Sunday, January 16, 2022

FC Geordie 3-5 Ruddington Village

I should be buzzing after watching a five-goal thriller, down my ends, at the Richard Herrod Centre. But the waters have been muddied, and my enthusiasm dampened, by a blatant breach of Groundhopping Laws, after 45 minutes of a wonderful game of ball, played out on a cabbage patch field. Let me recap folks. Ms Moon made the schoolgirl error in only wearing three layers of clothing, during a bitterly cold spell of weather. She had a strop when I suggested it would be for the best if she wore her walking boots and double socks, as the terrain would be tricky to negotiate (it's bloody hilly in Carlton). Guess what? At half time she had a diva fit on par with Charity off Emmerdale Farm, announcing that it would be a no show from her in the second half of a game that you couldn't take your eyes off. The Princess was shivering cold and couldn't feel her toes.

The events take place in front of a capacity crowd of 30 people. How can I explain this to Naeem and all the good folk from Netherfield and Nottingham Community? The shame and embarrassment of it all. Who has ever left a game at half-time? Apart from some fans of Nottingham Forest who streamed out of The City Ground, a few seasons back, when they were 0-4 down to Sheffield Wednesday on Sabri Lamouchi's watch.

After the match I drop my 'golfing' umbrella off at our crib. Ms Moon is nice and toasty on the sofa watching her 937th episode of Four in Bed. There's no glances in either direction or dialogue exchanged. I'm fuming folks. I use it as an excuse to jump on the No.27 bus that heads to the bottom of Sneinton. I neck a few strong imperial pastry stouts at Neon Raptor, as the football results roll in.

I leave Ms Moon sprawled out on the sofa for the rest of the evening, watching crap quizzes hosted by Ant 'n Dec and Danny Dyer, as I sweat over a hot stove, knocking up an award-winning chicken biryani from the Gordon Ramsay 'Quick and Delicious' cookery book. The curry is eaten, in the words of Simon and Garfunkel, to 'The Sound of Silence.'

Sunday 9th January. It's announced over text (from Lillie Langtry's, I'm holed-up in there) that the Groundhopping Police will be holding an emergency court case on Monday evening at 7 p.m. There is an appeal from the defendant that Emmerdale Farm is on at this time, This is laughed out of court by the Judge (me). Sunday is a good day all-round. Sticky junior banged in 4x goals for his Sunday team - still having time for a duty free ciggie at half-time that I brought  him back from 'The Reef and U Reds saw off those 'Southern Softies' from 'The Arsenal.' That cross from Ryan Yates, eh? Watched it about 20x times.

Monday 7 p.m. The hearing is long and drawn out. Evidence is brought to the stand that Ms Moon has previous for hotfooting it at half-time. In Jan 2018, during a snowstorm at Radford FC, in arctic conditions, a similar situation was played out. It resulted in Sticky Palms walking home on his tod, back to Colwick, through the dimly lit streets of Radford, via the city centre. Luckily for me I was met with warmth, sympathy and scoops by Mr and Mrs Trumpy Bolton at the Barley Twist on Carrington Street

I walk into the room wearing a black cap (I'm judge and jury). It's announced that Ms Moon is to serve a four-match ban starting from Sunday Jan 16th. It would have been the 15th but I need a lift to Calverton for footy, and Morrisons at Netherfield after, as I'm making homemade fish fingers. 

There's no midweek football fix for Sticky Palms. I have to find another source of entertainment. I make sure I go for a three mile walk each night around the streets of Carlton. It's good for the mind and soul. I've also started to fill out a diary entry at the end of each day, which I hope will lead to bigger things as the year progresses.

I lie in the bath on Tuesday evening, soaking up the suds whilst listening to a croaky Charlie Slater commentate for Radio Nottingham at Kings Lynn v Notts County. Yesterday was a sombre and sad day for the club and its supporters. It was announced, in the early evening, of the passing of legendary local radio commentator Colin Slater MBE. He was my all-time ever favourite radio broadcaster. His passion and love for the Pies always came over brilliantly when he was 'Down the Lane.' I will go to the Barnet game \a week on Friday to pay my respects.

Notts respond well to going behind, storming back to win 4-2, with the highly sought after Geordie, Cal Roberts bagging a hat-trick. There's even bigger news coming in from the Stadium of Light in Sunderland. 'The Lincoln' have battered the Mackems 3-1 (should have been more). To add insult to injury, Chris Maguire has too scored a hat trick. One of his celebrations is in the face of Sunderland manager Lee 'Little Man Syndrome' Johnson, who released him on a free transfer in the summer.

It's Friday teatime and the end of the first five day working week (from my bedroom). With COVID cases soaring I've steered clear of the office, as I still can't drive, and don't fancy chancing it, catching four packed-out buses a day to Ruddington and back.

