Monday, December 22, 2014

Shepshed Dynamo 6-5 Continental Star

Word has got out in our yard that somebody in our crib has bagged a ticket for Olly Murs at the Nottingham Capital FM Arena. Me and Murphy Palmer the budgie are incandescent with rage. We used to idolise Murs on the X-Factor. Every week Murphy would peck out his number with his beak to keep him in the competition. We even bought straw boater hats and sang 'Troublemaker' in tandem. All we asked from him was a retweet for Non League Day back in September. We heard nothing; Jack diddly squat. If his CD turns up in our house on Christmas Day I will not be held responsible for Murphy's actions. He'll scratch and peck that CD to death.

It's Friday evening and I'm driving up the A60 from Loughborough to Nottingham. I'm buzzing. I had the honour of ringing the sales bell at work today. I swing into the Rancliffe Arms car park in Bunny. I hook up with The Zuffler who I worked with for almost 15 years. We down a pint of Everards Sunbeam and have a catch up. We firm up a visit to Basford United's Greenwich Avenue ground when they entertain the Boatmen of Dunkirk on December 27th. As I walk into the house I'm accosted by 'The Skipper' in the hallway. His best mate plays for the Burton Albion youth team. They are rocking up in our patch tomorrow, to play Notts County out in Arnold.

I drive the back way, down the A46 and onto the A6097. Capital FM has been on the radio for 15 minutes; it's doing my duck in. They only have six records; one of them, by Swedish House Mafia, has been played on this station on every hour of every day since 1898. I'm getting suicidal tendencies. I threaten 'The Skipper' that I'll drive the car off Gunthorpe Bridge and into the River Trent unless he changes radio station.

Arnold Town's Eagle Valley ground is full of pot holes and puddles. It's the first time I've viewed Pies youth since I resigned as Head of Talent ID at the Club, a position I held for seven years. We watch a beautiful game of football played in a tremendous spirit. County race into a 2-0 lead, but are pegged back to 2-2 at the break. The winning goal comes early in the second half. I chat to a few players and parents that I've not seen in a while. 'Our' goalkeeper is only 15 and is making his debut. He's already spent a few weeks at Manchester United. Mick Leonard and I spotted this kid kicking-in at a tournament up at Eastwood four years ago.

I was going to watch Clifton All-Whites across at unbeaten Mickleover Royals, but a virus has swept through the Clifton camp. I've got Shepshed up my sleeve as back up. I wolf down a bacon sandwich. Murphy is doing somersaults on his perch; his team Norwich City have equalised at 'The Sheep Dip.' I head up the A60 and turn off towards the village of Hathern, where I once saw a player score a goal from inside his own half. I've got Smoove and Turrell's album 'Broken Toys on the CD player. The Zuffler and I saw them bring the house down at The Donkey on Welford Road in Leicester.

The Rose and Crown in Zouch is snided out with folk; I haven't time for a pint of real ale today. I turn into Butt Hole Lane and park up on a steep hill across the road from The Dovecote. It's £6 on the gate. I'm greeted by 'Van Man Dave' and the lovely Jackie Hughes. We have a little chinwag as I part with a couple of quid for a programme and £1 for a golden goal ticket. Dynamo manager Jeff Stocking is handing out gifts to all the staff - what a great touch this is. Shepshed are certainly one of my favourite clubs. I used to love it when White Van Man and I followed them for a few seasons when Ian Screaton played for the club.

There are a couple of brilliant questions in the programme: Name the Stockport County manager, who having gained promtion in 2008, refused to give an interview to Sky Sports, because of a dispute with the company over his broken Sky box? Who is the only footballer to have appeared on Top of the Pops twice on the same night? Answers at the bottom.

The Shepshed BWA supporters are unfurling their flags on the far side of the ground. They have promised on Twitter a few new songs today. The DJ gets the crowd in a Christmassy mood with songs from Wham and Mariah Carey.

