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

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Thackley AFC 3-4 Harrogate Railway

We've parked up the car on a side street in Crosby, just a few hundred yards away from the turnstile at Marine's wonderful 100-year-old ground. I loved the quirky stand and nooks and crannies behind the goal. The pitch was immaculate;  you could have played bar billiards on it, but the game was as dull as dishwater. This was no fault of Marine, who put a full shift in. I just thought that Blackburn's U23 team were so bloody boring to watch - a bit like England.

It's a short 20-minute drive to Liverpool's Albert Dock. We book a late table in the hotel restaurant, before pegging it up through Liverpool One and heading towards the real ale quarter. We drink Al Fresco at the Fly in the Loaf, on Hardman Street - a former bakery. I down a pint of Okell's pale ale from Douglas, in the Isle of Man. The bar is packed to the rafters, as folk watch another pointless friendly between Hertha Berlin and Liverpool.

The Philharmonic Rooms, with its mosaic-faced counter and stain-glassed main hall, is just up the road. There's a disappointing choice of ales on the bar. We meet up with Ken and Joan from our holiday in Nerja, whiling away time, enjoying a few more scoops in Ye Old Cracke, before retiring for dinner.

After the breakfast, the following morning, we take a stroll up to the Pier Head, before jumping on the Liverpool Wheel. We don't hang about much after lunch as the M6 is bound to be a pig (it was).
I'm sat in the Brewhouse and Kitchen on Trent Bridge, by 3 pm, listening to the standing ovation, the raucous crowd and beer-fuelled chanting coming from Trent Bridge Cricket Ground, as Alex Hales tees off again in the T20.  Notts chase down 223 runs despite Harry Gurney's filthy bowling. Hales tonks four sixes and 14 fours in a 47 ball century. What a stubborn, old fool I am, to sit on a nearby pub patio a stone's throw away, missing out on the occasion.

I attend my first League game of the season on Tuesday evening. Blog favourite, James 'Tosh' Turner, still convalescing after suffering cracked ribs and a broken collarbone, following a Kevin Keegan Superstars fall off his bike, post- Scoopathon, at the Red Hart in Ruddington, is managing the World famous Clifton All Whites away at Belper United in the EMCL. The game is played at Borrowash Victoria's ground - no doubt there are reasons why Belper don't play in their own town anymore. Clifton are relieved to travel home with a point after a  lacklustre performance.  Belper scrap and fight for every ball as if their lives depend on it. On the upside, at least Tosh won't be cycling home down the A52 tonight.

My last visit to The Asterdale, in Borrowash, was on 4th March 2008. That day a 19-year-old forward blew me away. He was playing for Staveley MW, on loan from Sheffield FC. I rang an assistant manager in the Northern Premier League, to tip him the wink, he replied: "if he can't get in Sheffield FC's side, there's no chance of a pick in our team. The boy's name was Lee Gregory - he's been the leading scorer for Championship side Millwall for the last two seasons. He was released by Sheffield Wednesday at 16 years old - as was Jamie Vardy. It's the great thing about Non-League Football; you never know who is going to rock up.

It's Friday tea-time and I've worked my socks off today. I weighed-in this morning following a three-week healthy eating plan. I'm delighted to announce I've lost 10lbs - you can soon start calling me Sticky, again. I wander down Racecourse Road towards the Colwick Hall Hotel. Hello, hello, hello. A police 'Tactical Support Unit' white van passes by full of rozzers. Perhaps I can help them out, after all I've a degree in criminology having watched all 372 episodes of Heartbeat. Ventress and Bellamy have taught me every trick in the book.

I glance through the window and notice a few plod unwrapping tin foil and tucking into their luncheon meat sandwiches. They're all tooled up and ready for 'The Millwall' and the arsenal that is Lee Gregory up top. Heavens to Betsy, I can't get out of the racecourse; all the gates are padlocked. I end up vaulting a metal obstacle before tumbling onto concrete .... ouch.

I get a tweet shout out by Michael Vaughan on Test Match Special at the fag end of the first day's play. They've been babbling on about famous confectionery shops in Blackpool. I pipe up that ex Notts and England 'Bodyline' fast bowler, Harold Larwood, ran a sweet shop in the town when he retired from cricket. Nobody knew that on TMS.

