Monday, November 23, 2015

Pickering Town 2-1 Barton Town Old Boys

It's Wednesday evening, and I'm stood next to Keyworth United Chairman Rob Clegg, at the coldest place on this planet. It's called Platt Lane, and is open to all the elements. There's a swirling wind and it's pelting it down with rain. Holbrook St Michaels from Derbyshire are the visitors in tonight's Central Midlands League fixture.

An old guy walks by, chuntering and moaning about the blustery conditions. He has a northern accent. I'm flabbergasted to hear he's a groundhopper who has travelled down here on the train and bus from Preston in Lancashire to take in the game. He's staying overnight in the village at a bed and breakfast. I give him the swerve at the end of the game, as the match has finished 0-0.

The highlight of the week was when we went to Nottingham Broadway Cinema to see Alan Bennett's The Lady in the Van, starring Dame Maggie Smith. I celebrate the end of the working week with a couple of pints of Harvest Pale Ale at the Bear and Lace (previously Chambers) on Maid Marian way in Nottingham city centre. I constantly scroll around on the BBC Weather app. The outlook looks depressing oop North.

We're on the road to Whitby at 8:00am. Murphy Palmer, my canary and green budgie, is going to be kicking off. I've left Radio 2 on for him. Sara Cox's 80s show is on this evening - we both can't abide her. I leave him pecking away at a millet spray, as we abandon him for the weekend.

Marske United and Guisborough Town have already bit the dust. All our hopes are hanging on the ancient market town of Pickering. The North Yorkshire Moors has succumbed to snow. Cars are wheel spinning their way up the steep gradients, as they fight the extreme weather.  A Subaru has taken a corner too quickly and smashed into the barrier.

We finally roll up at the Met apartments on Whitby's West Cliff. The road is shut. A Force 10 gale has seen a 100 year old Victorian shelter topple over. Its remains are strewn all over the road. A stranded motorist's car fights with the high tide, as the waves crash into the harbour wall.

Whitby Town's Turnbull Ground backs onto the flat. I'm saving that for a rainy day. The flat is owned by my late father's solicitor. My spine tingles when I see all my Dad's books lined-up on a shelf in the lounge.

We are blown all the way down to the harbour. We gratefully trudge up the steps into the warmth of the Magpie Cafe, where we tuck into Haddock, chips and mushy peas accompanied with a piping hot mug of tea. A couple of Japanese tourists on the next table are scoffing a cream tea at the same time as mussels, crab and salmon. It's like a Japanese game show that Clive James used to show on ITV.

I snap up a beanie hat in a half price sale at Tog 24 on Church Street. I hang my nose over a nice olive green coat, with a bit of fur on it. It'll have the women of Grantham in all of a lather when it gets its first outing for the visit of FA Cup giant-killers Salford City next week.

Pickering Town are tweeting that they are enjoying uninterrupted sunshine with little wind. We drive back over those bloody Moors again. I bet that bone idle so-and-so Ventriss and his pals PC Rowan and Inspector Blaketon from Heartbeat are putting in a shift today.

Ms Moon parks the Land Rover adjacent to the cricket pitch, where Barton Town OB are warming up. She needs to slap some make-up on. With it being half an hour before kick off, will she have enough time ? I wisely choose not to comment.

It's £5 on the gate, with £1.50 for a programme, which is right up there with Tony Squires's masterpiece at Heanor Town. It's clearly a labour of love. We get gassing to some friendly folk in the stand before seeking the warmth and shelter of the clubhouse, as it's bitterly cold. Ms Moon shouts up a couple of steaming hot drinks from the Pikes Pantry. I flick through the programme, where I notice that former Blackburn, D***y and Notts County defender Craig Short is the President of Pickering Town. His brother Chris wasn't a bad player either. Neil Warnock bought them both for a song when at Scarborough Town and the Pies.

I glance up at the TV screen. Bristol City manager Steve Cotterill is explaining away at more dropped points. A poster on the Gents toilets is advertising an Elton John and Billy Joel tribute act to held at the club in the next few weeks.

