Sunday, September 28, 2008

Oadby Town 0 Tipton Town 4

It’s been a wretched week for Sticky Palms, where nothing has gone my way. Misery at work, Notts blowing the County Championship and Lincoln being knocked out the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, are just three of the things to go wrong for me.

It’s Friday night and I need cheering up. I have a couple of Stella’s as an aperitif. The Nuclear Scientist has invited me round for a game of table tennis. I’m not feeling sociable but accept his offer, despite being tired and tetchy. I’ve not slept well for the last couple of nights. We have a couple of bottles of real ale. ‘The Canadian’ turns up. He’s not much good at ping pong, I normally hammer him. Tonight he turns the tables on me. I arrive home miserable and moody, and head straight for bed. Surely the weekend will get better?

I’m up early again; this insomnia is driving me crazy. I’m down at Highfields, near Nottingham University, scouting for boys. It’s like a cattle market and not my sort of scene. Nearly every club in the East Midlands is represented. Even Notts County manager Ian McParland shows up. It’s been a sad week down ‘The Lane’ former manager Jimmy Sirrel has passed away at the age of 86. Jimmy Squirrel my mum used to call him.

I race back home as ‘The Skipper’ has a 12pm kick off. His team play with heart and soul. They go down 3 -2 to last year’s champions. It could have been a larger margin, but the back five are magnificent.

I pick up ‘The Nuclear Scientist’ at just after 2pm. White Van Man has cleared off to Butt Hole Lane to watch Shepshed Dynamo versus Alfreton Town in the FA Cup.

I’ve not seen much of The Nuclear Scientist in recent weeks as he’s been away on business in Israel and Liverpool. Apparently Liverpool was the scarier place of the two. Luckily, he didn’t bump into Joey Barton.

NS has brought his sat nav. I was hoping to go down the M1 but it’s sent us straight through Leicester city centre. We arrive at the ground just before 3pm.

Oadby is south-east of Leicester and has a population of over 20,000. It’s close to Leicester Racecourse and the University of Leicester. Queen bassist John Deacon was born in the area, The legendary kids toy game Mastermind , where you have to guess the coloured sequence of hidden pegs on a similar board to cribbage, is made in Oadby as are Red Noses.

Oadby Owls, hold one of the best junior tournaments I’ve ever been to. Teams travel from all over the Midlands to participate in it.

Today’s visitors are Tipton, who reside in the Black Country. It has a population of 40,000. Wolves’ legend Steve Bull was born in the town. It is also well known for the Tipton Harriers Athletics Club.

We park behind the goal. NS pays us in at £4 a go. He also buys the programme which is an excellent effort. A guy I met at Welbeck Colliery last season called Rambler used to edit the programme. The guy who has taken over has maintained the quality.

Topps Park is very picturesque and surrounded by trees. The area around it is affluent. The pitch from a distance looks in fine fettle. Oadby Town were formed in 1937 and are nicknamed ‘The Poachers.’

We’re in the bar and the players have just kicked off. NS is only a little lad and has brought no ID with him so I have to get the round in. We’re served by a cheery guy behind the bar. I have a Stella; the little lad has a shandy.

Gillette Soccer Saturday is on the TV in the corner of the room. Exeter notch the first goal of the afternoon at Macclesfield’s Moss Rose.

We stand level to the eighteen yard box that Oadby will attack. The visitors play in the brilliant orange that the Dutch national team often wear. They also play total football.

Tipton ‘keeper Wes Cox bellows out instructions to his defenders. He’s a tall boy with cauliflower ears. He wouldn’t look out of place in a boxing ring.

The Poachers lie in the nether regions of the Midland Alliance League. And on this evidence it’s not hard to see why. They are quite a young team, but hardly fashion a chance of worthy note.

The visitors have balance, beauty and pace. They have an edge and purpose to their game. They waste several chances before opening the scoring on 42 minutes through a Nicky Campbell penalty, given for hand ball.

We’re both a bit peckish at the break and have some chips from the food bar. Tea is served in the clubhouse but gets a thumbs down as it’s DIY. A bag is thrown into a polystyrene cup and you are left to do the rest yourself. It’s a five out of ten.

We scan SKY for the latest scores. The laughing stock of the Premiership, Newcastle United, are already two goals down at home to Blackburn Rovers.

