Sunday, February 22, 2015

Brocton FC 3-1 Walsall Wood

Me and Murphy Palmer the budgie don't do the TV soaps. We'd rather walk on the wings of a Tiger Moth than watch Emmerdale or EastEnders, but we're always looking to make a fast buck. As who killed Lucy Beale fever sweeps the country, we decide to take a butcher's hook at Corals for the latest betting. We've never like the Market Inspector; a nasty specimen, who's always on the make. At 66/1 he was worth a punt for Murphy. We'll spend the winnings on Johnson's honey bars and millet spray from Wheatcroft's Garden Centre in affluent Edwalton.

Murphy whistles his way throughout the entire episode. I tried to break it to him gently that nobody has seen the Market Inspector in weeks. He asks for his towel to be put over the cage when it's revealed that little bro Bobby Beale bashed his big sister over the head with a jewellery box. We won't be watching it again.

It's Friday night and I'm sitting in the The Plumtree Restaurant on Nottingham Road in Keyworth next to the chippy. I've won a meal for two having been the 100th 'Like' on their facebook page. 'The Skipper' does a spot of waitering here at the weekend. There's not many folk in this evening, as people are scrimping and scraping, waiting for wages day next week. I polish off a huge portion of delicious haddock and share a Fruits of the Forest Gateaux with Mrs P. The food and service is par excellence. I tell the owner that I'll recommend that the Food Sleuth from the Nottingham Post pays them a visit.

I'm up with the larks on Saturday morning. I'm frying mince and chopping onions, while I prepare Sticky's signature dish of chilli con carne for this evening. I finally head down to Clifton All Whites, Green Lane ground, to catch 'The Skipper' in action for the under 18s against Mickleover Sports. It's 0-0 and they have missed a penalty. Tosh whips away three of the boys away for a first team match up at Thoresby Colliery at half time. They struggle after the break and are well beaten 2-0. 'The Skipper' is a little down in the mouth as I drop him off at home.

Middlesbrough v Dirty Leeds is the commentary game on Five Live. Academy product Alex Mowatt has put the visitors ahead. Manager, Neil Redfearn, was one of my boyhood idols. He made 100 appearances for 'The Lincoln' in the 1980s.

I've brought the Tom Tom instead of the Garmin, it proves to be a costly mistake. The bloody thing takes me on a tour of the Derbyshire and Staffordshire countryside. Flipping heck, I thought I was in Cornwall for a minute, the roads are that tight and bendy. 

I finally pitch up outside the village store in Brocton. I can't get a signal on my phone so I can punch out the postcode of the ground into the sat nav. It's like Open All Hours in the shop. The lass on the till and a few customers haven't a Scooby Do where Brocton FC play. To add insult to injury we're now in the middle of a hailstorm that is bouncing off the car windscreen.

I chance upon Brocton Hall Golf Club and drive up towards the clubhouse. Former Ryder Cup golfer Paul Broadhurst is the course record holder. An elderly couple, dripping wet, are packing up their golf gear. The lady gives me precise instructions. The club play just outside Stafford.

Brocton FC were founded in 1937 by the owner of a local pub. They are nicknamed The Badgers. It's £5 on the gate and £1 for a good programme. I love the ground. It's tight, tidy and tree-lined. The main stand is on the nearest side with green tip-up seats. I was tipped off about the ground by former UEFA official Phil Prosser.

The Badgers are in the lower half of the table despite a comfortable 3-0 away win at League leaders Lye Town during the week. I viewed Walsall Wood a month ago in the FA Vase. They were knocked out in a replay at Shaw Lane Aqua Force.

Brocton are brimming with confidence. They are quick to close down and play a beautiful game. They take an early lead through a left footed strike by David Berks. It's soon 2-0. Young Jack Edwards rinses Walsall Wood's Kieron Richardson lookalike left back, his low cross is turned into the net by Sam Bell.

Walsall Wood are simply not at the races. Their centre forward, who didn't look match fit when I saw him a few weeks ago, is hauled off. A bloke resembling Emile Heskey replaces him. They are fortuitious to be handed a lifeline on the stroke on half time. Their winger already looks to be tumbling as he rounds the 'keeper. The lady lineman signals for a corner, the referee points at the spot. After consultation between officials, the spot kick is taken, but saved. The rebound is blasted into the back of the net.

