Monday, May 1, 2017
Southport 1-1 Lincoln City
The Notts Senior League is at the fag end of the season. Magdala are playing title-chasing Clifton All Whites. Some would say the highlight of the game is a 25-yard free kick dispatched into the top corner by mercurial striker Ben Clark. I preferred a failed scorpion kick attempt by a spectator, who was trying to tap an alehouse clearance back into play. The match ball finds its way through a small hole in the fence, leaving a scurrying, red-faced supporter chasing the ball through the car park before it ends up in rush hour traffic on Wilford Lane.
It's 6 pm on Friday evening, I'm finally shutting down my laptop for the weekend. I've landed a couple of big orders at the close of play. I breathe a huge sigh of relief. I'm so exhausted that I haven't the energy for my usual start of the weekend stroll and early doors activity at the Trent Bridge Inn or King Billy in Sneinton.
It's not even 8 am on Saturday and I'm already parking up at Costa Coffee on Daleside Road. Ms Moon is not at her best on early starts. I'm hoping a large skinny latte can keep her calm. Dermot O'Leary bangs out some decent tunes as we head up the M6 north. I grimace my way through the nauseating Graham Norton and that daft agony aunt he has on each week.
We head up to Haig Avenue, home of Southport FC. The Sandgrounders were founded in 1881 and are currently managed by former Stockport County and Blackpool striker Andy Preece. Both Mark Wright and Peter Davenport have previously managed the club.
Southport is a large seaside town in Merseyside, with a population of 90,000. Its attractions include Lord Street, a tree-lined boulevard in the town centre, once the home of Napoleon III of France. The town is at the centre of the English Golf Coast, with nearby Royal Birkdale Golf Club hosting the 2017 British Open Championship. On the 9th December 1886 the worst lifeboat disaster in England occurred off the Southport coast. A cargo ship on its way to South America got in difficulty in storm-force winds. Twenty-eight lifeboat crew lost their lives that night.
Born or raised notable folk from Southport include: Soft Cell singer Marc Almond, Confessions actor Robin Askwith, golfer Tommy Fleetwood, comedian Lee Mack, Red Rum's trainer 'Ginger' McCain, actor Sir Anthony Quayle, actress Miranda Richardson, goalkeeper Jimmy Rimmer, who won a European Cup winners medal twice, footballer Jack Rodwell, historian A J P Taylor and chef Marcus Wareing. On the 11th October 2016 actress Jean Alexander, who played Coronation Street nosy parker Hilda Ogden, celebrated her 90th birthday. A few days later she passed away in Southport Hospital.
Over two and a half thousand visiting supporters have made the 300-mile round trip. Manager Danny Cowley has made wholesale changes of late. Only four regulars start. Sticky's favourite, Terry Hawkridge, is playing in the unfamiliar position of left back.
City soon get a grip on the game. They open the scoring through Peterborough United on loan striker Lee Angol after unselfish work by the impressive Jack Muldoon. Big Lincoln striker Matt Rhead is proper showboating. His touch is deft and outrageous. His headers and chest-downs are played into a colleagues path. He sees an effort come off the woodwork.
Lincoln are trying to run the clock down and are playing with ten men, due to an Angol injury, after already subbing three players in a triple change. Southport are awarded a free kick out on the far right touchline. Neil Ashton pings in a ball which hangs in the wind, it sails over the Lincoln 'keeper who is 'cleaning windows' to give Southport a share of the spoils and deny the Imps a 100 points total. Danny and Nicky Cowley will be cross.
We finally rock up at the Malmaison in Liverpool after a tortuous drive and a Ms Moon hissy-fit with the new sat nav. The evening is spent in the real ale region of town. I tick off a few good pub guide entries before a revisit to the delightful Liverpool Philharmonic Rooms - a beautifully preserved Victorian pub on Hope Street. We return to the Malmaison; Sticky is particularly worse for wear.
The place is already bustling with folk despite it being still 90 minutes before kick off. I love the preamble and build up before a game, but often fret about collecting tickets. I managed to bag two tickets for £39 each on the StubHub, so I'm pretty chuffed with myself. Ms Moon loves a big game.
We take our seats up in the heavens on the second to back row. The view of the ground is stunning. I first came here in 1986 with Nottingham Forest. Dave Watson scored two for the Toffees that day on his debut. An ashen-faced Ms Moon returns from the refreshment bar having just parted with £5 for a bottle of water and a bag of Starburst - Opal Fruits in old money. Welcome to the Premier League, 'Princess.'
Chelsea up the gears in the second half and score a wonderful goal through the Tenerife-born Pedro. Cahill scores a second before Willian kills off any chance of a comeback. Everton are without pace. One or two regulars are injured, but the highly rated Lukaku and Bartley flatter to deceive, with the crowd getting on their backs. Only Tom Davies rises above the mediocrity.
Man of the Match: Jack Muldoon