I notice a framed West Ham United shirt on the wall, with Dr Martens blazoned across it. Apparently Oadby played them in a FA Youth Cup game six years ago.

We stand in the same position as we expect more of the same from the visitors. Oadby have an encouraging spell of pressure. Substitute Seal smashes one against the upright and ‘keeper Cox saves smartly from Andy Tiday.

Tipton put the game to bed in the 75th minute with a magnificent dead ball strike from wing back Eric Bowen, who seems to be covering every blade of grass on the pitch.

Tipton forward Nathan Jones has lead the line magnificently. He runs the channels, and shields the ball cleverly away from his opponent. He makes way for a colleague fifteen minutes from time.

Substitute David Waple evades the offside trap two minutes from time and lashes the ball into the net. Karl Edwards rubs salt further into the wound in added time, expertly finding the bottom right hand corner of the goal with a left foot cross shot.

Tipton have been terrific value and I shall make the 60 mile journey to their ground later in the season.

We get in the car and turn on BBC 5 Live. Forest have failed to trouble the scorers at Plymouth’s Home Park, and currently lie bottom of the pile in the Championship.

The sat nav takes us up the Belgrave Road through the heavily populated Asian area of Leicester. It’s a fascinating cultural part of the city. My father once wrote a book based on this area. They are erecting all the lights in preparation for Diwali, which is a festival organised by Sikhs and Hindus, that takes place in October. I might return to enjoy the celebrations with the friendly Asian community.

Oadby 1 Tipton 4

Attendance: 92

Man of the Match: Eric Bowen

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hucknall Rolls Leisure 1 Awsworth Villa 4

I went to see Chubby Brown on Wednesday. As soon as he came on stage I started shouting "You fat b***ard! You fat b***ard!" Then I was told by security that that sort of behaviour wasn't tolerated at the Labour Party Conference.

I’ve kept my beady eye on the events unfolding at Trent Bridge. A win for Nottinghamshire CC guarantees the Championship. We have a middle order that collapses quicker than Lehman Brothers. The thought of us facing Pakistani leg spinner Tahir on the final day has already reduced me to a nervous wreck.

Barthez’s picture was in the Nottingham Evening Post last night. He let just the three in on Saturday as his team surrendered a two goal lead. Last night he was texting me from Stonebridge Road, the home of Ebbsfleet United. He has a part share in the club. He, like 83% of the shareholders, agreed to sell their star striker John Akinde to Championship side Bristol City for £140,000.

Tonight I’m dipping my toe into the tepid waters of the Nottinghamshire Senior League. The skill levels on show are not as high as the excitement served up on the main course, but I love it.

The message forum never fails to disappoint me. It’s an active and thought provoking board. Clifton FC is a bigger soap opera than Mrs P cares to watch. They’re on their third manager this season already, and have had more comings and goings than Albert Square.

I leave Mrs P with her Ferrero Rocher. Supernanny and Sky Cops are on the TV tonight to keep her company.

I pick up ‘The Taxman’ at 6.40pm. He’s all excited. Mrs T has enrolled him on an art course. Eat your heart out LS Lowry. We drive down the Nottingham ring road and are having a good old moan and groan about the trouncing our boys took in a junior game last Sunday.

I’m on Hucknall Road; Bulwell Forest Golf Club is to my left. Memories come flooding back. A friend and I learnt how to play golf here over thirty years ago.

We drive down the Hucknall by-pass, and turn left at Hucknall Town’s ground (homeless Worksop Town entertain Ilkeston Town there tonight) We’re on the Watnall Road and turn left into the Rolls Royce site.

Hucknall is seven miles north-west of Nottingham and has a population of 30,000. Footballers from the area include: tough tackling Crystal Palace midfielder Shaun Derry and ex-Spirerite Stephen Blatherwick.

The actor Robin Bailey is from the town. The poet Lord Byron is buried in the local church.

The biggest employers in the area are Rolls Royce and the insecticide firm Doff Portland. Hucknall Colliery closed in 1986; an Aldi supermarket is now on the site of the old mine. Hucknall is the northern terminus for the Nottingham tramline

We park close to the security hut. The place is buzzing. Cars are dotted all over the plant. I presume there’s a three shift working pattern here. There’s a leisure club, restaurant and bar.

