Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Harborough Town 1-2 Deeping Rangers

It's lunchtime on Wednesday January 15th. I've got to say I'm not enjoying my 'Three Bean Be Good' soup from Sainsbury's. Sticky junior is taking his driving test at 1.20pm; we're hoping it's a case of third time lucky. My nerves are jangling as a message alert goes off on my mobile: "He's passed!!"

He's been down on his luck of late. The previous Saturday it all kicked off in our front room following the classified football results. Eleven out of twelve forecasts have dropped in on his £1 accumulator, we're just waiting on struggling Notts County v Sheffield United for a £500 windfall. Surely a Blades away win is a shoe-in. Junior is already doing the Highland Fling whilst downing a glass of Pomagne when news filters through from Radio Nottingham's Colin Slater of a shock win for the Magpies.We all have to run for cover, including Murphy the Budgie. Papers are flung from the magazine rack and the air is blue. Trust County to upset the applecart.

It's Saturday morning. I'm hooked up with Notts County Academy Manager, Mick Leonard at Arnold Town's Eagle Valley ground. I've under-clubbed on the clothes front, as a bitter chill blows in off the fields. My phone goes off. The Skipper's game at Lowdham is off due to a waterlogged pitch. A wry smile comes over my face. I say cheerio to Mick and head over to Leicestershire.

Lutterworth Athletic have been on Sticky's radar for a considerable amount of time now. I've never even driven through the quaint town with its old coaching inns and half-timbered buildings. Hall Lane is out of town. There's plenty of activity in the car park. I catch a club official wandering back to his car. "Game's off mate, it's too muddy to mark out the pitch."

It's last chance saloon. I fish my phone out of my pocket and furiously punch away at the keypad. "You beauty." Neighbouring Harborough Town are at home to Deeping Rangers in the United Counties League. I've seen some cracking games at this Step 5 level.

Within 20 minutes I've pulled up at Bowdens Park on the Northampton Road. It's looking hopeful as I spot a rugby game being played in the vicinity. One of the players gives me the thumbs up - the game is on.

Market Harborough has a population of 20,000 and lies on the River Welland, close to the Northamptonshire border. The centre of the town is dwarfed by the steeple of St Dionysius Parish Church. The square in the town is mostly pedestrianised, with an abundance of Georgian buildings. The name Harborough is derived from Anglo-Saxon 'haefera-beorg' meaning Oat Hill. The market has been established since 1204 and has been held every Tuesday ever since 1221.

Thomas Cook, who was a wood turner and cabinet maker in the town, organised the first group travel by rail from Leicester to Loughborough and went on to found the travel agency bearing his name. The Grand National Hunt Steeplechase was held in the south-west of the town in 1860, 1861 & 1863. The race and meeting was eventually developed into Cheltenham Festival.

 The food bar is serving a variety of nosh. It's not usually my bag, but I've had nothing to eat since breakfast. A lady serves up some cheesy chips. I nearly put sugar on instead of salt on my chips. I sit in the bar. Snooker is on the box. It's being presented by Hazel Irving. I didn't think the likes of her, Peter Beardsley and Claudia Winkleman were allowed on TV until after the watershed. 'The Jester from Leicester' - Mark Selby is beating Sean Murphy by four frames to nil. My budgie loves Sean.

A group of lads behind me are discussing the best player D***y County have ever had - got to say I'm struggling to name one. A lad comes up with the Croatian Aljosa Asanovic.

It's £5 on the door. The programme is not a bad effort for a quid. I've scouted here before, but never blogged. They held a national u15 11 a-side tournament a few years back called Aces.

There's a small stand to the right hand side which has yellow and black tip up seats. The top end is open, with the dugouts to the left of the clubhouse. On seven minutes I attempt to play an ale house clearance back into the arms of the Harborough full back. I've proper shanked it with my Winkle Pickers back over his head. He doesn't half give me some pelters. Like I said to him, "I've had more touches than you son."

