Saturday, October 31, 2009

Kirkby Town 3 Louth Town 2

We met on an autumn evening at Causeway Lane, the home of Matlock Town FC. I was stood with The Taxman and he was with ‘Screats’ Dad. We live in the same village but were somehow acquainted 30 miles away. It quickly became apparent that we shared a passion for the non league scene. It was the perfect combination: I enjoy the beautiful game and he enjoys the half-time tucker.

But now my relationship with White Van Man is in tatters. What he has done to me is unforgiveable. How could he do it? I feel sick, repulsed and angry. It’s broken me. He’s only phoned-in to the worst radio station in the world – Heart FM – to speak up for them pair of potato pickers off the X-Factor – John and Edward (Jedward). He was live on the airwaves and called himself ‘David from Keyworth.’ Shame on you WVM!

I took ‘The Skipper’ on the Par 3 at Edwalton Golf Course. He proper got the hump as Sticky Palms burnt the course up like Tiger Woods. I made par at the 4th, 5th, 6th & 7th and chipped in twice off the green. It made the Chicken Legend at McDonalds, after the game that little bit more enjoyable.

It’s Saturday 8am and The Groundhopper has the hangover from hell. I appreciate how Trumpy Bolton must feel every morning. I was in West Bridgford last night at a real ale house called the Stratford Haven. I over-indulged in guzzling copious amounts of Golden Wunder bitter from the Thwaites brewery in Blackburn.

Mrs P had kicked me out the house because she was having a girlie night. Allegedly it was a strategy meeting for their impending weekend in London( no groundhopping that weekend readers). In hindsight I’d have been better off sharing a table for two in Finley’s hutch.

I staggered onto the 11.30pm bus from Trent Bridge. There were one or two exuberant Leicester fans on the back row celebrating their second away win in less than five days.

I’m committed to being in Sutton-in-Ashfield on a scouting job by 10am. It’s going to take more than two poached eggs to crank me up today.

I’m driving up the A60 chuckling away at the Danny Baker Show on Five Live. Baker is asking folk to phone in if they’ve ever been inside a football managers’ house. I immediately phone JK as he once went to Walter Smith’s gaffe in Glasgow and disturbed him from his painting and decorating. Walter even invited him in for a cup of tea. JK tries to phone the show but can’t get through.

I watch an under 8s and under 9s game in Sutton-in-Ashfield. The kids play the game with a smile on the face. Both games are quality. I really enjoy it and invite a couple of boys to come in and train with Notts County.

It’s been a good morning’s work. I pop into The Fieldings, the home of Sutton AFC. Mansfield Town u18s and Notts County u18s lock horns. The Stags score an injury time winner. It’s somewhat took the gloss off the morning.

I drive up to Kirkby-in-Ashfield. I’m in the Rolls Royce and have bags of time on my hands. I swing into a Tesco Express to buy some lunch. My headache and upset stomach are a distant memory. I grab a chicken Caesar wrap and a bottle of Oasis orange.

Within 50 metres of the shop is a huge Co-op which I’d somehow failed to spot. I perform a u-turn and head back towards the Summit Centre, which is a not for profit community enterprise, developed by the East Kirkby Welfare.

Kirkby-in-Ashfield is a market town in Nottinghamshire with a population of 25,000. It was once at the heart of the Nottinghamshire coalfields. Most of the collieries were closed in the 1980s.

Famous people from the Kirkby area include: former England fast bowler Harold Larwood (there is a statue of him in the town centre), Chris Gascoyne, who plays born loser Peter Barlow in Coronation Street (he went to school in Kirkby), former Middlesboro defender Stuart Boam, and ex QPR and Everton winger Dave Thomas (socks always rolled down).Labour politician and former defence secretary Geoff Hoon is Member of Parliament for Ashfield.

I park the car and take a walk back up the road to the main drag. The housing estate close to the ground is modern and yet already a house is boarded up and plastered in graffiti. A pit bull terrier comes tearing up the drive towards me. Thank God I didn’t bring Finley with me.

