Sunday, October 26, 2014

Desborough Town 0-1 Deeping Rangers

It's a miserable Monday lunchtime. I'm sat in the 'Rolls Royce' on an industrial estate in Loughborough. It's pelting it down with rain as I nibble on my cheese and ham sandwich. I'm scrolling through my twitter timeline as I listen to the Jeremy Vine Show on Radio 2. The BBC has just released results from a Price of Football Survey. I hear Vine bleating about Kidderminster charging £4.50 for a pie. I bet the fool has never even been to the Aggborough to sample it.

Ackers and I were guests of honour at Kidderminster Harriers v Cardiff City for a League Cup tie ten years ago. We were doing a tour of 108 grounds in England and Wales for charity. At the time it was £3 to buy this cottage pie that Vine is moaning about. It's the most famous delicacy in Non League football. Nigel Clough always ordered 20 portions for his Burton Albion players and staff each season for the coach journey home. I tweet Vine to redress the balance. He reads it out just before the one o'clock news. It cheers me up for the rest of the day.

I spent the other Tuesday night in the company of my good friend Jon Garton at Heanor Town, who were playing high-flying Tadcaster Albion. Nearly 280 folk turned out on a mild evening to watch a bruising encounter. Former Manchester United, WBA and Nottingham Forest midfielder Jonathan Greening played for Tadcaster. His brother Ricky is leading scorer for Albion in the Northern Counties East Premier League. The visitors deservedly won 2-1.

I'm reading a cracking book written by the journalist and author Charles Nevin, it's called 'Lancashire, Where Women Die of Love.' There's a chapter on the town of Ulverston, where Stan Laurel was born. Nevin mentions a pub in Bottesford on the Notts/Leics border that was run by Stan Laurel's sister Olga. Laurel and Hardy stopped the night there in 1952 before appearing the following day in Nottingham. There's a plaque on the wall that Trumpy Bolton and I will be driving over to see next Saturday, on our way to Holbeach for a FA Vase cup tie.

I'm struggling to come to terms that I no longer scout for Notts County. It was my decision, but Saturday mornings feel empty without meaning. I stumble upon Sooty's magic wand while I'm rummaging in some drawers. I break down in tears. I didn't mean to leave Sooty in the toilets in Guiseley. I hope he's okay.

Comedy genius Sticky jnr cheers me up with his attempts at rustling up a cooked breakfast. "Dad, how do you crack an egg?" I don't think James Martin needs to worry about his job on Saturday Kitchen. Junior has a big cup tie in the village of Underwood this afternoon, where the author D H Lawrence set many of his books. Murphy Palmer the budgie mops up some Marmite on toast before I dash out the house.

My mate Phil picks me up for the trip to Desborough. The Graham Norton Show is on the radio. Ultra Nate's 'Free' is blasting out the car stereo. Tom Tom takes us off the M1 at Fosse Park and onto the ring road. We pass Everards Brewery. I close my eyes and daydream about necking a pint of Sunchaser or Tiger.

I clock a sign for Aylestone Leisure Centre. Aylestone Park is a football club that former Leicester City striker and Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker started his junior football career at before being spotted by the Foxes. We're soon on the A6 entering the village of Kibworth Beauchamp. We swing a right into the the Coach and Horses car park, which is being power washed by a young, disinterested lad.

We're treated like royalty by the landlord. I saw a few negative reviews on Trip Advisor. I'm only here for the beer. I down a pint of Wainwright from the Thwaites Brewery in Blackburn. We sit in the cosy bar. Tony Blackburn's Pick of the Pops is playing songs from 1972. The best by a country mile is 'Backstabbers' by The O'Jays. A bacon and brie sandwich and a basket of chips is a steal for £5.

Desborough is just over the Leicestershire/Northants border. It's between the towns of Market Harborough and Kettering and lies in the Ise Valley. It has a population of just over 10,000. We park across the road from a Co-op. The Desborough Co-operative Society was founded by local men in 1863. Sticky Palms loves the Co-op.

It's a short walk to the ground. It's £5 on the gate. I stump up £1 for a raffle ticket. I should be in with a shout, as I'm not expecting too many to show up today. The ground has seen better days, but this is what attracts me to it. It has low level cover behind the goal and up the nearest touch line. The Social Club is tucked away outside the ground. The old clubhouse was destroyed in a blaze back in 2008. It had a viewing gallery above the pitch. It has bags of soul and character.

The poor old PA guy is suffering a nervous breakdown. He plays a Boyzone CD and leaves it running. It's the first time I've contemplated suicide since Lincoln City appointed Chris Sutton as manager in 2009. It's too late for a refund, the teams have kicked off. Both clubs are mid-table, although Desborough have played more games.

