Friday, April 24, 2009

Rushall Olympic 1 Shepshed Dynamo 0

It’s been for Sticky Palms this week readers. I ventured out to Leicester on Sunday looking for talent. It led me to Aylestone Park where Gary Lineker played as a boy, before being snapped up by the Foxes. I had a cup of tea in Lineker’s Lounge; I’d only mark it a six out of ten.

On Tuesday I slipped down to one of my favourite clubs: Greenwood Meadows. The first team were waiting to travel to Graham St Prims in an important EMCL clash, as I walked through the gate. I watched one of their junior teams play a smashing game of football.

Thursday was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back with Mrs P. I went to the Leicestershire FA’s HQ at Holmes Park for a County Cup final. I’m keen to make an impression at Notts County and want to add some real quality to their youth teams.

It’s Saturday morning 6am and as per usual I’m wide awake. I make a quality brew and pour myself a bowl of Cheerios. I log onto the blog and tinker around with my list of new grounds to visit for the 2009/2010 season. If Mrs P spots the list, it will be an instant red card and White Van Man will be clearing his spare room out, awaiting my arrival.

‘The Skipper’ has a schools’ tournament at Ruddington this morning. It gives me the perfect opportunity to watch him and scout the district of Rushcliffe’s finest ten and eleven year old schoolboys.

Mrs P drops me off at The Munch Box sandwich shop. I’m just gnawing my way through a breakfast cob, when my phone goes off. White Van Man puts me on a high state of alert. He’s spotted Trumpy Bolton catching the 8.30am Trent Barton bus into town. He’s off to Wetherspoons for a liquid breakfast. Oh my God!

We’re late back from the football; I had to conduct a little business. It’s well after 12pm when I drive up to Trumpy’s abode. He comes waltzing out the front door with his litre bottle of beer in a Co-op plastic bag.

We stop outside White Van Man’s house, five doors down from Trumpy’s. He’s a non-attendee today as he has a darts tournament. He bolts out the door with a vodka ice bottle in his hand. We all exchange insults.

We drive through Kegworth, onto the M42 and then the A5. Glasgow Rangers are on Five Live, but Trumpy’s tales of recent sessions in Tunbridge Wells, London and Gloucester are far more interesting.

JK phones in asking if I fancy a trip up to Coronation Park to watch Eastwood Town clinch the Unibond Premier League title. I decline his offer; I don’t want to inflict any bad luck on that wonderful club. He promises to keep me updated.

We finally pull into the car park of the Shire Oak.. Some young Asians are washing cars at £3 a go. The council have also dug a big hole close by.

Trumpy has a pint of Butcombe real ale. The Groundhopper has a pint of Stella. The landlady is as miserable as sin. It’s hardly surprising though, as the pub is tuned into the dreadful Heart FM radio station. Sticky’s favourtite singer (not) Lily Allen is mumbling lyrics that I could have written during my tea break.

Trumpy has a ploughmans. I select a bacon and cheese melt baguette. We can’t escape the place quick enough as Heart FM churn out one woeful tune after another.

We’re only three miles from Rushall and are soon outside the ground. There’s a pub adjacent to Dales Lane. Trumpy sees it as an opportunity to tick another off. A couple of drunks are at the bar talking jibberish. I remark from their accent that perhaps they are from Kosovo or Albania. It turns out that they are locals talking in a Black Country accent.

Summer Nights is on the jukebox. Jesus Christ where’s Heart FM when you need it. Trumpy has a tap-footing moment to German DJ Sash’s 1997 hit ‘Stay.’

We leave the car in the pub car park and stroll across the road to the ground. It’s £6 admission. The programme costs £1.50. It’s difficult to describe the quality of this programme. In three years of groundhopping it is without doubt the finest publication I’ve seen. It has 82 pages of toilet reading. Programme editor Darren Stockhall should be given the freedom of Walsall.

Rushall Olympic were originally formed in 1893. If results go their way today they will end up sneaking a play-off spot. They need to win and hope either Carlton Town or Glapwell slip up.

Trumpy is in overdrive now and bulldozes his way into the bar. His face lights up when he sees they sell Younger’s Scotch Bitter. He claims not have supped this brew since heavy sessions in the 70s at Keyworth Tennis Club.

We’re outside now holding a post mortem with the Shepshed fans on why their season has ended so miserably. They were shambolic last time Sticky saw them at home versus Lincoln United. Manager Lee Wilson picks a weakened team today. First team regulars: Screaton, Millns, Norris, Hateley, Robinson and Ben Saunders are all on the bench.

Johnny Cash’s football anthem Ring of Fire is on the speaker system as the teams come out to commence battle.

I leave Trumpy behind the goal talking to a Shepshed supporter, and take an amble around the stadia. I bump into Ian Screaton’s dad and exchange pleasantries. Across the other side of the pitch the noisiest fans in the Unibond Division One South are in full flow. I chat with Shepshed’s Director of Football Andy Macmillan who points out a few of the strange faces playing today for Dynamo.

The first half is grim. I’ve seen better entertainment on BBC2’s Saturday afternoon film matinee. Shepshed have been on holiday since Easter. It’s basically a getting to know you session for their untried players.

Rushall look tense and tentative. The pitch is not conducive to playing good football; the grass is as long as a racecourse on the final run-in.

Pics’ striker Nathan Lamey heads wide as Rushall take a stranglehold on the game.

I’ve not seen Trumpy for half an hour but rest assured the social club till will have been ringing at an alarming rate. Ironically we meet up in the bar at the break. It’s another Scotch Bitter for the legend.

Sky Sports Soccer Saturday show is on the TV. Eastwood are winning and Ilkeston are losing up at one of Sticky’s favourite watering holes: Whitby. Trumpy is miffed to hear that the Tricky Trees have grabbed a much-needed point against a ten man Tangerines at Bloomfield Road. He despises Nottingham Forest.

The second half is an excellent game of football. Shepshed throw on a few of their big guns to even things up, but Rushall are hungrier for a result. Dynamo go close from a free-kick.

Trumpy said all along whoever kicks down the hill after the break will win the game. Rushall turn up the heat and play without fear. But stand-in Dynamo ‘keeper Gavin Saxby is looking invincible. He tips goal-bound shots away for corners from both Lamey and Hayward.

Shepshed’s Rob Norris goes on a long mazy run but is denied by a brave block from Pics’ ‘keeper Tony Breedon.

Saxby is flinging himself all over his area; he makes one save after another.

The guy next to me is listening to Walsall versus MK Dons on a radio that looks like it was made in the early 20th Century. It’s crackling and picking up interference. Trumpy asks him if he can tune into Radio Caroline or Radio Luxemburg.

There’s a close scare on 75 minutes when a Rushall midfielder smashes a shot from 25 yards out, just wide of the post, narrowly missing Trumpy’s pint of bitter, sitting on the wall. He remonstrates with the offender.

Glapwell are getting beat at Stamford, all Rushall need now is a win to secure a play-off spot. There’s two minutes to go, Saxby has made another spectacular save but has conceded a corner. The ball in is inch perfect and headed home by a leaping Preston.

It’s Rushall’s biggest game of the season and yet only 110 people have bothered to turn up; over a third of those are from Shepshed.

There’s punching of the air and jubilation at the final whistle. Rushall Olympic have sneaked through the back door into the play-offs by plus one goal difference.

Man of the Match: Gavin Saxby

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