A youth roars up and down the cul-de-sac on his trials bike. The Lowmoor Inn, on the main road, is boarded up. Local youths tried to burn it down a few nights ago.

I take a wander inside the Summit Centre. It’s clean, spacious and has a vibe. The urinals are manufactured by Armitage Shanks – it’s always a good marker in my eyes.

Unbeaten Louth Town are today’s visitors. It’s the capital of the Lincolnshire Wolds and has a population of 15,000.

I take a position to the left of the home dugout. I’m joined by Tony Cook, who is a coach at the Nottingham Forest Academy. He’s on good form as Forest Youth have slapped D***y County under 18s 6-3.

The game has an edge to it and is played at a good tempo. Louth play a passing game, whilst Kirkby look for the runs of the muscular Bramwell, who’s struggling a wee bit after being bed ridden for a week with a virus.

There’s a bit of a commotion on ten minutes when Tony receives a text from his missus asking him whether he’s fed the fish or not.

I’ve already clocked the idiosyncratic behaviour of both managers, particular the lunatic from Louth. He looks to be capable of bursting more blood vessels than Billy Davies and Stan Ternant put together.

Kirkby take the lead after 20 minutes after evenly balanced opening. A well worked short corner finds Hudson on the edge of the box. He whips in an inch perfect cross for Roebuck(I used to work with his dad Malc) to force home at the second attempt. The Louth manager is in need of medication. He has a rant at the officials and retreats to the dugout.

Louth spurn the game’s best opportunity shortly before the break with their number 7 forcing a brave block by an alert Paul Stanhope in the Kirkby goal.

Bramwell is fortunate to stay on the field of play on 45 minutes having kicked out at the Louth skipper. Louth manager Paul Walden is incensed that the ref only brandishes a yellow card. He has another temper tantrum and ends up being sent off himself.

It’s been action-packed and I’m looking forward to my cup of char. I hunt down Kirkby Town legend Fred. He’s Kirkby’s Jack-of-all trades. He’s very kindly gave me the lowdown on this very friendly club.

I’m introduced to his friend Roger Rann, who scored over 200 goals for Arnold Town in the 1970s. I’m shocked to hear he wasn’t invited to the official opening of their Eagle Valley Ground yesterday.

Fred won't pose for a photo. He says with it being Halloween and all that it might scare the kids. I tend to put on old Peter Beardsley DVDs to frighten my two lads.

I’ve been that busy chatting that by the time I’m back pitchside Louth are already 2-1 up. It’s the first goals I’ve missed in years. Striker Paul Watts has bagged a brace.

Louth have a spring in their step and are helped further in the 65th minute when the referee is left with little alternative but to red card Fletcher for pulling back the Louth forward. The White Wolves can’t put the game to bed and miss a string of chances.

Kirkby pull together and play as a team. They have hearts as big as buckets. Carl Haslam is their big cheese. His feet are on a par with Sticky junior’s. He glides through the visitors’ defence and just fires over. He then picks up the ball, evades three desperate lunges but his final shot is beaten away by the Louth ‘keeper.

Louth are reduced to ten men when Haslam is hauled down following another mazy run. He dusts himself down and blasts home the spot kick. It’s the straw that broke the camel’s back for the Louth manager. He flies round to the back of the goal, has an altercation with the League chairman and resigns on the spot. He was last seen stomping towards the Kirkby Co-op. Fair play though Paul, they’ve some good two-for-one deals on there.

Kirkby manager Brett Marshall has a final throw of the dice and flings on a couple of subs. One of them is Scott Pratt, whose father I’ve been talking to for most of the afternoon. Deep in stoppage time Pratt picks the ball up 40 yards out. He knocks the ball out of his feet and pings it towards the Louth goal. The ball begins to gain momentum as it sails through the darkening north Notts skies. The Louth ‘keeper frantically begins to back pedal. He ends up on his backside as the ball crashes into the back of the net. It’s Sticky Palms’ goal of the season.

