Sunday, September 29, 2019

Blackpool 2-1 Lincoln City

It's Monday 9th September and I'm slouched in my swivel chair at Ideagen PLC HQ, basking in the glory of being League leader in the Ideagen Super 6. A youth taps me on the shoulder ('Our Joe') and says "Dad, have you heard the news? Danny Cowley has upped sticks and left 'The Lincoln' to join Huddersfield Town."  I gasp for air and nearly tip the chair up. I rummage around in my rucksack and pop a couple of blood pressure pills. I ask for the air con to be turned on. I loosen a button on the collar of my shirt and ask for a glass of water to brought over to me. Joe checks to see which qualified first-aiders are at work today. The list is on the kitchen wall.

How could he do this to us? They say it's best to leave when your stock is high. Sanctions are put in place in the office. Anyone who mentions his name has to put £1 in the charity pot. If I have a slip of the tongue, then it's a Bluey for me. Danny is now known as 'He Who Must Not Be Named.'

Seriously, what an unbelievable three-year journey the Imps have had under his stewardship. I emailed Danny Cowley not long after he arrived at Sincil Bank, aware of his Non-League background and his eye for a bargain buy. At the time there was no scouting system in place as such; so cash-strapped were Lincoln that they didn't even have a First Team coach or Chief Scout.

I offered to scout the Non-League for my Club as I've previous experience as Head of Recruitment at Notts County Academy. Tickets were arranged by Danny, and each Saturday evening I sent in detailed reports of potential targets. This became harder as we climbed the leagues as the Imps recruitment went for quality over quantity. But it was an honour to be associated, if only in a cameo role. I wish The Cowleys well at The Terriers of Huddersfield and hope to blog a game up there later in the season.

I sneak a couple of games in during the week. I have an amusing anecdote to tell you from one. On Tuesday I watch Radford FC v Clifton All Whites - I'm big mates with both of their managers and a few of the players. Scott Litchfield and Jack Reid are on opposite sides and the best of mates. Jack has hitched a lift with Scott to the game and will be marking his buddy this evening. About 20 mins in, there's a foot up by Litchfield; there's no intent, he went for the ball. Reid's a brave lad and plays with his heart on his sleeve, he sticks his head in. Claret falls from the wound onto the famous white shirt. It's an accident with no malice intended. The referee sees differently and shows a straight Red to a disbelieving Litchfield. The irony is that Scott was with Jack down the QMC accident and emergency department until the small wee hours. Let's hope common sense prevails and the appeal is successful.

It's Friday morning and Sticky is like a kid on Christmas Eve. Ms Moon is off for the week to Tenerife with family and her best pal Jill. I've got carte blanche on the football front. Lancashire Police have requested Lincoln fans leave early as the World Firework Championships are on in Blackpool and the roads into the resort are expected to be choc-a-bloc. The game's been moved to Friday because Preston are playing at Deepdale on Saturday and the Constabulary can't police both games - what a load of poppycock.

The driving conditions are atrocious on the M6 and so is the Jim White Show on TalkSport. 'Terry the Gardener' live from his allotment in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, on the Jeremy Vine Show, is far more heart-warming.

I arrive to a monsoon in the coastal town of Lytham where I've set up basecamp for the night at the Innkeeper's Lodge (the County Hotel in old money). I grab a sandwich from Sainsbury's before ticking off The Taps, a Good Pub Guide entry. I quaff a pint of Robinson's dizzy blonde and then stretch my legs on a windswept seafront.

I run for the 68 bus to Blackpool, oblivious to a large area of standing water. A car comes careering down the road and aquaplanes into the 'puddle' drenching Sticky Palms from head to toe. The CCTV lads will be in stitches. I troop back to the hotel for a change of clothes, smelling like a wet, old dog. I've only brought one pair of jeans. I blast them for half an hour with a hairdryer.

Take two is successful. I jump on the No.11 and pay £2.90. I alight the bus in the town centre and head for the front. I can't dress up what I see. The place is dying on its backside. There's something tragically romantic about it. My good friend Mr John Harris has tipped me another winner in the Velvet Coaster a three-storey Wetherspoons. I sit on the rooftop terrace and watch the sun go down with a couple of pints of Moorhouses Blonde Witch at £2.09 per pint. Blog regular and pub snob, Tony 'Dog' MacDonald, slaughters 'Spoons on social media (love ya Tony).

A couple of drunks point me in the wrong direction towards the ground (been before, memory like a sieve). I saw Dexter Blacklock bag a late equaliser for the Tricky Trees back in October 2012. Jermaine Jenas gave a jaw-dropping display that evening; a proper midfield masterclass.

'The Lincoln' have brought 1200 supporters despite one win in the last nine outings. It includes a German Shepherd dog who is being fussed by his partially sighted owner. David Bowie's Starman is on the PA system. Blackpool supporters start to fill up the stands behind both goals. The atmosphere is electric and noisier than those chuffing fireworks that are being set off up the road. Lincoln sing to the new manager 'Michael Appleton' to the tune of  'Give it Up' by KC and the Sunshine Band.

