Monday, September 13, 2021

Radford FC 1-2 Aylestone Park

We're on the outskirts of the city of Bath, having just watched a wonderful game of football at the Memorial Ground. Ms Moon and I are both too fagged out to walk. We catch a bus back into town. The good lady goes back to our boutique hotel, whilst I take the opportunity to tick off a few more Good Pub Guide entries. The evening is spent in the back garden of The Boater. We end the night at a snug craft bar on Pulteney Bridge.

The M5 and M42 are very kind to us on Sunday morning. I'm propping the bar up of the Partizan Tavern on Manvers Street, Sneinton, by 2 p.m. I return home after a couple of sherbets to settle in for the evening and write up my blog.

I'm quite chipper on Monday morning as I've clocked that Nottingham Forest U23s are playing Blackburn Rovers U23s across the river at Notts County's Meadow Lane. The two Nottingham clubs have patched up their differences since the fall-out with the Pies' previous owner Alan Hardy.

It's just shy of 7 p.m. and still stifling hot, as I part with £5 on the turnstile and 50 pence for a team-sheet. There's a healthy turnout of fans happy to watch any game right now, having been deprived for so long during Covid. I walk past ex Forest and Ipswich Town striker David Johnson, who is chatting to a couple of players.

I park myself behind the Forest dugout where former Republic of Ireland international Andy Reid will be coaching for the Tricky Trees. Quite a few fans have made the trip down from the north-west, watching Lancashire CCC ending the day's play over the water at Trent Bridge Cricket Ground. Forest field a strong line up which includes some youngsters with first team experience. Joe Lolley gains valuable minutes. He bags a brace and sticks out like a sore thumb as Forest breeze to victory 4-1.

It's Tuesday evening. I slide open the French window door, leaving Ms Moon to Emmerdale Farm and Celebrity MasterChef. I've a spring in my step as I head down Burton Road. You can't beat a chippy tea folks; even more so if it's a tick off. They are queuing out of the door at Apollo Fish Bar on another baking evening. A cheery shop owner serves me up a 'Fish Special' for £3.99. It's not quite up to the standard of Oceans on Carlton Road, but nonetheless not a scrap of food is left in the tray as I deposit my chip wrappers in a bin next to the Inn For A Penny pub.

It's my first visit of the season to Carlton Town's Stoke Lane ground. I love a night out watching the Millers, under the floodlights. It's £9 on the gate. The DJ's set is like listening to Steve Lamacq on 6 Music. New Order, Mansun, The Fall and Echo and the Bunnymen are the stand-out tracks.

The Millers start like a train. They could be 4-0 up in the first half an hour. The impressive Niall Davie is denied a hat-trick by the woodwork and a goal-line clearance. The visitors, Sutton Coldfield Town, concede twice in the final 15 minutes. One of the goals is scored by 19-year-old Louis Czerwak, a lad Mick Leonard and I picked up for Notts County Academy, when he was playing football on Forest Recreation Ground, in Forest Fields, 10 years ago.

It's Friday morning and I'm on the phone to Nat West Bank, sorting out a five-year fixed mortgage rate on the house. The weekend starts for me today. I walk through Netherfield and cross the road onto Victoria Retail Park. I loiter outside the entrance of a DIY store as a silver-haired chap saunters in my direction. It's 'Chopper Harris', my hiking partner. 

We stroll past British Car Auctions and cross over a small bridge onto a narrow path which leads us towards Netherfield Lagoons. Slurry used to be pumped into the lagoons from nearby Gedling Colliery until its closure in 1991. Some steps, close to a viaduct, lead us onto a footpath that runs adjacent to the River Trent. 'Chopper' spends most of the walk moaning about Gareth Southgate and his reluctance to use substitutes. There's more pressing matters like a pint of Guinness to look forward to at The Unicorn Hotel at Gunthorpe.

There's a chance encounter with an angry cyclist (aren't they all?) He nearly mows down 'The Carlton Stevie Wonder' on a public bridleway due to his wreckless cycling. He wants a scrap, folks. Chopper, a former paratrooper, who toured Northern Ireland during the Troubles, just laughs in the perpetrators face.

I'm out on my feet. I've already clocked up 15 miles. I shower, scrub up and head into Nottingham city centre. I make the fatal mistake of mentioning to Tony Mac, during our first craft beer of the evening, at Kean's Head, that I'm in no rush to return home as Ms Moon has her bestie, Jill, round for the evening. Eight pubs later I'm regretting this as Ms Moon waves a straight Red card at me on my return to HQ. Looks at this line up though: Six Barrels, Junkyard, Jam Cafe, Bunkers Hill, Neon Raptor, Liquid Light, Partizan Tavern and Fox and Grapes.

I'm dog tired on Saturday morning, but not particularly hungover - vegan beer doesn't have harmful chemicals. I rustle up a couple of bacon sandwiches topped with melted Harrogate blue cheese and some mayo - yum yum.

