Sunday, July 23, 2017

Rothwell Corinthians 0-3 Soham Town Rangers

It's Tuesday 11th July and way past my bedtime. I'm slouching on the sofa, channel hopping. I chance upon a real-life drama on BBC One called 'Murdered For Being Different.' It's a true account of the brutal and senseless murder of 20-year-old Goth, Sophie Lancaster, who was walking through Stubbylee Park, in Bacup, Lancashire, with her boyfriend Robert, when they were attacked by a gang of youths. It's a brilliant, heartbreaking screenplay which leaves a lump in my throat and tear in my eye.

A few scenes are filmed at the local football club, Bacup Borough, which I had hoped to visit this season. It looks a beautiful ground with sweeping views of the Pennines. I notice they are at home versus Hoddesdon Town from Hertfordshire on July 22nd. It seems an odd fixture, as it's a 450 mile round trip for the visitors - unless they're up for a night in Blackpool after the game. I fancy the trip so I can pay my respects to Sophie Lancaster. I'm gutted to read, the following week, that the Bacup v Hoddesdon is OFF, 'due to circumstances out of their (Hoddesdon's) control.' I reach out for the Non-League paper to peruse for another fixture. We'll be up at Bacup before rain sets in for winter.

I'm back into the swing of things after the sojourn to Nerja. I have a scoop on Sunday lunchtime with Clifton All-Whites legendary manager James 'Tosh' Turner at the Brewhouse and Kitchen, situated on the banks of the River Trent in 'North Bridgford.' Tosh is convalescing after being unseated from his bicycle recently - it was reminiscent of Kevin Keegan's crash in Superstars. I view his NSL champions on Tuesday evening at Green Lane as they give a youthful Heanor Town a good hiding. I also bump into Roberto and 'Swiss Tony.'

Notts County entertain Nottingham Forest at Meadow Lane on Wednesday evening. There's a feel-good-factor on both sides of the river, with sensible business plans in place after tumultuous times under Ray Trew and Fawaz Al Hasawi. Tricky Tree manager, Mark Warburton, is recruiting heavily from North of the border, having spent two seasons at Rangers. Recent signing, Jason Cummings, from Hibernian, is skew-whiff with his shooting. Most of his efforts are fished out of the nearby Nottingham Canal. Forest's class finally tells as they run out 2-0 winners.

Thursday is spent in West Bromwich, followed by an overnight stay in a Premier Inn on a soulless industrial estate on the outskirts of Malvern, where the composer Edward Elgar was born. Did you know he was a Wolverhampton Wanderers supporter, and wrote 'Land of Hope and Glory?'

I'm fagged out by the time I pitch up back in Colwick at Friday tea-time after a testing journey from Leominster, Herefordshire. I was set fair for a trip to Trent Bridge where Notts and Derbyshire are teeing off at 6:30pm in the T20. We decide on a quiet couple of drinky poos at Lilly Langtry's and the Orange Tree, close to Nottingham Trent University, before retiring to bed.

Ms Moon has been banging on and on and on about a car boot sale this Sunday across the road at Nottingham Racecourse. You'll never see me or involve 'Fat Lad' Sticky Palms at one of those gigs. The good lady misses the team bus to Rothwell as she prepares her heap of junk. We manage to shoehorn time in for breakfast before my departure. I park up in West Bridgford Library. We walk hand in hand down 'The Avenue' before diving into Gusto (the artist previously known as the Monkey Tree).

I'm a 'North Bridgford' lad, so don't enjoy being on enemy territory. I'm not a big fan of West Bridgford and its pomp and ceremony. There's not a decent pub on the strip (the glorious Stratford Haven is on a side road, cast aside like the black sheep of the family. We eat Al Fresco, basking in the late morning sunshine at a prime people-watching spot. Ms Moon has a full English, whilst Sticky throws himself into West Bridgford pretentious mode with eggs Benedict Florentine .... (in North Bridgford we call it poached eggs on toast with a tin of spinach). We skidaddle before Bridgford folk rock up with kids called Tarquin, Darcy and Rupert.

I knock up a Chilli in the kitchen whilst listening to Colin Murray interview former Newcastle United flying winger hellraiser Keith Gillespie. By the time I jump into the car the brilliant John Inverdale (Lincoln City fan) is broadcasting from the 146th British Open at Royal Birkdale in Southport. I'm rooting for Jordan Spieth after having a life-changing 50p double bet on him winning The Open and Chris 'n 'Liv being crowned King and Queen on Love Island. Rory McIlroy is out on the course after an early tee-off time - it's good to see he hasn't overlaid.

Five Live suddenly switch attention to the Tour De France. I'm not listening to that rubbish - British cycling is under scrutiny for doping, cheating and bullying. It gets worse, Radio 2 are playing Sunny by TLC; it's not a patch on Boney M's version.

I open up the Ford Mondeo Titanium on the M1 before exiting down the A14. I've picked out a thatched-roofed pub in the sleepy village of Harrington. The Tollemarche Arms doesn't flatter to deceive. The place is packed to the rafters as there is a beer festival on. I grab a pint of Hot Dog IPA, but swerve the goat burgers that are sizzling on the BBQ.

