Sunday, August 24, 2014

Penistone Church 1-0 Worsbrough Bridge

I daren't look in Tosh and Steve's face when crafty smoker, Felix Hogg taps in the winner with the last kick of the game between Bulwell and Clifton. They must be sick to the pit of their stomachs that deja vu has reared its ugly head again twice in a week. It's on the drive home that we find out that Bulwell born cricketer Luke 'the Bulwell Bomber' Fletcher has hit the winning runs off the last ball to hand Notts a quarter final home tie against neighbours Derbyshire.

It's Friday evening. I having the death ride from hell. Sticky jnr is chauffeuring me to a real ale trail in Arnold. Bless him, he's never driven down the Nottingham ring road before. He drops me off close to the newly refurbished Robin Hood and Little John. The Zuffler, Simon and Sticky snr head towards Mansfield Road and stop off at the Vale Hotel, Doctor's Orders, The Gladstone and Bar Deux.

Quote of the night comes from The Zuffler: "Ron Atkinson has more chance of landing the Crystal Palace job than Malky Mackay", has me spitting real ale all over the floor. Zuff advises that I catch a taxi back into town. I walk from behind the Council House towards Friar Lane to catch the 12:30 bus back to my village. Two Chinese lads are playing table tennis. I thought I'd dreamt it for a moment. I was going to have a quick game before I hopped on the bus, but don't fancy a 21-0 drubbing.

I roll out of bed, get washed and shaved, before heading out to watch a game. I'm driving through my favourite part of Nottingham - Canning Circus. It has a mini pub crawl of its own - there's the Organ Grinder, The Falcon Inn, Sir John Borlase and the Hand and Heart. I pass Radford Boulevard, an area of town where I have picked up so many talented boys, who I hope one day will play for Notts County first team.

It's a straight forward drive up the M1, exiting at Junction 35a, joining the A616, before turning off onto the A629 towards Huddersfield. I have a nice little low beamed pub lined-up in the village of Shepley called The Farmers Boy.

I'm welcomed by the landlady, as she pours me a pint of Copper Dragon. I order up a beer battered haddock butty. A pub bore is droning on about the sacking of Mark Robins at nearby Huddersfield Town. "Players got him the sack, supporters can't pick the manager." #yawn

I navigate my way to the town of Penistone, driving through small hamlets, whilst admiring the dry stone walls and stunning scenery. Penistone is in the Metropolitan Borough of Barnsley, with a population of 10,000 people. Everton defender John Stones attended Penistone Grammar School.

The Church View Road ground is rammed full of vehicles. I make a u-turn and park up outside some old people's bungalows. It's £4 on the turnstile and a £1 for a cracking programme. The ground is everything I'd expected. First port of call is the newly refurbished clubhouse. Aston Villa and Newcastle Utd are playing out a snore draw on BT Sport.

The clubhouse is a corker. They've two real ales on tap. I have a cup of Kenco coffee instead as it's hosing it down with rain and I need something to warm me up. A chap behind me is holding court about how he performed his Ice Bucket Challenge in the bath. An area is cordoned off so club officials can share a pot of tea and some sandwiches at half-time.

The game begins in drizzling rain. Finley the rabbit has refused to predict the score, his baby brother, Murphy the Budgie has gone for a 2-1 win for Worsbrough. Murphy will be disappointed to hear that their best player, Adam Podmore was wiped clean out by an opposing 'keeper, so has missed the team bus.

I stand on the far side of the ground, admiring the low covered stand on the opposite side and the black slated roofs of terraced housing in the distance.There's controversy on the half hour when Briggers centre forward is upended by the Church 'keeper. The referee has no alternative but to brandish a red card. Astonishingly the replacement 'keeper saves the penalty. If anything Church look more dangerous with ten men.

I back in the clubhouse for a warm at the break. Forest, Notts County and 'The Lincoln' are all in front at half time. Reports are coming in from inner city Nottingham that Sticky jnr has been withdrawn by Keyworth United's manager after 75 minutes so that he can spark up a fag.