There's some last-minute holiday shopping for Ms Moon, who is flying out to the Algarve tomorrow with Jill. I was all set for a game at Southwell City's War Memorial Ground. The game has been postponed with no reason given - I did notice that the lads were on a team-bonding session in Lincoln last Saturday evening.

I scour the internet on the lookout for a fixture on a bus route not too far from Carlton, as I have to be back early as I'm on cooking duty. I scroll down the United Counties League and spot a beauty with my one good eye. One person won't be happy though and that's Big Glenn Russell, manager at Radford FC, who entertain Aylestone Park from Leicester, a club where Gary Lineker started his career.

I hop off the bus at the bottom of Carlton Road and peg it up Huntingdon Street where the nightclub Michael Issacs used to be, back in the 1980s. I frequented this dump on one occasion in 1987. Having been subjected to Alexander O'Neal, Luther Vandross and Womack and Womack, I was asked to leave for having the audacity to insist the DJ play The Smiths, 'Hang the DJ.'

As I head across Mansfield Road I notice a police cordon outside a curry house. A man was stabbed twice in the early hours of the morning and is fighting for his life. I take a shortcut across Forest Rec (Goose Fair site). It's one of my favourite parts of multi-cultural Nottingham. There's a Big Top and circus in town. 

If I'm honest, I get the welcome I was expecting at Selhurst Street, having paid 'ASBO' (the turnstile operator) £5 on entry. "What the f**k are you doing here, you Jonah?" Told you folks, the Big G isn't happy. Radford more than often lose with Sticky in attendance. Glenn's looking slick. Not sure if he's got Brylcreem in his hair or Wella Shockwaves mousse. We exchange insults for 10 minutes before I take up my viewing position close to the visitor's dugout.

Radford look off it in the first half. They are second to the ball and can't string two passes together. Having said that they are given a golden opportunity to take the lead after what appears a soft penalty decision. The spot kick isn't convincing and is well saved. Aylestone Park fluff their lines in the penalty area as the score remains 0-0 at the break ( I don't do 'em do I folks?).

I can hear the winning raffle numbers being shouted over the PA system as I call up DG Taxis to book a cab. I rifle my pockets for my tickets that are tangled up in my mask along with my house keys. Jeez, my numbers are 111- 115 the winning ticket is  ... yes you've guessed it, 116 - 120. I have a private hissy fit.

I stand in between the dugouts for the second half. The one-liners are worth the gate money alone. Crowd favourite Joe Meakin scores a worldy volley. The oppostion bench are whinging and moaning like mad. Their team lack discipline. Shay Brennan is sin-binned for mouthing off at the ref. He returns to the pitch to level the scores, converting a beautifully flighted cross by 8 jacket, the game's best player.

The Aylestone full back tries to steal a few yards from a throw-in. He has the misfortune to bounce off Big Glenn who was patrolling the lines. Glenn's eyesight isn't the best, but it's harsh (and foolish) that he's called a 'boggle-eyed' c-bomb by the player. Mr Magoo would be more apt.

I start to wander towards the exit as I know what's coming next. It's like the Greek tragedy that's played out each week at The City Ground. Aylestone score a scruffy goal in the dying embers. I jump into a taxi at the final whistle knowing I'm banned from the ground and blocked on Big Glenn's mobile until further notice.

Man of the Match: Big Glenn - Love him to bits.

Thanks for photos Cliff x

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Bath City 1-3 Dartford

Somerset is a county that has always captured my imagination. I visited the the seaside town of Weston Super Mare on a cricket tour, which was wiped out by two days' of rain. I've also stopped the night at Cheddar Gorge, in the Mendip Hills, on the way to Cornwall. Bath has been on my radar for some time now. I was sorely tempted to make a week of it with Notts CCC playing Somerset CCC in a four-day game that started on Bank Holiday weekend in Taunton - the logistics and timings didn't work out.

We wander around Colwick Country Park on Bank Holiday Monday, adjacent to Nottingham Racecourse. It's a feeble attempt to walk off a full English fry up at the superb family-run cafe, Albie's, up on Carlton Hill, a mile outside Nottingham city centre. 

Ms Moon drops me off in Sneinton Market. Most of the pubs don't open until 4 p.m. I take a stroll up Hockley. I've worked up quite a thirst that I need to quench. It's 30% off craft beer cans stored in the fridge at Six Barrels. I'm joined by my good mate Tony Mac, who is on his way home after a shift at Boots. We finish off with a Sunshine on Portobello from Vault City which comes in at £11 per bottle. You have to share or you'd end up in accident and emergency, as well as bankrupt too.

I'm in the office on Tuesday. I love the banter with the young guns who are nearly all half my age. I jump off the bus on Trent Bridge and walk a lap of the river before crossing over onto Radcliffe Road and down Trent Boulevard. Tea is spent at the Poppy and Pint, named by a local newspaper competition winner, which was picked out by ex-England Test spinner, Graeme Swan, who still lives in the area.