We stroll across the cricket pitch. I can remember Keyworth CC beating Rolls Royce Leisure CC in an Evening League cup semi-final here. We beat Plumtree in the final on their own ground. It was my greatest sporting achievement. Coming to think of it, my only sporting achievement.

Mist rolls out from beneath the floodlights. A man is loitering underneath the pylon. It’s ‘Beardy Malc’ from the ‘On the Road’ blog. I introduce him to The Taxman. He’s not sure that NSL football is up to scratch. I reassure him that the best game we’ve seen this season was between tonight’s visitors Awsworth and Attenborough.

Villa’s 11 jacket Kieron Saxton inhales his final draw of a cigarette before entering the field of play. He was Awsworth’s best player when I visited The Shilo back in August. Both teams lie in mid-table. Rolls won Division One last season at a canter.

Awsworth chairman Paul ‘Willie’ Wilkinson has announced on the forum that he’s going to be late tonight as he’s taking his lad egg chasing. Villa don’t miss him and press the game deep into the Rolls’ half of the pitch.

There’s plenty of in house banter on the Rolls guestbook. They have a series of lookalikes in the team. Everyone seems to be called Ash. The number three, surprisingly called Ash, has a trusty left foot, and is probably their best player in the first period. He gets up and down the pitch and gets a few searching crosses into the box.

The distance between the touchline and eighteen yard area is minimal. Both teams have long throw specialists. It’s like winning a corner or free-kick.

The game looks like it’s petering out to a goalless draw at the break. Rolls have enjoyed a majority of the possession without threatening the young Awsworth ‘keeper ‘Jack.’ There’s a mix-up in the Rolls defence, the ‘keeper shouts for the ball , but the ever alert Kieron Saxton, no doubt anxious for a half-time fag, gets between two defenders, and hooks the ball over the advancing ‘keeper.

Within a minute it’s 2-0 to the visitors with a vicious, dipping 20 yard pile driver from Hutton.

The visitors’ tails are up now and they go for the jugular. Saxton races away down the right, Rolls just can’t cope with his pace and aggression. He fires a cross in which is swept home by Mitchell Scott. Poor old Rolls are absolutely shell shocked. It’s 4 minutes of spell binding football.

It’s too far to walk to the bar at the break, so Malc and I bore the pants off The Taxman with tales of groundhopping.

Saxton puts out another fag before starting his second half shift.

Rolls pull a goal back on 48 minutes following hesitation in the visitors’ defence. Awsworth look very shaky. Their young goalkeeper who was faultless in the first period now looks a shade nervous. Rolls fail to test him with shots or crosses.

Awsworth took some baby sitting back in August at The Shilo and were spitting their dummies out all over the pitch. Tonight though, they are on their best behaviour and let their football do the talking. David Barrie in centre midfield is pulling all the strings.

There are a couple of bookings for a very late tackle and a bit of lip. It’s not bad for a school night.

Once again the NSL have conjured up a top drawer referee. Malcolm Cassidy doesn’t look the most agile but he runs the diagonals and keeps up with play. I lose count of the number times he plays advantage. I’d mark him a nine.

Kieron Saxton is no Rolls Royce but more of a Porsche. He produces a moment of sheer class in the 66th minute to end the game as a contest. He pounces on a loose ball and wriggles like a snake past three defenders. He unselfishly slides the ball across the face of goal for Scott to stab home his second of the night. It sends a tingle down my spine.

I congratulate Saxton at the end of the game but he has no time to take the plaudits as he races off to the changing rooms in search of another cigarette.

We bid farewell to Malc and drive back home fulfilled. We sneak in a pint and a half at our local.

Rolls Leisure 1 Awsworth 4

Attendance: 45

Men of the Match: Kieron Saxton and Malcolm Cassidy (Ref)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Kimberley Town 0 Gornal Athletic 2

It’s been an amazing week. It started last Sunday afternoon at 3pm. I’ve been out scouting all weekend and to be honest have not been rewarded for my efforts. Sticky jnr has come flying back from his game at Dunkirk where he bagged a goal and set one up. We flick the Ceefax on; Notts are racking up a decent score in their Pro 40 championship decider against Sussex. We jump in the car and fly down Trent Bridge.