We position ourselves next to the Barton Town dugout. There's that many folk shoehorned into it, that it resembles the film set from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. I viewed Barton the last Good Friday. I was particularly impressed with how their forward Scott Phillips led the line that day. Sadly, he has a long-term injury.

The referee is subjected to a torrent of foul-mouthed abuse from a member of the Barton coaching staff. I'm surprised stronger action isn't taken, with the referees' assessor scribbling away into his notebook in the stand. Manager Dave Anderson chews gum more furiously than Big Sam or King Billy Davies.

The Pikes take the lead on 7 minutes. The visiting 'keeper can only parry a long-range shot from Joe Danby, the rebound is pounced upon by Ryan Cooper, who tucks the ball away into net. Barton equalise on 35 minutes with a cool finish from Ashley Lattimore.

I check the latest scores at the break. Lincoln City are coasting down on the English Riveria. Top Valley goal machine Liam Hearn has bagged again. All the talk is of Jamie Vardy's goal at St James' Park, in Newcastle.

Pickering score a wonderful goal just before the hour. A free kick whipped in from the left is met with a bullet header by centre half Ryan Turnbull. A lunging challenge and retaliation results in an early bath for Pickering's Ward and Barton's Belcher, as the players keep the assessor busy.

I enjoy a post-match pint of Yorkshire Blonde at the Station across the road from the harbour in Whitby. A local in the boozer, who suffers from insomnia, tells me that he heard the shipping forecast in the middle of the night. He said it was the first time he can remember a Force 10 gale being forecast for Whitby. I can't arf pick em.

Attendance: 91

Man of the Match: Matty Turnbull

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Shaw Lane Aquaforce 1-2 Matlock Town

We're walking around the perimeter of Nottingham Racecourse late on Sunday afternoon. It's drizzling with rain, and close to darkness. I'm reflecting on a cracking weekend. A few beverages were downed last night in Canning Circus with 'The Zuffler.' What is at the forefront of my mind, though, is how sporting the Heanor Town supporters were in clapping off a victorious Sporting Khalsa yesterday. In 10 years of groundhopping, it's right up there with moments that have touched me on my journeys around England watching Non League football.

The inclement weather puts paid to any midweek football action. Table-topping Clifton All Whites U19s have a two week break. I notice that Dunkirk FC's twitter account are having some beef with the Mighty All-Whites. Dunkirk were recently beaten 2-0 in the FA Youth Cup by Basford United, who one or two of the Clifton boys play for. Maybe its sour grapes, as on Tuesday evening Basford travelled up to League Two Accrington Stanley in the first round proper.

I meet up with Sticky jnr and The Skipper at the Rancliffe Arms in Bunny for a Monday night carvery. Sticky jnr is salivating over the choice of meats as the chef slices into a huge joint of roast beef. It's good to see my lads. I really miss them.

It's Friday evening, and I'm hurtling down the country lanes of the Vale of Belvoir towards Harby. I pick up the 'Mayor of London' and take him out for a meal at the Nags Head in the village. The treat is on me, as he was there for me in my hour of need.

We're polishing off a bottle of Bordeaux a few hours later at his Southfork Ranch, pissing ourselves at Alan Partridge on Dave, when I'm alerted to breaking news on social networks of acts of terrorism in Paris. We stay riveted to the BBC news channel as the events and shocking images unfold.

I don't sleep well. I think about those poor, innocent people and their families caught up in the bloodshed. I swing into Morrisons at Gamston and collect my suit, as I need it for a two day conference in Birmingham next week. I wolf down a full English, as I'm on the sauce with blog legend Trumpy Bolton today.

Bolton has just polished off some crumpets and cheese, accompanied with a bottle of Brakespear's Gold, as I knock on his front door, it's 9:45am.  Graham Norton kicks off with 'Sometimes' by Erasure, as we head towards to town - I immediately turn it off before Trumpy blows a gasket.

The last time I heard from the great man was a few weeks ago at 10:30pm on a Saturday evening, when he phoned me from his Southampton hotel room to tell me after a 12 hour bender that 'Jamie Vardy was having a party.'

