Sunday, April 1, 2018
Newport County A.F.C. 1-1 Coventry City
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.