of tea for one. Mrs P is in Barcelona for three nights with the girlies. My under 16s have been called off because some of the lads from both teams want to be at The City Ground for the Forest v D***y game.

Talking of the Forest game, I can hear someone stomping around the bathroom, grooming his hair with some VO5 wax. Nottingham Forest's No.1 fan, Sticky jnr, flies down the stairs and marches into the kitchen. He's pumped-up readers and looks in the mood to knock someones lights out. He heads to the fridge and threatens to down a can of Carling Black Label in one. "I'll make you a brew son; it'll be stronger than that maid's water.

He's out of the door in a flash and hopping onto a Trent Barton bus to West Bridgford. I give him some dosh to treat himself to a hearty breakfast cob at Mrs Bunns on Musters Road. Murphy, Finley and Groundhopper have a sweepstake on what time the fool will be ejected from the stadium. I plump for 12.13pm (kick off is 12.15pm).

Bloody hell, my phone is going off. It's Sticky junior; he's on the bus, what can he possibly want? "You blithering idiot; you've forgot the tickets." I leave them in the porch for a pal to pick them up.

I have to clean out Finley the rabbit and Murphy the budgie. Murphy is in a particularly unpleasant mood. I run him a bath (cold water in one of Mrs P's Pyrex dishes ..... don't tell her.) I put him on my hand and lead him to the water. He's having none of it and sticks his beak into my wrist. "It's not my fault that Norwich have had a bad start to the season, you mardy little sod."

I view a kids football game in inner city Nottingham. I spot a boy immediately and will take a second look in a few weeks time. I've really got my mojo back this season. I head up the back of Bilborough and Nuthall and join the M1 at Junction 26.

'Fighting Talk' on Five Live is hosted by Jonathan Pearce. They're asking for the worst ever managerial decisions. Danny Mills pipes up about Stuart Pearce's time at Man City. With two minutes remaining in a game against Middlesbrough in 2005, he replaced Claudio Reyna with 'keeper Nicky Weaver and shoved David James up front. Beleaguered substitute striker Jonathan Macken watched on from the bench in amazement.

I exit at Junction 38. Tom Tom navigates me onto the Huddersfield Road. Within ten minutes I'm pulling into the car park of the Sun Inn, a gastro pub in the village of Flockton. It's low beamed and has recently been refurbished. A couple of two-seater imitation leather sofas are tucked away in the corner of the bar. I have a pint of 'Silver King' from the Ossett Brewery. The menu is a tad pricey, but I'm 'Hank Marvin.' I order a cheese and pickle baguette with chunky chips and side salad.

Sticky junior has texted in, former Lincoln City defender Jack Hobbs has put the Tricky Trees one to the good. I admire the views of the rolling countryside and the Emley Moor transmitter from the tidy beer garden.

It's a short drive to Emley's Welfare Ground. I can see the ground but can't find the entrance. I'm up and down the same road for ten minutes before spotting a tight turning. I park outside a social club.
I pay £4 on the turnstile and £1.50 for a real gem of a programme.

The club has been in turmoil over the last few days. Manager Darren Hepworth was relieved of his duties, only for the committee to re-instate him. The Chairman/Secretary has since resigned from his position(s).

I'd been tipped the ground a while back and it doesn't disappoint. It's three-sided with an open end behind the far goal. A wooden fence runs along the far touchline, beyond this is the cricket ground. There is a covered standing area behind the nearest goal. I take a pew in the Main Stand with its mish mash of purple, yellow and white tip-up seats. It has a playing surface to die for.

A 60s CD is blasting out across the ground. Roy Orbison and The Animals are featured amongst others. There's even the original of 'I Believe' , not a patch on the Robson and Jerome smash hit   .... cough cough.

0-0's in this league are like rocking horse manure. Both teams look capable of leaking a few in the early stages. Emley strike three times in a twelve minute spell, midway through the first half, as Borough fold like a deck of cards. Matthew Hall scores a cracker for the visitors, but they find themselves 4-1 down at the break with a second goal for Todd.

I slip into the Clubhouse at the break. It has a maroon 'Emley' embroided carpet. There's a framed West Ham shirt hanging on the wall from their glorious FA Cup run in 1997/98. They dumped my team Lincoln City out of the cup on penalties in a second round replay. Then bowed out to West Ham by only two goals to one. Friendly bar staff serve me up a piping hot cup of tea.

A Sykes penalty puts the game to bed for Emley. The Grimsby Borough forwards never give up though. Hall scores his second of the game. Two goals in the final 2 minutes from man of the match Brighton Mugadza prove to be the final nail in the coffin.

Attendance: 79

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Chorley FC 3-0 Blyth Spartans

It's Sunday morning and I'm navigating the Rolls Royce around the tight streets of the Old Meadows area in Nottingham. It's an inner city area that has produced a host of professional footballers such as Jermaine Pennant, Wes Morgan, Kelvin Wilson and Pedro Richards.

I park up on the tree-lined Trent Embankment and head towards a plethora of football pitches hosting pub leagues and junior soccer. Two lads from the same ale-house team fall out and start to push and shove one another. Their man-mountain of a manager, a huge Asian chap, marches onto the pitch and cuffs both players around the back of the head.