Two hours later and we can almost pop the Champagne corks. Sussex are 130-8. What follows is the most amazing one day innings I’ve ever seen. Murray Goodwin swats the Notts’ bowlers to all parts of the ground. He and his partner Sami hit an incredible and chanceless 93 off the last 9 overs. Goodwin finishes it in style by hitting a straight six into the second tier of the Radcliffe Road Stand off the last ball of the game. It’s pure genius. He’s as professionals put it ‘in the zone.’

We’ve spent Wednesday and Thursday in Prague. The Architect and Ergo’s Assistant Contracts Manager have joined Mrs P and myself. We have pounded the streets of the picturesque Czech capital. We’re dead on our feet, sat in a bar, tucking into a few Pilsner Urquell. The subject of tonight’s impending UEFA Cup tie at Slavia Prague crops up in the conversation. Mrs P threatens divorce proceedings if I set foot in the ground. Wisely I order another Pilsner instead. She was right though, the game ended 0-0.

The Czech Republic is in eastern Europe and has a population of ten million. Famous people from there include: Ivan Lendl, Martina Navratilova, Patrik Berger, Petr Cech and the loathsome ex Daily Mirror owner Robert Maxwell. Not only did he nearly cost my father his hard earned pension but also worked down the A52 as owner of ‘The Sheep Dip.’ He also harmed any real chances of a Czechoslovakian gold medal in sailing in the Barcelona 1992 Olympics by falling off his boat on a trial run in the Canary Islands in 1991.

Today I’m off to the long awaited FA Vase tie between Kimberley Town and West Midlands outfit Gornal Athletic.

I’m up with the larks and have both cars cleaned by 10am. I’ve arranged to meet Mrs P at the Forest Recreation Ground at 12.00pm as ‘The Skipper’ has a game there.

I slip down to Highfields Park in Nottingham on a scouting mission. Over 50 boys are today having trials for City Boys Schools U11s.

I hook up with Mrs P and watch my old team, despite huge provocation, football their opposition off the park. ‘The Skipper’ is punched in the back of the head, other boys are victims of horrendous challenges. Jesus Christ, these boys are only 10 years old.

Shocked, shaken and still angry from these events I drive through Radford and Hyson Green en route to the A610. I drive past the site that once was Babbington Colliery, my first place of employment, twenty seven years ago.

Kimberley is six miles north west of Nottingham and has a population of 6000. It was once famous for coal mining, brewing and hosiery. Greene King Brewery have recently bought out Hardy Hansons. Famous people from Kimberley include Great Britain Superbike Champion John Reynolds and Keyworth Cricket Club legend Stuart Meek.

Kimberley Town were formed in 1886 and play in the Central Midlands Supreme Division. They have been struggling a wee bit this season, and I’ve noticed they’ve been advertising for players.

I park up in Newdigate Street and have a stroll around the town. I like this place. The high street is bustling, the sun is shining and the residents are drinking. To my right are the war memorial and Sainsbury’s. I walk up the hill towards the ground, past a tea shop and a funeral parlour; a place I would have been laid to rest in had I watched the Slavia Prague game.

I ‘ve been itching for a pint in the glorious Stag Inn for over a year but have no time for one today. The ground is tucked away behind the pub. I walk up a snicket to get there.

I think it was £3 to get in (I’ve forgot) and it’s a further £1 for an information packed programme which is quality for this standard of football, although a few staples wouldn’t go a miss.

I introduce myself to Danny the groundsman. He’s making some minor adjustments to the goal nets and has his mobile phone constantly glued to his ear.

The public address system is crystal clear. The DJ revels in the basking autumn sunshine and gets us all in the mood with Wham’s Club Tropicana. That reminds me, I wonder where the toilets are.

I’ve had nothing to eat since breakfast, but settle for a can of Vimto from inside the clubhouse. The ground is a little run down, but it has some nice little touches. It’s got soul. The pitch is on a slope and the dug outs are on opposite sides of the ground.

Today’s visitors Gornal Athletic play in the West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division, a level above Kimberley, and were formed in 1919. They have only lost once in the league and have a 100% record on their travels. They are from Dudley. Well known folk from the area include; Duncan Edwards, Sam Allardyce, Sue Lawley, Norman Pace and Lenny Henry.

