Sunday, September 17, 2017

Bradwell 4-3 Bakewell Town

I'm still holed up in the luxurious 7 bedroomed Grade II listed farmhouse in sleepy Oxfordshire. The lads have packed up their sticks and gone off golfing, leaving me the run of the ranch. I couldn't sleep with excitement that Burnley v Crystal Palace are on Sky. I'm slouched on the sofa drifting off to sleep when the doorbell rings. Hells teeth Carruthers, it's the owner, he must be on a random spot check of the joint. Phew, he finally admits that there's a leak in one of the 5 toilets that he wants to inspect - it takes us 5 minutes to locate the said lavatory.

It's 4pm and the lads are playing out the final holes on the back nine in the Baker Cup 2017, as I open a can of Dead Pony craft ale. I call Ms Moon back in Nottingham to see how things are. 'The Princess' coughs up that she's watching the film Fatal Attraction. Loyal readers will remember I once had a rabbit called Finley. He had a mate called Thumper who was well known for acting roles in Winnie the Pooh and Watership Down. He was spotted by a Hollywood scout in the latter movie and was snapped up for a cameo role in Fatal Attraction. Finley said he'd not seen Thumper since his Hollywood debut and had presumed he'd gone all big time in Los Angeles. I hadn't the heart to let the wee man know of Thumper's grisly demise in a pot full of boiling water.

I've managed to come down with a chill after the high jinks of the weekend. I give West Bridgford v Kimberley MW the swerve and suffer Emmerdale Farm in silence. I scour the net looking for a weekend fixture with a difference. I'm intrigued to see what the Hope Valley League in Derbyshire's Peak District has to offer. Gerry the groundhopper from the Onion Bag blog has tipped me the wink of a few good ground visits over the cattle grid. Top of the table Bradwell v Bakewell Town looks a tasty fixture. We could have a stroll around Bakewell, before heading up High Peak and ticking a pub off in the new 2018 Good Pub Guide that Ms Moon very kindly put herself out to buy me last weekend, after an anonymous tip-off from a mystery shopper in Waterstones bookshop in Witney, Oxfordshire.

It's Friday evening and I'm emotionally drained after a tough and demanding week. I had to travel down 'the Smoke again', which is worrying in itself, with the threat of terrorism - a point reinforced with the tragic events taking place at Parsons Green tube station in Fulham, west London. It later unfolds that casualties could have been on a larger scale had the bomb been detonated correctly. We unwind on Friday evening at the splendid Old Volunteer real ale pub. I enjoy a couple of house beers from the Flipside brewery before returning to base.

We've settled in nicely at the new house in residential Carlton. There was a murder six days in, a seven iron away, which unnerved us. The neighbours are pleasant and sociable enough. Our crib is adjacent to a primary school. It's got up my nose that the flipping school alarm keeps going off in the evening and during the night, with no apparent rush from the janitor/caretaker off the Hong Kong Phooey cartoon show, to attend the scene. I snap on Friday evening following half a bottle of Douro Portuguese wine on special offer at Morrisons at £6 a bottle.

Obviously, it's not an emergency, but surely it will give the Nottingham police a break from murders, muggings and stabbings. I punch out 150 to give a friendly police call handler the heads up. She's not too chuffed to hear Sticky's dulcet tones. I'm rudely asked if I've bothered to inform the Headmaster of the reoccurring faulty alarm. After a short, sharp, curt reply I'm accused of being aggressive. They ought to take some public relation lessons off PC Ventriss when he answers the Aidensfield Police Station switchboard, the miserable sods.

I make a strong cup of coffee on Saturday morning, it's not my normal tipple, but once again I'm sleep-deprived. There's time for a couple of toasted slices of Warburtons fruit loaf, before we head out of the door and up to Derbyshire. Les, at Bradwell FC, has very kindly confirmed that the game is on and the pitch is cut

Ms Moon has got Graham Norton on the DAB radio. I feel the red mist rising again. One TV show a week and a three-hour slot on Radio 2 on Saturday morning earns him £0.85m per annum. I could phone the Met Police to complain, but they've got it all on at the minute.

We exit the M1 at junction 28 and head into the Peak District via the A38. The bustling market town of Bakewell is the first pit stop of the day. I've been banging on all week about wolfing down a slice of Bakewell Tart at a local cafe - it doesn't flatter to deceive and is dispatched down the cakehole with consummate ease. Ms Moon has a spending spree at the pastry counter - we'll be living on puff pastry homemade steak and ale pie indefinitely.

The Bulls Head is near to the village green in Foolow. It has a flagstoned bar and Edwardian pictures dotted around the place. We're the youngest folk in here by a country mile. I'm still stuffed from the Bakewell experience so opt for some smoked salmon sandwiches smothered in cream cheese, whilst Ms Moon tucks into jacket potato and chili.

There's a whistle-stop tour of Eyam, the village where the bubonic plague began in 1665, when a flea-infested bundle of cloth arrived at the local tailor from London. It is said that the plague accounted for 260 villagers out of 380 inhabitants.

We park up opposite the AA five-star Samuel Fox Country Inn. I'd kept this one under the radar as I'm not feeling that flush at the minute. Ms Moon can't help clocking it, as it's right next to the ground. Samuel Fox was born in the village and is the inventor of the umbrella frame and the founder of the Stocksbridge steelworks. The views up into the Peaks are a joy to behold. This is the lowest level of football that I've ever blogged. I look forward to the tales of the unexpected - or so I thought.