Pratt’s dad runs uncontrollably up and down the grass bank behind me. It’s like his lad has scored the cup final winner at Wembley. Manager Marshall totally loses the plot. He weaves in and out the touchline. His beetroot face is as red as his tracksuit. It’s like watching the Benny Hill Show as the entire Kirkby team chase an energised Pratt.

And all I can think about is Louth manager Paul Walden. He’s missed the goal of the season.

Man of Match: Louth 5 jacket.

Referee 8 out of 10. Loads of moaning from Louth. Played lots of advantage.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bardon Hill Sports 2 Holwell Sports 1

Where is the White Van Man? He seems to have gone off the boil in recent weeks. His whereabouts for the Nottingham Forest v Barnsley game are shrouded in mystery. He is a part time employee of the Club but failed to show in the ticket booth for the visit of our South Yorkshire brethren.

I’ve got wind of this through Facebook and decide to phone the Big Man up on our way to Banbury. He’s playing it cagey and claims it was a training night at The City Ground for new employees. As I always say though, the truth will out. He breaks down, blubbering like a little child. He confesses all like a serial killer. Instead of watching the Tricky Trees, the big, soft girls’ blouse was sat in the stalls at the Nottingham Royal Centre watching that fishmonger’s wife – Alesha Dixon – throwing a few shapes.

Mrs P knocked up a chilli on Saturday as we watched the talentless John and Edward sail through to the next round of X Factor. They did a piss-take of ‘She Bangs’ by Puerto Rican, Latin American singer, Rikki Martin. It got my vote readers.

I headed out to north Leicestershire on Sunday looking for under 15 talent. I watched four top sides but nothing caught my eye. Sir Trevor Brooking once famously said that if a boy is not in an academy or centre of excellence by the age of 12 then there’s little chance of him making a professional footballer. What a load of bollocks!

It’s Tuesday lunchtime. I‘ve broken up from work for the rest of the week. I’m in the garden chopping trees down and bagging up. Finley, my pet rabbit, gives me a helping hand by gnawing his way through the twigs and branches that lay strewn across the garden.

Finley soon gets bored and dives under the shed for a gag. It takes me half an hour to rescue the little monkey. It was a delicate operation to set my furry little friend free. At one stage I thought I was going to have to phone West Bridgford Fire Station and tare away Bluewatch from their DVDs and card schools.

Having put the little fella back in his crib, I make a brew and log on to the East Midlands Counties League message board. Daggers seem to be drawn between Radcliffe Olympic and Gedling Miners’ Welfare. There are three pages of insults and accusations. It’s school playground behaviour.

I enjoyed my visits to both clubs and I’m surprised by the hostilities. I tentatively pencil in Saturday Jan 2nd for a visit to Mapperley Plains, when the two sides are due to meet again.

Tonight will be the 14th club I’ve visited in the EMCL. St Andrews and Ellistown are the two left in Leicestershire to do.

The Reaper and surprisingly (?) White Van Man are late withdrawals. The Taxman rings the door bell at 6.45pm. The drive is straightforward enough. We’re parked up at Bardon Close 20 minutes before kick off.

Bardon Hill is near Coalville in Leicestershire and is the highest point in Leicestershire at 278 metres (912 feet) above sea level. It has been the site of a quarry for nearly 400 years.

The Club had battled its way through 3 rounds of the FA Cup this season, beating the likes of Arnold Town, Coalville Town and Barton Old Boys, before succumbing to Conference North team Northwich Victoria 8-0.

Holwell Sports are based in Melton Mowbray. It’s an area renowned for the pork pie and stilton cheese. Holwell’s grand fromage – Scott Mooney – has fled to pastures new and has joined Hyde United. He rolled around the floor and cried like a baby when Sticky saw him play a friendly against Huntingdon Town back in August 2008.

