Saturday, December 31, 2011

Peterborough Northern Star 2 Kings Lynn Town 2

It’s Thursday December 22nd. I’m driving the ‘Rolls Royce’ out of Ruddington Business Park. I swing left at the roundabout onto the A60. Legendary warehouseman ‘Shifty Edwards’ is my wing man. The radio is turned off, we both remain silent. We’re apprehensive, nervous, anxious and excited.

I drive past the old Nottingham Knight hotel and take a right hand turn into Wilford Hill Crematorium. We’re here to pay our respects. Shifty spins all the discs in our warehouse, he has got me listening to Tamla Motown and Northern Soul music. We both share a fondness for the American soul singer Edwin Starr, who died in the bath at his Bramcote home, near Nottingham, eight years ago at the age of 61.

We know he was laid to rest in the Southern Cemetery. We walk off in opposite directions. Suddenly Shifty catches my eye-line. He’s jumping up and down and waving his arms about frantically. He’s found him. I scamper over towards him.

The headstone is black, and the grave well tended to. Etched onto the stone in gold lettering is his real name ‘Charles Edwin Hatcher.’ It’s a poignant moment for both of us. A Northern Soul and Motown legend, buried less than a mile from where we work together.

The Top 50 Most Shocking Celebrity Moments on Channel 5 fails to amuse me on Friday evening. I turn in for bed at 10pm. I have a restless night. My stomach is churning from all the Stilton and Rioja that I’ve devoured.

The morning papers are full of the New Year’s Honours List. I notice that 82 year old Ashton-under-Lyne born BBC sports reporter Stuart Hall has been awarded an OBE. Not before time, Ma’am.

I have a browse of the Web whilst listening to The Charlatans lead singer Tim Burgess presenting the 6 Music Breakfast Show. He plays ‘Autobahn’ by German electronic synth-pop band Kraftwerk. I once saw them at Rock City in 1980. It was the most boring gig on earth. The highlight of the night was when my mate ‘Topper’ got booted out for being drunk and disorderly.

Mick McCarthy’s leading groupie, ‘Gangsta’, is 8 years old today. He had the pleasure of meeting the dour Yorkshireman last week at Molineux. ‘Gangsta’, just like his Uncle Sticky, can’t arf pick em, as Wolves and Norwich played out a cracking 2-2 draw.

I mention to ‘Gangsta’ and my Godson Will that I’ve spotted a rat in the kitchen, and that it might be wise to invest in a trap from our local hardware store. Turns out that Santa has dropped a hamster down the chimney for the youngsters.

I’m all set for my trip to Peterborough. I should know the route like the back of my hand, but nevertheless rig up the Sat Nav.

There have already been a couple of goals to report on at the King Power Stadium, Walkers Stadium – or in old money Filbert Street. David Nugent has bagged against his old club. I rate him highly and saw him terrorise the Tricky Trees earlier in the season.

I drive down the A606 towards Melton Mowbray. To my right in the distance is the recently refurbished Pullman Inn at Widmerpool. I pass signs for Long Clawson, which is one of only three places where Stilton cheese is produced.

I saw an interesting stat from BBC football commentator Conor McNamara on Twitter earlier today. Apparently Blackburn have taken points off Manchester Utd in five out of the last seven seasons. They’ve started well at Old Trafford, with their Nigerian striker Yakubu putting them one to the good from the spot. Insightful summariser Jimmy Armfield pours scorn on any comparisons between Phil Jones and the late, great Duncan Edwards.

The A1 south-bound has served me well on recent trips. I’m parked up in Peterborough town centre in just over an hour. I’m meeting an old school friend called Ackers in the Brewery Tap on Westgate. I walk past a bustling market place, with the cathedral on the opposite side of the street towering above the shops.

Ackers shouts me up a pint of Inferno from Oakham Ales, who are based in Peterborough. The pub is huge and two-tiered. A local makes good use of the jukebox –The Smiths, James and Arctic Monkeys are particular favourites of mine.

Peterborough Northern Star’s ground is situated on a huge council estate on Chestnut Avenue in the town’s Dogsthorpe area, which featured on the Channel 4 programme The Secret Millionaire. The road is crammed full of parked cars. A heavy away following is expected. I squeeze the ‘Rolls Royce’ into a tight spot on the main drag.

Peterborough Northern Star was originally formed as a village side from two brickyards, Northam in Eye and the Star brickworks in Peterborough. It would appear that there is a natural progression from their junior ranks and the untapped talent on the sprawling estate.

Kings Lynn is a sea port and market town, which lies on the River Great Ouse, in the county of Norfolk, with a population of just over 40,000. I remember visiting it as part of a Geography project in 1979. We saw scores of Skoda cars arriving in the docks from Hamburg. We also visited Lockwood’s, the tinned fruit manufacturer.

In 1987 Kings Lynn became the first town to install CCTV in its centre. Notable people from the area include Queen drummer Roger Taylor, Formula One racing driver Martin Brundle, England fast bowler Martin Saggers and former bin man Michael Carroll, who scooped over £9 million on the National Lottery and blew the lot.

Kings Lynn were formed in 1879. On 25th November 2009 they were wound up in the High Court over unpaid debts of over £77,000. Last season they were knocked out of the semi-final of the FA Vase by Coalville Town. The Linnets currently top the table, having only suffered two league defeats. Peterborough NS are sitting in 4th position.

It’s £5 on the gate and £1 for a glossy 38 page programme, heavily laden with adverts. I’m immediately impressed with the ground. Tiny covered stands are dotted on both sides of the ground. The pitch has stood up to the blustery conditions that the country has suffered over the last few days.

Business is thriving at ‘Angie’s Kitchen’ and ‘The Square Snack Bar.’ The teams are announced on the PA. One or two names are familiar to me. Former Nottingham Forest scholars Liam Hook and Robert Hughes lock horns on opposite sides.

There’s a fast, frantic opening, with chances at either end as Northern Star match the league leaders. The Linnet’s ‘keeper makes himself big and beats away a Northern Star shot, the rebound is fired wide. Kings Lynn immediately pour forward, Spriggs leaves his marker for dead, clips in a cross to the back stick, where Luke Thurlbourne nods the ball high into the net.

The remainder of the first half is tepid at best, as both teams fail to craft a worthy chance. Kings Lynn have been a major disappointment, they are narrow and without quality.

I’ve forgot my glasses so can’t check the half times on my phone. Ackers is not wearing his reading glasses. We both struggle to scan the BBC vidiprinter. No need to worry about goals at The City Ground – apparently they’ve cancelled the Goal of the Month award at the Tricky Trees for December.