I don't mind jumping on one into town though ... lol. I meet blog legend Tony Mac in Junkyard, the coolest bar in Nottingham, or is it?? It's the first 'Friday Club' hook up of the year. We need to discuss the itinerary for the Birmingham all-dayer on Jan 28th. We while away two hours in the first bar, sampling a Cloudwater tap takeover.

The night continues as we drop down into Hockley, an area recently voted as the coolest postcode in the U.K. by none other than The Times. Jam Cafe is our usual haunt; it actually gets a mention in The Times article. I have a Norwegian craft ale and follow it up with a can from the Pressure Drop stable; a brewery situated in Tottenham, north London. After a rattle around Sneinton I'm 'Hank Marvin.' I swing by the Carlton Fryer for a lamb kebab and a small portion of chips - I'm an athlete folks.

It's Saturday morning. I've drank two pints of water throughout the night after eating that bloody salty kebab. It went down like Kruger Champagne at the time, as my thirst needed quenching. We have a lazy morning. The plan, originally, was to go and watch Bestwood Colliery v Rushcliffe. The fixture has been switched to a playing field in Clifton; it's not really a ground is it?

I clocked a fixture on the superb Notts Senior League website. FC Geordie, based in Calverton, are playing Ruddington Village. Calverton is a village close to my heart as I 'worked' at the pit for over ten years in the 80s and 90s. The game is confirmed as ON. 

I've watched a interesting passage of play from the Test match (Ashes) in Australia. England are in a decent position at close of play in the dead rubber. Ms Moon is now in charge of the flicker. She stumbles across the 1971 comedy film On the Buses. I can't believe they still show these films in this day and age. The male chauvinism is cringeworthy. Inspector Blakey is well funny though and always down on his luck.

We depart 'Chez Palms' at 1.30 p.m. It's good to hear 'Gambers' on Radio 2s Pick of the Pops. He plays 'One Nation Under the Groove' by Funkadelic from 1979. It has one of the greatest starts you'll ever hear on a record; only bettered by Joy Division's Dead Souls. 

Ms Moon makes a right hand turn down Collyer Road, opposite to where the pit once stood. It was closed in 1999. It was a time in my life (1988-1999) when I couldn't wait to get to work. The banter was on a different level to anything else I've ever experienced - like gallows humour.

We park up at William Lee Memorial Park. FC Geordie are already waiting to kick off. It's 2.03 p.m. when the referee blows his whistle to start the game, due to Ruddington not emerging from the changing rooms until late on - one of their players arrived later than us. Groundhopping Police don't do late kick offs.

FC Geordie score a cracking goal on 7 minutes. A ball is fired in from the left hand side and is headed home. It's a lovely moment as we are stood next to the grandparents of the goalscorer. Geordie pay the price for missed chances. Ruddington are ruthless in the final third. They are 4-1 up at the break.

There's loads of effing and jeffing coming from the sidelines. Apologies to everyone, but Ms Moon is hankering for her coffee fix. With a four match ban imminent she chances her arm and drives down to the village. She returns with a couple of polysteyrene cups filled to the brim with 200 Degrees coffee.

FC Geordie peg a goal back, but continue to spurn chances. Ruddington put the game to bed with a fifth goal late on. The home team respond immediately, but hap hazard defending ultimately costs them the game.

Attendance: Head count 39

Man of the Match: Colin Slater MBE. Rest in Peace.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Netherfield Seniors 3-2 Nottingham Community

It's 2 a.m. on Tuesday 21st December. The alarm on my phone is ringing out. A bleary-eyed Sticky Palms sleep walks to the bathroom for a shower and a shave. Our regular taxi driver arrives at 2.40 a.m. on the dot. It's a long story folks. In a nutshell, it's our first holiday abroad in nearly two years. We've both been lying low and self-isolating for the last 10 days in an effort to avoid COVID.

Our flight leaves Birmingham Airport bang on time. We've already hoovered up a large 'Spoons breakfast - not the sort blog drinking legend Trumpy Bolton dreams of. On arrival in the resort of Los Cristianos, in Tenerife, we are greeted with heavy rain showers. I sit in Harriet's English Tea Rooms, glum-faced, watching the rain teeming down. Within an hour the skies clear and the sun peeps out. We finish the evening enjoying the sunset on the front at Playa de las Americas, at our favourite bar, Royal Palace, as surfers ride the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.

What a holiday we have. We spend Christmas Day on a 12 hour bender in the Queen Victoria with one of my closest friends, David Bishop ('The Big Man'). We are joined too by John, Adrian and Marie. The Big Man's Christmas lunch is polished off in the blink of an eye. There's a steward's enquiry over the state of the cheesecake. The chef makes an appearance and an apology too.

