Monday, November 27, 2017

Stafford Town 1-3 Racing Club Warwick

I trudge across the playing fields at Orston in Baltic-like conditions. I flick the radio on as I tootle up the A52 heading out of the Vale of Belvoir towards Nottingham. Danny Cowley is weaving his magic at Sincil Bank, as the Imps lead the Sky Blues of Coventry 1-0. I turn onto the Fosse Way and open up the Mondeo engine, before looping back onto the A606 and down the Old Melton Road.

A smiling 'Flying Scotsman' answers his cottage door. He lives on the outskirts of Widmerpool, a village where former Nottingham Forest assistant manager Peter Taylor, Clough's talent spotter, was laid to rest. I taxi the 'Flying Scotsman' and his partner, Sarah, who I've known for over 35 years, over the water to the Nottingham suburb of Carlton. After a few nibbles and drinky-poos, we jump in a cab up to Mapperley Tops, a Sunday lunchtime haunt of yours truly. We visit The Old Flower Shop, The Woodthorpe Top and Castle Rock's Bread and Bitter before returning to base camp. Ms Moon hits the wooden hill first after a bout of hiccups (too many bubbles, honey). The three of us end up shouting songs at You Tube on the TV, drunkedly singing out loud until the early hours.

It's Sunday morning. I was up until 2:30am washing pots and tidying up. Sticky Palms runs a tight ship when he's bevied up. We enjoy some breakfast before I make the return journey to Widmerpool to drop off a fragile Glaswegian and Sarah. It's a beautiful crisp, cold, autumn morning. I haven't the energy to peg it down Carlton Road for my Sunday constitutional. Ms Moon kindly drops me off at the Fox and Grapes. I only have a couple of pints before settling in for the day.

I'm excited for Tuesday evening as I've planned to meet the 'Big Man' in the car park of the Rancliffe Arms in Bunny, before heading out to Leicestershire to watch Shepshed Dynamo v Westfields from Herefordshire. I checked-in with Dynamo's groundsman earlier in the day to see how the pitch was holding up. He said everything was fine, but bless him he can't be held responsible for the deluge of rain which hits our region at tea-time. The game is off and so is my visit to the Ruddington Fish Bar.

I scan the internet for an alternative fixture and spot that Gedling Miners' Welfare and Dunkirk are crossing swords just two miles up the road. It gives me an excuse to call by the Plains Fish Bar - I'll be getting a loyalty card at this rate.

I bump into Miners' Welfare head honcho Tony Hay as I take my customary stroll around the ground. I mention that I'm their lucky charm this season - three visits, three wins. Tony isn't so sure tonight, as they've a few missing and some walking wounded. They run out 2-0 winners after being pinned down in their own half defending a stiff breeze for the first 45 minutes. I'm pleased for them and admire their never-say-die attitude instilled in them by the Management.

There's a tearful farewell scoop with Ms Moon on Thursday evening as she makes her debut in the old 'Pretty Windows.' Don't worry folks, we're not 'parting company' as they say in the football world. No, not at all, the good lady has been invited on a trip of a lifetime to South Africa on safari by her close friend, Jill.

We kiss goodbye on Friday morning. I feel pretty bad as I'm on a team call with my colleagues when she leaves for Heathrow Airport. I don't fancy moping about the house this evening or sitting in a pub on my own, reading my Kindle or scrolling through the social networks. I travel up the A60 on a bitterly cold evening before parking up outside a sports complex on Debdale Lane in Mansfield Woodhouse.

The Central Midlands League have taken the forward step of introducing 'Floody Friday.' It gives the chance to sad old Hoppers like me, whose partner has abandoned him for warmer climbs, the opportunity to tick off new grounds on a Friday. Sherwood Colliery are entertaining Pinxton FC. The pitch is already white-over on my arrival. I view the game with the League's social media man, Tony Squires and a few watching managers. Sherwood wipe the floor with a lacklustre Pinxton, dusting them 4-0. Over 200 people ventured out to watch the game.

It takes two hours for normal blood circulation to return to my toes and feet. God only knows how Captain Scott used to cope. I sit with a brew (mug of tea) and watch an untroubled Aussie skipper, Steve Smith rack up the runs in the Ashes.

I feel like I've lost my left arm with the Princess out in Africa. 'The Big Man' is back in the squad. The plan was to grab a large haddock, minus the chips at the Ruddington Fish Bar, before driving over to Keyworth. Philos Cafe, on the High Street, grabs my attention, as I order up the old favourite, a bacon and brie baguette.

The original plan was to visit Bamber Bridge up in Preston, just off the M6. Lancashire is submerged in water, with the game an early casualty. Once the damp sets in for winter, I like to stay within an hour or so of Nottingham. Stone Old Alleynians v Shifnal Town has caught my eye and ticks off the right boxes.

The Big Man is blowing a gasket that Rushcliffe Borough Council have given the green light to building new houses backing onto his property. He attended a residents meeting during the week and voiced his concerns. He has a beautiful view over fields towards the village of Bradmore. Councillors won't give two hoots about that.

I'd forgotten how fast the 'Big Man' drives as he hurtles down the country roads towards the A453. He gave 'The Taxman' a 'Death Ride' a few years ago, it terrified the poor chap, who has refused a lift ever since.

The plan is to go to Stone, with Stafford Town on 3G as back up. Jesus wept, Gem 106 is on the car radio. It's a relief when we pitch up at a puddle-filled, pot-holed car park after listening to Backstreet Boys, Olly Murs and Blue.

Stone is a market town in the county of Staffordshire with a population of 16,000. Stanley Victor Collymore, one of the best modern day strikers ever to grace The City Ground, was born in the town. Two-footed, explosive pace and deadly finishing, and yet his potential was never really fulfilled.

We lounge about in the warm clubhouse with a cup of tea and sausage roll. I came here a few years ago, but never saw a game as the lights went out when a fuse blew. I'm already fretting about this game and chance upon the young referee on his routine pitch inspection. "Tell me it's on pal", I plea. "As it stands now, it's a no" replies the man in black. I about-turn and march back to the clubhouse. I poke my head around the door, "we're off" I announce to a disbelieving 'Big Man' who is eyeing up another sausage roll. After a Grand Theft Auto piece of driving we arrive at Evans Park just in time for kick off.

Racing Club Warwick are the visitors; a club where WBA and England 'keeper Ben Foster began his career. He was on loan at Wrexham from his parent club Stoke City where Alex Ferguson's son Darren was the manager. Dad was tipped the wink, with Foster signing for Man Utd.

It's bloody freezing and I'm not a fan of 3G, but needs must. That bloody ref at Stone has passed the pitch fit and there has already been a goal - the Big Man is giving me grief and telling me I'll be walking home if it remains 0-0. Neither team can defend for toffee. The visitors are 2-1 to the good at the break.

The ground lacks character. There's a stand on the nearside, with the crowd protected by netting. Me and the Big Man keep on the move to stay warm. He shouts the teas up and gets the Kit Kats in as we watch the half-times rolling in. Lincoln have conceded bang on 45 minutes. I'm still stewing that Coventry turned around a 1-0 deficit last week.

We chat to a few friendly club officials. They have over 30 junior teams which they'd like to eventually feed into the first team and reserves. I admire the ethos and wish other clubs would follow suit - including my old village team. It's my old pipe dream.

Racing Club Warwick put the game to bed, clinching a 3-1 victory which ensures a teeth-clenched 'Death Ride' back to Notts for Sticky Palms.


Man of the Match: Big Man

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