The woodwork is rattled at both ends as the match begins at a frantic pace. The visitors are wasteful in front of goal, as chances are spurned. A shanked clearance flies over my head and ends up in the undergrowth. Folk are looking round at me to fetch it. Chuff that, I've got my £40 black winkle pickers on from Gordon Scott up Lister Gate in Nottingham.

Deeping take the lead with a beautifully executed goal. I grab a bottle of water at the break and watch the highlights of WBA v Everton on Setanta Sports in the Club. I'm gutted not to have won the wine, chocolates or biscuits in the raffle, as I notice the winning numbers chalked up on a blackboard.

Desborough are terrific in the second half and totally dominate the game. Deeping rely on blocks, clearances, saves and the occasional counter-attack. I watch the final 15 minutes sat on a wooden bench in the stand. I've thoroughly enjoyed the game.

Attendance: 54

Man of the Match: Sticky jnr who danced his way through Underwood MW and D H Lawrence.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Nostell Miners Welfare 1-5 Cleethorpes Town

It's 7pm on Friday evening. I'm stood at the bus stop outside The Fairway pub in Keyworth, with my boy Sticky jnr. Big Col Stol is giving me pelters from the pub's smoking shelter. We're off out to see some old work colleagues who have been made redundant this week. I could have hung around for some wonga, but I was desperate to leave and couldn't miss out on the opportunity that came my way.

Sticky jnr is growing up a bit now; he's 19 in November. We had some run-ins when I ran his football team last season. I'm proud to say that he never received one caution. He's landed an apprenticeship at Barratt Homes. It was all going swimmingly on his induction week. On his second day on site in Leicester I received a text to tell me he had cut his thumb. See picture below  ...... ouch. The fool played football for his local village team at night. He didn't volunteer to go in goal.

The night out with my old work colleagues makes me feel flat and sombre. 'Shifty' has landed a job and 'The Zuffler' has a second interview, ironically in Loughborough, where I work. Some of these folk I'll never see again. It makes me feel sad. We only manage three pubs in the Canning Circus area of Nottingham: Hand and Heart, Organ Grinder and The Falcon, before I jump on the 12:30am Trent Barton bus outside The Approach on Friar Lane.

Saturday morning seems strange. I no longer work for Notts County as Head of Talent ID at the Academy. I'd usually be dashing around a few games in Nottingham city centre, before heading off groundhopping. It will leave a huge void in my life.

'The Skipper' is playing football at Tividale near Dudley. A parent has very kindly taken him. It's just me and my faithful budgie, Murphy Palmer in the house today. Sticky Palms Cleaning Services are in full flow. Windowlene, Domestos and Jif are given an outing in the bathroom. Forget Hilda Ogden or Winnie off Early Doors, I'm the boss when it comes to cleaning.

I jump in the Rolls Royce and head down the A46, up the A6097, joining the A614 before jumping on the A1. I fell in love with a pub I went to twice last season in Ossett. It's only 8 miles from Nostell's ground. I sail up the M62 and I'm soon parking up outside the Brewers Pride opposite a tractor.

I love the flagstone floors and open fires. There are usually seven guest ales on. I plump for a pint of Farmers Blonde from the Bradfield Brewery in Sheffield. I scan the lunchtime menu. Beer-battered haddock in a ciabatta sounds rather appealing and turns out to be so.

Tom Tom sends me through the city of Wakefield. I'm soon back out in the open countryside in the village of Crofton. I have a spot of bother finding the ground, before an opening appears at the end of a housing estate, as some filthy black clouds hover over the Crofton Centre, the home of Nostell Miners Welfare.

The Club play in the village of New Crofton, which appears to have had some money thrown at it, probably from the Coalfield Regeneration Trust. They were formed in 1928 and are nicknamed 'The Welfare.' Former Stockport County and Norwich City striker Oli Johnson began his career here.

Those black clouds have opened up and emptied vast amounts of water onto an already sodden surroundings. I sit in the car, with steamed up windows, as it rains cat and dogs on the roof. I finally venture out five minutes before kick-off, only to be told by a friendly club official that the start time has been put back by 15 minutes.

The thunder and lightning is spectacular. It sets off house alarms. Power is lost in the community centre for a few brief seconds. I walk into the entrance, past the National Union of Mineworkers flag. Nostell Colliery closed in 1987. It's £5 on the gate and £1 for a cracking programme, my favourite of the season so far. There's even a folded team-sheet inside the programme; a nice touch that.

I sit in the main stand that towers over the pitch. I admire the new playing surface. They've spent close on £100,000 on a complete make-over. It is a beauty. The new drainage system is put to the test on its first outing, as it's sheeting down with rain.

I get chatting to a guy from the FA. He asks if I'm a groundhopper. I haven't brought a rucksack, programme cover or Tupperware sandwich box, so how the hell does he know? "You're not a referees' assessor are you?" I ask the man. "Yes mate." he replies. "Bloody hell." I say under my breath.