Ackers has pea and ham soup, which appears to be a local delicacy in these parts. I notice that tea is poured from the pot, and very nice it is too. It’s marked with a score of 8 out of 10.

Lynn’s manager Gary Setchell has certainly kicked an ass or two after a lacklustre performance. They play with more urgency in the second period. The front two decide to stretch their legs, the link-up play is impressive. The Linnets go two to the good, with Spriggs hitting the onion bag from close range.

They decide to run the clock down and withdraw their two forwards, not through fatigue though. I’m immediately impressed with youngster Robbie Harris, who has energy, movement and desire.

Northern Star throw caution to the wind. A deflected shot loops up into the air, ‘Gibbo’ thumps the clearance into the net. The Linnets are on the back foot but still manage to hit the woodwork through Harris. Minutes from time Northern Star’s substitute is bundled over in the box. Stead converts from the spot, despite the Linnets’ ‘keeper getting a strong hand on it.

Attendance: 466

Man of the Match: Richard Jones

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Histon 1 Gainsborough Trinity 1

It’s 8.30am on Saturday. I’m driving the ‘Rolls Royce’ through the black wrought iron gates of the oldest Football League club in the world. I head towards ‘Lawton’s Bar’ – named after legendary Lancastrian striker Tommy Lawton, who notched 90 goals in 150 appearances for the Magpies.

I’m here for a FA Module One course. The tutor is former Mansfield Town and Chesterfield midfielder Mark Kearney. He asks us to mingle with the other students and to introduce ourselves. I get chatting to a tall, thick-set chap, with a receding hairline. He’s sporting a D***y County football shirt.

I don’t quite catch his name. We’re chatting about our respective roles in football. He says he is a youth team coach at D***y County. I ask him his name again. “Noel” he replies. He says he used to play for Dirty Leeds, Coventry City and Middlesbrough. I feel such a fool for not recognising him. I apologise. It’s none other than the striker Noel Whelan.

Four hours later Mark Kearney announces we’re having a lunch break. He comically asks Noel, in his thick Scouse accent, what food he’s rustling up. It totally slipped my mind that Whelan was a contestant in Celebrity MasterChef 2006. The course blows my mind away. Topics include: a child’s self-esteem, how to manage mistakes and motivate a child. It puts me in a positive mood for the rest of the day.

I spend Sunday morning watching a top two clash at Under 16 level in Nottingham. I catch the second half of ‘The Skipper’s’ game at Clifton FC. I note another manager behaving appallingly towards a referee. The FA inspectors, who have assessed my team on two occasions this season, in the space of a month, would have been an interested observer today.

I’m dragged around Sainsbury’s at Castle Marina in the afternoon. It’s the Christmas nibbles and Red wine shop. I manage to sneak a few extra items into the trolley, but I’m well and truly rumbled at the check-out by a grumpy Mrs P. Grapefruit segments, a tin of pineapples and lime and mango poppadoms were apparently not on the shopping list.

TV viewing on Sunday evening sees Little Mix breeze their way onto the winner’s podium on X-Factor. Lennon and McCartney, Sonia, Jim Royle and Julian Cope will see little threat to their record sales from Scouse one-trick pony, Marcus Collins.

I visit Boston United’s York Street on Tuesday for their Conference North clash with the Steelmen of Corby. The biting wind and slippery conditions make for entertaining fare. Old ‘Pineapple Head’ (Jason Lee) ploughs a lone furrow up top for the Pilgrims. He wears a short-sleeved shirt in arctic conditions. I wouldn’t put him down as a man to wear black woollen mittens – sadly I’m mistaken.

The highlight of the evening is the pea and ham soup in the ‘Executive Lounge’ at half-time. We even grab a cup of tea and some ‘Nice’ sugar-coated biscuits. 1-1 is a fair result. Ten men Corby see Matt Rhead fluff a penalty. A controversial goal, three minutes from time, by Tyrone Kirk hardly improves morale.

A quick dash around Nottingham on Wednesday lunchtime (Christmas shopping) should keep me in good books for another year. The lady behind the counter in the Pandora shop certainly earned her corn.

Friday night is spent in silence. I’m proper seething about summat. Never mind, I’m hoping the trip to Histon will blow the cobwebs away. I read an article in The Times about how Demba Ba was not offered terms by Barnsley, Watford and Swansea when he was a youngster.

It’s Saturday morning and I’m back from the paper round. Sticky junior has picked up £20 in tips. A hat tip to number 137, who despite the occasional sarcastic remark (“better late than never”) managed to leave £5 in a Christmas card.

I make a brew, whilst Mrs P kindly knocks me up a sausage sandwich. Danny Baker is asking folk to ring in his Radio 5 show to tell him what they eat and drink while in the shower. He has that buffoon Barry Fry on the ‘Sausage Sandwich Game.’ White Van Man has noticed on my Facebook and Twitter accounts that I’m Histon bound. He books a place in the ‘Rolls Royce.’

Trumpy trudges out the front door, with his plastic bottle of cider caressed like he’s holding a baby. He’s chatting away almost immediately. He went to hospital yesterday for a scan on his groin. He took the opportunity to have a couple of jars in The Dragon on Long Row in Nottingham, before catching the bus to the Queens Medical Centre.

White Van Man says he won’t be drinking for the first three months of the New Year. I reply that I will be having three weeks off it too. Trumpy pipes up that he’ll go for a personal best of three hours without an alcoholic beverage in January.

He recently spent the night in Boston, Lincs, holed up in the Coach and Horses. If you drink eight pints of Harvest Pale Ale you get the ninth one for free. Trumpy cake-walked the task.

We sail down an empty A1 and onto the A14. The drive, once we hit Cambridgeshire, becomes as dull as dishwater. New readers will be interested and amazed to know that Trumpy Bolton’s sole aim in life is to make a financial transaction in every village, town and city in England, Scotland and Wales.

The first pub he’s earmarked has turned into an old people’s complex. Another hostelry says ‘open 12-3pm’, but there’s no sign of life. In the village of Impington disaster strikes again, the legend mistakenly enters a Chinese restaurant believing it to be a pub. We finally settle for a spot of lunch in a gastro bar called the Rose & Crown. Motown is on the jukebox. Trumpy moans about the ‘anti-social networks’ as I type out a few Tweets.

