Saturday, March 10, 2018
'The Lincoln' are stuck in a rut. I saw them get battered with a beer-fuelled Trumpy Bolton at Crawley Town, in Sussex, a few weeks back - I've not listened to Robert Smith's The Cure since. The following week that vile, horrible club, Crewe Alexandra, whacked us 4-1 at Sincil Bank - we miss our talisman Sean Raggett who set sail down The Wash to Norwich City in January.
I park up at the Water Meadows Leisure Centre. The place is mobbed with Imps fans - an incredible 2,000 following have rocked up on a school night. I've got an hour to kill before kick-off. I'm not sure if my stomach is wrenching and churning because of hunger or nerves. I grab my first Big Mac of the season at one of those soulless god-forsaken retail parks that have killed off our town centres.
At least we haven't got to put up with that bungling fool Steve Evans and his thug of a sidekick this evening, as they've both upped sticks to London Road in Peterborough. Ex-Imp David Flitcroft (two games on loan in 1993) is at the helm along with 'Big Ben Futcher.'
The Red Imps are fed, watered and rested after a gruelling fixture pile-up in January and February. Tonight there can be no excuses. The first half sees a committed display from both teams, with no quarter given. Lincoln take their eye off the ball early in the second half and fall behind to a clever finish by Joel Byrom.
'The Lincoln' have worked their socks off as the game enters the dying embers. Former Stag and Lincoln sub, Ollie Palmer, has received some ferocious stick from the Stags singing section. The inevitable happens on 90 minutes. Matt Rhead is like a performing seal at Twycross Zoo, heading the ball upwards twice unchallenged in the box, before it falls to Palmer who sweeps a shot home despite Conrad Logan's best efforts.
Palmer heads straight to a silent and stunned Stags singing section, cupping both his ears in their direction. I'm sat on my hands with a smile as wide as the A60. A moron in the stand hurls a water bottle towards Palmer. Lincoln skipper Luke Waterfall, even more foolishly, launches it back up to the top tier. The referee correctly shows him a Red card.
I find a turn of pace at the final whistle as there's a chance it might kick off. Some blokes behind me have expressed an interest in fisticuffs. I'm back home with the kettle on before 10:30pm. I toss and turn for most of the night re-living the extraordinary ending to a fine game of football. Lincoln City are back on it, with our No.30 Alex Woodyard ("he never gives the ball away") outstanding once again. He was released by Phil Brown at Southend in 2013 and is now attracting much-deserved attention higher up the food chain.
I'm kissing the lounge floor on 90 minutes on Wednesday evening, as if the Pope has graced its presence, as Tottenham Hotspur bow out of the Champions League. A nice little correct score bet will pay for a few weekend scoops. Glenn Hoddle and Jermaine Jenas have blown smoke up Spurs backside for most of the match. Juventus are ruthless in the final third and are denied a stonewall penalty early in the game.
Friday evening is spent at a damp and dank Platt Lane as Keyworth United entertain Aslockton and Orston in a 'Floody Friday' Central Midlands League game. My brolly is broke and I'm soaked to the skin as KUFC run out easy winners. A bizarre event happens at half-time as an away supporter falls down a manhole as the cover gives way due to slippery conditions. The poor sod is battered and bruised - I hold his umbrella; at least it keeps me dry for five minutes.
I sit in my pants and T-shirt, on my return home, smelling like a wet old dog as England win the final One Day game in New Zealand to clinch the series. Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid bowl beautifully in tandem as they rip through the top order.
I'm getting pumped up for the Chesterfield game on Saturday morning with one eye on the rain-drenched garden. I play 'Gravel Pit' by Wu-Tang Clan and 'Dare' by Gorillaz on my YouTube playlist. Murphy the budgie used to sit on my shoulder and enjoy me throwing a few shapes, bless him.
The club website advises us to park on Old Brick Works Lane, close to Chesters fish 'n chip shop. I clock an Aldi and take advantage of special offer Valpolicella Ripasso at £7.99 per bottle. We eat al fresco outside Tesco extra; a lunch kindly made-up by Ms Moon.
Chesterfield is a market town in Derbyshire with a population of over 100,000. It's best-known landmark is the Church of St Mary and All Saints, with its crooked spire constructed in the 14th Century. Queen's Park, in the town, is an attractive setting for cricket, with a bandstand and small pavilion. Indian cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar said it was one of his favourite grounds. Ms Moon and I once had a picnic there.
Notable folk associated with the town include: Royal butler Paul Burrell, the model Jo Guest, ex Blue Peter presenter Simon Groom (Goldie's owner -the dog not the DJ), former Labour minister Barbara Castle, cricketers Nigel Illingworth and Geoff Miller, footballers, John Lukic, Bob Wilson and Matthew Lowton and former MI5 officer and the author of Spycatcher Peter Wright. Tony Benn was Labour MP for Chesterfield from 1984-2001.
I went to the Spirerites old Saltergate ground in 1979 when the Red Imps won 3-1. It was the only time my mother ever watched Lincoln. Crowd favourite Gordon Hobson (a Sheffield lad) was on flames that day. The modern build Proact Stadium lacks any real character. What idiot agreed to it being built in the middle of a retail park?
It's £24 to sit in the West Stand, with seats a spitting distance away from both dugouts. The DJ spins a few classics including: 'Getting Away With It' by Electronic and 'Kinky Afro' by the Happy Mondays. I spot suspended Imps' skipper Luke Waterfall at Danny Cowley's side. I was going to offer him a sip of my bottled water, but he might not see the funny side.