The Imps start like a house on fire. Tyler Walker sees a shot go wide. We fall behind 15 minutes in after an unstoppable strike from Sean Scannell. The game is breathtaking as Lincoln sweep forward again. 'The Lincoln Messi', Jack Payne, sees a shot beaten away by the Blackpool stopper. The Tangerines go 2-0 up after a misplaced pass and some sloppy defending.

'The Lincoln' claw one back with a brilliant move. Crowd favourite, Portuguese winger, Bruno Andrade, slips his mark and puts in a cross, which Payne converts. There are further chances for both sides in a pulsating first half of football. I'm gobsmacked to see the groundstaff fire up the water sprinklers at half-time.

The second half doesn't live up to its billing. Blackpool fail to put the game to bed and the Imps miss late chances for a deserved equaliser. I'm sick as a dog as I jump back on the No.11 bus back into Lytham. I drown my sorrows back in The Taps. I play the game over in my mind, over and over again. I finally drop off at 3 a.m., but rise early and feel grouchy. I pull back the curtains. It's raining cats 'n dogs.

I find out over a greasy, fried breakfast that AFC Blackpool v Lower Breck has been postponed because of electrical issues - probably caused by the Noah's Ark downpour. The whole area is under water. I have other options in the area but fear they'll all be watered off. Going against the grain I head towards the Costa Del Sol (Greater Manchester) - it never rains there.

There's a spot of celebrity grave-hunting to be had first. I drive down millionaire's row before parking up in Lytham Park Cemetery and Crematorium. One of England's best joke tellers is laid to rest in here. I hunt high and low for Les Dawson but can't find him. I'm hopeless without my usual sparring partner. She's good at finding celebrity graves.

I drive down endless motorways in pouring rain towards 'Sunny Manchester.' Irlam have confirmed they are ON. They are locking up the gates as I roll up. The game is OFF. It's a similar situation at Maine Road, a downpour of biblical proportions sees another game bite the dust.

I won't do a 3G/4G for love or money. I'd rather wash the pots. The Notts FA award League finals to Clubs who have these 'surfaces.' The NSL finals were played out in sweltering temperatures last May on an artificial surface - nobody puts a tackle in and good players don't like playing on them.

There is one last roll of the dice or I'll head home to Nottingham. @nashultra1 has tweeted me to say Wythenshawe Amateurs v New Mills has passed a swimming pool inspection. I pull up there at 2:p.m, astonished to see the pitch in pristine condition. Gobsmacked and relieved, I handover £4 to a cheery gateman.

I sit in a smart, modern clubhouse drinking a J2o as TV chew over the fat after fortuitous 1-0 win for Liverpool at Bramall Lane.  The walls are adjoined with pictures of the Club's history since being formed in 1946,

Dark black clouds circle above the ground. The studs of the players' boots squelch in the water sodden turf. The first half is as exciting as last night at Bloomfield Road. Tackles fly in on the greasy surface. No quarter is given. The Grandson of Manchester Utd legend Paddy Crerand is stroking the ball with his left foot in the middle of the park.

I get gassing to Secretary, Mike, who has recently taken over the role. Committee member Arron is also very friendly. Winless New Mills, from Derbyshire, start the game at a furious pace. It's end to end, like last night. The visitors take the lead just shy of half time. Mike and Arron are gutted.

Arron comes back after half time with a plate of sandwiches, sausage rolls and a cup of tea, What a lovely gesture. Non-League folk make you feel so welcome. This game would never have been on had it not been for the efforts of the 'Ammies Ultras'  endlessly forking the pitch throughout the rain-soaked skies.

New Mills nick another from the penalty spot. It was only a few years ago that they were managed by former Manchester City striker Shaun 'feed the goat and he will score' Goater. I've had a wonderful 24 hours watching football at all levels, But it's time for bed  Zebedee.

Attendance: 140

Man of the Match: Les Dawson "My father drank so heavily, when he blew on the birthday cake he lit all the candles."

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Nottingham Forest 1-0 Barnsley

The goals have flown into the net at North Shields in the north-east of England. I'm as happy as Larry as we check-in at Motel One in the heart of Newcastle city centre. I peg it down to my favourite pub, Crown Posada, whilst Ms Moon 'powders her nose.' I quaff a couple of Tynemouth Blondes (real ale), whilst admiring the stain-glassed windows in the city's oldest pub. They have a vintage record player that has vinyl records and a stylus. Two Hearts Beat As One by U2 crackles through the pub speakers.

I've a raging thirst as Ms Moon and I hit the town - not bad eh, for a couple of golden oldies (speak for yourself Sticky). I've already had a comedy moment in the car park when I had to cough up for parking twice (£16) as I punched in my car registration plate at the pay station when we were, in fact, in the good lady's car.

One or two lads have been on the lash in the Toon since the Liverpool v Newcastle lunchtime kick-off. The result hasn't gone down too well with four beer-fuelled young 'uns, who are kicking the ever-loving crap out of one another. I step in to break the scuffle up, avoiding a couple of haymakers in doing so. We have a great night out regardless.