We stroll up past the village green, where an elderly couple with their grandchild are feeding bread to a flock of waddling ducks. The Red Lion, opposite the Green, is a treat. The ceiling is festooned in hundreds of beer mats. A pint of Yorkshire terrier from the York Brewery puts me in the mood for football.

We leave the ‘Rolls’ in the pub car park and take a wander up to Bridge Road. The walk is longer than anticipated. Trumpy is struggling with his possible hernia injury. A very kind steward offers to drive us back into the village after the game.

Histon is a village to the north of Cambridge with a population of 4500. Chivers jelly and marmalade was made in the village for over 60 years. Up to 3000 people were employed at the factory. It was sold to Schweppes in 1959.

The Stutes were founded in 1904. In November 2008 they became the first non league team to knock Leeds United out of the FA Cup. Managerial dream team Steve Fallon and John Beck are long gone. The money has also dried up.

Former Arsenal and Millwall midfielder David Livermore, at the age of 31, is the current manager. His remit is to blood youth.

It’s £10 on the turnstile and £2.50 for a decent programme. Trumpy limps his way up to the Glassworld Bar. He finds a seat next to a window and radiator. It gives him a panoramic view of the ground. White Van Man takes a particular interest in a tray of crusty meat pies that have recently arrived from the kitchen. There are pendants on the wall from Ipswich Town, Liechtenstein and Notts County.

I leave the pair of big girls’ blouses snuggling up together in the bar and take a stroll around the Glassworld. There are open terraces at both ends. On the far side a stand runs along the whole length of the ground. Towering above them are leylandii. On the opposite side the stand is split into two. Tucked away in the corner is the ‘Club Shop.’ It’s a flat surface, perfect for passing football.

The standard of football, as it was at Boston on Tuesday evening is above average, although Trinity are poor in the final third. Dan Holman is lively going forward for the Stutes. He scored 60 goals in 78 appearances for UCL team Long Buckby. He forces a save from Gainsborough ‘keeper Kenny Arthur.

I’m back in the bar having just chatted to a lad who has signed for Corby Town from Kings Lynn. Trumpy has already become the barman’s best friend. Group 4 will have to employ an extra man to carry out the takings as the legend ups his game in the drinking stakes – they’ve already run out of cider.

Trumpy’s day gets better with news that David Nugent has nudged Leicester ahead at Doncaster. I also notice that the ‘Red Imps’ have taken the lead at Forest Green. Suddenly our eyes are on the game, a poor punch by Arthur falls at the feet of Daniel Sparkes who smacks the ball into the back of the net from the edge of the area.

I stand in the away end in the second half and strike up a conversation with a Trinity guru. He explains that they are without their talisman Ryan Kendall who is injured. He admits that they are well below par today.

A double substitution changes the game. Darren Stamp has already missed two gilt-edged chances when Gainsborough take a quick free kick. Jamie Yates ghosts past the Histon full back, before planting the ball onto the head of Stamp, who makes no mistake at the third time of asking.

There are chances at both ends as defences wobble like the Chivers jelly with either team searching for a winner. It’s a fair result, with the game played in an excellent spirit. I like Histon FC a lot. I admire the club ethos and wish them well for the rest of the season.

Attendance: 342

Man of the Match: Dan Holman

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Alfreton Town 3 Newport County 2

I leave work at 3.20pm. I’m ghost white and trembling with fear. I make the short ten minute journey back to our village. This dreadful day has finally crept up on me. That bloody 70p bag of broken rock from Whitby has done for me.

The dentist said I could have root canal treatment for £250 or an extraction for £47. It’s Hobson’s choice folks. I tentatively climb the stairs up to the surgery. I flop into one of the chairs after some pleasant chit-chat with the receptionist, who has worked here for 33 years.

There are some magazines lying on the table. I’m not in the mood for Golf Monthly, February 2008, or the Reader’s Digest from May 1999.The girls on reception are having a hoot, whilst I stare into space, absolutely kacking myself. I scroll through my Twitter timeline and fire off a few texts.

“Mr Palmer.” Ooh bollocks; that’s me. The toothache worsens when I hear Steve Wright and his condescending cronies on the radio. Two massive needles are plunged into my mouth. How the hell did Gazza enjoy the dentist’s chair?

There’s crunching, twisting and turning, but out she finally pops. Never again readers. Never again, will I buy a bag of broken rock, from a seaside resort, at the fag end of summer.

There’s no time for groundhopping at the weekend. We’ve a big contract at work to fulfil. The MD asks for volunteers for the weekend. I work Saturday morning. I coach ‘The Skipper’s’ team in the afternoon. It’s a tough, uncompromising game, played in Stapleford, to the west of Nottingham. We bow out of the Notts FA Shield, but not without a fight.

I’m as miserable as sin on Sunday. There’s no tea-time alcoholic beverage or evening bag of pork scratchings. I plod on with my pre-Christmas detox. Mrs P raises a glass of Chardonnay in my direction, whilst Sticky Palms downs a pint of water out of a Stella glass.

On Monday I’m up with the larks for a 6am start. I weigh in after seven days of torture. A five pound loss lifts my spirits. I’m back home for 3pm. I watch the hilarious satirical comedy Black Mirror. It’s Channel 4 at its best.

Tuesday evening can’t come quick enough. I leave ‘The Skipper stretched out on the sofa listening to Jessie J. The Taxman arrives at 6.40pm. We’re on the guest list tonight and he’s volunteered to pilot. The ring road is as dead as a dodo, and the M1 as clear as a bell. We turn off at Junction 28. I’m already annoyed that The Taxman has Deano and Pete on Capital FM 96.2.

The Taxman has been Christmas shopping in town with The Taxlady. Having pounded the streets of Nottingham for four hours, his patience finally snapped in Marks and Spencer. An altercation with ‘er indoors’ resulted in a single bus fare home for the Inland Revenue’s finest.

We fly down the A38. Smoke billows out of a chimney on an industrial estate at Broadmeadows. We park up off North Street in a residential area of Alfreton. We follow a guy wrapped up in Alfreton colours up a snicket.

I squeeze through the turnstile and pounce upon a programme seller. I’m disappointed, having parted with £2.50, to find no player profiles for the Exiles.

I glance at the line-ups and recognise a familiar name, who was once an icon at Meadow Lane. David Pipe wears the No.19 shirt for Newport. He recently signed on non-contract terms following his release from prison, having served just over a year for a 38 month sentence for fracturing someone’s skull in an unprovoked attack.

It’s Alfreton’s maiden season in the Conference Premier. They are finding it tough without their grand fromage, Liam Hearn, who has flown the nest to the Mariners of Grimsby Town.