Ms Moon is piloting today. Trumpy is introduced to her. As ever, he is the perfect gentleman. He makes a beeline towards Murphy the budgie. They whistle to one another and talk some waffle. We head up towards Junction 29 of the M1. Bolsover Castle is sat on top of a hill in the distance. I'm toing and froing on where to go today. Shaw Lane's FA Trophy game was the original choice, but it's high up in Barnsley, and exposed to the weather. Curzon Ashton, FC United of Manchester and Stockport County act as back up, with Lancashire expecting a battering according to those muppets at the Met Office.

I'm held accountable for us taking a wrong turning, despite clear instructions from the Garmin. Trumpy nicknames me Sat Nav. We pull into the car park of the Elm Tree in Elmton, just south of Clowne. Trumpy downs a couple of Robinson's Dizzy Blondes. Shaw Lane and Matlock fans will be astounded to hear that Trumpy Bolton's sole mission in life is to try and drink in one pub in every town and village in England, Wales and Scotland. He has pursued this hobby for over 35 years. He has a dog-eared old atlas with all place names highlighted off. I've asked him to leave it to me in his will.

I've had the thumbs up from Shaw Lane on twitter, the game is confirmed as on. It will save a trip up to Manchester. I clock a boozer in the Good Pub Guide on the outskirts of Barnsley, close to the Trans Pennine Trail. The Strafford Arms is a pretty stone built pub, with a roaring log fire. We plump for Farmer's Blonde with some rump steak and beef sandwiches. Shalamar's 'I Can Make You Feel Good' is on the jukebox.

We're soon turning into Shaw Lane. The Club were only formed in 2012, and have had a meteoric rise up the Non League Pyramid. I notice a van parked up with Aquaforce Plumbing Services emblazoned on it. I saw Shaw Lane put a shift in at Walsall Wood on their FA Vase run last season. Notable people from Barnsley include: Michael Parkinson, Dickie Bird, Seth Armstrong and a boat load of footballers including John Stones and Mick McCarthy.

Trumpy pays us in on the gate at £5 per pop. The programme is a cracker for £1. He is cringing a few moments later, ducking behind his programme, when Sticky Palms has his photo taken with the Duck mascot. The Rolling Stones are on the PA system, 'Paint it Black' is the song of the day.

Bolton is soon tucking into a few cans of Strongbow dark fruit cider. Ms Moon and I opt for a Nescafe coffee. The bar, set up on trestle tables, is doing a roaring trade in pasties and sausage rolls. The Gladiators of Matlock have brought a large following with them. The players emerge from the dressing room to 'Let's Go' by  Calvin Harris.

An impeccable one minutes silence is held in driving rain, beneath slate-grey skies. for the victims of the atrocities in Paris last night. The first half is bloody awful. Both sides persist in long range passing on a squelching surface. Neither 'keeper is tested in the dullest half I've seen in ages, as Bolton begins his shuttle run to and from the bar. Shaw Lane's captain is former Nottingham Forest and Hibernian midfielder Matt Thornhill. He played over 30 times for the Reds, but somehow finds himself playing at this level at the age of 27 years old.

I'm moody and morose at the break, this game has 0-0 written all over it. Sticky P doesn't do 0-0s. I've not seen one in four years. Ms Moon and Trumpy Bolton taunt me that I'll be walking home if the game ends goalless. Trumpy confides to Ms Moon and I that he once had the hots for Rita Fairclough, back in the day in Coronation Street.

The second half is a classic, as both teams up their game. Matlock have clearly had a rollicking in the changing room. They score a beautifully executed goal through the game's best player Nicky Travis, who has been immense in the Gladiator's engine room.

Shaw Lane rattle the woodwork, before Steven Istead smashes home an equaliser. Trumpy is boogying with the 'Shaw Lane Baby Squad' to the Real Thing's 'Can You Feel the Force' as the PA guy ups the ante. Back come Matlock. Skipper, Danny Holland restores their lead on the hour. There has been a goal blitz, three in eight minutes to be precise. There's no sign of Bolton. He's necking his fifth tin of cider in the warmth of the clubhouse. Trumpy is wobbling a bit now. He claims to have spotted Jeremy Corbyn amongst the crowd of over 200.