It’s £4 entry to the ground and a further £1 for another outstanding programme for this level. There are match reports, team news, a profile of the visitors and a column by a well known groundhopper. It’s an excellent read.

We stand at the top of some concrete steps, the view is decent. It’s a tad chilly. Sticky is underdressed and only has three layers on. I hadn’t accounted for a biting wind.

Stood to our right is a referees’ assessor. I do hope his presence doesn’t ruin the game. He’s an affable chap. We strike up a conversation with him. He certainly does carry out the task for his love of the game.

The game is devoid of any quality in the opening minutes. It’s all huff, puff and energy. Bardon Hill winger Liam Hebberd has the x factor. He has too much in his locker for Holwell left back Leigh Fox. Old ‘Foxy’ has to resort to shirt-pulling and body checking as Hebberd skips by him time and time again. You may remember Hebberd’s father Trevor. He used to play for Southampton, Oxford United and D***y County.

The visitors take the lead on fifteen minutes. Bardon’s Vernon Hart-Harper, who looks the unfittest player I’ve seen in three years of groundhopping, gets himself in a tangle. Seventeen year old Mark Cowling seizes upon the opportunity to poke the ball home.

Bardon respond immediately with visiting keeper’ Cragg making a point-blank save from Hawker. Further chances fall to the home side but they find Cragg in inspired form and are unfortunate to go in at half time 1-0 down.

The Sports Club is a tidy affair. The Taxman spots an old work colleague and catches up on the office gossip. It leaves the poor old Groundhopper to queue up for a brew. I notice on the Sky Sports vidiprinter that my old favourite’s Eastwood Town are 2-0 up against Hyde United.

The tea is poured from the pot and is piping hot. The lady puts too much milk in and the bags are not quite mashed for the required time. It results in a weakened effort but is still marked with 6.8 out of ten.

The Taxman is loving all this tax talk. They are having orgasms over VAT returns, inheritance tax, and corporation tax. I bet they are having a right old chuckle at the number of small businesses they investigated and rumbled in the Melton Mowbray area. Lucky White Van Man’s not here, he’d be having a fit by now.

The Taxman’s mate’s son is a sub for the visitors. His brother plays for EMCL league leaders Heanor Town.

The writing looks firmly on the wall for Holwell in the second period. Only their keeper and the immense ‘Roo’, at the heart of their defence, stand firm. Their skipper is having a footballing nightmare. They are getting battered, although ironically, Holwell miss a sitter straight from kick off.

Within ten minutes Kyle Robinson races through and restores parity. Holwell somehow hang in there. Cragg, the Holwell ‘keeper, makes more spectacular saves and tips around the post, but he is left helpless by an exquisite free kick from out on the left by Jake Duffy. One or two Holwell fans behind me question the ‘keeper. You are taking the rise lads.

The game has been on simmer for a while but the referee has been brilliant and never lets it boil over. He talks to the players like adults and plays advantage time and time again. I’m no assessor but I am a qualified referee and I would give this guy top marks.

Taxman Two’s lad comes off the bench and bizarrely plays on the right wing, despite being pre-dominantly left footed. He’s only been on the pitch for a short while when a cross from the left falls to his weaker right foot in front of a gaping goal. The poor lad can only scoop the ball over the bar with an empty net staring him in the face. It’s the first time ever that Sticky Palms has ever felt sorry for a bloke from the Inland Revenue.

Attendance: 63
Men of the Match: Holwell ‘keeper and the referee.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Banbury United 0 Bedford Town 0

It’s Thursday 22nd October. There have been protests all day. The Metropolitan Police have put the boot in on demonstrators outside BBC studios in west London. The whole country is talking about it. Listeners clog the phone lines on radio phone-ins to complain about it. The programme is on TV tonight.

The kids are frightened and are threatening to hide behind the settee. This person is not fit and proper to represent the corporation. It’s vile and disgusting that this should be shown on prime time TV. I’m not talking about BNP leader Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time but the decision the BBC have took to allow shots of that fat, ugly lass off EastEnders - Heather - giving birth on national TV. I think I’ll eat my tea later.