The 70 hardy souls from Newport, who have made the 300 mile round trip, are tucked away in the corner. It’s my first experience of segregation in the non league this season. There are even a couple of Taffy plod tossing it off for the night.

Newport is a city in South Wales with a population of over 100,000. The city stands on the banks of the River Usk. It’s port grew during the Industrial Revolution, with the transportation of coal and iron.

Notable people born in the city include: Animal Magic presenter Johnny Morris, author Leslie Thomas, actor Michael Sheen, footballers Chris Gunter and James Collins and Stoke City manager Tony Pulis.

The Celtic Manor Resort is situated just outside the city. It was, of course, the scene of a dramatic victory for Europe over the USA in the Ryder Cup in 2010.

Newport County were founded in 1912. They were relegated from the Football League in 1988 and went into bankruptcy in 1989. I once saw them trounce my team, Lincoln City, 4-1 in 1982. I left with half an hour to go. John Aldridge and Tommy Tynan bagged a brace a-piece that cold, wet night. Oxford United paid £75,000 for Aldo’s services. Liverpool shelled out ten times that, three years later.

Record transfer received by the club is £100,000 for Craig Reid from Stevenage. Record transfer paid is £80,000 for Alan Waddle from Swansea City.

As we take a stroll around this lovely old ground with its bucket full of soul and endless character, The Taxman drops out that his Dad once lived in Newport when he left Poland to head for these shores. We’re ambling behind the goal chin-wagging when the reserve keeper blasts a shot that misses my head by inches. I toss the ball back over the wall and give him an icy stare.

We stand on the back row at the bottom of the slope that Newport will attack. The pitch is flat, the surface short and greasy. The DJ plays Emerson, Lake and Palmer and ‘Radar Love’ by Golden Earring. I’d put him as late fifties.

Newport start like a house on fire. Matthews and Buchanan look a menacing partnership for the Exiles. Buchanan lashes home a loose ball after Danny Potter had blocked a Matthews shot. He’s inches away from doubling his account only minutes later. He twists and turns and let fly from 20 yards out, only to see his shot flash the wrong side of the post.

There’s some interesting folk here tonight, dressed in an array of different headgear. There are flat-cappers, Bear-skins, pom pom hats, beanie hats and baseball caps. Alfreton are soon on level terms. A Josh Law corner is swung in from ther left and is headed home by Anthony Church. The Exiles lose their way as the home team enjoy possession and exert pressure. Jake Moult hits a rasping 20 yard drive to put Alfreton 2-1 up.

We’ve picked another cracking game. It’s 28 matches ago since I blogged a 0-0. I’m keen to stand in the away end in the second half but a couple of burly stewards put paid to that. I peer into the John Harrison Suite. It’s packed to the rafters.

Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman continues his Pick of the Pops at the break. Rod Stewart and Hocus Pocus by Focus must mean the Golden Year is 1973. We consider whether to nip out to the off license to purchase a Worthington’s Party Seven and four bottles of Mackeson.

Newport come out all guns blazing. The ball is pinging about the Alfreton area when captain Gary Warren equalises on the hour.

It‘s all Alfreton in the final ten minutes but they can’t find their way past the Newport goal. With a minute remaining a loose ball finds its way to hard-working substitute Nathan Jarman who gleefully dispatches the ball through a ruck of players and into the net to send the Alfreton Town Baby Squad into raptures.

I really can’t half pick em.

Attendance: 529

Man of the Match: Referee (Darren Bond), who was superb. Let the game flow and only one yellow card.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Shepshed Dynamo 0 Carlton Town 6

It’s been an unproductive Sunday morning, talent-spotting in Arnold. I’ve covered three games and drawn a blank. I’ve driving through Daybrook on my way home for Sunday lunch. Five Live presenter, the smooth-talking Ian Payne, is chatting to Andy Dunn, Ian Dowie & Michael Gray about the previous day’s events in the Premiership.

Ian Payne suddenly interrupts one of them “Oh my goodness, we have some very sad news. I hardly know what to say.” He hands over to Nigel Adderley who is about to commentate at Swansea City’s Liberty Stadium. Adderley announces, through an FA of Wales press statement, the untimely passing of Welsh manager Gary Speed.

I’m totally in shock. He’s a player that has been admired at every club he’s represented and has made 85 appearances for his country. It’s live radio at his best as they round up his former colleagues and friends to pay tribute to Speed. It puts a dampener on the rest of the day. All I can think about are his two sons that he has left behind, who are the same age as my boys.

Yesterday (Saturday) was a more positive day. ‘The Skipper’s’ team made it one defeat in six games with a convincing win on the Notts/Derbyshire border. We then headed into town to watch the fast feet and close ball control of Sticky junior.

He played in one of my favourite spots in town. It’s against a club who I have had a tug-of-war with about junior players in the past. They choose now to send their conveyor belt of talent down the A52 to D***y County. It breaks my heart that boys from inner city Nottingham will learn the ropes and develop their skills at the Sheep Dip, and not at a breeding ground like Notts County who have a history of discovering talents from these parts.

Sticky jnr's team have the last laugh, with an injury-time equalizer. Both teams behaviour is exemplary. The same cannot be said of some of the adults. The game ends in chaos with a confrontation with one of their coaching ‘staff.’

Mrs P is down the ‘Smoke’ on a girlie weekend. I take full advantage. Last night we visited a KFC establishment close to Meadow Lane; tonight we have a take-away pizza from the village.

I give the ‘Nuclear Scientist’ a tinkle. He ventures round for the Spanish Football. Real Madrid dish out a drubbing in the local derby, whilst Barca suffer a rare defeat. We complete a hat-trick with Match of the Day. Three bottles of Rioja are polished off. Oops!

Monday morning has a miserable, solemn feeling about it. I’m starting an eleven day detox to shift some weight. Out the window go carbs, alcohol, fatty foods and red meat. Into play comes fish, water and lemon, salad and cranberry juice.

Anxiety has reared its ugly head too. On Thursday I have a visit to the dentist at 3.30pm (not tooth hurty) for the removal of a tooth. I’m petrified.

I’ve buried my head into a great cricket groundhopping book for the last few evenings. It’s about a guy who trawls the Northern leagues in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cumbria and Northumberland. It’s titled ‘Slipless in Settle’ by Harry Pearson. His endless anecdotes have cheered me up no end.

White Van Man is back from the wilderness. We travel to the Dovecote executive style. I glance at the panel on the radio. It’s lit up in neon lights with words GEM 106. ‘Every Breath You Take’ by The Police is talked over by an annoying DJ.