The first fifteen minutes is hurly-burly, huff 'n puff and lacks any real quality. Ms Moon points across to the far stand where a sea of stewards race up the gantry. A supporter has been taken ill. We can see clearly a medic performing CPR for what seems ten minutes. I'm shocked to see the game continue as a human shield is formed with blankets. The game is suspended by the referee on 25 minutes. An air ambulance is applauded in and out of the stadium, as are the stewards and St John's Ambulance staff. We pray to God that the supporter pulls through.
The result is immaterial now; I'm surprised to see the game re-started. I guess life goes on. Lincoln are still in the changing rooms as a ball comes sailing in from the left wing. A looping header at the back stick puts Chesterfield 1-0 up. Michael Bostwick nods home an equaliser on the stroke of half time to make honours even.
On loan Blackburn defender Scott Wharton, who has been a Colossus, leaps like a salmon to power home a header to send the 2,000 Imps behind the goal into wild celebrations. The Cowleys close the game down. Matt Rhead is withdrawn. He is in the form of his life after penning a new contract. He's won every header and his touch has been sublime.
Super sub Ollie Palmer wriggles through three challenges before an outrageous finish with the outside of his boot to send the Imps back into a play-off spot. It's horrible to see the Spirerites six points adrift of safety. I really hope Jack Lester can steer them to safety.
No man of the match as St John's Ambulance, paramedics, Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance and Chesterfield FC stewards saved someone's life. Bill Shankly's famous quote about the game being more important than that is something that nobody in this ground will agree with. A donation will be made by this blog. Well done to all xx
Sunday, February 25, 2018
I'm still cross on Sunday morning as Ms Moon and I stroll hand-in-hand around Colwick Country Park, adjacent to Nottingham Racecourse, on a crisp winter's morning, blessed with wall to wall sunshine. 'The Princess' drops me outside 'Pryzm' nightclub on Lower Parliament Street - an area blighted by knife crime and fisticuffs in recent weeks. It's a run-down part of town, that has had its time. In its heyday bands such as New Order, in 1984, played gigs here, when it was The Palais - but then again, so did Mel and Kim.
I turn right at the Victoria Centre and head up Mansfield Road for a haircut at Wisdom Hairdressing. Nottingham's No.1 Kurdish barbers. Refreshed, after having my ears lowered, I drop into The Peacock, one of the last remaining Victorian inns left in the city - with table service in the Lounge by ringing the bell. I sink a pint (Harvest Pale) in the Bar listening to Canadian Indie singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco on the iPod shuffle.
A plaque outside says that famous authors D H Lawrence and John Harvey (Resnick) have frequented the joint over the years. So did my Dad. It was HQ back in the day for all the journalists from Radio Nottingham. I treated my Dad, a competitive man, Frank, for lunch in here once, having beaten him 2 and 1 on the 18th Green, up at Wollaton Park Golf Club - he didn't speak to me for two hours after ... lol.
Next port of call is the Horn in Hand on Goldsmith Street (the artist formerly known as the Spread Eagle and Fagins). I waltz in just as Norwich City nod home a 95th-minute equaliser in the East Anglian derby. Big Mick McCarthy looks like he's swallowed some broken glass.
As I exit the pub I hear burning rubber and the sickening sound of a cyclist being unseated from his bike, before being thrown over his handlebars and crashing onto the tarmac. A dazed and confused Kamikaze Deliveroo cyclist says he 'switched off' (a bit like Lincoln City at Crawley) as he jumped a red light. A top of the range Mini has clipped the rider. They remind me of the family from the BBC 'sitcom' Outnumbered (probably from West Bridgford). They seem more concerned about the minimal damage to their precious car, than the well being of the boy, despite his error. I shoot from the hip when I write up the previous day's happenings (at Crawley). It's well received in Sussex, but less so in Lincolnshire. I'm sure we'll bounce back from two losses in seventeen outings (?)
I spend Tuesday and Wednesday evening watching football in Sandiacre and Heanor respectively. The latter enjoy a last-gasp winner versus a Worcester City side that includes former Kidderminster Harriers, WBA, Coventry City and Notts County striker, Lee Hughes, still turning out at 41 years old - probably out of necessity.
It's Friday evening and I'm on the 'Keyworth Connection' Trent Barton Bus. I lived in the village for 45 years. Tonight former Nottingham Forest 'keeper, Head of Youth Development and Clough and Taylor's Chief Scout, Alan Hill, is waxing lyrical at Keyworth United FC about his time at The City Ground, working for the greatest manager of all time.
I have a Scoop up The Salutation, where Alan ('Hilly') was the landlord for five years, before hooking up with 'Dafty', Bobby and the 'Mayor of London' in the Keyworth Tavern. A wonderful evening is spent listening to Alan Hill story-telling. We land the £100 quiz first prize despite the diehard presence of a tanked-up 'A' Block in the audience.
My favourite Clough tale is when BC signs 15-year-old Cockney, Gary Charles, on a four-year contract. Having told the lad he'll play for England one day, Clough instructs the young Londoner to take his beloved black Labrador, 'Del Boy' for a walk down the banks of the River Trent. An hour later a panic-stricken Charles reports back in, minus Clough's pride and joy, who has slipped his leash. After a fruitless two hour search for the black Lab, Hill and Charles trudge into Clough's office to break the bad news. They knock on the door to see the wag-tailing man's best friend at Clough's side. "We've just brought the lead back, Boss."