I’ve arranged to meet Malc and Kev from the ‘On the Road Blog.’ They live down the road in Hucknall and are a bit of a comedy duo, bouncing insults off each other. It’s a good job they are here as the first half is as dull as dishwater.

They are playing crown green bowls just behind me and I decide to watch a couple of ends, as it’s marginally more interesting than the fare on offer on the football pitch. The silence is shattered when another skew whiff attempt by Gornal’s number nine flies over the clubhouse landing on a parked up Toyota Avensis roof and finally smashing against the fencing that surrounds the bowling green.

The highlight of the half arrives on 38 minutes with a text from Mrs P asking me if I can pop into Budgens to get some poppadums.

Gornal’s 10 jacket Adam Checketts is their creator supreme. He leads the line well, holds up the ball and has a great touch. He plays in Robertson who wastes a golden chance. Kimberley have a few chances of their own but it’s deadlock at the break.

‘Daft Lad’ Kev has given the thumbs down to the sausage rolls on offer but I’m starving now and decide to purchase one along with another can of Vimto.

I can hear the amusing Jeff Stelling on Sky Sports saying that ‘The Sheep’ are one up.

We stand behind the goal that Kimberley attack, by the corner flag. We should have really moved because Gornal are all over ‘The Stags’ like a rash and surge forward at every opportunity. They start to get the ball into wide areas and there really is some desperate defending and brave goalkeeping by the hosts.

Adam Checketts hits the upright and there are a couple of blocks on the line. Kimberley’s luck can’t hold out any longer and Gornal finally take the lead. The ball falls fortuitously to the feet of Tim Nicholls; he waltzes around the keeper and slides the ball into an empty net.

The Stags introduce one of their substitutes into their powder puff attack. He is a source of amusement for the three of us and looks more suited to American football than the beautiful game. Incredibly he gets a shot on target, it’s goal bound, but unfortunately hits his own man and flies out of play for a goal kick.

Kev’s got his earpiece in and reports great news from Pride Park: Cardiff are back on level terms.

Gornal wrap up proceedings in injury time with 15 jacket stabbing home from close range, with the home defence once again carved wide open.

The excellent referee Mr Pashley finally blows the whistle. The second half has lifted my spirits and I’ve enjoyed a good day out with new friends at a friendly club.

Kimberley Town 0 Gornal Athletic 2

Attendance: 35-40

Man of the Match: Mark Rawson.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Prague with Mrs P

Slavia Prague in UEFA Cup action on Thursday night against some team from Romania. Groundhopper live and exclusive close to the ground. According to Mrs P there's more chance of back to back wins for D***y County than me getting the ground in. Doh!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ollerton Town 1 Causeway United 2

I was in the pub Saturday night, stood at the bar, and next to me was a guy with the sweetest looking dog imaginable. When the D**by score was read out this dog went berserk. It started growling, barking, and even tried to bite a couple of people nearby. I said: “Flippin ‘eck mate, what’s that all about?” He replied: “Oh he does that every time D**by lose.” I said: “Well what happens when they win?” He replied: God knows I’ve only had him 11 months!”

We’re off to Prague soon for a short break; it’s Mrs P’s birthday. It would have been rude not to have checked out the Czech football scene. It’s Champions League football while we’re out there. I was hoping and praying that one of the Prague teams would get through. But much to Mrs P’s delight, they both got knocked out in the qualifying stages. Like I said to the good lady, every cloud has a silver lining; there’s always the UEFA Cup on a Thursday night.

It’s Wednesday tea-time and it’s been sunny and warm for most of the day. It’s not enough to save the rain sodden surface at Kimberley Town’s Stag Ground though. It’s 5pm and I’m without a game.

I’m surfing the Football Mitoo site and spot that Ollerton Town have a FA Vase replay against Midland Alliance team Causeway United. Ollerton Town are on the ‘new grounds to visit’ list. I ring up The Taxman; we’re up and running.

We drive down the A46, over Gunthorpe Bridge and up the A614. It’s a 64 mile round trip. I’m not saying The Taxman is a slow driver but a couple of tractors overtake take us on the A6097.

