Sunday, February 18, 2018

Crawley Town 3-1 Lincoln City

I'm traipsing down the steps of Nottingham Forest's Peter Taylor Stand (best ever talent spotter) with Tricky Tree diehard fan Sticky junior (my lad) after another depressing performance against fellow relegation strugglers Hull City. I've been to three games recently, five goals conceded and not one strike with a banjo at a cow's arse. Another change of manager and playing personnel hasn't made an iota of difference. I leave the 'Keyworth Georgie Best' to drown his sorrows and head off down Fox Road at the back of England's finest Test ground - Trent Bridge - with Lord's the only exception.

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.

I sink a couple of pints and catch up with an old boss from Ergo Computing who I have a lot of time for. Blimey Charlie, I've had three missed calls from the birthday girl, Ms Moon, who's on The Avenue and stamping her feet outside The Parlour (how did they get a license?) waiting for me. A few drinks later with a celebratory meal at Gusto, followed by drinky-poos at The Botanist (yes, I know, both chains, my point entirely) the 'Princess' is happy once again.

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.

The game's hard work. The pitch isn't conducive or good for playing ball to feet. The visitors are organised and well-drilled, as you would expect from a side managed by Gary Johnson. Lincoln's Neal Eardley scores a pile-driver on the stroke of half-time. We're in debt to on-loan Bournemouth 'keeper Ryan Allsop who sees us over the line with some fine saves and blocks.

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.

For the benefit of Crawley and Lincoln fans my mate Trumpy has pretty much drank in every city, town and village in the United Kingdom - and I'm not overegging that. He sniffs out a Wetherspoons in the old town on the High Street. It's a relief as the new town is a 1960s architectural disaster. We're approached by a lady who offers Bolton a card. She whispers "God can help you." "Any chance of three points for Lincoln", quips Trumpy. Car enthusiast Trumpy eulogises over a yellow Ford Escort MK1 parked up in the square.

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.

Crawley are all over Lincoln like a rash from the off. The pace of Lewis Young (brother of Manchester United's Ashley) and Dutch winger Enzio Boldewijn is killing the Lincoln left, who aren't tracking back. We've had a few let-offs before the inevitable happens. Young has the freedom of Crawley as the goal opens up. His shot cannons off the underside of the bar before falling somewhat fortuitously to Smith, who taps home the rebound.

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.

A fired-up Lincoln, clearly hoofed up the backside by the Management, begin to turn on the style. Woodyard is pressing and ratting, Bostwick gets his foot on the ball, Anderson terrorises the left back and Green works the channels. Pett clips the crossbar before Green latches onto a Matt Rhead flick before lifting the ball over the 'keeper with the outside of his boot and into the back of the net.

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

Nottingham Forest 0-2 Hull City

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.

It's Saturday morning and Ms Moon's birthday. It's teeming down with rain. We've already agreed that it's not worth the chase of a Non-League game, as few are going to survive this wretched spell of weather we're experiencing. After wolfing down a bacon cob, I wash a few pots whilst listening to Tim Sherwood on Five Live's Danny Baker Sausage Sandwich Game. Sherwood mentions that he went to China with Watford back in the day when Elton John owned the club. I saw Elton play a 45- minute set at our hotel on Thursday evening. After the final song I headed for the backstage to have a word in Elton's ear, as I'm still a bit cross on how he snared our manager, Graham Taylor, from Lincoln City back in 1977. Ms Moon saves my blushes by pointing out it's a tribute act and not the real person.

 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 further deterioration in the second half. Karanka has gone three at the back with Lichaj being hooked. It doesn't matter a jot as Hull control the game. Michael Mancienne and Ben Osborn bear the brunt of the crowd's frustration. Velios hasn't broken sweat and looks disinterested, despite being given a clean slate by Karanka. He is replaced by 34-year-old Daryl Murphy. There's little threat to the Hull goal.

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.

