Sunday, October 13, 2019

Clay Cross Town 3-1 Cottesmore Amateurs

The incessant rain is frustrating the groundhopping fraternity, including Sticky Palms. I flat refuse to travel too far, particularly during the week. The thought of watching The Chase, Emmerdale Farm, Corrie, 'Celebrity' Coach Trip and 'Celebrity' MasterChef has put me on suicide watch. Talking of Emmerdale, there's been an outbreak of salmonella food poisoning - Tommy Cannon has already bitten the dust. Hotten village is in lockdown. The lads from Heartbeat have been drafted in to investigate, although PC Ventriss has been told to have his fried breakfast minus the eggs. One of Jack Sugden's hens has laid a dodgy batch of eggs. It's either that or Amos Brearley has undercooked them.

I haven't time for this twaddle as I drive south of the Trent towards my old stomping ground of Keyworth. A tasty Under 19 local derby clash between the 'Green Army' and West Bridgford is on the menu at a bitterly cold Platt Lane. The Bridgford mums will need their 'fur coats' this evening.

Wise to the weather, that blows in from the west and across the ground, I'm wrapped up to the ninepins. The wet and cold never used to bother me, but Father Time has finally caught up with me. I chat with Keyworth Cricket Club legend John Baldrey. In 1979 'JB' knocked the final ball out of the park for KCC in the Eddie Marshall Trophy up on the Keyworth Rec'. The Millers beat red hot favourites Southwell CC. We drank and sang long into the night, up The Salutation Inn on Main Street - well actually I didn't, as I was only 15 years old and on holiday in Cyprus.

I scouted JB's grandson, Myron. He was down The Pies until he was 16 years old, but is now in the 'States' completing a football scholarship, whilst taking a degree. His younger brother is playing for the visitors. The standard of football is high, neither team give no quarter or want to kick lumps out of one another, which is often the norm at this level. The difference between the two teams is in the final third of the pitch. Bridgford run out 3-0 winners.

Both youth policies are in rude health. Keyworth will only go from strength to strength as their young guns are integrated into the First Team under the watchful eye of local manager Ian Marley. There's talk of a 4G surface down 'The Theatre of Dreams.' I may have to do a Friends of the Earth job and chain myself to the goal post (the one nearest the bar) before a JCB excavator rips up the first sod of turf  - Sticky doesn't do 3G or 4G.

I spend the second half gassing to staunch Barnsley fan Roger Wilson. His lad, Tom, comes off the bench. I chucked him into Men's football, at the age of 16 years old last season, after being tipped off about him by KUFC Development Officer, Mark Ritchie; he wasn't fazed one iota, and more than held his own. I would have played him earlier, but had to wait for his 16th birthday. I called him 'The Keyworth Cruyff.'  I look forward to following the under 19s and hopefully the return of the Development Team next season too.

I spend the next few evenings listening to the pitter-patter of rain on the French windows. I tune into the excellent 'Undr The Cosh' podcast show that is hosted by former footballers Jon 'The Beast' Parkin and Chris Brown. Ex-Arsenal and Nottingham Forest striker, Kevin Campbell, is the latest guest. He tells a couple of cracking anecdotes about the two occasions he met Brian Clough and seems all-round good egg

I read late into the night on both Wednesday and Thursday. Keyworth lad, Duncan Hamilton, is one of my favourite authors. My father trained him up to take shorthand when he was a rookie reporter on the Nottingham Evening Post in the 1970s. He wrote one of the best books about Brian Clough that you are ever likely to read. It was titled 'Provided You Don't Kiss Me.' It's a must-read for any football fan out there. It follows Hamilton's 20 years reporting on the Tricky Trees for the local rag. Clough is so taken with Hamilton that he invites his family round for Sunday lunch at his home in Quarndon, near Derby, the day after he retired from NFFC.

I've got the car booked in at Kwik Fit on Huntingdon Street, first thing on Saturday morning. I ask Ms Moon if she fancies breakfast and some retail therapy. We drop the car off and wander around the back of the Victoria Centre before joining Lower Parliament Street, an area sadly renowned for stabbings of late.

We drink coffee and enjoy a full English breakfast in a window seat at Copper Cafe on Market Street. Back in the day (the 1980s) it was packed to the rafters and called Cafe Royale. 'Chopper Harris' walks by and gives us a wave. More on him in four weeks' time when we're on the lash in Tenerife for 7 nights.

