Sunday, January 28, 2018

Gedling MW 1-2 Kimberley MW

It's Saturday evening and Ms Moon has just dropped me off on Main Road in Gedling. I wander into The Willowbrook, a Castle Rock pub. Back in the day it was called the Willowbrook Club. We used to go in there to socialise after South Notts Village League cricket matches against Gedling Village. It reminded me of the Winchester Club off Minder, with Dave the landlord.

I quaff a pint of real ale as I scroll through twitter checking on all the Non-League final scores. As I exit the pub a white illuminated light catches the corner of my eye. I walk into Ladbrokes flashing a cheesy grin. I'd expected security in the joint as I'm about to empty the tills. I produce my winning ticket. A grumpy cashier at the fag end of a twelve-hour shift counts out a £27.50 return. Stoke City, Man Utd and Blackburn Rovers - I really can't 'arf pick 'em.

I've been mooching about the house for a few days. I need summat to get my juices flowing. The wintry rain is seeing game after game fall by the wayside. I spot that 'The Lincoln' are playing Peterborough United in the much-maligned Checkatrade Trophy at Sincil Bank. The Imps are two games away from playing at Wembley for the first time in their 135-year-old history. Folk are boycotting the competition because of Premier League under 21 teams being allowed in. Chuff that for a game of soldiers, if it means a trip to the Twin Towers.

I squeeze in enough time for a re-visit to the Sea Queen on Rookery Lane, a mile outside Lincoln city centre. Mini cod, chips and peas are a steal at £3.50. I have to eat them on the hoof as the rush-hour and football traffic backs up on the Newark Road.

I cut through a snicket and find my way onto the High Street. Hell's Bells, I've never seen so many rozzers parked up and patrolling the street corners. They must have thought Sticky jnr was rocking up with Dad.

It turns out to be the game of the season. It's 2-2 after an hour. Former Stockport County forward and ex Imp, Danny Lloyd has scored a belter. Our man Danny Rowe, on loan from Ipswich Town, has too. The fourth official indicates there's four minutes extra time. Former Posh wide man and often Lincoln's talisman, Harry Anderson, scores a cracker on 92 minutes. A lung-busting 50 yard run by Matt Green, who must be out on his feet, sees him outpace a tiring defender, before drawing the 'keeper and finishing with aplomb. Me and the bloke behind me high five one another. What a wonderful evening it has been.

I'm still buzzing the following day despite being stuck in traffic on the M6 North. I spend the evening at a Premier Inn close to Manchester Airport with a colleague, George. I'd have taken him to a game but his flight didn't land until gone 8pm. It's ironic that I'm in Manchester when news breaks of the death of The Fall lead singer Mark E Smith. They are a band I've followed since the early days of 'Live at The Witch Trials and 'Grotesque.' Apparently every time he bumped into Morrissey he used to say "Morning Steven."

It's Friday evening and the end to a frustrating week at work. I need to relax with a few beers. Ms Moon is up Mapperley Tops with her mate Jill, drinking cider at a Wetherspoons watering hole. I place another little bet at Ladbrokes in Hockley, before legging it up towards Canning Circus. I love a mini pub crawl up here. On February 2nd The Overdraught will be a welcome addition to this 'Real Ale Quarter.' I visit the usual haunts - Hand and Heart, Sir John Borlase and Organ Grinder, before returning home to play The Cure back catalogue on You Tube TV.

We both have the mother-of-all lie-ins on Saturday morning. I'm in proper Mrs Doubtfire mode once I kick-start the morning. Every cupboard in the kitchen is emptied, cleaned and replenished. I had hoped to watch my old club Keyworth United up at AFC Kilburn near Belper. It bites the dust due to a waterlogged pitch. It's either going to be Heanor Town or Gainsborough Trinity.

I fancy another peek at Shay Brennan the Shepshed Dynamo forward who caught my eye at Coventry United a few months ago. It sways my decision to travel to Heanor as Shepshed are the visitors. The pitch has been passed fit by a Conference standard referee. It's only a half an hour trip up the road.

Paul Gambacinni's Pick of the Pops is on Radio 2. The year is 1985; the same as it was on TOTP 2 on Thursday night. Ms Moon loves the 80s. She sings her heart out to 'I Know Him So Well' by Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson. I'm surprised it doesn't cause a multiple pile-up on the A610, but it does beat my attempt at 'Atmosphere' by Russ Abbott on Thursday evening.

It's £12 on the gate for the two of us. The programme is £1. Ms Moon buys a couple of 50/50 tickets. We've both not had time for lunch, so it's full speed ahead to the snack bar. Pie, chips, mushy peas and gravy is £3.75 per portion and yummy it is too.

The pitch is cut up quite badly and extremely muddy. I'm informed by a supporter that the ref from the Birmingham area has been here since 2pm and has inspected the pitch suited, booted and in a pair of hush puppies at a bargain-priced £29.99 from Dolcis.