The Welfare are struggling a wee bit this season, whilst visitors Cleethorpes Town are flying high. They were in my neck of the woods last week, playing against Radcliffe Olympic in the FA Vase. The teams walk out to some God damn awful rap song. I'm begging for a power cut as the rain continues to lash down.  Two brave saves by The Welfare 'keeper prevent Cleethorpes taking the lead in the first minute.

The first injury of the day is on ten minutes when Sticky Palms bangs his head on a barrier, bending over to pick my programme up. I'm as hard as nails, physio is not required. Cleethorpes take the lead with a bullet header from an inswinging corner out on the left.

The game has a real ebb and flow about it. The heavy surface proves a great leveller. Cleethorpes passing game is a joy to watch, without an end product. Nostell get the ball forward quickly, using the 11 jacket's pocket rocket pace.

I've noticed on my Livescore app that former Lincoln City winger Lennell John-Lewis has scored for the Mariners. I love the Grimsby Town chant to the Beach Boys song 'Sloop John B' - "His name is a shop, Lenell John-Lewis, his name is a shop."

The Welfare equalize on 46 minutes following some sloppy defending. The visitors are rocked for ten minutes or so and let Nostell come onto them. The visitors take the lead, replicating their first goal. It ends up 5-1, a tad harsh on Nostell who were in the game for an hour.

Attendance: 42

Man of the Match: Referee Colin Whitaker (different gravy)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

West Didsbury & Chorlton AFC 2-1 Rossington Main

It has broke my heart to resign as Head of Talent ID and Recruitment at the Notts County FC Academy. I'll miss trawling the three to four mile radius of inner city Nottingham each weekend, looking for fresh talent. They call scouts the 'Nowhere Men.' I'm the man who stands away from the crowd, dressed in plain clothes.

The guy I have reported into for over seven years is Mick Leonard, who played in goal for the Pies and the Spireites for over 500 games. He has been nothing short of first-class in his support for me in the role. One or two youth players are already regulars in the First Team. There's a conveyor belt of talent waiting to come through. For me though, it's time to move on.

It's 6:15pm on Friday evening. Murphy the budgie is sat on my hand predicting tomrrow's FA Vase score in Chorlton, Manchester. He whistles three times for West Didsbury and Chorlton AFC, sadly there's not a sausage for Rossington Main.

A grey Mondeo estate toots its horn outside my yard. It's blog legend White Van Man (aka the Big Man). As I slip into the passenger seat I eye-up the four cans of Stella that the Big Man has treated me to. He's just back in town after a trip to Borneo and Malaysia. He went with Bruiser, who is the biggest shirker in south Notts.

Blimey O'Reilly, the M6 is like a car park. Folk are shelling out big bucks for rides on Nottingham Goose Fair this weekend. You won't get a bigger thrill than the 'Death Ride' WVM' gives me on the country lanes off Junction 17 near Holmes Chapel. We pull up outside our plush apartment in Didsbury Village at 8:30 on the nose.

The Big Man has come up trumps with the accomodation, despite the landlord being associated with X-Factor act Kingsland Road. I'm soon necking a pint of Boon Doggle at the Royal Oak. White Van Man jaywalks the main drag and hails a black cab. We head up to the more popular area of West Didsbury. First port of call is The Metropolitan, which back in the day was a grand Victorian railway hotel. I down a pint of Vanilla Porter, a Colorado craft beer. It's absolute nectar and makes me feel all queasy.

We hook up with legendary Keyworth United centre forward, Tom Aldred, who works for Barclays in Manchester. I'm gutted I've forgot my autograph book and pen for Tom to sign. We visit a few more bars, before calling in at The Drawing Room. Manchester loves to embrace its musical culture. We're treated to The Smiths, New Order and The Stone Roses. We retire to the apartment for a late Grey Goose nightcap. Sticky Palms collapses on the sofa in a heap.

It's 11:00am when we finally awake from our slumber. We head out onto Barlow Moor Road and dive into the Crema Cafe, for a full English breakfast, with black pudding from Bury. There's a commotion across the road in the churchyard. Cops are crawling all over the joint. Rumours spread of someone being attacked in the early hours. A crime scene is taped off. A couple of ageing cops walk into the cafe to make discreet enquiries.

They are questioning the till girl in Ladbrokes as I place a £1 bet on Jordan Rhodes to score the first goal for Blackburn (the bolt later misses a penalty).

West Didsbury has a population of 14,000 and lies 4 miles south of Manchester. Neighbouring Chorlton-cum-Hardy is of similar size and is the home of West Didsbury and Chorlton AFC. Notable residents gone by to have lived in the area include: Alcock and Brown, the first men to fly across the Atlantic, the Bee Gees, Doris Speed (Annie Walker) off Coronation Street and the actor Warren Clarke.

