Sunday, October 1, 2023

Gedling Miners Welfare 1-2 Bourne Town


I'm strolling up Plain Roads towards Mapperley Tops. I wear a broad smile on my face, as I think back to just five minutes ago, when a Kieran 'Kizza' Harrison wonder strike, from 60 yards out, put Gedling Miners Welfare into the next round of the FA Vase.

I sit on a settee in the cosy Bread and Bitter pub, and quaff a delicious pint of 'Golden Fields of Green' from Pentrich Brewing Co, based in Amber Valley, Derbyshire. I engage in some small talk with a young guy sitting next to me. He's babysitting a British Bulldog, who is salivating over a bag of pork scratchings that are sat in the palm of my hand.

The lad I'm chatting to originates from West Bridgford, but now lives in London. Turns out he's a music producer who goes by the name of 'Son of Philip.' He has had his music showcased on 6 Music's Mary Anne Hobbs show. He also lets it slip that he is going on the road with the 80s synth-pop band Blancmange. You may remember their hit 'Living on the Ceiling' or the brilliant cover version of Abba's 'The Day Before You Came.'

I arrive home in time to catch Ms Moon watching Season 19 of Strictly Come Dancing. Former BBC newsreader Angela Rippon looks light on her feet. I confess to Ms Moon that I had a crush on Rippon as a teenager. I'm banished to the kitchen and told to get the supper on.

I laze around for most of the day on Sunday. I can't be tempted out of my armchair by an advert on the BeerHeadZ facebook page, saying they have just put on a 15% IPA beer called Ladon from Tartarus. That boozy 'Dirty Leeds' bad boy would have seen an early finish to the day for Sticky Palms.

Tuesday evening is spent once again at Gedling Miners Welfare. Clifton All Whites are tonight's visitors. It's a club that I have a strong affinity with. I see a little bald fellow picking up some bibs and cones after finishing off a drill. It's blog legend James 'Tosh' Turner. We enjoy a catch up before he races to the dressing room for the pre-match talk.

I stand with Faggsy, 'Murph' and Steve Mack as the Clifton young guns give Gedling the runaround. To a man they are magnificent and very pleasing on the eye, The final scoreline of 4-1 in the visitors favour flatters the Miners. They have been well and truly dusted.

It's Wednesday morning and I'm already up and over Carlton Hill at just gone 9 am. I loiter on the corner of Lancaster Road as I wait for Faggsy. We walk a further 3 miles through the eastern side of the city which is undergoing huge regeneration. We drop onto the canal which runs adjacent to the London Road with its noisy traffic.

It's Day 2 of a four day County Championship fixture between Nottinghamshire and Middlesex. Yesterday's play was rain affected. I was working at the shop, so was unable to attend. We sit behind the bowler's arm in the Lower Radcliffe Road End. Notts County fans 'Kimberley Al', 'Tomo' and 'Seadog Paul' are sat with us.

I stroll across the road at lunchtime to grab a roll from Mrs Bunns Cob Emporium. I sit in the West Bridgford War Memorial Garden. It's serene and tranquil. The peace and quiet is shattered by the arrival of 'Crazy Steve' whose breaking news includes zero stock levels of oxtail soup and haslet at Mrs Bunns.

Middlesex are all out for 366. There's a presentation at tea for Notts stalwarts Samit Patel and Jake Ball who are set to leave the club at the end of the season after a long period of service. It's quite a moving moment with families of both players in floods of tears. Faggsy and I call into The Embankment and Fox and Grapes on our journey home back to Carlton.

Corrie is on the TV set as I slide back the French window patio door. I play on my phone as I hunt for a fixture at the weekend. Regular readers will know that I lived in the village of Keyworth for 45 years. I coached at the local football club for 10 years, as well as following the first team when it had respected managers such as Arthur Oldham and Dave Fisk.

A dark cloud that has hung over the club (KUFC) for the last few seasons has blown a few miles north. Keyworth people, who understand the club and embrace a valuable, envied youth policy, now run the senior set up. 24 players (sheep) have exited the club. They've only managed a measly 6x wins out of 24 games, between them, at pastures new. I was blocked on the club's twitter page (a few seasons back after a sesh in Bournemouth) for calling the first team 'Radford Ressies' - as Management looked to buy the League. The entourage said "we're here to win pots." The trophy cabinet is still laid bare and gathering dust. Good luck to Ross Frame and Chris Thompson as they look to rebuild the club. Up the Green Army.

It's deja vu for the next few days as the County Cricket season draws to a close. It's something I struggle to come to terms with as I love my time down 'The Bridge' and enjoy the company of the folk I sit with. Crazy Steve tips me the wink that pork cobs with stuffing, crackling and apple sauce are on a special offer at Birds Bakery on The Avenue. My tooth aches for most of the afternoon after chomping on the crackling.