A couple of winter coats and a pair of jeans are bought before picking the car up and driving out towards Derbyshire. Paul Gambaccini is playing tracks from the best albums of the 21st Century. The first three tracks are by Sam Smith, Scissor Sisters and Lady Ga Ga. I ask Ms Moon if the Graham Norton Show has been extended.

We drive over the hilltops admiring the stunning views of the Derbyshire countryside. It's my second visit to Clay Cross Town FC. I first came in 2013 when I was impressed with the facilities and the friendliness of folk. I clock the old winding wheel from Parkhouse Colliery on the main road that closed in 1969. There's the memorial to the many miners that lost their lives, two thousand feet underground. Forty-five men perished after an explosion in 1882. The Labour politician, Dennis Skinner, better known as 'The Beast of Bolsover' was born in the village.

I remember walking up a deserted High Street six years ago, unable to fathom out why a lot of shops were boarded up or in disrepair. It became pretty apparent why, when coming into full view of the Tesco Superstore which was part of a £22 million redevelopment. It's killed the town centre stone dead. Some would also say that it's brought employment to the area. Either way, there's no 'Meal Deal' for Ms Moon and Sticky Palms as we're still podged from the Copper breakfast.

It's a short walk down Mill Lane to the ground. Ms Moon has arranged to meet a friend, Lois, whose son is one of the mascots today. I leave them having a catch-up, so I can take a few snaps. It's £3 on the gate which is great value for a first-round FA Vase tie. There are no concerns about the playing surface which looks immaculate. Clay Cross's groundsman has won many awards and accolades over the years. I engage in conversation with a photographer who has travelled all the way down from Blackpool. He's another 'Proper Hopper' who has visited over 2000 grounds.

Clay Cross are the stronger team in the first half. The Vase draw has been unkind to the visitors from Rutland, England's smallest county. They have overcome adversity in being drawn away in the previous two rounds at Harrowby and Sticky's favourites Radford. Apparently, Big Glenn was in a filthy mood that day, launching his baseball cap 40 yards down the touchline as the goals flew into the Radford net.

Cottesmore look nervous from the off. Clearances are hurried and passes are misplaced. 'Scully' is the Millers' grand fromage (well he thinks he is). He's been off the radar with a couple of skew-whiff long-range attempts at goal, but opens the scoring at the back stick with a simple finish.

I'm soon scurrying into the bushes for an alehouse clearance. I retrieve the ball and toss it back to the Cottesmore full-back. Both Ms Moon and I take note that he says thank you. They are a very polite set of lads, including the subs who are always up for a chat.

A Cottesmore fan, adjacent to me, has moaned and whined at the referee's decisions throughout the course of the first half. I try to reason with him, but he's having none of it. Ms Moon says I'm best backing off as he looks a bit like Grant Mitchell of EastEnders.

We have a coffee, tea and a couple of chocolate bars at the break. The 50/50 draw is announced. The lucky winner is in for a £65 windfall. My winless run continues - I'm 15 numbers off the prize. Cottesmore pick up the pace in the second half and restore parity with a brilliant goal following great work by the right full-back, who nutmegs his opponent before delivering a worldy cross.

Their joy turns to despair minutes later with an outrageous finish from the outside of the boot by 'Jack the Lad' 'Scully.' Cottesmore have little left in the tank. Clay Cross add a third goal at the death, with the scorer jumping into committee member 'Nobby's' arms. It's a wonderful moment to end an entertaining afternoon. I look forward to the second round draw and hope to be there.

NB: Breaking news emerges from Bingham Town's ground (by text) that 'The Keyworth Georgie Best (my lad) has scored with a 30-yard howitzer of a shot. I'm as pleased as punch for him, as he's had it a bit rough of late.

Man of the Match: Adam Kimberley (love his jinking runs)

Attendance: 220 (Great turnout from both sets of fans)

Prize Money £821

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Cotgrave CW Res 1-5 Keyworth United Res

Wythenshawe Amateurs win hands down the most-friendliest Club I've visited in years. I hope to catch Mike, Arron and the 'Ultras' again, later in the season. A tasty Boxing Day local derby versus 'noisy neighbours' Wythenshawe Town is on the radar.

Sat Nav takes me home over Woodhead Pass. The views are stunning; the area is isolated and vulnerable to the elements. I listen to 6-0-6 with Alastair Bruce-Ball and failed ex Lincoln manager Chris Sutton - he's certainly better at punditry. I call by The Brickyard pub on Carlton Hill, a favourite Lincoln Green hostelry of mine. I partake in a pint of LocAle before turning in for the evening. I fight off the sleep as long as I can during Match of the Day.