There were no real plans to take a midweek game in but I had spotted Quorn and Radcliffe Borough were due to replay their FA Trophy tie on Tuesday evening.

Mrs P was curled up on the sofa, waiting with anticipation for another thrilling episode of Holby City. No doubt somebody will be rushed into accident and emergency with a ruptured spleen and two legs hanging off but somehow still survive. And yet a perfectly fit, young chap will come in with a nettle sting and end up on the hospital mortuary slab due to a complicated allergic reaction.

Former Leicester City and Aston Villa striker Julian Joachim was playing for Quorn. His team bagged six, coming back from 3-1 deficit at the break. There was no goal bonus for the ex England under 21 international.

It’s been a relatively quiet week. One comedy moment to report is that Sticky junior, who couldn’t punch his way out of a paper bag, had a minor scuffle with his best mate on the front garden. There were a few haymakers and a spot of windmilling. Mrs P finally stepped into the ring and ended the bout.

It’s Saturday morning. The clocks go back one hour tonight – it’s not particularly good news for us insomniacs. I rustle up a couple of poached eggs.

The day gets off to a bad start when I turn the radio on and find that Mrs P has left it on Trent FM. Sticky junior won tickets for Cineworld on a phone-in last night. He was getting a dressing down from Mrs P when the DJ phoned back to tell him he’d won the prize.

I set the dial to Radio 2 and listen to Brian Matthews Sound of the Sixties show. He plays a classic track by USA soul singer Madeline Bell called Help Yourself. It doesn’t half cheer me up.

Mrs P has gone to the hairdressers. There’s just time to hoover out the Rolls Royce before picking up The Architect. Minutes later we roll up at blog legend Trumpy Bolton’s house. He comes waltzing down the drive with a Leicester Mercury carrier bag full of beverages.He hands me a programme from the New Mills game that I’d thought I’d lost. It’s covered in beer stains.

Next stop is the picturesque village of Willoughby on-the-Wolds, where we pick up Chopper Harris, who today makes his groundhopping debut.

There’s a bit of a conflab about the best route to take. We all agree that the M69 and A46 sounds good. It’s a 150 mile round trip.

Trumpy is already slavering over the thought of slurping his one litre of Tawny Owl cider that he purchased a gallon of on a recent beer break in Betws y Coed, in Snowdonia, north Wales. Next weekend he’s lined up a short break in Norwich, which coincides with the city’s annual beer festival.

Trumpy earwigs that Chopper Harris was once in the British Army and did a tour of duty in Denmark and Germany. Trumpy politely asks him if he visited the Carlsberg and Heineken breweries.

We hit a tailback of traffic that’s coming from the direction of the M40. We divert around Warwick and are soon sat inside the Red Lion at Northend. They’ve only got two real ales on. I’m not particularly fond of either. I dither over my choice and finally plump for a Greene King IPA.

Trumpy shouts me up a 5oz gammon, egg and chips. Everybody else tucks into a homemade suet pudding. It’s not much of a pub, but at least Trumpy can put his highlight pen through the village on his crumpled, dog eared atlas. New readers need to understand that Trumpy’s will to live depends on him making a financial transaction in every village and town in Great Britain.

Chopper is chattering away to The Architect about how many eggs his hens lay in a year. It’s like having dinner with Tom, Barbara, Jerry and Margo off the BBC comedy series The Good Life.

The ground is tucked away behind the railway station in a dingy, scruffy part of town. Banbury is a market town in north Oxfordshire and lies on the River Cherwell. It has a population of just under 45,000 people. It is the home of the biggest coffee-processing facility (Kraft Foods) which was established in 1964. Trumpy says that coffee ruins a good hangover.

The town is well known for the Banbury cake, which is similar to the Eccles cake but is oval-shaped. It’s most famous landmark – the Banbury Cross – celebrates its 150th anniversary tomorrow (Sunday).