League leaders Bradwell are warming up - I use the term loosely. The visitors from Bakewell keep the hosts waiting, ambling out of the dressing room at 2pm on the dot. A local wag pipes up "Here they come, bloody Barcelona." I detect some acrimony and cynicism in the air. It's not long before the bitter and spiteful atmosphere clouds the game. Bakewell are sporting an Inter Milan replica strip. They must brew the Bass shandy strong around here as this is lost on our beer-hazed wag. Bradwell take an early lead with a goal out of context with this level of football. A left-footed free-kick clipped into the box is guided expertly home by the forward.

We've been disappointed by a few remarks heard from the substitutes and 'home supporters.' Nothing could have prepared us for the vile, personal unprovoked insult aimed at a guy running the line for Bakewell, who is a member of the management team. "Put your tampon back in mate" shouts a sewer-mouthed sub at the linesman. I would have stepped in, but we're determined to enjoy our afternoon and choose to wander across the other side of the park, away from this moron who has done well to squeeze on the sub's shirt, although I'll guess he'll be sleeping in it.

Bradwell are 2-0 up at the break and appear to be coasting. Their Achilles heel is their ability to fall out with anyone, including their brethren. It's wonderful karma to see Bakewell peg them back to 2-2 and then 3-3. Sadly, for the neutral, they run out of steam with Bradwell snatching victory after sloppy defending from a set piece.

Attendance: 35 Headcount

Man of the Match: Bakewell Tart and Cream.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

North Leigh 5-0 Barnstaple Town

It's 8pm on Saturday 2nd September. I'm leaning with both elbows on the bar, head in hands, trying to get served at the 'World Famous' Trent Bridge Inn, next to Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club. It's a Wetherspoons 'professional drinking' establishment. Tonight I'll give it my best shot as Ms Moon and a group of friends celebrate Roberto's (the Italian Stallion) birthday - he's a bigger legend in Nottingham than Robin Hood, because of his tireless, devoted charity work.

The back room is packed to the rafters. What's poppin' fresh? Christ on a bike, I'd totally forgot it's T20 Finals Day at Warwickshire's Edgbaston ground. I hope the Notts lads can get one over irritating Sky presenter Nick Knight, as he has made unnecessary and disparaging remarks about the Outlaws over the years.

Bloody hell, my youngest lad and his cronies have pitched up. They're sinking scoop after scoop and getting a bit raucous as Sticky's favourite, Samit Patel, digs Notts out of a hole. Skipper, Dan Christian, tees off, blasting 24 runs off 8 balls. The Outlaws post a respectable 190.

Harry Gurney (who I have no faith in) finally steps up to the plate after a below average tournament. He silences the Hollis Stand with outstanding figures of 4-17 to bring home the bacon and leave the Birmingham Bears and Sky buffoon Nick Knight with sore heads.

I have a little trot out on Sunday lunchtime around the Castle area of Nottingham, partaking in a few sociable ones in an attempt to blow away the cobwebs.  I knock up the Witton Albion v South Shields blog and post it on a few north-eastern football message boards. I get flamed by the Mariners' fans because I said they were from Newcastle (11 miles away) - one even has the brass neck to call me a 'southern t**t.'

I'm holed up in a Marriott Hotel in Glasgow for two days during the week at a sales conference. It gives me the chance to catch up with some work colleagues. There's over 100 folk in the conferencing suite. During the day we have a 'lucky dip' spot where someone is randomly chosen to go up on stage for 15 minutes to present a strategic account plan to their peers. Need I say more, I'm first out of the hat. It's bloody terrifying. I'd have sunk a Cognac if the chuffing bar had been open. The big boss takes the time out to congratulate me, so I can't have been too bad.

Blimey Charlie, I've put some miles in this week. Friday is spent in Leominster, in deepest Herefordshire. I spend a horrific three hours snarled up in traffic travelling to Oxfordshire for the lads' weekend away ... aka 'golfing holiday.' The M5 is a pig. I rock up at the ranch at 6:30pm. Rich Collier from Oslo and Dave Pilgrim from Manchester are waiting for the Asda van. The rest of the boys are en route from Stanton on-the-Wolds Golf Club after the Keyworth CC Golf Day, which raises vital funds for the Club.

We take a walk up the road to The Woodman Inn in North Leigh, where coincidentally I'm groundhopping tomorrow. The three of us are 'Hank Marvin.' We're met with a sign swinging on the pub door in the gentle breeze which says 'kitchen closed until further notice.' I shout up some ale to soften the blow and engage with a couple of blokes crowded around the bar who've had a few sherbets. A guy asks if I'm from Barnstaple. When I reply I'm from Nottingham he calls me a 'northern monkey.' "That's great" I laugh, "better than a southern t**t.'

The rest of the boys have arrived. We hit the town of Witney where Tory toff David Cameron was MP for 20 years and former Middlesbrough and Oxford United midfielder Robbie Mustoe was born. We tuck into some snap at Good Pub Guide entry the Hollybush on Corn Street. Wetherspoons is given the swerve as the night gets messy.