Jesus wept, it's almost impossible to park at Rothwell Corinthians ground. After circumnavigating the joint for 15 minutes, I roll into the local cricket club. A left arm bowler is steaming into bowl as I get out of the car. He clocks the non-striking batsman is too far up the wicket and whips off the bails before he has bowled. The umpire issues a warning; blimey it's feisty.

I get chatting to a lovely old fella who used to help former Leicester City and Notts County defender Nicky Platenauer when he was manager at the now defunct Rothwell Town. I mention I'm going to football and can't find a parking space. The guy very kindly points me in the direction of his house and tells me to park behind his car.

I walk up a slabbed pathway and pay £3 on the gate to a cheery chap. The ground is later described by a supporter as 'work in progress.' The clubhouse is behind the nearest goal with red-painted stands and white tip up seats on both sides of the ground.

Black clouds are looming as I position myself next to the Soham dugout. The pitch has bare patches down both flanks, where the surface looks bumpy. Soham are in control from the first whistle. Their players look leaner, trimmer and more athletic - they play a league above.

After a few close shaves they take the lead with a wonderful move that is finished with a daisy cutter into the bottom right-hand corner from 'Browny.'  The 'Magic Moment' of the first half is on the half hour. An alehouse clearance from a Rothwell defender is heading in Sticky's direction, I dangle out my size 10  black £39.99 Dolcis right shoe and coolly cushion the ball back into play. It will be etched, forever, in the memory of the 39 folk who have bothered to turn up.

I hook up with Bertie the Shihtzu Poodle at the break; he's soaking wet and not happy with Rothwell's performance. I'm allowed a photo for @nonleaguedogs, but not without the odd growl or two.
Soham turn up the gas in the second half, bagging a further two goals before the final whistle.

Attendance: 39

Man of the Match: Bertie

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Bedford Town 2-2 Dagenham and Redbridge

I shake my head in disbelief. "Chuffing hell love, are you sure you've read that right?" I'm stood on the scales in the lounge, being weighed in by a nurse (Hattie Jacques) representing Liverpool Victoria insurance company. "How can I be called Sticky when I weigh that much ? I'll be giving Leicester-born world-breaking fat lad, Daniel Lambert, a run for his money at this rate."

I shoo the nurse out of the front door along with her 'dodgy' pair of weighing scales. I've hit over 14 stone for the first time in my real ale drinking career. An action plan is drawn up. First port of call is the salad section at Morrisons supermarket in Netherfield (I'm going to work here one day). I clock up the points on the More card with a trolley full of veg and fruit - there's not a whiff of a bottle of Goose Island or Rioja.

We've just spent 10 nights in Nerja, in Southern Spain, close to Malaga (of course I visited the footy ground). Half board at the hotel, an ice cream van stationed outside the back gate, a selection of gins and copious amounts of red wine have seen me stack on some timber. Tales of real ale pubs and brie and bacon ciabattas are going to be few and far between in the coming weeks, until the obesity issue is addressed.

It's Friday lunchtime and I've just nipped out to Wilford Industrial Estate. White Van Man rolls up the shutter door. Christ, even he looks trimmer than me, after camping out at the gym in the last few weeks. He throws some empty boxes into the boot of my car. I've booked him in for our house move in a few weeks' time to Carlton, just a few miles outside Nottingham city centre.

As I drive home, past a jam-packed Trent Bridge Cricket Ground, where England and South Africa are playing the morning session of the 2nd Test, 'Ask the Umpire' is on Test Match Special on the radio. Ex umpire, John Holder, is telling the tale of when 6' 7" West Indian Test bowler Curtly Ambrose came steaming into bowl at Nottinghamshire's Derek Randall in a County game. Ambrose loses control of the ball and it loops high up into the air, dropping dead at short leg. Randall seeing the chance of an easy four runs, tees up the ball and smacks it over the boundary rope. Ambrose continues his follow-through and is by now towering over Randall sucking through his teeth. Randall shouts down the pitch to the umpire "Merv, I don't want those runs, can you cancel them please" .. lol.

I have some tea with the 'Nuclear Scientist' at the Gamston Lock, a Marston's pub on the outskirts of West Bridgford. I shoot over to the New Field of Dreams (Keyworth Cricket Club) where the kids and women's teams are practising their skills. There's time for a catch up with 'Big Bear Bobby' and the 'Mayor of London' before turning in for an early night.

After a restless night's sleep, which I can't blame on alcohol, as I only had a small bottle of Dead Pony IPA, I rise at 8:30am and drive up to the Kosovan car wash on London Road. A steady stream of cricket fans, looking forward to a hearty breakfast, are already heading towards Trent Bridge for the second day's play.

The Kosovan 'Director of Car Washing' is in a vile mood. He's bollocking the lads up hill and down dale for leaving dirty marks and smears on some of the cars. I tip him a couple of quid and make a sharp exit. I manage a brisk walk around Colwick Country Park. Runners are warming down and walking back to their vehicles, having just completed the 5km Park Run.