Glam rock star Gary Glitter was born in Banbury. Not much has been heard of him since he took his computer in for repair at his local PC World.

Former Northern Ireland international and Chelsea striker Kevin Wilson was born in the town and began his career with The Puritans.

Bedford is 50 miles east of Banbury. They have a long list of cult celebrity born in the town, including: Countdown’s Carol Vorderman, comedian and actor Ronnie Barker and Pike’s uncle off Dad’s Army, John Le- Mesurier (Sgt Wilson).

It’s £8 on the gate. The Architect hands me a programme that costs £1.80. Fair play to programme editor David Shadbolt, he has produced a cracking effort. I have to say that I’m disappointed in the ground though. The John Nicholls Stand is impressive. The rest of the ground is due redevelopment.Plans are pinned up in the clubhouse.

Trumpy takes advantage of the spacious clubhouse and soon has the bar tills ringing. He’s as happy as Larry.

Sticky’s concerned about the lack of goal-scoring prowess of both teams. Banbury and Bedford have struggled in front of goal. The Groundhopper doesn’t do 0-0s.

There’s a presentation before the game of a set of football kit to Banbury United (Sierra Leone). It’s a country that has been devastated by civil war. Football enables the kids to keep off the street.

Chopper spends the entire 90 minutes of the game playing with his beloved Blackberry. He loves this gadget more than anything in the world. He caresses and holds it like a loved one. Trumpy is intrigued, but also miffed, that he doesn’t have internet access on his bespoke East German model, that looks like Dom Joly’s mobile off Channel 4s cult TV series Trigger Happy TV.

The game lacks the quality of its northern counterpart. Ironically, lowly Bedford, despite kicking into the wind, look the more dangerous outfit. They go close through Draycott and Cole.

The Puritans have the game’s outstanding player in 18 year old Oxford United loanee Declan Benjamin. He reminds Trumpy of Carlton Palmer, with his gangling stature and strong running. He strikes a couple of efforts wide of the mark from distance. Banbury begin to find their stride and finish the half on top.

Trumpy manages to squeeze a couple in at the break. We are treated to page 339 on Ceefax. The Pies are 1-0 up, whilst once again Lincoln City have failed to trouble the scorers. We have a manager who once refused to play for England. I won’t go while he’s there.

Banbury exert pressure on the Bedford goal in the second period as the visitors are pinned back in their own half. They won’t come out and play and seem content with a point. Veteran striker Howard Forinton, who once fetched £250,000, hits the bar, with the rebound somehow headed over.

The Puritans are short on quality. Their right winger lacks that yard of pace to shake off his full back. The left winger sends in sand wedge crosses all day.

There are late calls for a penalty but to be honest the game doesn’t deserve a goal. I’ve got a 75 mile journey to look forward to, accompanied by the sound of a man guzzling a litre bottle of Welsh cider, talking complete and utter twaddle.

Attendance: 348
Man of the Match: Declan Benjamin.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Gedling Southbank 3 Caribbean Cavaliers 3

It’s Sunday evening. I’m back home chillaxing on the sofa, after watching an entertaining 2-2 down ‘The Lane.’ I can hear an awful droning noise coming from the TV set. Mrs P and the kids are watching the X-Factor. I peer over my Non League Paper and catch the final act attempting to sing. The guy must be in the over 25s section. He looks lifeless, soulless and has beads of sweat pouring down his forehead. The lyrics are atrocious – I’ve written better on the toilet.

I grab my phone and start to text the number on the screen. I presume that you can vote off the person you DON’T want to go through. And I certainly don’t want to see this fool back next week. I tap away at my keypad, as the phone number flashes up on the screen. “What are you doing Dad?” asks ‘The Skipper.’ “I’m voting off that clown, whose just been stumbling around the stage son. He’s look like he’s had an afternoon on the sauce with Trumpy Bolton”, replies The Groundhopper. “You idiot” pipes up Mrs P, “that’s not a contestant, it’s the 15 times Brit Award winning karaoke king from Burselm, Stoke on-Trent – Robbie Williams!” “Oh sorry, my mistake”, replies Sticky Palms.