I enjoy another spicy burger which is washed down by a pint of Hello Traveller from Shiny Brewery, who are based in Little Eaton, just outside D***y. Destination tonight is Regatta Way, a venue I can easily reach on foot. It's £5 on the gate. Once again I'm the first supporter in the ground. Big Glenn Russell's Radford FC are in town this evening. The big lad isn't talking to me at the moment as I've forgotten to return a couple of missed calls. He's even accused me of blanking him - it's banter of course (I think?).

I'm joined by 'Dringy' who I haven't seen since a monster sesh at Neon Raptor and Jam Cafe, in Baltic conditions, early post lockdown. The Pheasants of Radford play a beautiful game but are missing their two star strikers. Euan Sweeting scores a brilliant-worked winner for West Bridgford. I'm visually impaired and standing on the far side, opposite the dugouts, so I'm unable to see if Big Glenn has frisbeed his baseball cap in a fit of pique. I feedback to him, the following day, how impressed I was with Joe Meakin and Gino Kelleher, who big things were expected of when he was a scholar at Notts County. I was once stood next to ex-QPR winger Don Givens, who had flown over from Ireland to scout Gino, when he managed Ireland's U21s.

It's Friday morning and Ms Moon is in a taxi bound for Enterprise Rent-A-Car on Daleside Road, in Colwick. Today we're off to Bath for a two night stay. My car is SORN as I can't drive at the moment and we both don't fancy the long journey in Ms Moon's Fiat 500 with the go-faster stripes. So we've hired a Vauxhall Corsa for a couple of days.

There's a major incident at Junction 9 on the M5. I'm not talking traffic jams either folks. Sticky Palms has blown a gasket after losing to Ms Moon on Ken Bruce's PopMaster music quiz. There were loads of questions on girl groups and whack USA soft rock bands - both favourite genres of the good lady. I remain on mute and tight-lipped until Junction 15 as defeat sinks in.

We stick the car in a multi-storey car park at Southgate Shopping Centre and check-in at Eight, a smart boutique townhouse hotel, nestled in the old part of the city, close to Bath Abbey. The sun burns off the clouds as we head into Bath. We stroll up to Royal Victoria Park, opened by an 11-year-old Princess Victoria in 1830. She was never to return to the city again due to a overheard disparaging remark made by a local resident about the thickness of her ankles.

The park spans over 57 acres of land. We stop by a children's adventure playground for a spot of late lunch and return to town via The Crescent where one of the 30 properties, built in 1774, is on the market for £1.2 million. 

I turn down a very kind offer from Ms Moon of watching The Chase quiz show in the hotel room - I'm still sore from my loss earlier in the day. I pound the cobbled back streets of Bath ticking off a few Good Pub Guide entries. We meet later for drinks before dining at La Perla on North Parade.

I've an action-packed Saturday morning lined-up. After another full English we jump on the hop on hop off bus that does a tour of the city. It's a waste of £34 to be honest as we spend half the time stuck in traffic. The tour guide lacks humour and could easily put a glass eye to sleep. 

It's time for the seasonal debut of Celebrity Grave Hunt. I've got a pearler set up for today. A fagged out Ms Moon slogs it up the hill in stifling heat towards Bath Abbey Cemetery. The place is unkempt and abandoned. Most of the graves are covered or hidden with overgrown grass. 'Private Godfrey' (Arnold Ridley) from Dad's Army is buried with his parents in here. Ms Moon chances upon his grave. She's smug and proud that she found it before me. I'm fuming again.

I get my own back as I make her walk just shy of 3 miles to the wonderful Twerton Park, a ground I last visited in 1987 when I witnessed 'Charlie' McParland miss three one-on-ones as Notts County drew 0-0 against Bristol Rovers. The thing I remember from that day was a landlord at a pub near the ground saying that he witnessed legendary Nottingham Evening Post sports journalist Dave McVay speed-drink four pints in half an hour. His reports in Monday's edition were a joy to read.

It's £15 to sit in the old main stand. The ground, built in 1909, is to die for. There's floodlight porn and jaw-dropping views.To my right is the terrace, open to the elements and vulnerable to wintry conditions. I love the white-painted crash barriers, rarely seen in English grounds. 

Table-topping Dartford are today's visitors. They are managed by Steve King. I came across King when I was in recruitment at Notts County. He was hawking a 16-year-old boy around the circuit called Joe Ralls, who was playing for Farnborough Town. It was at the time Sven Goran Eriksson was at Meadow Lane and the rumours were that the club (Notts) were awash with money. My boss and I watched Ralls in an FA Youth Cup game. King, dressed in a cashmere coat and pork pie hat turned up at a Pies' youth game to negotiate a deal. Ralls ended up signing for Cardiff City where he's since made over 250 appearances.

The DJ's set is tip top and includes Shed Seven and The Dandy Warhols. There is a rousing round of applause as the players take the knee for Black Lives Matter. There's a frantic start to the game with clear cut chances at both ends. The Dartford 14 jacket, Ade Azeez, is proving to be a handful and looks very comfortable at this level. He heads home a goal and sets up another for Robinson as the visitors take a two goal lead into the break.

