Sunday, March 13, 2016
AFC Bridgnorth 0-0 Shawbury United
We're hurtling through the grounds of the Abbey. After two miles there's no sign of a pub. I grab the Good Pub Guide out of the glove compartment. You idiot Sticky, it's just around the corner from the Abbey.
I spin the car round and drive back the way I came in, ignoring all the 'No Exit' signs. Dog walkers, ramblers and car drivers frantically wave their arms and shake their fists in anger as they scatter in different directions. I know I'm going the wrong way, but I need to get to the pub. We feel like Bonnie and Clyde in the getaway car. If Alan Turner, the Estates Manager, catches me going the wrong way he might issue me a ticket, or a box set back catalogue of Emmerdale Farm DVDs. I neck a pint of Marston's at what turns out to be a bloody gastro pub - it shouldn't even be an entry in the Good Pub Guide.
I don't venture out much during the week. I have a business meeting in Shrewsbury, but that's about it, as I recover from my trip to Ireland. I watch a disturbing but brilliantly moving documentary on BBC2 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Dunblane School Massacre, where 15 pupils aged 5 years old and their teacher were gunned down by cold-blooded murderer Thomas Hamilton. The poor, haunted headmaster relives the day. How can he have continued to live a normal life? I'm not ashamed to admit to have shed a tear or two during the heartbreaking documentary.
My mood has lightened, it's Friday evening. Ms Moon and I share a few drinks and some chicken wings in the basement of Bunk, a cocktail bar, on Stoney Street, in the thriving Lace Market area in Nottingham city centre.
Murphy the budgie is in a sombre mood, sat on his perch listening to Space Oddity by David Bowie on the Brian Matthew's 60s show. I never quite get why Brian has to record the show. Surely the 87 year old veteran DJ gets up for a pee, like I do most mornings at 5am. All he has to do is jump in a chauffeur driven Limo to the studios of Radio 2.
I was all set for a trip to Scunthorpe with Trumpy Bolton to see Bottesford Town v Glasshoughton Welfare in the NCEL. Trumpy has to pull out on Thursday evening, as he has to pick up Mrs TB from the hospital. It's the stage of the season where you need to be watching tense promotion fixtures.
I spot a top of the table clash in the West Midlands Regional League Premier Division between Bridgnorth and Shawbury. Should be plenty of action in this one. We avoid the M6 like the plague, and drive down the A5 to Cannock, before picking up the M54 towards Telford. We're parked up in the High Town just after midday.
Bridgnorth is in a town situated on the Severn Valley, with a population of 12,000. It is said that papers found from 1941 suggested that had Adolf Hitler been successful in Germany's invasion of Great Britain in the Second World War, he would have made Bridgnorth his personal HQ.
I've heard the Old Castle can get busy. I get a tab going and order up a pint of HPA from the Wye Valley Brewery. This low-beamed and open plan bar is bustling with customers. The bar staff are already turning folk away. The Red Hot Chilli Peppers are on the i-Pod shuffle. Sticky opts for his old favourite of a Brie and bacon baguette.
We've plenty of time on our hands. We take a stroll through the castle grounds, admiring the War Memorial monument and the old Norman Tower, which leans to one side, as it does in Pisa. We jump on the funicular railway, and enjoy a stroll down the river bank.
Bridgnorth's Crown Meadow ground is only five minutes away. It's adjacent to a skate park and children's adventure playground. It's £4 on the gate and £1 for a programme, that's light on content.
Ms Moon dives in to what looks to be a relatively new clubhouse. I take a peek at the ground. A seated stand runs along the nearest touchline, the dug outs are to the far side, with a covered stand behind the nearest goal. I'm alarmed by the amount of litter and rubbish that is strewn amongst the undergrowth. There's polystyrene cups, cans, crisp packets and sweet wrappers piled up. It would be proactive, maybe, to organise a litter pick with some of the junior sides to smarten the place up a bit?
The pitch looks tired and battered from the recent elements. I flick through the programme and notice that former Wolves and Northern Ireland full back Mark Clyde is the manager at AFC Bridgnorth. They are chasing down today's visitors Shawbury United. The old Bridgnorth club was formed in 1949, but having been besieged by financial difficulties folded in 2013.
We stand on the far side between the two dugouts. Behind us are a row of bungalows. Neighbours are either chattering over the fence or pottering around the garden. An old guy leans on his fence drawing hard on a cigarette whilst the teams complete their warm-up.
The standard isn't great, I guess it's Step 6. A visiting substitute sparks up a cigarette as the referee whistles for kick-off. The Shawbury dugout seem particularly tense and unpleasant. The players are high with testosterone. Bridgnorth's No.4 is cautioned by the entertaining Geordie referee for a late tackle. Some moron sat on the visitor's bench shouts out "Send the Gyppo off." They are reprimanded and warned about their conduct by the official. He won't tolerate racism.
There's no sign of a goal, although the forwards for both teams look lively. Lexie, a Siberian Husky dog has rocked up at the game. It's far more entertaining watching her rolling around in the grass and playing with the children. I scroll down the 'Live Scores' on my phone. It's another standard Saturday for the football-watching public of Nottingham. Both Forest and County are losing, and have failed to trouble the scorers.
The game is awful in the second half. No-one has the ability to drift past a player or put in a decent cross, corner or set-piece. I haven't done a 0-0 since Hinckley v Luton four years ago. That night a boy missed five gilt-edged chances, three of them ended up in the car park. Burnley ended up paying £6 million for him in the summer. He's already bagged 22 goals for Sean Dyche's Clarets this season.
There's no Andre Gray on show here though. Shawbury's No.7 who has been looking for trouble from the word go lunges in and reacts to some handbags. He is quite rightly sent off. Shawbury actually finish the stronger as Bridgnorth fail to capitalize on having the extra man.
Man of the Match: Lexie, the Siberian Husky
Attendance: 125 (Head-Count)