There's another presentation on Friday lunchtime and another goodbye too. Stuart Broad has retired from the game. To honour him the club announce that the Pavilion End is to be renamed the 'Stuart Broad End.' The game looks to be petering out. Middlesex have to win to avoid relegation. Notts are set 206 to win off 60 overs. It should be a formality.

Two hours later we are all basking in the sunshine biting our fingernails - Notts are tied up in knots. They have collapsed from 106-2 to 157-7. There's further bad news incoming: I'm meant to be meeting Ms Moon for Friday Club in Lillie Langtry's in town, for 6 pm. I'll definitely be late for that. You couldn't write the script as Jake Ball hits the winning runs in his final game for the club. A little tear rolls down my eye as I exit the ground for the last time this season.

I jump off a Nottingham City Transport bus on Beastmarket Hill, in the city centre, as the Council House clock strikes six bells. I wander up Market Street, where the record shop Selectadisc once had two stores. I cross over the road near to the Theatre Royal. Thank the Lord that Ms Moon is late due to a no show from the Carlton 27 bus. I shout up a pint of Tribute pale ale from the St Austell Brewery, in Cornwall. Lillie's is one of my favourite pubs. It has proper Nottingham folk in it and the music played is often classic tunes from the late 60s, 70s and 80s.

After a couple of drinks Ms Moon and I wander along Upper Parliament Street, another bloody eyesore that is in desperate need of some tender loving care. I've booked a table for two at Casa Italian and Seafood Restaurant. I enjoy a fish stew and a couple of glasses of Merlot. Ms Moon goes down the pasta route which is washed down with a couple of glasses of bubbles.

I only work a few hours at the newsagent on Saturday morning. A trip to Lincoln City is ruled out due to Mick Lynch's lads downing their rail tools for the day. Carlton are away up at Hebburn Town, which lies only a few miles south of the river Tyne. It's to be Gedling Miners Welfare for the third time in eight days.

I dive into Deli-icious. They are about to close and don't have much snap left. The lady behind the counter knocks me up a cob with salami, Swiss cheese, French Brie and mayo on it. The weather is miserable as drizzle sets in. 

I stand with Faggsy on the halfway line. We both saw the visitors Bourne Town put in a poor shift at Radford a few weeks back. The Miners deservedly take the lead through a fine goal by 'Kizza' again. Bourne Town are off the pace and short of ideas.

We sit in the bar at half-time as the bad weather is setting in and there is a dampness in the air. Gedling pay the price for missing gilt-edged chances. Two goals in the final five minutes see the visitors to an unlikely victory. I finally get to meet Chris Widdowson, who I have followed on twitter and the untappd beer app for years. He's gutted that the Miners got sucker-punched at the death.

Man of the Match: Ross McCaughey

Attendance: 96

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Nottingham Forest 1-1 Burnley

It's the evening of Friday 9th June. The sun is shining over the Bill Stokeld Stadium, home to the Mighty Millers (Carlton Town). I'm in the beer garden enjoying a few aperitifs with the usual cast of characters who are mentioned in this blog so frequently.

We are assembled here for an 'Evening With Michael Dawson', the former Nottingham Forest, Tottenham Hotspur and Hull City (I didn't forget Malc) defender. Dawson is from the North Yorkshire market town of Northallerton, an excellent spot for a tipple if you are passing. In our house it's called 'North fecking Allerton' following a goalless draw I saw back in 2016 which still makes my blood boil. As you know folks, Sticky doesn't do 0-0s. Dawson was scouted by Forest playing football with his hometown junior club on York Racecourse. 

I sit on a table with blog legends Jitz Jani, 'Dringy', music aficionado Craig Farina and the film producer and broadcaster Jonny Owen, who is a good friend of the club.  Dawson is engaging. He tells a few amusing anecdotes. At the end of the evening it's raffle time. One of the big prizes is a night in an executive box for the Nottingham Forest v Burnley, Premier League game, which includes a meal for two. Carlton diehard fan Nigel Harlow strides up to the front of the clubhouse, to pull out one of the numbers from out of the hat. I nearly fall off my chair when my name is shouted out.

I've suddenly become very popular now that I have the golden ticket. People are breaking their necks to say hello on facebook, twitter or in person at Carlton Tesco. Even the staff crack a smile. I would have taken Nige, to be honest, as after all he pulled my ticket out. I broached the subject with Ms Moon, who immediately puts the kibosh on it, making herself available for the said (big) game. The Betamax timer is set for 'The Farm' and Corrie.

It's Monday afternoon and I've just had a wee nap after a couple of early starts at the paper shop. I jump on the bus that goes up and over Carlton Hill, through the 'Gaza Strip' (the border between Carlton and Sneinton where it can get a bit tasty) and up past the Motorpoint Arena, where Lily the Carlton mascot will be eyeing up a gig when her favourite 'pop group' Busted top the bill.