I notice the officials appear from out of the dressing room at 2:40pm; it's good of them to grace us with their presence. There's been no rain or any changes in the weather conditions since 2pm. One or two Shepshed players are in his ear about the pitch condition. I might add there's no standing water.

I smell a rat immediately as I see the bearded official heading down the slope towards an area of concern. Where the hell has he been for the last half an hour? Perhaps him and his two assistants were watching an old episode of Crossroads on the i-Pad or, maybe playing a game of gin rummy.

I pick up my pace and leave Ms Moon for dead as I stalk the ref up the touchline. "Don't you dare call this off now when you've been here since 2pm" I shout in vain. There's loads of headshaking and finger-pointing as he addresses the two managers. I know the game is off but want my pound of flesh.

I'm leaning on the gate that's close to the entrance to the dressing rooms as the flustered official draws ever closer to me. Lenny the Lion, the Heanor mascot, is next to me. We've agreed that I will rinse the ref and he'll maul him. I don't swear (Ms Moon thinks I might of done). I remember the finger-wagging and "bungling fool", "blithering idiot", "absolute clown" and  "blatant disregard regard for paying spectators" before I storm off in the direction of the turnstiles with a hugely embarrassed Ms Moon traipsing twenty yards behind me.

I tell the lass on the turnstile to keep my money but not to pay 'Benny' from Crossroads one bean in expenses. Ms Moon apologises for my behaviour. I'm so pent up that I take a wrong turning. It's a full five minutes before I'm reunited with a horror-struck Ms Moon.

'The Princess' knows it's probably best to keep schtum. I don't lose my shit too often. A few memorable occasions include the Charlton Arms in Ludlow, Malmaison in Liverpool and South Yorkshire Police in 2002 (let's face it who hasn't fallen out with them).

Ms Moon tries to lighten the mood by turning on the radio. Jesus wept, even Gambacinni has finished his shift. I hate Radio 2. I hate football. I hate everybody. That dimwit of a ref has given us five minutes to find another game, whilst he trims his beard and gets spruced up in anticipation of a night out in Nottingham's hipster area of Hockley.

I'm fuming. Who the hell appointed the drongo? In a complete 'diva' fit I phone up the Derbyshire FA to complain about the imbecile. On what is their busiest day of the week I'm not surprised to hear they're closed until Monday morning.

I come out of my sulk and catch my breath by the time we reach Basford. Gedling MW and Kimberley MW are playing up on Plains Road. It's 3:30pm as we stick the car in the Nuffield Gym. The gateman is still on sentry duty. I hand over £10. Just as the turnstile gate clicks over once, I see a Kimberley corner sailing into the box which enables Alex Doyle to open the scoring.

I love coming up here. My first visit was back in 2007 when I witnessed Gedling MW upset the applecart with a fingernail-biting win over high-flying Atherstone Town. I met Tony Hay that day. He's remained as a volunteer through good and bad times. I introduce him to Ms Moon as he snaps away on his camera at the far end of the ground. Tony kindly invites us into hospitality for refreshments and a sandwich. Gedling equalise close to half-time with a well-worked goal scored by debutant Connor Croft.

I check my betting slip at the break before scrunching it in my hand and lobbing it into the nearest litter bin. I can hear the foghorn dulcet tones of the Kimberley manager, but he's conspicuous by his absence from the technical area. Rumour is that he's serving a six-match ban following a touchline misdemeanor(s) (he's on first name terms with the Notts FA). I notice the acting manager is receiving instructions from the suspended gaffer by walkie-talkies they bought from Smyths Toys in Colwick en-route to the ground. It's comedy gold as the messages are relayed to the players word for word. It like a scene from Phoenix Nights with Max and Paddy: "Can you hear me now?"

We wander over the far side. I have a chat with 'Kimbo' legends Stephen Hobster and Danny Staley. 'Hobo' has just bought into a pub called the 'Caught 'n Bowled' in Giltbrook (get yourself down there folks, it's named after Notts ledge Samit Patel). The suspended manager does an embarrassing 'Dad Dance' as Kimberley grab all three points following a late strike from former Nottingham Forest defender Aaron Mitchell.

Man of the Match: Ms Moon for putting up with my hissy fits xx

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Collingham 1-0 Dinnington Town

There's two minutes of 'mystery time' left (an old John Motson saying) at Huddersfield Town's Kirklees Stadium. The Terriers have stunk the place out with a substandard and embarrassing second half performance against a rejuvenated West Ham United. The car's parked miles away. We take the mother-of-all wrong turnings and end up in the Hammers' escort being frog-marched back to the train station. They'll be a good old knees-up on the old 'Joanna' in the 'Queen Vic' on Albert Square once the lads and lasses alight the train at Walford Station.