It’s a filthy, cold, wet and windy evening. The Market Place in Shepshed is lit up with Christmas decorations. As we turn left up Loughborough Road and approach Butthole Lane, the woeful Robbie Williams ‘Rock DJ’ is played on 106.

White Van Man is sporting his £140 navy blue Barbour jacket from John Lewis. It overshadows my little nifty number from Next. It’s £7 on the gate. I have a little natter with Dave the programme seller. He asks me how Finley is. It’s good of him to enquire of the well-being of my rabbit. I daren’t tell him that ‘Fin’ doesn’t like teams from Leicestershire because of their association with foxes.

We poke our head into the bar. It’s a cosy little joint that’s carpeted. It has chairs and sofas. Braga are playing Birmingham City in the Europa League – boring hell.

Shepshed Dynamo have had an interesting start to the season. John Ramshaw resigned as manager to take up the gaffer’s role at struggling Conference North side Eastwood Town. Rammers has unfinished business to attend to at Coronation Park.

The board of directors at The Dovecote have appointed Chris ‘Chalky’ White as his replacement following a string of successful results during his caretaker role.

I once saw Lincoln United when ‘Chalky’ was in charge –Rammers had gone walkabout again – it was below an old colliery spoil heap at Frickley. The Whites lost 4-1. ‘Screats’ was sent off for an x-rated tackle. Justin Jenkins didn’t break sweat that day – his brother Zeke is playing left back tonight for Dynamo.

We hook up with Big Sean (for some reason I always call him Darrell) and Mick Sloan. Both are die-hard Dynamo. We observe a minute’s silence for Gary Speed.

Shepshed make a bright start. Former Millers’ striker Steve Chaplin sees a shot beaten away by Danny Marshall and another effort hit the side-netting. Carlton begin to get into their groove. They are lightning on the break, as they were last week versus Ilkeston. Ian Brown gives them the lead with a speculative shot; Ashley Grayson slams in second, minutes later.

Chalky becomes animated and frustrated with his team. I daren’t even look at Big Sean and Mick because they’ll be hurting. Dynamo go close twice before their ‘keeper Sam Andrew punches a corner into his own net, when under no pressure.

I’ve lost my car keys and so trudge back to WVM’s car for a butcher’s hook on the floor. There’s no sign of them. I phone home, apparently I forgot to take them. You can hear a pin drop in the clubhouse. Modric claws a goal back for money-bags Tottenham as they trail PAOK 2-1.

I’m dreading the second half as this could turn into an embarrassment. 3-0 flatters Carlton Town somewhat. Shepshed fluff a couple of early chances. I decide to have a wander around this lovely old ground. I take a gleg at the groundsman’s den. It’s cluttered up with skips full of discarded England flags. There are three old turnstiles tucked away in the corner, along with some traffic cones, an incinerator, an old wheelbarrow and a flat-bed trolley.

I wander past the far goal, kicking pieces of gravel off the cinder path. Behind the concrete fence are huge leylandii, which sway in the swirling wind. I walk past a fluttering corner flag towards the ‘Shepshed Ultras’, whose numbers are dwindling. One of them amuses me, though. He sings at the top of his voice ‘Gold’ by Spandau Ballet. It’s followed up with “We’re going to win 5-4.”

Ashley Grayson has bagged a further two goals whilst I’ve ambled around the ground. By the time I return to base a negative steward is winding up the crowd. He has moaned at, and verbally abused most of the players this evening. He shouts out loudly that people are leaving the ground early. Of course they are you fool, can’t you see that they are all hurting, or perhaps just want to catch the fag end of ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.’ “Come on WVM, we’re off home, son.”

Man of the Match: Ashley Grayson

Attendance: 129

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Carlton Town 2 Ilkeston FC 0

Mrs P and I spend a relaxing Friday evening on the sofa watching the ever-popular Children in Need on BBC 1. Mad Dog, a mate of mine, has walked from our village primary school to Chatsworth House to raise monies. It’s a 100 mile round trip that he completes in 24 hours. He really is as mad as a March hare.

I wake up to the desperately sad news of the death of the South African-born England Test cricketer Basil D’Oliveira. Sticky’s favourite reporter, Pat Murphy, reads out an obituary on the radio.

For those too young to remember, Cape-coloured ‘Dolly’ was unable to play first-class cricket in his homeland under the apartheid regime in the 1960s. He fled to England and forced his way into our Test team. In 1969, his inclusion in the England touring party to South Africa caused a huge rumpus, with the series eventually being cancelled and South Africa being exiled from international cricket.

His final few years were spent in a nursing home, where his death was announced earlier this morning at the age of 80. Although it is led to believe he was much older than this, but he never wanted the cricketing authorities to know his true age, as they wouldn’t have selected him, as his was 38 when he made his Test debut.

I feel quite sombre on the paper-round this morning. It’s bitterly cold and still dark. I have a snigger when I pop the Daily Mail through legendary Keyworth United Reserves team manager, Jacko’s letterbox. On the front page is the headline ‘Surge In Divorce For The Over 60s.’ Jacko turns 60 years old this week. I rib him later in the morning.

I’m down my local club just before lunchtime. I’ve arranged a friendly for Sticky Junior’s team against some lads from Notts County. Junior has a smile as long as the railway track that runs along the back of the goal when he pokes home Keyworth’s third goal of the game, shortly before half-time.

I change into my KUCFC rain coat after the match as I prepare my boys to do battle with Carlton Town. We play some champagne football during our 5-0 victory. One defeat in six games should clinch me the Bells Whisky Manager of the Month award. The perfect day is complete with a three course dinner prepared by The Taxman. I didn’t know they did puddings at the Indian take-away. You learn something every day, readers.

It’s Sunday afternoon. I‘ve just finished washing ‘The Beast’ and the ‘Rolls Royce.’ I pour a can of Stella into a pint glass and wander into the lounge. ‘Gangsta’ is sprawled out on the sofa. His brother has just rocked up from winter nets at Trent Bridge.

I witness Charlie Adam play a raking cross-field ball to the 27 year old serial under-achiever Glenn Johnson. He cuts inside leaving Ashley Cole on his backside and rifle homes the winner for Liverpool. It gets Groundhopper out of his seat.

The highlight on Monday occurs in the Warehouse at work. Shifty has got BBC 6 Music on. Huey Morgan from the Fun Lovin’ Criminals is hosting a film soundtrack show. He plays the Pink Panther theme tune by Henry Mancini. Sticky and Shifty practise their Inspector Clouseau impersonations for the rest of the day.