I catch up with the FA Vase results on Sunday evening and notice my local team, Gedling Miners' Welfare, have a replay up at Plains Road on Tuesday evening. I contact their Press Officer, Tony Hay, who is a good mate of mine, and offer to sponsor the game, which he happily accepts.

I don't have the usual chippy tea up Mapperley Tops on Tuesday evening, as I've had my fair share in recent weeks when I've been on the hoof. It's £5 on the gate, but the programmes have sold out by the time I arrive. Tony quickly rustles one up and invites me into hospitality at half-time. Gedling pay the price for a dreadful first-half display; bowing out to Step 7 Clay Cross Town (who were superb) 3-2. The cheese and ham sarnies weren't bad though.

Wednesday evening is spent up at another one of my favourite clubs, Heanor Town, on the Notts/Derbys border. It's great to see Tony Squires, a proper football bloke, return to the Club. Kimberley MW are tonight's visitors. They've pretty much lost their whole team from last season, as the players, like sheep, have followed their old manager to Dunkirk. I won't watch the Boatmen whilst he's in charge. Folk like him think it's fair game to up sticks and take all the players with him, with no thought about aftercare or a club's well-being.

I stand with Mr and Mrs John Harris. The game appears to be over as a contest after 45 minutes. The young Miners play with heart and soul in the second half. They are cajoled and encouraged by manager Graham Furnell. I look forward to monitoring their progress as they play the game the right way and in a good spirit.

The Forest v Barnsley game has been lined up for ages. I'm not that fussed if I'm honest, but an old cricketing friend, 'Heppers', has flown in from the Cayman Islands, as he's settling his lad into Nottingham Trent University. He's got the lads from back-in-the-day together for an all-dayer which includes the T20 Finals Day which we'll watch on the TV; it's too good an opportunity to miss.

Before all that is my third match of the week, out in the old coal-mining village of Cotgrave. I saw Keyworth United's Green Army turn them over good and proper in a 'Floody Friday' game last week. It doesn't help matters that high-flying Woodthorpe Park Rangers are in town this evening.

It's a cracking first half and 1-1 at the break. I fancy Woodthorpe to turn up the heat in the second half, and they duly oblige, scoring a further four goals without reply; three of them after being reduced to 10 men after a professional foul. The game is brilliantly refereed by Lewis Quayle, who allows the game to flow, although Cotgrave are aggrieved to have a 'stonewall' penalty turned down.

I get chatting to legendary groundhopper Peter Miles who has pitched up here from Southend. He's watched games in 49 countries and has visited over 2700 grounds. Tomorrow he's at Airdrie and Sunday at the Hearts and Hibs Edinburgh derby game. I ask him if he's watched any matches in Tenerife. He says he hasn't - it's a consolation goal for Sticky, as Peter is a proper hopper.

Ms Moon (Cinderella) rolls in after midnight after a night on the sauce with her pal Jill up at Mapperley. She stinks the place out with a Chinese takeaway, although I nick a few prawn crackers whilst she flicks the kettle on. I switch off the TV after watching another award-winning episode of New Tricks.

It's Super Saturday and a massive day for our county. Notts are in T20 action at 11 a.m. and the Tricky Trees will be looking to continue their recent upturn in form against an out-of-sorts Barnsley. I'm on a 'Leo Sayer' with lads, so need to eat plenty of tucker before the session begins at the Test Match, on Gordon Square, in West Bridgford. Ms Moon knocks me up a bacon sandwich with blue Stilton cheese crumbs on it. I waltz through the pub doors as Alex Hales begins to tee-off.

All the lads are getting stuck into a few 'sherbets' as Notts chase down Worcestershire's modest total of 147. It looks a formality, but Notts have previous for choking. The lads laugh at my pessimism. I remark that Ben Duckett isn't that clever upstairs. Following some Kamikaze running between the wickets, Duckett, whose claim to fame is being sent home from an England Lions tour in Australia, after pouring a pint of Fosters over Jimmy Anderson's head, in Perth, requires one run to send the Outlaws into the final. The lad looks a nervous wreck. I can barely look as the final ball is bowled. He takes a swipe and hits fresh air. Notts are out. My stomach churns and blood pressure rises. I ask the barman for a Cognac.

We troop up through Central Avenue in stony silence and disbelief in what we've just seen. At least the football will take my mind off it for 90 minutes. We're sat up in the gods in the Brian Clough Stand. A round of applause will take place in the fifteenth minute to remember 'Old Big 'Ead' who died 15 years ago.

Forest wiped the floor with D**y County a few weeks ago in the League Cup, or whatever it's called. I giggled and chuckled in the Main Stand 'B' Block as Forest outplayed and outsung the Sheep. 'Lampard start the bounce' was sung every time the Tricky Trees found the back of the Onion Bag. 'A' Block belted out their entire back catalogue. I bellyached my way home up London Road that night.