Ms Moon returns from the kiosk with a tray of chips and some much-needed bottles of water. The Romans batter Dartford in the second half. They do everything but score as there are a string of saves and clearances off the line. Eventually they bag a well deserved goal with Alex Fletcher wriggling his way through the middle. They spurn so many chances in an exhilarating and breathtaking second half. 

The inevitable happens with 10 minutes remaining. Bath are caught on the break. A cross is turned into the back of the net by an unmarked forward. Dartford run down the clock to make it 5 wins on the bounce.

Attendance: 1137 

Man of the Match: Private Godfrey from Dad's Army.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Notts County 1-1 Torquay United

It's Monday morning and I've jumped into a cab in Carlton. Destination, for the umpteenth time, is the Queen's Medical University Hospital, in Nottingham. For those of you who are first-time readers of this 15- year-old blog, I've had no sight in my right eye (detached retina) for over 12 months; add to that my other eye has a cataract that requires surgery. Tom, at work, calls me 'The Carlton Stevie Wonder' - I must check-in with HR on that one.

The taxi driver, from Iran, is also down on his luck. He and his wife have saved hard-earned cash since 2008 for IVF treatment, without success. I feel sad and selfish for thinking about my plight. It's good news at the hospital when my consultant, Mr Zaman, sends me for a pre-operation assessment. I'm measured up for a new lense to be fitted sometime in September. I'll finally be able to watch the Soaps with Ms Moon again .. Doh!

I'm happy as Larry as I skip out of the sliding doors of the main entrance and into a taxi. My driver is from Afghanistan. He's angry about the West's withdrawal as he has family stranded out there. I sympathise with him and wish him well. I've a spring in my step for the rest of the day. At close of play I finish off with an 8 mile walk around Colwick Park, a happy place I spent many an hour at during 'Lockdown.'

It's Tuesday evening and the same drill. I wander around the banks of the River Trent and the back streets of Lady Bay with Alex, a good friend from work. We hook up with 'Our Joe' and 'Dafty' at the Stratford Haven in West Bridgford (a pub my father opened)  - it's on a road where one of Nottinghamshire's greatest ever cricketers lived. C.E.B. Rice was a hard-hitting batsman and fiery fast bowler from South Africa. He lived at 246 Stratford Road. How do I know that? Because it was listed in the phone directory.

I bump into an old school pal, 'Tich' Colman, a Keyworth Tavern legend, who works in the brewing industry. It's like a busman's holiday to him as he can 'put more away' than blog legend Trumpy Bolton. Dafty and I stroll up Bridgford Road before meeting up with 'Bally' in the car park of The City Ground' behind the Peter Taylor Stand.

Wolves arrive on the back of a 1-0 reverse versus Spurs on Sunday. Manager, Bruno Lage, makes 7x changes. Nottingham Forest's back five (including their 'keeper) have one League appearance between them. NFFC are battered for 90 minutes despite holding the baying pack 0-0 at the break. 

I'm back at Trent Bridge on Wednesday evening - thankfully it's for cricket and not football. I alight the bus outside Topknot Hair and Beauty, just to the north of the river. I adore Castle Rock's The Embankment pub. It's filling up with cricket supporters who whet their appetite at the prospect of a T20 quarter final clash between Notts Outlaws and Hampshire Hawks.

I wash down a Meatball Melt, wrapped in flatbread, with a pint of Fletchers from a microbrewery in Newark-on-Trent. Traffic is gridlocked as I Jaywalk over Trent Bridge. I enter the ground on Hound Road. I plonk myself in my favourite spot in the Larwood and Voce Stand.

Hampshire are under the cosh from the very first ball and post what looks like a dismal 125-9. The bloke behind me says 145 is a par score. The wicket looks slow and the ball is keeping low, but then again what do I know with only half an eye on proceedings?

Notts have a history of self-combustion and capitulation. I'm dreaming of celebratory beers in Sneinton Market ('The New Covent Garden') as the Outlaws cruise at 65-1. Another Finals' Day beckons at Edgbaston. I rub my eyes in disbelief and pop an extra blood pressure pill as I witness the unthinkable loss of nine wickets for 68 runs. Notts would have been better off sending in 'Nuts' (a squirrel) the mascot rather than 11 jacket Dane Paterson as he feathers a ball to the 'keeper to see Hants through. The away following mock the Trent Bridge faithful with a rendition of an old Joy Division song 'Notts ... Notts are falling apart again." Clive Rice will have been turning in his grave.

I'm so angry with Notts' display that I hardly speak to a soul on Thursday. My mood is lifted with an annual appearance at the Ruddington Beer Festival on Friday evening. I hook up with Tom (Tottenham home and away) and Charlie (Chelsea toff and Rugger fan) on the village green. 'The Keyworth Georgie Best' (my eldest lad) rocks up with a beer in hand, whilst drooling over a rolled-up cigarette that hangs from his lips. He's hung up his boots for KUFC after a 20 years of loyalty - I can't say I blame him, as he was treated appallingly by his previous 'manager.' I go in big on the ABV's from the Bang the Elephant brewery based in Langley Mill. It's bus fare home for Sticky Palms at 9.30 p.m. and lights out before 10.30 p.m. without supper too.