Attendance 23,098

Man of the Match: Nigel Adkins - spot on tactically. Exploited Forest's lack of pace.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Gedling MW 1-2 Kimberley MW

It's Saturday evening and Ms Moon has just dropped me off on Main Road in Gedling. I wander into The Willowbrook, a Castle Rock pub. Back in the day it was called the Willowbrook Club. We used to go in there to socialise after South Notts Village League cricket matches against Gedling Village. It reminded me of the Winchester Club off Minder, with Dave the landlord.

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 love coming up here. My first visit was back in 2007 when I witnessed Gedling MW upset the applecart with a fingernail-biting win over high-flying Atherstone Town. I met Tony Hay that day. He's remained as a volunteer through good and bad times. I introduce him to Ms Moon as he snaps away on his camera at the far end of the ground. Tony kindly invites us into hospitality for refreshments and a sandwich. Gedling equalise close to half-time with a well-worked goal scored by debutant Connor Croft.

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

Collingham 1-0 Dinnington Town

There's two minutes of 'mystery time' left (an old John Motson saying) at Huddersfield Town's Kirklees Stadium. The Terriers have stunk the place out with a substandard and embarrassing second half performance against a rejuvenated West Ham United. The car's parked miles away. We take the mother-of-all wrong turnings and end up in the Hammers' escort being frog-marched back to the train station. They'll be a good old knees-up on the old 'Joanna' in the 'Queen Vic' on Albert Square once the lads and lasses alight the train at Walford Station.

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.

Christ on a bike, how the heck is that place a Good Pub Guide entry. I send the GPG a grumpy tweet asking that very same question (no reply as of yet). The Caunton Beck is our (my) saving grace. They rustle up a couple of sandwiches that you could use as doorstops. I played cricket just behind the pub once. It was the one and only time that I've ever got caught behind by a wicket-keeper ( cue, it's the only ball you've ever laid a bat on, Sticky).

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.

A supporter in the crowd has lost the plot and is arguing with all and sundry. A guy comes flying out of the clubhouse. They offer each other outside before a club official intervenes and calm is restored.
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

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Huddersfield Town 1-4 West Ham United

It's Monday lunchtime on 18th December. I'm browsing the internet looking for a Premiership fixture in the New Year that'll get my juices flowing - I only do one a year. Last season we went to the wonderful, cobbled backstreets of Goodison Park to watch Everton and champions-elect Chelsea. Wantaway Brazilian-born striker Diego Costa was different gravy that day. He turned Phil Jagielka and Ashley Williams inside out. His attitude and effort were astounding, considering he wanted to toodle pip off to China

I scroll down the BBC website Premiership fixtures for Saturday January 13th until one catches my eye. It's a game that both teams will believe they can win. I punch out the Huddersfield Town ticket office number out on my mobile. The phone is picked up instantly. I receive a warm and pleasant customer service experience. I bag two tickets for £30 each in the lower stand of the 'Fantastic Media Stand' behind the goal. The phone call is in complete contrast to the one made minutes earlier to those buffoons on reception at Eden Hall, near Newark, when trying to book Ms Moon and her daughter a spa day as a Christmas pressie. After a heated conversation, a bad-tempered email and provocative tweet, calm is restored, soothed with the thought of a trip up to West Yorkshire.

I'm roused from my sleep early on Friday morning by the Nottingham Post app pinging on my phone. I rub sleep away from my eyes before fumbling for my glasses. Blimey O'Reilly, the recently refurbished Nottingham Railway Station is on fire. Crikey, I hope they're no casualties, including the new pub (BeerHeadZ) on Queen's Street, that opened up a few days ago.

More breaking news is coming in from Ms Moon on Canal Street. An emergency trip to the dentist on Carlton Hill has resulted in a couple of back gnashers being whipped out - I can't see the good lady being too chipper for the rest of the day.

I have a couple of tea-time real ales (Liverpool Pale) at the cosy Old Volunteer on Burton Road. Ms Moon joins me in the Willowbrook on Gedling Road. Back in the day it used to remind of the Winchester Club in the TV series Minder.  She sips on a prosecco having removed a full bag of blood-stained cotton wool from her back gums. I mention Joe Jordan, Shane McGowan and 'Jaws from James Bond - it doesn't crack a smile. I just receive the death stare. The 'Sheffield Steel' derby is a bore draw. I turn the lights out and head up to bed. I slip a £2 coin under the Princess's pillow.