We hit the road to 'Darlo' at 10am on the nose. There's a pit stop up on Mapperley Tops at Costa so Ms Moon gets her coffee fix - without it we're all doomed as Fraser used to say on Dad's Army. Two hours of Graham Norton practically tips me over the edge. Kylie Minogue is his special guest - she's as dull as dishwater, although 'Better the Devil You Know' is a guilty pleasure.
Sticky Palms and Ms Moon finally tip up in the delightful hamlet of Hurworth-on-Tees for lunch at the Otter and Fish, a gastropub in the village. Our kid lives down the road in York; he retired on Thursday, so we meet him and his wife (Sarah) for lunch to celebrate. Lunch is heavenly, and so is the Black Sheep ale brewed just 30 miles down the road in Masham. Godley and Creme's brilliant No.3 hit from 1981, Under Your Thumb, is on the pub iPod shuffle.
Darlington FC were founded in 1883 and are nicknamed the Quakers. Their chequered history is well documented. I never saw them play at their old ground at Feethams; hence my visit today. The last time I saw them at Sincil Bank was back in 1990 when they turned us over 3-0. Our second worst manager in the Club's history (Chris Sutt** tops the list), Alan 'Sniffer' Clarke was sacked straight after the game. I'm not saying I was back home in Notts early that day, but recall seeing Des Lynam on Final Score.
It's £5 to park the car, which to be honest cheeses me off. The steward explains it's one of the few ways to make money as they have to rent the ground off Darlington RFC (at £60k per annum as I find out later). I love the ground; it has a real football feel about it. I get chatting to a Kiddy fan. I mention that I like the way they play and rate their talisman Elton Nwgatala and flying winger Emmanuel Sonupe.
Manchester Non-League DJs are the benchmark when it comes to pre-match sets. Darlo's isn't doing too bad: Shed Seven, Electronic and Leicester-based indie band, Kasabian keep the ice-cold blood circulating in my toes. Ms Moon and I are both wearing five layers and yet still the bitter northerly chill and biting breeze finds the bones.
Kiddy dilly dally from the off and are fortunate not to be behind in the early stages. I strike up a conversation with a lovely Darlo fan. He gives me the lowdown on the politics. There's no love lost with the tenants, the Rugby Club. They seem to take pleasure (the Rugby Club) to rub the football club's nose in it where possible. No DFC signage is allowed. Staff blatantly sport Darlington RFC clothing at all food and drinks outlets.
It makes me feel sad that the Quakers, a former Football League club steeped in history, don't have their own home. The unscrupulous affairs of ex-owner and safe-cracker George Reynolds have been well documented. We passed the white elephant of a stadium on the A66 which was once the George Reynolds Stadium, home to Darlington FC, before their demise and relegation to the Northern League.
The first twenty-five minutes of the second half is scrappy and disjointed. Kiddy send on their big guns, Joe Ironside and Emmanuel Sonupe, a former Tottenham Hotspur scholar. The game opens up. A ball is pinged towards Ironside who flicks a header over a Middlesborough loanee 'stopper'who is punching thin air. The ball rebounds off the foot of the post to a gleeful Ironside who levels up the game.
Both teams desperately search for the winner. It's cult hero, Stephen Thompson who makes it 2-1 to steer away Darlo from the relegation battle at the bottom of the National league North.
Man of the Match: NFFC legend Alan Hill and Darlo's No.5, Josh Heaton
Sunday, February 18, 2018
I don't have to stress about how 'The Lincoln' have gone on, as we picked up a useful point in a dull as dishwater 0-0 at Cambridge United's Abbey Stadium on Friday evening. I missed most of the game due to being on a five-hour flight back from Tenerife. I caught the closing moments on Twitter following a desperate closing-time shop at Tesco in Carlton. A confused and bemused cashier on the till looks on in disbelief at a fist-pumping Sticky Palms as the full-time score is confirmed on the Live Scores app, as I clock up the points on my Tesco Clubcard.
I swing onto 'The Avenue' in West Bridgford, the most overrated street in our county. It could be the hive of all activity with bustling pubs, sun-drenched back gardens and bars packed to the rafters. West Bridgford Town Council (probably freemasons) and their doddering, dithering, dinosaur culture refuse to give the thumbs up to new licensees. Palms are greased by brands such as Pizza Express, Gusto and Marks and Spencer. One of the best real ale pubs, the Stratford Haven, previously a pet shop, took a painstaking five years to be granted a pub license. They'll be no Ashes Test in 2019 or 2023 to get the tills singing and ringing.
I have eyes only for one pub this evening. I enter the revolving door (not to be confused with the Nottingham Forest manager's hot seat). I adore the Test Match Hotel and its art deco interior. The place is stacked out with cheery England rugby fans and Forest supporters drowning their sorrows.
My football fix on Tuesday evening is back at Sincil Bank in Lincoln. I've never seen the Red Imps lose in over ten years when I've sat in the Selenity Stand. I ring up the ticket office in a flap on Tuesday lunchtime. They've only got restricted view tickets. I'm superstitious and daren't move.
I always get knots and butterflies in my stomach when I watch 'The Lincoln.' I'm not a diehard since I lost my Dad, but still enjoy an outing, particularly since the Cowleys arrived on the scene and re-built the club and ethos. I'm hovering outside the ticket office at 6:30pm; even the Cheltenham Town team bus has only just rocked up.