I hear the loud sound of a klaxon going off outside. I thought the QE2 had come into dock. It must be ‘The Taxman’ in his London cab. Finley looks proper miserable. I enter his crib to put my cuddly friend to bed. I ask him for a famous crap score prediction. His voice is croaky and hoarse. I barely catch his whisper in my ear “2-2”. No wonder he sounds like Bonnie Tyler, the poor little sod hasn’t any water in his bottle.

I’m in a bit of a flap by the time I reach the car. ‘The Taxman’ asks me what I’ve been faffing about at, and whether I’ve been watching Holby City on catch-up. “No I haven’t you cheeky sod.” I’m out of breath. I’ve literally been home for a few minutes, as it’s training night for ‘The Skipper’s’ team, and I’ve taken the session.

We drive down Gamston Lings Bar, over Lady Bay Bridge, onto the Colwick Loop Road, passing Nottingham Racecourse to our right. I’ve already clocked the Kentucky Fried Chicken establishment at the top of Meadow Lane. Me and the boys will be dining there on Friday evening, while Mrs P enjoys her soiree in London.

A fluorescent-jacketed steward waves us towards an overflow car park at Carlton’s Stoke Lane ground. We park next to an Astroturf football pitch. Ironically, the team we beat so convincingly last Saturday, are having a training session.

It’s £7 on the gate. Programmes are £1.50 each but ‘The Taxman’ has kindly sourced a team-sheet. I’m sporting a new olive trendy green coat, a fetching little number, that I bagged at Next last Sunday. I’ve kicked H&M firmly into touch.

There’s a vibrant feel to the place tonight. There’s a cracking away following from Ilkeston. The attendance looks set to break the 300 barrier. The visiting support at times can be raucous, challenging and daunting. We approach the far side of the ground where surroundings are more genteel and placid.

Ilkeston have risen from the ashes. They were wound-up over an outstanding tax bill in 2010. It’s their first season back. They are mainly a team full of lads let go by pro clubs. I saw Ilson get trounced by Lincoln City earlier in the season. They made the Imps look like European champions. A glance at the league table begs to differ. Ilson are top.

The Millers are up and at em from the start. Ilson struggle to cope with the pace and movement of Ian Brown, formerly of the Stone Roses, and Ruben Wiggins-Thomas.

The Robins have big Gary Ricketts up top for them this evening. A friendly game against Mansfield Town was abandoned earlier in the season when it was alleged that Ricketts hospitalised three Stags players in separate incidents. He has received a final written warning from the club.

The tempo and pace of the game is terrific. Carlton take the lead on 20 minutes. Wiggins-Thomas, a threat all night, wriggles away from his marker and blasts a shot at Alex Archer which is beaten away. Brown coolly slots home the rebound.

Carlton are frightening on the break. Adam Kimberley hits the bar and Wiggins-Thomas fluffs another chance when through on goal.

It’s The Taxman’s turn at the Tea Bar. Unfortunately the Millers have under-estimated a record league attendance. Despite cries for help and volunteers the queues just get longer. I feel like offering my services, but there’s little evidence of a teapot to brew in.

I studied Ilkeston Town manager Kevin Wilson (ex Chelsea) whilst The Taxman queued for tea. He seemed more interested in talking to the crowd than watching the game. His broad Oxfordshire accent reminds me of a character from Inspector Morse. One thing we both agree on is that his young charges are way off the pace in the first period.

We stand alone near the end the Millers will attack. I expect them to push on and win the game comfortably. The Ilson fans congregate at the far end. Their biggest contribution to the game thus far is the amusing ditty “My garden shed is bigger than this.”

Ilson continue their aerial bombardment with Ricketts the obvious target. The impressive Waite blazes over and Big Gary heads wide. Brown is slipped through again, the finish is calm and collective.

I notice a member of management from a rival Evostik team close by. I remember him being sent off in a game a couple of years ago, at this very ground, for some appalling behaviour. My abiding memory of him was watching him stood on a picnic table barking out instructions.

The final whistle goes; a Carlton fan begins to play a trumpet. Ilson have been desperately disappointing. The 2-0 scoreline flatters them.

Attendance: 280

Man of the Match: Matt Millns.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Birstall United 2 FC Dynamo 0

We’re on the A5, driving on the way back from Heath Hayes. You couldn’t take your eye off the game, unless your name is Mr T Bolton. Hayes can feel hard done by. The 4-1 reverse is a harsh score-line.

Trumpy Bolton guzzles the final dregs of his litre bottle of cider. He has two emergency rations in the boot. Suddenly he tries to stand up and bangs his head on the roof of the car. The National Anthem is being played at Wembley Stadium, prior to the England v Spain friendly international. Trumpy belts out ‘God Save the Queen.’ He dusts himself down and takes a pew. There’s an outside chance that we may have another outing on Saturday December 17th. Histon v Gainsborough Trinity is on the agenda.

Mrs P has snapped up a Chinese banquet from the West Bridgford M&S Food Hall. It’s accompanied by a bottle of Red and the ghastly X-Factor. I peruse the non-league results on the Web, occasionally glancing at the TV set when I hear a catchy toon. I ask Mrs P what price London all-girl band Little Mix are at the bookies, to the bag first prize. The good lady totally blanks me.

I sleep like a log and don’t rise until 9am. ‘The Skipper’, ‘Cairnsy’ and Groundhopper wolf down a bacon cob, before shooting off to Clifton where young un has a game. I exit the Clifton FC car park and head off to Gedling to view an under 16 game. I watch my targets for 45 minutes, make an assessment and return to Clifton to watch my boy in action.

Mrs P has gone Christmas shopping in Nottingham with the Mother-in-law. It could be a good opportunity to have a little skive, but there’s work to do in the garden. Finley Palmer is on all-fours. He’s desperate for a run-out in the shrubbery. “Not on your Nellie, son” says Sticky Palms.

I spend Monday evening down the Notts County FC Centre of Excellence training ground at Dayncourt School, in Radcliffe-on-Trent. I meet and greet a trialist and his parents. I show them around the facility, make them feel welcome and ease the boy’s fears. The rest of the night is spent writing up the Heath Hayes blog to the sounds of the corny Ant & Dec on the new series of I’m a Celebrity.

It’s Tuesday evening, the night of the game. The Taxman gives me the thumbs up. I’ve just had a succulent meat casserole, which has been bubbling away all day in the slow cooker. I’m flopped out on the sofa watching Alexander Armstrong present the BBC1 tea-time TV show ‘Pointless.’