The A62 is clogged up with traffic. I quickly check the live scores on my mobile. Notts County have grabbed a point at Sincil Bank. Lincoln have only taken two points off the promotion front-runners in League Two, out of a possible twelve. It's not good enough.

We spend a lovely evening up at my brother's gaff in York. He rustles up a fish pie as we catch up with one another, as Christmas was blighted with illness. The cobwebs are blown away the following morning with a brisk walk around the villages of Upper Poppleton and Nether Poppleton, before returning home to Notts.

I've got the hump on Monday evening. I have to be out of bed at the crack of dawn on Tuesday morning for a sales conference in Glasgow. The flight's delayed for over an hour. Scotland is covered in a blanket of snow. Thankfully Glasgow city centre and the airport are clear of the dreaded white powder.

The iconic Grand Central Hotel is a cracker and is situated inside Glasgow Railway Station. My mate Lee and I manage to slip out after evening dinner. We stumble across the Cosmopol Karaoke Bar on Hope Street. I get on the Guinness and have a flick through the songs you can sing on stage. I had hoped to belt out 'Donald Where's Your Troosers' or 'Party Fears Two' by Dundee synth-pop band The Associates. It's gone midnight and most of the Scots are spangled in the bar. We leave an 'Amy Winehouse' on stage and nip back to the hotel for a nightcap before turning in for bed.

It's Friday evening. I jump on a bus out of Carlton after a frustrating day 'at the office.' I alight the bus in Hockley and wander up Goosegate. I'm about to place my first football bet of the season after 48 hours of live research. Huddersfield are the worst team I've seen in the Premier League since King Billy's D***y County back in 2008. Burnley have packed up their buckets and spades for the summer holidays (Man Utd will beat them) and Blackburn will cake-walk League Two. I have a £5 treble at Ladbrokes, before wandering into the Market Square, up Friar Lane and across Maid Marian Way.

I climb the hill up towards the Crafty Crow, a wood-furnished tap house that serves real ales from the Magpie Brewery. I choose one from the specials board called Jack Spaniels, a Gundog ale, who are based in Daventry. Ms Moon soon joins me. After supping a few drinks, whilst lounging about on a Chesterfield sofa, we up sticks and have one for the road in the Bell Inn. An impatient old Irishman in a tweed flat cap and old Mackintosh trench coat is about to lose his cool at the bar. He asks me if I'm from Nottingham, I reply in the affirmative. "It's a shithole" he shouts out, before disappearing into the night (bit harsh, has he ever been to Waterford?).

I'm shouting out at my TV on Saturday. It's taken me months to work out (actually 'Taggart' told me) that I can shout the name of a band and You Tube will play any song. I scroll through my twitter timeline whilst listening to tracks from Closer by Joy Division.

I'm all excited about going to Wellingborough, it'll give me the chance to write about post-punk band Bauhaus. I used to worship Pete Murphy and Bauhaus. I saw them at Futurama at Stafford Bingley Hall in 1981 and twice more at Nottingham's Rock City. They had the novel idea of hiring an old double-decker London bus to play a gig whilst travelling up and down the streets of Northampton city centre.

Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke (yawn) was also born in the town. What were Mum and Dad thinking, spelling Thom like that? Can you imagine the poor sod ringing up for a doctor's appointment, "it's Thom, with an 'H', ok ya."  Thom had a tough start in life. He was born with a paralysed left eye and had six operations before the age of 6 years old. The final operation was botched, leaving Yorke with a drooping eyelid. This may account for some of his morose song-writing and haunting voice.

There's a great scene from Father Ted in which Ted and Dougal have been looking after a suicidal priest called Father Kevin, who at every opportunity tries to kill himself; even after losing at snakes 'n ladders (which takes some doing when playing Dougal). After six months he's as happy as Larry and deemed fit to return to the priesthood. He catches a bus on Craggy Island back to the mainland, full of the joys of spring. The bus driver shouts out to the priest "Father, do you mind if I turn the radio on?" The DJ plays Radiohead's new single. The priest sinks further into depression.

Wellingborough Whitworth have 99% confirmed that their United Counties League game versus St Andrews from Leicester will take place. That 1% nags away at me as Ian Curtis builds to a crescendo. It's with good reason too; Whitworth confirm that the game has been hosed off.

Chuffing hell, what are we going to do now? I can see Ms Moon has got her eye on the cinema followed by some tapas. I need to knock that nail on the head. Blimey Charlie, Collingham FC, just outside Newark, are saying the game is confirmed as ON - heavens to betsy. I have a flick through the Good Pub Guide and clock the Fountain Hotel in Tuxford as a pub that still needs ticking off. I tell Ms Moon that Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep and 'Terry Tapas' will have to wait.

I've got the bottom lip on by the time we reach the roundabout at Lowdham. I'm 2-0 down in 'name that tune' on Absolute 80s. I pull it back to 3-3 on the A1, but Michael Jackson and Dire Straits see me relinquish my crown.

