Sunday, April 1, 2018

Newport County A.F.C. 1-1 Coventry City

I'm still sulking as we traipse back down into Lancaster city centre, after the long, hard slog up to the Ashton Memorial. Yesterday, 'The Lincoln' dropped two points (Danny will be cross and frustrated) up at the Globe Arena in Morecambe. We created very little and were fortunate, in the end, to see two shots kiss and smack off our own crossbar.

I start to stress about the weather forecast in Newport, in Wales, for the coming week. The plan was to tick off ground 85/92 - blog legend Trumpy Bolton will be on the team bus, it's 86/92 for him. To make matters worse, the Club declare it an all-ticket match, so I have to commit to two tickets in the Bisley Stand, irrespective of whether the game goes ahead or not.

Tuesday evening is spent down Lenton Lane, in Nottingham, at Dunkirk's ground. Their young guns may be familiar to Coventry City fans, as they knocked the Sky Blues out of the FA Youth Cup in a highly-charged affair back in 2016.

Tonight, I see them claw back three points from League leaders Anstey Nomads, whose management team are the biggest set of whingers that I've set eyes on this season. I remark to their manager that I haven't paid £5 to listen to him moan and groan all night (20 minutes in). I'm told to 'f**k off to the other side of the ground if you don't like it.' What a charming individual. Local hero Ned Ludd (from the Luddites) would be proud of you.

Wednesday night is spent on a sun-soaked (breezy) Albert Dock in Liverpool, as I have a business meeting in the morning. I'm proper fagged out when I return home just before tea-time. Ms Moon and I enjoy a few scoops in the Head of Steam on High Pavement, in Nottingham.

It's Friday morning and I'm driving over Lady Bay Bridge. The banks of the River Trent are bulging, swollen and about to burst. Brazil and McCoist are in fine fettle on the TalkSport breakfast show. Trumpy Bolton is swinging his shopping bag filled with booty (cider), as he opens the car door. Newport and Coventry fans let me explain a few things. This man has supped more alcoholic beverages than Richard Burton and Oliver Reed put together.

Another astonishing fact to consider is that he is trying (over the last 40 years) to tick off a pub in every village, town and city in England, Wales and Scotland. He has a dog-eared old Collins road atlas that has all the places neatly highlighted out. Credit card bills from the pubs are neatly indexed in box files. He's going to leave all this to me in his will, if he pops it first.

He navigates me through the Cotswolds and into Wales, before we roll into the quaint village of Usk, in Gwent, 10 miles shy of Newport. It's a former Britain in Bloom winner, that today is spoilt with countless roadworks.

Bolton has soon snuck into the Three Salmons Hotel, shouting up a pint of Butty Bach and gassing to the Spanish barman who tells us he's also a 'gigolo.' We wander across the far side of the village, where a Good Friday church parade is taking place. Bolton is unmoved and dives into the King's Head a 16th Century inn with a large, open log fire. We sit adjacent to the Lionel Sweet Room - a legendary fly fisherman (no, me neither).

The heavens begin to open and rain hammers onto my windscreen as we pull into one of those dreadful Flaming Grill pubs just a few miles away from the ground. As it's Good Friday, Trumpy insists on having fish (scampi). I feel the water oozing out from every bite I take.

I've grave concerns about the weather, it's absolutely tipping it down as we park in the Kingsway Shopping Centre. We stroll through town before Trump eyes another pub up called the Pen and Wig. We both sink a wonderful pint of Bass, which is second only to the Plough at Wysall, before asking a policeman for directions to the ground.

Newport is a cathedral and university city in south-east Wales, that lies on the River Usk. It has a population of 145,000. Up until 1850 it was Wales' largest coal-exporting port. In 2010 the Ryder Cup was hosted at nearby Celtic Manor. Funnily enough, it rained a lot that weekend too. It was so washed out, that they finished the game on a Monday.

Notable folk from the city include: the cast from Dirty Sanchez (prank TV series), Rap group Goldie Lookin' Chain, Animal Magic presenter Johnny Morris, the brilliant actor Michael Sheen, (played Brian Clough in 'The Damned United'),  author Leslie Thomas, former Conservative Home Secretary Kenneth Baker, footballers James Collins, Chris Gunter and Tony Pulis and shed loads of rugby players who I've never heard of (I don't do rugby).

The football club were founded in 1912, and were reformed again in 1989, following well-documented financial woes. They are nicknamed The Exiles. Well-known managers include: Bobby Ferguson (Bobby Robson's No.2 at UEFA Cup winning Ipswich Town), Justin Edinburgh, Terry Butcher and John Sheridan (serial swearer). Notable former players include: John Aldridge, Tommy Tynan, Dean Holdsworth, Tony Pulis and Ismail Yakubu.

On March 23rd, 1983, for what would be the first and last time, I left a game at half-time. Two goals apiece for Tommy Tynan (couldn't hit a cow's arse with a ukulele for 'The Lincoln') and John Aldridge put Newport County 4-0 up at Sincil Bank. I was traumatised and teased for weeks after by my Nottingham Forest supporting work colleagues.

We're both soaked to the skin as we join fans crossing the footbridge before Trumpy navigates into the Family Zone at Rodney Parade. A beer-fuelled Bolton necks another pint and sings along to a Neil Young song that a guitarist is blasting out on stage.

We take our seats in Block E, Row E of the Bisley Stand at 2:50pm as Sheffield's Pulp play on the ground PA system. A minute's silence is held following the passing of Bobby Ferguson, a former Newport player, where he scored the only two Football League goals in his career. As previously mentioned he was Ipswich Town's coach during the Arnold Muhren and Frans Thijssen era.

The Sky Blues have brought a huge following (1500). The majority of supporters stand on the open, uncovered terrace in the wind and rain - I salute you all. Coventry play a beautiful game that revolves around 36-year-old Dubliner Michael Doyle. He has balance, poise and finds pockets of space. He rarely wastes a ball for the whole afternoon.

Newport are more direct but play with heart, no more so than cult hero right back David Pipe, whose former clubs include Coventry City and Notts County. The Exiles take the lead following a beautiful, flowing passage of football, with Mickey Demetriou turning in a left-wing cross.

It's announced at the break over the tannoy that Coventry pensioner Andy Martin has today completed visiting 92 Football League grounds, probably all with Coventry because of their yo-yo existence. There's a generous round of applause to acknowledge this feat.

Bolton is dispatched down to the concourse to snaffle up a couple of meat pies and sink another pint. I check the half-times. 'The Lincoln' are 1-0 down to Exeter City. I'm not unduly concerned, as we always turn up the heat in the second half. So do Newport, as they go for the jugular. An incredible save by Burge and a last-ditch clearance off the line by a defender keeps Coventry in the game, as the Sky Blues appear to run out of steam.

Trumpy starts chatting to the bloke next him, it sounds like he's talking in Welsh, bearing in mind he's had a skinful. He tells the chap that Newport will regret missing those chances just as Max Biamou pops up at the far post to blast home an equaliser and earn Coventry a vital point. I check my phone, the Red Imps have grabbed a late win with another goal from super-sub Ollie Palmer.

You've got to admire Trumpy. a 300 mile round trip with me today, followed by a dawn start tomorrow for Brighton versus his beloved Leicester City.

Attendance: 4,667

Man of the Match: Trumpy Bolton.

Bolton Beer Watch: Litre of cider, pint in Three Salmons, pint in Kings Head, pint in Flaming Grill, pint in Pen and Wig,  pint in Family Zone, pint at half-time

Sticky's Drinks: half a real ale, blackcurrant and soda x3  and pint of Bass.

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