I stroll down Lister Gate, which was once an exciting, vibrant shopping area in Nottingham city centre. To my left is the city's biggest blot on the landscape, the ruins of Broad Marsh Centre - Nottingham City Council's elephant in the room. An uglier building I have yet to see - take into consideration that I spent a day in Luton last year too.

I pass my second home, the railway station, and then cross over the tramlines before venturing into the Meadows. I appear from out of the sprawling housing estate outside Castle Rock's flagship pub The Embankment, which is already full to the brim inside and outside with excited, beer-swilling Tricky Tree fans.Nottingham Boat Club members are packing away their rowing boats and equipment as I glance at the former music venue where I saw bands such as The Associates, Orange Juice and Bow Wow Wow in the early 80s. 

I bump into NFFC and Carlton Town legend Gary 'Boatsy' Clarke. Gaz is a great lad, whose tiresome fundraising for the Millers and charities neither goes unnoticed or is taken for granted. He's with his lad Charlie, a goalkeeper, whose remarkable last minute winner for his team, Gedling Southbank Panthers, in March 2022, went viral. 

Ms Moon and I walk into the reception area, where all the executive boxes are housed. We are given a complimentary drink. I quench my thirst with a Coke Zero after the long walk through town. Ms Moon asks for a glass of prosecco. We are presented with a bottle that costs £36!! I ask if a St John's ambulance volunteer is available as I feel I'm going to faint. Thirty six chuffing pounds!!

The dinner is three courses, with the experience better than I'd expected. The seats, in the executive box, are in the shape of a dugout. My only previous experience of a 'prawn sandwich view' was with RJB Mining back in 1996 when Steve Stone did his anterior cruciate ligament in a game versus Leicester City.

One good thing about being in the box is that you can't hear the DJ set. If I'm to suffer 'Freed From Desire' one more time then I'll jump in the Trent. 'Casually Dan', the Carlton Town resident DJ, is available at £1,000 a pop. Trust me, that's great value, and he will get the supporters of both teams bouncing pre-match.

Burnley's left winger, Luca Koleosho, is running Argentinian World Cup winning full back, Gonzalo Montiel ragged. The 19 year old looks a steal at £2.6 million from Spanish team Espanyol. He hoodwinks Joe Worrall which leads to the opening goal of the game.

It's a decent match for the neutral. New signing Callum Hudson-Odoi scores a stunning equaiser following good work up top from 'Big T.' I'm sat near Carlton chairman, Mick Garton, who also happens to be my boss. He rants that NFFC never get any VAR decisions go their way. Moments later Burnley have a goal chalked off for a harsh handball decision. Mick holds up his hands as an apology. We all laugh as one.

Ms Moon is down London on business, so I have the run of the house, and more importantly the TV set. I'm working eight days on the bounce as cover for shop manager 'Chippy Fryer' who is on another Mediterranean cruise. I have to go steady on the drink as I watch a couple of Champions League games.

An out of sorts Manchester United are rolled over in Munich. The following night is far more entertaining as Brighton Hove Albion make their European debut versus AEK Athens. The Greeks run out the victors 3-2 in a breathtaking game of football. The Seagulls put up a brave fight. They were also missing two of their talismen: Lewis Dunk and Shane Ferguson.

Ms Moon and I saw NFFC lose 1-0 at Brighton back in 2015. The two things I remember most about that game was that we paid £46 each to sit in the home end (in the Championship) and that Jamie Ward made his debut after his agent somehow blagged a four year contract after triggering a Bosman from over the cattlegrid at 'The Sheep Dip.'

I meet Tony Mac for 'Friday Club' up at Canning Circus. We sink a few at the Organ Grinder, Sir John Borlase Warren, Barrel Drop (on Hurts Yard) and Nottingham's number one craft ale bar, Junkyard, adjacent to the Herbert Kilpin, an ex favourite of Sticky's until an unsavoury incident back at Christmas 2018. We finish up with a 12% collaboration from Black Iris and Bang the Elephant. A small kebab is hoovered up from the Carlton Fryer on the walk back to Chez Palms. I'm tucked up in bed for 10.30pm.

It's Saturday afternoon and the 25 bus up to Mapperley Tops is running ten minutes late. Hopes of a trip to Dodworth Miners Welfare FC were dashed earlier in the morning. The FA Vase is my favourite Non League trophy. Gedling Miners Welfare are pitting their wits against Selston FC, from the north of the county.

I make the ten minute walk from the bus stop to the ground. I arrive just as the two teams emerge from the changing rooms. It's £5 on the gate. I part with a couple of quid for some raffle tickets. I position myself on the opposite side to the dugouts. You can't fault the effort but the game isn't easy on the eye. Selston are a shadow of their former self, after another club did a raid on their players. I like the Gedling lads as many have stuck together during tough times, and not walked away like a lot of Non League big time Charlies do.