I get a text on Monday from JC in London. He’s a massive Pies’ fan and a big help to me on this blog. I’m not particularly shocked to read, on the text, that Ian McParland and Notts County have parted company. It was inevitable and not helped by a toothless second half performance yesterday. I’m still convinced that Notts County will win this League. Barthez got 33/1. There’s still three quarters of the season left.

I often wax lyrical about my car – Sally Gunnell – (not much to look at but a bloody good runner). I was driving her out the works’ car park on Tuesday evening when there was an enormous rattle and clunk as if something had fallen to the floor. The front exhaust pipe and box had rotted away. The Reaper very kindly cable tied it together for me. It was pretty embarrassing limping down the A60 into Big City Tyres (‘they’ll put it right’). The car sounded noisier than Dick Dastardly and Muttley’s off Wacky Races.

It’s Saturday morning and I’m watching schools’ football. It’s not a part of the job I particularly enjoy, but I’ve been redirected. The cream of the crop don’t always represent their schools for the district. In my experience I have found it a situation surrounded with politics and a lack of communication. I know boys at Keyworth United Community Football Club who would cake-walk it into South Notts schools rep sides - they’ve never been approached for whatever reason.

I dash home and see Mrs P and ‘The Skipper’ briefly. He won his cup game 23-0. It’s the equivilant of child abuse. I drive out of Keyworth. I flick on Five Live. Villa are playing Chelski. French striker – The Incredible Sulk – Nicolas Anelka, wipes out Martin O’Neill in the technical area, with his first tackle in English football in over 12 years. O’Neill has grazed his elbow and jarred his knee.

I pick up The Reaper at a bus stop in Bradmore, close to the delightfully named village of Bunny. He’s like a country squire with his two dogs and peregrine falcon. I call him the Birdman of Bradmore.

Today he looks dishevelled and weary. I’d forgot that yesterday was Homebird’s 40th birthday. A few from work had slipped away early into town to watch the weigh-in for the Carl Froch fight that is to be held tonight.

The Reaper tells me an amusing anecdote. Apparently Froch’s opponent, the American Andre Dirrell, was over the limit on the scales. The entire Old Market Square sang in unison: “You fat b****rd.” Welcome to Nottingham son.

The Reaper’s breath smells like a microbrewery. He didn’t hit the sack until 4am. Maybe a loosener will perk him up. “Fancy a hair of the dog at the King Billy in Sneinton, Reaps?”

The pub is at the bottom end of Sneinton. The streets behind it are paved with terraced housing, which are dwarfed by high storey flats The pub’s a hidden gem. It’s one I’ve been meaning to tick off for a while. There is an array of real ales on. The Reaper has a pint of Swinging Gibbet, whilst Sticky prefers a Big Red One from the Ossett Brewery.

The Reaper is ravenous. He’s wobbling about more than Robbie Williams last Sunday. He grabs a cheese and Spanish onion cob. The onion reeks. It’s that strong that tears begin to stream down Sticky’s face. I’ve not cried this much since I watched The Secret Millionaire from Warrington last Thursday.

We head up Carlton Road and reminisce about the halcyon days of legendary pub crawls up this famous stretch of town. Another tear rolls down my cheek when I notice that my old favourite haunt – Smithys – has finally closed its doors.

We roll up at Carlton Hill Recreation Park fifteen minutes before kick off. The car park is full. I have to guide ‘Sally Gunnell’ onto a grassy area, to the right of the goal, and leave her on a steep side slope.

Carlton is to the east of Nottingham close to Sneinton, Bakersfield and Netherfield. Famous residents from the area include the actor Richard Beckinsdale – he of Rising Damp and Porridge fame and WBC Super Middleweight Champion, Carl Froch. He’s due to defend his title tonight at the Trent FM Arena in town.