The crowd of 89 draw for breath after an exciting first half. Henry the dog enjoys a chocolate drop. I have the brew of the season. It's poured from the pot into a ceramic mug. I mark it with a 9.5. I get gassing to a groundhopper from Farnborough. He's caught the train here from Euston. He won't be home until 10:00pm. 

I tell him an anecdote about the time I was in recruitment at Notts County. My boss and I went to see Buckingham Town v Farnborough Town in the FA Youth Cup. It was at the time when Munto ran the Pies and Sven Goran Eriksson was Director of Football. We picked up this lad. He reminded me of Gareth Barry. He played one trial game for Notts County U16s. They wanted £30,000 for him. Farnborough were managed by a guy called Steve King. He used to wear a cashmere coat and a pork pie hat. He looked like a used car salesman. Turned out Munto was a hoax. The boy was a quality player. His name was Joe Ralls. He's a regular pick for Cardiff City these days.

Walsall Wood emerge from the dressing rooms after only five minutes. I reckon their manager has booted them out after a royal rollicking. The game continues at a great pace. Brocton grab all three points with an emphatic finish from Jack Edwards who has hugged the right touchline all afternoon.

As I walk out the ground with the final seconds ticking away, I clock a man in the stand scurrilously penning away in a notebook. It's the dreaded referee's assessor. No wonder the man in the middle has been over zealous today.

Man of the Match: Jack Edwards

Attendance: 89

Monday, February 16, 2015

Thorne Colliery 2-3 Brodsworth Welfare AFC

This is ridiculous, where the hell can he be ? I'm on the High Street in the picture postcard town of Stamford, in Lincolnshire. I've spotted a sign pointing in the direction of Daniel Lambert's grave. Lambert weighed in at a world record 52 stone when he died suddenly in Stamford back in 1809. His coffin required 112 square feet of wood. It took twenty men half an hour to lower his coffin into the ground. Why can't I find the 'Lord of the Pies' final resting place?

The Sunday morning congregation are filing out of St Martin's church. An elderly lady tells me to walk through the graveyard, cross the road and I should see a plaque on the railings. She's right, I've finally found Lambert. The lettering on his headstone has washed away. It's mission accomplished for Sticky Palms.

A pleasant weekend in Stamford was spent at the glorious Crown Hotel. A stroll around Burghley House in sun-kissed skies and unseasonal temperatures was an unexpected bonus.

I take in a Notts Senior Cup tie between Basford United and Dunkirk on Tuesday evening. Both teams play a beautiful game. 37 year old former Aston Villa midfielder Lee Hendrie turns out for Basford. It's worth the £5 on the gate to watch his movement. How on earth Dunkirk are bottom of the Midland League, on that performance, Lord only knows.

On Thursday evening I watch 'The Skipper' get a much-needed 90 minutes under his belt for Dunkirk U19s. He thoroughly enjoys it and hooks up with some mates he hasn't played with in ages. We leave Murphy the budgie at home. The traitor will be whistling the signature tune to BBC1's Death in Paradise. We had a pact not to watch it any more after DS Camille Bordey took up a secondment in Paris. Murphy now has the hots for her replacement.

We're still not speaking on Saturday morning, as I switch the kettle on and flick on Sky Sports to watch the cricket World Cup. I watch the wickets tumble one by one. The diminutive James Taylor shows some bottle as he racks up an unbeaten 98. He's robbed of a ton by some inept umpiring.

I leave Sticky jnr polishing his boots in anticipation of a mouth-watering quarter final League Cup tie against neighbouring Cotgrave. I whizz up the A46, over Gunthorpe Bridge and onto A614. I breeze up the A1 and onto the M18 before turning off for Thorne.  

Thorne is a market town in the Metropolitan Borough of Doncaster with a population of 16,000. The local coal mine was closed in 1956. Soprano singer Lesley Garratt and the plumber Thomas Crapper were born in the town.

