Sunday, March 17, 2019

Welwyn Garden City 0-3 Bromsgrove Sporting

What a wonderful afternoon out we've had at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium, home to Lancashire's Bamber Bridge FC. We spend the night at our favourite haunt, The Sun Hotel, in the heart of Lancaster. I slope off for a few pints at my favourite pub, the Borough, with its stylish chandeliers, antique tables and first class ales. The comedian Justin Moorhouse has played a few nights here on his Northern Joker tour. Ms Moon and I have a trot around the city centre, calling in at 'Spoons and a Gin Palace, before retiring for Match of the Day - you old romantic Sticky.

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 ground is tree-lined and lacks any real features. There's cover behind the nearest goal, with a smart stand running along the left-hand touchline. A guy with the initials DB on his tracksuit says hello to us; it's Welwyn manager Dean Barker, who seems a friendly chap.

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.

I had hoped for an Alesha Dixon choon by the Welwyn DJ at the break. The cackling fishmonger's wife's voice is right up there with Houston, Ross, Stansfield and Sonia. We move further up the ground as we expect Bromsgrove to finish off the game, which they do with a smart finish by substitute Jake Heath with his first touch of the game.

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.

Attendance: 328

Man of the Match: Henry the St Bernard


Anonymous said...

Need to get to the Victoria ground, the home of bromsgrove sporting! 900+ every home game
This sat 23rd Corby at home 1000+ easy with no blues or villa

Anonymous said...

Hopefully another excellent Bromsgrove player, Will Shorrock, will soon be fit again. Take a look at this goal.

Nathan Hayward is another class act. Trouble is, Bromsgrove have almost got more decent players than they can fit in the team. Because they get the biggest gates in the Southern League (averaging over 800) recruitment isn't that hard - every player likes to perform on a big stage.

And of course the fans are turning up because it's either a goalfest against lower opposition or a top of the table game. But I remember the last days of Bromsgrove Rovers and watching them struggle against lowly teams in front of a couple of hundred. It seems easy when you're winning.

Not long ago, after several heavy away defeats at Corby, Bedford and I think Coleshill, our captain and central defender Craig Jones, who'd been with us seven years, since almost when Sporting started, had the captaincy removed and was then replaced by a new signing, not surprisingly he left the club along with another long server and fine defender Danny Morris. I'd be quite happy if Craig and Danny had stayed, we've been promoted two seasons on the trot, if we'd just missed out this year would have done us no harm, and anyway IMHO loyalty should be rewarded. Go up like a rocket, come down like the stick.

I've been watching Rovers/Sporting off and on for 50 years, and I'll support whoever's wearing the green shirt (or red, can't get used to it). But there's only one player left now (Cowley) from three years ago. Sad !

Anonymous said...

"But there's only one player left now (Cowley) from three years ago. Sad !"

I tell a lie, there were two, and Aaron Roberts, another great club man and a fine and versatile player has just announced his decision to leave. He's been on the bench mostly since we brought new players in.

While you can't argue with our league position, and we did have a habit of shipping goals on the rare occasions we went two down away from home, when you watch a side you get to see the character as well as the skill of the players. I liked the way they play and I'll miss them all. I still haven't got over Chris Lloyd leaving!

Just checked - of the 16 players we opened our last league campaign with in 2017, our invincible year, only one of the starting 11 (Jack Wilson) and two of the subs - Jason Cowley and Josh Quaynor - are still at the club. Quite a turnover.

I would love it if Craig Jones/Danny M/Aaron Roberts went to Worcester City, who play at the VG - then I could still watch them play at their home. Worcester are in danger of going under as Bromsgrove Rovers did - they could do with a hand.