I knock out the blog on Sunday morning of my solo trip away to Lytham, Blackpool and Greater Manchester. I jump on the NCT No.27 bus to Nottingham, alighting at King Street. Yates's Wine Lodge has recently been re-opened as a Slug and Lettuce (not my usual choice of pub). I've fond memories of Yates's from back in the day, with its grand staircase and view from the balcony. A mate of mine, 'Wrighty', a legend in Keyworth folklore, used to sink double figures in sweet-tasting Aussie wine before spray-painting the urinals (if he managed to get there in time).

I push open the front door of the Slug and Lettuce on Long Row. All the dining tables are squeezed tightly together; there's no room for manoeuver. Kids are squealing and the decor is painted in a turquoise and pink - it's like something out of Lewis Carroll's Mad Hatters Tea Party. I stand at the bar with a face like thunder for over ten minutes, unattended. I ask for a pint of Goose Island when a half-arsed barman finally wanders over. "We've ran out mate." They've no real ales or craft ales on. I about-turn and head out of the door in a fit of pique.

I've arranged to meet my childhood friend 'Keebo.' We bump into one another in Market Square. I suggest the Bell Inn for a few quiet sherbets. A jazz band is tuning up in the bar. We retire to one of the snugs, where I enjoy a few pints of Aurora from the Pheasantry Brewery based in East Markham, Newark.

I slope off at six bells, conscious that I've my blog to publish. Sunday dinner is spent at Five Guys. My delicious burger (Scooby Snack), smothered in countless toppings, is devoured at home. It's lights out at 10: p.m. The forecast for the week ahead looks bleak. Whilst Ms Moon is in Tenerife lapping up the sunshine, all local football looks like being watered off.

The 'Ideagen Baby Squad' - the ‘Inside Sales' team - have kindly invited me (I begged to go/gatecrashed) to Hooters on London Road on Monday evening for the Arsenal v Manchester United game live on Sky. 'Our Joe' works at Ideagen too. I don't want to cramp his style, but he seems pretty chilled about me coming along.

Whilst the lads' eye-up scantily-dressed serving staff (in this day and age?), Sticky Palms can't keep his eyes off the game - apart from a dour first half an hour, what a cracking match it is too, although it seems  trendy to slag off these two fallen giants on social media and TalkSport.

'The Arsenal' play a beautiful game of football, but a draw is a fair result. I wipe the sweating brows of the Squadron, caused by the 911 chicken wings (and not the waiting staff) - I pop another blood pressure pill, as neither are healthy to a man in his mid-50s. I find out in the morning that 'Our Joe' and a few of the lads had a late night out in town (on a Monday). Apparently, it's Freshers' Week  ..... lol.

I live the life of an armchair supporter all week. The weather is doing my duck in. I swerve the Ilkeston Town v Wisbech Town game, having seen two goalless draws at the New Manor Ground this season (fuming folks). I cook a Chilli con Carne. Don't ask me, but I somehow manage to get some hot chilli powder in my eye. It's flipping Schwartz too, top of the range, and it flipping stings. I watch the Spurs v Bayern Munich, Champions League game through one eye; bathing it throughout with a cold, dampened Jeyes cloth. I know how Lord Nelson felt now when he lost a 'mince pie' in Corsica.

I have a 'Mike Baldwin' moment at Carlton Tesco on Wednesday evening. I park up to the rear of the store and dash through the double sliding doors. Hobnobs are on offer at 75p; I love dunking them in my Yorkshire Tea. I wander out of the store, admiring the late, warm, autumnal, evening sunshine. I walk up the road and notice Ms Moon's car parked up on the driveway. Where the heck is my car? Someone's nicked it. Oh, hang on a minute, no they haven't, it's still in Tesco car park. I unload my shopping before traipsing back down Carlton Road to collect my car. I watch Liverpool surrender a three-goal lead, before they inch over the finishing line in a seven-goal thriller at Anfield against Salzburg.

Thursday is the final day of 'Armchair Viewing Week.' I've struck lucky so far. Jesus wept, Man Utd play out a 0-0 at 'The Hague Powerleague' versus AZ Alkmaar. They are second best throughout the game and fail to register a shot on target. 'The Arsenal' are different gravy in the 8 p.m. ko versus Standard Liege of Belgium. 18-year-old Brazilian striker, Gabriel Martinelli, bags another brace, whilst 22-year-old Isle of Man born Scottish left-back, Kieran Tierney, impresses with his energy and skill on the left flank.

