Monday, November 26, 2007
Burton Albion 1 Cambridge United 2
What a total lack of professionalism last Wednesday night. I was well and truly lost for words at the end of that performance. Embarrassing, lacklustre, pathetic and upsetting are a few of the words I’ve heard describing that awful moment last week. I know it was the first time he’d been picked but the guy couldn’t even catch a cold. No, no, not Scott Carson but Rodney Marsh’s attempts, on the high-wire, at catching flags on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. He only got the camp four meals. Rodney you plonker!
I’m due a dose of Burton Albion, it’s over two months since I’ve been. They play the best football I’ve seen on the Non League circuit. Why hasn’t a league club tapped up young Nigel? On my last visit I saw them pass and play high-flying Torquay United off the park. Tonight they entertain Cambridge United who are enjoying a renaissance of their own.
Four of us travel from Nottingham they include: The Architect, a debut for The Caretaker and a hungry White Van Man whose stomach rumbles all the way down the A50. We are parked up and drinking in the worst bar on the Non League circuit by 7.10pm. It reminds me of something in the Soviet Union in the 1960s. It’s grey, dark and characterless. And even worse than that, a town which prides itself on the art of brewing beer provides me with the worst pint of bitter this season. Corporate clowns Coors’ Worthington Bitter is disgusting. I’d rather pay £3.30 for a pint at The George Hotel, Stamford.
White Van Man takes a tour of The Pirelli Stadium’s eating establishments. He saunters back into the bar with a smile as big as a Cheshire cat. He often waxes lyrical about his drinking binges from Budapest to Bridgford, but I’ve yet to see him in my presence drink anything stronger than a cup of tea. It’s still £12 admission. And the programme is still £2.50 and poor value. We meet up with Robbo and he shows off about some bricks he bought a few years ago with his name on.
Cambridge has a population of over 100,000. Famous people born in the city include: Grease star Olivia Newton John and Pink Floyd guitarist Roger Waters. Cambridge United are now in the safe hands of former Northern Ireland international Jimmy Quinn. He has managed at Reading, Swindon and Shrewsbury and knows what it takes to get his side back to a higher level.
This club have produced some mighty fine players. Flashing through my mind now are Steve Claridge, John Taylor, Alan Biley, Dion Dublin, Dave Kitson and Gary Rowett. I visited Abbey Stadium a few years ago with Lincoln and saw a drab goalless draw but I liked the ground and playing surface.
John Beck has managed both Lincoln and The U’s. There was never a dull moment with Beck at Sincil Bank. He paid Preston North End £25,000 for Gareth Ainsworth and two seasons later sold him on for £500,000 to Port Vale. What a winger he was, the best we’ve ever had. Lincoln finally sacked Beck when he sneaked off on a skiing holiday, forgetting to tell the chairman, who was sunning himself in Australia. He lost his case for unfair dismissal. And Sincil Bank has been a boring place without him.
The Brewers have been scoring goals for fun of late and against useful opposition. Both Halifax and Exeter have felt the force of strike partnership Clare and Harrad in recent games, with Burton scoring four times away from home on both occasions.
Cambridge are going to be a tough nut to crack and begin the game the better of the two sides. Former West Ham and Canvey Island striker Lee Boylan looks the part. The Brewers defence has to be alert to his movement. Quinn has them organised and has done his homework. They are zipping the ball all over the park and stifle Burton’s midfield, packing it in a 3-5-2 formation.
Burton take the lead against the run of play. For once Gilroy receives the ball to his feet and exploits the space in front of him. He nonchalantly flicks the ball across the face of the goal with the outside of his foot where it is met by the boot of the in-form Shaun Harrad. Burton 1-0.
Cambridge fight back. Ex Chelsea trainee Robert Wolleaston tries his luck from 25 yards out. It’s just over. Burton begin to take the initiative. The U’s keeper Danny Potter makes a fine save from a Mark Greaves header.
Burton’s groundsman provides the half-time entertainment. He is pole-axed from a shot by one of the subs warming up, whilst he is forking the area. He can’t find his spectacles.
The Brewers PA system spins Justin Timberlake’s What Goes Around. No wonder Britney Spears turned to alcohol if she had to listen to that c**p everyday. If that CD was in our house it would definitely go around and around, out the back door and straight into the dustbin.
The U’s restore parity on 50 minutes courtesy of a deflected free-kick from Stephen Reed. The game ebbs and flows. Burton’s talismanic forward Daryl Clare slips the attention of the U’s rearguard but once again finds keeper Danny Potter in fine form. Harrad somehow misses the rebound from ten yards. The game is hotting up and thank Christ for that, as it’s so cold. I can barely feel my feet. I stand behind WVM to retain some warmth.
Clare is clearly frustrated at missing that sitter. He is shown a straight red for an elbow on Peters. It’s a silly challenge and costs his side the game. United make a double substitution. Lively left winger Courtney Pitt, once of Chelsea and Portsmouth enters the fray. He is joined by lumbering journeyman Leo Fortune-West. Once again Andy “Ronnie” Corbett is having a torrid time at right back. Pitt leaves him for dead and plays in a delightful ball for Scott Rendall to convert in front of the travelling faithful. They like Cambridge have been on song in the second period.
The game is now stretched but Cambridge are strong. Fortune-West and Wolleaston both go close. They deserve their win, not many teams have stopped Burton’s fast flowing football this season. For the Brewers, McGrath, once again, is magnificent in the middle of the park. But it’s a virtuoso display of goalkeeping from Danny Potter that wins the game for Cambridge.
Burton 1 Harrad Cambridge 2 Reed and Rendall
Attendance: 2263 (374 from Cambridge who all read a book at half time)
Man of the Match: Danny Potter