Saturday, August 31, 2013

Wigan Athletic 2-1 Nottingham Forest


 It’s Friday tea-time, I’m sat in The Zuffler’s dog-haired covered car. We’re off to Browns for tea, just off Maid Marian Way, in Nottingham. Twenty five work colleagues pile into the dining area. Sticky jnr is amongst our brethren. He’s as happy as Larry, supping his lager and sneaking off outside for a roll-up with his workmates. I nip down the Canal House to leaving do for ‘The Horse’ who is emigrating to Australia on Tuesday. It’s an early bath for Groundhopper, though, after acute stomach pains find him on the Keyworth Connection at 21.30hrs. Junior rolls in three hours later: That’s my boy. 
My stomach is making more noise than Mount Vesuvius on Saturday morning. I’m hoping a pot of tea for one and a bowl of Frosties will restore normality. The Zuffler, Chambo, Cobman Al and a rather delicate and dishevelled looking Sticky jnr are making the 100 mile trip north. 
It’s my first look at Forest since the away trip to The Valley last season. I’m just hoping that Radi Majewski is wearing his dancing shoes for the game at the home of Northern Soul. Sticky jnr is whining that he wants Capital FM on. They only play one record – Swedish House Mafia (yawn). The Zuffler is dishing out the Werthers Originals. He reckons the best pie shop in Wigan is Greggs. There’s a lot of childish tittering and guffawing coming from the back seat, as The Zuffler tells a string of gags to the lads.

The A50 and M6 are clear of traffic. We crawl for the last three miles past a string of retail parks and supermarkets. Friendly stewards wave us into the visitors’ car park. Cobman Al parts with a fiver. We bump into ‘Homebird’ in his snazzy new BMW. The lads head off to a soulless chain pub called the Red Robin. Al fancies a pint and Dirty Leeds v QPR at the Marquee.
The rest of us take a stroll up the Leeds/Liverpool Canal. We chance upon the Orwell pub, a converted cotton warehouse. Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Heard it Through the Grapevine’ is playing in the bar. We sink a pint of ‘Gold Rush’ and bask in the lunchtime sunshine adjacent to the canal, catching up on all the gossip.

Wigan is a town in Greater Manchester that stands on the River Douglas.  It has a population of 80,000. Back in the day the town was well known for its manufacturing of porcelain and clock-making. Wigan Pier was made famous by the writer George Orwell in his book ‘The Road to Wigan Pier.’
The Northern Soul movement was centred in Wigan. Between 1973 and 1981 ‘all-nighters’ took place at the Wigan Casino. The building was demolished in 1983 following fire damage the previous year. Since 1992 the World Pie-Eating Championship has taken place in the town.
Notable people from the area include: the former Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, James Anderton, singer Richard Ashcroft from the band The Verve, former Rugby League player, Shaun Edwards, the actor Roy Kinnear, 80s singer Limahl, Everton midfielder Leon Osman, former NFFC player Danny Sonner, former Sheffield Utd manager Danny Wilson and the actor Ted Ray.

Wigan Athletic were founded in 1932 and share the DW Stadium with the Wigan Warriors Rugby League team. I recall them knocking out my team, Lincoln City, out of the Sherpa Van Trophy Northern Final back in the 80s, with the likes of Kevin Langley, Mike Newell, Steve Walsh and David Lowe starring. Former Reds Grant Holt and James Perch now ply their trade for the Latics. Notable former managers include: Larry Lloyd, Kenny Swain, John Deehan, Bruce Rioch and Steve Bruce. Most league appearances: Kevin Langley (317). Record consecutive league appearances: Jimmy Bullard (123). Record transfer fee paid: Mauro Boselli (Estudiantes) £6.5M. Record transfer fee received: Antonio Valencia £16M.
We head up the two flights of stairs to the North Stand. Over 4000 Tricky Trees pack it to the rafters. The PA announcer is already an early contender for ‘DJ of the Season.’ Smokey Robinson and Martha and the Vandellas are blasting out of the speakers. The build up to the kick off reaches a crescendo with Settle-born soul singer John Newman and his Number One hit ‘Love Me Again’ My spine is tingling in anticipation of this mouth-watering fixture between two teams bang in form. I’m disappointed at the exclusion of Darius ‘The Beast’ Henderson. He has more pressing matters to attend to (a court case).