We drive down what appears to be a dead end. It suddenly opens up to reveal the ground situated in a dip. It's a beautiful setting. It's tree-lined, with grass banks and housing backing onto it. A cheerful chap on the gate charges us £5 and £2 for a programme.

We stroll across to the modern clubhouse. I'm too hungover for alcohol and opt for a Diet Coke. The place is bustling. You can buy beanie hats, scarves and mugs. WVM spots me biting my nails. An early goal will settle our nerves. In 7 years of groundhopping we've never done a 0-0. The PA is crystal clear, sadly there's no Mancunian music being played.

It's a beautiful sunny day, as 'West' kick into a light wind. White Van Man has spotted some 'gripper' on the 'West' bench; he'll be taking his eye off the ball for most of the afternoon. The home team's bald-headed No.8 clatters into an opponent. The 'Big Man' remarks he may be taking an early bath today.

It's like a scene from 'Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' in the 'West' technical area. They only just all squeeze in there. 'West' boss the game. It's a miracle that they take 44 minutes to open their account, with a scruffy goal from a 'Rory Delap' long throw.

I shout a tea up for WVM at the break. I'm served by a glum-looking club official. The committees of both clubs tuck into egg and cheese sandwiches with pots of tea. We are kindly offered some left-overs. I stare at the TV screen in disbelief. Barrow Town in the Conference North are entertaining Lowestoft Town. It's a 650 mile round trip. It's bloody madness for a part-time club.

My old boss from my previous job walks into the bar. He lives in east Manchester. We have a good rattle and catch-up in the second half, which once again 'West' dominate. Scott, (old boss) has the brass neck to flick back the matchball with the outside of his left foot before I touch it. How rude!

Baldwin-Willis appears to have put the game to bed for 'West' with a thumping drive. The crowd of 59 are left on tenterhooks with Rossington chalking a goal back five minutes from time.

The inevitable happens close to full-time with 8 jacket being dismissed for a second yellow card. When Sky sacked Keys and Gray, they should have called up WVM and Sticky, because we can't arf 'call it.'

Attendance: 59

Man of the Match: The Drawing Room, in West Didsbury: "Sheila Take a Bow"

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Lye Town 2-3 Boldmere St Michaels

Murphy the budgie is in a particularly vicious and menacing mood. He headbutts his mirror throughout EastEnders. It's hard to know whose mood swing is worse - Murph or Phil Mitchell. There's a reason for all these shenanigans.

Murph's hero is Radio 2 newsreader, lottery ball announcer and Strictly Come Dancing PA man Alan Dedicoat. He's dedicated to Dedicoat. He whistles through all his news bulletins on Radio 2 each day. We asked for a retweet on Twitter from 'Dedders' the other week, but never heard a sausage. He's been in a filthy mood since.

I leave him listening on Saturday morning to his other hero, Brian Matthew, on his Sound of the 60s show on Radio 2. 'The Skipper' is riding shotgun. He's playing for the most famous club in Nottinghamshire, Clifton All-Whites. Last week we did a 170 mile round trip when they played out Kidderminster way in the Midland Junior Premier League. Today is a home game v Grantham Town U17s.

I've an hour to kill before kick off. I'd usually be scouting for the Pies, like I have for the last 7 years, but not today. I drive back into the village of Ruddington, where one or two Nottingham Forest players live. I devour a bacon, egg and tomato cob, before returning to Clifton to see my lad put in a good performance for an hour, before his team lose their shape and run out of steam as Grantham Town deservedly win the game 3-1.

Blog legend Trumpy Bolton calls in to firm up details of a groundhop on November 1st. He's clocked a couple of new pubs in Staffordshire and north Notts that he would like to tick-off.

A trip through England's second biggest city is always met with trepidation. The A42, M42, M6 and M5 are free-flowing, with no congestion. I'm accompanied by 'This Charming Man' by The Smiths on Radio 2. I clock Halesowen Town's ground on my right, as I head into Cradley. The Cradley Labour Club  has letters missing from its sign, like the Fawlty Towers hotel in Torquay or Sunshine Desserts in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin. Their saving grace is that they hold a Northern Soul night on the first Saturday of each month.

The High Street in Lye is uncompromising, but not without character. I've heard rave reviews about the Windsor Castle. Tom Tom shows me the chequered flag. I park in Travis Perkins and walk up the road. A workman is painting a sign outside the pub. The paint on the front door is flaking away. The door is bolted. Benny Hawkins from Crossroads indicates with his thumb that the entrance is at the rear of the pub.

There's a rustic feel about the place on entry. I love the stone floor in the public bar and the hidey holes where people dine. I opt for a pint of  Sadler's Mellow Yellow. A smoked salmon sandwich stuffed with cream cheese, salad with a small portion of fresh chips is a steal for less than £6. The place is bustling with folk, with Kylie Minogue's 'Better the Devil You Know' getting a few folks feet tapping.