Most of the holiday is either spent by the pool, walking into the resort or sampling local craft ales at a cool bar Ms Moon sniffed out, a five minute walk from our apartments. The only time we really venture out of the resort is when we visit Golf del Sur where the Spanish Golf Open is often held.

We land back on terra firma on Dec 28th, Tuesday teatime. There's a nervous two day wait before negative PCR test results are returned by email. It means I have the green light to begin a weekend footballing bonanza after a 26 day lay-off. I put the two days in isolation to good use by listening to the entire back catalogue of Manchester band New Order.

Carlton Town's Northern Premier East League fixture versus Daventry Town is first on the agenda. I hook up with anti-BREXIT campaigner and diehard Tricky Tree, Jitz Jani. We share a couple of pints of Guinness and watch a breathtaking game of ball with The Millers edging home, with a 3-2 win, courtesy of a Tyler Blake goal.

It's Sunday morning and day two of a footballing frenzy. High-flying, big time Charlies, Wrexham AFC are in town. The club have had to play behind closed doors at The Racecourse Ground due to COVID restrictions put in place by First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford. Near on 2000 fans are expected to travel from North Wales. The club are in the spotlight due to being joint-owned by Hollywood actor Ryan Reynolds - to be honest I've never heard of him.

I take my usual seat in the Derek Pavis Stand, adjacent to the Directors' box. The season has been a little stop start for the Magpies. But they play a beautiful game, are easy on the eye and their form at home is solid.

There's an extraordinary start to the match. Wrexham take the lead with a shot the speed of an exocet missile, from 25 yards out. U Pies come storming back. They convert a penalty on 8 minutes, with a guilty Dragons' defender sent off for deliberate handball. Wootton scores another goal to put them ahead.

The game-changing moment is early in the second half. Wrexham are awarded a penalty which is beaten away by Pies' on loan 'keeper Anthony Patterson. Notts storm forward, raiding down the Wrexham left hand side. The brilliant Jayden Richardson, a Meadows lad, on loan from Forest, controversially heads home the winner. It's without doubt the best game of football I've had the pleasure of watching this season, despite the tantrums and moaning of Wrexham manager Phil Parkinson. Notts have passed the Red Dragons off the park.

Monday 3rd January. Carlton is treated to sun-kissed clear blue skies. I walk down Carlton Hill, through Sneinton (without a glance at Neon Raptor Tap Room,) and up onto London Road. Sticky junior picks me up in County Hall car park and drops me off outside Clifton All Whites ground, another club very close to my heart, as is their ex-manager James 'Tosh' Turner. I love Tosh to bits and was so sorry to hear of his father's recent passing. He takes the rise out of my dodgy eye, following recent operations.

The Boatmen of Dunkirk are today's visitors - never an easy team to play against at the best of times. Clifton have finally invested in youth, something Dunkirk have relied on for an age. I chat to a couple of groundhoppers, and also bump into a parent of a lad who plays for Basford United - a team that are dropping like a stone down the Northern Premier League.

It's a feisty encounter. Dunkirk are off the boil, firing blanks and looking there for the taking. The young guns of Clifton lose their cool. A lad I rated highly at Burton Joyce, and who I tipped Tosh off about, is sent off the field of play, after an act of petulance. Dunkirk take the lead shortly before the break.

I watch the second half with a good mate of mine called 'Barthez.' Hopefully he'll be in Tenerife with his partner Donna at the same time Ms Moon and I are, in mid March. Ten-man Clifton are back on level terms, scoring a rebound from a fluffed spot kick. They are then reduced to nine men which ultimately costs them the game when a ruthless Dunkirk snatch a late winner through Sam Harbottle, son of club legend, Dave.

It was meant to be four games in four days as I've been given the green light to return to watching Radford FC by manager Big Glenn Russell. I've served a 10 match ban (they won 9 of them) because every time I tip up at Selhurst Street they somehow get beat. It's freezing cold on Tuesday evening and there's a brilliant drama on ITV (can't say that too often) called Anne. It's about the tireless work of Hillsborough campaigner Anne Williams, whose part is brilliantly played by Sticky's favourite actress, Maxine Peake.

There's no Friday evening boozing with Tony Mac in 'the New Covent Garden' (Sneinton). We're resting up for a couple of weeks. I'm dispatched to Marks and Spencer Food Hall on Victoria Retail Park, in Netherfield. We settle in for the evening at Chez Palms. I sink a few bargain buy craft ales from Suds and Soda and enjoy a classic burger in a brioche bun with all the trimmings.

It's pouring with rain as I open the curtains on Saturday morning. I check the excellent Malcolm Storer's twitter account to see which games have fallen by the wayside. First choice today was going to be Linby Colliery Welfare, but it's been postponed due to a COVID outbreak.