The teams perform a rigorous warm-up routine. The Reaper calmly enquires which team are the Caribbean Cavaliers. He is taking the Michael of course, although the GSB 5 jacket does have dreadlocks.

Reaper’s bad beer breath has been fired-up by the Spanish onion. I swear to god that one brief exhalation could start a fire and wipe-out the entire Australian Bush.

Officials and supporters are milling around the clubhouse. Roberto, the GSB manager, spots me and makes a beeline towards us. The last time I saw him he was manager of today’s opponents Cavs.

The World’s greatest message board has been a tad placid of late. I love it when a beer-fuelled fan, player or manager posts a rant in the early hours of a Sunday morning, only to feel regret and shame the following morning. ‘Big Glenn’ had to delete one the other day.

I saw both teams last season and there seems to have been a shift in personnel. Roberto has been busier than ‘Charlie’ McParland in the summer, whilst the Cavs have no Wes Burke or Justin Evans (‘Cookie’).

Sticky loves the Cavs. I often spend a Saturday morning drinking tea and chewing over the crud with their friendly chairman Everton Richards, at their Forest Recreation Ground.

The GSB ground is known locally as ‘Dog S**t Alley.’ I become its latest victim just before the kick off. I’m still wiping and flicking away the mess as the referee gets the game underway.

GSB look sharper and more inventive. Danny Walker controls the game and plays in the wide men. GSB have an abundance of left footers and are soon testing a stranded Cavs’ ‘keeper with a series of crosses.

The game is stopped in the 10th, 15th and 30th minute for the removal of dog dirt from the playing surface. It nearly smells as bad as that Spanish onion.On the third occasion the world record holder for having played for the most amateur clubs in one season – Anthony Shannon – is sent on from the subs’ bench with a shovel to perform the grim task.

Cavs are under the cosh. Their defender Eggi has lost more balls with his clearances than the Californian ‘Wild Thing’ golfer – ‘Long John Daly.’ Coming to think of it The Reaper necked more than him last night as well.

An elderly gentleman has positioned himself next to us on the far side of the pitch. He’s muttering and rambling to himself. The cheeky sod mocks my Keyworth Cricket Club fleece. He says he only watches Premier League cricket.

‘Terry’ has already toe-poked one wide when they finally take the lead with a far post finish from Nicky Labbate. Cavs have hardly had a worthwhile attack. Faulkner and Joseph just don’t gel up front. Sticky’s hero Winnie Brown can’t get in the game.

Terry Guerboury doubles GSB’s lead a minute before the break, straight from a corner. As Cavs’ captain Dan Smith quite rightly points out: “the ball just keeps coming back.”

We hear the heated discussion in the Cavs’ dressing room as we queue for a brew. Everton Richards wisely waits for them all to air their views before entering the dressing room and choosing his words carefully.

They are fired up from the off and are on level terms within minutes of the restart. A rejuvenated Rob Faulkner powers through onto a Winnie Brown through ball to peg one back. Moments later the the number two heads home from a corner. On the hour Faulkner rounds the keeper’ to put them 3-2 up.

GSB are shell shocked. Todd and Guerboury, who had kept the visitors busy in the first period, are removed from the attack. They have lost their shape. The GSB ‘keeper is on overtime. ‘Sky’ is added to the Cavs’ attack to inject some pace. He has a goal controversially chalked off for offside.

The Reaper is beginning to flag now after his all-nighter and is slowly losing the will to live. We’re heading towards the car having enjoyed some brief banter around the Cavs’ dugout. Dan Smith gives away a free kick after winning yet another header. Cavs can’t clear their lines, an alert Karl Clowery strokes home a loose ball into the back of the net.

It’s harsh on the visitors who have been magnificent in the second half. The NSL: it’s the best league in the world.

Man of the match: Dan Smith.