Poor old Beef's credit card is dropped into a pint pot full of lager as the schoolboy pranks crank up. There's a 'Gincident' in the local kebab shop at the fag end of the night. I would like to say that we're all saved by the long arm of the law as one of 'our lot' keeps the streets of Nottingham safe and sound for a living, sadly it's an epic fail. Pc's Rowan and Ventress off Heartbeat would have mopped up in no time.

I gingerly descend the spiral staircase as the smell of fried bacon and sausages waft in the air.  Five hours kip is not the one. In the light of day, the Grade II listed farmhouse with 8 acres of land and 7 bedrooms looks a beauty. Deer roam the land while bunny rabbits hop in the garden. 'Big Bear Baker' has negotiated a cracking deal as it's £5,000 per week in peak season.

The lads head off golfing despite the adverse weather warning. I head back into Witney as black clouds loom over the market town. First port of call is Waterstones. I love browsing through all the books and then downloading them onto my Kindle. I tip Ms Moon the wink that the 2018 Good Pub Guide has been published.

I take shelter in a shopping centre as the heavens open - the lads will be getting a dousing but will have all the clobber to cope with it. I queue up at a local delicatessen for a spot of lunch, before returning to the aftermath of 'Kebabgate.' I was fully expected the crime scene to be sealed off, with coppers on all fours rummaging around for any incriminating evidence. I nip into The Horseshoes for a swift pint. A local has had a sniff of the barmaid's apron and has his car keys confiscated by a member of the bar staff.

North Leigh FC is only five minutes up the road. I drive up a track that turns into woodland. I come out into a clearing. An old, in disrepair green-painted clubhouse, is perched on top of a slope. Music blares out of a large marquee where a wedding reception is taking place.

It's £10 on the gate for entry, programme and raffle ticket. Today's visitors Barnstaple have made a 320-mile round trip. Heavens to Betsy, what a beautiful ground we have here. It's lined with trees and has quirky features. I take a pew in the George Hazell Stand as rain hammers down onto the green corrugated roof. Neither team has taken a point from four games. It has a whiff of a 0-0 about it.

I'd already been pre-warned in the boozer last night about the idiosyncrasies of North Leigh manager John Brough. The Ilkeston-born defender was at the Pies as a kid before making over 250 appearances for Cheltenham, Shrewsbury and Newport. His voice bellows around the ground. "You two, that's shite" he roars at his hapless defence.

Somehow, despite his negativity and vitriol, North Leigh build their confidence. By the break they are 2-0 up following some haphazard defending and Kamikaze refereeing. As I come out of the toilet I overhear Barnstaple's manager's team-talk. He reckons they can still win the game despite being unable to hit a cow's arse with a banjo - not on your Nelly son.

There's a pleasant surprise in store for Sticky P on a facebook notification. Ms Moon has only gone down town and bagged the new pub guide - if Carlsberg did girlfriends.

There's a commotion at the break as Baxter the cockapoo has escaped his leash. I chance upon the little monkey destroying a plastic cup that has blown its way from the stand. I hear a committee member complain incessantly about the referee charging £111 match fee including expenses. He has a point though as the blithering idiots at the FA have deployed him from out of Tamworth.

North Leigh run riot in the second half. If it wasn't for the visitor's 'keeper it would have been double figures. John Brough still isn't satisfied. He appears angst and agitated - having a set to with the Barnstaple 6 jacket who looks to double up as a Devon nightclub doorman.

It's all handshakes at the final whistle as the insults are forgotten and an enjoyable afternoon comes to an end.

Attendance: 59

Man of the Match: Big Bear Baker

Monday, September 4, 2017

Witton Albion 0-2 South Shields

It's Saturday evening and we're chillaxing on a sun-soaked patio at a plush Lincolnshire boutique hotel, close to the town of Louth. I'm necking a few ales from a Horncastle microbrewery, eulogising and celebrating a Horncastle Town 3-1 win at The Wong and the Imps' 4-1 dusting of Carlisle United at Sincil Bank. Ms Moon is on the bubbles.

Horncastle Town was an experience to die for. I'll definitely keep my beady eye on their progress.  A few more alcoholic beverages are consumed at a local golf club as we join in the wedding celebrations of one of Ms Moon's family.

A fragile Sticky blows away the cobwebs on Sunday lunchtime with a walk up to the Northern version of West Bridgford, a place called Mapperley Tops, on the outskirts of Nottingham (it's nowhere near as pretentious). It's where legendary former Notts County and Liverpool striker Tony Hateley (father of Mark) once lived - and the recently deceased mother of Freddie Mercury.

I gasp for air as I push open the front door of The Old Flower Shop - Nottingham folk will be aware of Cavendish Road - the final 200 metres is up there with Ben Nevis, Lincoln's Steep Hill and Cherry Hill in Keyworth. I neck a few more beers at a posh Wetherspoons called the Woodthorpe Top and the spit and sawdust bar of the Bread and Bitter, before the long, hard slog back home (downhill).

I have a revisit to Gedling Miners' Welfare on Tuesday evening; coincidentally it's on Mapperley Tops. I receive a warm welcome from club press officer Tony Hay; one of the nicest guys on the circuit. I remember seeing a blood-thirsty FA Vase cup tie here back in 2008, when big-time Charlies Atherstone Town rocked up in a posh coach and got turned over by the Miners 3-2. It whetted my appetite for Non-League football forever.