Shepshed begin brightly. Courtney Meade is playing up top for them. Notts County sent me to watch this boy when he was at Oadby Town. He has pace, a good technique and a goal or two in him, but only comes alive when the ball is at his feet.

Dynamo lead 2-1 at the break. The main attraction has been the singing by the Shepshed BWA. Cowell and Walsh are missing a treat here. They'd definitely make 'Judges Houses' with their rendition of 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight' by Tightfit. As for their dancing - 'it's a ten from Len.' I have a quick chat with Shepshed Chairman Mick Sloan and some big friendly guy, whose name escapes me.

The second half is a pleasure. On 16:07 Sticky Palms gets his grubby mitts on the match ball. It's a little game that us Groundhoppers play. Levi Porter is worth the gate money alone. He made 39 appearances for Leicester City. Quite why he has landed at The Dovecote is a mystery to me. He bags a brace in the second half as Dynamo go on the rampage. The Shepshed BWA are in fine form. News filters through that local rivals Quorn are getting battered  6-0. It's greeted with "We hate Quorndon."

One or two of the visiting team's players are going to ground with injury. The female physio is kept busy. Lucky I didn't bring Trumpy Bolton with me; he'd be faking a hamstring injury again. Incredibly Continenetal Star score three times in the final ten minutes. In the dying moments they go desperately close to levelling at 6-6.

What an ending. In 45 years of watching football and 8 years of groundhopping I have never seen 11 goals in a game. Many thanks to both sides.

Attendance: 137

Man of the Match: Levi Porter

Quiz answers: Jim Gannon and Steve Archibald

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Worksop Town 2-1 Westfields FC

It's been a sombre and sobering week. I attended the funeral of my former youth leader, mentor, friend and secretary of the Cricket Club. The speeches were spine-tingling, tear-jerking and moving. What a send-off they gave him. The only light relief in our household over the last few days has been when me and Murphy the budgie practise our Muttley the dog impressions. I've got to say that mine is coming on a treat.

I firm up the trip to Worksop with blog legend Trumpy Bolton. I've been trying to get up there for the last eight years. They were locked out of their Sandy Lane ground for a while by their Landlord. I had hoped to hook up with north Notts correspondent Dudsey; sadly he's on domestic duties.

Having valeted the 'Rolls Royce' and filled her up with petrol, I chug up the 'Bronx' to pick up our hero. He's instructing Mrs Trumpy on how to scrape frost off his car as he saunters down the drive swinging his Scottish Co-op bag that is filled with booty (cider).

It's a crisp winter's day as we head out towards to the A46. Trumpy's not having Graham Norton on; we compromise on Gem AM and George Benson's 'Never Give Up on a Good Thing' (Jesus wept). Trumpy recalls a string of tales from recent trips to Southampton and Cirencester. He's embraced the 21st Century by investing in an iPad. I can only imagine that some of the websites he visits are not for the faint-hearted.

He's booked into the Bristol Premier Inn for five days at Christmas so he can chalk a few more boozers off. He's intrigued by inner-city St Paul's and promises to pay them a visit. We pull into The Lock Keeper at Gateford, close to Worksop. It's just gone midday, but the pub is already bustling with folk. We have a pint of Marston's Pedigree. Trumpy is totally unmoved by Susan Boyle on the jukebox.

Trumpy is Leicester mad, be it football, cricket, rugby or speedway. He sneers in my direction when I mention I had a pint of 'Carl Froch' from the Castle Rock Brewery the other week in Cambridgeshire. "He's not in the same class as Tony Sibson or Rendall Munroe, the boxing binman from Leicester."

Next port of call is one of those dreadful Sizzling pubs called The Millhouse, just down the road from Worksop's ground. A few youths, looking worse for wear from the night before, are cheering on Newcastle United who are entertaining Chelsea. Bolton shouts up a pint of real ale and a Strongbow cider for himself; it's just a light refreshment for Sticky. I wolf down gammon and chips as the legend plays with his chicken breast and jacket potato, which can only be described as the palest and driest dinner I have ever seen in my life.

