Sunday, April 3, 2016
Northampton Sileby Rangers 1-1 Holbeach United
I pick up the Good Pub Guide and start flicking through the pages. The Althorp Coaching Inn in the picture postcard village of Great Brington is in the main section and on further investigation looks a pearler. I'm astonished to read that the great-great-great grandfather of former USA President George Washington, Lawrence Washington, is buried in a vault in the church. It's going to be another Saturday lunchtime snooping around a churchyard.
The week flies by, as I take annual leave on Tuesday. I'm stood on the touchline at Nottingham Forest's Nigel Doughty Academy chattering away to Leicestershire groundhopper Rob Campion. I notice a chubby lad up top with a ridiculous barnet. It's Tricky Tree striker Britt Assombalonga. He'll need to wear a few bin liners in pre-season to shed the excess weight after a 12 month lay-off. He scores a peach of a goal with a rocket of a shot from just outside the penalty area.
I meet my boys at tea-time in the 'World Renowned Trent Bridge Inn.' It's the most expensive Wetherspoons in Europe. Sticky Palms is looking forward to tucking into his £20 CAMRA discount vouchers. A pleasant evening is finished off by sinking a pint of Castle Rock's Elsie Mo in Jessie Boot's old dispensary in the recently refurbished Embankment on the north side of the river.
There's just time to nip down Daleside Rd on Saturday morning to fetch Murphy Palmer the budgie a honey bar from Pets Are Us. I have a tearful moment in the shop as I walk past some bunnies that resemble recently deceased blog legend Finley Palmer. The honey bar is an extortionate £1.69. Old fat lad can take his time pecking on this one.
As luck would have it the church front door is open, a Chubb alarm engineer is in deep conversation with a church warden. I seek permission to enter the church and take a photo of the vault in which Washington's great-great-great grandfather is buried. Permission is granted unlike last week when some grumpy WBA fan declined my request to take a snap of his scruffy mongrel for the Non League Dogs website.
We are made very welcome at this dog-friendly 16th Century coaching inn. I have a pint of Phipps NBC Indian pale ale from a local brewery as we enjoy a baguette and some home-cooked chips. We stretch our legs around this charming village. Ms Moon points out there are no Spencers named in the 30 soldiers who died in the First World War on the War Memorial. We stroll past the local post office which was once owned by the mother of radio disc jockey Jo Whiley, who grew up in the village. I nearly get wiped out as I cross the road by a cyclist who is wearing a Northampton Saints training top.
Fernie Fields is a 20 minute drive away. We seemed to have driven up the wrong entrance, so abandon our vehicle on some posh housing estate. We slip into the ground through the players' entrance without paying. I wander over to the turnstile on the far side and cough up £13 for two entries and an excellent programme. I nip to the loo, which is adjacent to the changing rooms, which are pumping out some serious tunes.
The ground is charming. I admire the neatly trimmed privet hedge that runs behind the far goal and along the farthest touchline. The pitch is like a billiard table, with a well manicured playing surface.
We chance upon a silver-haired gentleman in salmon pink trousers. Pete, denies being a groundhopper, despite going to three games a week. The guy is well animated and reminds of a thespian actor.
We position ourselves inbetween the two dugouts. The Holbeach 4 jacket, Ollie Gale, is the stepson of one of my best mates, Ackers, who occasionally joins us on the groundhop.
There's no real tempo to the first half. I'd have expected Holbeach to bust a gut as they chase down the leading pack with games in hand, they play with little urgency. Sileby's left back can launch a throw-in longer and flatter than Rory Delap. They fail to exploit this, when the best tactic would be to play down the channels and squeeze the full backs.
The visitors take the lead on 12 minutes with a superb finish from Sean Coughlan, who deftly lobs the ball over an onrushing 'keeper after an outrageous first touch. Ms Moon shouts up the hot drinks at the break as I get gassing to three elderly gentlemen. Princess Diana soon crops up in the conversation. It's fair to say her younger brother is not popular in these parts. Most folk are certain she is buried in the Spencer Vault in the church and not on the island on the Althorp Estate.
Holbeach are bloody awful in the second half, barely fashioning a chance. Sileby equalise with a superb header from a left footed inswinging corner. The referee waves away claims for a penalty as the Sileby forward falls to the ground after a heavy challenge. He leaves the field with what looks like a dislocated or broken finger. There's no qualified physio on either bench, so it looks like a trip to accident and emergency for the inconsolable striker.
Man of the Match: Dominic Okanu