I got the green light for Crawley away from Trumpy Bolton (and Ms Moon) a few weeks' back) I collected terrace tickets the other evening at £16 each. Trumpy has been on the sauce in Leicester the previous evening when he saw the Foxes beat the Blades of Sheffield 1-0 to reach the FA Cup quarter-final - ooh the irony that Owls' fan Jamie Vardy has scored the winner.
I pick up the legend in the village of Keyworth just before 9am. He's halfway down a bottle of Hopping Hare ('breakfast' as he calls it). I've not seen him since bumping into one another at the Trent Bridge Inn on Christmas Eve.
We're both excited as it's ground 84/92 for Sticky and 85/92 for Bolton. He's immediately fiddling with the DAB radio as he's not having Graham Norton on Radio 2. Ironically, 'Just Like Heaven' by The Cure, formed in Crawley, is blaring out of the car speaker on Radio X. Back in the day they were one of my favourites. I saw them with my brother at York University on the 'Three Imaginary Boys' tour back in November 1980. I used to worship the ground that lead singer Robert Smith walked on.
Trumpy relaxes as he begins swigging from his litre bottle of pear cider as we get strapped in for the 350 mile round trip to Sussex. The M25 never fails to surprise me; even at a weekend. We're still parked up opposite Crawley Town Hall before twelve bells.
Bolton beats me 3-1 on pints as we head towards the ground. The club car park is full. An unhelpful, shoulder-shrugging steward sends us in the wrong direction. We finally rock up at the New Moon pub, just a five minute walk away. 'The Lincoln' have taken it over and have draped their flag over the front entrance. The old bill come waltzing in to check us over.
Crawley is a town and borough in West Sussex. It's 28 miles south of London and 18 miles north of Brighton. Notable people from the vicinity include: travel journalist Simon Calder, boxer Alan Minter, footballer Kevin Muscat (mad as a box of frogs) and sports presenter Dan Walker.
Crawley Town, nicknamed the Red Devils (or Reds), were founded in 1896. They are managed by former Leeds and Liverpool midfielder Harry Kewell, who is married to ex 'Emmerdale Farm' actress Sheree Murphy.
Trumpy sidles into the Redz Bar as I opt to bask in the late winter sunshine in the away end. The DJ's set ain't bad, but not up there with the Northern Non-League scene. The Killers, Hard-Fi and Oasis are the pick of the bunch.
The Red Imps have lost one game in the last seventeen. The Red Devils are in a rich vein of form too. Trumpy comes ambling across the terrace, muttering under his breath about the closure of the food bar. He returns from the snack counter with a Cornish pasty. I like the ground, it reminds me of Stevenage Town. Two seated stands run along the touchline, with terraces behind both goals.
Lincoln are way off the pace and can't get a sniff of the ball. There's wave after wave of attack. How we aren't three or four down I'll never know. The game gets niggly. Green is a lucky lad not to see two yellow cards. Referee, Mr Kettle, is at boiling point as he blows for half-time. A seething Danny Cowley, clearly frustrated by an inept Imps display, is sent to the stands as he tries to defend skipper Luke Waterfall.
Harry Kewell will be chilling out, sinking a few cans of Fosters and watching his missus pulling pints in the Woolpack on UK Gold at the break, as his team have played 'The Lincoln' off the park. Another Killers track is the highlight of the interval. Trumpy is unimpressed with what he's seen. He asks if we can sneak off and watch the second half at Horsham FC in the Isthmian League.
Lincoln are rampant now as they search for a winner that some would say they little deserve. Kamikaze defending sees them concede a penalty, before Crawley seal victory from a set-piece that is once again poorly defended.
I feel sorry for the lad next to me. He's travelled up from Salford, near Manchester and follows the Imps home and away. Both he and I had expected much more but will travel home empty-handed and angry after a poor first half showing.
I'm seething on the long journey home. I won't be playing The Cure You Tube playlist when I finally return to Nottingham.
Attendance: 2,809 (702 Imps)
Man of the Match: Salford Imp
Sunday, February 11, 2018
It's 8:30pm on Friday evening, as our TUI 737 plane touches down on the East Midlands Airport runway, after a turbulent, near-on five-hour flight into 60mph winds. We're met with freezing temperatures after seven days of sun-kissed Canary Island blue skies.
Base camp was at the Hotel Bahia Princess, in the southern resort of Costa Adeje. Of course, we ticked a ground off; we always do. A 20 euros taxi ride saw us head up into the hills towards the small town of Las Zocas, in the San Miguel region, who were hosting CD Mensajero, a club based in Gran Canaria. It's the fourth ground I've visited in Tenerife (Tercera Division 12 Canary League). It was 8 euros in. We didn't bother with the raffle as the prizes were a bag of potatoes and a homemade Madeira cake, baked by Ronaldo's mum. The game was a cracker, with a last-gasp winner from UD Zocas sending the locals into raptures and more importantly towards a crowded bar, with celebrations set to run deep into the night.
We chilled out the rest of the week. Ms Moon very kindly booked a whale and dolphin watching boat trip and a one-hour full body massage, back at the hotel, for my 54th birthday. I stayed off the beer as Tenerife doesn't do real ale. Sadly, I overindulged on the Hendricks gin which resulted in a couple of gincidents. I bagged a bottle of the said gin in our resort, before foolishly packing it into my hand luggage to avoid any breakages. Security were having none of it, as the bottle showed up on the thermal image machine. It was confiscated, or as the blithering idiot of a guard put it, 'destroyed.' - yeah by you and your mate.