I ‘worked’ at Ollerton Colliery for a while before its closure; I hated it. It was the most miserable 12 months in my professional career. I was saddened by yet another pit closure; another community put out to grass and killed off. But selfishly it gave me the chance to move to pastures new.

Ollerton is on the edge of Sherwood Forest and has a population of 6000. The Ollerton Watermill was built in 1713 on the River Maun. The Ollerton Water Mill Tea Shop would be in my top three of all time,

During the Miners’ Strike in 1984, Yorkshire ‘flying picket’ David Jones was crushed to death outside the main driveway into the colliery. We’re driving past there now. Corporate giant Tesco’s house a supermarket on the old colliery site. Leisure firm Center Parks also have their HQ there.

It’s par for the course; I haven’t a clue where the ground is. We drive past a boarded out bingo hall and stop the car to ask directions. This guy is waddling up the road, resplendent in his England polo shirt. Capello’s clowns are in Croatia tonight for a ‘crucial’ World Cup qualifier. This guy is off to the Harrow Inn to watch the match and cheekily asks for a lift, so he can point the ground out to us.

We drop him off outside William Hills. I tell him to put a tenner on Causeway United for an away win. He is wearing some rank bad after shave. It smells like the 70s woman-puller, Hi-Karate. Walcott may bag a hat-trick later on tonight, but there’s no chance of this guy scoring.

We pull into the ground and park the car for free, It’s £4 admission and a futher quid for the programme, although I fail to procure one as they have already sold out and it’s still thirty minutes to kick-off.

Most old coal mining/steel making towns have regeneration packages provided by the government. This normally includes improved leisure facilities like Corby Town and Cotgrave have. While New Ollerton may have had, somewhat, of a facelift, the same can not be said of the facilities at The Lane.

The changing rooms and clubhouse are dilapidated and in a state of disrepair. Why has government money not filtered through to this proud club?

The pitch and its surroundings are delightful though. The playing surface is in pristine condition. The heavy rainfall in recent weeks has had no affect on this ground. The going is soft, but perfect.

It’s a blustery old evening and time for a brew. The tea comes in a mug and is marked with an eight.

We stroll through a mass of groundhoppers who’ve turned out tonight, with their pens and notebooks.

The Central Midlands League Press Officer Rob Hornby is here tonight and is suited and booted. I first met him at Welbeck Welfare back in April. He is an effervescent and enthusiastic character. I catch up on all the gossip.

He has invited me on the bus for the East Midlands Groundhop in March. There’s one game on the Friday night and four on the Saturday. I’ve not told Mrs P about it yet but assure Rob I’ll be there.Rob’s all excited as he is off down Cornwall groundhopping on holiday. The jammy sod.

Causeway United are from Stourbridge in Worcestershire. It has a population of 50,000. It was once famous for glass making. Famous bands from the town include: Diamond Head, The Wonder Stuff, Pop Will Eat Itself and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin.

The Ollerton Town DJ is playing All Mod Cons by The Jam. It‘s on the worst speaker system in the world. He reads the teams out; it sounds like one of Dr Who’s Daleks.

The referee leads the teams out, he and his assistants look like they have just finished their paper round.

Ollerton play with the wind at their backs. Technically they can not match the visitors, but they are strong and fit. They have bite in the midfield and snap at the heels of their opponents. Those whinging, whining West Midlands dulcet tones can be heard all around the ground, particularly their manager who has a voice as loud as a foghorn.

I’m stood next to Ollerton legend ‘Scoop.’ He does all the match reports for the Chad. He’s only a young whippersnapper but has an incredible appetite for the game. He gives me a few names from both teams, as he has the line-ups.

Ollerton take a deserved lead on 20 minutes with a well worked goal. Chambers plays Lee Wilson in down the right; his finish is ice cool and clinical.

Causeway get the ball down and begin to play the beautiful game. A tremendous four man move results in a forward being bundled over by the Ollerton left back. Twenty three year old skipper Danny Howe makes no mistake from the spot kick. They finish the half strongly.

While The Taxman spends a penny I take a stroll around the perimeter of the pitch. Some old pit houses back onto the ground. It’s gone 8.30pm and pitch black. Someone has left their washing out to dry for the night. It must be Jim Royle’s house as there are two pairs of large Y-fronts and vests on the line.