The Fountain Hotel ain't much to write home about. It looks run down and deserted. I poke my head into the Lounge to be greeted by a young barmaid. We're told that food is served in the Bar only. The same girl appears in the Bar. I say to her that I've just seen her sister in the Lounge - "I haven't got a sister" she replies. The food on the menu looks appalling and they've no decent beers on. I have a quick half of Goose Island and Ms Moon a frothy machine-made latte.

Christ on a bike, how the heck is that place a Good Pub Guide entry. I send the GPG a grumpy tweet asking that very same question (no reply as of yet). The Caunton Beck is our (my) saving grace. They rustle up a couple of sandwiches that you could use as doorstops. I played cricket just behind the pub once. It was the one and only time that I've ever got caught behind by a wicket-keeper ( cue, it's the only ball you've ever laid a bat on, Sticky).

Collingham is located on the banks of the River Trent in Nottinghamshire with a population of just under 3,000. I remember my local cricket club winning a tense semi-final back in 1996, when blog legend Barthez ran out their last batsman with a direct throw from point. Former Lincoln City legend and Notts County manager Steve Thompson played that day.

The football club was formed in 1887. I've blogged Newark Town there as a ground-share and have even managed the world famous Clifton All Whites (U19) there a few years back, when we got a dusting over (hairdryer came out at half-time). It's £3 each on the gate and £1 for a programme, that's dished out by a jolly gateman.

Ms Moon has been tipped the wink about the famous sausage rolls that are supplied by the local butcher. She dashes quicker to the bar than Trumpy Bolton, as the word is supplies are in demand. We go halves. It's the greatest sausage roll on earth. Take a bow J D Nicholson.

I'm not expecting much on the football front. Collingham 19s were tip top a few years ago, but not many have stuck around. Dinnington will be in-your-face if my last viewing is anything to go by - they've brought a fair few supporters too. There's a minute's silence held for the untimely death of Cyrille Regis, who was plucked from Non-League obscurity by West Bromwich Albion.

Collingham have pace but lack guile - they couldn't hit an elephant's arse with a banjo. The game-changer is on 30 minutes. A Collingham player skips down the wing, staying on his feet after one bad challenge. The centre-half is pulled out of position and comes careering towards the boy before lunging in with a sickening challenge that could have been a leg-breaker. The ref picks his back pocket and correctly shows a Red card. He's harangued for a full three minutes, Man Utd style, by the visiting players.

A supporter in the crowd has lost the plot and is arguing with all and sundry. A guy comes flying out of the clubhouse. They offer each other outside before a club official intervenes and calm is restored.
The supporter is so hot and bothered that he has to remove his coat and scarf  (it's close to freezing point).

I manage to have a word with 'Dinnington Ultra' Shih Tzu dog, Ted. He's not too chuffed with the decision either. I don't argue the toss with him as he has a decent pair of gnashers on him for a little 'un and might nip my ankles.

The Dinnington goalkeeper starts acting the clown in the second half. The Big Time Charlie is petulant, immature and juvenile in his behaviour. The smile is firmly wiped off his face when he fails to come and collect a corner in the 92nd minute with the ball finally finding the back of the net following a desperate attempt to clear by a Dinnington defender. It's a real shame, as the visitors have given their all with 10 men for over an hour and probably deserved a point for all their efforts.

Man of the Match: Ted the Shih Tzu

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Huddersfield Town 1-4 West Ham United

It's Monday lunchtime on 18th December. I'm browsing the internet looking for a Premiership fixture in the New Year that'll get my juices flowing - I only do one a year. Last season we went to the wonderful, cobbled backstreets of Goodison Park to watch Everton and champions-elect Chelsea. Wantaway Brazilian-born striker Diego Costa was different gravy that day. He turned Phil Jagielka and Ashley Williams inside out. His attitude and effort were astounding, considering he wanted to toodle pip off to China

I scroll down the BBC website Premiership fixtures for Saturday January 13th until one catches my eye. It's a game that both teams will believe they can win. I punch out the Huddersfield Town ticket office number out on my mobile. The phone is picked up instantly. I receive a warm and pleasant customer service experience. I bag two tickets for £30 each in the lower stand of the 'Fantastic Media Stand' behind the goal. The phone call is in complete contrast to the one made minutes earlier to those buffoons on reception at Eden Hall, near Newark, when trying to book Ms Moon and her daughter a spa day as a Christmas pressie. After a heated conversation, a bad-tempered email and provocative tweet, calm is restored, soothed with the thought of a trip up to West Yorkshire.

I'm roused from my sleep early on Friday morning by the Nottingham Post app pinging on my phone. I rub sleep away from my eyes before fumbling for my glasses. Blimey O'Reilly, the recently refurbished Nottingham Railway Station is on fire. Crikey, I hope they're no casualties, including the new pub (BeerHeadZ) on Queen's Street, that opened up a few days ago.