It might be a false dawn, but there were raised eyebrows last weekend that NFFC are serious promotion contenders after a 1-0 victory at Swansea City's Liberty Stadium. It's no coincidence that a couple of old school defenders in Joe Worrall and Michael Dawson are the regular doormen at The City Ground. I met Dawson once when he stopped at our hotel in Portugal with Hull City during a pre-season. What a great bloke he is and a superb role model for Worrall, who has returned full of confidence after a season-long loan under Steven Gerrard's tutelage at Rangers.

I might as well have had a nap in the first half as there's absolutely sweet diddly-squat to report. The football is safe, with no risk-taking as both opponents eye one another up. Heppers might have made a 10,000-mile round trip for a 0-0. My mood darkens with the news that my team Lincoln City are having a snooze and are 2-0 down to Oxford - 'Bagpuss', sat in front of me, teases me, as he supports them.

The second half is much improved. Barnsley start to shift the ball around and boss the midfield. They look the likelier team to open the scoring. Their fans start to believe and have begun to be heard above the moans and groans of some impatient home fans. Incredibly Forest take the lead following a swift, breathtaking counterattack down the right-hand side. Cash and 'Ain't Nobody Like Joe Lolley' exchange passes before Ben Watson sweeps home the cross.

Sabir Lamouchi injects some pace. Crowd favourite, 22-year-old Portuguese No.10, Joao Carvalho, is hooked. He's had little effect on the game. Some are saying around me that he's being eased back into the side after being kicked up in the air at Alfreton during a pre-season friendly (most people are). Maybe it's me, but I always seem to catch him on an off day. Five goals is a poor return for an outlay of £13,000,000.

It's all hands to the pump as Barnsley throw the kitchen sink at Forest. The Tykes play a beautiful game but can't break down the Forest defence. Worrall and Dawson are immense. Keep these two lads fit and you never know, they might sneak a play-off place.

The evening continues in the land of 'Fur Coats and no Knickers' I'm blowing a gasket having been told 'The Lincoln' have had a 0-6 shellacking. I sink some strong German wheat beer in Zinc bar, before partaking in the Gin Palace back at the Test Match. I watch through gritted teeth as Essex win the T20 final, off the last ball. The 'Lord Mayor' and 'Big Bear Baker' (Essex fans) are gloating. The chuffing taxi can't come quick enough.

Man of the Match: Joe Worrall and Heppers (not the Oxford fan)

Attendance: 29,202 (1,952)

Sunday, September 15, 2019

North Shields 1-5 Hebburn Town

I love to plonk my backside in the Larwood and Voce Stand at Trent Bridge. It may not give you a bird's eye view of proceedings, but it's full of proper old school characters. One or two haven't quite adjusted to or grasped our modern, politically correct society. There was a brilliant example of this the other evening, during a T20 Vitality Blast quarter-final, versus Middlesex.

It was a bitterly chilly Thursday evening and T20 legend, Eoin Morgan, had just hit a six into orbit (North Bridgford). A small gathering of Middlesex supporters, sat a few rows in front of me, who had clearly been on the sauce all day, are dancing and celebrating to some techno music that's blaring out of the PA system - think it was the Dutch band 2 Unlimited. Anyhow, some lass, dressed from head to toe in pink Middlesex attire, is gyrating wildly to the music. It catches the attention of a Sky TV cameraman, who beams it to all their subscribers around the world.

The young lady enjoys the adulation and milks the rapturous applause of an amused crowd. She sits down to a standing ovation. There are a few seconds of silence before the next ball is bowled. The bloke behind me shouts out loudly to the 'dancer' "sit down you tit," I still have tears in my eyes from belly-aching laughter, as I walk down London Road, an hour later, whilst celebrating a ten-wicket victory.

I've not been over to my home village of Keyworth in ages. Football gives me the excuse to visit my old patch twice this week. I cycle down the Trent with the Big Man on Wednesday before another chippy tea at the Ruddington Fish Bar. I arrive at the ground just in time for the 7:30 p.m kick off.

I coached a fair few of the Keyworth Ressies team last season, so it means a lot to me that many of the lads make a fuss of me. Steve Cullis, the manager, is a great lad. He has shuffled his pack this evening, making five changes, despite dishing out a 5-0 drubbing to top of the table Bingham last Saturday.

'The Keyworth Georgie Best' (my lad) hasn't taken the news too well that he's been 'rested' for tonight's game - all police leave has been cancelled. PC Malik has been drafted in from long term sick and is on foot patrol. It's best I don't talk to him for an hour or so, whilst he calms down. There would have been a Tasmanian Devil moment when the news was broken to him - I actually liked it, as a manager, when a player got cross when they were left out of the starting line-up - it shows that they really care. The same when they are subbed and won't look you in the eye.

Ruddington Village Res are tonight's visitors. My young development team did a proper smash and grab job on their turf last season. We celebrated in their Parish, late into the night - think I'm still banned from the Keyworth Tavern after a Gincident the same evening. It didn't go down too well when the Landlord announced that they had run out of ice and lemon - I was knee-deep into a seven-hour session at the time. To be fair I did ring the following day to apologise.