I hook up with 'The Taxman' and 'The Italian Stallion' (Roberto). I predict a 1-1 draw - it's 4-2 to Gedling at the break; it's the reason why I never bet. It's wonderful entertainment as Gedling add a further goal. I'm back home for News at Ten with Reginald Bosanquet.

Wednesday and Thursday are hard yakka. I tumble out of bed at the crack of dawn. I'm down the Smoke for two days on the spin on the choo-choo. - I hate the bloody place, everyone looks so bloody miserable. EastEnders scriptwriters have got it spot on. I love it when Radiohead or Muse are on the Queen Vic jukebox; it proper cheers me up.

Ms Moon's daughter, Becky, is back from a year's travelling in Australia - unlike that empty head Ryan Thomas (Jason Grimshaw off Corrie) she hasn't landed a part in the soap opera Neighbours. Mum and daughter sink a few glasses of prosecco on Friday tea-time as Sticky heads out to one of his old haunts, the village of Keyworth, in south Notts, where former Labour Chancellor Ed Balls grew up. Fast bowlers Sir Richard Hadlee and Franklyn Stephenson once lived in the village too.

A Stella-fuelled 'Mayor of London' is holding court in the Keyworth Tavern. There's a pleasant surprise for Sticky Palms as both of my lads rock up for the Malta v England game. 'The Keyworth Georgie Best' (Sticky Junior) has had a few sherbets in town celebrating a pal's birthday - he keeps clutching his hamstring. It's great to see all the lads I used to coach. It upsets me that not many lace up their boots these days.

I'm up at the Stanton-on-the-Wolds car wash on Saturday morning. Christ, if those Kosovan/Serbian lads at the North Bridgford 'Meadows Wash' find out about this treacherous act, they'll have my guts for garters. The Kurdish lads do a cracking job, as I admire their work from a distance with a Bounty bar and cup of coffee.

It's 10:15 am and Trumpy Bolton is swinging his Co-op carrier bag full of booty (cider) as he passes the time of day with his next door neighbour. I'm impressed with his new set (young people's speak for clothing.) His Cotton Traders tracky bottoms have been skipped and replaced with a striped T-shirt and blue shorts from Littlewoods. He's also splashed out on some slight seconds Adidas trainers.

The blog legend is waxing lyrical about a recent sojourn up to 'Bonnie Scotland' with Mrs Trumpy. He was greeted by bagpipes as he entered the '19th hole' at Gleneagles sporting a King Power Leicester kit. He had to be revived with a glass of brandy having shelled out £10 for a glass of wine for the long suffering Mrs Trumpy.

We avoid the M6 like the plague and Mel Sykes and Alan Carr on Radio 2. Trumpy clocked on Facebook that I'd been dragged up to Ikea on Bank Holiday Monday by 'the Princess.' He said Ikea shares on FTSE went through the roof after we'd checked-out from the till.

The Sat Nav is a sea of red as we head over the Staffordshire border into Cheshire. I glance into my mirror and see a procession of blue lights hurtling towards us. Some poor sod has been knocked off his bicycle and looks in a sorry state.

A mile down the road, in suburban Cheshire, Trumpy clocks a chubby, balding chap at the bus stop. Deadpan he pipes up. "Is that Wayne Rooney?" I'm still crying with laughter as we park up in Nantwich, a former salt-producing market town. We snake our way through the jam-packed streets and enjoy some lunch in the Wickstead Arms, despite the awful 1950s music.

Bolton has scribbled down a list of pubs he has an interest in. Witton Albion and South Shields fans will be taken aback to know that Trumpy's obsession in life is to tick off a pub in every village, town and city in the United Kingdom - he is 95% of the way to achieving this monumental feat.

Trumpy has three more pints at the Salt Box, just a few miles away from the ground. I've been drinking lime and soda. The legend asks me if I'd like a tray of lime shots to be lined-up. We park up on the main drag about a ten-minute walk away from Wincham Park, the home of Witton Albion, on the outskirts of Northwich. The Killers are blasting out of the PA as Trumpy generously parts with £20 on the gate to gain admission for us both

The ground is neat, tidy, mostly red painted, with cover on four sides. I had to deliver the bad news, publicly on social networks yesterday, that Witton Albion had announced that the bar was to be shut during the game - of course Trumpy took it badly. Even the away fans from the North East (was flamed for saying Newcastle) are having to suffer crowd segregation - FA decision or not, it's bloody ridiculous.

We take a pew in the stand, that's saturated in late summer sunshine. I viewed Witton up at Workington last week. They lacked creativity and penetration in the final third. South Shields, from the Newcastle area, have the subliminal Argentinian Julio Arca in their ranks. The 36-year-old played over 300 games for Sunderland and Middlesbrough.

I fancy South Shields to progress further in this FA Cup tie, a supporter had earlier told me that they've been unbeaten since last November. They are managed by former Aston Villa and Leicester City attacking midfielder Graham Fenton.

The first half is lacklustre with neither side having a cutting edge in the final third. The excitable visiting supporters, behind the far goal, will be happy with the clean sheet at the break. There's a slightly controversial moment when a mistimed tackle by the visiting number 10 results in a yellow card, with the unfortunate recipient being stretchered off - there's no malice intended, it's more clumsy than anything. The gobshite behind me would beg to differ. Minutes later she shouts (with her five-year-old son sat next to her playing games on his iPhone) "Snap his legs, the cheating scum."