It's been an immense effort by Harborough to get the game on. The going is already heavy. Deeping are two up within half an hour thanks to a disputed penalty and a close range finish. I'm impressed with the hunger, energy and pace of Harborough. 7 jacket and a pocket rocket up front called 'Scouse' pose plenty of problems. I'm no Inspector Morse but I reckon that lad could be from Liverpool.

I'm back in the bar at the break. There's no Mellow Birds or Maxwell House in this gaff, we're talking Nescafe. It's Leicestershire's version of West Bridgford - minus the fur coat and knickers.

Harborough deservedly peg one back with 10 minutes to go, after earlier smashing the upright with a thumping shot from the No.7. It's an important tick off for Sticky Palms, which doesn't leave me with many to do in Leicestershire above Step 6.

Man of the Match: Jonathan Mitchell

Attendance: 53

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Farsley AFC 2-1 New Mills AFC

I'm sat in the dug-out watching Sticky junior's under 18s. It's the 2nd round of the Cup. We've avoided all the big guns, but are pitting our wits against the table-toppers from the League below. The carrot being dangled for all of the boys is that the final is to be staged at Nottingham Forest's City Ground (they've won the European Cup twice you know).

We're getting a good doing-over. The craic with the visting team's manager remains good-natured and light-hearted though. I've taken over this team from former Magpies and England under 21 forward Gary Lund. I felt the boys deserved one last year, as it looked like the team would fold.

I've already subbed Sticky junior, who has sloped off for a crafty fag. Our opponents send on their reserve 'keeper as an outfield player; he's not that mobile folks and has appeared more interested in the smell of bacon wafting over from the Clubhouse food bar. He picks the ball up 25 yards out and hits a shot with the inside of his boot, which sails over my 'keeper's head into the top corner of the net. It's his first ever goal.

All five of their subs race onto the pitch for an enormous pile on - I bet he's lost his appetite now. Their manager is fuming at the antics of his subs. He shouts to the ref to book all 5 players for entering the field of play without his permission. I am roaring with laughter and so is the referee. It's another comedy moment in Sunday morning football.

I spend Friday evening flicking through the Nottingham Evening Post whilst downing a bottle of Bordeaux won in a raffle at work. Finley, the rabbit, will be tossing and turning in his hay, mulling over another crap Non League score prediction. I unlock the back door in the morning to serve my furry friend some breakfast. He's flat out on the concrete, not moving a muscle. Mrs P has forgotten to put him to bed. It's a disgrace. Poor old Finley has been shivering for most of the night. What if 'Freddie the Fox' had rocked up?

He finally comes round after 7 or 8 strokes of his fur. The little lad is that cold that I nearly have to fetch the scraper out of the 'Rolls Royce.' Finley says that Farsley will win 4-0. Bloody hell son, I don't think New Mills are going to be chuffed to hear that. Sue and the gang made us feel really welcome up in High Peak a few years back.

I leave the nastiest budgie in Keyworth, Murphy Palmer, whistling and chirping away to Simply Red's "Something Got Me Started." I drop 'The Skipper' off at a village close by, where he is refereeing. I inspect the pitch with him and ask the team manager to fork a large area of standing water.

First port of call this morning is Kimberley Leisure Centre, close to Junction 26 of the M1. I've been tipped a lad to watch. The boy doesn't look particularly interested. I cross him off the list and head up the motorway towards Leeds.

Hells teeth, I've forgotten the Sat Nav. After a couple of false starts I finally leave the M621 in Leeds and drop onto the A647. There are no signposts for Farsley, but I somehow stumble across the commuter town. I'd got my beady eye on a boozer in Town Street, the traffic is gridlocked. A car has been abandoned at a busy crossroads. I squeeze past the vehicle but end up out of town and in a place called Pudsey where the cricketers Raymond Illingworth and Matthew Hoggard were born, as well as the BBC bear.