I like to see the good in everything. The town centre looks like it could do with a make-over. Cameron and his cronies have let the place to go to wrack and ruin. Where's the coalfield regeneration money been pumped into? I drive past 'Sweets 'n Treats' , the 'e-cigarette shop (with e-liquid accessories, 'JJ's Bits and Pieces' and Paul's Polish Food Shop.' There's an uninviting tea rooms and a large Co-op. I head out towards the country before chancing upon the Black Bull Inn.

It's a pleasant enough pub, but they only serve Sharps Doom Bar and don't have any strong lager on. I thought they could sup up here ? I down a pint of Guinness. I can't even get a bloody sandwich in the joint. Thorne Colliery's home is in the neighbouring village of Moorends. If you're a big fish 'n chip fan it's the place to be - take your pick from 'Cod Almighty', 'Crispy Cod' and 'Golden Cod.'

I drive past the old colliery winding wheel, with it's memorial plaque dedicated to those who lost their lives at the coal mine. The players are kicking-in as I part with £3 on the gate and £1 for a programme. A huge blue-painted stand with yellow-coloured steps is the main feature of the ground. It looks magnificent. I grab a cup of coffee and a bacon sandwich.

Carver (Jim's lad off The Bill) puts the visitors 1-0 up early doors. It settles Sticky down - I don't do 0-0s. It's a groundhoppers dream on ten minutes,when I get my mucky paws on the match ball. Carver fluffs a couple of sitters as Brodsworth continue to dominant the game.

The Thorne No.7 looks like a gangly version of the former Argentinean international and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Ricky Villa. Sadly his performance is more like Ricky Butcher.

I'm at a bit of a loss at the break. I'd be normally scrolling through my twitter timeline checking the half-time scores. They haven't got floodlights here, so have kicked-off at 2:00pm. A game of jumpers for goalposts has attracted my attention. The boys playing can only be aged 10-11. It reminds me of the classic film Kes. There's plenty of swearing going off and a temper tantrum or two. A boy is wiped out. There's a slight skirmish. The wee lad is streaming with tears as he gathers his jumper, collects his scooter and storms off, threatening to bring back his big brother. I hope it's not 'Our Judd.'

Thorne equalise from the penalty spot early in the second half. They can only hang on for a few minutes. Luke Flanagan spots the Thorne 'keeper off his line and from 25 yards out superbly chips the ball over his outstretched arms and into the net. Corey Taylor appears to put the result beyond doubt following good work by Junior PC Carver down the right touchline. Thorne score again, with the visitors in debt to their 'keeper with two fine saves towards the end of an entertaining game.

Man of the Match: Billy Casper

Monday, February 2, 2015

AFC Wulfrunians 0-2 Tipton Town

It's Thursday evening, 9:00pm and the highlight of the week. Murphy's cage is positioned next to the arm rest of the settee, with a bird's eye view of the TV. He's flapping away at the Ska theme tune to hit TV series Death in Paradise. He (and me) are totally smitten and loved up with Detective Sergeant Camille Bordey from the show. She's an absolute beauty, with a cracking pair of pins. I was flicking through the Sunday Mirror TV guide, when I clocked that Camille is to exit the show this evening. Who's going to tell Murphy ?

Fast forward 55 minutes and Camille is boarding a ferry from the quayside to the mainland, as she's accepted a job offer in Paris. Why the hell did the Detective Inspector sign the release papers? I couldn't tell Murphy; it would break his heart. He's blubbering now and so is Sticky. It won't be the same without her.

It's two days since Murphy touched his food. He's proper off it. Camille leaving the show has left the wee man in bits and lovesick. My God, we miss her. Last night I nursed a pint and a half of Two Hoots from the Joseph Holt brewery up in Manchester. I'm celebrating a successful month end with colleagues from work. Mrs P joins me later  for a bite to eat in the Ruddington Arms, following a good write-up in the Nottingham Post by the Food Sleuth.

The forecast for Friday night and the early hours of Saturday morning looks very bleak for us groundhoppers around the UK. The North is off the radar. The Midlands has a blanket of snow. Not many hoppers will be wearing their parkas or rucksacks tomorrow. The sandwich boxes and programme covers will remain empty. I wake up on Saturday morning and draw back the curtains, the snow has gone.

