Sunday, April 14, 2019

Lincoln City 1-1 Cheltenham Town

I'm fist pumping my way through a police cordon, celebrating Lincoln's Portuguese winger Bruno Andrade's injury-time howitzer of a shot at Stadium MK. Ms Moon is parked up in the getaway car at the side of Asda. I ride shotgun as we head out of the ghastly, gloomy retail park and onto the M1 North. My heart is beating ten to the dozen; not due to Bruno's spectacular strike, but because it's the first time I've had to run in decades.

Talking of starting orders, I flick on Five Live, as the runners and riders approach the tape for the  Grand National at Aintree, in Liverpool. Ms Moon has a £5 stake on Tiger Roll at a measly 7/2. I admit if it jumps around the course it will win, but can't be bothered at such stingy odds. True to form Ms Moon is on the money; my two bets come in 3rd and 5th; my lolly is on the nose though. I haven't backed the winner of the National since Bobby Jo in 1999. I owe Ms Moon £22 winnings as she bet on my account. The tickets for the game are the same price. I start a Facebook poll asking if honours are even or should I cough up the winnings. I'm ran out of town folks 80/20 .. lol.

It's late on Tuesday evening and I've just returned from a game up at Kimberley Miners' Welfare, close to Junction 26 of the M1. I've spent the evening eating Fruit Pastilles and Jelly Babies with John Harris and family. He predicts a good hiding for a 'depleted' KMW versus Belper United. The Miners' run out comfortable 3-1 winners.

I've had a massive sugar rush and can't be bothered to climb the wooden hill. A documentary called Losers, on Netflix, has been given rave reviews by TalkSport's Paul Hawksbee and Andy Jacobs. The first episode is about a boxer called Michael Bentt, who was London-born (East Dulwich), but raised in the Cambria Heights section of Queens in New York City. He sensationally knocked-out WBO Heavyweight champion Tommy Morrison in 1993 but went on to have a somewhat chequered career.

The second episode, in the series, is about Torquay United; my ears immediately prick up. I know what's coming here. In 1987, on a sultry, muggy May day in Bottesford, on the Notts/Leics/Lincs border, Sticky Palms is fielding/patrolling at fine leg for Keyworth Cricket Club. My team, Lincoln City, on the final day of the Football League season are in dire straits. Burnley are bottom of Division 4, but have beaten Leyton Orient. 'The Lincoln' have been thumped 3-0 at Swansea City's Vetch Field. At Plainmoor, Torquay United, needing a draw to stay up, are 2-1 down to Crewe with a few minutes remaining. Torquay player, Jim McNichol, sprints across the field to retrieve a ball, but manages to upset a police Alsatian dog called Bryn, who takes a chunk of flesh out of his thigh. Four minutes injury-time is played; yep, you've guessed it, the Gulls score again to send the Imps into footballing oblivion. They even show footage of the Mayor of Torquay presenting Bryn the German Shepherd with a juicy T-Bone steak.

In the summer of 2016, Lincoln City made the somewhat left-field appointment of part-time Braintree Town manager and Head of PE at FitzWimarc School, in Rayleigh, Essex, Danny Cowley, as their new manager. The club had been in the doldrums of the fifth tier of English football's Pyramid system; on one occasion nearly dropping out to the Conference North. What is astonishing is, with a tight budget and shrewd signings, Cowley and his brother Nicky won the Conference title and led 'City' to the quarter-final of the FA Cup; bowing out to Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.

I'm back up The Brickyard (my local) in Carlton on Friday evening. I make out to Ms Moon that I know all the locals - I don't really. I usually find a quiet corner of the pub and read my Kindle. Outspoken ex England and Notts CCC off-spinner Graeme Swann's autobiography is very entertaining. It passes a couple of hours and more importantly three pints of real ale, as I relax and take my mind off the big game tomorrow.

I have a restless night's sleep after watching another depressing episode of the Madeleine McCann disappearance on Netflix - one thing's for sure, Portugal's top copper hasn't much time for the McCanns. I'm already a bundle of nerves, so decide to do a couple of hours gardening. Ms Moon makes some sandwiches as another 'Fish 'n Chip Special' from Oceans will clot up my arteries and send me to an early grave.