We set off for Bedford at 11:15am. A slightly delicate Ms Moon is riding shotgun, still feeling the after effects of a session on Prosecco with her pal Jill. I chance my arm and tune into Test Match Special. 'Aggers' is waxing lyrical about how he walked his dogs in the Vale of Belvoir this morning in wall to wall sunshine. Ms Moon has got the face on because TMS is on the radio. I have to compromise and switch to Alan Carr and Mel Sykes on Radio 2. Carr is always good for an anecdote or two about his Dad, Graham, who was once manager at Northampton Town and chief scout at Man City and Newcastle Utd.

Sat Nav takes us around some back roads, as the A1 has tailbacks after the A14. We're soon tootling up to The Green in Cardington, finally parking up at the Kings Arms. It's a lime and soda for 'Fat Lad' (the artist formally known as Sticky Palms). The real ales on show were rank, anyway - and so was the waiter, with one calamity after another. Cutlery is thrown at us and there's a five-minute delay for condiments.

Bedford's ground, is out of town, but just around the corner from the pub. It was once where the Charles Wells Brewery was situated; the wrought iron gates are still there, a sad-faced steward tells me.

 Bedford is a town with a population of 80,000 and lies on the River Ouse. It's well known for its large Italian descent. Notable people from Bedford include: Olympic 100 metre champion Harold Abrahams, ex England rugby player Martin Bayfield, Peterborough United head honcho Barry Fry, comedian Ronnie Barker, actor John Le Mesurier and TV personality Carol Vorderman. Former England cricket captain Alastair Cook, a gifted musician, was awarded a scholarship at Bedford School, where he honed his cricket skills. Bedford Town, founded in 1889, and nicknamed the Eagles, play at the Eyrie.

It's £7 a pop on the turnstile. I'm told they don't issue programmes for friendlies. Was that the case last Saturday when neighbours Luton Town were the visitors? I have a moan in the club shop, nobody seems particularly interested.

We chance upon a gem on our customary stroll around the ground. It's without doubt the best Tea Hut I've visited in 10 years of groundhopping. An elderly lady is front of house at the supporters' run tea bar. There's a large selection of homemade cakes ranging from scones to cookies. It's just my luck I'm on healthy eating. Ms Moon is hanging her nose over the cheese scones at 30p per pop. "Can we have two please, love"  ... doh!

The ground is pleasant enough, with a tree-lined backdrop. We sit in the nearest side stand. I notice Dagenham and Redbridge legendary manager John Still emerge from the dressing room and park himself in the stand further up the touchline.

There's an emotional announcement on the PA of the passing of club stalwart Paul Searing. The guy on the microphone appears upset and choked at the sad loss of their friend and colleague.

The Eagles start the game well, looking sharp and direct. They take the lead following a fast flowing move through their pacey, impressive forward Ben Sawyer. The Daggers fight back. Hawkins sees an effort bounce off the foot of the post. Another effort crashes off the crossbar. The balding Jake Howells in the Daggers midfield is bossing the game.

John Still conducts his half-time team talk on the pitch with Bedford returning to the inner sanctum of the dressing room. The Daggers make nine changes. Sawyer puts Bedford 2-0 up with another smart finish. 

We poke our head back into the tea bar at the break and shell out another 30p on a cheese scone, which I break in half and share with Ms Moon - don't tell 'Hattie Jacques.'

The visitors begin to make inroads down the flanks. They pull a goal back, with the inevitable equaliser coming ten minutes later with Bedford tiring and on the ropes.

Man of the Match: Jake Howells

Attendance: 111

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Nottingham Vets 10- 4 Cambridge Vets

It's Tuesday May 23rd and just after dawn. I'm woken from a deep sleep by Ms Moon who has just come out of the bathroom: "Babe, something awful has happened in Manchester, I thought you'd want to know." I sit bolt upright in bed and press the BBC News app. I'm updated on the sickening atrocity that has taken place in the foyer of the Manchester Arena. A terrorist has detonated a shrapnel-laden bomb as parents and children exit the arena. 22 are dead, 119 injured - 23 critically.

Like most people, I'm barely able to function at work, as I think about the poor folk involved and the loss and maiming of their family and friends. Fundraising is immediately set up, but I'm at a loss at how I can help. Manchester is a city that both Ms Moon and I are very fond of.

I know a guy called Roberto Pietraforte. He is a big cheese, with legendary status to match Robin Hood on the local football scene. He has managed more clubs than Gary Megson. If you scroll down his Wikipedia page with your mouse looking at the clubs he's been involved with, your index finger will get repetitive strain injury (only joking Roberto). What I love about the guy is that he's never been in it for the success, kudos and win at all costs mentality of some I could mention. He just loves the beautiful game and mentoring folk who haven't had the easiest start in life.

Roberto's AC Wollaton Facebook charity page has caught my attention. For some time now his teams have raised money for kids with cancer. People pay for the right to wear the shirt of his team. The Italian Stallion announces he's going to raise money for the victims of the Manchester Bombing. Count me in pal.