I'm up with the larks on Saturday morning and down at Tesco Carlton just shy of 8.30 a.m. I'm rustling up a prawn linguine tonight, it's a piece of cake folks (just don't tell Ms Moon as I'll string it out). I don't hang around in the supermarket as Craig David is on Radio Tesco - it sees most shoppers scampering towards the exit door.

I mow the lawn and prune the roses before taking a shower and jumping on the No.27 bus into Nottingham. I cross over Southwell Road and walk through the doors of the Fox and Grapes in Sneinton Market. Bar staff are huddled around a radio listening to the fag end of the first half between D***y and Forest. The Rams are a goal to the good. I enjoy a pint of Atlantis from North Brewing Co, based in Leeds. I head past the Nottingham Arena. I get angry when I notice that Michael Ball and Alfie Boe are playing there in December. They couldn't even sell out Carlton Top Spot. 

I love going down Meadow Lane. The Pies remind me of my team, Lincoln City - luck is not often on their side. The hullabaloo of the attention-seeking previous owner, Alan Hardy, is a distant memory. The dreamy, Walter Mitty character promised to get Notts out of League Two - he delivered in his second season as 'U Pies' plummeted into the National League. It never sat comfortable with County faithful that Hardy surrounded himself with Forest fans at Board level. His cronies formed a drinking circle in the pretentious bars of West Bridgford (the Red Side) with then manager Kevin Nolan, but soon spat their dummies out when the forementioned was relieved of his duties following defeat, ironically, at Sincil Bank.

The new owners, in contrast, are under the radar and don't seek the limelight. They have a business model, although BREXIT has wreaked havoc, with points required to work in the U.K. They have, however, managed to capture a couple of players from Torquay, who caught their eye last season. 

I meet another 'Tavern' legend, Alan Jackson, along with his son, Stuart, next to a wall where supporters have bought bricks in an effort to raise much-needed funds. 'Jacko' has five family members named on separate bricks. 'The Taxman (big mates with 'Jacko and myself) is a no-show today. 'Jacko' says he's in hospital awaiting surgery on a hernia - he's had more operations than Darren Anderton.

I'm sat in the Derek Pavis Stand. The playing surface looks immaculate. The DJ's set is decent - 'Pump it Up' by Elvis Costello and the Attractions and 'Juice' by Lizzo are the pick of the bunch.

Notts are slow out of the blocks as the visitors impress in the early exchanges. The Magpies see an effort crash off the woodwork. The game-changing moment is a spoiler for us neutrals (obviously I want Notts to win). Wootton is through on goal and is fouled. It's a straight Red for the offender. Dan Holman, a player I have admired for many years, since his Histon days, is sacrificed on the half hour. Incredibly the Gulls take the lead. The goalie launches the ball down the middle, County fail to deal with it, allowing the ball to bounce, Slocombe, in the nets, hesitates and is beaten in the air by Danny Wright - it's route one at its finest and without finesse.

I chance upon 'Jacko' at the break. He's already on his second packet of Hamlet cigars. He prefers to wax lyrical about his recent Keyworth Bowls Club Doubles Championship win with his partner 'Doc' Martin. He also chuckles when he lets slip that 'The Taxman' is moaning about a soon-to-be enforcement of 20 mph speeds limits in the city centre - I nod in agreement as The Taxman has failed to get out of second gear on most journeys - a little like the Magpies in the first half.

Torquay are pinned back in their own half for most of the second half. There is stoic defending as they block, head away and throw themselves in front of a flurry of crosses. Notts make the breakthrough. A Chicksen cross is headed home by fans' favourite Wootton.

It's all set up for a grandstand finish, but Notts just can't break 'em down. It's like the bull versus the matador. There's a set-to with the two managers on the touchline as Torquay understandably deploy cringeworthy time-wasting tactics - they are on another level to Danny Cowley's Lincoln City

Torquay see out six minutes of injury time with relative ease despite their tiring limbs. Notts will need to put up a better showing in North Wales at big-spending Wrexham on Monday evening, if they don't want to come back empty-handed.

Attendance: 6,934

Man of the Match: 

Mr Zaman, my eye consultant

Thanks to Rich Cooper for ground photo.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

FA Cup: Loughborough Students 3-2 Newark FC

The final whistle has blown at The City Ground. Nottingham Forest have lost their opening two League games in the Championship 2-1. A nervy, edgy second half performance puts doubt in the minds of an often forgiving and loyal 'A' Block. Folk exit the ground as Sticky Palms remains in his seat. The queues subside; it's proper COVID central. I'm not anxious about the virus but would rather not contract it.

I head towards the ticket office, to the rear of the Peter Taylor Stand. There are only a handful of supporters queuing for match tickets versus Blackburn Rovers on Wednesday evening. Only three staff are on duty. I hang around for 20 minutes. The Club are an omnishambles on and off the pitch. I leave empty-handed.