Netherfield Seniors play at the Richard Herrod Centre, a 15 minute walk from ours. The club assure me that the game is on. Ms Moon says it isn't that cold outside. Her theory is based on drawing on a couple of fags in the 'smoking shelter' (back garden). I'm taking no chances and have got my Parka on and Stone Island beanie, in case there's any bother (lol ..).

Nottingham Community are today's visitors. It's a wonderful club that is based in the Meadows, an inner city area of Nottingham, where the likes of Jermaine Pennant and Wes Morgan grew up. There's a one minute silence, followed by applause, in the memory of Karl White, 'Mr Meadows', a legendary community leader who sadly passed away in December. All the visiting players are wearing black tops with the number 1 on and the word Legend - it's a lovely touch.

The Notts Senior League is one of my favourites. I coached my village team in this very league three seasons ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. There's not much doing in the first half. Netherfield are by far the better side but keep wasting chances. Community have not trained or played in the last three weeks. As a supporter says to me "we're still running off the pigs in blankets mate."

Netherfield finally beat the door down and take the lead. There is a serious breach of groundhopping rules at the break. Ms Moon announces she's too cold and is off home to watch the latest episode of Celebrity Coach Trip. It's a minimum three match ban with further repercussions expected when the 'Groundhopping Police' hold an emergency meeting on Monday evening during Emmerdale Farm.

The second half is why I love grassroots football so much. 'The Meadows Pirlo', Ryan Perkins, rallies the troops. They drive forward and level terms with a controversial equaliser. Netherfield pour forward too and win a penno that's converted. You can't take your eye off it (even my dodgy one). Community throw the kitchen sink at them, equalising again, causing wild celebrations in the 'away end.' Club secretary Naeem Rashid whoops with joy.

They let themselves down in added time. A player is sent off for shoving an opponent and 'Pirlo' is sin-binned for calling the ref a clown. With the clock running down, the Netherfield 10 jacket scores a banger on a playing surface that you could grow potatoes on.

What an afternoon out I've had, and all for FREE too. There's only one place to celebrate: The Rap Tap.

Attendance: 37

Rest in Peace, Karl White.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Carlton Town 1-3 Stamford

It's Thursday, 8.15 a.m. It's a crisp, winter's morning as I stroll down King Street past Brian Clough's statute. A homeless person is slumped by the monument, shivering in the cold, whilst downing a strong can of cider. Market Square is packed to the rafters with fairground rides and tacky Christmas stalls. This is Nottingham. A Nottingham that was put through the mill during peak COVID, with crazy decisions by the City Council, including allowing a Christmas market. and outrageous behaviour(s) by drunken, foolish, 'entitled' students.

I drop into Hockley. I've arranged to meet craft ale aficionado Tony Mac for breakfast at the high-scoring Google review Fox cafe, on Pelham Street. Two young girls, who quite frankly couldn't give two hoots, have just opened-up. They're not firing up the grills for another 15 minutes. It's met with resistance by a 'hangry' Mac. A verbal volley is delivered in their direction. The door is slammed shut.

We traipse down towards Sneinton Market. I've spotted on maneuvers a trendy build-your-own- breakfast place, on my walks home after work, down Goose Gate. I suggest to Mac that we chance our arm at a cafe called Yolk. It's adjacent to a cool bar, where young couples date, called 31K. Ms Moon is waiting to tick this cocktail bar off. I usually blame my dodgy 'mince pie' and claim I've never seen it.

We're greeted with open arms by a bearded guy who rustles up eggs Benedict heaped with smoked salmon and bacon on toasted muffins, accompanied by the 60s sounds of The Beach Boys. We head towards Nottingham station. It's the official 'Friday Club Christmas Party.' Two days have been booked oop north in Ramsbottom, Bury and Manchester.

Those blithering idiots at East Midlands Trains have tried to scupper our plans and have announced a two day strike which could complicate our return journey home. The trip to Manchester Piccadilly is without incident; most folk on the train are masked up.

First port of call is the market town of Ramsbottom, in the Metropolitan Borough of Bury. It has a population of 20,000 people. It lies on the River Irwell, in the West Pennine Moors. It is home to the Peel Monument, a memorial to Sir Robert Peel, a former Conservative prime minister, who was born in Bury.

The X41 from Chorlton Road to 'Rammy' is running 20 minutes late due to a broken down bus. Tony Mac doesn't suffer fools and is already blowing a gasket as an unsighted and unmarked bus finally pulls in. Sticky Palms gets an earful off Mac for 'bad planning' before we pay a stressed out bus driver £4.50 each for a single ticket. The journey takes us through Prestwich and up onto the M66, by-passing Bury, where we're staying tonight. To make up for time the coach driver puts a shift in similar to the film Speed; failing to break 50 mph on the speedometer.