I ploughed my way through a couple of good reads from the safety of my sunbed. The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club, by former Joy Division and New Order bassist Peter Hook (some cracking anecdotes in this book) and The Long Road From Jarrow by 6Music presenter Stuart Maconie.
I leave the Princess to catch up on Emmerdale, Corrie and Coach Trip: Road to Tenerife (she'll enjoy that one). We'll meet later in West Bridgford for dinner and drinks after the game. I jump on the No.25 bus outside The Doghouse pub (a punk rock and heavy metal venue) on Carlton Road. It's a bit grim at the bottom end of Sneinton. All the old classic pubs such as the Duke of Devonshire, Duke of Cambridge and White Lion have bitten the dust. Lower Parliament Street is just as bleak. It's littered with 'To Let' signs and washed out windows. Antibo, the Italian restaurant famous for two for one meals, is now a derelict building, having been closed for over six years.
I nip into Pandora, a jewellery store in Victoria Centre. I buy a couple of charms for Ms Moon's bracelet and a safety chain, before pegging it down to Arkwright Street for my first liquid refreshment of the day.
BeerHeadZ is a Grade II listed green and white painted 'Cabman's Shelter' to the right of the Railway Station on the corner of Carrington Street and Queens Road. I order up a pint of Auckland pale ale, crafted in Yorkshire. I get chatting to a couple of cheerful chaps from Bottesford and Bradford who are real ale aficionados.
I take a stroll up Arkwright Walk, through the Meadows, before crossing over Trent Bridge. Ten minutes later I clock a lanky streak of p**s walking in my direction. It's none other than Sticky junior (aka the 'Keyworth Georgie Best'). He sparks up a cigarette as we head towards the Main Stand turnstile. The boy has already had a few scoops with his pals at the Hubble Bar on Pavilion Road. His nerves kick in as he rolls-up another fag as I chat to 'Big Al' a friend and ex-work colleague. We're joined by Johnny Haslam, a Forest die-hard, born just outside Hull.
Kingston upon-Hull is a city in the East Riding of Yorkshire with a population of 260,000. The city suffered extensive damage during the Second World War (the Hull Blitz). It was UK City of Culture in 2017. Hull Kingston Rovers and Hull FC are well-known rugby league clubs that both play in the Super League.
Notable people associated with the city include: Paul Heaton and Norman Cook from The Housemartins, Roland Gift from Fine Young Cannibals, Mick Ronson, who was David Bowie's guitarist, poet and novelist Philip Larkin, actor Sir Tom Courtenay, actress Maureen Lipman, Roy North (Mr Roy from the Basil Brush Show), politicians William Wilberforce and John Prescott, aviator Amy Johnson (first person to fly solo from England to Australia), J. Arthur Rank from cinema fame and former footballers Nicky Barmby and Dean Windass.
Welsh-born rugby league winger Clive Sullivan played over 500 games for Hull KR and Hull FC. He died of cancer aged 42 years old. He was held in such high esteem in the city that a road was named after him that runs between the Humber Bridge and city centre (A63).
Hull City FC, nicknamed the Tigers, were founded in 1904. I used to love their old Boothferry Park ground. I went one Friday night, back in the day (1990) to watch Leicester City with Trumpy Bolton. The Foxes lost 5-2. Record transfer received for Hull is £12,500,000 from Southampton for the services of Ireland striker Shane Long. Biggest transfer fee paid out was £9,500,000 for Uruguayan striker Abel Hernandez from Italian side Palermo.
I take my seat as the teams emerge from the tunnel - 'junior' has gone for another Heineken. I can't watch my football through beer goggles, unlike a beer-fuelled 'A' Block who are relentless and raucous. There's a rousing rendition of 'Mull of Kintyre.
Spanish manager Aitor Karanka is the latest incumbent in the electric chair. Forest's twelfth manager in just over five years, if you include caretakers. One win in nine League games has seen the Tricky Trees plummet down the Championship table. The goals have dried up too. There's no place in today's squad for highly-rated teenager Ben Brereton. Deadline day transfer activity at The City Ground made Harry Redknapp and Barry Fry look like novices.
Hull City and in particularly amenable manager Nigel Adkins have escalating problems of their own. No League wins in their last nine outings sees them hovering close to the basement. Forest start brightly, spurred on by the crowd. We're only seven minutes in when disaster strikes. Eric Lichaj hauls down Harry Wilson, on-loan from Liverpool. Jon Toral steps up to take the penalty only to see it brilliantly saved by Romanian 'keeper Costel Pantilimon. Celebrations are short-lived, with Toral making amends by nodding home from the resulting corner.
Matty Cash is unfortunate to see an effort, only minutes later, thump McGregor's left-hand post. The Tigers are lightning on the counterattack. They double their lead on 38 minutes with Wilson finishing off a wonderful four-man move at breakneck speed. A point-blank save from Pantilimon on the stroke of half-time saves Forest from further embarrassment.
The players' confidence is shot, as boos ring out, just like they did on my last two visits against Cardiff and Sunderland. Most of 'A' Block retreated to the bar on 38 minutes. Sticky junior joins them on 45 minutes. Not many are around to tap their feet to Justin Timberlake's 'Can't Stop the Feeling.'
There's been gallows humour in 'A' Block. They've poked fun at supporters in the Bridgford End and ridiculed the team - they've paid their money and take their choice. It turns to anger at the final whistle. Ben Osborn - 'one of their own' - perhaps naively begins to clap the crowd. The few stragglers left turn on him with a volley of abuse. The boy has tried his hardest, it's just that nothing has come off. His performance has been sub-standard. At least he chose not to hide or shirk responsibility, unlike some others.