Trumpy Bolton has been 'missing in action' for a while now. The crafty sod has breached security and pitched up in the bar. He returns to his seat to see the mercurial Julio Arca strut his stuff. His legs may have gone, but his brain is fully engaged - that's Arca not Bolton. He pirouettes, drags back the ball, finds pockets of space and passes through the eye of needle. It's beautiful to watch.

Only one team will win this as Fenton executes his gameplan to perfection. Witton are tiring as the visitors throw on a sub with searing pace and intelligence. The away fans go wild as both goals are clinically dispatched to put them in the hat for Monday's draw and £3000 prize money for their long journey.

Attendance: 534

Men of the Match: Trumpy and Julio

Monday, August 28, 2017

Horncastle Town 3-1 AFC Boston 1

We celebrate the house move and the tremendous five goal thriller at Bingham Town's wonderfully-named Butt Lane Playing Field, by quaffing a bottle of Lancing Brut champagne and sinking a few craft ales. A tour of the local pubs ends up messy in the back garden of the Blacks Head, in Carlton.

It's Monday morning and I'm in the office, as there's no internet hooked up at the new crib. I receive a call from a distressed Ms Moon. A water pipe at the back of the toilet has burst and water is gushing out everywhere and down the walls into the lounge. "Is the new TV okay, Love?" is the best I can muster up.

I spend a few days up in the Lake District on business. I'm holed up in the Premier Inn at Whitehaven. England all-rounder Ben Stokes grew up in the area - his dad was coach at the local Rugby League team. I'm going to be honest; it's a tough old place to live. There's no 'Northern Powerhouse' here Mr George Osborne - the pits and shipping are long gone. If you are 'lucky' to be employed it will be at Sellafield Power Station.

Tuesday evening gives me the opportunity to tick off former Football League club Workington AFC. The Reds' Borough Park ground is to die for. It's where Kop legend Bill Shankly plied his trade. The game finishes one a piece, with the opposition (Witton Albion) and the Reds playing a smashing game of football.

There's a knock on the door at 9:30am on Friday. It's my favourite French painter and decorator 'Rene' and his faithful sidekick 'the British Bulldog' (Millwall fan). I return home eight hours later to inspect their workmanship - I haven't a 'Scooby Do' what I'm looking for. Rene's painting is up there with 'French Impressionist' Monet and Morph's mate off the BBC Tony Hart. He celebrates with a Coors Light - he's not fussy and I wanted to get rid of that muck.

'Rene' has been on the Muscadet, so doesn't pitch up at ours until 10:00am on Saturday. I tell him not to bother with milk in his coffee, as we head out of the door. We're spending the night up at a boutique hotel called the Brackenborough, on the outskirts of Louth, in Lincolnshire - the reason being that we're at a wedding reception in the evening.

To be honest, I'm dreading the Bank Holiday weekend traffic, but apart from Newark being snarled up, it's surprisingly quiet on the roads. I've a Good Pub Guide entry to tick off in the village of Harby, in Lincolnshire; it's the sister pub of the Wig and Mitre on Steep Hill, Lincoln and the classy Caunton Beck, near Newark.

The pub could do with white-washing from the outside - I'll be tipping 'Rene' and 'Bulldog' the wink. Inside it's rather grand. A friendly barmaid pours me a pint of home-brewed Queen Eleanor -Trumpy Bolton will be laughing that I've gone for a bacon and Brie sandwich.

We can see Lincoln Cathedral in the distance. I've supported the Imps for over 45 years; I've completely forgotten they're at home versus Carlisle United. I'm obsessed with ticking new grounds off and have a good feeling about The Wong, home to Horncastle Town FC.

Parking isn't an option on Horncastle High Street. Ms Moon circumnavigates around the town before sticking the car in a Tesco Superstore car park. I hate Tescos with a passion - they've killed the small shopkeeper in Horncastle and tried to do the same in my old yard, in the village of Keyworth. The supermarket bullies have the audacity to charge £1 to park the car. I swallow my pride and cough up a quid, followed by a two-fingered salute as we pass the store and saunter into town.

Ms Moon is having a mosey in every antique shop on the street - it's a matter of time before we bump into Fiona Bruce or David Dickinson. As we walk back to the car park, in blazing sunshine, we chance upon an 80-year-old chap wearing a beige cardigan, England shorts, white socks up to his knees and sandals - there's nowt so queer as folk. Ms Moon has a funny turn, and has to be revived with a slurp of Buxton spring water.

Horncastle is a market town 17 miles east of Lincoln, with a population of 7,000. The lead singer of heavy metal band Saxon, Peter 'Biff' Byford, is a notable resident in the town. The Lunn Poly travel agency founder, Sir Henry Lunn, was from Horncastle. Poet Laureate, Alfred Lord Tennyson, was born only a few miles away down the road.

The Wong is only a three-minute drive away in at the hub of the community. I walk up a tight snicket as the Princess parks up. It's free entry. I later find out it's a thoroughfare for folk to walk, so the Club are unable to charge. It's a wonderful facility with hockey, tennis and rugby being played behind it. I'm saddened to hear that the local council wanted to sell out to  Aldi  - how can these elected idiots have the best interests of the local community?  They are the same buffoons who rubber-stamped the Tesco superstore.