The game ends in a 2-2 draw. Keyworth nearly snatch victory in the dying embers of the game. Ruddington are an angry lot and their own worst enemy. Their ill-discipline cost them the League title last season. There are some cynical, pre-meditated late tackles. A strong referee acts accordingly.

Friday 13th strikes early for Sticky Palms. My computer has more updates than Sky Sports News. It deprives me of 45 minutes laptop time. At least I don't have to read some of the cringe-worthy posts on LinkedIn - I much prefer the twitter account called the State of LinkedIn.

I'm back in Keyworth again, minus the chippy tea. Big guns, Cotgrave Colliery Welfare are in town against the Green Army First Team. Ian Marley has bought into youth. Three of the starting line-up are teenagers. An excellent 16-page programme is available - groundhoppers love a programme. Some have been known to about-turn at the gate if one isn't available.

Keyworth take the lead just shy of half-time through a Jake Fisher strike. Fisher scores again following some Champagne football. A lacklustre Cotgrave pull a goal back with their Big Cheese Lee Potts converting a spot-kick. Potts is well shackled by teenage centre-back Dan Hunter. A thoroughly deserved third goal by 'Chadders' puts the game to bed. The Cotgrave twitter account are bitterly disappointed, calling the performance 'unacceptable' and promising to step up their recruitment drive.

It's Saturday morning. I've got to confess that 'Fatty Palms' went to the chippy again last night. The Carlton Fryer being the latest beneficiary. Ms Moon and I are on the road by 8:30 a.m. after filling up with diesel and coffee in Netherfield.

We both like Dermot O'Leary on Radio 2. And let me tell you, folks, 'Dermo' is on flames this very morning. Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, Primal Scream and Electronic are the pick of the bunch. Special guest David Walliams has razor-sharp wit too. I suffer in silence to Graham Norton - the music is bloomin' awful.

The three-hour journey up to the historic, seaside town of Tynemouth is without incident.  We park close to the Monastery and take a stroll down the North Pier. It's a beautiful autumnal day. We watch a fisherman skillfully reel in a 3lb cod - he poses for the camera. Ms Moon's favourite band is Duran Duran. She gets excited when I casually drop out that guitarist Andy Taylor was born in the town.

Lunch is spent at the highly recommended Longsands Fish Kitchen on Front Street (thanks again John Harris). We're full to the brim after wolfing down haddock and cod. Hopefully, 20,000 steps should burn off some calories. I had a Monkey 47 gin too. There's a scary moment in the restaurant when a small boy starts choking on his food. Customers rush to help his Dad. Thankfully the youngster clears his throat of the offending item.

The town is alive with folk visiting before the winter shut down. We have a mosey around The Wine Chambers, where I snaffle up 75cl of Pickering's gin at a bargain £26 per bottle. I peg it up to the giant statue of Lord Collingwood, complete with four cannons. The view down the coastline is stunning and breathtaking.

North Shields is a town on the north bank of the River Tyne, eight miles north-east of Newcastle. Its population is 35,000. The town is well known for its shipyards and fishing. Footballers Michael Bridges and Steve Watson were both born in the town, as was Pet Shop Boys singer Neil Tennant.

The Robins were founded in 1896 and play at the Darren Persson Stadium. We saw them a few years ago away at Whitley Bay, when former Aston Villa and Blackburn attacking midfielder Graham Fenton was the manager. £6 on the gate is great value as is £1.50 for another cracking programme.

Ms Moon pops into Robins Nest to get some much-needed bottles of water following the fish 'n chip lunch. I ask her to enquire if the one-armed Irish pot washer, Albert, from the 70s sitcom Robin's Nest is on duty - it draws a blank expression. I admire the tree-lined ground and the pristine condition of the pitch. Table-topping Hebburn Town are today's visitors.

I'm in a short-sleeved shirt, minus the jacket, as uninterrupted sunshine is forecast. I should have known better up here as the sun is replaced with clouds and a stiff breeze, which spoils the first half. North Shields fail to take advantage of the wind and fall behind to a well-worked goal from the visitors.

We've been chatting to some Hebburn supporters; they're are so friendly, and invite us to their ground, One of them is the Dad of the visiting 'keeper.  He's a lovely bloke, who's immersed in the Non-League game, since not renewing his Newcastle United season ticket following the disgraceful sacking of Sir Bobby Robson..

Hebburn up the gears in the second half, using the wind to gain an advantage. North Shields are plucky and pull a goal back, but the visitors finally run out as 5-1 victors.

Attendance: 364

Man of the Match: Nick Cassidy RB, North Shields. Class.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Chasetown 1-0 Staveley Miners' Welfare

It's May 3rd, 1978. Sticky Palms and his best mate, Ackers, are wandering at the back of the Parr Stand at Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club. We've got the autographs of Richard Hadlee and Derek Randall (both childhood heroes of mine, along with Clive Rice) for the umpteenth time, as we loiter around the Long Room at the foot of the pavilion stairs. Notts have been entertaining Pakistan in a touring game. 22-year-old leg spinner, Abdul Qadir, has burst onto the scene and is walking in our direction. We politely ask him to put his moniker into our autograph books. "I can do one better than that lads, why don't you come onto to the team bus and meet all the players?"