Nigel Clough will have the Brewers of Burton pumped up for next week's clash at the Pirelli Stadium. Defeat in Staffordshire for Forest will leave them to fight out another relegation scrap.
Man of the Match: Nigel Adkins - spot on tactically. Exploited Forest's lack of pace.
Sunday, January 28, 2018
I quaff a pint of real ale as I scroll through twitter checking on all the Non-League final scores. As I exit the pub a white illuminated light catches the corner of my eye. I walk into Ladbrokes flashing a cheesy grin. I'd expected security in the joint as I'm about to empty the tills. I produce my winning ticket. A grumpy cashier at the fag end of a twelve-hour shift counts out a £27.50 return. Stoke City, Man Utd and Blackburn Rovers - I really can't 'arf pick 'em.
I've been mooching about the house for a few days. I need summat to get my juices flowing. The wintry rain is seeing game after game fall by the wayside. I spot that 'The Lincoln' are playing Peterborough United in the much-maligned Checkatrade Trophy at Sincil Bank. The Imps are two games away from playing at Wembley for the first time in their 135-year-old history. Folk are boycotting the competition because of Premier League under 21 teams being allowed in. Chuff that for a game of soldiers, if it means a trip to the Twin Towers.
I squeeze in enough time for a re-visit to the Sea Queen on Rookery Lane, a mile outside Lincoln city centre. Mini cod, chips and peas are a steal at £3.50. I have to eat them on the hoof as the rush-hour and football traffic backs up on the Newark Road.
I cut through a snicket and find my way onto the High Street. Hell's Bells, I've never seen so many rozzers parked up and patrolling the street corners. They must have thought Sticky jnr was rocking up with Dad.
It turns out to be the game of the season. It's 2-2 after an hour. Former Stockport County forward and ex Imp, Danny Lloyd has scored a belter. Our man Danny Rowe, on loan from Ipswich Town, has too. The fourth official indicates there's four minutes extra time. Former Posh wide man and often Lincoln's talisman, Harry Anderson, scores a cracker on 92 minutes. A lung-busting 50 yard run by Matt Green, who must be out on his feet, sees him outpace a tiring defender, before drawing the 'keeper and finishing with aplomb. Me and the bloke behind me high five one another. What a wonderful evening it has been.
I'm still buzzing the following day despite being stuck in traffic on the M6 North. I spend the evening at a Premier Inn close to Manchester Airport with a colleague, George. I'd have taken him to a game but his flight didn't land until gone 8pm. It's ironic that I'm in Manchester when news breaks of the death of The Fall lead singer Mark E Smith. They are a band I've followed since the early days of 'Live at The Witch Trials and 'Grotesque.' Apparently every time he bumped into Morrissey he used to say "Morning Steven."
It's Friday evening and the end to a frustrating week at work. I need to relax with a few beers. Ms Moon is up Mapperley Tops with her mate Jill, drinking cider at a Wetherspoons watering hole. I place another little bet at Ladbrokes in Hockley, before legging it up towards Canning Circus. I love a mini pub crawl up here. On February 2nd The Overdraught will be a welcome addition to this 'Real Ale Quarter.' I visit the usual haunts - Hand and Heart, Sir John Borlase and Organ Grinder, before returning home to play The Cure back catalogue on You Tube TV.
We both have the mother-of-all lie-ins on Saturday morning. I'm in proper Mrs Doubtfire mode once I kick-start the morning. Every cupboard in the kitchen is emptied, cleaned and replenished. I had hoped to watch my old club Keyworth United up at AFC Kilburn near Belper. It bites the dust due to a waterlogged pitch. It's either going to be Heanor Town or Gainsborough Trinity.
I fancy another peek at Shay Brennan the Shepshed Dynamo forward who caught my eye at Coventry United a few months ago. It sways my decision to travel to Heanor as Shepshed are the visitors. The pitch has been passed fit by a Conference standard referee. It's only a half an hour trip up the road.
Paul Gambacinni's Pick of the Pops is on Radio 2. The year is 1985; the same as it was on TOTP 2 on Thursday night. Ms Moon loves the 80s. She sings her heart out to 'I Know Him So Well' by Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson. I'm surprised it doesn't cause a multiple pile-up on the A610, but it does beat my attempt at 'Atmosphere' by Russ Abbott on Thursday evening.
It's £12 on the gate for the two of us. The programme is £1. Ms Moon buys a couple of 50/50 tickets. We've both not had time for lunch, so it's full speed ahead to the snack bar. Pie, chips, mushy peas and gravy is £3.75 per portion and yummy it is too.
The pitch is cut up quite badly and extremely muddy. I'm informed by a supporter that the ref from the Birmingham area has been here since 2pm and has inspected the pitch suited, booted and in a pair of hush puppies at a bargain-priced £29.99 from Dolcis.
I notice the officials appear from out of the dressing room at 2:40pm; it's good of them to grace us with their presence. There's been no rain or any changes in the weather conditions since 2pm. One or two Shepshed players are in his ear about the pitch condition. I might add there's no standing water.
I smell a rat immediately as I see the bearded official heading down the slope towards an area of concern. Where the hell has he been for the last half an hour? Perhaps him and his two assistants were watching an old episode of Crossroads on the i-Pad or, maybe playing a game of gin rummy.
