Sunday, March 17, 2019
Welwyn Garden City 0-3 Bromsgrove Sporting
It's late on Tuesday afternoon and deja vu. The Taxman is riding shotgun, with Lincolnshire once again the choice of destination, except it's the bright lights of Lincoln City's Sincil Bank and not Boston United's York Street ground. I spare The Taxman the agony of a slog up Steep Hill. We turn off the High Street, down a narrow passageway, adjacent to Stokes High Bridge Cafe. It leads us onto the Brayford Waterfront, with its array of pubs and chain restaurants. We grab a pizza at Ask Italian and chew the cud, before legging it up Scorer Street, the birthplace of former Nottingham Forest striker Lee Chapman.
We're housed in the Stacey West Stand. It's not my favourite viewing point but will have to do, as another near capacity crowd fills the ground. 'Paul Scholes' Oldham Athletic are tonight's visitors - that's what Sky Sports and TalkSport call them. Scholes looks miserable, vulnerable and alone as he prowls the touchline. 'The Lincoln' sweep aside his team, after a bright start by the Latics. It's no surprise to me when a few days later it is announced that Scholesy has quit his role by text.
The Taxman gets the green light from his missus for the trip up to Field Mill, in Mansfield, next Monday, for the top of the table clash between the Stags and the Imps. I'll be sat on my hands for most of the evening, as once again I've missed out on a ticket in the away end, so will be parked up in the West Stand with the home fans, like I was last season, when Ollie Palmer grabbed a last gasp equaliser, much to the annoyance of the baying pack.
There are further footballing duties on Wednesday evening. A rejuvenated Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa lock horns at The City Ground. I grab a bite to eat with the Big Man, Moysie and Bruiser at The Botanist in West Bridgford. The Big Man makes a steak 'n ale pie disappear in seconds. I slip off, as I like to take my pew in the notorious 'A' Block, before the drunken hordes arrive.
It's a helluva of a first half for the neutral. The Tricky Trees take the lead after a freak cross (shanked) by Jack Colback catches the wind and evades the 'keeper. Villa roared on by a large away following are 2-1 up on fifteen minutes, both strikes coming from the impressive John McGinn, a bargain buy from Hibernian. Kortney Hause puts the game to bed on 61 minutes, bundling in another cross that a shaky Forest defence fail to deal with. It's eerily quiet in 'A' Block. Most folk sober up, realising another year is to spent in the Championship, as the Club throw a load of wonga, chasing the elusive Premiership dream.
On Friday evening I have a couple of craft ales from the Tiny Rebel stable, up at The Brickyard, on Carlton Hill, two miles outside Nottingham city centre. I'm chatting to two-year-old St Bernard, Henry. He's comfortably the biggest dog I've seen and could clear the pub with one swish of his tail. Back at base camp, Ms Moon and I watch a depressing documentary on Netflix about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. I honestly don't know what to make of it, but would you ever leave three kids under the age of four years old unattended? Doctors an all, eh?
I'm hurtling down the A52 towards Grantham on Saturday lunchtime. Ms Moon has very kindly packed me up a flask of coffee and a sausage and melted Italian cheese baguette for the journey. I'm heading over to Whittlesey, close to Peterborough, to pick up my old mucker Ackers. I've the brilliant broadcaster Danny Baker for company. He's asking listeners to call in if they've ever spoken to a famous person on the phone. A guy comes on who used to be an operator, back in the day, for directory enquiries - that's 192 kids. He said John Motson phoned him up once enquiring about phone numbers for Bulgarian airlines, as he had to fly to Sofia for a UEFA Cup tie. Imagine the commentators Darren Fletcher or Martin Tyler having to book their own flights these days.
I'm soon out in the Fenlands, passing the huge McCain potato processing factory in Whittlesey. Colin Murray's Fighting Talk is on Five Live. Someone is asked what their favourite Wow football transfer was. They mention Jonathan 'Bungalow' Woodgate's move from Middlesbrough to Real Madrid. He spent the entire first season injured and then managed to score an own goal and get sent off after 64 minutes of his debut.
Ackers scurries down the main road in Whittlesey, as I've managed to pull into a private, gated road and cheesed off a resident trying to drive out. We have a chit-chat and catch up, as we haven't seen one another since our visit to Bury St Edmunds back in October, when we saw a decent match and visited John Peel's grave in a Suffolk village.
Christ on a bike the bloomin' A1 is closed at the junction of the A14. Sat Nav navigates us cross country, before we rejoin the A1 just shy of Welwyn. Welwyn Garden City is in Hertfordshire and has a population of just over 50,000. It was a designated new town in 1948 and the second garden city in England (founded in 1920). It was once well known as the home of the breakfast cereal Shredded Wheat, formerly made by Nabisco.
The football team were founded in 1921 and are known as the Citizens, they are based at Herns Lane, one mile out of town. The club amalgamated with local rivals Shredded Wheat FC in 1934. Well known folk born and bred in the town include: 'singer' Alesha Dixon, golfer Nick Faldo, former Premiership referee Mark Halsey, goalkeeper David James, presenter and model Lisa Snowdon and the actress Una Stubbs. Lincoln City left-back Harry Toffolo was born in the town - not many of my readers will have heard of him - soz Harry.
There's already a buzz around the BP Mitchell Stadium, as I reverse the car up a grass verge just outside the entrance to the ground. The dreadful Gangnam Style is blasting out of the PA system as we pay £20 for entrance and two programmes. I could hear Ackers tummy rumbling all the way down the A1. He's soon getting stuck into a chicken and mushroom pie, chips and a large sausage roll - I'm still stuffed from breakfast.
The clubhouse is bustling with folk who are keeping a watchful eye on Watford's progress in their FA Cup quarter-final tie versus Crystal Palace. Andre Gray scores the winner, a lad I spotted in the Non League playing for Hinckley Town in Leicestershire as a raw 19-year-old.
The blustery conditions kill off any chance of standing between the dugouts. We shelter over the far side, nearest to the end Bromsgrove attack. I've heard all about their striker Jason Cowley; the boy doesn't fail to disappoint and is at the centre of all their attacks. The windy conditions don't affect them one jot. They are two goals up before half-time and look a constant threat with a variety of short range and long range passing.
We spend the final half an hour of the game chatting to a Dad and lad from Bromsgrove, who are travelling back on the team coach. They departed Bromsgrove at 10:15am and are thoroughly immersed in the Non-League scene. They give us the heads up on one or two of the lads in their squad. I've pencilled in to watch them again on March 30th away at Didcot Town, it'll give Ms Moon and I an excuse for a night out in Oxford.
Man of the Match: Henry the St Bernard