I feel no guilt in slipping away from the family tonight. Tuesday is what I call “Mrs P’s Tic Tac Toe Night” EastEnders, Holby City and Hotel Babylon. The boys will watch the Champions League.
The Nuclear Scientist picks up The Taxman and Sticky Palms at 6pm on the dot. It’s a one hundred and thirty mile round trip. We avoid the rush-hour traffic by driving down the A50 and cutting across the A515, through Ashbourne, and onto Buxton.
It’s twenty years since I came to this spa town; I brought Mrs P here for a weekend, and stopped in The Pavilion Gardens. My favourite band, Echo and the Bunnymen, played some awesome gigs in the town back in the early eighties.
Buxton is in Derbyshire and lies on the River Wye. It has a population of 25,000. Famous people born in the area include: Tim Brooke-Taylor, Lloyd Cole, Bruno Langley (Todd off Corro) and the worst DJ in British history (apart from Jo and Twiggy off Trent FM) Dave Lee Travis. It is allegedly the highest market town in England, at an astonishing one thousand feet above sea level.
Buxton FC were formed in 1877 and play at Silverlands. Their ground, naturally, is the highest in the Football Pyramid.
I didn’t phone the ground to see if the game was on, as the weather has been glorious around our way. Amazingly, nearby Leek Town are called off tonight and the Silverlands surface is heavy and wet.
We park on a side street and follow the crowds to the ground. They are expecting below four hundred because of the United match. White Van Man has missed the trip and is slumped in his armchair.
It’s £7.50 admission and £1.50 for a top-rated programme; it’s a fine publication.
The clubhouse is modern and clean. Sadly there’s no hand pull ale on, so I settle for a can of Stella. Two Buxton fans chat away to us like long lost friends. They review their season and fill us in on the playing staff. But I know their team inside out; this will be the fourth occasion I’ve seen them perform. They are my favourite team of the season and their friendly fans live up to the billing.
Fleetwood are tonight’s visitors, and are in a rich vein of form. They are chasing league leaders Witton Albion hard, and have come for the win. Their town is well known for the throat lozenge Fisherman’s Friend.
It’s a blustery old night, and we elect to sit in the main stand, looking out into the Derbyshire hills, as night falls.
The Bucks kick with the wind. My main man and crowd favourite, Anton Foster is strutting his stuff in the centre of the park. He is the victim of a dreadful challenge after only a few minutes. He reacts badly and is lucky not to see yellow, unlike clumsy Fleetwood striker Phil Denney. The visitors are certainly keen to contain Foster and rip the shirt off his back; he plays the remainder of the game without a number on his shirt.
Cod Army midfielder and ex-Evertonian Jamie Milligan has caught The Taxman’s eye. He has two feet, is graceful on the ball and passes accurately on a gluepot of a pitch.
The Bucks are disappointing. On loan Owl Jason Bradley works his socks off. But I’ve never understood the over-inflated Non-League transfer fees paid for his partner Neil Ross. I’ve seen him for Ilkeston and Buxton, but he’s never floated my boat. He’s not particularly brave, or blessed with pace. It’s difficult to see what he really offers; I much prefer the honest endeavour of sub Paul Walker.
The highlight of the night is the snack bar. We all go for the hot pork pie with a drop of brown sauce; it’s a real treat, just like Fleetwood Town in the second-half. The cup of tea is delightful too. It’s poured from the pot and marked with an 8.5!
The Nuclear Scientist misses out on the first prize on the raffle by one ticket. White Van Man texts in to say “United” are one up; I really couldn’t give a toss. I’m amongst friends, at The Silverlands, Anton’s playing well and the game is evenly poised.
The guy we met in the bar tells me the Bucks will play better against the wind, as he’s reffed here for 25 years and knows all the contours of the pitch; he couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Fleetwood turn on the style. Milligan finds himself in acres of space on the left, and fires home. Shortly after Buxton fail to deal with a long throw from the left, Phil Denney makes no mistake from close-range. Buxton are dead and buried.
There’s a succession of substitutions as the game’s played out. The margin could have been much greater. Fleetwood Town are sublime and are superior to anything I’ve seen at this level.
On eighty five minutes, an old guy gets up and starts to walk towards the exit. He’s on crutches, but manages to cover the ground quicker and slicker than Bucks’ striker Neil Ross has all evening.
Buxton fall short tonight. Their defence have hardly won a header. Their tactics are direct and disappointing. But their club and fans are a delight.
There’s a small cheer on the way home; Forest have collected all three points at Brunton Park. It’s “Kids for a Quid” at the City Ground on Saturday, but I’ve not told the boys, as I’m off to Welbeck Colliery v Ollerton Town.
Buxton 0 Fleetwood 2 Milligan and Denney
Man of the Match: Jamie Milligan