I pick up my pace and leave Ms Moon for dead as I stalk the ref up the touchline. "Don't you dare call this off now when you've been here since 2pm" I shout in vain. There's loads of headshaking and finger-pointing as he addresses the two managers. I know the game is off but want my pound of flesh.
I'm leaning on the gate that's close to the entrance to the dressing rooms as the flustered official draws ever closer to me. Lenny the Lion, the Heanor mascot, is next to me. We've agreed that I will rinse the ref and he'll maul him. I don't swear (Ms Moon thinks I might of done). I remember the finger-wagging and "bungling fool", "blithering idiot", "absolute clown" and "blatant disregard regard for paying spectators" before I storm off in the direction of the turnstiles with a hugely embarrassed Ms Moon traipsing twenty yards behind me.
I tell the lass on the turnstile to keep my money but not to pay 'Benny' from Crossroads one bean in expenses. Ms Moon apologises for my behaviour. I'm so pent up that I take a wrong turning. It's a full five minutes before I'm reunited with a horror-struck Ms Moon.
'The Princess' knows it's probably best to keep schtum. I don't lose my shit too often. A few memorable occasions include the Charlton Arms in Ludlow, Malmaison in Liverpool and South Yorkshire Police in 2002 (let's face it who hasn't fallen out with them).
Ms Moon tries to lighten the mood by turning on the radio. Jesus wept, even Gambacinni has finished his shift. I hate Radio 2. I hate football. I hate everybody. That dimwit of a ref has given us five minutes to find another game, whilst he trims his beard and gets spruced up in anticipation of a night out in Nottingham's hipster area of Hockley.
I'm fuming. Who the hell appointed the drongo? In a complete 'diva' fit I phone up the Derbyshire FA to complain about the imbecile. On what is their busiest day of the week I'm not surprised to hear they're closed until Monday morning.
I come out of my sulk and catch my breath by the time we reach Basford. Gedling MW and Kimberley MW are playing up on Plains Road. It's 3:30pm as we stick the car in the Nuffield Gym. The gateman is still on sentry duty. I hand over £10. Just as the turnstile gate clicks over once, I see a Kimberley corner sailing into the box which enables Alex Doyle to open the scoring.
I check my betting slip at the break before scrunching it in my hand and lobbing it into the nearest litter bin. I can hear the foghorn dulcet tones of the Kimberley manager, but he's conspicuous by his absence from the technical area. Rumour is that he's serving a six-match ban following a touchline misdemeanor(s) (he's on first name terms with the Notts FA). I notice the acting manager is receiving instructions from the suspended gaffer by walkie-talkies they bought from Smyths Toys in Colwick en-route to the ground. It's comedy gold as the messages are relayed to the players word for word. It like a scene from Phoenix Nights with Max and Paddy: "Can you hear me now?"
We wander over the far side. I have a chat with 'Kimbo' legends Stephen Hobster and Danny Staley. 'Hobo' has just bought into a pub called the 'Caught 'n Bowled' in Giltbrook (get yourself down there folks, it's named after Notts ledge Samit Patel). The suspended manager does an embarrassing 'Dad Dance' as Kimberley grab all three points following a late strike from former Nottingham Forest defender Aaron Mitchell.
Man of the Match: Ms Moon for putting up with my hissy fits xx
Sunday, January 21, 2018
The A62 is clogged up with traffic. I quickly check the live scores on my mobile. Notts County have grabbed a point at Sincil Bank. Lincoln have only taken two points off the promotion front-runners in League Two, out of a possible twelve. It's not good enough.
We spend a lovely evening up at my brother's gaff in York. He rustles up a fish pie as we catch up with one another, as Christmas was blighted with illness. The cobwebs are blown away the following morning with a brisk walk around the villages of Upper Poppleton and Nether Poppleton, before returning home to Notts.
I've got the hump on Monday evening. I have to be out of bed at the crack of dawn on Tuesday morning for a sales conference in Glasgow. The flight's delayed for over an hour. Scotland is covered in a blanket of snow. Thankfully Glasgow city centre and the airport are clear of the dreaded white powder.
The iconic Grand Central Hotel is a cracker and is situated inside Glasgow Railway Station. My mate Lee and I manage to slip out after evening dinner. We stumble across the Cosmopol Karaoke Bar on Hope Street. I get on the Guinness and have a flick through the songs you can sing on stage. I had hoped to belt out 'Donald Where's Your Troosers' or 'Party Fears Two' by Dundee synth-pop band The Associates. It's gone midnight and most of the Scots are spangled in the bar. We leave an 'Amy Winehouse' on stage and nip back to the hotel for a nightcap before turning in for bed.
It's Friday evening. I jump on a bus out of Carlton after a frustrating day 'at the office.' I alight the bus in Hockley and wander up Goosegate. I'm about to place my first football bet of the season after 48 hours of live research. Huddersfield are the worst team I've seen in the Premier League since King Billy's D***y County back in 2008. Burnley have packed up their buckets and spades for the summer holidays (Man Utd will beat them) and Blackburn will cake-walk League Two. I have a £5 treble at Ladbrokes, before wandering into the Market Square, up Friar Lane and across Maid Marian Way.
I climb the hill up towards the Crafty Crow, a wood-furnished tap house that serves real ales from the Magpie Brewery. I choose one from the specials board called Jack Spaniels, a Gundog ale, who are based in Daventry. Ms Moon soon joins me. After supping a few drinks, whilst lounging about on a Chesterfield sofa, we up sticks and have one for the road in the Bell Inn. An impatient old Irishman in a tweed flat cap and old Mackintosh trench coat is about to lose his cool at the bar. He asks me if I'm from Nottingham, I reply in the affirmative. "It's a shithole" he shouts out, before disappearing into the night (bit harsh, has he ever been to Waterford?).