More breaking news is coming in from Ms Moon on Canal Street. An emergency trip to the dentist on Carlton Hill has resulted in a couple of back gnashers being whipped out - I can't see the good lady being too chipper for the rest of the day.

I have a couple of tea-time real ales (Liverpool Pale) at the cosy Old Volunteer on Burton Road. Ms Moon joins me in the Willowbrook on Gedling Road. Back in the day it used to remind of the Winchester Club in the TV series Minder.  She sips on a prosecco having removed a full bag of blood-stained cotton wool from her back gums. I mention Joe Jordan, Shane McGowan and 'Jaws from James Bond - it doesn't crack a smile. I just receive the death stare. The 'Sheffield Steel' derby is a bore draw. I turn the lights out and head up to bed. I slip a £2 coin under the Princess's pillow.

Ms Moon is as fresh as a daisy on Saturday morning after a twelve-hour snooze-a-thon. We're up, at 'em and on the M1 heading north by 11:30am. Trumpy Bolton's favourite disc jockey, Graham Norton, is on the air on Radio 2. West Yorkshire born Young Ones actor, Ade Edmondson, is his special guest. I've always thought of him and his Cambridge Footlights cronies as a bit smug, but we both enjoy his endless, charming anecdotes.

Sat Nav guides us into a car park on St Andrew's Road, a ten-minute stroll away from the town centre. The good lady needs her coffee fix. It quashes any chance of a pub lunch. After a saunter up to the railway station and a couple of photos of the Harold Wilson statue, we ask a friendly policeman where the nearest Costa Coffee shop is, before Ms Moon turns into the Tasmanian Devil.

Huddersfield is a large market town in West Yorkshire with a population of over 160,000. It's a town of Victorian architecture with the railway station being a Grade 1 listed building. John Betjeman described it as "the most splendid station facade in England."

Famous people to come from the town include: pipe-smoking Prime Minister Rt Hon Harold Wilson, footballers Andy Booth, Cameron Jerome, Jon Stead and Frazier Campbell, Hollywood actor James Mason and Gordon Kaye from 'Allo 'Allo!

Huddersfield Town were founded in 1908 and are nicknamed the Terriers. In 1926 they became the first League club to win three consecutive Division One titles. Well known managers include Herbert Chapman and Bill Shankly. Last season they were 66/1 to be promoted to the Premiership. Emotional scenes were witnessed at Wembley, with mission accomplished on penalties. German manager David Wagner was given the 'freedom of the city.' Highest transfer fee paid is £11,440,000 to Montpellier HSC for Stephen Mounie. Highest Transfer fee received is £8 million for Jordan Rhodes from Blackburn Rovers.

We put more hard yards in as we slog it through town, across the A62 and onto the Kirklees Stadium. Incredibly 'our lass' needs another caffeine infusion - at this rate she won't sleep for a fortnight. I take my place in the lower section of the Media Stand as 'Chelsea Dagger' by Glaswegian indie band The Fratellis blasts out of the PA system. My only other visit to Huddersfield was at their old Leeds Road ground for a Sherpa Vans Trophy game versus Scarborough Town back in 1989 with Trumpy Bolton on a filthy Monday evening. The Terriers lost 2-1. Compare the two clubs now?

Jesus Christ, every seat has one of those bloody clappers on them. They won Leicester City the Premiership, as they kept putting off the opposition. A little lad comes skipping down the row behind me and immediately starts shaking his clapper. In his excitement a huge Frankfurter sausage falls out of his bun and rolls next to my foot. He sheds a few tears as I offer him the 'ten-second rule.'

The DJ set comprises of Madness (twice) Gala, 'Freed From Desire' (twice) and randomly 'Runaway' by Del Shannon. I admire the Hammers; always have. They have a fanatical fan base and believe in youth. The much-maligned Moyes has named a few young guns on the bench. I remark to Ms Moon that ex-Culture Club drummer Jon Moss is the referee today. "Is he?" she replies. Before noticing my smirk and digging her elbows into my ribs.

It's a tame game in the opening 25 minutes. The Terriers enjoy the lion's possession of the ball with only Tom Ince having the courage and guile to prise open the Hammers rearguard. On 15 minutes there's applause for 15-year-old Katelyn Dawson who tragically died in a horror crash whilst waiting for her school bus. The West Ham fans clap as one.

The game turns on a sixpence. A ridiculous pass from the 'keeper to Joe Lolley sees him surrounded by the Irons. Mark Noble on his 361st appearance gets a foot in before a clinical finish.
Former Non-League attacker Lolley makes amends on 40 minutes with a sublime finish after cutting in from the right and leaving Adrian with no chance following a left foot curling finish. Mascot 'Terry the Terrier' joins in the celebrations. He throws in more shapes than Arsenal striker Alex Iwobi at an early hours North London house party.