Matlock rattle the upright, before the referee finally calls time. There is a sense of relief from the visitors.

Attendance: 232

Man of the Match: Nicky Travis

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Heanor Town 1-2 Sporting Khalsa

We're driving back to Colwick from Stoke Bardolph. The mighty Clifton All Whites have completed the mother of all comebacks at Real United.  At 4-1 down, with 15 minutes remaining, they looked dead in the water. Tosh 'n Steve will be on the sauce at the Ferry Boat Inn. My car suddenly loses power, I manage to pull into a farm lane. I turn the engine over, again and again. She's having none of it. Bloody hell, I've got a make-up artist booked in for 6:30pm.

Those tossers, Green Flag, are saying they are going to be two hours. Darkness descends on Stoke Lane. Taxis refuse to pick us up, as they need an address. A man and wife are walking up the lane with a German Shepherd dog, and three English Pointers. He very kindly hooks up a tow-rope.  We nervously negotiate a ten minute terror ride up the Colwick Road. The guy won't accept a gift from me. What a lovely bloke he is. Piers' Halloween Party is a resounding success. Boy, does he know how to put on a show. It all gets messy, later, in the Riverbank Bar, where we party into the early hours.

I'm without a car for three days. I have to cancel business meetings in Ipswich and Cambridge. This wouldn't have happened when I had 'Sally Gunnell' (Citroen Saxa) - she might not have been much to look at, but what a bloody good runner.

Logistics dictate that The Taxman and I are unable to attend Dunkirk v Heanor Town on Tuesday evening. The final score was 0-10 (ten). I get my usual fix of under 19 football on Thursday. The boys are on fire. We wallop Long Eaton 7-0. I wouldn't usually crow about it, but some of the comments I hear coming from their dugout are disgusting and disturbing.

Both clubs from Nottingham are involved in prime-time televised games on Friday evening. The performances are contrasting. Forest play D***y off the park. Notts County put in a gutless performance at Northern Premier League team Salford City.

I sleep like a baby on Friday evening. Murphy the budgie turns his back on me in the morning, as I flick the kettle on for a brew. The mardy little sod asks for the radio to be turned on. It's gone 10:00am. He's missed Brian Matthew's 60s show. He gets a rollicking off Sticky, as he's gnawed his way through half his Wilko's honey bar. I only put it in his cage last night, they're meant to last a week, the greedy little sod.

The Trews (Notts County's owners) will be putting up the for sale signs soon. Ray Trew achieved his wealth through recruitment. Sadly, there is little evidence of this skill set at Meadow Lane. He's hired 12 managers in six years. Even Newton and Ridley can't top that at the Rovers Return.

I've had my beady eye on a top of the table clash in the West Midlands Regional League between Cradley Town and Shawbury. The weather chart has been a sea of blue all week over Birmingham. The game is hosed off later in the morning.

Ms Moon is piloting the Freelander out towards Junction 26 of the M1. I have a pub to chalk off in the village of Awsworth.  The Gate Inn is situated at the end of a cul-de-sac. It's a friendly red bricked Victorian free house, with a cosy bar and coal fire. A welcoming youth from behind the bar pulls me a pint of Pretender. He knocks me up a massive cheese and onion cob. Ms Moon says she wont be talking to me for the rest of the day, as my breath stinks. She mentions this when inhaling on a Silk Cut Silver cigarette.

We pitch up in Heanor market square. There's not much doing to be honest. I'm gutted to see a new Turkish barber is opening up on Monday. I've not had a shave today, so that would have come in handy. I get my haircut further down the street by a Southampton fan. He waxes lyrical about Matt Le-Tissier and Jimmy Case, whilst I nod off in the chair. He's a proper Edward Scissorhands.