I'm shouting out at my TV on Saturday. It's taken me months to work out (actually 'Taggart' told me) that I can shout the name of a band and You Tube will play any song. I scroll through my twitter timeline whilst listening to tracks from Closer by Joy Division.
I'm all excited about going to Wellingborough, it'll give me the chance to write about post-punk band Bauhaus. I used to worship Pete Murphy and Bauhaus. I saw them at Futurama at Stafford Bingley Hall in 1981 and twice more at Nottingham's Rock City. They had the novel idea of hiring an old double-decker London bus to play a gig whilst travelling up and down the streets of Northampton city centre.
Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke (yawn) was also born in the town. What were Mum and Dad thinking, spelling Thom like that? Can you imagine the poor sod ringing up for a doctor's appointment, "it's Thom, with an 'H', ok ya." Thom had a tough start in life. He was born with a paralysed left eye and had six operations before the age of 6 years old. The final operation was botched, leaving Yorke with a drooping eyelid. This may account for some of his morose song-writing and haunting voice.
There's a great scene from Father Ted in which Ted and Dougal have been looking after a suicidal priest called Father Kevin, who at every opportunity tries to kill himself; even after losing at snakes 'n ladders (which takes some doing when playing Dougal). After six months he's as happy as Larry and deemed fit to return to the priesthood. He catches a bus on Craggy Island back to the mainland, full of the joys of spring. The bus driver shouts out to the priest "Father, do you mind if I turn the radio on?" The DJ plays Radiohead's new single. The priest sinks further into depression.
Wellingborough Whitworth have 99% confirmed that their United Counties League game versus St Andrews from Leicester will take place. That 1% nags away at me as Ian Curtis builds to a crescendo. It's with good reason too; Whitworth confirm that the game has been hosed off.
Chuffing hell, what are we going to do now? I can see Ms Moon has got her eye on the cinema followed by some tapas. I need to knock that nail on the head. Blimey Charlie, Collingham FC, just outside Newark, are saying the game is confirmed as ON - heavens to betsy. I have a flick through the Good Pub Guide and clock the Fountain Hotel in Tuxford as a pub that still needs ticking off. I tell Ms Moon that Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep and 'Terry Tapas' will have to wait.
I've got the bottom lip on by the time we reach the roundabout at Lowdham. I'm 2-0 down in 'name that tune' on Absolute 80s. I pull it back to 3-3 on the A1, but Michael Jackson and Dire Straits see me relinquish my crown.
The Fountain Hotel ain't much to write home about. It looks run down and deserted. I poke my head into the Lounge to be greeted by a young barmaid. We're told that food is served in the Bar only. The same girl appears in the Bar. I say to her that I've just seen her sister in the Lounge - "I haven't got a sister" she replies. The food on the menu looks appalling and they've no decent beers on. I have a quick half of Goose Island and Ms Moon a frothy machine-made latte.
Collingham is located on the banks of the River Trent in Nottinghamshire with a population of just under 3,000. I remember my local cricket club winning a tense semi-final back in 1996, when blog legend Barthez ran out their last batsman with a direct throw from point. Former Lincoln City legend and Notts County manager Steve Thompson played that day.
The football club was formed in 1887. I've blogged Newark Town there as a ground-share and have even managed the world famous Clifton All Whites (U19) there a few years back, when we got a dusting over (hairdryer came out at half-time). It's £3 each on the gate and £1 for a programme, that's dished out by a jolly gateman.
Ms Moon has been tipped the wink about the famous sausage rolls that are supplied by the local butcher. She dashes quicker to the bar than Trumpy Bolton, as the word is supplies are in demand. We go halves. It's the greatest sausage roll on earth. Take a bow J D Nicholson.
I'm not expecting much on the football front. Collingham 19s were tip top a few years ago, but not many have stuck around. Dinnington will be in-your-face if my last viewing is anything to go by - they've brought a fair few supporters too. There's a minute's silence held for the untimely death of Cyrille Regis, who was plucked from Non-League obscurity by West Bromwich Albion.
Collingham have pace but lack guile - they couldn't hit an elephant's arse with a banjo. The game-changer is on 30 minutes. A Collingham player skips down the wing, staying on his feet after one bad challenge. The centre-half is pulled out of position and comes careering towards the boy before lunging in with a sickening challenge that could have been a leg-breaker. The ref picks his back pocket and correctly shows a Red card. He's harangued for a full three minutes, Man Utd style, by the visiting players.
The supporter is so hot and bothered that he has to remove his coat and scarf (it's close to freezing point).
I manage to have a word with 'Dinnington Ultra' Shih Tzu dog, Ted. He's not too chuffed with the decision either. I don't argue the toss with him as he has a decent pair of gnashers on him for a little 'un and might nip my ankles.
The Dinnington goalkeeper starts acting the clown in the second half. The Big Time Charlie is petulant, immature and juvenile in his behaviour. The smile is firmly wiped off his face when he fails to come and collect a corner in the 92nd minute with the ball finally finding the back of the net following a desperate attempt to clear by a Dinnington defender. It's a real shame, as the visitors have given their all with 10 men for over an hour and probably deserved a point for all their efforts.
Man of the Match: Ted the Shih Tzu