Sunday, April 21, 2013
Selston 2-2 Wollaton
We’re 2-0 down against a team (Underwood Villa) with a 100% record. No shame in that. We’ve played with nerves and created very little. Two goals have come from sucker punch long throw-ins. My centre-half has fresh-aired a clearance and my ‘keeper has been rooted to his line. I tell them to remember the 99 things they’ve done well and not the one mistake they have made.
I jab each player in the chest and tell them how magnificent they have been for us this season. I shake each players hand as we exit the changing room and wish them good luck. We play a beautiful game in the second period, pinning back our opponents. These boys have never let the club down. Their hearts are massive, as big as a bucket.
I settle down on Friday evening to a bottle of Red and the desperately sad tale of flawed footballer Justin Fashanu on my Kindle. Mrs P is watching worst ITV drama in history. It’s called the Ice Cream Girls and composes of a script I could have written in my lunch break.
It’s 9 am on Saturday morning, the console on my mobile is flashing. The team we’re meant to be playing today can’t raise a side I’m not happy; it’s too short notice to whizz down the M1 to watch the final ever game at Barnet’s Underhill ground. It’ll be a sell-out crowd.
I polish off a raspberry and custard lattice bar and wash it down with an award-winning pot of Yorkshire Tea for one. I glance at the front page of the Nottingham Post, former Tricky Trees defender Wesley Morgan is up in court for a driving misdemeanour.
The Notts Senior League Groundhop began yesterday evening. Five games are to be played in 24 hours. 246 of those carrier bag holding hoppers rolled up at Magdala’s ROKO ground on Friday evening.
An eagle-eyed caller phones in to say his local side Woodford United have a deficit of minus 154. Baker laughs out loud like a madman. I exit at Junction 27 and drive through the village of Underwood, home to the Notts County Cup u15 Champions. There’s a Scarecrow Festival about to start.
I chug along the main drag in Selston, making a right turn at a petrol station before being stopped in my tracks by a couple of officials in high visibility coats. It’s £3 on the gate. I park up between the roped-off cricket square and the football pitch.
The place is already a hive of activity. There are bloody hoppers all over the place. Mind you Trumpy Bolton would be proud of them, as one or two tuck into a few alcoholic beverages. A special ale has been brewed called ‘Game Over’ to commemorate the Groundhop.
A marquee has been erected, where there are one or two charity stalls. Trestles have been laid out where eager hoppers can snap up badges and old football programmes. It’s not for Sticky, but each to their own.
The ground is right up there with the NSL greats. There’s a brick-built clubhouse and the covered George Elliot Stand to the far side of the ground. There’s a narrow concrete raised path that takes you around the perimeter of the ground, at the back of the nearest goal.
The game begins in chaos. Selston give away possession, Wollaton storm forward and thump a shot against the bar following a wonderful save from the impressive Luke Wigley.
All these hoppers are as happy as Larry. They're either cooing and caressing their new badges or clutching hold of that sought after programme from a non league game in 1967. Three or four of them adjacent to us discuss the appalling gun culture in the USA.
Wollaton come out all guns blazing and equalise through Dane Rawson. Referee Rolph loves being the centre of attention He blows that bloody whistle more than a Bow Street Runner. Player after player is bollocked up hill and down dale. He dishes out more cards than Postman Pat. Former Grantham Town manager Wayne Hallcro receives a yellow one after a tasty challenge as a bit of ‘violence’ creeps into the game.
Former Lincoln United player Richard Ranshaw looks to have wrapped up the game for Wollaton with a rasping drive into the corner of the onion bag. But they have not allowed for what Dick calls ‘Rolphy Time.’
Man of the Match: Hop Organiser, Rob Hornby