Sunday, November 18, 2007
Stamford AFC 0 Buxton FC 1
People have been blanking me in the corridors at work this week, word is they’re not happy at me bad-mouthing Heartbeat legend Alf Ventress. We have something at our company called key performance indicators. Basically it’s the company monitoring what you get up to all day. Had the West Yorkshire Police Force had this system in place in the 1970s then they would have turfed out this bone-idle, biscuit dunking waste of space in a matter of weeks.
I’d forgotten how beautiful a place Stamford was, I’ve been trying to get here for weeks. My lifelong friend, the Factory Manager, lives in Peterborough and we have agreed to meet up today.
I drive up the A606 past signs for Long Clawson, where they make Stilton cheese and through Melton Mowbray, home of the Pork pie; they love their cholesterol in Leicestershire.
I drive past the Red House restaurant in Upper Broughton. I saw that clown Joe Kinnear and his sidekick Mick Harford wining and dining in here a few years ago on the eve of a big game against the sheep. The following day Irish comedian Barry Roche had kicked a coffee cup, instead of a ball, and JK was history.
I’m parked up at the ground in fifty minutes, parking is free. The Buxton team bus is just pulling up. I want a photo of Anton Foster but I don’t want the guy thinking I’m stalking him.
I take a stroll into town. The infamous Daniel Lambert died in Stamford in 1809; he weighed in at just over 52 stone. He used to travel the country exhibiting himself. He died suddenly in the bedroom of a public house. They had to knock the wall down to get him out. It took twenty men to lower him into his grave. Let’s put it this way, you wouldn’t want to be behind him in the queue at the village fete pie stall. Stamford AFC are nicknamed The Daniels, in his memory.
This town is gorgeous; it’s numero uno on my sojourns, by a country mile. I must surprise Mrs P and bring her here one day. Not on a Saturday though. Even Pizza Express is built in the same stone wall that surrounds the town.
Every papershop sells USA Today; the yanks love this place. There’s no chance of a pick and mix from Woolworth today. It’s way too posh to have a Woolies. I walk over a bridge which the River Welland flows under.
The Factory Manager is having trouble finding the ground so I slip into the Bull and Swan; it’s in the Good Pub Guide. I’ve been stood at the bar ten minutes and no-one has taken a particular interest in attending to my thirst. The owner is swanning around and only one girl is serving. Sod this for a game of soldiers I’m off to a proper pub.
The George Hotel is just down the road. The views en-route to this Lincolnshire Dining Pub of the Year are stunning. I’m served instantly and order a pint of Adnams Broadside: “That’ll be £3.30 please sir.” I nearly die at the same spot as Daniel Lambert. £3.30! I can watch Greenwood Meadows and Dunkirk for that.
I finally hook up with the Factory Manager; his sense of direction is appalling, worse than mine. I can not believe we visited together 108 football grounds in five days, driving over 3500 miles without getting seriously lost. God bless sat nav.
It’s £8 to get in and £1.80 for a fantastic value programme. Buxton have put a few on the gate. The Bucks’ leading scorer Mark Reed has recently joined Vauxhall Motors, who have the hottest property in non-league football, a lad called Paul Taylor. Remember that name because next year he will be in the Football League. Ilkeston’s Neil Ross has replaced Reed at Silverlands.
The ground looks a little tired; the two stands look in need of a refurbishment. But it has soul and atmosphere and it’s close to the town.
The playing surface looks fine and the pitch is on a slope. Buxton dominate the first half without playing particularly well. Stamford are awful, devoid of any ideas. They continuously give away possession and are pinned back in their own half. Turley, Walker and Ross miss chances for the visitors.
We nip in the social club for a cup of tea at the break. It’s a cosy old place. Norway’s Alan Neilson has signed a shirt that’s in a frame from an international match that was held at Stamford’s ground back in 1994 between Wales and Norway.
The Daniels proudly display their history in the clubhouse. There’s a trophy cabinet on the wall surrounded by pictures of old teams and pendants. The bar staff and tea bar personnel are friendly and courteous.
Not the same can be said of Stamford’s captain Lee Colkin. His first half performance is dire; he fails to find a home shirt with a pass in the entire 45 minutes. As for his movement, I’ve seen Daniel Lambert move quicker at the buffet bar.
In the second period he commits a horrific two footed lunge at Bucks’ winger Turley. It’s in front of me and is x-rated. Referee Cooke from Mansfield has controlled this game well, at a simmering heat, but it’s always threatening to boil over. Colkin sees yellow instead of red. I notice this joker played over 70 games for Northampton Town. He should be stripped of the captaincy; he actually believes the challenge was fair. It was a leg breaker.
Paul Walker, Buxton’s forward, has worked tirelessly for the team, chasing a number of lost causes. He deservedly scores the winner on 48 minutes with a cool finish following another defensive lapse of concentration. Stamford at last begin to up the tempo but never seriously trouble Bucks’ keeper Hartley. I get my first touch of the match ball on 50 minutes. Bucks’ midfielder Anton Foster is not at his best today but he’s better than anything on show in the home midfield.
Stamford’s forwards Tony Battersby and Leon Mettam are both former Lincoln City players. Lincoln’s manager at the time Shane Westley foolishly paid 75k for Battersby's services. Notts County also paid 200k for him. He has made a career out of not scoring goals and not breaking sweat. Today is no different. Mettam seems more interested with bad-mouthing his own team mates.
There are a few cameo appearances from Aaron Lennon’s brother Tony, ex Forest midfielder, the albino looking Robert Hughes and a guy who was once described by the Nottingham Evening Post as the “New Roy Keane,” Irishman John Burns. I used to work with John a few years ago, he’s a lovely fellow.
John Reed, Buxton’s manager has assembled a side with balance and poise. Today they are not at their best but are too good for Stamford. The home team are second best in all departments. Only central defender Steve Julian can cover himself in any glory. I look forward to my imminent visit to the home of Buxton FC called The Silverlands. It’s the highest ground above sea level in England and I can’t wait to go.
Stamford AFC 0 Buxton FC 1 Paul Walker
Man of the Match: Gregg Anderson