Heanor sits on the Notts and Derbyshire border in bandit country. I guess the PA guy is a Tricky Tree fan, as he plays 'Hi Ho We Hate D***y' and 'You've Lost That Loving Feeling.' Nigel Clough and Nigel Pearson have both represented the club.

Its my third visit to the Town Ground. They're proper folk up here. I love them to bits. It's £5 on the gate and £1 for the programme of the season. It's brilliantly put together by editor Tony Squires. I snap up a couple of raffle tickets. Ms Moon treats herself to steak pie, mushy peas and gravy. We stroll around the ground, before deciding to position ourselves towards the end to the 18 yard box that Sporting Khalsa will attack.

I'm taken aback that there is no minutes silence for Remembrance Day. The tempo of the game is fast and furious on a fantastic rain-soaked playing surface.  Both teams rattle the woodwork. Heanor are top of the table. Sporting Khalsa are playing catch-up due to a successful FA Cup run.

Khalsa's manager is giving the referee and linesman dog's abuse. He calls them both cowards, as decisions don't go his way. I ask the Khalsa fans if he has gone 'Big Time' following the Cup run - "No, he's always like that" is the reply. The Heanor fans take the rise. There's no flies on them.

There's a bit of a commotion on 20 minutes when I chase an alehouse clearance that has bounced over the advertising hoardings.  I've scuffed my dog-shit coloured best shoes from Dolcis on the concrete. Folk tell you straight up here. A wag in the crowd shouts at the Heanor winger: " You're not Barca Fecking Lona, get the ball into the box."

Ms Moon likes Khalsa 5 jacket Tesfa Robinson; she's got the hots for him. 'He's a good organiser and talker.' She says he should be captain. He wellies the ball into the back of the net, following a goalmouth scramble.

In the second half, Khalsa's Craig Bannister is sent racing away down the right wing, he pings a cross to the back stick, where middleweight boxer Matt Martin sends a bullet header into the roof of the net. Heanor score a consolation goal with five minutes remaining, which causes a few anxious moments in the Khalsa defence. They manage to hang on for a deserved win.

As we exit the ground the players are entering the tunnel. To a man, the Heanor supporters applaud the visitors off the pitch. I'm not ashamed to admit that it brings a tear to my eye, as it does now, as I write this. Non League; I bloody love it.

Man of the Match: Tim Jackson (Khalsa 3 Jacket)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Real United 4-4 Clifton All Whites

It's Monday evening, and I'm waiting with anticipation for the first round draw of the FA Cup. Salford City, FC United of Manchester and a rejuvenated Lincoln City are teams of interest to me. Notts County are drawn away to Salford.They'll pocket £67,000 from TV coverage and can also expect a 2000 following with the visit of Portsmouth to Meadow Lane this Saturday. Their manager, 'Louis Van Gaal' will be able to add to his 40 man squad, the biggest in League Two. FC United will pit their wits against Chesterfield, whilst Lincoln will face a 500 mile round trip to Sussex to face Whitehawk of the the National South league, if they can overcome Tranmere Rovers at Sincil Bank on Tuesday evening.

Oh where to go on Saturday ? I miss my friend Finley the rabbit. He's holed up in his hutch in Keyworth. He was nine years old on August 28th. I still snigger at his crap score predictions over the years. I ring him up for a natter. We chuckle about the time he predicted a 4-4 draw for Real United v Holbrook St Michael's a few seasons ago.. I promised him a huge bag of carrots, that day, from Londis, if he was on the money. The visitors made it 5-4 in the 95th minute of the game. Finley's blinds were shut early that night. I decide to re-visit Real United again this Saturday. They're taking on the legendary Clifton All Whites, where so many Premiership stars first started out in junior football.

The Taxman and I call in on Greenwich Avenue on Tuesday evening to watch Basford United v Newcastle Town. Chances are few and far between. We have some banter with former Nottinghamshire Groundsman of the Year, Neil Swift. I spot a blade of grass missing on his billiard table playing surface. Clifton Under 19s are battered by a team from Rotherham two days later. Sometimes I really hate football.