It's Friday evening and to be honest folks I'm flagging. I stayed up the previous night until after 3am watching the General Election results. Mrs O'May is going cap in hand to the DUP in Northern Ireland to form a coalition - with rumours she'll be attending the World Cup qualifier away to Azerbaijan. I'm still stewing that Mansfield have voted Conservatives in - the mining families have very short memories in that neck of the woods.

I meet Ms Moon in a Wetherspoons professional drinking environment next to Notts cricket ground, called the Trent Bridge Inn. We have a swift pint, before I cross the river into The Embankment beer garden for a quick scoop or two. It's lights out at 10pm as I'm fagged out from the night before.

Ms Moon is off to the Cotswolds for the weekend for a family get together and to watch her sister play cello in a quartet. Sticky Palms is champing at the bit for a full-on day. It's bloody mayhem where we live, close to Nottingham Racecourse - the Detonate Festival is on. A couple of years ago at the fag end of the festival, I was at a cashpoint on Daleside Road where I found a youth dressed up as a banana splayed out on the garage forecourt. He was that sozzled that he couldn't stand up, and kept slipping on his banana skin.

I'm driving up to Copper on Mapperley Tops for breakfast. I get stuck behind a Honda Civic with a Chesterfield scarf draped across the rear window. The private number plate is MO55 E. It's in honour of prolific ex Spireites striker Ernie Moss, who sadly now is suffering from Pick's Disease, a rare form of dementia, possibly caused by heading a football repeatedly.

I wolf down a full English accompanied with a pot of lemon tea. I clock Liverpool youth footballer, 16-year-old Jack Bearne, having some breakfast with his mum. He recently signed for Liverpool from Notts County for £150,000, plus add-ons.

Roberto is Italian bred so he's bound to have lined-up some ice cream vans and some wood-fired pizzas for the lads. He'll be sporting a sharp, slim-fit Armani suit that he can prowl the touchline in.

I make the short trip across town to the Forest Recreation Ground on Gregory Boulevard. I stumble across joint managers Roberto and Ian Lowe poring over team selection scribbled out on some fish and chip paper on a car bonnet - blimey Charlie, they're taking it seriously.

I'd expected Cambridge to have arrived by boat and jumped on a tram. Disappointingly they've rocked up in a minibus. Rumours are quashed that Dion Dublin is in the visitors' line-up. They do cough up that a former Cameroon international is in their ranks. It's no problem if it's Roger Milla, as he's definitely over 35 years old.

There's an unexpected invitation for Sticky Palms into the inner sanctum of the home dressing room. Roberto has an initiation ceremony for the new boys. They belt out the Madness classic 'It Must Be Love.' I have to pick the two worst singers. The lads are egging me on to pick 'Lenchy' - his mate 'Mushy' isn't much better either. They end up with a game of 'Play Your Cards Right' which concludes with most folk getting pied with shaving foam, with poor old Roberto bearing the brunt of it. It reminds me of Tiswas.

Roberto delivers a powerful, passionate emotional and misty-eyed speech, despite being lathered in shaving foam. I tell you something, had it been Roberto in the dressing room at half-time in Japan 2002 and not Sven, when England played 10 man Brazil, I reckon we'd have gone on to win the game

'Wingy' stands up and says on behalf on the lads that Roberto should take pride and recognition for his continuous efforts in raising monies for the less fortunate. I can see one or two of the lads welling up. It's a moving moment for all of us in the room. Well done 'Wingy.' The boys worship Roberto, who's too selfless to realise this. They hang on to his every word.

'Micky Flanagan' (Rocky) is in the AC team. I'm gutted that he doesn't do a short stand-up routine to settle the boys' nerves down. Some of the donations by the lads warm the cockles of your heart. Carl Regan chucks in £50 and two free MOT's for the man of the match. A guy who runs a pub on Mapperley Tops hands over £350 raised by his customers. The boys pass over £20 notes, Roberto asks them if they want £10 back, every single one of them, to a man, declines.

I've totally forgotten that I've a football match to write about, as the pre-match amble has taken over events. Referee Jevon Swinscoe has kindly given his services for free. The lads on both sides don't give him an ounce of bother.

I'm not going to describe each goal in detail, because if I'm honest I'm chinwagging too much. Radford 'Director of Football' Big Glenn Russell has chucked money in the pot. He wants to discuss all the new players he's signed on. I tell him I haven't got two hours free - he's filled out more registration forms than Barry Fry.

John Manders looks lively up top for AC. I used to rate him when he played for Radford. A sun-tanned Carter and bearded Vipond boss the midfield, whilst the 'Clifton Colossus' David Hawkes has a cigar on in the centre of a back three. AC have a stranglehold on the game as the goals begin to flow. Manders, McDermott (not Terry) have bagged a few already.

Cambridge are still on the 'team boat' as AC charity swarm all over them. They sneak on a paperboy in the second game, who helps himself to a hat-trick. It would have been more had it not been for some smart low-down saves from 'Big Sam Ralph.'