An eccentric, rather well-spoken lady, with a loud voice, is sharing a table for two with a friend. Her opinions are aired for all to hear on David Cameron and Ed Milliband. She scarcely draws for breath. Her companion can't get a word in edgeways. The Daily Mail and Jeremy Vine Show will be grateful for her letters and calls. She asks the waitress for a spoon change. Unable to scoop up her fancy choice of dish.

The whiff of hops and yeast from the Sadler's Brewery are in the air as I make the short journey to Lye Town FC's Sports Ground, who they share with the Cricket Club on Stourbridge Road.

It's £5 on the gate and £1 for a programme that is below average, with little information for the away supporter or neutral. The ground is a beauty. It has a modern clubhouse, unusual stands and raised grass banking behind the far goal. I'm told that Morrison's supermarket have bought this land. It will be like a dagger through the heart of the community if the cricket club and football club are shunted out of town to a soulless sports complex next to a noisy by-pass.

I stand on the popular side looking out at the shuttered up cricket pavilion, sight screens and covers. The game is enthralling and entertaining; you can't take your eyes off it for a moment. Groundhopper has already had his grubby mitts on the ball, when Lye take the lead with a mishit cross from the left ending up in the top corner of the net. The reply is instant, with a cleverly flighted free kick nodded home at the far post.

I check the half-times with a polysteyrene cup full of Dowe Egberts coffee.  Lincoln are cruising, Notts County are one to the good against the Spirerites, whilst the deadlock is yet to be broken at The City Ground. A howler from Lye's 'keeper puts the visitors 2-1 up. This is extended against the run  of play with 10 minutes go.

I stretch my legs and take the long walk to the Clubhouse past the picnic tables and park benches as that Mellow Yellow and Dowe Egberts have taken its toll on poor old Sticky. The ladies behind the bar are warming up a delightful homemade curry for the players after the game.

Lye pull one back and miss a host of chances to grab a draw, or even win, in the most entertaining game I've seen this season. I even manage another touch of the matchball before the referee blows the final whistle.

Attendance: 138

Man of the Match: Windsor Castle

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Harrogate Railway 3-1 Clitheroe

It's Friday night, most Non League fans have got FA Cup fever, Sticky has a different sort of fever. A high temperature, runny nose, hacking cough and sore throat sees me spend the night under the duvet on the sofa with Murphy the budgie for company. I'm 50/50 for tomorrow.

Not many groundhoppers with these ailments would be pulling on their Parka jacket with a furry hood, packing their rucksack, with a pristine conditioned plastic programme cover and a Tuppawear container with Marmite sandwiches, with a flask of tea. Sticky is made of sterner stuff. I pass a late fitness test carried out by Dr Finley, the rabbit. His crap Non-League tips are back open for business. He says whatever game I go to will be 2-1 to the home side.

I switch on Sky Sports. Ryan Sidebottom is celebrating Yorkshire's County Championship title at Trent Bridge. It's a ground where he has played the best cricket of his career. His 6-30 for on Friday morning has done for Notts. How they must wish they had dangled the carrot of a three year deal.

I hurtle down the A46, A6097 and up the A614 into north Notts. I turn right into the old mining village of Bilsthorpe, where in 1993 three miners died after a roof caved in. I pitch up at the Bilsthorpe Sports Ground and view a youth game. I've already made my mind up to travel to North Yorkshire to watch Railway v Clitheroe.

Blackburn Rovers supporter and comedian Lee Mack is on Radio 2. Big Audio Dynamite is booming out the radio speakers as I sail up the A1. I overtake the Boston United team coach which is on its way to Stockport County. The Pilgrims suffered a 7-1 midweek home defeat to Oxford City, who the previous Saturday were thumped 8-1 at home to AFC Fylde.

Tom Tom has a Dicky fit and brings me off a junction too early. After negotiating a few tight bends I soon hit the spa town of Harrogate. It has a population of 75,000 and in 1982 hosted the Eurovision Song Contest. Notable people born in the town include: footballers Andy O'Brien and John Scales, actor Hugo Speer and commentator Jon Champion. Electro-Techno band Utah Saints are from Harrogate.

I pass Harrogate Town's Wetherby Road ground on my right. It's a hefty £12 on the gate for their game against Solihull Moors. Customers spill out onto the pavement as they queue for lunch at Betty's Tea Rooms. I clock a short stay car park in the town centre. Just around the corner is the Royal Baths. Wetherspoons have transformed a former ballroom into a pub called the Winter Gardens. There is a large dining area and upper gallery.