I can't wait for the weekend to begin. I meet Ms Moon for a drinky poo in the Cross Keys on Weekday Cross in Nottingham city centre, before strolling up to Edin's Deli Cafe on Broad Street, opposite the Broadway Cinema. We're at a Halloween Party in Stanley Road, West Bridgford tomorrow. I have to be back for a 6:00pm appoinment with a make-up artist.

It's been a long week. I don't rise until 9:45am on Saturday. Murphy is crying like a little baby, because he's still got the towel draped over his cage, and has missed most of the Brian Matthew's 60s radio show. A bit of the Four Seasons cheers up my feathered friend. He's soon sinking back into a deep depression when that bungling fool Graham Norton spins Olly Murs new single. Murphy and Murs have previous.

We give the house a Mrs Doubtfire two hour once-over, before retiring for lunch up at the Elwes Arms in Bakersfield.  It's an old haunt of mine, that I used to visit when following the Keyworth Tavern pool team, back in the day. Marvin Gaye's Motown classic 'What's Going On' is on Tony Blackburn's Pick of the Pops. I shed a tear that Murphy will be riding on his swing listening to it, crystal clear on his new DAB radio.

Team news has been leaked to me from the Clifton camp. Sweeping changes have been made, as this is a game they can ill-afford to lose in a somewhat disappointing campaign so far. We pull up in a nature reserve car park in the village of Stoke Bardolph, on the banks of the River Trent. It's a beautiful day for messing around on the river.

Real United's Stoke Lane ground is adjacent to one of those dreadful two meals for £10 Fayre and Square pubs. I quite fancy half an hour in the ball pit of the Wacky Warehouse, though. We troop up a narrow path which leads up to the ground. The NSL is Step 7 in the football pyramid. In 10 years of groundhopping, I've never had to part with cash to watch this League. "£3 each" says a chirpy chap on the gate. I don't mind, of course, but do quibble it. "Take it up with Roger," is what I'm told.

Roger Henry is the Executive Officer at Real United. I remember him starting the club up in the corner of the Forest Recreation Ground (Goose Fair Site) a few years ago, when I worked for the Pies. He's a good lad, Roger is, and he's bigger than me, so I don't mention the admission charge. Roger received a Point of Light award, in the summer, from the Prime Minister, for his work in the community.

We bump into South Normanton groundhopper Scott Ward. There's plenty of craic about the Midlands football scene. Clifton manager James 'Tosh' Turner walks across the pitch to greet us. I was going to tick-off West Bridgford today, but thought that WB might struggle to raise a side as all the players would be with their wives in the Marks and Spencer Food Hall, or the endless cafes on the Avenue in Bread 'n Lard Island.

The game has a great tempo to begin with, as both teams look to attack. I notice some fool at the gate with shorts on. He is going to be unhappy at coughing up £3 - it's White Van Man. He's got a runny nose, and is a tad under the weather.

Real attack at break-neck speed. Clifton are left short at the back, a slide-rule cross from the right is swept home by the impressive 10 jacket. Clifton equalize on half-time with a looping header from Martin Ball.

We're in Rolie's Tea Hut at the break. Roger is rustling up some coffee, which Ms Moon marks with a 7 out of 10. I can hear Real manager Gary Hayward blow-torching paint off the dressing room walls. The language is colourful, to say the least. I don't understand his aggression, as his team have shaded an entertaining first half.

Clifton's management duo of Tosh 'n Steve must have given their half-time instructions in Scottish, as they are at sixes and sevens in the second half. Real race into a 4-1 lead. I can't keep up on twitter postings. White Van Man departs with the game out of Clifton's reach.

Sam Leggitt bags what appears to be a consolation goal. Martin Ball rifles home a free-kick with a minute remaining. Sensationally Danny Blanchard blasts home an equalizer, with effectively the last kick of the game. Tosh 'n Steve do the Highland Fling. Hayward can't look them in the eye, as he sportingly shakes their hands. He'll be hurling more stray football boots than Sir Alex Ferguson.

Man of the Match: Real United 10 jacket.