I have a mass tidy up on Friday teatime as Ms Moon boards the TUI flight from Tenerife South to East Midlands Airport. I shoehorn enough time in for a couple of jars at The Brickyard. Birmingham City are playing Middlesbrough at St Andrew's, and it's live on TV. I'd shut the curtains if those two teams were playing in my back garden.

I wake up to the news that Notts Police have surrounded the Premier Inn at Hucknall. I quickly get on Facebook to see if Trumpy Bolton has checked-in there and has kicked off that the bar's not open yet. It turns out that a suspected armed robber is holed up there.

A tanned and fresh Ms Moon is back from 'the Reef.' She fails to make the team coach for the short trip over to Cotgrave. I get the car washed and valeted by the eastern European lads on Cavendish Road before visiting Tesco for the umpteenth time this week.

I zip through Burton Joyce, start booing loudly in Lowdham (their kids' team were horrible when I coached) before hitting the A46 towards Leicester. I turn off at Stragglethorpe that leads onto a road where Forest legend Stuart Pearce had a nasty accident with a dustbin lorry here back in 1998.

I park in Sainsbury's to grab some lunch and a bunch of flowers. I walk past the stunning All Saints Church before opening the gate of the cemetery. The 1990s were halcyon days for Keyworth Cricket Club. Two lads from Cotgrave played a major part in this renaissance. Barry Newby and Tony Newby were both talented footballers and cricketers. I once saw Tony take two corners in a minute with different feet - many Prem players couldn't do that, Marcus Rashford for one.

I loved Barry to bits - we all did. 'Biff' was a brilliant 'keeper/batsman. It was a privilege to be in the slip cordon with both him and his brother, Tony. Each batsman, on arrival to the crease, was greeted with a string of gags and Mickey-taking. 'Biff' was struck down with Motor Neurone Disease which he battled with courage, bravery and humour. The village of Cotgrave turned out in their droves at his passing at the age of just 39 years old. I lay some flowers at his grave and shed a tear at a photo of him wearing an England cricket shirt. Biff was a massive Sunderland fan. He came with Dad and me in 1999 for an FA Cup 3rd Round tie at Lincoln City. Ironically, today, the two teams meet for first time at Sincil Bank since that day.

I feel sombre and sad as I peck on my sandwich in the Welfare car park. Both teams are warming up as I walk through the gate. I sit on a wooden bench out of view. The lads won't need firing up for this game. 'We' (I was the manager) lost in the League last season at Platt Lane; it was a miscarriage of justice. Two of my lads got sent off for dissent when ten minutes in the cooler would have sufficed. I kicked them out of the changing room and out of the team. I didn't speak to the pair of them for a month.

We lost 2-0 at Cotgrave in the semi-final of the League Cup too. I was long gone by then but take full responsibility for that defeat. Hopefully today under Steve Cullis's tutelage we can reverse the hoodoo.

News is reaching me that 'The Keyworth Georgie Best' isn't in the starting line-up. His little brother starts in centre midfield. It's a sloppy start by the Keyworth young guns. Ten of the eleven starters have come through a youth system that in the past has been neglected and ignored. Gone, have the days, thank God, of the Club shipping lads in from far and wide. After all, it's meant to be a Community Football Club.

The Green Army boss the midfield, with the lung-bursting runs of Sam Lund and the uncomplicated and simple passing from Wood and Palmer. 'Woody' could slice open a can of beans with his right peg. They race into a three-goal lead, with Sam Clements's goal being the pick of the bunch, after a mesmerising passage of play.

The Cotgrave 'lino' has raised his flag more times than the starter of the Grand National horse race. He comes off with arm ache at the interval. I've hooked up with Keyworth Cricket Club legend 'Big Bear Baker.' He's impressed with what's on offer. Cotgrave claw one back and have another one chalked off, ironically, for offside.

Late strikes from Clements and Pauley put the game to bed. The Ressies play some champagne football and pass the home team (top of the table) off the park. I shake hands with Steve Cullis after the game and congratulate him on a top-notch performance.

The lads are in safe hands and give their all. That's what happens when you bring them through. They play for the badge, honour and with their hearts. As Sir Matt Busby once said, "If they are good enough they are old enough"

Man of the Match: Sam Lund

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Blackpool 2-1 Lincoln City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attendance: 140

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

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Nottingham Forest 1-0 Barnsley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attendance: 29,202 (1,952)

Sunday, September 15, 2019

North Shields 1-5 Hebburn Town

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attendance: 364

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