We're dropped off in Market Place, in this quaint northern town, where a lot of BBC staff have moved up from London after being relocated in Media City, Salford. The bar staff are welcoming and friendly at Holcombe Tap. They tip us off a few new pubs and bars which include Northern Whisper and Casked. Both are ticked off as is the well established Irwell Brewery Tap. Each bar sticks to its roots, playing that 'Manchester Sound' which includes The Smiths, New Order and Inspiral Carpets.

A cab is booked to take us over to Bury, the home of black pudding. We drop our bags off at the Premier Inn. We freshen up and grab a bite to eat in their Thyme restaurant before the evening session commences. Trackside is the pick of the pubs, an ale house in situ at the station on Bolton Street. We finish up the evening supping Thwaites in a cosy boozer on a street corner. Manchester United v Arsenal is on the TV screens, but it appears of little interest to the ale drinkers in town.

Anthony 'Jonno' Johnson, the former manager of Salford FC and Chester FC, has recommended an eatery in Bury for breakfast on Friday morning. Racconto Lounge lives up to its burgeoning reputation. The Bury Metrolink is a five-minute walk away. It's only £4.95 for an all-day ticket.

We jump off in Prestwich and make the short walk to Clifton Road. There is a purpose to all this. Singer-songwriter Mark E Smith, once of post-punk band The Fall, has a beautiful mural painted on the chip shop wall of him drooling on an Embassy Number One cigarette, smoke exhaling from out of his mouth.

The rest of the day is spent in Manchester, the craft ale capital of England. We hunt them down one by one. The beers at Cloudwater and Track Brewing are sublime and scored highly on the Untappd beer app. There's time to visit the Ian Curtis mural in the Northern Quarter before the journey home to Nottingham, via Sheffield ..... thanks EMT!

It's Saturday morning and I'm in bed reflecting on the last few days away. We finished off with a couple of scoops in the Barley Twist. I walked down Station Street, up London Road and onto Sneinton Market before hopping onto a bus. It was lights out on arrival at Chez Palms.

It's freezing cold outside. I sit with Ms Moon in the lounge catching up on the last few days events in Emmerdale and Corrie. The good lady is off to a Christmas Fair at The Plough in the up market village of Normanton On-The-Wolds. We will be dining in the same venue with friends later this evening.

I'm feeling worse for wear after two days on the sauce in 'Manny,' 35,000 steps have been completed in my Adidas Hamburg trainers in the course of two days. I break usual protocol and decide to nip down to the best chip shop on earth. I have my first Pukka pie in ages and a portion of chips at the award-winning Oceans Fish Bar. It's the usual drill of dressing up in four layers of clothing before heading up towards Stoke Lane, home to one of my favourite teams, Carlton Town.

I left my mittens on the 7.49 p.m. Northern Rail train from Manchester to Sheffield. It's a rookie error. The temperatures have plummeted and the wind is biting as I part with £9 on the turnstile. I can hear sirens blaring and a bass guitar strumming as The Ruts 1979 hit 'Babylon is Burning' blasts out of the ground's PA system. Lead singer Malcolm Owen was to die a year later from a heroin overdose at the age of 25 years old.

Stamford are today's visitors. They are nicknamed 'The Daniels' in the memory of Daniel Lambert who weighed in at 50 stone before his death in the town in 1809. They are managed by the pint-sized Graham Drury who is one of the biggest wind-up merchants on the Lincolnshire Non League circuit.

Carlton aren't at the races and are slow out of the blocks. It's not helped by kicking into a strong wind. The visitors look sharper and pass the ball with purpose. They take a well deserved lead when Cotgrave lad Connor Bartle wellies a shot into the roof of the net from 22 yards. Jitz Jani's favourite, Aaron Opku equalises on the stroke of half-time; it's harsh on the visitors.

I've hooked up with Crewe Alexandra groundhopper Max Bailey for the afternoon. Max is a mate of the 'Keyworth Georgie Best' who is currently on tour in Barcelona (piss up). Max was a big fan of Newark Flowserve, but sadly it's all gone tits up there.

The second half is a fantastic advertisement for the Northern Premier League. The Millers come out all guns blazing. Stamford are different gravy on the break despite being battered by the wind and rain. They score a couple more goals and can even afford the luxury of missing a penalty. Carlton are out-of-sorts on the day and are well beaten without complaints.

Attendance: 161

Man of the Match: Owner of Yolk cafe in Hockley, Nottingham

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Woodthorpe Park Rangers 4-2 FC Sez

It's early on Monday afternoon and I'm in the back of a taxi travelling south up Loughborough Road, in West Bridgford. There's been little dialogue with the cab driver as my mind is on other things. He turns left off the road which leads up to Wilford Hill Cemetery. There's a huge gathering of mourners outside of the chapel.