Ms Moon has Virgin on her car radio system. It's no better than Absolute or Radio 2. She claims that they bang out some good toons, just as the first bars of a Nickelback 'song' begin to ring out. We eat our sandwiches in the car, outside a care home where my Nana lived out her last few years, on St Botolph's Crescent, close to Robey Street. Paul Gambacinni's Pick of the Pops is playing Bernadette by the Four Tops. I scarper from the car after 'Gambers' sticks on Edelweiss by Vince Hill.

We wander through a snicket onto the High Street. There's a real vibe around the place. The city is alive with folk. Flags are hanging from pub doorways, there's laughing, joking and football fans chanting - this is what The Cowleys have done for Lincoln; pride has been restored and the community is made to feel part of the club.

If I had a pound for every Costa coffee shop the Princess has ticked off, I could retire from selling software. A new one is ticked off - there are five chains in Lincoln #coffeeshophopping. We take a steady stroll towards Sincil Bank, down Scorer Street where former Leeds, NFFC and Sheff Wed striker Lee Chapman was born - you tell us that one every time Sticky  .. lol.

There's a corner shop on Sincil Bank that I usually dive into for some tuffies. I ate a whole bag of Haribos during the Lincoln v Exeter midweek game the other month. I was awake for most of the night and had enough energy levels to run further than Lincoln midfielder Mark O'Hara - I'll stick to a bottle of water today to keep the stress levels down.

Ms Moon has a suck and blow on her vape thingy whilst I squeeze through the door of a jam-packed club shop. I buy a couple of T-shirts and some shorts to lounge around in - not today, but I could have done as the ground is bathed in wall-to-wall sunshine. Tickets for the game a few weeks ago were selling so fast that I could only find room on the front row of the Stacey West Stand. Abba's, Gimee! Gimee! Gimee! (A Man After Midnight) is blasting out of the PA system as we take our seats.

Lincoln City legend Grant 'Hoof' Brown is inducted into the Club's Hall of Fame. I remember Colin Murphy shelling out over £50k to sign Sunderland-born Brown from Trumpy Bolton's Leicester City  in 1989 - that was serious money back then for a club the size of the Imps. Brown repaid Murph's faith with a club record 407 appearances. He's picked a few tracks to be played over the tannoy today which includes the excellent Summer by Manchester indie band The Courteeners.

Cheltenham Town aim to be the party poopers and are unbeaten in their last four outings. Ms Moon likes them as her daughter is restaurant manager in the spa town's Botanist restaurant situated in the Brewery Quarter. The Imps require a win to confirm promotion. I'm not happy that Danny Cowley has shaved his beard off during an eighteen match unbeaten run. What was he thinking?

The Co-op Stand do their best to lift the lads but the game is edgy and cat and mouse. Nerves vanish on 18 minutes, the Cheltenham 'keeper goes down in instalments after a Shay McCartan 25 yard shot skips off a surface sprinkled with water and into the corner of the net. "We'll need another one as they are bound to score", I remark to Ms Moon, who is eyeing up a procession of supporters returning from the pancake stall. Cheltenham can't break through the Imps' rearguard.

Ms Moon's got the face on; the queue for pancakes is snaking around the back of the stand. The bloke next to me takes a huge bite from his pancake, a piece of banana, smothered in chocolate, drops onto my newly-polished black and white Adidas Sambas - he gets a filthy look as my nerves are frayed, and now is not the time to be scoffing chuffing pancakes.

Cheltenham get some joy down their left-hand side as Neal Eardley gets overloaded. Their goal is richly deserved and superbly crafted. A cross from the left is guided home by the head of substitute George Lloyd. There are chances at either end as the game plays out at a frantic pace.

Promotion is only announced five minutes after the game ends once Lincoln CEO Liam Scully contacts Rachel Riley, from Countdown, to run through all the permutations and calculations so that the news can be broadcast to the fans 'hot off the press.' Up the Imps.

Men of the Match: The Cowley Brothers - Billy Waters brilliant for Cheltenham btw

Attendance: 9,820 (164 visiting supporters)

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