We fall in love with the place immediately. I usually enjoy the pre-match amble, but 'Antiques Roadshow' has put paid to the that. Within minutes of our arrival, the game has kicked-off. We stand on the far side of the ground, opposite the plush red-bricked clubhouse. AFC Boston are an unknown quantity and new to the League. They're full of young un's with bags of energy, but get muscled off the ball easily by their vastly experienced opponents.

Sticky's got the monk on ( means sulking, for folk 'down sarf'') at the break as it's 0-0, with neither side looking like they can unlock the door. We have a golden rule if the game ends 0-0 at a new ground; the non-driver (me on this occasion) has to make their own way home - at this rate I might need for the Lunn Poly family to book me a room for the night.

I bump into a Lancastrian walking his Westland Highland Terrier at the back of the far goal. He moved to Lincs around 20 years ago from Ashton under-Lyne. Maddie, the Westy, is grumpy too that it's 0-0 and has proper got the face on.

The Non-League family have the ability to spring surprises; today is no exception. Some folk know of my passion to make a cup of tea properly and brew it in a pot. Tea-making is a dying art; but not at Horncastle. There's no casually thrown tea bag chucked into a mug and drowned in scalding hot water. The tea is mashed and poured from the pot. A better brew will not pass my lips this season.

The game livens up in the second half. Ms Moon slopes off to the cashpoint in town; it's a ruse so she can tick off her 23rd antique shop of the day. I joke with the guy next to me that they'll be goals galore now the guvnor's gone - Horncastle score a couple of scruffy ones in her absence. A rosy-cheeked, puffed-out  Ms Moon is miffed on her return to hear the scoreline. She sees a 16-year-old local lad smash home the third goal as it cannons back off the stanchion.

AFC Boston look dead on their feet. They replace a few tiring limbs and bring on their own young gun. We're wandering towards the exit, at the fag end of the game, as the beer garden is calling, and the sun's still shining. The sub picks up the ball on the left flank and jinks past a few defenders before unleashing a rocket of a shot into the top corner of the net. He celebrates with a triple handspring. Why didn't he start the game ?

Attendance: 61 (headcount)

Men of the Match: 'Rene and 'Bulldog' the Entente Cordialle painter and decorators.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Bingham Town 3-2 Wollaton FC

Postman Pat drops a letter on the door mat. It's from the Liverpool Victoria life insurance people. 'Hattie Jacques', the nurse, popped round the other week to take my bloods and check my well-being. I casually open the letter. I'm shocked to read that four of my blood counts are out of range - bloody hell, I was a Ginvalid in Nerja, Southern Spain for the previous 10 days. Panic sets in, as I make an appointment to see my doctor at Keyworth Medical Practice.

Two weeks later and I'm driving in the car, stressed out with work, the imminent house move and Lincoln City not having won again. My phone goes off. It's Dr Hamilton - no relation to the DJ and Fulham PA announcer 'Diddy David' or Formula One racing car driver Lewis - on the blower. My stomach begins to wrench. What if it's bad news? "Mr Palmer, your bloods are good, in fact they are excellent." Those buffoons at LV have put me through the mill. I thought I was in 'God's waiting room.' They can shove their life insurance right where the sun doesn't shine.

We get the green light for the house move; thank chuff for that. I manage to squeeze in a couple of games in between packing boxes. Radford's 'On-call Arena', on Selhurst Street, in inner city Nottingham, is my first port of call on Tuesday evening for an FA Cup replay. Boston Town, from Lincolnshire, are the visitors.

I stick the car in Asda, on Radford Road. It should be good for two hours before being clamped. I manage a brief chat with Radford's 'Director of Football', 'Big Glenn.' I'm a proper Jonah when it comes to watching the Pheasants. I think I've seen them win once in ten outings over the last few seasons.

I hook up with Mr and Mrs John Harris who have served Priory Celtic FC, in Eastwood, so well over the years. The game ebbs and flows, but has an undercurrent throughout. It ends like a Greek tragedy for the big man as Radford lose out 4-3 on penalties. I love Radford and I'm gutted for all involved.  I daren't look Glenn in the eye as I exit the ground at 10:30 pm - the £1,500 prize-winning money is a lifeline for clubs like Radford. I peg it across the road to make sure those Bolts at Asda haven't put down the barriers and locked me in.

There's less to talk about on Wednesday evening as 'The Taxman' and I speed down the A46 to Lincoln United's wonderful, tree-lined Ashby Avenue. The game is a damp squib and ends up 0-0. I like both managers - Sam Wilkinson and Jimmy Dean. I'm particularly chuffed for Peterborough Sports gaffer, Jimmy Dean, as I know he'll be made up to come away with a point, thanks to his 'walking wounded.'

It's Saturday morning, 4am. I'm bolt upright in bed, playing on my phone. The good news on twitter is that Mastermind champion, Justin Moorhouse (from Phoenix Nights - couldn't scrub Tiger face paint off him) is playing Nottingham's Glee Club in October. I tweet my mate 'Dafty' at Dawn to let him know.

I cannot describe the feeling of excitement and joy at buying our first house together. There's only one part of the jigsaw missing. He comes hurtling around the corner in his 7.5 tonne van on two wheels, before performing a three-point turn on burning rubber in the cul-de-sac. White Van Man and his sidekick 'Rim' are done and dusted in just a few hours - they are different class. Contact me for a reference.