I meet a groundhopper who has travelled up from Horsham, in Sussex. That's a staggering 350 mile round trip. He says he should be home for Match of the Day. 

The Miners look home and hosed at 2-0 up with just a few minutes remaining. Selston score what looks to be a consolation goal. They quickly retrieve the ball from out of the net and place it on the spot for a Gedling kick off. The ball is played back to Kieran Harrison who is 60 yards out from goal, he spots the keeper wandering around his area before hitting a shot goal bound that hangs in the air for an age, it sails over the 'keeper and into the net. I can't 'arf pick 'em! 

Man of the Match: The Burnley winger

Attendance:  28,958

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Lincoln City 1-1 Carlisle United

Faggsy and I head towards the exit of Radford FC's Selhurst Street ground. Big Glenn will be grinning like a Cheshire Cat after seeing his team comfortably beat Bourne Town, from Lincolnshire, 2-1. We turn left onto Radford Road, one of Sticky's favourite areas of inner city Nottingham.

Three youths are 'dancing' on the corner of Shipstone Street as some God damn awful Grime music blasts out of an amp that's sat in a shop doorway. We pass Black Iris Brewery, one of Nottingham's finest tap houses. We walk up the steps of The Lion, on Mosley Street. There is no end to the searing heat. I sink a pint of Wheelbarrow, an extra special bitter from the highly-rated Lenton Lane stable. We jump on the tram and head back into town. More beer is quaffed at Ye Olde Salutation on Hounds Gate and the Fox and Grapes in Sneinton, before heading home for an early night and a good night's sleep.

I'm having a quiet day in the house on Sunday. Ms Moon is still holidaying in the Costa del Sol. I traipse all the way down to Victoria Retail Park, in Netherfield, to buy some clothes from Next. It's so hot, that I make the call not to buy any food from Marks and Spencer Food Hall or Morrisons supermarket. It's a decision that I will come to regret.

I need to get some food in for the week. Carlton Tesco is just a few minutes walk away from my crib. I'm met at the door by a member of the customer service team. This is a miracle in itself, as in seven years of shopping, I've yet to witness anything above average service at the worst shop in Europe. Their poor run of form continues with the breaking news that all the fridges have broken down and won't be back in action until Wednesday.

I'm out on my feet and can't be bothered to trudge up the hill to Tesco Express. I settle on a couple of tins of tuna. I'll have to make a sandwich for tea. The curse of Tesco strikes again. Monday and Tuesday are spent working in the best paper shop on this Earth, and, where I might add, the customer service is second to none.

I can't be bothered with any live midweek football action. I settle in on Tuesday evening and view the 150th Anniversary Heritage Match between Scotland and England, up at Hampden Park, in Glasgow. The Three Lions barely break into a sweat. One or two of the players are on top of their game. Let's hope this continues during Euro 2024, particularly when it matters against top opposition. I'm still fuming we couldn't beat France in the World Cup, with five Les Bleus regular starters unavailable through injury.

It's Wednesday morning and I'm walking through the gates of 'The Bay' (Notts Sports Club) home to Nottingham Rugby Club, Boots Hockey Club and more importantly Notts CCC 2nd XI. I sit and chat all day to 'Leeds Tony', Derek, 'Ticknall Terry' and Wayne as Notts 2s and Northants 2s play out a rain-affected draw.

The opening bowlers for Notts are Jake Ball and local legend 'Big Luke Fletcher.' Fletch is returning from ankle surgery which has hampered his testimonial season. Drurs and I catch him grazing on the boundary down at fine leg. Fletch is a cheery character who always enjoys some craic. Drurs says to him that he's noticed that Fletch is a guest speaker at the Notts Cricket Lovers Society in October. He remarks that he has a couple of tricky questions lined up for the Big 'Un."Fire away" says a chuckling Fletch.

The Lady Bay chip shop, on Trent Boulevard is the highlight of the day. The batter is perfect and the fish is succulent and fleshy. I bump into Lynn, who works at a local primary school. She is the mother of Carlton Town skipper Niall Davie. I wish her well on the club's big day out in the FA Cup on Saturday.

I meet up with Tony Mac on Platform 6B at Nottingham Railway Station on Friday morning. We hop onto the 7.45 to Sheffield. There's a short wait for a Northern train to Scarborough. Today's 'Jolly Boys' outing is to port city of Kingston upon Hull, the birthplace of William Wilberforce, who was the leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade. One of my closest friends, Ackers, is also on the trip, as he went to university there 40 years ago.

We're holed up in Thieving Harry's Cafe on the marina by 10.30. We look out onto the sun-kissed estuary as we demolish a full English breakfast accompanied by a pot of Yorkshire Tea. Hull is another northern gem. We end up walking 12 miles, finishing up in the historic Old Town, with its Grade II listed pubs and cobbled streets.