My heart beats ten to the dozen as every player shakes our hand and sign our books. We're talking legendary status - the likes of Mudassar Nazar, Javid Miandad and Safraz Nawaz. I jump off the Keyworth No.6 bus and race up the twitchell (Nott'm slang for alley). I share the news with my Dad, who is as pleased as punch for me. I learn of Abdul Qadir's untimely death on Friday, a life cut short by a cardiac arrest at the age of 63 years old. I will never forget his act of kindness. Rest in peace, my friend.

We enjoyed our afternoon out at Prescot Cables in the north west; it's a ground to die for, and we met the greatest Non League Dog of all-time - Koda, a one-year-old Newfoundland puppy. Ms Moon doesn't muck about when she's driving - I'm sat shotgun, whinging and moaning at Rylan Clark-Neal on Radio 2 (I think he's quite funny really, I just don't let on).

We both adore Liverpool and need no excuse for a stopover. The bar is packed in the Crowne Plaza, opposite the Royal Liver Building. Klopp's Liverpool are playing Big Sean's Burnley, and there's a wedding reception on too. I've had my fill of football for the day - I'm not a sad, proper Hopper who does 2-3 games a day. I ask Reception to book a cab up to the Real Ale Quarter, near the Liverpool Philharmonic. We chillout in the Fly in the Loaf, on Hardman Street, as the goals rack up at Turf Moor.

A few new pubs are ticked off before we turn in for the night. There aren't many takeaways in the Princes Dock, close to our hotel. We're both 'Hank Marvin.' I've already enquired about room service, pre-drinks, and have had the thumbs-up that a sandwich is 'no problem.' I order up a cheese and ham sarnie and crisps, as the Match of the Day theme tune strikes up. Deep into 'injury time' there's still no sign of supper. I nudge the lass on the switchboard and I'm assured it won't be long. A third conversation, with Match of the Day long gone, is less cordial. I'm not interested that "Ivan's all over it." Where the chuff is my sandwich?

It's frosty at checkout the following morning. I notice we've been charged for supper but not the two rounds of drinks we necked as nightcaps. Ms Moon says let it go. I'm still blowing a gasket as we head onto M62 towards the M6.

I've had to split my sporting week up due to the added bonus of Notts being fortuitously being handed a home tie versus the big guns of Middlesex in the T20 Vitality Blast on Thursday night. I didn't want to chance my arm with Ms Moon by announcing another football fixture. I'll watch Emmerdale Farm, Corrie and Celebrity Masterchef through gritted teeth.

To be honest I wish I stopped in for a double helping of Amos and Mr Wilks on Tuesday evening. Instead, I venture out to the New Manor Ground, where Ilkeston Town and Spalding Town are crossing swords. I sit with Big D and his son Ross, who misses out on playing in goal tonight due to a slight tweak in his groin. Both are on top form, delivering a string of laugh out loud anecdotes. Entertainment is in short supply on the pitch, but you can't fault the endeavour. And before you start, yes, it was nil chuffing nil. To complete a miserable day I arrive home to find out that 'The Lincoln's' Danny Cowley is 1/6 ON for the Sheffield Wednesday job.

I've cheered up by Thursday evening, although still a tad concerned about young Jacob's hairdo on Emmerdale Farm - I thought he was the lovechild of Gareth Bale. I have a quick pint of Buried Treasure at the Neon Raptor taproom, served by 'Mr ZZ Top.' I take my place in the Larwood and Voce Stand at Trent Bridge. The Middlesex All-Stars are in town. Their group includes: David Malan, AB de Villiers and England T20 skipper Eoin Morgan.

Peter Moores drafts in Chris Nash from the wilderness and prefers Luke Wood, who recently signed a three year deal with Lancashire, over Luke Fletcher, who can feel hard done by. Notts are brilliant in the field, with their spinners, particularly Lincolnshire lad Matt Carter, executing their plan perfectly. The Londoners are restricted to 160-8 off their 20 overs.

Notts have been known to collapse like a deck of cards, when chasing runs, with the heat turned up. Tonight they reverse the trend. Alex Hales and Chris Nash treat the loyal supporters, sat in a bitterly cold evening, to a masterclass in T20 batting. Hales, left in the cold by England, clouts Steven Finn into orbit to see Notts home by 10 wickets. I skip all the way home down London Road.

I have three pints of ale in The Brickyard on Carlton Hill on Friday teatime. I arrive home to find Ms Moon and her best friend Jill, dressed to the nines' for a wedding reception at Welbeck Hall, in West Bridgford, on the banks of the Trent. The next thing I know is that it's well past midnight and someone is knocking furiously at the front door. It's a bit early for Jeff Brazier from the People's Postcode Lottery, but I'll happily accept the £30,000 cheque at any time of night. It's a furious Ms Moon. I've left my keys in the inside door and she can't get in.