Some may say it's a little inconsiderate and selfish to still 'get a game in' on house move day. Ms Moon encourages this, as I've put a shift in over the last few months to hasten the move. My solicitor has been a joke. As Tony Hadley from Spandau Ballet once said: "Communication let me down."

I unpack a few boxes and hack down the garden. The TV guys from Currys are fitting a new TV to a stand, as I slip out the door and head out towards the town of Bingham. I'm familiar with the place as I had swimming lessons here as a kid at Toothill School, as well as a few scoops in the local inns and bars - not when I was 8 years old.  I remember once finishing a cricket game for the Millers at 9:45 pm following a rain delay.

I park just off the main square, opposite the Butter Cross, a Wetherspoons 'professional drinking establishment we visited a few weeks ago on our journey back from Bedford Town. I wander across the cobbled streets towards The Wheatsheaf on Long Acre. I'm just enjoying a pint of American Pale Ale from the North Riding Brewery, up in Scarborough, when my mobile goes off. I fish it out of my pocket. A distressed Ms.Moon is reporting that the new TV has dropped down the bracket.

Those pair of muppet TV engineers are re-directed back to 'Ours' following a brief Sticky Palms head loss on the phone in the pub back garden. Rain is bouncing off the windscreen as I pull up the track leading to Butt Playing Field - is it me; or does it just doesn't sound right.

I bump into JK jnr who is a big cheese at Bingham Cricket Club - they've been rolled out for just 29 runs. The football match will be played on a temporary roped-off pitch on the far side of the complex.

The ground is on the Bingham to Nottingham railway line - it's the main characteristic of the place. I coached a couple of Keyworth teams at a good level, but never came across Bingham Town. I always found it strange that better players in the area pitched up at the small village of Aslockton just down the A52.

Wollaton FC are today's visitors - they filmed the Batman movie The Dark Knight at Wollaton Hall, only a short distance from their ground. The Notts Senior League is still 'the best League in the World' - you are guaranteed goals and quality banter.

The visitor's manager is a gruff Scotsman. He resembles Bill Shankly, apart from the black-rimmed spectacles he's sporting. Those same glasses are offered to a linesman when a decision doesn't go 'Bill's' way.

A wind-assisted Wollaton are the more creative side in the first 45 minutes, but fail to take their chances. Just before half-time Bingham striker, Tom Spencer, lifts a beautifully-executed free-kick over the wall and into the top corner of the net to give Bingham the lead. Non-League dog, 'Ruby', the Golden Retriever, wags her tail in delight

I scroll down the live scores at the break. The feel-good factor continues in our fantastic city - the Tricky Trees and Pies are 'one and two to the good' as retired local radio commentator Colin Slater used to say. The Pies' owner, 'Big Alan Hardy' will be beaming from ear to ear. What a shrewd appointment Kevin Nolan is turning out to be.

The second half is to die for - this League just never lets you down. Bingham's talisman, Tom Spencer, scores a pearler with his left foot. I remember the kid as a youngster, when he was in Leicester City's Academy - he's your thinking man's footballer. Bingham go 3-0 up and look home and dry.

The visitors have other ideas. They claw two goals back and take a grip on the game. Bingham survive a late onslaught to bag a deserved victory. As Bill Shankly once said: "Football's not a matter of life and death - and it's more important than a house move."

Attendance: 41

Men of the Match: White Van Man and Rim.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Clitheroe 2-0 Droylsden

I've kicked my solicitor's arse. I've kicked the vendor's solicitor's arse. I've kicked Benson's Beds up the arse. Any arse getting in the way of our house move has seen a size 11 black and white Adidas Samba right boot heading in the direction of their ass.

It was set to be an easy peasy, up sticks house move - they never are though. Three months down the line Jack diddly squat has happened - it has dimmed my view of conveyance solicitors. Mine has been particularly, curt, rude and incompetent.

It's Friday afternoon. I hear another email winging its way into my inbox. I nearly choke on my green tea - yes I'm on that stupid diet still. The email reads: "Contracts exchanged. Completion 18th August."  Hell's Bells. Heavens to Betsy. Holy Moly. I can't even celebrate with a tipple or two, as I only allow myself a scoop on Saturdays and Sundays.

I've had a football bonanza this week. I was all set for Radford FC v Boston Town in an FA Cup replay.  A good hosing down in inner city Nottingham on Tuesday puts paid to that. I follow Notts County's exit out of the Carabao Cup at a soaking wet Scunthorpe United. The penalty shoot-out on twitter is agonising to scroll through - it's worse than Ceefax used to be.

Wednesday evening is spent in the idyllic surroundings of Quorn in Leicestershire. Retford Town from north Notts are the visitors. I'm accompanied by The Taxman and 'The Italian Stallion' - fresh from two weeks in the Canary Islands. Quorn have installed a 3G playing surface; which is a real shame, as their grass pitch was a belter. 'Rammers' strolls by. He's suited and booted in Kettering Town merchandise. The genial Geordie talks at 100 mph. A startled Taxman looks as if he needs an interpreter. Quorn run out 3-0 winners and pick up £1,500 prize money.