I'm attending the funeral of Kevin Garvican, who was the owner of Pro Windows in Old Basford. Kev's daughter, Emma, is my all-time favourite ever co-worker. Kev was taken ill in October, after contracting Covid. He passed away in Nottingham City Hospital. I only met Kev once, at Emma's 30th birthday party at The Sun Inn, in Gotham. He gave up half an hour of his time to talk to Ms Moon and myself on his daughter's special day.

He was a lovely, kind generous man, who had built up a very successful business. Kev was a family man and a passionate 'Dirty Leeds' fan. He was a member of the 'Nottingham Whites' who follow the 'Dirty Ones' on their travels home and away. The 'Nottingham Whites' have turned up in numbers. They line up and unfurl their plethora of flags as the funeral cortege arrives at the crematorium. 

It's an incredible send-off, full of fun, laughter and even better, swearing. The anecdotes are laugh out loud as we watch the service huddled around a phone. Emma has the heart and courage of a lion. Ms Moon and I love her to bits. She makes a speech remembering her Dad with warmth, love and razor sharp wit. I have a lump in my throat as the 'Nottingham Whites' belt out the Leeds United anthem 'Marching On Together.' 

I walk from Wilford Hill to Sneinton Market, swinging by The City Ground to collect my ticket for the Forest v Luton Town match the following evening. I can't feel my toes as I jump on the bus home. Emma and her family are in my thoughts for the rest of the evening. Life can be so cruel at times.

I stay at work late on Tuesday evening. I'm mooching around Trent Bridge by 6 p.m. It's the usual drill. A pork cob filled with stuffing, crackling and apple sauce from Relish on Pavilion Road I do a couple of laps of the ground before going through the turnstile an hour before kick-off.

The first half is fairly dull. Forest get around the back a few times but rarely look like scoring a goal or testing the Luton stand-in 'keeper, who looks shaky on his first League start of the season. Luton are rapid on the counterattack. I always think of my favourite comedian, growing up as a kid, Eric Morecambe, whenever the Hatters are mentioned. Raddy Antic springs to mind to, with his last gasp winner at Maine Road in 1983 which guaranteed them top-flight football for another season. Who can forget David Pleat galloping onto the pitch to celebrate with his beige suit on?

I sit with Jitz and Dringy in the second half. Forest's plan of giving it a real go falls flat on its face, on the hour, when Jack Colback, a walking yellow card at the age of 32, receives a second one after wrestling a player to the floor. Brice Samba saves the resulting penalty with his feet and produces a masterclass in goalkeeping including a point-blank save at the death. Steve Cooper's tactical nous, with strategic substitutions, sees the Tricky Trees gain a valuable point. At the final whistle Samba laps up the plaudits from the crowd. I love every minute of it with my gammy eye improving each day; even if it was 0-0.

With Ms Moon in Spain 'working' for the week the TV set hasn't booted up. There's no crappy shows such as I'm a Celeb, Cheshire Housewives and Tipping Point. I might need to ring Virgin Media as I haven't a Scooby how to work the remote controls. I enjoyed watching some Italian football last Sunday evening. Genoa v Roma in Serie A was my match of choice. With his team struggling Jose Mourinho threw on 18-year-old Ghanian, Felix Afena-Gyan, who obliged with a brace; the second one was a stunner.

Friday night can only mean one thing: date night with Tony Mac. We hook up at Barley Twist, a two- floor craft beer and wine cellar, housed in a former sweet shop on Carrington Street. It's the usual trot around the city centre. Castle Rock stablemate Keane's Head is frequented too. We've not checked-in at Jam Cafe on Heathcote Street since the nights have drawn in. It was outside drinking only during the summer. We push open the door and are greeted by Bradley the bar's owner. 'Mirror in the Bathroom' by The Beat is playing on the dukey as we enjoy table service at this cool cafe.

It's Saturday morning and I'm tucked up proper cosy in bed. I can hear the wind howling and sleet tapping on the window. I wouldn't be too fussed if the game is OFF today. I check-in on social media. Woodthorpe and FC Sez are both saying they've not heard anything to the contrary.

I'm wrapped up to the ninepins as I slog it up onto Carlton Hill in freezing conditions. I've decided to walk for an hour or so across to Sherwood, where I'll then jump into a cab to complete the journey to Basford. The game is being played behind Basford United's main pitch. A couple of club officials point me in the direction of Pitch 2.

I don't recall ever feeling this cold at a football game. I'm shaking like the cartoon characters Scooby Do and Shaggy when they see a ghost. My lips and fingers are numb. I've liked what I've seen from Woodthorpe PR over the last few seasons. FC Sez have also been on my radar as I've never seen them play. A lad who works at my place (Ideagen PLC) plays for them although our paths have never crossed.