The goal of the game is in the second match, with Cambridge blowing out their asses. 'Wingy' is a bag of tricks down the left-hand side, he delivers a pearler of a cross with the sweetest of left foots, which is headed home by Manders (I think ?). Roberto strips off and comes on in a cameo role for the final five minutes, showing a few flicks and tricks down the left wing

I've been tasked with looking after the charity money. I've got close-on a 'Grand' in my pocket. I decide to walk down Gregory Boulevard to the Grosvenor for post-match drinks and a chip butty. Hell's teeth, it's a bit tasty around here, I'm ripe for picking.

It's a relief to reach the pub. Roberto's pleased to see me as he thought I'd done an Arthur Fowler and waltzed off with all the lolly.. If this guy doesn't win BBC Unsung Hero for Nottingham later in the year, then I'll eat my Spanish hat.

Man of the Match: Roberto

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Summer - Back on July 15th

Bristol City, Shrewsbury Town, Crawley Town, Luton Town, Swindon Town, AFC Fylde, Wrexham, Blyth Spartans, FC United of Manchester, Spennymoor Town, Marine, Hereford FC, Bamber Bridge, Colwyn Bay, Clitheroe, Ramsbottom United, Runcorn Town, Silsden AFC,  Thackley AFC, Atherton Collieries, Godmanchester Rovers, Thrapston Town, Northampton ON Chenecks, Peterborough Sports, Coventry Copsewood, Studley, Bewdley Town, Campion, Appleby Frodingham, Collingham, Sherwood Colliery, Tideswell United, Sandiacre Town and Bingham Town.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Southport 1-1 Lincoln City

The company I work for has its financial year end on Friday. The heat is on to bring home the bacon. I alleviate a wee bit of pressure on Tuesday evening with a stroll around Rushcliffe Country Park, before making the short journey to the ROKO Health Club in West Bridgford.

The Notts Senior League is at the fag end of the season. Magdala are playing title-chasing Clifton All Whites. Some would say the highlight of the game is a 25-yard free kick dispatched into the top corner by mercurial striker Ben Clark. I preferred a failed scorpion kick attempt by a spectator, who was trying to tap an alehouse clearance back into play. The match ball finds its way through a small hole in the fence, leaving a scurrying, red-faced supporter chasing the ball through the car park before it ends up in rush hour traffic on Wilford Lane.

It's 6 pm on Friday evening, I'm finally shutting down my laptop for the weekend. I've landed a couple of big orders at the close of play. I breathe a huge sigh of relief.  I'm so exhausted that I haven't the energy for my usual start of the weekend stroll and early doors activity at the Trent Bridge Inn or King Billy in Sneinton.

Ms Moon is excited on Friday evening. She has been monitoring the fluctuating prices of hotels in the docks area of Liverpool on She pounces upon a two night deal in the Malmaison boutique hotel on Princes Dock, including breakfast.

It's not even 8 am on Saturday and I'm already parking up at Costa Coffee on Daleside Road. Ms Moon is not at her best on early starts. I'm hoping a large skinny latte can keep her calm. Dermot O'Leary bangs out some decent tunes as we head up the M6 north. I grimace my way through the nauseating Graham Norton and that daft agony aunt he has on each week.

We drive painstakingly through four junctions of 50 mph speed restrictions before jumping onto the M58. We're pulling teeth again in Ormskirk, as the town is gridlocked with traffic. A stressed out Sticky Palms pulls into some godforsaken retail park on the outskirts of Southport. A full English breakfast restores inner calm in Tesco. One or two Lincoln fans are knocking about and in the party mood.

We head up to Haig Avenue, home of Southport FC. The Sandgrounders were founded in 1881 and are currently managed by former Stockport County and Blackpool striker Andy Preece. Both Mark Wright and Peter Davenport have previously managed the club.

Southport is a large seaside town in Merseyside, with a population of 90,000. Its attractions include Lord Street, a tree-lined boulevard in the town centre, once the home of Napoleon III of France. The town is at the centre of the English Golf Coast, with nearby Royal Birkdale Golf Club hosting the 2017 British Open Championship. On the 9th December 1886 the worst lifeboat disaster in England occurred off the Southport coast. A cargo ship on its way to South America got in difficulty in storm-force winds. Twenty-eight lifeboat crew lost their lives that night.

Born or raised notable folk from Southport include: Soft Cell singer Marc Almond, Confessions actor Robin Askwith, golfer Tommy Fleetwood, comedian Lee Mack, Red Rum's trainer 'Ginger' McCain, actor Sir Anthony Quayle, actress Miranda Richardson, goalkeeper Jimmy Rimmer, who won a European Cup winners medal twice, footballer Jack Rodwell, historian A J P Taylor and chef Marcus Wareing. On the 11th October 2016 actress Jean Alexander, who played Coronation Street nosy parker Hilda Ogden, celebrated her 90th birthday. A few days later she passed away in Southport Hospital.

The Southport DJ has put some thought into their set. The Stone Roses and Joy Division are the pick of the bunch. A lady PA announcer sportingly congratulates the Imps on their title win and plays 'Sweet Caroline' by Neil Diamond. Southport show some class by forming a guard of honour for the Lincoln players and staff.

Over two and a half thousand visiting supporters have made the 300-mile round trip. Manager Danny Cowley has made wholesale changes of late. Only four regulars start. Sticky's favourite, Terry Hawkridge, is playing in the unfamiliar position of left back.