Ms Moon is as fresh as a daisy on Saturday morning after a twelve-hour snooze-a-thon. We're up, at 'em and on the M1 heading north by 11:30am. Trumpy Bolton's favourite disc jockey, Graham Norton, is on the air on Radio 2. West Yorkshire born Young Ones actor, Ade Edmondson, is his special guest. I've always thought of him and his Cambridge Footlights cronies as a bit smug, but we both enjoy his endless, charming anecdotes.

Sat Nav guides us into a car park on St Andrew's Road, a ten-minute stroll away from the town centre. The good lady needs her coffee fix. It quashes any chance of a pub lunch. After a saunter up to the railway station and a couple of photos of the Harold Wilson statue, we ask a friendly policeman where the nearest Costa Coffee shop is, before Ms Moon turns into the Tasmanian Devil.

Huddersfield is a large market town in West Yorkshire with a population of over 160,000. It's a town of Victorian architecture with the railway station being a Grade 1 listed building. John Betjeman described it as "the most splendid station facade in England."

Famous people to come from the town include: pipe-smoking Prime Minister Rt Hon Harold Wilson, footballers Andy Booth, Cameron Jerome, Jon Stead and Frazier Campbell, Hollywood actor James Mason and Gordon Kaye from 'Allo 'Allo!

Huddersfield Town were founded in 1908 and are nicknamed the Terriers. In 1926 they became the first League club to win three consecutive Division One titles. Well known managers include Herbert Chapman and Bill Shankly. Last season they were 66/1 to be promoted to the Premiership. Emotional scenes were witnessed at Wembley, with mission accomplished on penalties. German manager David Wagner was given the 'freedom of the city.' Highest transfer fee paid is £11,440,000 to Montpellier HSC for Stephen Mounie. Highest Transfer fee received is £8 million for Jordan Rhodes from Blackburn Rovers.

We put more hard yards in as we slog it through town, across the A62 and onto the Kirklees Stadium. Incredibly 'our lass' needs another caffeine infusion - at this rate she won't sleep for a fortnight. I take my place in the lower section of the Media Stand as 'Chelsea Dagger' by Glaswegian indie band The Fratellis blasts out of the PA system. My only other visit to Huddersfield was at their old Leeds Road ground for a Sherpa Vans Trophy game versus Scarborough Town back in 1989 with Trumpy Bolton on a filthy Monday evening. The Terriers lost 2-1. Compare the two clubs now?

Jesus Christ, every seat has one of those bloody clappers on them. They won Leicester City the Premiership, as they kept putting off the opposition. A little lad comes skipping down the row behind me and immediately starts shaking his clapper. In his excitement a huge Frankfurter sausage falls out of his bun and rolls next to my foot. He sheds a few tears as I offer him the 'ten-second rule.'

The DJ set comprises of Madness (twice) Gala, 'Freed From Desire' (twice) and randomly 'Runaway' by Del Shannon. I admire the Hammers; always have. They have a fanatical fan base and believe in youth. The much-maligned Moyes has named a few young guns on the bench. I remark to Ms Moon that ex-Culture Club drummer Jon Moss is the referee today. "Is he?" she replies. Before noticing my smirk and digging her elbows into my ribs.

It's a tame game in the opening 25 minutes. The Terriers enjoy the lion's possession of the ball with only Tom Ince having the courage and guile to prise open the Hammers rearguard. On 15 minutes there's applause for 15-year-old Katelyn Dawson who tragically died in a horror crash whilst waiting for her school bus. The West Ham fans clap as one.

The game turns on a sixpence. A ridiculous pass from the 'keeper to Joe Lolley sees him surrounded by the Irons. Mark Noble on his 361st appearance gets a foot in before a clinical finish.
Former Non-League attacker Lolley makes amends on 40 minutes with a sublime finish after cutting in from the right and leaving Adrian with no chance following a left foot curling finish. Mascot 'Terry the Terrier' joins in the celebrations. He throws in more shapes than Arsenal striker Alex Iwobi at an early hours North London house party.