The visitors are bloody awful after the break. Alvin Riley turns the Briggers left back inside out, before firing in a cross which appears to be turned into his own net by a defender. Penistone are rampant now and go in search of more goals.

Worsbrough's No.9 is having a Weston Super Mare. He couldn't trap a beach ball in a telephone box. He's shanking, topping and slicing his shots on goal. Briggers don't look like scoring in a month of Sundays. Their captain has proper got the monk on. He's effing and jeffing. I earwig him and the No.8 talking. They have a £10 bet on whether they will score or not.

Three old fellas are asking me to find out the Castleford and Leeds rugby league score on my phone. Bloody hell, I don't even follow rugby league. I'm getting all stressed out because I can't get a signal. "I think Leeds are winning, gents", I say sheepishly.

The victory is greeted by a huge roar from supporters around the ground. Penistone Church FC has a real community feel about it. Everyone mucks in and visitors are made to feel welcome. Hopefully I'll catch them again on their travels in the NCEL Division One.

Attendance: 111

Man of the Match: Penistone Church Skipper (3 jacket - different gravy)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Bulwell 2-1 Clifton All-Whites

I am sat in a Spanish bar in the harbour of Cala Bona, in Majorca peering out towards the Med.  I wave my hand to gain a waiter's attention. He knows the score - Sticky loves his Tanqueray. I feel my phone vibrate. I fish it out my pocket. It's Tosh, the manager of Clifton: what the heck can he want at this time of night? "What's that Tosh, you've booked a late deal to Majorca and want to hook up for a drink on Thursday lunchtime." I see a pair of piercing eyes across the table: "Fancy another Gordon's, love ?"

It's 8 Euros on the bus to Cala D'or. We're meeting up with Terry, who is the general manager at Bulwell FC. He's staying at a villa tucked away behind the marina. We've arranged to meet in Smugglers Bar.

Bloody hell, it's hot today. I traipse down to the harbour from town, I'm sweating buckets. Thank Christ I'm wearing my Olly Murs straw boater. Smugglers is closed. I clock a local bar further down the street. The three of us are soon quaffing pint after pint of a local brew. Terry mentions that Bulwell and Clifton are to cross swords in the Central Midlands South Division a week on Wednesday. I promise to blog it. I have no recollection of the taxi journey home. As Tosh would say, I'm well and truely spangled.

Five days later I'm stood with 'The Skipper' watching the dying moments of Clifton v Hucknall. All Whites are one to the good and are running down the clock. Hucknall score in the 94th & 96th minute. I can visibly see that Tosh and Steve Hardie are rocked and hurting.

I'm out the door at work at 5:30pm on the dot. I fly up the A60 from Loughborough to Nottingham. I'm greeted with the most exciting news of the day on arrival at home. Mrs P has bagged a 'Taste the Difference' ham hock and cheese sandwich for 74p, down from £3.

Regular readers will know that for the last 8 years Finley the rabbit has had a stab at the scoreline of any game I blog. He doesn't want to offend either Tosh or Terry. "1-1" he whispers in my ear.

A rather tetchy 'Skipper' is on board this evening - he's collecting his GCES from school in the morning, so is a tad anxious. He's banished to the back seat and told that Capital FM and their six records played a day will not form part of our short journey. 'The Taxman' makes a welcome return after 6 months on the bench. I've missed his moaning and groaning about Billy Davies and Nottingham Forest.

Bulwell play at Basford United's Greenwich Avenue ground. It's £3 on the gate, including a programme and free entrance for under 16s. Basford United are the big money men of the Midland Alliance. Plenty of dollar has gone into sprucing up the ground. I'm taken aback at the quality of the pitch - you could play crown green bowls on it. It's hardly surprising though, when you have a qualified groundsman like Neil Swift at the helm.