It's still a bit frosty first thing on Saturday morning. It's going to take more than a Nescafe Alta Rica and two slices of fruit loaf toast to woo the Princess back. I keep my head down and crack on with the chores. There's another knock at the door. It's Beer 52 with a box of craft ales.

It's £9 on the gate (cheaper than Stamford's world record £10 for Step 4). We buy a couple of raffle tickets. 'Diddy' David Hamilton must be on the decks. He plays a string of 1970s hits including 'Get Dancin' by Disco-Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes.

We bump into legendary Staveley owner/chairman Terry Damms in the bar. He's so welcoming and appreciative of our support. He makes a fuss of Ms Moon and asks how our weekend was in Liverpool; oblivious to 'Sandwich Gate.' The Trojans love a good Cup run. We saw them play Lincoln United off the park in the previous round of the FA Cup a few weeks back. Last season they knocked out big-spending Basford United in the FA Cup on the hallowed 4G at Greenwich Avenue. Massive egos were dented that evening. Terry waxes lyrical of celebrations late into the night at Napoleons Casino in Sheffield.

The ground is a beauty and the pitch looks immaculate. We both peel off our fleeces as the sun emerges and the teams kick-off. Staveley look nervous from the off and survive a few scares before falling behind on 7 minutes.

The visitors are proper under the cosh and are getting outmuscled and outfought. The half time whistle can't come quick enough as the ball just keeps coming back. I'm chuffed to bits to get my mitts on an FA Cup match-ball on 13 minutes. I pull a stomach muscle stretching over an advertising hoarding to retrieve a misplaced pass. Out of breath, I ask Ms Moon for a swig of her Buxton Water.

Staveley throw on an old school warrior of a centre-forward in the second half, who works his gonads off. They scuff a few half chances, but their delivery continues to be poor. The referee has a 'Weston Super Nightmare' in the second half. He takes an age to address handbags and free-kicks.

The game peters out. I'm gutted for Terry and the travelling flock, but they just didn't get going.

Attendance: 253

Man of the Match: Abdul Qadir. RIP aged 63  xx

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Prescot Cables 1-1 Tadcaster Albion

I'm in the Larwood and Voce (Notts and England 'Bodyline' legends) pub and kitchen, on Fox Road, in West Bridgford. I shouldn't actually be in here, amongst the heaving masses of sweaty (mostly) males who are sweltering in the Bank Holiday mini-heatwave conditions. The reason I am is due to the complete buffoonery and incompetence of Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club. Let me explain.

I rock up at Trent Bridge for the T20 Vitality Blast game between the Notts Outlaws and a beleaguered Yorkshire Vikings. I've already had a couple of scoops in the sun-drenched streets of Sneinton, at the Neon Raptor Tap Room. I've had the heads up that you can pay £5 for a day-pass into the Larwood and Voce Taverners' Bar, thus avoiding large queues in the pub downstairs.

I handover a £5 note to a steward, who clips on a wristband, before making my way through to the bar for a thirst-quenching ale. "Sorry mate, the bar isn't open for another hour." (it's 2:30 p.m.). I feel the red mist descend over me. Only a Club with a history of being amateurish would make a decision like this. "No wonder all the playing staff are leaving for pastures new" is aimed at blazered Notts official as a dehydrated and flabbergasted Sticky chunters off to the pub. I've been fleeced for £5 and not had a scoop yet. 

It turns out to be a stroke of good fortune. We're packed in like sardines in the bar downstairs, but I get served easily. Everyone's watching the fag end of the Ashes. In what looked like an hour ago as being a lost cause ends with Ben Stokes clubbing a long hop through the covers to tie the series 1-1. It's greeted with scenes not witnessed since 'The Lincoln' knocked out Burnley in the FA Cup at Turf Moor a few seasons ago - I can't 'arf pick 'em.

The day gets even better when Notts scrape home by three runs and qualify for the quarter-finals. 'The Bulwell Bomber' (Luke Fletcher) bowls with balls of steel, cleaning-up two batsmen in the penultimate over. I just hope Fletch, Hales and Stokes don't celebrate by having a night out on the lash, in Leeds.

It's Tuesday evening and I'm sat in 'B' Block in the notorious Peter Taylor Stand, at Nottingham Forest's City Ground. Three thousand Sheep have crossed the cattle grid for a second-round Carabao Cup tie. The Tricky Tree DJ's pre-match music is top drawer - Gangsters by Two Tone's The Specials is the pick of the bunch - Killer by Adamski is the runner up.

Fringe players are given an outing by both managers. Forest play on the front foot and attack the inexperienced Rams' full-backs. A wicked Joe Lolley corner is stabbed into the net by Albert Adomah. The favour is returned ten minutes' later to put NFFC 2-0 up against their bitter rivals.

'A' and 'B' Block taunt the away flock. They belt out their entire back catalogue of chants including "Ain't nobody, like Joe Lolley. Makes me happy, makes me feel this way." "Lampard start the bounce" rings around the ground as crowd favourite Joao Carvalho puts the game to bed, with most of the D***y fans already halfway up the A52, heading back to the Sheep Dip.