There is one helluva commotion going on upstairs. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 has found its way into our crib. Sticky jnr is ranting and raving at some Yank down his headset. Oh my good days, he’s started cursing the bloke. Suddenly I hear this gem: “No wonder we battered you in the War.”

I pick up my mobile and dial him up. I can’t be bothered to shift off the sofa. “Son, just thought I’d point out that USA and Great Britain fought on the same side in both World Wars.” “Ah, sorry, didn’t realise” replies an embarrassed jnr.

I phone up my boss at Notts County to get some feedback from the Monday evening friendly game for the Youth Team at Ilkeston Town. We lost narrowly 2-1.

I get wrapped up. According to the East Midlands Today weather girl it’s going to be a fresh one this evening. The Taxman is out of his front door like a shot. It’s been over a month since we last went to a game together. He looks as snug as a bug in his new Parka jacket. There’s probably a Lambretta scooter parked up in his garage.

The Taxman says he could of quite easily cranked up the heating, put on his Wallace and Grommit slippers and stayed in and watched England v Sweden on ITV. He later confesses that The Taxlady is catching up with a week’s worth of Coronation Street.

There’s an absolutely dreadful moment to begin the evening, which almost causes a road-rage incident. Radio Nottingham presenter Alan Clifford has just played a Robbie Williams track. I’m that keen to change station that I take my eye off the road and almost end up in a ditch.

The Taxman has just come back from his art class in Bottesford. He’s moved on from painting L. S. Lowry matchstick men. It’s week 3 on his latest effort by Monet. He tells an amusing story on how he was made to strip to his white y-fronts at the City Hospital in Nottingham last week in front of three student (lady) doctors. Can’t have been as thrilling as Aylestone 4 Rothley 2, surely?

We reach Birstall in 25 minutes as we breeze up the A46. Sat Nav takes us through a few rat-runs. We appear to be heading down a dead end, when we notice an opening to our right, and some players warming-up.

Birstall is the largest village in the Charnwood Borough of Leicestershire. It has a population of 12,000. Famous footballers to have first cut their teeth at Birstall United include: Stefan Oakes, Scott Oakes and Luke Varney.

We avoid another ditch to our right and park in an unlit and untidy area. It’s is down a dark lane that backs onto the Watermead Country Park, which stretches two miles to the north of Leicester, along the River Soar valley. Two brothers died at the park in January 2010 after falling through broken ice at a place known locally as ‘Mammoth Hill.’

Four youths are lurking about the car. If I’d been in Sally Gunnell I wouldn’t have been concerned. She’s but just a distant memory. The ‘Rolls Royce’ is a different kettle of fish.

We are greeted at the gate by ‘Trev’ who is a founder member of Birstall from back in 1961. He gives us a little insight into the history and running of the club. It’s £3 admission. There’s no programme issued this evening but Trev very kindly gets someone to fetch an old one from out of the Clubhouse.

Turns out it is from an FA Vase game against Yaxley from Peterborough. I mention to The Taxman that the Star Wars and Life’s Too Short actor Warwick Davis lives in Yaxley. “How the hell did you know that?” enquires The Taxman.

We walk past the plush clubhouse, with its flat screen TVs and real ales. There’s a brick-walled changing room facility and a covered area for standing. The rest of the ground is open. We make our way across to the far side of the ground. I’m hoping for a few lyrics from the Birstall United bench.

Each member of the Birstall backroom staff (they have more than Leicester City and Dunkirk) are carrying a cup of tea. Leicester has one of the most multi-cultural areas in the country. Birstall have no ethnic minorities in their starting line-up, whilst the visitors, FC Dynamo have a mixture of Asian and African lads, although their ‘keeper is white.

It’s the Dynamo ‘keeper who gifts the home side a goal following a poor goal kick. Captain Ryan Seals is the chief beneficiary, converting a chance from close range. The home bench celebrate with another round of teas.

I’m just informing Twitter of the opening goal when a stray clearance heads our way. The Taxman does a runner, whilst Sticky Palms pulls off a Gordon Banks type save. The chances stack up for United, but it’s like watching The Arsenal as they try to walk the ball in. Dynamo spurn two golden opportunities to restore parity. The referee blows early as the entire Birstall bench are dying for a pee.

I chat to a big guy at the break who is an authority on the local scene and also hook up with an old boy, originally from Basford in Nottingham, who now runs Kirby Muxloe Reserves. Their passion and love of the game is jaw-dropping.

More teas are brought to the dugout for the second period. At this rate the Ref will need to halt play so that someone can nip out to Happy Shopper to stock up on teabags. After missing a hatful of chances ‘Chalky’ White taps in at the far post to put the game beyond doubt.

Special mention to both linesman, who were spot on all evening. One had hair like Sideshow Bob off The Simpsons, whilst the other will surely bring home Gold for GB in the London Olympics next year in the ‘Spitting the most in a minute event.’

Man of the Match: The Taxman.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Heath Hayes 1 Gresley 4

I’m sitting in the kitchen drinking a cool pint of Stella, waiting for my laptop computer to boot up. A familiar character appears as wallpaper on the desktop. He’s wearing his trademark green sweatshirt. He is the greatest manager that ever lived.

It gets me thinking of the best Cloughie anecdote I’ve ever heard. He often came over as rude and arrogant. But there was a compassionate side to the man that was not often heard of.

Shortly after he died, I was perusing the letters page in the Daily Telegraph. A pastor from a small local church in Leicestershire had written in. Back in the 1970s his Church under 12s football team had unexpectedly reached a five-a-side final that was to be held at Wembley Stadium on a Sunday before the League Cup final.

The Church would not allow the boys to play on a Sunday; naturally they were devastated. The vicar wrote to three local teams: D***y County, Leicester City and Nottingham Forest to see if the boys could have a tour of the ground.

The Sheep said their Secretary was away in Europe and that they couldn’t oblige, Leicester City said they didn’t do that sort of thing. Brian Clough personally wrote to the Pastor and instructed him to phone him personally to arrange a day out for the kids. The boys watched the first team train and had lunch with Clough and the players. It’s a true measure of the man.

Thursday evening is the highlight of the week. Mrs P slopes off to bed after her soap TV infusion. I watch a hilarious scene involving Liam Neeson and Ricky Gervais in Life’s Too Short on BBC2. I follow this up with the gruesome documentary about the UVF group the ‘Shankill Butchers’ who terrorised the streets of Belfast in the early 1970s.