The clogged-up pavements have cleared as I walk over Trent Bridge and through the Meadows. I cross over the tramlines onto Arkwright Street. I've 45 minutes to kill before meeting Ms Moon, an old school pal, 'Keebo' and his partner Tracy, for an evening out up at Crafty Crow, on Friar Lane. It's a Magpie Brewery pub, adjacent to a £30 million refurbished Nottingham Castle.

I pull open the front door of the recently re-opened Barley Twist, a Castle Rock watering hole. Nearby is a half demolished Broadmarsh Centre ('The Nottingham Chernobyl'). I nurse a pint of session pale ale as I reflect on the game and where it all went wrong.

High jinks and laughter are had up at Crafty Crow. We alight the bus on Carlton Road; a few stops from home. Supper is served at Carlton Fryer, who rustle up kebab meat and chips to die for. I drink a litre of water during the night.

I do my upmost to walk at least 30 miles per week. It's made easier that I've been unable to drive my car for the last 12 months due to an ongoing eye issue. I always put a big walking shift in on a Monday evening. I love a mooch around Netherfield Lagoons at the back of Victoria Retail Park. It's so peaceful. There are around 6x lagoons which held water that was pumped out of Gedling Colliery, until it's closure in 1991; only a few years shy of its 100-year anniversary.

It's Tuesday evening and I'm looking forward to seeing some Non League action in the land of 'fur coats and no knickers.' West Bridgford (aka 'Bread 'n Lard Island') are entertaining neighbours Dunkirk FC at Regatta Way. I jump off the Ruddington 10 on Trent Bridge and head down Radcliffe Road, adjacent to the Cricket ground. I veer left onto Trent Boulevard and take a right-hand turn onto Rutland Road.

It's an emotional reunion with blog midweek legend 'The Taxman' at the Poppy and Pint pub on Pierrepont Road, in Lady Bay. We chew over the cud and catch up over the events of the last 12 months. He usually has a good old moan about the Tricky Trees; due to COVID he hasn't been this season. It saddens me that this is the case, as he has had a season ticket for over 45 years. We enjoy some tea and a pint of Lil Wingman from Shiny Brewery. We don't speak for half an hour when he reveals his daughter is going out with a D***y Clownty fan - had I been driving I'd have kicked him out of the car following this weak parenting.

The game is superb. Bridgford race into an early two goal lead. The Boatmen peg one back and are very unfortunate not to share the spoils. 'The Keyworth Georgie Best' is in attendance (my lad). It's for the best I don't mention NFFC's form of late or he might kick off Tasmanian Devil style. His mate, Jack Oldham is the best player on show. 

It's rinse and repeat for us bus folk the following evening. There's been a bad accident on Radcliffe Road, close to the ground. The traffic starts to back up. I tip 'Georgie Best' off, but he's already sinking a few scoops in The Boot Room. I grab another award-winning pork cob, accompanied by crackling, stuffing and apple sauce from Relish.

Forest start like a train and pepper the visitors' goal with a flurry of shots in the opening 25 minutes. The malaise begins to creep in and the crowd get onto the players' backs. Rovers take the lead just after half-time. Despite an equaliser, it's the same old story, as another late goal is conceded. 'A' and 'B' Block are frothing at the mouth. They sarcastically sing the name of previous incumbent Sabri Lamouchi and launch a verbal volley at a bewildered Chris Hughton, who is stood slouched on the touchline. It's sad and tragic to witness such desperate scenes.

It's Friday evening and the beginning of the Nottingham Craft Beer Festival. Tony Mac and I are people-watching at Bunkers Hill which is situated in the bustling, hipster area of Hockley. We soon have tears streaming down our faces following a few slurps of a fiery, red hot 7.5% sour called Sunshine on Portobello Road from Vault City Brewing in Edinburgh.

We end up on a proper crawl: taking in Partizan Tavern, Liquid Light (close to the 'Gaza Strip') and finally the Fox and Grapes where we finish off with a 'Sneinton Nightcap' from Pentrich Brewery, an imperial double pale ale called 'Counting in Fives' that comes in at 9% abv - we have a can a piece. It's bus fare home for Jim Bowen.

I'm worse for wear in the spices aisle at Tesco Carlton on Saturday morning. I've already bagged a 2lb neck of lamb from Robin Tuxford, the butcher in Netherfield. I'd stupidly volunteered to knock up a Lamb Rogan Josh t'other night after a couple of stiff craft ales from the Whiplash stable, Ireland, purchased at Junkyard in town. I tap my toe to 'Everything She Wants' from Wham, that's on Radio Tesco, whilst desperately scanning the spices, with my one eye, looking for Garam Masala.

Ms Moon and I have both got the proper hump with those twerps at Tesco since they discontinued Nescafe Alta Rica coffee a few weeks back. It's been on offer at £2.25 for donkeys. We had 15x jars of the chuffer stockpiled in our cupboards. Rationing has hit us hard, so much so, that we had to buy a big jar of it from the Ilkley Co-op after an FA Cup qualifier up there the other week.