The service is sloppy and the barmaid is surly. The real ale situation is an omnishambles. The Ruddles and London Pride are off. A sulking Sticky Palms settles for a pint of Stella Artois. I return to the bar ten minutes later to order up a sandwich. Staff are swanning around looking disinterested. The Bar Manager couldn't give two hoots. I down my Stella and head for the door. I can't even be bothered to fire off a complaining tweet to J D Wetherspoons.

Railway's Station View ground is on the edge of town in an area known as Starbeck. I wanted a second view after seeing them knockout Garforth Town in the previous round. I take a stroll around Starbeck, admiring the terraced housing and tight streets.

It's £6 on the gate and £1.50 for the programme of the season It has a nice little quiz question: Who was the first foreign manager to win the FA Cup? The ground has bags of soul and character. There's a large red-bricked, two-tiered clubhouse adjacent to the car park. Behind the dugouts on the far side is the raised Shaun Glenn Stand. I take a pew and strike up a conversation with a guy who reminds me of how vital, financially, this game is to Railway.

The pitch is on a huge side-slope but is like a carpet. These two teams fought it out on Monday evening in a League game, with Railway scoring a late winner.  A guy wearing a jacket, shirt and tie and drainpipe trousers is calling all the shots for Clitheroe. A fitness coach is carrying out the drills. The Railway PA man has side-splitting humour. He calls the 'keeper 'Top of the Stops.' The Stone Roses boom around the stadium.

Clitheroe is in the Borough of Ribble Valley in Lancashire. Goalkeeper Carlo Nash was spotted playing for Clitheroe by Crystal Palace. They have the lion's share of possession in the first half.  There's some neat build-up play but a reluctance to pull the trigger.

A small ruddy-faced man dressed in a beige corduroy jacket with a salmon pink shirt and sandy coloured shoes is pacing up and down the terracing. He swears at the fitness coach, over a difference of opinion over a Clitheroe player, despite having a broad Lancastrian accent. A Railway player takes a shot in the face and is felled to the ground. The ref stops the game so the player can be treated. There's an altercation between a Railway fan and the Clitheroe warm-up man.

Clitheroe take the lead just before half-time. Zach Clark is in acres of space on the left, he cuts inside and unleashes a shot into the bottom corner of the net. Railway reply immediately through Lamin Colley, who won them the game at Garforth. The suited and booted Clitheroe manager, Simon Garner abuses the linesman for not flagging offside. He boots the Crofton Building Services advertising hoarding with his shiny leather shoes, before limping to the changing rooms for half-time.

Mr Ruddy Face has already had a tantrum and stormed off for a brew. I mention the manager's outrageous behaviour to Clitheroe's lady chairman. Not only will his foot need treatment by the physio but the bucket man will need to nip to Clarks at the break to bag a new pair of shoes.

On 47 minutes Clitheroe's skipper is shown a straight red for an elbow on my man Colley. Mr Ruddy Face suffers a headloss. He pours abuse on the officials with a stream of expletives. His parting shot, before disappearing into the distance is "you gutless bastard." The Clitheroe bench are petulant. They take their eye off the game to make fun of the officials. They are pathetic. Railway score again with the Clitheroe 'keeper cleaning windows.

Leading scorer Nathan Cartman puts the game to bed. He rounds the 'keeper and rolls the ball into an empty net to put Railway into the hat for Monday's draw.

Man of the Match: Greg Kidd

Attendance: 116

Quiz Question: Ruud Gullit

Monday, September 8, 2014

King's Lynn Town 2-1 Nantwich Town

For the benefit of King's Lynn and Nantwich Town fans: I've written this blog for over 8 years. My favourite character is a pal of mine called Trumpy Bolton. I'm not saying he enjoys a tipple or two but he'd probably drink Coronation Street's Peter Barlow under the table.

He has one aim in life and that is to make a financial transaction in every village, town and city in England, Wales and Scotland. He has a dog-eared atlas with all the places he's been to highlighted off. in a yellow marker. He keeps credit card bills and receipts from places he has visited in ring-binders, filed meticulously in alphabetical order.

It's Saturday morning 7:30am. I'm driving the 'Rolls Royce' to Clifton to drop off 'The Skipper' as he's making his debut in the under 18 Midland Junior Premier League in Wolverhampton. Radio Nottingham are playing 'Troublemaker' by Olly Murs. Olly's not in good books in our yard. We'd asked him to retweet that it's 'Non League Day' and have not heard a sausage from him.. Different when he was begging me and Murphy the budgie for his votes in a sing-off on X-Factor.

I head back home and wolf down a huge fry-up  in the cafe in my village. I drive up 'the Bronx' to pick up the legend. A rather impatient Trumpy Bolton is pacing up and down the street. He's wearing his trademark striped polo shirt and cotton traders blue tracksuit bottoms.