It’s Friday tea-time. ‘The Skipper’ has managed to blag a ticket to watch Tinie Tempah at the Capital FM Arena in Nottingham. ‘Sticky Jnr’ is also at the gig. Mrs P doesn’t want the pair of clowns wandering around town at 11pm. She has booked a table for two at Bella Italia at the Cornerhouse.

There’s one slight problem; I’ve arrived home from work with an upset stomach. I’ve had a dodgy beverage in the Apple Tree on Compton Acres. Bang goes my trip to the Gladstone in Sherwood after the meal.

I struggle through my pasta and sulk with a diet Pepsi. Mrs P is in sparkling form. She enjoys a couple of glasses of wine. We end up in the old Royal Hotel (Crowne Plaza). I order another Coke. The West Indian barman keeps saying “yeah man” to me. My mood is lightened when ‘Hit the Road Jack’ by Ray Charles is played on the hotel sound system. The kids are buzzing after their first Rap concert. All I want to do is curl up and die.

Predictably, I rise early and carry out junior’s paper-round duties. I rustle up a couple of poached eggs, hoping that they will settle my stomach down. Radio Nottingham are running a story about how Derbyshire Police wrote to a number of criminals who had evaded arrest for a number of months, offering them complimentary crates of ale, by pretending to be a marketing company. Nineteen of the silly Sheep got caught in the sting.

I take a quick glance at Facebook. White Van Man and his pals appear to have mopped-up at the Brazilian restaurant Tropeiro. Apparently WVM lost to ‘Big Ollie’ in an eat-off.

To keep on the right side of Mrs P I clean all the inside windows upstairs and downstairs. Just call me Sinbad, folks.

Trumpy is waiting impatiently at the end of his drive. He’s wearing a Dunlop blue and white chequered polo shirt. He claims it’s an anti Nottingham Forest shirt, as Tricky Tree fan Lee Westwood often sports one of these on the world’s golfing fairways.

The litre bottle of cider is clutched tightly in his vice. There’s no need for the radio to be switched on. The great man has more stories than Jackanory. He’s left Mrs Trumpy painting and decorating. There’s not a pang of guilt. Trumpy claims that he has to ask for a glass of water and a sit down, if he ever goes into a DIY store. I decide the A453 will be trouble-free of heavy traffic, totally unaware that there’s been an accident at the roundabout.

Trumpy navigates me through the streets of Kegworth and onto the M42. A Torquay United supporters coach is on the opposite side of the carriageway. They are due to play Chesterfield in the first round of the FA Cup today.

Trumpy is waxing lyrical about recent trips to Leominster, Birmingham and Durham. He actually phoned me twice whilst in Durham. The second call was because he was so pissed he forgot that he’d made the first call to me the previous evening.

We have a spot of lunch at the delightful Redmore Arms at Cannock Wood. Bobby McFerrin’s 1988 hit ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’ is on the jukebox. We both have a pint of Timothy Taylors. Trumpy also orders an additional cider. I plump for the relatively safe chicken and bacon sandwich. The legend splashes out on a homemade fish fingers.

Not content with the one pub, I chauffeur Bolton a mile or so up the road to the Park Gate Inn. The setting is spot on. There’s a Staffordshire bull terrier patrolling the bar area. Trumpy is petrified of the canine creature. The dog keeps popping across to say hello to Groundhopper. We play a bit of tug of war with his lead.

We finally pull into mud-ridden car park at Heath Hayes’ Coppice Colliery Ground. Trumpy immediately befriends a bloke from the local nuthouse.

Heath Hayes is in the Cannock Chase area of Staffordshire. It has a population of over 10,000. Well known footballers born in the area include: former Nottingham Forest striker Stanley Victor Collymore and Bury forward Andy Bishop. England Test cricketer Kevin Pietersen once played for Cannock Cricket Club. We spot the No.7 nightclub on the high street: “I bet Stan has pulled in few in there” remarks the legend.

It’s £5 on the gate and a further £1 for a programme which is a cracking effort for this level. Trumpy starts to make a few enquiries on the whereabouts of the bar. He’s stunned to hear there isn’t one and that he’ll have to get a pass-out and have a trudge up the road.

We walk past the Main Stand and Tuck Shop, towards the far goal. Gresley captain Gary Hateley runs towards us, having spun up. We have exchanged a few Tweets over the last few days. He’s always up for banter. Gaz looks like he’s just arrived from a male modelling agency. As ‘The Skipper’ would say – “he’s hench.” His short-sleeved grey top is skin tight. He’s sporting a bronze tan. He must have raced here straight from his 1pm appointment at the Tanning Salon on Hednesford Road. Not a hair is out of place.

Former Redditch defender Michael Nottingham scores twice in the opening 12 minutes (one an assist by Gaz), as Gresley begin where they left off at Coventry Sphinx last Monday. Everything looks hunky-dory on 22 minutes, when Dean Oliver delightfully brings down a long ball and beats the Hayes ‘keeper on his near post to surely put the match beyond doubt.

Gaz is in big trouble. His BMW has blocked in a dog walker, who is spitting feathers. “You’ll have to wait until the break” remarks a wag.

Heath Hayes are a plucky lot and never give up the battle. David Waple wallops a loose ball home from close range following a game of pinball. Former Bristol City and Swansea winger Marc Goodfellow scoops a golden chance for Gresley over the bar, with his weaker right foot on the stroke of half-time.

Trumpy has done a runner. He’s dug in at a boozer around the corner. We’ll not be seeing him until dusk. I’ve been stood chatting to a couple of supporters from Gresley. They tell me some incredible, heart-warming stories about their manager Gary Norton. It is said that he pledged a large amount of his own money to save the Club from liquidation.

Hayes are terrific in the second period. Gresley are pinned back in their own half. Nottingham clears off the line and Ben Haseley sees a shot come back off the woodwork.

Mr T Bolton has returned. He notices that both teams have a woman physio. He starts to mention a long-term groin injury that might need a diagnosis. There’s a moment of controversy on 78 minutes. A Gresley player has kicked a ball out for a throw-in. The ball trickles over Trumpy’s brand new Fila trainers, leaving a large splat of mud on them. The legend complains to the player.

Busy winger Rob Spencer wraps up proceedings for Gresley firing a cross shot into the corner of the net. As we head towards the car, with minutes remaining, Gaz Hateley goes walkabouts, but is saved by yet another goal-line clearance, by one of his defenders.

Attendance: 156

Man of the Match: Jamie Barratt