Ms Moon has come up trumps with a Greggs sausage roll as we head towards the A60. Gary Davies has been drafted in as a replacement for Paul Gambacinni on Radio 2's Pick of the Pops. 1994 is the year, and a pretty poor one at that. The only chink of light is Neneh Cherry and Youssou 'N Dour singing 7 Seconds. I check for any cracks in the windscreen when Ms Moon belts out the chorus whilst we are stuck in a traffic jam in Ruddington.

It's a nightmare journey to Loughborough, but we still arrive in good time. The two teams crossed swords the previous week in League action. The Students ran out 7-0 winners against a ten men visitors in what a local described as a 'brutal game of football.'

Ms Moon is impressed with the set up. I kid you not, you could play crown green bowls on the playing surface. Loughborough University has a long list of famous sporting alumni including: Lord Coe. Steve Backley, Paula Radcliffe, Sir Clive Woodward and David Moorcroft.

We sit up in the glorious main stand which gives you a panoramic view of the area. Newark F.C. have had to relocate to Basford United in inner-city Nottingham this season due to being hoofed off their own ground next to the Flowserve works'. Ms Moon and I loved going there as there was a real vibe and a proper community spirit. I shan't watch them at Basford - it's 3G innit.

They've been shrewd with their recruitment; a number of lads are from Nottingham including ex Notts County striker Romello Nangle, who I know Keith Curle rated highly. The Club also received a crushing blow on the eve of this FA Cup tie, when it was announced that joint-manager, Steve Kirkham, had moved to pastures new (Eastwood CFC).

It's pretty much the athletisism of the Students versus the physical presence of the visitors in the first half. 7 jacket Matty Bowman is too hot to handle for Newark down the right hand side. Loughborough take the lead when a ball is launched down the middle and latched onto by speedy striker Tope Fadahunsi, who lifts the ball over the on-rushing 'keeper Searson. It could have been 2-0 shortly before the break when the impressive and industrious Ethan O'Toole sees an effort hit the inside of the post. Newark race forward, Will Rawdon whips a first-time ball into the box which is headed home by Danny Meadows.

The highlight at the break is Ms Moon buying a bag of Minstrels from the tea bar. The downside is some awful R 'n B music being piped through the P.A. system.

Newark look a different outfit in the second half and deservedly take the lead following some pinball in the penalty area. The Students hit the wood work again before finally equalising. The game has a brilliant ebb and flow about that all Cup ties should have. In the dying embers of the game substitute Dylan Edwards turns a cross home to put the Students into the FA Cup First Qualifying Round.

Man of the Match: Matty Bowman

Attendance: 170

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Nottingham Forest 1-2 AFC Bournemouth

 I'm walking down the hill towards the West Yorkshire town of Ilkley. We've just checked-in to the ghastly Best Western Plus Craiglands Hotel - it's already lived up to its horror show Trip Advisor ratings. I'm buzzing following my first competitive game in ages; an FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round tie just up the road in Silsden.

I sink a couple of quality session pale ales from the Ilkley Brewery, in the Flying Duck, and have a swift one in Friends of Ham, before joining up with Ms Moon for the rest of the evening, as it teems down with rain. A breakfast to die for is enjoyed at Bettys Cafe and Tea Rooms in this wonderful, picturesque town, located in the Wharfedale valley.

I've drank some ales and eaten some nosh at the weekend. I walk it off on Monday evening with a 10- mile hilly climb around Gedling Country Park. It's on the old slag heap of Gedling Colliery. I like to think I'm as fit as a fiddle, but the steep gradients literally take your breath away.

It's Tuesday evening, 5.30 p.m. I exit the door of Ideagen PLC on Ruddington Fields Business Park. They are now an official sponsor of Nottingham Forest under 23s and the Academy. I turn right onto a snicket that leads me through Ruddington Cricket Club and Ruddington FC. It's a ground I saw Keyworth Reserves comeback from 4-1 down in February to win with a last gasp winner from the best (amateur) striker I've ever clapped eyes on. I close my eyes and visualise that winner and the warm fuzzy feeling it gave me for the rest of that day.

I enjoy a pint of Extra Pale Ale from the Nottingham Brewery in the beer garden at Rudd's best pub, The Framebreakers. A short stroll away is one of the world's greatest chip shops - Ruddington Fish Bar. You can't beat a midweek chippy tea, folks. The mini-fish is to die for.

I wander up Wilford Road and take a left-hand turn onto Clifton Lane. I hook up with my old mate James 'Tosh' Turner at Clifton All Whites, whose alumni includes: Jermaine Pennant, Jermaine Jenas and Darren Huckerby (released by Notts County for being too small).

The Clifton DJ should be on a written warning as he tunes us all into Capital FM - back in the day they only used to spin one record, it was called 'Don't You Worry Child' by Swedish House Mafia - I have a head loss and Dicky fit every time I hear it.

Tosh is now Club Ambassador. It saddens me that he's not in situ, in the dugout, but he has a young family to care for. He kicks every ball in the first half, more than All Whites do, for a fact, as they return to the dressing room at half time 4-1 down. There's a slight improvement after the break. I hear the final whistle as I jump into a taxi in The Fairham pub car park.