Huddersfield are still in the changing room when West Ham retake the lead just ten seconds into the second half (is this a record?). Austrian striker Marko Arnautovic, a £20 million Slaven Bilic signing, catches the Terriers napping before smashing the ball home.

The Irons counterattacking football is breathtaking on the eye. Arnautovic is terrorising the Terriers. He slips in Manuel Lanzini to make it 3-1. The same combination end the game as a contest, five minutes later, as the Austrian muscles his way through a shell-shocked defence, with the ball falling to Lanzini to fire home.

A flurry of substitutions by David Moyes ensure their lead is protected and that their rich vein of form continues. Huddersfield, on this shaky performance, will need reinforcements to bolster a fragile backline.

Attendance: 24,105

Man of the Match: Marko Arnautovic - class

Monday, January 8, 2018

F.C. United of Manchester 1-0 Southport

I'm shuffling across Trent Bridge with thousands of disillusioned Nottingham Forest supporters. Another toothless display at The City Ground has seen them defeated by relegation strugglers Sunderland. I cut through the 'Creative Quarter' before walking up the hill into Hockley, Nottingham's hipster area - (full of young 'uns with ridiculous beards, who drink craft beer).

I clock a bit of hot totty, out of breath, slogging it up the hill - it's Ms Moon. I open the door for the good lady to step into Bar Iberico on Carlton Street. It's 5:30pm on the nose, just in time for the 'Rapido Deal.' We tuck into four delicious tapas dishes accompanied by a glass of Rioja. The rest of the evening is spent with friends diving in and out of the splendid bars and pubs that Nottingham is famous for - *fails to mention that he popped into the Herbert Kilipin, on Bridlesmith Walk, when he stated weeks earlier that he wouldn't step foot in the place again - was outed on social media*

I arrive at the foot of our stairs on Sunday morning to be met by Ms Moon who has breaking news on her Facebook feed, that Mark Warburton and his Scottish backroom staff have got the hoof. The job was too big for him. At least the club won't need to shell out any more fees, to the same agent, for sub-standard players from north of the border.

There's been chuff all midweek football on, the inclement weather has put paid to that. I can't even be bothered to climb out my armchair on New Year's Day - we watch six episodes of Gavin and Stacey instead. We're booked in at a trendy boutique hotel in Newcastle on Saturday evening. The plan was to have some lunch at Tynemouth (Newcastle by-the-Sea) and then drive further up the coast to Croft Park to take in Blyth Spartans v Gainsborough Trinity. It's tipped it down with rain for most of the week and they are forecasting 40mph winds in the north-east. I pull the plug on our weekend away. I spot F.C. United of Manchester are taking advantage of the opportunity of playing on a Sunday with 'United' in FA Cup action against D***y on Friday and 'City' at home on Saturday.

Oh, what to do on Saturday? It's dank, damp and miserable again in our neck of the woods. I ask Ms Moon if she fancies some brunch in town with a trip to the cinema and a few drinkies after - she about snaps my hand off. I've read rave reviews on Molly's Game starring Idris Elba.

There's a heavy police presence in the area, with several roads cordoned off, as we walk to the bus stop on Carlton Road. A police car is being loaded onto the back of a lorry as we jump onto the No.25 bus into town.

After some brunch at the Hideout on King Street (had to use Google maps to find it), we pitch up at the Broadway Cinema to watch the film and are blown away with the fast pace of the plot (I can't arf pick 'em). We enjoy a few tea-time scoops at the Curious Tavern and Fox and Grapes before heading home back to Carlton for the evening.

It feels a little strange going to football on a Sunday. Ms Moon waves me off after very kindly making me a bacon cob. I decide to go up the A1 and across the M62 as there are no 50mph maximum speed limits. Five Live are broadcasting a documentary of tales of folk who have been stalked. It has me gripping the steering wheel. It scares the living daylights out of me. Ms Moon phones up to see how I'm progressing on the motorway. I tell her to stop stalking me and end the call.

Alastair Bruce-Ball and John Hartson are commentating at Rodney Parade as Newport County and 'Dirty Leeds' cross swords in the third round of the FA Cup. It's one of ten grounds left for me to tick off.

I'm up in Moston in less than two hours and parked up in St Matthews RC High School by 1:30pm. Even the car park attendant hasn't started his shift yet. I listen to the fag end of the game. A wry smile lights up my face as Newport snatch a late winner. I cough up to the car park chap that I've been here for ages and part with £3.

Moston is a district of Manchester two miles to the north-east of the city centre. It has a population of 14,000. Notable folk from the area include: the actress Marsha Thomason, former Man City, WBA and Nottingham Forest striker Ishmael Miller and Major Henry Kelly, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his action in the First World War.