Mrs P heads out early doors to Loughborough to buy some candles. If only life was that simple. I ask her to pop her head through the door at Waterstones, to make sure all the staff I stalked for the the last six months are okay. Murphy is swinging on his perch to 'Boogie Wonderland' by Earth, Wind and Fire. My twitter timeline is full of games off and pitch inspections.

I make a cup of strong coffee and microwave a sausage roll. Murphy mops up the flakes of pastry. He's slowly regaining his appetite. Redditch and Brocton have both bit the dust. AFC Wulfrunians are saying on their twitter feed that there are no plans for a pitch inspection. I have to look them up to see where they are located. Wolverhampton is not too far for the 'Rolls Royce.'

They are previewing the over-hyped 'game of the season' between Chelsea and Man City on Five Live. Pundits over analyse it. It's no coincidence that Match of the Day had their largest viewing figures of the season last Saturday evening when giant-killers from Bradford and Middlesbrough rolled into West London and Manchester. The Premier League is not for me, although I still need to chalk off Anfield.

It's not the most enjoyable of journeys. The drive to Birmingham can be a chore. I pull off the M6 towards Wolverhampton. After skirting Wolverhampton town centre, I find myself in the suburb of Castlecroft. I'm not banking on a Good Pub Guide entry in these neck of the woods. I swing the 'Rolls Royce' into a ghastly looking pub car park opposite one of those ugly 1960s shopping precincts.

The decor in the pub beggars belief. A woman from the 'Darby and Joan Club' is ordering snap for the whole of Wolverhampton at the bar. Each one is paid for separately. After what seems an eternity I finally get my paws on a pint of Boondoggle from the Ringwood Brewery in Hampshire. The old blue rinse brigade are tucking into their 'Lunch Deals.' I think I'll give the snap on offer the swerve.

The Castlecroft Stadium is just down the road. I pass a desolate cricket ground and some posh apartments with electric gates, before squeezing the 'Rolls' into a parking space. AFC Wulfrunians were formed in 2005 and were an offshoot of Old Wulfrunians founded in 1922.

The stadium was previously the RFU's national centre for schools and youth rugby. Back in the 1950s it was Wolverhampton Wanderers training ground. It's £5 on the gate. The programme is a bargain at £1. Someone takes a lot of tender loving care in producing this programme. I fluff the quiz, which shows 8 pictures of former Nottingham Forest players. One of them has long frizzy hair, with Mediterranean looks. I take a stab at Nikola Jerkan. It's that bloody buffoon Andrea Silenzi. NFFC coughed up £1.8 million for this joker; he didn't even score a League goal.

My new blue coat, a bargain £45 from Next's Victoria Centre branch in Nottingham, is getting its first airing. It's catching the eye of one or two WAGS, I can tell you. I'm impressed with the stadium although you only have access to three sides. A 500 seater stand with green tip-up seats dominates the nearest touchline. A neatly trimmed privet hedge is the main feature behind the nearest goal. The far side is tree-lined and where the dugouts are situated.

It's bitterly cold, I've four layers of clothing on, but I've a feeling I may have under-clubbed. Finley the rabbit has predicted a 7-0 drubbing for bottom-placed Tipton Town. Don't worry Tipton fans, old buck teeth knows chuff all about Non League football.

The swirling wind makes it difficult for either team to keep the ball on the carpet. Both see efforts bounce off the woodwork, before the visitors take the lead with a well executed goal from Nicky Pugh. Half-time can't come quick enough as I peg it up the stairs into the cosy refreshment bar. I warm my hands on a cup of steaming hot salty Bovril. The cheese and onion cob at a £1 a pop is better than anything that bloody pub up the road has to offer.

I'm reluctant to leave the clubhouse as I've shivered my way through the first half. Tipton upset the apple-cart with 15 minutes remaining, David Meese waltzes his way through a static defence before curling his shot into the corner of the net.

The under 9 balls boys are in stitches behind the goal when the Tipton keeper' shanks a clearance and ends up flat on his ass. They'll still be giggling this evening about that one.

Attendance: 137

Man of the Match: Ball Boys