The Latics start like a train; Forest can’t get near them. “You’re not famous anymore” roar the Wigan supporters. “You weren’t famous anyway.” Touché. Against the run of play Forest take the lead through a superbly struck free kick by Andy Reid. Why this boy is playing in the Championship, I’ll never know. He is in the form of his life.
Forest continue to struggle with the pace and movement of the FA Cup holders. Honduran international Roger Espinoza is causing mayhem down the left hand flank. He skips past Henri Lansbury and USA full back Eric Lichaj with regular ease.  Lansbury suffers a headloss as things boil over. The equaliser has been coming; ironically it is created on the other wing. Marc-Antoine Fortune is upended by Hobbs after a mazy run. Darlow gets a strong hand on the penalty from Maloney but can’t keep it out.  
Wigan go for the jugular and on 34 minutes deservedly take the lead. Darlow again is unfortunate, pushing a shot onto the crossbar, only to see an alert Gomez gleefully steer home the rebound. Forest are relieved to hear the half time whistle. They are a tad fortunate to be only 2-1 down.

While Billy Davies undoes his top button, loosens his tie, refuels with chewing gum and lets rip, we are treated to Jackie Wilson, Frankie Valli and Cee Lo Green. It’s been an entertaining first period despite the performance of whistle-happy referee Craig Pawson, from Sheffield, who seems to break up play.
King Billy replaces a disinterested Guedioura, who has been coming out of a tackle waving a big white handkerchief. Lansbury protects the back four, Dan Harding comes on at left back and Cohen moves to the right of the diamond formation, in an attempt to nullify the dangerous Espinoza.
Forest’s flowing, crisp pass and move football dominates the game in the second period. Reid and Cohen are untouchable. It just lacks that killer final ball. Majewski removes his hob-nailed boots for the lighter variety. They have masses of possession, but little creativity. Halford ploughs a lone furrow. Mackie can’t get into the game. Substitutions disrupt their pattern of play. Wigan rely on the counter-attack.
Referee Craig Pawson blows his whistle for what feels the 100th time. The game has been breathtaking, with the Reds unfortunate not to nick a point. The DJ spins one final Northern Soul classic; Frank Wilson’s ‘Do I Love You.’  

Attendance: 16,270

Man of the Match: Andy Reid

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Rossington Main 2-3 Worsbrough Bridge Athletic

It’s Friday June 7th 2013. I’m cruising down the A453 at 5.30am. I pull off the A50 and turn into Sawley Marina. The Auctioneer appears from his boat at the crack of dawn. Destination is Scarborough in North Yorkshire; or as the locals call it ‘Scarbados.’ We’re off to watch Day 3 of the LVCC match between Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire. The Auctioneer is a staunch supporter of the Tykes.
We’re parked up in the town’s North Bay at just gone 8am. Breakfast is served at a beachside cafe, as we look out into North Sea at the boats bobbing and the sun shining. We head down to the harbour in the South Bay. The Auctioneer is fagged out after a trek up to Scarborough Castle.
It’s £15 on the gate at one of the all-time-great provincial grounds. Seagulls perch on the rooftops of nearby bed and breakfasts, ready to swoop down for any unwanted food. We sink a couple of pints in a back street boozer at lunchtime. Sticky gets sunscreen stuck in his eye and is crying for most of the day.

Notts take a pounding in the field. 329 runs are clubbed around the North Marine Road ground for the loss of one wicket. Gale and the impressive Ballance chalk up tons. A fish and chip supper is devoured before the long trip home. We had hoped to make the return match at Trent Bridge yesterday. Another dismal batting performance by Notts scuppered any chance of that.

It’s Saturday morning. Five Live are discussing the Ashes and the shift of balance towards the Australians. The subject of ‘walking’ after hitting a ball crops up again. Former Aussie fast bowler Merv Hughes is quoted as saying: “You never walk, unless you run out of petrol."
I tune into Radio 2 for Murphy Palmer, the budgie. I leave him moonstomping to ‘House of Fun’ by Madness. Finley the rabbit has already predicted a 0-2 away win for the Briggers. He was impressed with a bedtime story from me last season, when I told him how they thumped Pontefract 3-0.
I leave the ‘Rolls’ in one of those Pub and Kitchens on the A610 and hook up with a lad I used to coach with. Radio Nottingham is reporting that a feminist group are demonstrating outside Tesco’s on Long Row in Nottingham. It’s called ‘Lose the Lads Mags’ and is a protest against the selling of Nuts and Zoo magazine. Bloody hell, Sticky jnr is in town and subscribes to both. I hope he doesn’t get wind of the demo and go wading in.
I flick the radio to Five Live. Sticky’s favourite commentator, John Murray, is reporting from Craven Cottage. He’s saying that Arsene Wenger has sprung a surprise by throwing 16 year old German born midfielder Gedion Zelalem, onto the bench. He was spotted playing in the USA for Olney Rovers.
The journey is plain sailing. We come off the M18 at Junction 3 and onto the Bawtry Road, passing the impressive Doncaster Racecourse. A bare-chested skinhead, swigging a can of Heineken, walks by. He’s covered from head to toe in tattoos.
We pull into the Hare and Tortoise, which dates back to the 1700’s, where it is rumoured that Dick Turpin once stopped. I hope he was happier with the service than I am. After an age I’m poured a pint of pale ale from the Leeds Brewery, by a lass with the personality of a plant. They should just call it The Tortoise – the service is that slow.
The bacon on my brie melt is burnt to a cinder. I plonk myself on a bench outside. The Joop half price after shave from East Midlands Airport, that I’ve squirted on, not only attracts the ladies but also wasps. After several unsuccessful swishes with the latest copy of the Doncaster Gazette, I give up the ghost and sit back inside.
A couple of those pointless Sausage dogs start a pathetic yapping at my feet while they wait for their owners to come back from the toilet. If they don’t belt up soon I’ll be launching them down the A638 with my Adidas Samba’s.  My misery is complete with a punter on an adjacent table constantly rustling a jumbo sized crisp packet whilst noisily munching his way through his snack. He’s the sort of a guy you may have the misfortune to sit next to at the cinema.