Lewis Quayle is officiating today's game. He's usually spot on with his decision-making and takes no nonsense from the players. FC Sez are half asleep and start the game at a slow pace. It's no surprise when Dalton Stephens gives the home side the lead. The visitors enjoy a good 15-minute spell. They score a well-worked equaliser and take the lead through a stunning free-kick. Slack defending sees them go into half-time 3-2 down.

I listen to the FC Sez team talk at the break. Not one positive word is said by the manager or the players. They are hard and harsh on themselves. They are still in the game but lack belief and have little confidence in one another.

I've done about 10x laps of the ground by now in an effort to keep my blood circulating. The second half is scrappy. The game is played in 20 mph winds. The fag end of the storm seems to blow up the hill. Stephens puts the game the bed and completes a hat-trick. FC Sez still have their chances but can't force the ball home. Referee Quayle seems in a particularly unforgiving mood. He dishes out more cards than Postman Pat. The game is played in a good spirit and the cautions, in my opinion, are unnecessary

I catch a taxi back home. I shower up, warm up and change clothes before venturing out in the cold again. I've been looking forward to tonight for ages. Tony Mac and I have a few sociable ones in the Partisan Tavern on Manvers Street. It's busy in here despite Notts County playing Dagenham and Redbridge in a 5.20 p.m. kick off. A nice pint from the Totally Brewed stable is sunk in the Fox and Grapes.

The main event is across the road at the Nottingham Arena and I'm not talking ice hockey folks. I'm late to the party but have really got into the Sleaford Mods. I even bought some vinyl of their's at Rough Trade in town. The lead singer Jason Williamson lives down the road in West Bridgford.

The gig is a pearler. The support acts Billy Nomates and Dry Cleaning are superb too. 'The Mods' are on fire. I really can't 'arf pick em folks.

Attendance: 22

Men of the Match: Nottingham Whites

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Harrogate Town 0-2 Salford

I leave Jitz Jani and the 'Carlton Crazy Gang' to sup a few more beers at Stoke Lane. I'm gutted that I won't be on the away bus to Chasetown next week for 'Mad Graham's' 50th birthday. I head up Burton Road and turn onto Main Road, which leads you up to Gedling village, a place where former Nottingham Forest and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Steve 'Harry' Hodge was brought up.

I call by The Willowbrook, a Castle Rock Brewery ale house. Back in the day we used to drink here after cricket games at Gedling Village CC. It used to remind me of the Winchester Club, with Dave behind the bar off Minder. I shout up a pint of Lemon Dream from the Salopian Brewery. Kids running about and dogs barking are pet hates of mine in pubs; both are here in abundance. I don't hang about, preferring to walk home to peace and serenity. There is time for a pint of Thieving Rogue from the Magpie Brewery at the Old Volunteer, before turning in for the evening.

I spotted that Notts County are selling £10 tickets for their first round FA Cup replay versus Rochdale - Sticky loves a bargain. I ring up the ticket office and make sure I print off a paper version at work. I  work from home on Tuesday as I have my COVID booster jab. I listen to Marlon Harewood telling some funny anecdotes from his time at Nottingham Forest and West Ham United on the popular Undr the Cosh podcast.

Prior to the match I rustle up a spaghetti Bolognese, which I batch up for tomorrow night too, as Ms Moon is at the Nags Head pub quiz with her bestie Jill and daughter Becky. It's the same matchday routine. I catch the bus down to Sneinton, alighting at Nottingham Arena. It's a brisk 20 minute walk to the ground.

I take my seat in the Derek Pavis Stand, Block E around 15 rows back. My eyesight improves each day following a lens replacement and retinal surgery. I glance at a teamsheet and fail to recognise any of the 'Dale line-up. The fans at Notts County are quite rightly proud of their record-breaking National League attendance of 12,843 verus Solihull Moors last Saturday.

One or two supporters will be looking over their shoulders in the direction of Directors' Box where a large number of scouts are gathered. Nottingham Post reporter Leigh Curtis is saying on Twitter that Lincoln City, Rotherham United and Portsmouth are all represented. Portuguese attacker Ruben Rodrigues is attracting all the interest. He has failed to shine on my three visits, but is highly rated by the Meadow Lane faithful.

The first half is, as Pies manager Ian Burchnall puts it, 'boring.' County have a couple of efforts on target but fall behind to a thumping shot from Birmingham City on loan striker Josh Andrews. Notts look more in the mood for it in the second half. A left wing cross is bundled into his own net by White. The impressive Cal Roberts grabs the game by the scruff of the neck as Notts look to force home a winner. With the clock ticking towards extra time, Rochdale striker Jake Beesley breaks the Pies' supporters hearts with a dramatic late winner.