He's soon telling tales of a recent adventure to the Shetland Isles, where he chalked off 25 pubs in three days. The 12 hour crossing was 'brutal' as they caught the fag end of a hurricane blowing in from the USA.

The legend chortles about a no-show from Graham Norton on his Radio 2 Saturday show a few weeks ago, as Kate Bush's 'Running Up That Hill' is played on the station. We overtake the Harrogate Town team bus, who are enroute to Lowestoft Town, in the Conference North today.  We firm up a date to visit either Holbeach United or Pickering Town. Trumpy has one pub to tick off today; it's the Anchor Inn in Sutton Bridge.

Bolton has already polished off a litre of pear cider in the car, as his eyes light up at a bouncy castle in the car park. The place is mobbed. There's a kids party on in the back garden. Bolton necks a couple pints, whilst Sticky sips at a pint of cider. I'm pleased to get out of the place, the service is appalling and the children are a bloody nuisance, tearing around the bar.

We hit the town of King's Lynn at lunchtime. Trumpy claims to know the area like the back of his hand. We park outside the cop shop.  It takes a full ten minutes of moaning and complaining before we finally stumble across the Dukes Head Hotel in the market place. There are more tears from Bolton when he is greeted with the news that the real ale pump is out of action. He downs a pint of Tetley's in two minutes flat and heads back to the car.

King's Lynn is a sea port and market town in Norfolk, with a population of just over 40,000. Notable people born here include: Queen drummer Roger Taylor, motor racing driver Martin Brundle, Welsh rugby international George North and former Kent cricketer Martin Saggers. I once came here on a school geography trip. We wandered around a tin fruit factory and saw a boat-load of Skoda's stacked up on a ship from Hamburg. It's all I can recall.

We park up near to The Walks. Bolton sniffs out a back street boozer called the Lord Napier. It's exterior would suggest it's seen better days, but inside we find it to be a belter of a pub. We're joined by Ackers and his 5 year old son Daniel. The 'Bonkers Conkers' real ale is going down a treat. Trumpy orders a cheese 'n onion roll that is the size of a Scooby snack. "Should keep me going until Wednesday" he chuckles.

The ground is a short walk away and appears to be in a dip. There's a large queue. The Linnets usually attract over 500 supporters. It's £10 on the turnstile and £2 for a programme packed out with adverts.

The original King's Lynn FC was founded in 1879. The Club was wound up in 2009 with debts of £77,000. The Walks is a cracking ground. The masterpiece main stand runing along the near touchline is the star attraction. We stand on the terracing behind the goal the Dabbers of Nantwich will attack in the first half.

We're told that the game is to be broadcast live on Radio Norfolk by the PA man, as he warms-up the crowd with Dario G's 'Carnival De Paris.' A furious and ruddy-faced T Bolton catches up with us. Earth-shattering news has reached him that the bar is closed for a wedding reception. He's crying into his £3.50 tin of John Smiths.

Nantwich start brightly. An effort is cleared off the line by the last defender. The Linnets take the lead slightly against the run of play, when a supposed cross from Jack Ramm on the far right catches the 'keeper napping and somehow ends up in the back of the onion bag.

King's Lynn double their lead with a low left foot drive from former Nottingham Forest winger George Thomson. I remember signing his brother, Rory for Notts County a few years ago. They live in a village on the Notts/Leicestershire border.

At half-time Trumpy harangues the commercial manager and questions her about the bar being closed. He's introduced to Buster Chapman, the Club Chairman. Buster apologises to Trumpy. He says it was booked over a year ago and they had hoped to move the fixture. They end up chatting about Buster's other passion: Kings Lynn speedway team.

Nantwich peg one back through Aaron Burns to set-up what should be a grandstand finish. King's Lynn continue to work the Nantwich 'keeper. Trumpy perks up with 25 minutes to go when Linnets sub Steve Spriggs trots onto the park. Trumpy spent a good 20 minutes chatting up his mum at Newport Pagnell a few seasons ago.

There's a health and safety incident on 80 minutes. Ackers' lad is caught red-handed by an eagle-eyed steward, hanging upside down like a monkey on one of the safety barriers. He gets a dressing down from the surly club official.

King's Lynn have been good value for their win. There's still time for a final real ale in the Rose and Crown in the old mining village of Cotgrave in south Notts.

Attendance: 552

Man of the Match: T Bolton

Monday, September 1, 2014

Garforth Town AFC 1-2 Harrogate Railway

It's Friday tea-time and I'm driving from work up the A60 from Loughborough to Nottingham. I'd be normally looking forward to a cold Stella, some 6 Music and a read of the Nottingham Post. Something's preying on my mind though. It has sent shivers down my spine for most of the day.