The second half is dire, a total stalemate. The only highlight is when the foxy lady physio for Causeway scurries onto the pitch to attend the West Midlands whinging wounded.

The paperboy ref did well to keep his cards in his pocket in the first half, but now he’s dishing bookings out like confetti. Ollerton enjoy the physical side of the game.

Extra time is one way traffic. The winner comes in the 105th minute and is worth waiting for. The Causeway full back bombs down the right and fires a cross in from the tightest of angles, substitute Danny Jones attacks the ball and sends an unstoppable bullet header into the roof of the net.

It’s 10.20pm and we’re still in the ground; they’ll be no real ale on the way home tonight.

White Van Man texts in to tell me that England have thumped four past Croatia. Blimey Charlie, I wouldn’t fancy being an away fan trying to get out of that ground!

Ollerton 1 Causeway 2

Attendance: 88

Man of the Match: Jim Royle’s pants.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sutton Town AFC 1 Rocester 4

I really should be scouting for boys this weekend but the inclement weather of late has put paid to that. By Friday night nearly every council owned recreation ground has cancelled fixtures for the weekend. With a washout predicted for Sunday also, I’ll probably pop down the Academy and watch the U11s versus MK Dons. I’m scout co-ordinator for U11s and U12s so I need to know what we’ve got and where we need to improve.

It’s Saturday morning and I’m doing as many chores as possible to keep Mrs P sweet. I’ve cleaned the bathroom, tidied out my den and sorted all my wardrobes out, but all the time I’ve one eye on the Central Midlands website, checking for any news from The Fieldings, the home of Sutton Town AFC

I ring the ground at midday to be told the game is on. I’m astonished, as it has bucketed down with rain in south Notts for three days now. They are calling games off in their droves on the excellent NSL message board.

Mrs P knocks up a cheese and ham toasty, and I must have been a good lad because she also produces a cream iced bun.

It’s 1.20pm and I decide to head off. White Van Man texts in to tell me he’s on the running machine at ROKO Gym, and he’s watching Magdala Reserves out the window. The only time I’ve ever seen him run is to the front of the queue when the chip shop opens at 5pm on a Friday.

The Taxman is watching his lad play and The Nuclear Scientist is in Israel on business. It’s just me and Sally Gunnell, once again on the A60.

I’m on Clifton Bridge and I’m listening to Radio Nottingham. The disc jockey is playing ‘When I Need You’ by Leo Sayer, it’s bloody awful. I feel like driving the car off the bridge and into the Trent it’s that depressing and cheesy.

I’m just outside Sutton-in-Ashfield and the black clouds are gathering. There’s one hell of a rain storm looming. As usual I’m lost. I park the car on a cul-de-sac. It’s pelting it down with rain. I dive into a kitchen shop. I’m dripping wet. The shop assistant looks at me gone out. “Don’t worry love I’m not buying a kitchen, but do you know where the ground is?” She hasn’t a Scooby Do and neither does a young chav I chance upon on the street.

I’m in a bit of flap now, no-one in Sutton has heard of the ground. Eventually a slurring skinhead with an earring through his nose points me in the direction of Huthwaite.

I throw a left hand turn into The Fieldings, home of Sutton Town AFC, formed in 2007. I park at the back of Mansfield Hosiery Mills Sports and Social Club; there’s ample room.

It’s a surreal place for a football ground. It’s completely surrounded by modern houses. Entrance to the ground is limited to one side.

I’m greeted by programme editor Anton Lancashire, who is doubling up as a match day steward. He’s telling me I missed a stormy encounter the previous week. I’d read about it on Beardy Malc’s ‘On the Road’ blog. It was a seven goal thriller against Yorkshire Main. There were countless bookings, two early baths and an injury-time winner for the Snipes. Prison officer Pete Stubley scored a hat-trick; sadly he’s on duty for Her Majesty this afternoon.

It’s £5 entry today as it’s a FA Vase game; normally it’s £3. The programme is £1.20 and is good for this level, but heavy on the adverts.

Sutton-In-Ashfield is 4 miles west of Mansfield. Its claim to fame is that it has the largest sun dial in Europe.