It's Friday evening and 'Floodlit Friday.' I'm at my old stomping ground on Keyworth United's Platt Lane, where I coached youth football for 10 years. Hilton Harriers have crossed the cattle grid into Notts. 'The Keyworth Georgie Best' (Sticky junior) is wandering around with a pint of maid's water (lager) in his hand. 'The Skipper' (my youngest) is also on the sidelines. Not a single drop of alcohol has passed his lips since returning from a 7-day bender last Monday in Kavos, in Corfu. I'm surprised he's not been on a drip in the Queens Medical Centre.

 A 21-year-old lad catches my eye, wandering out of the bar. He is the best player I have ever coached. At eight years old he could have walked into any Academy in England. His left foot is as good as his right. He's out the traps like a greyhound. The end product is devastating and sublime. The boy hasn't kicked a ball since he was 18. There's more talent off the pitch than on it. Although a spirited Keyworth claw back a two goal deficit with a breathtaking final 20 minutes.

A load of Central Midlands League big wigs have rocked up - they walk about the joint like The Sopranos. The head of the 'Groundhopping Gestapo' is also in attendance.

I remark to a couple of supporters, as we exit the ground, what an enjoyable game we have witnessed. A bitter Hilton Harriers supporter complains vociferously about playing against '12 men' - the referee was excellent by the way. I wish him a safe journey home back over the cattle grid.

Sticky is going solo today - Ms Moon is at the opticians and hairdressers. On the upside it means I don't have to listen to the cringe-worthy Absolute 80s and their box of six records including Go West, Alexander O'Neal and Whitney Houston - I've sang better in the bath ... whoops!

The Danny Baker phone-in on Five Live is hilarious. Former Everton attacking midfielder Leon Osman is on the 'Sausage Sandwich Game.' Being a proper northern lad Leon prefers brown sauce on his sarnie. 'Colin Murray Meets' is next up. He interviews the grounded Geordie Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick, who tells an amusing anecdote about his Dad, a diehard Toon supporter and season ticket holder, having to support West Ham when they visited St James' Park, with his lad in the Iron starting XI.

I've lined up a pub just a few miles north of Clitheroe, in a picture postcard village called Waddington, up in the Pennines. The Waddington Arms is a little belter. It has stripped pine tables and cushioned bamboo chairs. The friendly staff rustle me up a Cajun chicken sandwich as I neck a pint of Lancaster Blonde. It's on the edge of the Forest of Bowland and has a two-level back terrace, with a neat and tidy tree-sheltered lawn. Ms Moon would love it here; I feel quite sad that she's not here to share it with me. I'll book us in for an overnight stay later in Autumn.

Clitheroe is in the Borough of Ribble Valley, 34 miles north of Manchester in the county of Lancashire, with a population of 15,000. It's most notable landmark is Clitheroe Castle, which is said to be the smallest Norman keep in England. Manufacturing companies in the town include: Hanson Cement, Johnson Matthey (formerly ICI) and Tarmac. The name Clitheroe is said to have come from Anglo Saxon for Rocky Hill.

Clitheroe FC were originally established in 1877 and play their games at the Shawbridge Stadium. They are managed by former Cardiff City, Wigan Athletic and Tranmere Rovers striker Simon Haworth. In 1996 Crystal Palace manager Dave Bassett paid Clitheroe £35,000 for goalkeeper Carlo Nash, who later played for Man City. Sunderland midfielder Duncan Whatmore had a loan spell at the club in 2012. BBC radio comedian Jimmy Clitheroe aka 'The Clitheroe Kid' was born in the town.

Bloody hell, the streets are gridlocked - it's the annual Food Festival, with folk visiting from far and wide. I stick the car on some posh housing estate, before strolling into town and up to the castle. It's a steep old climb. I gasp for air upon reaching the summit. The views across the Lancashire countryside, as the darkening clouds make way for blue skies, are stunning.

I make the descent back into town, fighting my way through the crowds at the 'Food Festival' before parting with £8 on the gate and £1.50 for an absolute cracker of a programme. I snap up a golden goal ticket from a friendly lady. The ground is a pearler and on a side slope. The pitch looks in mint condition to the naked eye. I love the white-washed and grey-stoned cottages that back onto the Shawbridge Lane ground.

The DJ is on flames. We're treated to Bowie, The Buzzcocks, The Stranglers. Massive Attack and The Editors. In the North they always raise the bar. I get gassing to a Droylsden fan whose brother plays for the Bloods. He's a quiet, gentle, softly spoken guy with his finger on the pulse of the Manchester Non-League scene. He's proper excited and full-on when the ref blows his whistle to start the game.

I saw Droyslden play a beautiful game last season on two occasions. They won neither and were poor in the final third of the pitch.. A similar pattern emerges today; there's no end product and they don't shift the ball quick enough. Clitheroe take the lead on 23 minutes through big unit Sefton Gonzales, who has played for every club in Lancashire. I rip open my golden goal ticket in anticipation. I grimace at 89 minutes printed on the ticket.

I wander around the ground at half-time and bump into Gip the Collie whose front paws are resting on the wall, eyeing up the ball, as the substitutes toss it off instead of warming up. Gip's not chuffed when the Red Arrows fly across the ground. The Blues increase their lead in the second half, and despite coming under pressure in the final 20 minutes manage to hold firm for an opening season win.

Attendance: 256

Man of the Match: Clitheroe DJ