It's a lovely trip down memory lane for Ackers, who you can see is trying to fathom out the changes to the  city as he retraces his steps at old haunts such as Peel Street and student digs towards Cottingham. I love the architecture, statues and street art. One mural, which has replaced a graffiti-covered gable end in Russell Street, has a painting of guitarist Mick Ronson, Fine Young Cannibals lead singer, Roland Gift and The Housemartins Paul Heaton.

We are both fagged out on our arrival back into Nottingham at 11pm. I have forty winks before arriving at the shop for a Saturday morning shift. I feel all warm and fuzzy after yesterday's brilliant trip oop north. Thanks for organising Tony Mac. I know it made Ackers' day.

Bloody hell, I'm back at the train station again today (Saturday). I'm on the 12.38 East Midlands Train to Lincoln Central. I'm a bit gutted, to be honest, as I'm missing Carlton town's biggest game in their history, as they try to qualify for the next round of the FA Cup, at Rushall Olympic, near to Walsall.

The Imps are at home to Carlisle United. I alight a packed out train and walk in the opposite direction to Sincil Bank. I find a Batemans pub on a back street called the Dog and Bone. A flirtatious barmaid with plenty of chat, pours me a hazy pale ale from Sharps Brewery.

I wander down to the city centre and take a left turn through the Stonebow and onto the High Street. I stop at a confectionery store to grab a cold drink and some sweets. I've paid £25 to sit in the SRP Stand. I arrive ten minutes before kick off as nothing took my fancy on Poachers' Playlist apart from Primal Scream.

I sit close to the Directors' Box where Hall of Fame inductee and former legendary manager Colin Murphy usually sits. There's no sign of his presence today. The Imps have announced a depleted line-up, with four attackers missing through injury. Reeco Hackett-Fairchild ploughs a lone furrow as centre forward.

Nottingham Forest loanee Fin Back is playing right back for the visitors. I also notice a Nottingham born midfielder, Callum Guy, is making his 150th appearance for the Cumbrian side today. We had him at Notts County Academy before D***y County swooped, after Howard Wilkinson closed down the Pies' youth set up in 2006.

There's an impeccably observed minute's silence held for club stalwart Doreen Ashton who passed away recently. The first half isn't up to much. Carlisle take the lead from a set-piece; it's Lincoln's achilles heel according to the knowledgeable guy sat next to me. The Imps make a change at half-time and appear on the front foot in the opening moments of the second half. Recent recruit, Ethan Hamilton, who has arrived from Accrington Stanley, hits a long range left footed shot to equalise. There are chances at either end before the ref blows his whistle at 5pm on the nose.

I check Lincoln City's Twitter feed on the train journey home. I'm devastated to read the news of Colin Murphy's passing today. He was one of Lincoln's greatest managers, building two amazing sides and discovering umpteen players who were to go on to greater things such as Trevor Peake, Glenn Cockerill and Gordon Hobson. 

He is the guy who plucked Stanley Victor Collymore from out of Crystal Palace reserves, where 'Stan the Man' was playing as a bit part left winger; this was when Murph was the gaffer at Southend United. Collymore went on to be one of the greatest strikers ever to play for Nottingham Forest.

Danny Cowley gave Colin Murphy the opportunity to lead his team out at Wembley in 2018 in the Imps' first ever appearance at Wembley in the Club's 134 year old history. What a fantastic gesture by Cowley and a proud moment for Murphy too.

Rest in Peace, Colin xx

Attendance: 8,514

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Radford FC 2-1 Bourne Town

The Cup upset over at Nuneaton has proper cheered me up. I'd been feeling under the weather for most of the day. I'm in bed early on Saturday night and still feel zonked out 12 hours later. I laze around the house for most of Sunday, freeing up a few hours to knock up the Cup Special blog.

I struggle to shake off the virus over the next few days. Two full shifts at the paper shop takes my mind off it as the place is mobbed out with folks. I had hoped to catch a second viewing of Big Glenn's Raddy on Tuesday evening, as they took on UCL league leaders Clipstone FC. I fail a late fitness test and am confined to my sick bed.

It's Wednesday morning and guess what? I'm on a train to Sheffield. I make more train journeys than Michael Portillo. I'll ramp it up even more when I turn 60 years old next February, which makes me eligible for a senior rail card and the 33% discount it allows.

It's baking hot in 'Steel City' as I pound it away up Shoreham Street, towards Bramall Lane, the home of Premier League team Sheffield United, who were knocked out of the Carabao Cup by little old Lincoln City. The reason for my visit (the second one in the last seven days) is to collect my rucksack from Reception, as I left it under my seat following a low key fist pump celebration at the final whistle. I apologise to the lady for the stench of dirty clothing before pegging it up the hill to the suburb of Heeley for a thirst-quenching pint of real ale at the Brothers Arms. 