I notice a guy sat on a mountain bike viewing the game with astonishment. He's wearing a T-shirt and shorts. I stroll towards him and engage in conversation: "I bet you have played in a better standard than this?" "Just a bit" he replies, with a huge smirk on his face. It's none other than former Notts County and Lincoln City midfielder Phil Turner. I saw him lift the play-off trophy at Wembley. Now, he was a player.

It's Tuesday, midday. I dash out the doors at work. I'm treating myself to a midweek excursion to one of the gems of non league football. Murphy the Budgie shares chicken and mayo in pitta bread. He mops up all the crumbs as Jeremy Vine plays King's 1984 smash hit ';Love and Pride.'

Mrs P didn't bat an eyelid at the announcement of my sojourn to Lancashire: she is due to jet off to Barcelona with the girlies on Thursday. Nevertheless, there are chores to be carried out before the pass-out is rubber stamped. I vacuum up and clean the bathroom, before heading out to Gotham to swap cars with Phil.

The journey is straight foward; the A50 onto the M6. The usual predictable bottleneck occurs at Junction 20. We exit at Junction 27. We pass a young family basking in the sunshine, licking away at their cornet and ice cream at Frederick's Ice Cream Parlour in Heath Charnock, as we head towards the village of Rivington and its chain of reservoirs. Dog walkers stretch their legs as their canine friends bound into the water to retrieve balls launched from the water's edge.

The pub I've chosen is a short drive away. The Yew Tree Inn is perched on top of a hill, with sweeping views of the Pennines. Its flagstone floors, oak furniture and open fire give it a warm and cosy feeling. I have a pint of golden local ale. Pre-match tea is a rump steak sandwich covered in blue cheese and caramelised onions.

We park up a side street a few minutes walk away from Victory Park, named so to commemorate the end of the First World War. Chorley is a market town in Lancashire, ten miles north of Wigan, with a population of 30,000. It is located at the foot of the West Pennine Moors. The town's wealth came from the cotton industry and coal-mining. The Royal Ordnance Factory, a manufacturer of munitions, played a major part in the Second World War. It's famous for the Chorley Cake - a close relative of the Eccles cake.

Notable people from Chorley include: rugby union player Bill Beaumont, comedian Phil Cool, former Labour 'spin doctor' Derek Draper, actor Ken Morley (Reg Holdsworth), Bradford City manager Phil Parkinson, footballers Paul McKenna and David Unsworth, singer John Foxx, the group Starsailor, and sugar magnate Sir Henry Tate, who established the Tate Gallery. Chorley FM found fame in the cult Channel 4 comedy series Phoenix Nights.

I enter the turnstile to the left of the black wrought iron gates. It's £9 entrance and £2 for an information-packed programme. A pea-souper of a fog is forecast later this evening. The rolling mist adds to the atmosphere of this glorious old ground. With its picturesque main stand and pedicured playing surface.

There are two rooms in the Social Club. The back room has a covered, full length snooker table. I notice framed replica England and Ipswich Town shirts signed by former Chorley youth team player Paul Mariner.

I cling onto the rail as we trudge up the metal black-painted steps, shuffling up the aisle and plonking ourselves on the back row of the ground's show-piece stand. A huge dog turd causes us to move down a row or two. On the opposite side of the ground a lone orange-jacketed steward patrols the steep grass bank above the terracing.

Blyth Spartans have made the gruelling 175 mile trip south from Northumberland. The Magpies of Chorley are top of the pile, whilst Blyth, unbeaten on their travels, lie in eighth position.

The football is sublime as both teams make use of the carpet-like surface. The bald-headed James Dean (not the actor) is posing problems for the visitors. He's like a rabid dog, hunting down his prey. Chorley take a two goal lead in a crazy five minute spell through a Darren Stephenson header and a deflected shot from Dean.

All I can hear is "Come on Charlie." The poor sod, get off his back. I peruse the line-ups, but there is no sign of a Charlie playing. Silly old me, they're shouting "Come on Chorley."

I scroll down my twitter feed, glancing at the half-time scores rolling in. The Chorley disc jockey plays the tune of the season. It's 'Rescue' by Echo and the Bunnymen. It was number 176 on the jukebox in the Keyworth Tavern public bar many moons ago.

The teams have been playing for two or three minutes in the second half before the DJ  surrenders to the heckling of the crowd and fades out Shaun Ryder and 'Reverend Black Grape'. A family behind me have spent the entire game gossipping and passing comment on all and sundry. It's like being in Norris Cole's Kabin.

Blyth play a smashing game in the second period; it's glorious to watch. They pass and move and torment the Magpies with triangular football. Chorley's Sam Ashton pulls off some spectacular saves to keep Blyth at bay. Shots dip over the bar or go wide of the mark. There are last ditch tackles; they even strike the base of the post.

Spartans leave themselves skinny at the back. The deadly Dean converts a cross in the dying moments. The result flatters Chorley, but they themselves played some champagne football in the first 45 minutes. They are managed by former Manchester City and Blackburn Rovers midfielder Garry Flitcroft. He is assisted by his pal Matt Jansen, who spent six days in a coma after a motorcycle accident in Rome back in 2002. It's been a festival of football and a cracking day out. I can't half pick them.

Man of the Match: James Dean

Attendance: 685