Sunday, March 24, 2019

Worksop Town 2-1 Penistone Church

It's Tuesday 13th March. Sticky Palms is tootling along the A52 between Staffordshire and Derbyshire. I've just finished a business meeting in the town of Leek. Comedy duo Hawksbee and Jacobs are broadcasting live at the Cheltenham Festival for TalkSport. They're interviewing a professional gambler/champion tipster about his fancied horses for the opening day of the meeting. He mentions two names: Beware the Bear and Espoir D'Allen - who is running in the Champion Hurdle.

I know jack diddly squat about horse racing. I have a few each way bets on the Grand National, like most folk do, but that's about my lot. I think little more about it until someone pipes up in the office, an hour later, asking me if I've had a punt on anything. I log-in to my Sky Bet account (used for football, Eurovision Song Contest and Dancing on Ice only) and place two small bets on the said horses. I check a few hours later, one has won at 16/1 the other has won at 20/1. I immediately look up the gambler on Twitter and peruse his tips for the rest of the Festival. I place a further six bets of which three won at 12/1, 5/1 and an astonishing 50/1 - it'll pay for a few weekends away groundhopping folks!

It's Sunday lunchtime and I'm snooping around Nottingham General Cemetery, on Canning Circus - you can't beat a bit of celebrity grave-hunting. I've trying to locate the final resting place of Mr John Player - he of cigarette fame. All my mates used to smoke Johnny Blue back in the day. If you were brave enough you'd pinch one of your grandad's Players No.10 - they'd blow your chuffing head off; they were that strong. I've moseyed around the graveyard for a good thirty minutes now, without success. It's an aborted attempt as rain and hail fall from the slate grey skies. I retire to the Sir John Borlase Warren for warmth and a pint of Lincoln Green real ale. John Player will have to wait for another time. Louise asked me later in the week: "are you sure he wasn't cremated, Sticky?"

There's a knock on the door on Tuesday teatime; it's my wingman, The Taxman. We're soon shooting up the A60 towards Mansfield. There's always time for a spot of snap, so we pull into an old Berni Inn called The Hutt, in Ravenshead, which is now a Chef and Brewer. I have to force my tea down as I've lost my appetite. My stomach tightens, the nerves and anxiety start to kick in. The Mighty Lincoln City are due to face Mansfield Town in a crunch clash at Field Mill in one hour's time.

It was a bloodbath in the Checkatrade Trophy tie between the two sides at Sincil Bank, back in September. 'Dirty Mansfield' had six players booked in the first half an hour. Lincoln's patience finally snapped when fiery Northern Ireland midfielder, Michael O'Connor, received a straight red card. Stags' manager, David Flitcroft, and Imps' assistant manager, Nicky Cowley, had to be pulled apart at the final whistle. Flitcroft said there was 'a smugness about the place' (Sincil Bank). There's clearly no love lost with the Cowleys. Danny and Nicky are former secondary school teachers who have bucked the trend of ex-professionals being appointed as managers. Flitcroft, with his screwed up, chiselled and contorted face, accompanied with his Mancunian dulcet tones, reminds me of the bitter and twisted DCI Gene Hunt from the police drama Life on Mars.

There's bad news to report; tickets have sold out in the away end; we've somehow ended up being housed in the West Stand. I'm an infiltrator amongst their singing section - The Taxman is neutral on these occasions. Boy oh boy, these Stags fans can sing. They ramp it up on four minutes when Krystian Pearce nods them in front. 'The Lincoln' are played off the park for the first thirty minutes and are relieved to hear the half time whistle. I barely mutter a word to The Taxman at the break as I'm so flipping cross at what I've just seen.

The Stags just can't find that second elusive goal. Their loan signing from Nottingham Forest, Jorge Grant, is hooked on the hour, as Flitcroft tries to protect their lead. Grant looks a luxury player on this showing, and won't put a tackle in, which doesn't go down too well with the locals, who know their football in these parts. Lincoln grow into the game and end up with a point after Big John Akinde rolls in his fourteenth League goal of the season from the penalty spot.