It's been announced, this week, that legendary Nottinghamshire Cricket Club all-rounder, Samit Patel, will be leaving the club at the end of the season. It's been the worst kept secret of the summer. At his peak Patel was worth rushing from work to watch at 'The Bridge.' We'll sorely miss his bowling in the T20 too, although the spin department is strong with the emergence of Calvin Harrison and 15 year old local lad Farhan Ahmed, who has been impressing the judges for England U19s v Australia U19s. I was down Lady Bay's Notts Sports Ground, a few months ago, when the England coach Mike Yardy was scouting him.

It's Thursday evening and I'm like a kid on Christmas Eve. Tomorrow I'm out on a South Yorkshire Real Ale Train Trail with boozing buddy Tony Mac. It's been touch and go for Mac following a sustained bout of toothache. The offending gnasher was extracted earlier this afternoon - unfortunately the appointment wasn't at tooth hurty.

Tomorrow we'll be catching the train from Sheffield (yes again) to Huddersfield. Villages of interest on that line - basically they have pubs or even better than that CAMRA entries - include: Penistone, Elsecar and Chapeltown.

I'd noticed this week that a blue plaque was to be unveiled in the South Yorkshire town of Rotherham, which is also on the Friday Club radar. Arthur Wharton was the first black professional footballer to play in this country. The plaque will be installed at Clifton Lane, a ground where he played in goal at Rotherham Town, and will be unveiled by former Chelsea and Southampton defender Ken Monkou. The Ghanaian is buried just outside Doncaster.

It's midday on Friday, and already boiling hot, as Mac and Sticky wander a few hundred yards down a hill, in Silkstone Common, towards The Station Pub. The landlord at Travellers Inn, in the village of Oxspring, is intrigued to know of our plans for the day, once he hears we're from Nottingham. He also recommends a few good pubs to visit too.

Talk about mad dogs and Englishmen going out in the midday sun. Mac is neither wearing his hat or getting any liquids on board, other than ale. I've already seen off a litre of water as we make our way by foot to the village of Penistone. Our efforts are rewarded by a visit to the outstanding Penistone Tap and Brewhouse, which is also owned by Woodland Brewery.

An Irish fella behind the bar is very welcoming as we start to go through the beer scoreboard. Mac doesn't shy away from a 8% DIPA as the barman gives us details of a shortcut to our next watering hole in the village of Thurlstone, where the Manchester City and England defender John Stones was brought up.

There's an incident across the road at Wards Fish Bar. I'm 'Hank Marvin' and in need of some food. The guy at the tap house says that they do sandwiches at Wards. I order a pork, stuffing and apple sauce cob and I'm salivating as they make it. Unfortunately the idiot owner confesses to warming the pork up in a microwave. We both kick off and make a sharp exit, avoiding any chance of food poisoning.

It's a beautiful walk down a tree-lined, shady part of the Trans Pennine Trail, which runs along the River Don. We quench our thirst at The Huntsman and tuck into a pork pie and scotch egg before heading back up the hill to the station where we catch a train to Elsecar with a few minutes spare.

Elsecar is a gem of a village and has its own Heritage Centre. Firstly, we pop into the Market Inn before enjoying some craft ales at Maison Du Biere taproom. The outside area is stacked out with folk who are basking in the evening sunshine as the weekend begins.

The final port of call is Chapeltown. We then have a swift one in the Sheffield Tap, where we started at 11.30 this morning. We enjoy some banter on the journey home with a couple of young Grimsby Town supporters, who are travelling to Notts for a weekend on the sauce at Rock City.  A couple of nightcaps are had at BeerheadZ adjacent to Nottingham Railway Station before turning in for some shut eye.

My alarm goes off at 4 am. I down a strong cup of Nescafe Alta Rica coffee. The Uber driver drops me off in Arnold ten minutes prior to shift start time. I'm marking up newspapers at just gone 5 am. Yesterday passed in the blink of an eye.

I grab half an hour's kip on my return to HQ. Ms Moon is away in Spain for a week, so the house is quiet as a mouse. I clock Faggsy in the Old Market Square. He's in the shade, smoking on a ciggie, whilst waiting for a tram. We get off at the Noel Street stop and walk through Asda car park and cross Radford Road.

It's £6 on the gate for this UCL cup clash versus Bourne Town from Lincolnshire. There isn't a better ground in our County. It has the lot.  I immediately clock the stand where the sun sits behind it. We park ourselves straight into it. I get a bit fidgety when I notice Director of Football, Big Glenn Russell, walking in our direction. He shakes my hand and makes us both feel welcome, which makes me feel even more anxious.

Regular readers will know that I've probably cost Radford promotion on three separate occasions as I have the uncanny knack of rocking up during a long unbeaten run, only to see them fall to defeat. They take the lead through an own goal. I mention to the big 'un that a second might be needed. He tells me to shut up and stop being negative.