I pull into a parking spot adjacent to the canal and slip into a pub called the Rodley Barge. I quaff a pint of Pennine 2014 accompanied with a sausage and bacon cob. A family of goths call in for lunch as Kasabian blasts out of the speakers

I take a peek down the canal as a chap appears from out of the door of his barge. I exchange in some small talk. He tells me he's recently split up from his wife and that he's trying to sort out their financial affairs - bloody hell pal, I didn't ask for your life story, after all I've a match to go to.

The Throstle's Nest is a short drive away. They very kindly tweeted earlier in the day that the game would be going ahead. Farsley are nicknamed The Villagers. They rose from the ashes of Farsley Celtic who were formed in 1908.

It's £7 on the gate and £2 for the programme, which is well worth the read. I take an envious look at the 'Growlers Pie and Pastry' shop. You can hear a pin drop in the Clubhouse - 'Dirty Dirty Leeds' have been thumped 6-0 by Sheff Wed. A little boy sits in the corner, draped in a Leeds scarf - I think he might need counselling.

I order a cup of coffee and peel off a few layers of clothing. I'll knock the ladies dead in West Yorkshire with my new beige jumper from Next. I watch the fag end of Hull City v Chelsea.

I love the ground. It has a real feel of football about it. The H.A. Fox Jaguar Stand runs along the nearest touchline, with a smaller seated stand to it's left. The dug outs are on the far side. The music from Radio 5 Live's Sports Report is played as the teams emerge from the tunnel.

New Mills begin the game at a lively canter, their number 9 spoons a sitter over from 8 yards out. They're made to pay for it on 3 minutes with a close range finish from Farsley captain Rob O'Brien. A Daniel Grimshaw own goal on 12 minutes puts the home side two to the good.

I'm back in the Function Room at the break for a soft drink. The place is bustling with folk. What the hell is going off at Sincil Bank, my team, Lincoln City, are 2-0 down to Conference North side North Ferriby from Hull.

There's not much doing in the second half. Farsley's leading scorer Aiden Savory runs down cul-de-sacs. They hit the woodwork twice. New Mills pull one back with a neatly worked goal by Chris Baguley. The Farsley 'Baby Squad' behind the goal aren't half giving the New Mills 8 jacket some pelters for carrying a bit extra. The highlight of the day though is on 80 minutes when Sticky Palms gets his grubby mitts on the match ball - mission accomplished. I can't arf pick em.

Attendance: 216

Man of the Match: Finley Palmer

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Nantwich Town 4-0 Droylsden

It's 8.30pm on Sunday January 25th 1989. I'm lying on my bed, drifting off to sleep. I've a 6 o'clock start in the morning. All hell has let loose in our house. The telephone is ringing off the hook. My Dad hurriedly changes into a suit, rummages around his office for a notebook and pen, before grabbing his car keys and heading out the door towards Kegworth.

He's the East Midlands reporter for the Daily Mirror, whose London news desk have just called him about a Boeing 737 which has reportedy careered across the M1, whilst attempting an emergency landing at East Midlands Airport. Forty seven people died, with a further 74 sustaining serious injuries. I'm reminded of it all on Breakfast TV this morning. It will be 25 years ago this Wednesday since the 'Kegworth Air Disaster.' He was one of the first journalists on the scene, due to the close proximity of where we lived.

A blade detached from a fan on the port of the left hand engine. The Captain, mistakenly shut down the wrong engine. It was a miracle that no cars were on the M1 motorway when the plane crash-landed.

Christmas has been quiet and uneventful. I've been streaming with cold since Boxing Day. I gave 'Gangsta' and my Godson Will a good hiding at ten pin bowling on Christmas Eve. I then saw Nottingham Forest football 'Dirty Dirty Leeds' off the park. Michael Brown doesn't fail to disappoint by picking up the game's first booking. The Tricky Trees Matt Derbyshire scores a goal that is worth the £28 gate money.

There's been no Non League football fix over the Christmas period. The Skipper's team's fixture on Saturday afternoon has fallen victim to a waterlogged pitch. It's an unexpected bonus to get a new ground in.