It's a sporting fiesta for Sticky this week. Straight after work on Wednesday. I shoot down the A46,  towards Sincil Bank. It's the usual pre-match routine of pasta on the Brayford Waterfront at Ask Italian. Tonight, for the first time in twenty years, I'm housed up on the back row of the Co-op Stand.

Marco Silva, Everton's manager, isn't mucking about and has named pretty much a full-strength side. The Imps catch them cold on 20 seconds with a sublime finish by folk hero Harry Anderson. The game is breathtaking and played at a furious pace. The Toffees deservedly equalise from a stunning free-kick, before taking the lead from a Gylfi Sigurdsson penalty. England 'keeper Jordan Pickford is as thick as a brick - he manages, somehow, to be cautioned after the penalty for unnecessarily getting involved in a melee 100 yards up the pitch.

Mercurial Portuguese winger, Bruno Andrade, puts 'The Lincoln' on level terms with a stunning rocket of a volley to set up a grandstand finish. Two late goals see Everton over the finishing line and into the next round of the cup. I can't sleep, as I replay every minute of the game through my mind.

There's time for a quick stop off at Castle Rock's Fox and Grapes in Sneinton Market, on Friday evening, before the long slog up London Road, that is at a standstill with rush hour traffic. I enter the world-famous Trent Bridge cricket ground on Radcliffe Road. There are huge queues at the craft ale bar. I prefer not to watch cricket through beer goggles - anyhow after last Sunday's bar pass farce these buggers aren't getting chuff all off Sticky. I deadeye the steward who fleeced me for a 'Bluey' last Sunday, before taking a pew in the Larwood and Voce Stand.

The Outlaws need to win tonight to secure a home tie in the T20 quarter-finals. We have a history of mucking up and not making it easy for ourselves when the heat is turned up. I'm dismayed and inconsolable to hear we've lost the toss and will be chasing. Durham make hay during the power play and will be disappointed to have only posted 171 runs after some excellent ground fielding by Notts.

Notts collapse like a deck of cards. Only Jake Libby, Samit Patel and Tom Moores show any resistance as we are skittled out for 124; falling short by 45 runs. We are fortuitous that results go our way. Middlesex will make the trip oop North next Thursday. I'll be there moaning and groaning again.

It was a spur of the moment decision to spend the weekend up in Liverpool. Ms Moon has come up trumps with a good price on for a night's stay at the Crowne Plaza on Princes Dock. We're up and at 'em by 10:15 a.m. Graham Norton and Mel Sykes are sacked off on Radio 2; we're both into Union Jack Radio on DAB. They play Sense by the brilliant Liverpool band The Lightning Seeds.

The town of Knutsford, in Cheshire, is the first port of call today. It's hosing it down with rain as Ms Moon turns off Chelford Rd into the car park of the Dun Cow, a country dining pub. We're made very welcome by a cheery landlord. I have a pint of Dizzy Blonde from the Robinsons stable. We enjoy beef soaked in onion gravy on a ciabatta, before hitting the road to Prescot.

The town centre long stay car park is £3. We've chuff all change between us after tipping the waitress in the pub. Ms Moon shoots off into town and buys a lottery ticket (my numbers win later) so we can pay the fee. We stroll around the town, that has a real community feel to it. A dance group is raising money at a Methodist church. U Sure Do by Strike blasts out of a PA system.

Prescot Cables were founded in 1884 (the same year as Lincoln City). They play their home games on Hope Street. It's £8 on the gate (take note the greedy Daniels of Stamford). An excellent programme is £2.50. We buy a couple of 50/50 tickets too.

The ground has been on my hitlist for some time since it was flagged up by well-known groundhopper and Non-League photographer Mike Bayley, who is about to release a book called 100 Grounds to Die For.

I'm taken aback with the old main stand which runs along the touchline. It has multi-coloured tip-up seats and bags of character. I'm perched up at the back of the stand with a bird's eye view of proceedings. Ms Moon joins me after queuing for coffee and tea.

Tadcaster Albion, from North Yorkshire, are today's visitors. They are managed by ex-footballer and professional boxer Curtis Woodhouse - over 200 League appearances for Sheff Utd, Birmingham City and Peterborough Utd. He won't be happy with their start, as Cables swarm all over them; deservedly taking the lead through James Edgar on four minutes after some Champagne football.

There isn't much doing in the first half, Cables are the more creative and dangerous team. Ms Moon has spotted a massive dog in the horizon. We wander over at half-time and are introduced to Koda a one-year-old Newfoundland pup. She melts my heart and playfully nips me.

Prescot are wasteful in front of the goal and spurn chances. The visitors grab their opportunity, equalising with ten minutes remaining. They are unable to capitalise on this, with their best player shown a red card after a late tackle. The game peters out into a draw with both sides reduced to ten men through an injury to Prescot's tricky left-winger.

Attendance: 386

Man of the Match: A lady, actually, Koda, the Newfoundland pup.