I'd clocked that U Reds v The Bantams was only £12. I love a night game down The City Ground. I jump off the Ruddington 10 bus, outside County Hall, at 5.15 p.m.  I cross over Trent Bridge as the rush hour traffic begins to build up. I swing by the ticket office and collect my ticket which will see me seated in the Peter Taylor Stand in 'Block B.'

I've a couple of hours to kill. I grab a pork cob with crackling and apple sauce at a place called Relish on Pavilion Road. I spend an hour or so on the Embankment, sat by the river on a bench, people-watching. I'm in the ground as soon as the turnstiles open.

I travelled up to Bradford for a League Cup tie in 1985. The game was played at an old Rugby League and speedway stadium called the Odsal. Valley Parade was being reconstructed following The Bradford City Stadium Fire, during a game versus my team, Lincoln City. 56 spectators died that horrible day and a further 265 were injured when a stand went up in flames due to a discarded cigarette end. Forest ran out 5-0 winners that evening, and we got caught up in some trouble after the game.

Bradford City are managed by the Scot, Derek Adams, who controversially upped sticks having gained promotion from League Two with Morecambe. They also feature striker Lee Angol who failed to impress during spells at Lincoln and Mansfield.

Chris Hughton uses tonight to experiment with the youngsters following an injury time loss at Coventry's Ricoh Stadium on Sunday. Seven players are given their senior debuts. It's an emotional night for a crowd just shy of 10,000. My spine tingles and my heart races as the players emerge from the tunnel. Folk hug one another as they are reunited for the first time in ages.

Bradford give a good account of themselves - Lee Angol shines like a beacon up top for them. He's come on leaps and bounds. Crowd favourite and often the outcast, the Portuguese attacker, Joao Carvalho bags a brace, his second goal is a sublime finish - Main Stand 'A' Block love this lad - but I don't get all the fuss to be honest, as his stats just don't stack up.

I'm on annual leave on Friday. I peg it up Carlton Road and take a seat at Albies, a family-run cafe. I tuck into a hearty breakfast before walking across the 'Gaza Strip' (Sneinton/Carlton border) and onto Station Street.

I meet Tony Mac and 'Coops' in the foyer of the railway station. We jump onto the 11.07 train to Birmingham. We alight the choo at Burton Upon Trent for our 'Real Ale Trail.' Burton is the brewing capital of the U.K. so you can't really go wrong. The Coopers Arms is the pick of the bunch. I bump into some Ipswich Town fans who are stopping over the night as the Tractor Boys play the Brewers tomorrow. I ask them about Teddy Bishop, who 'The Lincoln' have snapped up on a Bosman.

Poor old Coops has had a rough time. I call him the 'Tin Man.' He's had more operations than Darren Anderton. A day on the p**s takes his mind off things, although it's bus fare home for him and a no-show at Neon Raptor where Mac and Sticky mop up with a TIPA and a QIPA - it's commonly known as a 'Sneinton Nightcap.'

Late on Saturday morning I leave a dreamy Ms Moon watching the umpteenth edition of Place in the Sun. I walk 3 miles to The City Ground. The turnstiles open at 1.40 p.m. I'm in like a rat. I don't like to drink alcohol prior to football. I've already sunk a litre of water on the walk down. It's a disgusting £1.80 at the refreshment bar for a small bottle. Jack Savoretti is on the PA system as I take my pew in B4.

There's a lovely touch from Forest before the game. Fans stand and applaud in the memory of supporters who are no longer with us in the last 12 months. Pictures and names appear on giant TV screens. It brings home the enormity of the pandemic as well as the loss of life through other illnesses too.

The Forest DJ ups the tempo and plays a decent set including Born Slippy and Insomnia. 'A' Block run through their playlist too. The atmosphere is electric as 25,000 fans rise and applaud both sets of players onto the pitch.

Forest start like a train. Bouremouth love a foul; they commit four inside the first 10 minutes. For all Forest's pressure there are no shots on goal. The Cherries grow into the game. They take the lead through a brilliantly worked goal by Welsh international David Brooks. Reds' skipper Ryan Yates sees a shot hit the inside of the post and bounce back into play, shortly before half-time.

I pop up to the top of the stand to chat with 'Bally.' Neither of us have been impressed but feel Bournemouth are there for the taking. There's a reason to feel optimistic in the 48th minute when Scott McKenna heads home an equaliser. Ten minutes later the visitors take the lead again with a raid down the Forest right hand side.

There's what should be a game-changing moment, on the hour, when David Brooks is shown a second yellow card. The neutral is starved of the game's best player. Forest can't find a way through a10-man Bournemouth. There's no risk-taking or creativity. 

The crowd beg for Carvalho to be thrown into the fray. It's too late when he finally strips off. The Tricky Trees deserve little and Bournemouth are no great shakes either. The fans (who have been magnificent) seem resigned and used to defeat. There's no anger. Nottingham folk are a cheery lot. After all D***y Clownty conceded twice in injury time. Every cloud has a silver lining.

Man of the Match: That Pork Cob on Tuesday evening.

Attendance: 25,035