I love nights like this, when all the local characters congregate at a game. The roll call is impressive: Malc and Kev the groundhoppers, Big Glenn on a spying mission from Bilborough Pelican and John Harris from Priory Celtic are celebrities amongst a crowd that will swell to 60 (head-count).

Clifton start the game like a house on fire. Jake Richardson bosses it at the heart of defence and joins in attacks, Ben Richardson has a terrific touch and technique, whilst winger Connor Hardy works the full back. They're ahead on two minutes after a mix-up at the back. They are wasteful in the final third: Gill and Hardy spurn chances, whilst Danny Johnson's delightful chip comes back off the woodwork.

An elderly Scottish chap is running the line on our side of the ground. Tosh and Steve will engage in some banter with him as they're both fluent in Scottish.

Tosh is called into action with the smelling salts for a dazed 'Banno.' Terry roars with laughter at the theatrics. All this for £3. It's better value than that ham and cheese sandwich. There's been action at both ends, with the unfortunate Dwayne Soar, of Bulwell, breaking his nose after colliding with his own player. There's been some brilliant swearing throughout the evening, as the excellent young referee blows for half-time. Bulwell shade it by 79 swear words to Clifton's 78.

I bump into Swifty at the break; he delivers the most devastating news of the evening: the Co-op on Strelley Road is closing, those bastards Asda have bought it. I will never wear my George underpants again. The Bulwell No.8 wanders out the changing room for a crafty fag, a bit like Wilshere does at The Emirates.

'The Skipper' is refuelled with a tray of chips smothered in tommy ketchup - he'll be choking on them if he doesn't pass his O' Levels tomorrow. I don't know what Terry has put in Bulwell's tea, but they are a different proposition now. They work the wings, particularly the right flank, where gaps appear following a Clifton double substitution. They equalise at the death following a beautifully flighted cross from Jake Fisher on the right.

The referee has already indicated to his two officials that time is up. Finley the rabbit will be doing the moonwalk and bunny hops in his run. Eight long, barren years of crap non league tips in association with Sainsbury's are about to come to an end. I ring up Sainsbury's to order a bag of carrots as a reward, just as Felix Hogg taps in the winner for Bulwell:

"Errr mate  ..... cancel those carrots, will you."

Attendance: 60

Man of the Match: The Referee (Sam Kane)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Tadcaster Albion 5-0 Barnoldswick Town

I drive up Nottingham Road towards Keyworth village centre. I swing left in The Square onto Selby Lane, one of the most affluent parts of my village. I'm soon breezing through the countryside towards the village of Widmerpool. At first I don't recollect where St Peter's Church is located. Memories flood back of a friend's wedding over 25 years ago.

I park up on some scrubland across from the churchyard. I want to pay my respects to one of the greatest talent spotters this country has ever produced. I walk through the gate, up some steps and branch off to the right. It doesn't take long to find his grave. There are no fresh flowers and his headstone is lob-sided. Peter Thomas Taylor is laid to rest here. How Nottingham Forest could with him right now and one of his Non League gems like Garry Birtles or Peter Davenport.

Five days later I'm walking through a sea of German replica football strips with the names Muller and Klose printed in black lettering on the back of white shirts. I'm in the Majorcan seaside resort of Cala Millor. Clough and Taylor always brought the players out here after to celebrate a League title or European Cup final win.

I clock the Sportsman's Bar beneath the Cala Millor Park Hotel. I order a bottle of ice cold San Miguel and get chatting to a lass behind the bar from St Helens. There are hundreds of photos of Nottingham Forest players and management. There's folks like Liam O'Kane, Ronnie Fenton, Alan Hill and of course Clough. Sadly there's not one of Peter Taylor, who died in this resort at the age of 62 in 1990.

I don't wake up until 9:00 on Saturday morning. Murphy the Budgie is livid; he's already missed one hour of the Brian Matthew's Sound of the 60s Show. I try to make amends by unwrapping a honey bar I bagged from Wilko's in Loughborough for 50p. But the mardy little sod is having none of it and turns his back on me.