An irritated and grumpy Groundhopper makes the short trip down the road to the old pit village of Rossington. The village has a population of just under 15,000. The pit was sunk between 1912 and 1915. It ceased production in 2007.
Sat Nav has had a wobble, but I spot a cricket match in progress. A car load of Teddy boys roll up. I ask a guy who looks like Alvin Stardust if he knows where the ground is. We eventually stumble on Oxford Street – the one in Rossington, not London.
It’s £4 on the gate and £1.50 for a well produced programme. The ground is neat, tidy and blue-painted. I take a position on the far side next to the Gerry Murden Stand. The pitch is like a bowling green.
I caught both these teams last season and was suitably impressed. The visitors begin the game strongly, carving out chances from the off. They take the lead on 8 minutes. An initial shot is blocked but Podmore tucks away the rebound.
The Briggers should be out of sight by now but are wasteful in front of goal. The Blues equalise against the run of play on 36 minutes through a Ben Clark strike. I’m in the tea bar getting a brew, just minutes before half time, when there’s a huge cheer. I pop my head out of the door to see big centre forward Brandon Fallon celebrating a goal. How the hell are the Briggers 2-1 down?
Ooh, I recognise that tune blasting out of the speakers, it’s Duck Sauce’s ‘Barbara Streisand.’ I remember throwing some shapes to that one in Abersoch 2011. I have a chat with Ruby and Millie, two Boxers, who are a bit miffed to have chosen the wrong end where the goals have gone in. Unlucky lads.
The second half is scrappy, has no pattern and has minimal chances. A scruffy goal on 65 minutes levels the game for the Briggers. They finish the game stronger. Fluidity and flowing football is restored. Man of the match Adam Podmore goes down in the area, having turned his marker. The penalty is dispatched with ease.
The Briggers deserve their victory. They have a good spine to the team and play some great football. Hopefully I can catch them again later in the season.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Glasshoughton Welfare 2-3 Jarrow Roofing BCA

I’m laid out on the sofa, underneath one of Sticky junior’s Nottingham Forest’s duvets and boy am I ill. I’ve brought back some Chupa Chups lollipops for Will and Gangsta from Majorca, for babysitting my budgie, Murphy Palmer and also the Spanish Flu. I’ve got kennel cough, a high temperature and a streaming, runny nose. I can’t stand another episode of Heir Hunters or Homes Under the Hammer. Murphy sits on my pillow, reaching over now and again, to peck away the scabs from my heat rash on my arm.

The fantastic 10 night stay at the Protur Alicia in Cala Bona is a distant memory. I’d hoped to find some Nottingham Forest memorabilia on show, as it’s next to the resort where Clough and Taylor had properties in the 70s and 80s. NFFC players and staff actually learnt of promotion to the old Division One on Cala Millor beach in 1977.
On the final night in the hotel I chance upon a D***y County supporter. He reveals that Peter Taylor actually died in Cala Millor, where I walk to every day. Later on a Facebook a friend tells me there are pictures and mementos of Clough and Taylor in the Sportsmans Bar. Maybe next year I’ll take a look.
I’m still fuzzy and weak when I awaken from a deep sleep on Saturday morning. I pass a late fitness test for the trip to Castleford. It’s a pot of tea for one and cheese on toast, with a spot of brown sauce. I better get something done as I’ve been sprawled out on the couch for pretty much 48 hours.
Murphy is on his swing, swaying to Abba’s ‘Gimme a Man After Midnight’ – ‘The Skipper’ was dancing to that one on his holidays. I cut the back lawn. Finley, my rabbit, beckons me over to his cage. It’s time for one of his crap non league score predictions: “2-1 to Jarrow, marra”, he whispers into my ear. There’s just time to give both my lads a bollocking (Jack and Joe, not Murphy and Finley) before jumping in the ‘Rolls Royce and heading oop North.
The bloody Nottingham ring road is in chaos once again. It’s a nice steady drive up the M1, M18 and A1.  I messaged Trumpy Bolton, the night before, to see if he fancied a trip out; the legend is currently on the lash in Scotland for a week. He confirms that a hotel booking has been made for October 1st when Yeovil Town entertain Leicester City.