At the break Bourne's manager chooses to do a 'Phil Brown', giving a naughty boys team talk on the edge of the pitch in the baking heat. They have been easily second best in the opening half. The inevitable happens after half-time. The referee is having a 'mare. He's booking players left, right and centre, and has dished out more cards than Clintons. He awards a soft free kick which somehow finds its way into the bottom corner of the net.

Big Joe McLoughlin heads home a deserved winner for The Pheasants, saving me an early exit and lifetime ban. Jevon Seaton has been magnificent for Raddy. His touch is deft and hold up play a joy to watch. He turns on the style on a scorched playing surface. I saw him many years ago playing for an NSL side called Unity FC, run by a good mate of mine, Morris Samuels. He's pushed on a bit since then.

Woman of the Match: Receptionist at Sheff Utd

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Nuneaton Borough 1-2 Carlton Town

The unbeaten run comes to an end. The visitors, North Ferriby F.C. have won 2-1. We're all dead mardy in the clubhouse afterwards. At least it shows we give two hoots. Tucking into some leftover sandwiches doesn't lift the mood. 'Casually Dan' packs his records away. His final track is 'Nightshift' by The Commodores.

It's Bank Holiday Monday and I need cheering up. 'Crazy Steve' is someone who always puts a smile on my face. He has the energy of an 18 year old. He picks me up at the usual spot, just off Maid Marian Way. We drive south of the river to pick up Little Al at the Trent Bridge Inn. The little 'un has just mopped up an all day 'Spoons breakfast.

We cross Lady Bay Bridge and head up the Colwick Loop Road, passing Nottingham Racecourse and the Greyhound Stadium. Southwell City's new ground is in the hamlet of Brinkley, a mile away from the minster town. 'Big Grumpy Glenn' is in the building with Radford F.C.

We grab a pint at the Bromley Arms in Fiskerton. It sits on the River Trent and reminds me of happy times in my life when I would lunch with Mum and Dad before a race meeting at Southwell Racecourse. Ms Moon and I must take a train journey out there and walk off a lunch down the banks of the Trent.

It's £5 on the gate which includes a free programme. The DJ setlist has been published in the programme. 'Do Nothing' by The Specials is the pick out track. Southwell lack experience and knowhow; they are muscled out and played off the park by The Pheasants. 5-1 is the final score. Paul Johnson, a recent signing from Borrowash Victoria, catches my eye.

It's Tuesday morning and I'm loitering on Platform 6B, at my second home, Nottingham Railway Station. I alight at Manchester Piccadilly before boarding a Northern train to Blackpool: destination is the town of Bolton. I fancied the idea of a northern road trip. The second round draw of the League Cup has thrown up some interesting ties and tickets are easy to get hold of.

I tick off a couple of average CAMRA pubs in the town centre before taking a stroll around some of the tourist attractions. They are proud of their own up here. There's a statue of steeplejack Fred Dibnah and a gold post box commemorating double Olympic Gold medal winner Jason Kenny. I asked a local policeman where the post box was. He said he'd never heard of Kenny.

I've treated myself to a night's stay at the Bolton Stadium Radisson Hotel. I check-in, throw my rucksack into the room and take a customary full circuit walk around the perimeter of the ground. There's a statue of legendary centre forward Nat Lofthouse who scored 255 goals in 452 appearances for Wanderers.

I'm fleeced of £6 for the smallest meat and potato pasty and a bottle of water at the kiosk. I sit at the top of the lower tier in the East Stand. 'Starlight' from French electronic musician Supermen Lovers is booming out of the stadium pa system.

Michael Carrick's Middlesbrough arrive on the back of a miserable run. They fall behind to a Dion Charles close range strike. Parity is restored through Matt Crooks on the half hour. 2,867 'Boro fans have made the 200 mile round trip across from the north east. They are treated to a masterclass of total football in the second half. It's incredible that it takes two late strikes from the Australian Riley McGree and former Imp loanee Morgan Rogers, to wrap up the game. I'm tucked up in bed 10 minutes after the final whistle.

I devour a monster breakfast before disembarking a train at Salford Crescent. 25 minutes seems a long time to wait for the connection to Swinton. I decide, with the weather brightening up, to make the 45 minute walk to St John's Church in Pendlebury.

It's my penultimate visit to a Busby Babe grave and this tale is one the saddest of them all. 25 year old Geoff Bent only made the trip to Yugoslavia, for the European Cup tie versus Red Star Belgrade, as cover for any injured players. He and 22 other passengers perished in the Munich Air Disaster, on February 6th, 1958. The grass in the graveyard is overgrown. A Manchester United scarve is draped around the gravestone.

The walk up to Swinton railway station is solemn and somber as I reflect on how England will have mourned during that heartbreaking period of time. I step off the train at Manchester Victoria and wander up to Manchester Cathedral. I sit in the 'Glade of Light', a memorial garden that remembers the lives of 22 concertgoers and their families who died in a terrorist attack in May 2017.