I manage to negotiate the rush hour traffic with ease and I'm parked up outside Heanor Town's ground by 6:50pm. I tuck into pie, chips and mushy peas and enjoy watching the game with legendary 'Bearded Wonder' groundhopper Malc' Storer. Heanor exit the FA Cup with a shock defeat to a plucky Aylestone Park from Leicester - Gary Lineker's old club. On the drive back home 'Radio Red' are saying that the Lions let the Tricky Trees off the hook. 'Dafty says that Lee Gregory wasn't firing on all cylinders.

We love Yorkshire. In groundhopping terms we have absolutely smashed it between Step One and Step Five level. Bradford gets a bad Press, but I'm fascinated about the place. Some of the hills, above, have breathtaking views, and equally importantly, great pubs, serving quality ales and top notch tucker.

Christ on a bike, we're listening to Alan Carr and Mel Sykes on Radio 2. To be honest folks it's not getting any better. They play Stars on 45, a Beatles medley, by some Dutch novelty act. Jesus wept, it's bloody awful - and that's just Ms Moon's high pitched shrill - I double check my mobile that Auto Windscreens are on standby in case the windscreen shatters.

Within a few hours we're parked up at The Hop in the village of Saltaire. It's an old, converted tram shed with a two-tiered bar. I have a 'Swedish Blonde' - she's absolutely gorgeous, as is the fish butty.
Having made good time we pop down to the Salt Mills. Bradford born artist David Hockney has a permanent collection of his work on display. Sir Titus Salt opened the woollen mills in 1853 and built the village of Saltaire to house his workers. He died in 1876. It is said that 100,000 lined the streets for his funeral.

Thackley FC was founded in 1930 by members of the Methodist Church, and is known as "the club in the woods" because of its idyllic setting in the heart of the Bradford countryside. The village is loosely bordered by the village of Idle to the south, where the comic actor Adrian Edmondson grew up.

We park up adjacent to Buck Wood. I can hear Kylie Minogue singing 'I Should Be So Lucky' on the PA as we approach the turnstile and part with £11.50 including a programme. We wander past the red and green painted stand with its white wooden benches. I met a groundhopper last night at Heanor who called the ground unremarkable. What planet are some of these groundhoppers on ? The welcome is warm, the ground tree-lined and the pitch is a labour of love. We fall in love immediately.

Ms Moon scoots off to the Tea Bar for a coffee. I'm stood on the opposite side to the main stand, close to the dugouts. I hear a knock on the gate behind me, that's locked from the inside. I open the door and let in a lady and gentleman, accompanied with a chair. "That'll be £10 please", I joke. Stewart and June Willingham have been involved with the Club since 1970. They make me feel so welcome. June asks me if I enjoyed lunch at The Hop. She has been following me on Twitter  .. lol.

Ms Moon arrives back with coffee in hand and isn't surprised to see I'm already a 'Thackley Groupie.' We're joined by a guy from Worcester who supports Everton and a couple of other regulars. The team news from June is that Thackley have four players missing who are schoolteachers and on holiday - hell's teeth, they're always on holiday.

We're all having a good old chat and getting to know one another. The only thing spoiling the day is the Harrogate Railway manager and his grumpy assistant. They both have voices  like a foghorn. Railway look tense and are told to settle down. The Management play every ball, question every decision and swear like troopers. I should have offered some of my blood pressure capsules to them.

It's 0-0 at the break. I saw two 0-0s in Yorkshire last season; I'm on for a hat-trick as neither side look like breaking the deadlock. The raffle numbers are shouted out. We miss out by three numbers. Last night at Heanor I was one off the 50/50 which was £35 - I'm still cross about that.

The second half is up there in Non-League entertainment that I've ever witnessed in the last 10 years. Thackley take a 2-0 lead. June and I celebrate with a Hello magazine photo shoot as the visitors peg one back. They quickly restore parity, whilst I take a photo of Thackley diehards Jazz and Muphy the Spaniels. They then take the lead with a sublime left foot finish from the edge of the box. 'The Foghorn' pats himself on the back for his double substitution. Thackley greyhound George Eustance equalises. Before we have time to draw breath Luke Stewart, playing on the shoulder, gets away, rounds the keeper and rolls the ball home to put Harrogate RA in the next round with a £1,500 prize-winning goal.

Couple of the match: June and Stewart Willingham. Thank you so much for making our day.

Attendance: 112