The ground is a five-minute stroll up the road. I nearly fall arse over tit on an icy patch on the pavement as I approach the stadium. I'm only saved by the sturdy grip of my Adidas Sambas. Broadhurst Park is bathed in glorious sunshine and already a hive of activity an hour before kick-off. After taking a few snaps, I pay £10 on the gate (a sensible price, compared to the rip-off at some National League North grounds). The programme is £2 and is, without doubt, the best of the season.

F.C. United of Manchester is a semi-professional club based in Moston, Manchester. They were founded in 2005 by disenchanted Manchester United fans opposed to the takeover of the club by American businessman Malcolm Glazer. After sharing multiple stadia across the Greater Manchester region between 2005-2015, they finally opened their own ground, Broadhurst Park in May 2015.

F.C. United of Manchester are a fan-owned club which is democratically run by members who have equal voting rights and own one share each in the club. The club badge is based on the Manchester coat of arms and features a ship at sea and three stripes for the three rivers that run through the city. Karl Marginson was the manager for over twelve years, until recently parting company with the club.

I'm taken aback at the huge amount of flags erected in each stand. As new builds go, the ground is a beauty with no stone unturned. It's the little things like the recycling stations and real ale bar that catch my eye.

The DJs up in Manchester on the Non-League scene take pride in their pre-match set. I had expected a few Mancunian toons. There's little evidence of this, but the set is still stunning: Divine Comedy, The Members, Shed Seven and The Ruts get my feet tapping and my blood circulating on a bitterly cold day.

I'm leaning on a red-painted crash barrier towards the rear of the St Mary's Road End as the ground begins to fill up. Five minutes before kick off the crowd begin to sing relentlessly 'Bring on United' until both teams emerge from the tunnel.

FCUM fans go through their full repertoire of songs that made me chuckle at Sporting Khalsa in an FA Cup tie a few seasons ago. The anti-Glazer and Sky references to the tune of 'Anarchy in the UK' by the Sex Pistols are sung with venom.  I'm still laughing at an F.C. United tweet from their official account to Gary Neville, co-owner of Salford City, after a last-gasp goal had beaten their rivals on Boxing Day. It simply said "U ok Hun? x"

Player-manager, Tom Greaves, soon has the majority of an astonishing 2,863 crowd in raptures with a cool finish on twelve minutes. The fans poke fun at the Main Stand for not singing, but they're soon at it. Southport play ball to feet and are dangerous down the flanks, but nobody can get on the end of some crosses whipped in, that flash across goal. They are managed by former Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers striker Kevin Davies.

Around 200 fans are in attendance from F.C. Magdeburg in Germany. They were at Wrexham yesterday and are at the Macron Stadium on Monday evening when their team play a friendly against Bolton. FCUM turn off the music and allow them to sing at the break. I grab a can of Coke and a Bounty bar and stand at ground level next to some German lads.

The second half is scrappy and littered with fouls. Southport have to open up, but leave gaping holes at the back that FCUM try to exploit. The visitors do have the game's best player in 4 jacket David Morgan. The Belfast-born, former Nottingham Forest and Ilkeston Town midfielder prises open the home defence on countless occasions, but they fail to capitalise on his pinpoint passing. FCUM run the clock down to continue their good form under Greaves and climb up the table.

Attendance: 2,863

Man of the Match: David Morgan

Monday, January 1, 2018

Nottingham Forest 0-1 Sunderland

It's Boxing Day morning and I'm champing at the bit for some yuletide football. We entertained Ms Moon's family on Christmas Day. Tragically we were a man down at 8pm, with the Princess retiring up the wooden hill and into bed, midway through a crucial game of 'Who am I?' Due to the dreaded lurgy. I was washing all the pots at gone twelve bells, whilst listening to David Warner caning the England attack on Test Match Special, before hitting the sack myself.

I race out of the house. I open up the Mondeo on the A46 towards Lincoln. The road is as clear as a bell. I'm parked up in Lincoln United's Ashby Avenue beautiful, tree-lined ground in less than 40 minutes. It's my third viewing this season of 'the Lincoln Real Madrid', in their all-white strip.

The 1pm kick-off suits me down to the ground. I could have gotten greedy, as the Imps entertain Stevenage Town at 3pm, but one game is enough for me. It's a rather pricey £9 on the gate and £1 for a golden goal ticket. I'm absolutely 'Hank Marvin' so dive into the tea bar and grab a steak pie and rancid cup of tea.

The game is a thrilling end to end Christmas cracker with the visitors from Cleethorpes running out 5-4 victors. I meet an eccentric groundhopper from Rugby. He says there are 23 teams in the UK who are named the Magpies. His intention is to visit all 23 grounds - I daren't tell him that Lincoln are nicknamed 'The Whites.'