Huddersfield are still in the changing room when West Ham retake the lead just ten seconds into the second half (is this a record?). Austrian striker Marko Arnautovic, a £20 million Slaven Bilic signing, catches the Terriers napping before smashing the ball home.

The Irons counterattacking football is breathtaking on the eye. Arnautovic is terrorising the Terriers. He slips in Manuel Lanzini to make it 3-1. The same combination end the game as a contest, five minutes later, as the Austrian muscles his way through a shell-shocked defence, with the ball falling to Lanzini to fire home.

A flurry of substitutions by David Moyes ensure their lead is protected and that their rich vein of form continues. Huddersfield, on this shaky performance, will need reinforcements to bolster a fragile backline.

Attendance: 24,105

Man of the Match: Marko Arnautovic - class

Monday, January 8, 2018

F.C. United of Manchester 1-0 Southport

I'm shuffling across Trent Bridge with thousands of disillusioned Nottingham Forest supporters. Another toothless display at The City Ground has seen them defeated by relegation strugglers Sunderland. I cut through the 'Creative Quarter' before walking up the hill into Hockley, Nottingham's hipster area - (full of young 'uns with ridiculous beards, who drink craft beer).

I clock a bit of hot totty, out of breath, slogging it up the hill - it's Ms Moon. I open the door for the good lady to step into Bar Iberico on Carlton Street. It's 5:30pm on the nose, just in time for the 'Rapido Deal.' We tuck into four delicious tapas dishes accompanied by a glass of Rioja. The rest of the evening is spent with friends diving in and out of the splendid bars and pubs that Nottingham is famous for - *fails to mention that he popped into the Herbert Kilipin, on Bridlesmith Walk, when he stated weeks earlier that he wouldn't step foot in the place again - was outed on social media*

I arrive at the foot of our stairs on Sunday morning to be met by Ms Moon who has breaking news on her Facebook feed, that Mark Warburton and his Scottish backroom staff have got the hoof. The job was too big for him. At least the club won't need to shell out any more fees, to the same agent, for sub-standard players from north of the border.

There's been chuff all midweek football on, the inclement weather has put paid to that. I can't even be bothered to climb out my armchair on New Year's Day - we watch six episodes of Gavin and Stacey instead. We're booked in at a trendy boutique hotel in Newcastle on Saturday evening. The plan was to have some lunch at Tynemouth (Newcastle by-the-Sea) and then drive further up the coast to Croft Park to take in Blyth Spartans v Gainsborough Trinity. It's tipped it down with rain for most of the week and they are forecasting 40mph winds in the north-east. I pull the plug on our weekend away. I spot F.C. United of Manchester are taking advantage of the opportunity of playing on a Sunday with 'United' in FA Cup action against D***y on Friday and 'City' at home on Saturday.

Oh, what to do on Saturday? It's dank, damp and miserable again in our neck of the woods. I ask Ms Moon if she fancies some brunch in town with a trip to the cinema and a few drinkies after - she about snaps my hand off. I've read rave reviews on Molly's Game starring Idris Elba.

There's a heavy police presence in the area, with several roads cordoned off, as we walk to the bus stop on Carlton Road. A police car is being loaded onto the back of a lorry as we jump onto the No.25 bus into town.

After some brunch at the Hideout on King Street (had to use Google maps to find it), we pitch up at the Broadway Cinema to watch the film and are blown away with the fast pace of the plot (I can't arf pick 'em). We enjoy a few tea-time scoops at the Curious Tavern and Fox and Grapes before heading home back to Carlton for the evening.

It feels a little strange going to football on a Sunday. Ms Moon waves me off after very kindly making me a bacon cob. I decide to go up the A1 and across the M62 as there are no 50mph maximum speed limits. Five Live are broadcasting a documentary of tales of folk who have been stalked. It has me gripping the steering wheel. It scares the living daylights out of me. Ms Moon phones up to see how I'm progressing on the motorway. I tell her to stop stalking me and end the call.