I burst through the back door and scamper up the stairs. I put on a vest and a pair of shorts and borrow Sticky junior's dressing gown. I walk out the back door and down the garden steps to the Rocky theme tune. I partake in a brief bout of shadow boxing, followed by the 'Sticky Shuffle.'

I plonk myself down in a garden chair. Junior is like the smiling assassin. Even that crap Non League tipster, Finley the rabbit, is having a ringside chuckle.  The bucket of ice cold water is tipped on top of my head. I don't squeal or show a flicker of emotion; the reason being I can't get my breath. Thank God that is over.

I get out of bed on Saturday morning, feeling my calf. Looks like I've picked up an injury following the 'Sticky Shuffle.' I'm out the door pretty damn quick. I've a few junior football games to watch before the trip up north.

I spot a couple of pubs on Nuthall Road in Bobbers Mill that I need to chalk off - the Nags Head and The Whitemoor. AA Routefinder has suggested the best route to Garforth is up the A1. I've had some rotten luck on that bloody road just lately. I stick on the M1 and its laborious stretches of 50mph speed limit. I exit at Junction 46 and join the A63 towards Selby.

Garforth is a town within the City of Leeds Metropolitan Borough in West Yorkshire. It has a population just shy of 25,000. Like many places in the north, it relied heavily on the coal mining industry. Kaiser Chiefs guitarist Andrew White was brought up in the town.

I'm struggling for a decent boozer out the Good Pub Guide. I pull into the Miners Bar and Kitchen,
which is adjacent to a Hungry Horse pub. The place looks like it's had a bit of a revamp. A friendly barmaid pours me a pint of Distant Sun golden ale from the Caledonian Brewery. I order up a small Tex Mex. The place is hardly swamped with customers.

Jesus Christ what the hell is this. They must have nipped out to the local Iceland to fetch it. The garlic bread is cremated and the you could play hoopla with the onion rings at a local village fete. "Everything to your satisfaction sir." "Yes thanks love." It is what it is, as Billy Davies used to say, after conceding another late goal. No need for Tricky Trees fans to worry today, as they lead Sheff Wed 1-0 at Hillsborough.

I make my excuses and dart for the exit - wish I'd gone to that Hungry Horse now. Garforth Town's Wheatley Park Stadium on Cedar Drive is only a short distance away. The club were formed in 1964 and are nicknamed The Miners. In 2003 they were bought by Simon Clifford, a man who was once recruited at Southampton by Sir Clive Woodward.

Massive press attention surrounded Garforth during Clifford's spell at the helm. Having strong connections in Brazil he managed to wheel out the legend Socrates onto the pitch for the final 12 minutes of a game against Tadcaster Albion in front of over 1300 fans. Lee Sharpe also turned out for The Miners.

In September 2010, he was up to his tricks again, announcing that Paul Gascoigne was to be named as manager. Gazza had a change of heart, though. Clifford left a legacy, including a battered old yellow van with 'Brazilian Soccer Schools' painted on the side. It is said that Manchester City's Micah Richards was discovered at one of his soccer schools.

A friendly steward gives me the low-down on the Clifford era. Not been seen for a while by all accounts. I have a pint of 1664 in the bar that leaves you feeling like you've been drinking in a leisure centre. The Burnley management team of Sean Dyche and Ian Woan celebrate a point against Man Utd in the live game on TV.

It's £6 on the gate. "Sorry mate, no programmes today, trouble at the printers." That old chestnut pal, I say under my breath. The ground is fairly unremarkable apart from a large stand with an elevated view and one of the best playing surfaces I ever seen at this level.

I earwig a conversation between two Harrogate Railway officials. It seems there's been an oversight, between them the bungling fools have forgot to bring any water bottles. I stand on the far side of the pitch next to a couple of flat-cappers. Garforth's 'keeper is the tallest man on the planet - he reminds me of Zeljko Kalac who played for Martin O'Neill's Leicester City.

Garforth play with a stiff breeze at their backs. Passes are overhit and chances are snatched at until the 20th minute when a well-flighted free kick is headed in (looked like handball from where I'm stood) by Curtly Martin-Wyatt. Railway lose their confidence and are pleased to hear the half-time whistle. Christ on a bike, the music blasting out from the PA is amongst the worst I've heard in eight years of groundhopping. I couldn't even put a genre to it. Railway nip out to Tesco's for a 24 pack of bottled water.

The first 25 minutes of the second half is utter tosh. Neither team look like they'll score in a month of Sundays. Railway throw caution to the wind, bringing on Lamin Colley and play three up top. The boy is like a breath of fresh air. He ghosts past defenders, leaving them trailing in his wake. He sets up the equaliser for Cartman. It's a shame that Colley's left his shooting boots in the railway sidings as he scuffs, tops and shanks efforts at goal. Baker plays a give and go before firing Railway into the next round of the FA Cup.

Man of the Match: Lamin Colley

Attendance: 120