Saturday, August 11, 2012
Parkgate FC 2 Runcorn Town 3
My heart is beating ten to the dozen. What reaction will I get? Is he going to turn his back on me and have the cob on? I race into the lounge. How did he take the news that Ken Bruce had put in a week’s holiday to be replaced by the atrocious Zoe Ball? Will Murphy have mental health issues? My poor little budgie; all alone for ten days, with only Radio 2 for company.
He flies out of his cage like Usain Bolt, landing on me and wrapping his claws around my neck. He’s tweeting and I’m blubbering like a baby. “Daddy’s home, Murphy lad.” He spends the remainder of the evening perched on my finger watching the Olympics.
It’s Tuesday evening and I have a dilemma. Notts County, a club I don’t support, but work part-time for, are playing their fierce rivals from across the water. Sticky junior and his pals are going, but I just can’t crank myself up for it.
A far more entertaining evening is spent down Lenton Lane, watching a feast of football served up by Ian Upton’s Dunkirk and Leicestershire’s Kirby Muxloe. ‘Uppo’ is on fine form and is sporting a pair of Bradley Wiggins sideburns. The Boatmen cruise to a 4-1 victory. I love every minute of it.
I pick up ‘junior’ and his pals from outside the Nottingham Forest Ticket Office. The Magpies have clawed back a two goal deficit. ‘Junior’ doesn’t want to talk about it. He has more excuses than BBC athletics pundit Michael Johnson.
I wine and dine Mrs P at our favourite hostelry – the Plough Inn at Normanton-on-the-Wolds - on Friday evening. We’re tucked away in a corner of the restaurant. A table for two, with a window view. The beer garden is stacked out on a gorgeous, sultry summer’s evening. One pint of Timothy Taylor’s and a glass of red wine ensure a rare night of undisturbed sleep.
I rise at 8am and prepare a pot of Yorkshire Tea for one – after all I’m visiting the People’s Republic of South Yorkshire later on today. I switch the DAB radio on to hear the fag end of ‘Good Morning Judge’ by Stockport 70s band 10CC, on the Anneka Rice show on Radio 2.
Brian Matthew’s Sound of the 60s has gone off the boil, folks. Apart from The Kinks, the first half an hour is dross. I switch off and listen to the brilliant Third Degree, Smoove re-mix of Kylie Minogue’s ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head.’ It’s the coolest track on the planet.
Mrs P is off shopping again folks, to the big city of Nottingham. I’ll tell you what Lord Coe and your filthy rich Tory mates; if there was an Olympic sport called ‘Shopping’ then Mrs P would have bagged us another Gold by now.
I take the short drive down to Keyworth United’s HQ on Platt Lane. Sticky junior is making his debut for the ressies today. Occasional groundhopper, Alan ‘Jacko’ Jackson, is the manager and he’s none too pleased at the abuse aimed in his direction on last week’s blog. I give him a wide berth. Junior looks sharp and in the zone.
I nip back home and knock up a ham, cheese and coleslaw sandwich on Tiger bread. I root around in the fridge and find a ‘reduced price’ egg custard. All my postcodes are sorted and punched into the Sat Nav. I head out towards the M1 North.
‘Chappers’ is fronting the Olympics radio coverage for Five Live. He’s giving the ‘Performance Director of Swimming’ a grilling over the dismal displays from GB in the pool. The guy sounds Australian; no wonder we were sub standard.
Roddy Forsyth is reporting in from Peterhead, where Lee McCulloch has just scored Rangers’ first ever goal out of top flight football. Forsyth describes the pitch as one of the best he’s ever seen. The groundsman doubles up as a greenkeeper at Royal St Andrews Golf Club.
The motorway is empty. I’ve earmarked a pub to tick-off in the village of Wentworth, 4 miles outside of Rotherham. Sat Nav takes me off the M1 at Junction 35A. I swing the ‘Rolls Royce’ into a tight space in the car park of the George and Dragon.
Families are sat on a terrace, at the entrance of the pub, having a spot of lunch. I order a pint of Golden Pippin from the Copper Dragon Brewery, near Skipton. I walk into the sumptuous back garden. There’s a brick built bar and barbecue area called the ‘Dragon’s Den.’ The smell of cooked onions drifts across the garden.
The church bells are chiming and kids are clambering around on the adventure playground. The barman at the ‘Dragon’s Den’ brags about Yorkshire’s performance at the Olympics. I perform six three point turns in the pub car park. It’s straight out of the Reginald Molehusband school of driving.
It’s a short 4 mile drive in the rolling countryside before I hit the town of Parkgate. I pass the Music Factory Entertainment Group which is owned by 80s and 90s novelty pop act Jive Bunny.
The Roundwood Stadium on Green Lane is just up the road in Rawmarsh. It’s one of those complexes that are at the heart of a community. There’s an 18 hole parkland golf course, with a bowls club adjacent to it. Rotherham United uses two neighbouring, immaculately turned-out pitches as a training ground.
I stroll up a narrow pathway towards the turnstile. It’s £5 on the gate and a further £1.20 for a 16 page programme.
I fall in love with the ground immediately. It’s on high ground with Rotherham city centre forming the backdrop. I walk past the tea bar and a small stand with blue tip up seats.
I get chatting to an affable fellow whose lad plays centre half for The Steelmen. I amble up the nearest touchline past a blue-painted covered terrace. Concrete steps create a panoramic view of the steelworks. Modern housing backs onto the ground. The far end of the stadium is open. The opposite side of the ground has a neatly trimmed privet hedge running approximately 100 metres. Standing is not permitted.
What the hell is the referee phaffing about at? The game mysteriously kicks off at 3.06pm. I thumb through the programme to see who the officials are. All is explained; they are from Mansfield.
The pitch is immaculate; Lee Westwood could practise his putting on it. I’m later told that the Club have a full-time groundsman; he spreads fertiliser on the surface every four weeks. It’s nearly as good as my front lawn.
I get chin-wagging to a couple of friendly officials from Runcorn. I mention former Nottingham Forest winger Ian Woan, who Brian Clough paid the paltry fee of £80,000 for his services from Runcorn FC in 1990. Can you imagine a twice winning Champions League team dipping their toe into the lower leagues these days?
Parkgate are denied a cast-iron penalty when Cusworth is hauled to the ground when through on goal. Moments later a Runcorn forward rounds the keeper and falls to the ground as if shot by a sniper, the referee waves play on.
Runcorn race into a three goal lead. Shanley smashes home a loose ball from 20 yards. McShane doubles their lead with a header at the back stick courtesy of a pinpoint free-kick from Scott Burton. It’s game over shortly before the break, with Potter converting from close range. Forbes- Swindells rattles the woodwork before the referee blows for half time.
I take a wander around the Pavilion Bar. Disgruntled golfers chatter about fluffed chips and lipped-out putts. Parkgate supporters sit in disbelief at their team’s first half horror show. I walk down the stairs and notice a poster advertising a ‘Sportsman’s Evening With Tommy Docherty.’
The Steelmen make a spirited come back. The crossbar is rattled again with Forbes-Swindells guiding home the rebound. The same player curls home a free-kick to set up a grand finale.
Runcorn hang on in ‘mystery time.’ They have the game’s outstanding player in Scott Burton, who at 24 years of age, was recruited a year ago from the Cheshire Sunday League. He has an edge to his game, is light on his feet, moves into space and has a turn of pace.
Man of the Match: Scott Burton