I make a pot of tea for one. I lob a Yorkshire Tea teabag (hard water only) into the pot. I have a breakfast for kings - Marmite on toast. I wander down the garden towards Finley the rabbit's crib. It's our favourite time of the week. For 8 years now Finley has had a stab at a Non League score prediction at the game I'm going to.

What the hell are my spectacles doing in Finley's yard? I only had one can of 1664 last night. I don't recall any rough 'n tumble or frolics with my eldest lad. I pick them up and place them in my pocket. Finley says that Taddy will thump Barlick 3-0.

The bloody A1 is a pain in the arse. There's standing traffic at Junction 34. I pull off onto the M18 and go up the M1. I'm spoilt for choice on the radio today: there's Danny Baker on 5Live, Test Match Special on Radio 4 LW or Patrick Kielty on Radio 2 - the latter plays a Northern Soul classic - 'Do I Love You' by Frank Wilson.

The news is thoroughly depressing though: one man is dead and 31 are seriously ill after illegal immigrants are found in a container at Tilbury Docks. There's been a murder in Urmston in Manchester and a plane has had to make an emergency landing at Robin Hood Airport in Doncaster.

I roll up into the car park of the Old Sun Inn at Colton in North Yorkshire. It's too overcast and blustery to take a seat on the open terrace. I make myself snug in the bar of this 18th Century watering hole. A pint of Collingham Blonde is accompanied with a warm pork pie, mushy peas and a plant pot full of hand-cut Yorkshire chips. The music from the CD player is varied - we're treated to David Essex, Stevie Wonder and Kinobe - I'm that chilled out, I could have forty winks.

I've an FA Cup extra preliminary round match to go to. Tadcaster is a market town in North Yorkshire which lies on the River Wharfe. It has a population of 7000. It is famous for its three breweries: Tower (Coors), John Smith's and Samuel Smith's.

Tadcaster Albion were founded in  1892 (originally named John Smiths) and are nicknamed the Brewers. Today's visitors are Barnoldwick Town from Lancashire. I fell out with a pie-eating Barlick supporter a few seasons ago at Congleton Town. He spat flakes of pastry into my face and spilt gravy down my new coat from Next. I'll be hunting down that halfwit in the snack bar later.

The i2i Stadium is smack next to the John Smith's Brewery - there is no evidence of their sponsorship though. It's £5 on the gate and £1 for the programme which is a very informative and  professional read.

I'm taken a back at this beautiful tree-lined ground. With its quirky, steep wooden stand behind the nearest goal and the immaculate playing surface. That ruddy-faced pie-eater from Barlick will be rubbing his huge hands with glee at the thought of a fried chicken wrap or a Yorkshire Pudding wrap filled with beef and drenched in gravy (like my coat).

The stadium DJ thumps out some toons from Calvin Harris, Rudimental and Insomnia as the teams line up for the customary handshake.

Barlick took a 5-0 drubbing at Nelson during the week and they are soon behind to a Calum Ward 9th minute goal. Both teams spurn golden chances as Barlick inch their way into the game. The Brewers Josh Greening is light on his feet and has an exquisite touch. His brother Jonathan played for Man Utd, WBA, Fulham and Nottingham Forest.

The smell of yeast and hops drifts across the ground from the brewery. I scroll down my Twitter timeline. Bolton Wanderers and Nottingham Forest are two a piece at the Reebok Stadium. Sticky junior will be jumping up and down in his bedroom.

The Barlick defence has more holes than a string vest in the second half. Carl Stuart bags a hat-trick as Taddy run riot. Amongst the mayhem there is a shining light for Barlick. Their diminutive 11 jacket Joel Melia is worth every penny of the gate money. He ghosts past the home defence with ease. The ball sticks to his boot like glue. He shimmies, drops his shoulder and fizzes a shot just wide of the upright.  I'll watch them again, just to see him. His non-stopping running and energy levels are why I watch the beautiful game at this level.

Man of the Match: Joel Melia

Attendance: 106