I'm back out again watching football on Tuesday evening in Borrowash close to D***y. It's an East Midlands Counties League cup semi-final between Belper United and Sticky's favourites Clifton All Whites. In a pulsating game of football Clifton run out 2-1 winners. My old pal James 'Tosh' Turner will be as pleased as punch that his troops have dug in and ground out win against a decent Belper outfit.

Massive news reaches me by Ms Moon's social media on Friday. It has been announced that the Big GC has recorded a romantic ballad about her split with 'Arg (don't ask me) with the record producer and songwriter Naughty Boy. Folk are saying it's right up there with Beyonce and that she'll probably scoop up the lot at next year's BRIT awards.

The Big Man is aboard for Saturday's groundhopping excursion, sadly his car has failed it's MOT. Luckily I've had the 'Rolls Royce' washed and vacuumed by the Kurdistan lads at a car wash in Gedling. Whilst the boys are polishing and valeting my car I try to phone as many people in our Scottish office in East Kilbride to take the rise out of them about the Kazakhstan Disaster (3-0) on Thursday. My mate, Jimmy Henry, a Glaswegian, has gone missing on social media.

I give the back lawn its first cut of the season on Saturday morning and take Ms Moon's empties (bottles of prosecco) down to the bottle bank at Carlton Tesco - it was two trips folks. Okay, so maybe there was the odd gin and red wine bottle in there too. I make my debut at the Oceans chippy just a stone's throw from our back garden. A fish and chip special at £3.70 is a steal and proper scrumptious.

The plan was to drive up to Swallownest, in Rotherham, and tick their ground off. But I was made aware by the blog's north Notts and South Yorkshire correspondent, 'Dudsey' that a top of the table clash was taking place up at Sandy Lane in Worksop. It's a bugger to park your car up here at the best of times and with a large crowd expected we arrive early at two bells. I find a side street across from the ground. After two failed attempts at parking, I hand over the keys to the Big Man and 'leave it to the professionals.'

Worksop is a town in the Bassetlaw district of Nottinghamshire with a population of 45,000. Coal mining provided thousands of jobs in the 19th and 20th Century. By the 1990s the mines had all closed. Premier Foods are now the town's biggest employer. Famous residents from Worksop include: the golfers Lee Westwood (who sponsors the players shirts), Mark Foster, Maurice Bembridge, goalkeepers Darren Ward and Ian Bennett, Iron Maiden lead singer Bruce Dickinson, John Parr of St Elmo's Fire fame, former Lincoln City and England manager Graham Taylor and the actor Donald Pleasance.

The Big Man kindly pays us in at £6 on the gate. I buy a couple of golden goal tickets and enter the raffle draw for a 40" JVC flat screen TV. The place is stacked out with folk, with reports of an expected four-figure crowd. The DJ is all over it with The Cure and Pulp. There's a real buzz of anticipation and excitement in the ground. The bar is doing a roaring trade, as is the snack bar, where customers are served quickly - what a payday this is turning out to be.

We take our position behind the nearest goal, the end at which the Tigers will attack. 'Dudsey' is holed up at the other end; we'll catch up with him at half-time. Any early nerves for the hosts are settled early on with a fine strike by Craig Mitchell to put them 1-0 up. The visitors are pegged back and fall further behind on 14 minutes following a wonder strike by the impressive Matt Sykes, which leaves the Penistone 'keeper catching flies. Like Sticky and the Big Man said earlier to a couple of Penistone supporters, 'we don't do 0-0s.'

We wander up to the far end at half-time so we can stand with 'Dudsey' for the second half. He is an absolute mine of information on football in these neck of the woods. I've not seen him for a couple of years, so it's great to catch up with him, as he's a cracking lad. I nervously scroll down the live scores. Lincoln are 1-0 up down at Crawley Town, in Sussex.

It's another barnstorming 45 minutes, as the game ebbs and flows. 'Church' are always in it, but find the Worksop 'keeper in fine form. They finally peg back a deserved goal with eight minutes remaining to set up a grand finale.

There are gasps in the crowd when the stadium announcer confirms the attendance as 1628; surely this is a League record?  Penistone Church fall short in the end, but they can feel proud that they played their part in this epic encounter.

'We can't 'arf pick.

Man of the Match: 'Church' 7 jacket Elliott Firth

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