I lift my spirits by parting with £14 at the National Football Museum. It's a fantastic customer experience that brings back a lot of memories in my nigh on 60 years of watching the beautiful game. I gaze at L.S. Lowry's 'Going to the Match.' The PFA recently sold this painting to the Lowry Arts Centre for £7.8 million.

I manage a quick scoop in the Piccadilly Tap before boarding a train to Sheffield. Tony Mac has tipped me the wink of a CAMRA pub up in the hills of a suburb called Heeley. By chance I stroll past a craft ale tap house called Triple Point Brewery, where I've been before on a Jolly Boys outing. I take advantage by charging my phone up, whilst downing a few ales and tucking into some tea.

The Sheaf View, a 19th Century pub in Heeley, is well worth the visit, even though I'm fagged out on my arrival. I neck a NEIPA called Kushtaka from Neepsend Brewery. I then dawdle back down the hill towards Bramall Lane.

'The Lincoln' have been on flames since an opening day 3-0 reverse at Bolton, of all places. The Blades have yet to taste victory. The music played by the PA announcer is bloody awful. The game isn't  entertaining either, although the Imps are easy on the eye. Neither team look likely to break the deadlock.

It's a year since I saw Lincoln win on penalties, up at Holker Street in Barrow. Our goalkeeper is 6ft 7". I fancy our chances. John Egan balloons United's final penalty over the bar. I make a hasty exit before I get rumbled, as once again I've seen City win whilst sat with the opposition fans, plus I'm also wearing some Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club clobber. I'm in such a rush that I leave my belongings under my seat.

It's Thursday morning. A bleary-eyed Sticky Palms is on the phone to a friendly receptionist at Sheffield United FC. My rucksack has been tracked down. I'll catch another train next week to pick it up and revisit Heeley where there are a couple more pubs to tick off.

Ms Moon and I have a lunch to die for at Deliah, an independent fine food delicatessen, that is housed in an old banking hall, close to Nottingham's old Market Square. We dine upstairs as we enjoy the ambience and hum of the place. A new rucksack and atlas are bagged before catching the bus home.

It's 4 a.m. on Saturday. I'm overheating and coughing. An UBER driver picks me up and drops me off at the newsagent where I work in Arnold. I love my job and the folk I work with and meet, but today I'm not feeling it. My bed is calling me.

'Casually Dan' confirms we're departing just before 1 pm for Nuneaton. Had he not I would have been confined to bed for the rest of the day. It's an FA Cup 1st qualifying round tie. Hopefully the Mighty Millers put on a show. They bounced back from defeat by cantering to a 3-1 victory up at Grimsby Borough. Nigel also won his second consecutive away meat raffle. Joey, our mascot, didn't get a sniff again.

Dan says there are rumours that the rapper Dizzee Rascal is playing an improtu pop up lunchtime gig at the skate park in St Edward's Park, in inner city Sneinton. There's a few folk gathered in there, and a stage set up, as we drive by.

The Carlton faithful are congregated at the Acorn pub, a few miles away from Liberty Way, Nuneaton's ground. It's £14 pay in on the gate. Dan's daughter, Lily, aged nearly seven, has made the trip too. She's back at school next week so has been practising her arithmetic in the car - I christen her 'The Carlton Carol Vorderman.' Diehard NFFC and Millers fan, Jason Simpkins, announces breaking news that he has a large sty on his eye.

'Ring of Fire', by Johnny Cash booms around the ground. Only 300 plus supporters have bothered to turn up as the Nuneaton fans vote with their feet, during a miserable run of form. It's a horrible start for them and a giant-killing is on the cards, when a Lewis 'Drongo' Durow cross is headed home by the excellent Khyle Sargent. David Adegbola smells blood, he inflicts further pain and misery with a second goal after chasing a lost cause, forcing a faux pas from the 'Boro 'keeper.

I'm sat with my great friends Jon and Edward. We roar with laughter when the Head Steward races down the concourse to remonstrate with an official. Manager Jimmy Ginnelly and his dislikeable assistant look like a bulldog chewing on a wasp. Nuneaton peg a goal back in 7 minutes of 'mystery time' added on.

It's back to the wall for the boys in the second half. Former Bristol City forward Leroy Lita fluffs his lines from the penalty spot and Jamie Ward continues to bleat and moan like a spoilt child.  Carlton's young side have heart, soul and courage. Lily doesn't seems too perturbed as she does a few somersaults on a crash barrier.The second half lasts an age. Dan and I know how the football gods can work. In the dying embers of the game, the magnificent Dan Brown somehow makes a last ditch clearance off the line.

There are emotional scenes at the final whistle. The turnaround at this club has been nothing short of staggering after an unsettling period last season. The management, coaching team, backroom staff and players deservedly take all the plaudits.

Man of the Match: Nat Lofthouse

Attendance: 352

Credit Lou Lardi for main photo. Thanks Lou.