It's Friday evening and the usual drill. I'm on the Carlton 27 bus heading into the city centre. There's a hot bit of stuff sat next to me; it's Ms Moon. There's no date night with Tony Mac this evening. Ms Moon wants to see what all the fuss is about the 'New Covent Garden.' (Sneinton). We cross over Southwell Road and through the swing doors of the Fox and Grapes, the artist formally known as 'Peggers' or 'Pretty Windows.' The murder of landlord George Wilson in 1963 still remains unsolved.

I have a pint of 'Chasing the Sun' from the Black Iris Brewery, in Basford, Ms Moon goes big time and has a glass of bubbles. I mention that Tony Mac is next door at Neon Raptor. Ms Moon says she would like to meet him, She's proper muscling in on my patch now. Tony comes in and shares a couple of drinks with us. He's not too chuffed with a 10% Brew York stout that I shout up at the bar.

Ms Moon and I walk up through the hipster area of Nottingham called Hockley. We turn onto Warser Gate. I've been tipped off about a stylish, warmly lit Mediterranean restaurant bar by my mate 'Toff.' The place is alive with folk. We're shoehorned onto a table for two. Ms Moon continues on the bubbles whilst Sticky gets stuck into a large Brockmans gin. The food ain't bad, although a little limited for choice. We both enjoy Thai fishcakes and steak fajitas.

It's 7 a.m. on Saturday morning. My sleep has been disturbed. I shower, shave and pack an overnight bag. I flick the kettle on and make myself a strong Nescafe Alta Rica coffee. I say farewell to Ms Moon, who flies out to Spain tomorrow for a week, where she is 'working.' Dafty arrives at 7.45 a.m. We head up the A614 towards the A1.

Absolute 90s is on the car radio. They play 'Get the Message' by Electronic which features Bernard Sumner from New Order and Johnny Marr from The Smiths. The journey is without incident. The plan is to visit our good friend 'Sprakey.' We arrive at his gaff, a 5 minute walk from York city centre, just shy of 9.30 a.m. He very kindly rustles up bacon and sausages. The radio in the kitchen is tuned into Dermot O'Leary's Radio 2 show. He's playing Howard Jones' 1984 hit 'What is Love'.

We take a stroll up to the railway station. Sprakey's 14 year-old lad Henry is with us too. The plan is to meet 'Our Kid' up in Harrogate. We're in no particular rush. Sprakey has a pub lined up in the picturesque spa town of Knaresborough. 

We partake in our first scoop of the day at the York Tap that's housed inside the station. The journey to Knaresborough is only half an hour. The lads aren't too chuffed that the pubs aren't open yet as we weave our way through the medieval streets.

It's a Trumpy Bolton moment as we wait for the landlord of The Mitre to unlock the pub front door. We're that busy gassing that we nearly miss the train to Harrogate. 'Our Kid' joins us at the Harrogate Tap, an old-fashioned, wood-panelled pub. We sink a few pints or in Henry's case packets of crisps and a Five Guys takeaway before making the 25 minute walk up Wetherby Road.

I first visited here in 2015 when AFC Fylde ran out 4-1 winners. Since then 'the Gate' have won promotion to the Football League which has forced them to rip up their state of the art 4G playing surface. Salford have no wins in the last four games, with manager Gary Bowyer under pressure from the fans and demanding owners.

I'm disappointed that three players, I had hoped to see, are all starting on the bench. Jack Muldoon has played for Hucknall Town and Lincoln City. George Thomson used to be at Nottingham Forest. Salford's Ash Hunter played at Ilkeston when Che Adams was there.

Harrogate are awful in the first half and rarely threaten a goal. In contrast Salford play a lovely game and deservedly take the lead through Matty Lund who stabs home a close effort following a cross from the left. A couple of blokes, next to me, are making comments about the demise of Yorkshire CCC during the 'Race Storm' that has unravelled this week. I move into the aisle, away from them, as I don't like what I hear.

Salford continue to impress and double their lead through a deflected effort by Jason Lowe. Harrogate improve with the introduction of Muldoon and Thomson but the damage has already been done. We return to the Harrogate Tap and York Tap, where we hook up with Dafty's lad, Will, before ending the night at Brew York taproom - unfortunately young Henry was refused entry. A much needed Chinese takeaway is enjoyed as we watch one of the best Match of Day shows in a very long time. 

It's Marmite on toast in the morning, after sleeping like a log on Sprakey's sofa. We have a wander around York on a beautiful, crisp morning. I'm like a kid in a sweet shop at House of Trembling Madness as I bag a few cans of northern craft ales. The weekend is finished off at the graveside of one of York's most wanted, the Highwayman, Dick Turpin. 'Sprakey' can't 'arf pick 'em.

Attendance: 2814

Men of the Match: Dafty and Sprakey. Thanks for driving and putting me up and putting up with me