City soon get a grip on the game. They open the scoring through Peterborough United on loan striker Lee Angol after unselfish work by the impressive Jack Muldoon. Big Lincoln striker Matt Rhead is proper showboating. His touch is deft and outrageous. His headers and chest-downs are played into a colleagues path. He sees an effort come off the woodwork.

Lincoln are trying to run the clock down and are playing with ten men, due to an Angol injury, after already subbing three players in a triple change. Southport are awarded a free kick out on the far right touchline. Neil Ashton pings in a ball which hangs in the wind, it sails over the Lincoln 'keeper who is 'cleaning windows' to give Southport a share of the spoils and deny the Imps a 100 points total. Danny and Nicky Cowley will be cross.

There's a bit of a commotion outside the ground. Traffic has come to a standstill. A rather uncouth and rotund Southport supporter is shouting out that he'll 'stab you all' to the Lincoln City supporters. We watch on with amusement as the local plod try to restrain the blithering idiot.

We finally rock up at the Malmaison in Liverpool after a tortuous drive and a Ms Moon hissy-fit with the new sat nav. The evening is spent in the real ale region of town. I tick off a few good pub guide entries before a revisit to the delightful Liverpool Philharmonic Rooms - a beautifully preserved Victorian pub on Hope Street. We return to the Malmaison; Sticky is particularly worse for wear.

I'm still hanging on Sunday morning, as we walk down the docks and into a much-needed breeze that'll hopefully blow away the cobwebs. We jump on a tour bus and enjoy the guides one-line gags before alighting at Queens Square and heading up to Goodison Park on the No.19 bus.

The place is already bustling with folk despite it being still 90 minutes before kick off. I love the preamble and build up before a game, but often fret about collecting tickets. I managed to bag two tickets for £39 each on the StubHub, so I'm pretty chuffed with myself. Ms Moon loves a big game.

I clock a foreign supporter sporting one of those awful half and half scarves, posing in front of the Dixie Dean memorial statue. I feel the red mist descend. I would have said something, but the bloke looks as hard as nails and would have probably sparked me out.

We take our seats up in the heavens on the second to back row. The view of the ground is stunning. I first came here in 1986 with Nottingham Forest. Dave Watson scored two for the Toffees that day on his debut. An ashen-faced Ms Moon returns from the refreshment bar having just parted with £5 for a bottle of water and a bag of Starburst - Opal Fruits in old money. Welcome to the Premier League, 'Princess.'

The teams trot out to the Z Cars theme tune. It's a relief once all the pomp and ceremony is over and the game finally kicks off. Everton are unfortunate to see an effort come back off the woodwork in the first minute. Chelsea start to get a stranglehold on the game. Diego Costa is rinsing the two Everton central defenders. He turns them inside out and is a joy to watch, including his theatrics and childish behaviour when decisions don't go his way.

Chelsea up the gears in the second half and score a wonderful goal through the Tenerife-born Pedro. Cahill scores a second before Willian kills off any chance of a comeback. Everton are without pace. One or two regulars are injured, but the highly rated Lukaku and Bartley flatter to deceive, with the crowd getting on their backs. Only Tom Davies rises above the mediocrity.

Man of the Match: Jack Muldoon

Attendance: 3,462

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Colne 0-0 Droylsden

We're staying in the Holiday Inn just outside Royal Leamington Spa, in Warwickshire; it's bloody awful to be honest. We don't give two hoots. After a failed attempt and a Sticky Palms 'red mist moment', we finally jump into a cab and head into town. There's a warm welcome at the Cricketers Arms before being tipped the wink about the White Horse down the road.

A lot of folk are 'sniffing' behind closed doors in the toilets when I waltz in - I thought I was on the Avenue in West Bridgford for a brief moment. Evening dinner is taken in the glorious Good Pub Guide main entry - the Star and Garter, before retiring to bed at 'Fawlty Towers.'The weekend is topped off with a stroll around Charlecote Park, a National Trust owned 16th-century country house on the banks of the River Avon, surrounded by deer.

It's Easter Monday and I feel worse for wear after scoffing a Guinness Easter egg and a few glasses of Chateauneuf-du-pape on Sunday evening, both kindly bought as gifts by Ms Moon. I walk off the after effects and head down towards Meadow Lane. Paul Cook's Pompey are in town and in party mood. If results go their way the 5,000 travelling army can celebrate promotion to League One.

The pubs around Trent Bridge and close to the ground are stacked out with folk. I stroll along the banks of the Trent, crossing over the Wilford Suspension Bridge. I notice a kiosk is open, adjacent to the old Town Arms pub, which is soon to re-open as a Brewhouse and Kitchen, with its own microbrewery and 50 craft beers. I buy some fruit pastilles and mints for the match. It might freshen up my pallet and kill off any bad breath that is hanging around.

I meet 'The Taxman' outside Notts County's main entrance. I admire all the Pompey fans who have taken the time-out to have photos posing next to the Jimmy Sirrel and Jack Wheeler statue. We take a pew in the Derek Pavis Stand. Portsmouth are different gravy. They pass Notts off the park. Their fans invade the pitch at the final whistle. Notts County owner Alan Hardy shows a touch of class by allowing the players and fans to celebrate together.