Alastair Bruce-Ball and John Hartson are commentating at Rodney Parade as Newport County and 'Dirty Leeds' cross swords in the third round of the FA Cup. It's one of ten grounds left for me to tick off.

I'm up in Moston in less than two hours and parked up in St Matthews RC High School by 1:30pm. Even the car park attendant hasn't started his shift yet. I listen to the fag end of the game. A wry smile lights up my face as Newport snatch a late winner. I cough up to the car park chap that I've been here for ages and part with £3.

Moston is a district of Manchester two miles to the north-east of the city centre. It has a population of 14,000. Notable folk from the area include: the actress Marsha Thomason, former Man City, WBA and Nottingham Forest striker Ishmael Miller and Major Henry Kelly, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his action in the First World War.

The ground is a five-minute stroll up the road. I nearly fall arse over tit on an icy patch on the pavement as I approach the stadium. I'm only saved by the sturdy grip of my Adidas Sambas. Broadhurst Park is bathed in glorious sunshine and already a hive of activity an hour before kick-off. After taking a few snaps, I pay £10 on the gate (a sensible price, compared to the rip-off at some National League North grounds). The programme is £2 and is, without doubt, the best of the season.

F.C. United of Manchester is a semi-professional club based in Moston, Manchester. They were founded in 2005 by disenchanted Manchester United fans opposed to the takeover of the club by American businessman Malcolm Glazer. After sharing multiple stadia across the Greater Manchester region between 2005-2015, they finally opened their own ground, Broadhurst Park in May 2015.

F.C. United of Manchester are a fan-owned club which is democratically run by members who have equal voting rights and own one share each in the club. The club badge is based on the Manchester coat of arms and features a ship at sea and three stripes for the three rivers that run through the city. Karl Marginson was the manager for over twelve years, until recently parting company with the club.

I'm taken aback at the huge amount of flags erected in each stand. As new builds go, the ground is a beauty with no stone unturned. It's the little things like the recycling stations and real ale bar that catch my eye.

The DJs up in Manchester on the Non-League scene take pride in their pre-match set. I had expected a few Mancunian toons. There's little evidence of this, but the set is still stunning: Divine Comedy, The Members, Shed Seven and The Ruts get my feet tapping and my blood circulating on a bitterly cold day.

I'm leaning on a red-painted crash barrier towards the rear of the St Mary's Road End as the ground begins to fill up. Five minutes before kick off the crowd begin to sing relentlessly 'Bring on United' until both teams emerge from the tunnel.

FCUM fans go through their full repertoire of songs that made me chuckle at Sporting Khalsa in an FA Cup tie a few seasons ago. The anti-Glazer and Sky references to the tune of 'Anarchy in the UK' by the Sex Pistols are sung with venom.  I'm still laughing at an F.C. United tweet from their official account to Gary Neville, co-owner of Salford City, after a last-gasp goal had beaten their rivals on Boxing Day. It simply said "U ok Hun? x"

Player-manager, Tom Greaves, soon has the majority of an astonishing 2,863 crowd in raptures with a cool finish on twelve minutes. The fans poke fun at the Main Stand for not singing, but they're soon at it. Southport play ball to feet and are dangerous down the flanks, but nobody can get on the end of some crosses whipped in, that flash across goal. They are managed by former Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers striker Kevin Davies.

Around 200 fans are in attendance from F.C. Magdeburg in Germany. They were at Wrexham yesterday and are at the Macron Stadium on Monday evening when their team play a friendly against Bolton. FCUM turn off the music and allow them to sing at the break. I grab a can of Coke and a Bounty bar and stand at ground level next to some German lads.

The second half is scrappy and littered with fouls. Southport have to open up, but leave gaping holes at the back that FCUM try to exploit. The visitors do have the game's best player in 4 jacket David Morgan. The Belfast-born, former Nottingham Forest and Ilkeston Town midfielder prises open the home defence on countless occasions, but they fail to capitalise on his pinpoint passing. FCUM run the clock down to continue their good form under Greaves and climb up the table.

Attendance: 2,863

Man of the Match: David Morgan