Five Live are eulogising over those Premiership ponces. Jonathan Overend calls it “the most famous league in the world.” Steve Bower and Danny Mills are commentating from Anfield for the opening game against Stoke City. The away fans sing: “We’re Stoke City, and we pass the ball.” It’s a jibe at former manager Tony Pulis.
I hit the town of Castleford at just shy of 2pm. It has a population of 37,000 and is home to the Rugby League team Castleford Tigers. The town’s major employers are Allinson’s flour, Burberry clothing and Nestle. Famous folk born or raised in the area include: crime novelist Peter Robinson, the creator of Bill and Ben the Flowerpot men, Hilda Wright, ‘Spend Spend Spend’ Pools winner, Viv Nicholson and former Hull KR stand-off, Roger Milward.
I clock the Glasshoughton Centre to my right. To the left is the Xscape SNO!zone. I park the ‘Rolls’ to the rear of the Glasshoughton Working Men’s Club. They’re advertising a ‘Meat Loaf Tribute Night’ and a ‘Talent Competition.’ Flipping heck, it looks a bit tasty in there; think I’ll give it the swerve and take a stroll down ‘Charlie’s Chippy’.

The shop is about to shut. I grab the last portion of chips and batter bits, accompanied by a can of Coke. I’ve had bugger all to eat for the last few days. There’s a sign outside to ‘ring Jean’ if you want to join Slimming World. I might have to after wolfing down that ‘Glasgow Salad.’
As I stroll through the gates on the Leeds Road I notice a cricket match about to re-commence following a short shower. A heavily built lad steams in from the Leeds Road end and raps the pads of the left handed batsman. After a huge pause the umpire raises his left index finger. The disgruntled batsman shakes his head and gives the man in the white coat a disgruntled look, as he trudges back to the pavilion.
I pay £6 on the gate and a further £1 for a programme. To my left behind the nearest goal is a covered stand; on the far side is the main stand with blue tip-up seats. There is further cover behind the far goal, with the Welfare Centre, a brick building, running along the nearest touchline behind the dugouts.
Jarrow is a town in Tyne and Wear with a population of 27,000. It was once famous for shipbuilding and was the starting point of the Jarrow March, a protest at unemployment and shipyard closures in 1936. Notable people from the area include: Steve Cram, Catherine Cookson and Frank Williams. It featured recently in BBC1’s Working Britain, with Paul O’Grady spending time with the locals.
Glasshoughton play in the NCEL Premier Division, whilst their opponents are in the Northern League Division Two. Welfare are sporting a replica QPR blue and white hooped strip. They look much younger than their counterparts, who start sluggishly, following the 100 mile bus journey south.
The home side take the lead on 37 minutes with the unfortunate Kirkup finding his own net. The response is immediate, Kirkup makes amends by nodding a free kick to the back post, the ball is played back into Stu Nicholson who fires into the corner of the net.
Bloody hell, what’s Swampy doing here?  What a cracking set of dreads he’s sporting. I’d have thought he would have shimmied up a tree by now to get a bird’s eye view.
I have a mosey about the Welfare Centre at the break. The bar is bustling. I grab a coffee and notice replica framed football shirts on the wall. They are gifts from former Glasshoughton players Martin Woolford (Millwall) and ex Grimsby Town winger Nick Hegarty.
I check the half-times. Forest are beating Bolton, whilst Notts County and Walsall are yet to break the deadlock at the Banks’s Stadium. Pat Murphy, the Radio 5 cricket correspondent has replied to a tweet I sent him regarding the form of England prospect Ben Stokes, who has just bowled a hostile spell for England Lions against Australia at Northampton.
I don’t know what they’ve put in Jarrow’s tea but you could march to London on it. They come out for the second half totally energised. Chances go begging before the game is put to bed with two goals in as many minutes following some Laurel and Hardy defending by Welfare.
Glasshoughton pull a goal back following a cleverly-taken corner to set-up a grandstand finish. The visiting ‘keeper comes for a cross and gets nowhere near it. “You were cleaning windows there ‘keeper”, remarks Sticky. He turns and smiles at me. It captures the spirit the game has been played in. Even a senseless and silly sending off at the death for Jarrow doesn’t ruin the day. A lovely ground, well kept pitch and two good sides. All for £6. I can’t arf pick em! 
Man of the Match: Swampy
Attendance: 75