Coronation Street’s Peter Barlow played by actor Chris Gascoyne was born down the road in Huthwaite. As you probably know his dad Ken is the most boring man in the world. But who could fault him for wanting to write a novel, rather than staring at old turkey neck Deirdre.

I nearly fell off my chair the other night whilst watching ‘Coro’ with Mrs P. Everyone piled back to Liam’s house for a party. They were all dancing to the classic track, Temptation by New Order. Mrs P was unmoved by it all.

Former Mansfield Town captain Jake Buxton was born in Sutton, but now plies his trade for the Brewers at Burton Albion.

It’s all smiles at Sutton right now as they are top of the table with a 100% record. Anton fancies their chances today but I’ve seen a few teams from Rocester’s league, the Midland Alliance, and beg to differ. It will be a severe test for the Snipes.

Rocester is in Staffordshire and is 4 miles north of Uttoxeter. It has a population of less than 2000. JCB has its world headquarters in the area. Former Notts County forward Tommy Johnson once played for the Romans. We used to call him ‘The Pale Genius.’ Rocester were formed in 1876.

I’ve arranged to meet Barry Smith, Rocester’s programme editor and webmaster at the break. His codename on the groundhopping forum I’ve met him on is ‘Roman.’

The groundsman has performed a miracle to make the pitch playable. The referee has travelled down from South Yorkshire at 10.30am for a pitch inspection There is a small amount of surface water and it is squidgy and squelchy.

I’m standing 10 metres to the right of the home dugout. The guy next to me has come from Chesterfield. His son normally plays but is on holiday today.

Rocester lose the toss and kick up the steep slope. Their tall number ten Lee Bagley drives down the right leaving two defenders in their wake. He hits the ball across the face of goal, and finds left midfielder Liam Sowter lurking at the far post. He makes no mistake. The linesman confirms the goal is inside 40 seconds.

Rocester are rampant and pleasing on the eye. They go further ahead on 6 minutes when Gary Beardsley fires home from the edge of the box following a poor clearance from a corner. Beardsley’s brother Jason plays for D**by County and is currently on loan at Meadow Lane.

On fifteen minutes the bloke next to me receives a call from his missus; can he nip to the butchers on the way back home and get the Sunday joint?

Rocester have further chances to put the game out of sight. Suddenly Sutton wake up and create chances of their own. The impressive Martin Newman and the industrious orange-booted Danny O’Donnell both spurn good opportunities.

The Romans put the final nail in the coffin on 40 minutes with the goal of the game. They break out from a Sutton corner, Bagley picks the ball up deep inside his own half, shrugging off the attentions of a Snipe’s defender. He plays a slide rule pass to his partner Ben Corr who has made a diagonal run. He races onto it rounds the ‘keeper and slots it home. Game, set and match.

It’s harsh on Sutton, you can’t fault their endeavour and passion but class tells.

I seek out ‘Roman’ at the break. I feel like Dom Joly and his ‘Red Squirrel’ gag on Trigger Happy TV. “Excuse me are you Roman?” I eventually find Barry; he’s a lovely guy with a passion for the game. He’s a bit miffed at the minute as his power supply has blown up and he can’t update the website.

Sutton up the ante in the second half and play with a bit more belief. Their young captain Luke Shiels is attracting attention from higher league clubs. He gets in good positions on three occasions but his attempts are off the radar.

It’s all over on the hour, once again Bagley is causing mayhem down the Sutton left, he whips a cross in and the unfortunate Dean Hadley can only turn the ball into his own net.

Damien Powell reduces arrears on 64 minutes with a consolation goal.

The highlight of the game is on 75 minutes. I'm now standing on the opposite side of the ground and it’s pelting it down with rain. I’ve got the umbrella up and a Sutton defender has just booted the ball into outer space. The ball is dropping out of the black sky directly towards me. I nonchantly put my left foot forward and flick the ball over the wall, directly into arms of a visiting defender. There’s not a scout in sight.

The game is now being played out. Mrs P texts on 85 minutes, can I nip to Budgens and get a ciabatta and a bottle of bubble bath. Tonight I’m conjuring up a smoked salmon risotto, whilst Mrs P puts her feet up in the bath with a Mills and Boon and a glass of wine. I don’t know, a man’s work is never done.

Sutton 1 Rocester 4

Attendance: 64

Man of the Match: Lee Bagley