We woke up Wednesday to the tragic news that there had been a death in the family. Max and Paddy are no more; well Max is no more. He was only two and was found floating on top of his goldfish bowl at 7am on April 23rd. There were no suspicious circumstances. I carried out the post-mortem and filleted the little fellow myself. Cause of death: drowning.
Keyworth Utd U10’s raised the bar once again this morning. They played the perfect game in the YEL Cup Final at nearby Gotham United FC. They completely bamboozle and bewilder a team from Mansfield. Bless them, they looked frightened to death.
I had a close scare with food poisoning whilst at the final. The burger I purchased for £1.40 ought to have found its way to the Trading Standards people. It was nearly as bad as the burger served up and chewed on by White Van Man at Matlock Town FC a few months ago.
I leave the boys to their cup celebrations and head off to the car park of the Sun Inn. I meet up with White Van Man, but there’s no time for a refreshing pint of Everards Tiger; we’re off to Leek, Staffordshire.
There’s an incredible choice of games to choose from today. A glance at the Unibond Premier League table suggests that two teams from a possible ten will fight to avoid the dreaded drop today.
Eastwood Town need a win to secure a play-off spot. Opponents Leek Town require one point to guarantee safety. They could even lose and still stay up.
Screats’ dad is driving; his son Ian plays for the Badgers. We’re speeding down the A50 towards Stoke. We pass a Renault Megane driven by an incredibly attractive dark haired young lady. WVM is having palpitations. “She’s a bit rowdy” is his trademark comment.
Thankfully there’s no Heart FM on the car radio; we listen instead to Chelsea v “United.” WVM is giving it the big un that he’s blagged some tickets for the Barcelona clash on Tuesday night; he soon shuts up when Ballack puts Chelsea one up.
We’ve come off the A50 and are travelling towards Leek. We hit a place called Meir; I saw their football team play in September. My God, it’s a depressing, run-down area. Pub after pub is boarded up, the only business that appears to do a roaring trade are the suntan salons.
We trawling down the streets of Leek; it’s a charming town. There’s a shirtless beast of a man strolling down the road, he has a huge tattoo that covers his back. He gives us directions to the ground; we all say thank you!
Leek has a population of 20,000 and lies on the River Churnet. Love cheat Anthea Turner is from the area. She broke the hearts of Radio DJs Peter Powell and Bruno Brookes. Big Eamonn Holmes didn’t mess about; he soon arsed her off GMTV. Her fall from fame has been spectacular; I’ve not even seen her on Sky TV.
Leek Town were formed in 1946. Paul Ogden is joint manager at the club; it’s his fifth spell in charge.
It’s £7 admission (I treat Screats’ dad for driving) and £1.20 for a great value programme. It’s full of articles, profiles, tables, squad stats and a review of the season. It also has a great quiz question: Who is the only outfield player to have played EVERY minute of his team’s Premier League games this season?
Harrison Park has an old school feel about it and is saturated in glorious spring sunshine. An old elevated main stand runs along the touchline. The ground is surrounded by housing and the odd factory.
The pitch doesn’t look great; I should think the final run-in at nearby Uttoxeter Racecourse is in better condition.
The music is drab and dreary. The PA announcer is a 80s fan. He plays Big Country, Meat Loaf, Rod Stewart and Status Quo. It’s hardly the music to pump up the players for a relegation battle. A bit of Prodigy or Chemical Brothers might have been more apt.
The Badgers make a flying start. They don’t waste time in taking the lead. Full back Ricky Hanson hits a delightful curling 20 yard free-kick into the top left hand corner of the goal.
Leek, like Eastwood are quite direct. They are looking to play the ball into the corners in an attempt to win throw-ins. They have two guys who can hurl a ball onto the penalty spot. Eastwood defend manfully. Walshaw and Colin “Junior” Daniel (a former Badger on loan from Crewe) end the half strongly. They are unfortunate to be a goal down and get very little from a young referee.
We’ve been stood to the left of the Leek dugout. There’s a little old bloke stood in the technical area. He’s wearing a crumpled old suit and what little hair is left on his head is windswept. He’s a jibbering wreck,continuously chewing gum, swigging Lucozade from a plastic bottle and wiping beads of sweat from his ageing forehead. It’s Paul Ogden, and the guys going through hell. No wonder he resigned earlier in the season due to ill-health. The poor sod.
Leek Town are pumped up for the second period and play as if their lives depend on it, they are all over Eastwood like a rash. They are denied a penalty and Junior Daniel’s header is disallowed for offside.
They finally get their just desserts on 53 minutes when Daniel pounces on a loose ball and smashes it home. They are rampant now and hunt for a second goal. But their parity only lasts a few minutes. Chris Shaw finally finds his radar and floats in an exquisite ball in from the left, Meikle is on to it in a flash, takes one touch and fires it towards goal, the keeper gets plenty on it but it trickles into an empty net. It’s harsh on the Blues.
The game is over as a contest on 65 minutes when a Shaw free-kick is diverted into his own net by joint manager Wayne Johnson.
Eastwood manager Paul Cox still has time to chew the referee’s ear off; he’s always chipping away. Both he and his assistant John Ramshaw have previously been on the Leek Town payroll; they are enjoying this hard earned victory.
They send on Iain Screaton to quieten down Leek danger man Junior Daniel. He scythes him down within minutes of entering the field of play. He is correctly cautioned; his dad and I have a good old chuckle.
Wayne Johnson has had a wretched afternoon and is finally substituted. He has come out second best with his tussle with Eastwood forward Matt Rhead. He has talked the talk in the local press but failed to walk the walk. He exchanges a few words with Ogden, and storms off down the tunnel, kicking a few objects on his way. His face is red with rage; he look like he’s been on a sun bed at one of the tanning shops in Meir.
Eastwood Town receive a standing ovation from the vocal travelling contingent. Leek Town fans are also in good voice; they believe they are safe. Robert Yong the likeable Eastwood Chairman walks his dog past us all. He poses for a photo (the dog, not the chairman.)
I arrive home and immediately log onto the Unibond Premier League final league table. Tragically Leek Town have been relegated on goal difference. Nearly all the basement teams have won. Nigel Jemson’s Ilkeston Town survive on goal difference after a four goal hammering at Whitby Town.
Leek Town 1 Eastwood Town 3
Man of the Match: Paul Mitchell
Quiz Answer: Stephen Kelly Birmingham City