I'm loving my football right now, even though it's the fag end of the season. I meet my two boys on Tuesday evening for tea at the Gamston Lock, before sloping off to Regatta Way to watch champions elect West Bridgford FC. There's a classic smash and grab performance from local rivals Radcliffe Olympic, who nick a goal at the death to leave Bread 'n Lard Island FC needing four points from their final two games to lift the East Midlands Counties League title.

I'm at a works' leaving do at The Embankment for a big Nottingham Forest fan on Friday evening. He watches 'The Lincoln' now and again, so I make a special effort to attend. Four pints is enough for me these days, particularly when it's between 4.5% - 5.5% ABV.

I make the fatal mistake of checking-in with Ms Moon who is on the sauce back at HQ with a mate. "Can you call in at KFC for some supper ?" Bloody hell, I hate that place and the incompetent buffoons that work there. I'm told there's a fifteen-minute wait for chicken on arrival- the red mist descends again.

We're up and out the door at ten bells. It's a bit of a trek up to Colne. Ms Moon is feeling rather chipper that she can flick around with the DAB radio. Frank Skinner has too much rattle on Absolute. I listen to Graham Norton through gritted teeth. Although I do have a 'Dad dancing' moment (despite piloting) to Mai Tai's 1985 hit, 'History.'

We turn onto the M62 and M606, skirting around the edge of Bradford city centre, before heading up the Keighley Road. The Dog and Gun at Glusburn is as good as it gets. It's my third visit. I have a pint of Mary Jane pale ale from the Ilkley Brewery. The homemade steak and potato pie is a steal at £7.95. Ms Moon mops up fish, chips and mushy peas.

Colne is a town in Lancashire six miles north-east of Burnley, with a population just shy of 20,000. With the Industrial Revolution, cotton manufacturing became the main industry in the town. By 1891 there were over 30 cotton mills in the town. Notable people born or raised in the town include: Wallace Hartley, bandleader on the RMS Titanic, Sir William Pickles Hartley, the jam manufacturer and Natalie Gumede, who played Kirsty Soames in Coronation Street.

It's a beautiful sunny day. We both fall in love with Colne immediately. It has bags of character and history. I'm desperate to see the memorial bust of Wallace Hartley. I ask a lady in the library for directions, she says it's on the other side of town. The Titanic sunk at 11:40pm on April 14th 1912. When all hope was lost, Hartley moved the band onto the deck, with one of their final tunes being the Star Spangled Banner. Over 40,000 people lined the streets of Colne for Hartley's funeral.

Ms Moon is queuing for coffee in an independent coffee shop as I people-watch a few drunks swaying and shouting outside the Duke of Lancaster on the High Street. I have a tearful moment to myself as I watch Lincoln City run the clock down on 'Live Scores.' Two goals from the twinkle-toed Terry Hawkridge sees the Imps over the finishing line and back in the Football League. I take a stroll down the street. Imran Khan's barber's shop is doing a roaring trade. Blimey, Jemima must have taken him for a few bob if the poor sod has to cut hair.

There's a respected groundhopper writing a book called '100 Grounds to Die For', if he's not been here I'll kick myself. I'm gobsmacked with the sweeping views down into the town and up into the hills.

Colne need something from the game to ensure a play-off spot. Droylsden, from Greater Manchester, are playing for pride. I'm mystified by this, as I saw them up in Lancaster before Christmas when they played a beautiful game of football.

Over 500 fans have rolled up to support their community club. Manager, Stephen Cunningham, lives and breathes the Club - it will be a great achievement to finish in the top 5.

Colne spurn an early chance, Adam Morning fluffs an opportunity with only the 'keeper to beat. The Bloods of Droylsden pick up from when I last saw them up in Lancaster. Their game is uncomplicated. The passing is beautiful and purposeful. It's only in the final third where they fail to produce.

The guy next to me is all tracksuited up. When you scout you should just blend in with the crowd and call people's bluff. I find out in seconds who he's watching. The game's got 0-0 written all over it (again). I don't get Cunningham's tactics as they put 10 men behind the ball. Maybe he knows Trafford are losing, so a play-off spot is secured.

In the second half Colne drop deeper and deeper. Droylsden are always on the ball, but lack creativity. The brilliant Colne fans see their team over the finishing line after a few late scares. Cunningham punches the air with delight. Farsley Celtic, near to Leeds, will be their play-off opponents.

Attendance: 568

Man of the Match: Wallace Hartley, Bandleader of the Titanic.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Stratford Town 4-1 Kettering Town

'The Lincoln' are at home versus Chester on Tuesday evening. The Taxman is riding shotgun. We're sailing down the A46 in 'Magnum' - my new wheels. I stick the car at the back of Robey Street, where my Nana used to live in warden-aided accommodation. Time is on our side. 'The Taxman' treats me to a chippy tea at a pop-up shop on the High Street. We collect our tickets and park our backsides in the Software Europe Stand.