Senegal striker Papiss Cisse scores from close range to put the Magpies 1-0 up as Trumpy downs his fourth pint of the day. There's one of his legendary sneezing fits as we exit the pub. The ground is situated behind one of those ghastly retail parks.

We're flagged down by a guy in a fluorescent jacket. "Who are you?" he enquires. "You might find this hard to believe, but I'm a football supporter", I remark. "You could be the bloody Taliban for all I know", he quips as I'm ushered into a car parking spot.

Worksop is a town in the Bassetlaw district of Nottinghamshire with a population of 45,000. Coal mining provided thousands of jobs in the 19th and 20th Century. By the 1990s all the pits had closed. Premier Foods are now the town's biggest employer. Places of interest include Mr Straw's House and Clumber Park.

Famous residents from Worksop include: golfers Lee Westwood, Mark Foster and Maurice Bembridge, goalkeepers Darren Ward and Ian Bennett, Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson, John Parr of 'St Elmo's Fire' fame, actor Donald Pleasance and former England manager Graham Taylor.

The guys on the gate are reminiscing about last week's top of the table clash with Tadcaster Albion. Jonathan Greening was sent off after three minutes for a flailing elbow. It finished 2-2 in a feisty encounter. Trumpy has blotted his copybook and needs to brush up on his research. The Grafton Hotel, Worksop's finest real ale house, is just around the corner.

It's £5 on the gate. The programme is terrific value for only £1. I also grab a couple of golden goal tickets. The Club claim to be the fourth oldest in the world. They were founded in 1861 and have played at Sandy Lane since 1992, although they were evicted by their landlords for a number of seasons. They plunged into financial meltdown last season when their owner pulled the plug. Notable former players include: Arsenal legendary manager Herbert Chapman, who was born down the road in Kiveton Park and former sausage factory worker Chris Waddle, whose son is one of the subs today.

Bolton is directed towards the bar by a friendly steward, as I take up my position to the left of the away dugout. There's no music or crackling PA today. The winners of this tie will be in the final 32 of the FA Vase.

Worksop look very sharp in the game's opening exchanges. Everything seems to come through pint-sized midfielder Conor Sellars, son of former Newcastle and Blackburn winger Scott Sellars, who until recently was Head of Academy coaching at Manchester City.

It's a pulsating first half with chances at both ends. The Tigers of Worksop take a deserved lead on 33 minutes, captain Jake Scott releases the ball to Conor Higginson, who cleverly chips the ball over the advancing 'keeper and into the onion bag.

There's controversy moments later when the linesman awards a penalty when the bearded No.7 from ZZ Top takes a tumble in the area. Westfields score from the spot.  Trumpy's bottom lip quivers when I tell him there could be extra time.

There's a biting chill in the air as I stumble across Trumpy in the clubhouse, perched on a stool, with glass in hand. It's poetry in motion as another pint of cream flow bitter is dispatched down the hatch. He checks in with Mrs Bolton to see if she's bled all the radiators.

I clock Basford United joint-manager Martin Carruthers in the bar. I presume he is on a spying mission, as the Nottinghamshire club are due in Herefordshire next weekend.

Westfields are reduced to ten men early in the second period with their defender being punished as last man as Sellars is sent flying. Trumpy asks a baffled spectator where are  the big screens.

The deciding goal comes in the 69th minute with Trumpy Bolton playing his part in it. After another visit to the bar, a clearance is collected by Bolton who is sauntering around the back of the goal. He nonchalantly flicks the ball up and throws it to a Westfields player to take a quick corner, which is immediately cleared up field. After great build up play, Elliott finally thumps home a volley to send the Tigers fans delirious.

A sub comes on for Worksop; he's as big as Tom Thumb. He doesn't look old enough to do a paper-round. Trumpy shouts out to the player in question that his Mum has just phoned up and she wants him home for tea because it's getting dark.

Attendance: 377

Man of the Match: Trumpy Bolton