Murphy the budgie has had a bollocking for swinging on his perch whistling loudly to Cher's The Shoop Shoop Song. He's still sulking about me forgetting to buy him a Christmas present. I'm out the door at 12.30pm. I head down the A453 towards Kegworth, just like my father did 25 years ago.

I cruise down the A50 towards Stoke. Hoards of Foxes fans are enroute to the Britannia Stadium for the FA Cup third round. I'm on the M6 for one junction. Nantwich is literally 8 miles off the motorway. I notice a signpost that says Wrexham 28 miles. I make a mental note. I need to chalk-off the Racecourse Ground this season.

Five Live's Mark Chapman is broadcasting live from Grimsby's Blundell Park, ahead of their cup clash with the Terriers of Huddersfield. He remarks that the actor Sacha Baron Cohen was recently spotted in the stands of the Club during a 1-0 reverse against leaders Cambridge United. Apparently the actor is penning a new movie called Grimsby. He has been sighted in pubs, clubs and even chip shops in the town.

Leicester comedian Jim Smallman has selected Kidderminster v Peterborough as his groundhop for the day. I recommend their infamous Cottage Pie at £4 a portion. Trust me, you won't eat for the rest of the day.

Blimey Charlie, I'm going to have to update the old Tom Tom; it doesn't even recognise the postcode of the Weaver Stadium. Nantwich is a market town in Cheshire with a population of just under 15,000. The town has been a salt-producing centre since the 10th Century.

The first person to captain England at rugby and cricket, A N Hornby, is buried in a graveyard in the town. Aston Villa midfielder and former Crewe Alexandra player Ashley Westwood was born in Nantwich.

The Dabbers were founded in 1884. They were shunted out of their 123 year old Jackson Avenue ground, to make way for luxury housing, to the out-of-town Weaver Stadium in 2007. The year previous they won the FA Vase.

The club's car park must act as a park and ride during the week. Parking is free today. It's £9 on the gate and £2 for the Dabber programme, which is fairly thin on content. I head up to the top of the Main Stand and into the Fairfax Suite. It has a stage and wooden dance floor. The chairs are mauve-coloured as is the carpet. I grab a latte for £2. I sit at a table in the corner of the room perusing the programme, occasionally people-watching.

I'm bloody starving readers. I've had nowt to eat since my bowl of porridge. I don't usually partake in snap at non-league stadia, as on the whole it's unedible. Today is no different. My steak pie is pale in colour and dry in the mouth. The frozen chips are tasteless. The plastic prong on my fork shatters as it is drawn into the pie.

An army of volunteers have ensured that the game will take place. Plenty have bit the dust in these parts (games not people). The surface looks heavy, but the pitch appears to have been rolled after their late call-off last weekend. I have Trafford or West Didsbury as back-up.

Poor old Droylsden are in the doldrums. Two points from 28 games, with 112 goals shipped. In their last fixture Ashton put nine past them at the Butcher's Arms. I took Trumpy Bolton to Droylsden once. I recall him doing the Conga with the 'Eastwood Town Booze Cruise' following a 1-0 win. Rumours on the 'Net' suggest that manager Dave Pace has put seven days in for 21 players.

I sit behind and above the Nantwich ‘Technical Area.’ The DJ has banged out a few 80s toons from Deacon Blue and U2. He saves Cantrill Farm’s finest until shortly before kick-off –‘Groovy Train.’

The Dabbers are ahead within two minutes with a smart finish from Ben Deegan. The feeling in the ground is it could be a cricket score. Amazingly Droylsden increase in confidence and begin to play the better football. They have the game’s best player in former Bury striker Domaine Rouse. He has an outrageous touch and glides past defenders. His attitude towards his own team-mates is poor though.

Substitute Max Harrop thumps an effort into the roof of the net on the stroke of half time. His Mum, Dad and girlfriend, sit the row infront of me and celebrate vociferously. There's a reversal of fortune on the DJ's decks at the break with the dreadful 'Happy New Year' by Abba - topical, but bloody awful. The game is over with 20 minutes to go with further goals from Burns and Foster.

Man of the Match: Domaine Rouse

Attendance: 284