I'm desperate to see the Imps back in the Football League. The only reason we got relegated was because of that blithering idiot Chris Sutton and his disastrous tenure as manager. I view the game through gritted teeth, kicking every ball inside my head. We nick a goal in the first half and see the game out despite playing the last 25 minutes with ten men, after a straight red card for a pumped-up Alan Power. Gateshead manager Neil Aspin is sat a few seats away from me. The Imps are due up the north east on Easter Bank Holiday Monday. Richard Dryden is also in the stands. Neil Warnock, when manager of Notts County, paid Exeter City £250,000 for his services in 1991.

The weekend can't come quick enough. I quaff a few pints at the Six Barrel Drafthouse on Thursday evening, as Ms Moon sees off a bottle of prosecco. Good Friday is spent traditionally with Leicester City diehard Mr Trumpy Bolton. We had hoped to commence battle over Pop Master on Radio 2 at 10:30 am. Sadly, I'm not picking up the Legend until 11:00 am. He's loitering on a street corner as I squeeze the car down Spinney Road in Keyworth.

Trumpy's all excited about the return leg of the European Cup against Atletico Madrid at the King Power Stadium on Tuesday. He called for Ranieri's head long before the players downed tools and took sides with 'Shakey.' The running and sprint statistics versus Liverpool (Shakespeare's first game in charge) are embarrassing compared to Ranieri's final few matches at the helm.

We pretty much toss a coin as whether to head up the A614 or down the A46 - Sticky's mucked up, the traffic is gridlocked in Newark. First tick off is the recently refurbished Blacksmiths in Clayworth. Bolton necks a pint and a half as Sticky broods over his diet coke. We're soon back on the road again; Trumpy's keen on The Sweyn Forkbeard a Wetherspoons in Gainsborough.

Gainsborough Trinity's Northolme ground is only a few minutes drive away. Bolton turns his nose up at the Worthington's Creamflow bitter. He swills some of my J2o blackcurrant around his mouth to freshen up his taste buds.

Trinty's ground is a belter. The last time I came here, over 10 years ago, Droylsden were the visitors. I remember chatting to a dad of a player. The lad was called Jamie Tandy - best remembered for having a cigar stubbed out in his face by Joey Barton at the Manchester City Christmas Party. I was saddened to read that Tandy himself appeared in court in 2015 for beating up his partner. It was said in court that he had twice tried to take his own life.

We sit at the back of the Ping Stand. A group of young lads are being mischevious. Trumpy Bolton keeps his beady eye on them. Salford have a Billy Smart's Circus moment, Trinity forward Nathan Jarman seizes upon the opportunity and finds the bottom corner of the net with a smart finish, Salford throw the kitchen sink at them. Efforts hit the woodwork and shots are scuffed and shanked, with the home 'keeper making a 'worldy' at the death.

It's Saturday morning and part two of my footballing fiesta. I race down to Netherfield Retail Park, bag a pair of shoes from Next, fill up the car with petrol and grab Ms Moon a Costa coffee, before hitting the M1 and M69. We're back on DAB radio again, as part of the package of my new wheels. The downside is that Ms Moon has tuned into Absolute 80s.

I've clocked the White Swan Hotel on Rother Street in Stratford-upon-Avon. I fancy a tipple and Ms Moon is gagging for a coffee. The hotel dates back to 1450. We mull over the morning papers, lounging in Chesterfield leather chairs. The hotel is one for the notebook, particularly when there's a deal on.

The sun peeps out from behind some white fluffy clouds as we amble down the banks of the River Avon. Lunch is taken at another cracking Good Pub Guide entry called Encore, before taking the short trip to Tiddington, home of Stratford Town FC.

I've blogged 'The Hop' for over 10 years now. I first came here in 2010 and saw one of the most beautifully executed goals by Dunkirk FC's Darren Garmston. Kettering Town are today's visitors. They are coached by my good mate John Ramshaw.

We're situated 20 yards to the left of the away dugout. 'Rammers' must be getting proper nesh in his old age. I've seen him wear short sleeve tops and shorts in sub-zero temperatures. Today I clock him striding across the pitch in a full tracksuit.

It's not long before 'Rammers' is pulling his hair out. On three minutes a free kick is punted forward, the 'keeper is rooted to his line as George Forsyth powers home a header. Rene Howe and Nottingham-born Aaron O'Connor are leading the line for the Poppies; they have a wealth of experience. Their finishing prowess sadly deserts them. It's left to 17-year-old winger Ben Baker to show the veterans how it's done with a cool finish on the half-hour.

Ms Moon has spotted 'Jack the Collie' on her way back from the tea hut. He has his head through a hole in an advertising hoarding. I get gassing to his owner. Jack never takes his eye off the ball and is not interested in any fuss or being stroked. He sulks like a big baby when the referee scoops up the match ball having blown the whistle for half-time.

Kettering take a pummelling in the second half as one or two of them throw the towel in. 'Jack the Collie' has got it on him at the final whistle as the ball is put away for another week. He'll be climbing the walls until next Saturday when he watches Leamington FC down the road in their final home game of the season.

Attendance: 309

Man of the Match: Jack the Collie