Coventry Copsewood v Ilkeston Town was the nominated game for Saturday afternoon. It's hosed off/snowed off by 10am. I've had my beady eye on happenings at The City Ground. Defeat today against relegation-threatened Sunderland will surely see a 'Greek tragedy' with Mark Warburton shown the door by owner Evangelos Marinakis. He was fortunate to inherit an Uwe Rosler assembled squad at Brentford's Griffin Park. Our Scottish office said that his recruitment policy at Rangers was poor, frittering away money on a string of average, unproven players.

I ring up the ticket office. I'm placed 12th in the queue. Excellent customer service sees me secure a ticket for £27 in Block 'E' of the 'Peter Taylor Stand.' There's time for breakfast with a perked-up Ms Moon at Copper on Mapperley Tops, before catching the bus to the bottom of Carlton Road and pegging it up London Road, passing by Notts County's Meadow Lane ground. I get chatting with a Tricky Tree fan as we battle against a bitter, biting wind chill blowing off the canal. He seems optimistic despite a recent poor run of form.

My last outing here was against Neil Warnock's Cardiff City, who cruised to a 2-0 victory without getting out of second gear. Sticky junior was fuming that day. He ripped up more losing betting slips than Paul Merson. I decide it's best not to let him know I'm down here today. I walk along the banks of the Trent and queue up at the ticket collection point to the rear of the Brian Clough Stand. I'm sat in my seat before 2pm - even the 'keepers aren't warming up yet. I like to hear the Forest DJ's set. It's not up there with Atherton Colls, Radcliffe Borough or Salford City, but at least he puts some thought into it.

Sunderland is a city in Tyne and Wear in north-east England with a population of over 175,000. It is a coastal city at the mouth of the River Wear. It is well known for its coal-mining, shipbuilding and the automotive industry. A person born or living in the area is known as a Mackem. Famous people from Sunderland include: actor James Bolam, journalist Kate Adie, actress Melanie Hill, the inventor of the electric light bulb Sir Joseph Swan, singer and 6 Music presenter Lauren Laverne, musician Emeli Sande, David A. Stewart from the Eurythmics, footballers Nigel Clough, Michael Gray and Jordan Henderson and former England Test fast bowler Bob Willis.

Sunderland A.F.C. were founded in 1879 and are nicknamed the Black Cats. Notable former managers include: Bob Stokoe, Terry Butcher, Peter Reid, Roy Keane and Gus Poyet. Biggest transfer fee received is £30 million from Everton for 'keeper Jordan Pickford. Biggest fee shelled out is £17.1 million for forward Didier N'Dong from FC Lorient.

The Forest DJ must have been on the sauce over the festive period, he spins Rod Stewart's 'Young Hearts Be Free Tonight' - previous owner Fawaz would have issued a P45 for this faux pas. He redeems himself as the Prodigy's 'Breathe' booms around the stadium as the teams emerge from the tunnel.

Forest USA full back Eric Lichaj is being skinned alive by McGeady and Matthews as crosses fly in from the Sunderland left-hand side. Forest are playing that boring, possession football which sent me to sleep against Cardiff City a few weeks back. 'Keeper Jordan Smith has a kick like a mule, but never has the chance to show it off. It's ironic that Joe Worrall lumps a ball forward which catches John O'Shea napping, Daryl Murphy fails to convert.

Forest pay the price for another cross that comes sailing in from the impressive Adam Matthews, Paisley-born, Irish international, Aiden McGeady gets between two defenders to nod the ball home. I'm shocked to hear the boos ring out around the ground as the referee blows the half-time whistle. I've only ever booed once at my team (Lincoln City) and that was at the manager Alan 'Sniffer' Clarke back in 1990, when the Imps were 3-0 down to Darlington at half-time.

I scroll through the live scores at half-time. Lincoln and bitter rivals Forest Green Rovers are at one a piece. There's no love lost between the two clubs, players and managers since an alleged spitting incident at The New Lawn earlier in the season.

Sunderland shut up shop in the second half, but play a more purposeful brand of possession football. Forest's only shining light is 34-year old David Vaughan. He dances on the ball and is brave with his decision-making; taking risks with his passing, unlike his teammates. My pals have raved about tricky winger Barrie McKay. He's been hooked by Warburton on the hour in both games I've seen. Everton loanee Kieran Dowell is another they've talked-up; again he flatters to deceive.

Former Black Cats' Irish international Daryl Murphy is removed from Tricky Trees' attack with a lower back injury. The bloke behind me remarks that he hasn't been the same since the Republic of Ireland's failure to qualify for the World Cup finals. He's replaced by misfiring, unsettled striker Jason Cummings, another Warburton bum signing.

Sunderland run the clock down, and are fortunate to see an Eric Lichaj effort thump off the post in the final kick of the game. The boos ring out around The City Ground, as the vultures' circle with Warburton edging ever closer to the trap door.

Attendance: 26,830 (1,990 away fans)

Man of the Match: David Vaughan