Sunday, November 12, 2017

Northampton ON Chenecks 3-4 Eynesbury Rovers

We race back from Coventry United. I'm so disappointed with Shepshed Dynamo, who've failed to put a shift in. I couldn't take my eyes off their star man, Shay Brennan, who worked his socks off. I'll be taking another look at him. He scored over 40 goals for St Andrews last season.

It would have been easy to crank up the heating, flop into the armchair and check out all the Non-League results on the laptop this evening, but we've a party to go to. Our friend, Piers, from West Bridgford (but I don't hold it against him) is hosting his annual fireworks' extravaganza and fancy dress party. The theme this year is 'The Curse of the Mummy.' Ms Moon has bagged a Cleopatra outfit. There was chuff all left in the shop when Sticky waltzed in late bells on Friday. I notice a skeleton; that'll do.

Jesus, this outfit is tight. I can feel it ripping around my shoulders. "What the bloody hell is that?" shouts an exasperated Ms Moon. I peer down towards my nether regions. Stone the crows I have an eight-inch penis; well not me personally, but the outfit has. It gets worse, attached to the costume is a little black box with a pipe leading to said member. When you press the button it inflates the John Thomas fully erect. Ms Moon asks me if I knew this before I bought it. I dodge the question and the bullets that come firing in my direction.

The party is off the charts, with 'my thingy' going down a storm. Piers has spent a king's ransom on the fireworks and has had a Tutankhamun cask shipped in from North Yorkshire. We end up wandering down The Avenue and into Forty Four bar. The bouncers ask me to remove my mask, totally ignoring my todger. After a few Hendricks and far too much attention, Ms Moon whisks me away home in a taxi.

It's Tuesday tea-time and I'm on the A17 heading towards Boston United's wonderful, old York Street ground. I have the best fish 'n chips of the season at Eagles Fish Restaurant, before taking my pew high up in the stand to view a managerless Pilgrims against high-flying Salford City. The game is bloody awful. The visitors grab the only goal of the game after a defensive mishap.

The week has dragged on, but Friday finally arrives. By 7pm I'm necking gin after gin listening to all the storytellers on our trip to Tenerife (see previous blog). It's Wednesday morning and I'm sat with the lads in the Giddy Goose having a bacon sandwich, feeling as fresh as a daisy after a 12-hour kip. The same cannot be said for the Big Man, Bruiser, Rotton and Moysie who are all hanging out their arses after clocking off at 4am.

We've a few hours to kill before the flight back to Old Blighty. I'm accompanied by the little lad, Bruiser, on another 13km round trip to Costa Adeje in the searing heat. We take a peek at the Bahia Princess Hotel, where Sticky and Ms Moon are stopping in early February. I've already got another game lined-up in the Canary League at Las Zocas.

It's Thursday morning 9am. I drag my weary body down the stairs. I didn't get to sleep until the early hours. I catch up on work emails and admin. I'm in good books with the Princess as I bought some last minute Jean Paul Gaultier perfume from the duty-free. I can't arf pick em.

We proper laze about on Saturday morning before heading off to Northamptonshire just shy of midday. I've found a pub in the Good Pub Guide called the White Hart in the village of Hackleton. We saunter into the bar area to be met by a sour-faced, unwelcoming barmaid. I ask if it's okay to order food. She starts waving her hands in the air, complaining that a party of ten have walked in and they have only a small kitchen. Toodle pip mi'duck.

Luckily Sticky has another Good Pub Guide entry up his sleeve in Great Billing. The welcome is warm and the food is spot on. Curtis Mayfield's 'Move on Up' is on the jukey/ipod shuffle. In 1990 Mayfield became paralyzed from the neck down after stage equipment fell on him after a gust of wind, during a concert in Brooklyn, New York.

Back in the car Paul Gamabcinni's Pick of the Pops is on. 1981 is the year. Haircut 100's Favourite Shirts is blasting out the car speaker system. I'm playing guitar, saxophone and drums, all in one go. Ms Moon shakes her head in disbelief.

Northampton lies on the River Nene and has a population of over 200,000 people. Notable folk born in the town include: TV presenter Toby Anstis, rugby player Ben Cohen, vicar and Communards band member the Reverend Richard Coles, Bauhaus lead singer, Pete Murphy (legend), Doctor Who, Matt Smith, Test cricketer Graeme Swann and BBC DJ, Jo Whiley.

Old Northamptonians Sports Ground is lemon squeezy easy peasy to find. Northampton ON Chenecks was formed in 1946 by George Lloyd to enable boys at the rugby-playing Northampton Grammar School to play football.

It's £13 on the gate for entry, a programme and two raffle tickets. "What's the prize?" Pipes up Ms Moon. "Me", replies a tall bespectacled gentleman. "Can we have a refund?" remarks Sticky P. The ground is a beauty. The changing rooms and clubhouse are behind the nearest goal, with rugby pitches and a sharing cricket ground to the left. On the far side, there are two stands where we later take shelter from the bitterly cold nip in the air.

I'm approached by Chairman, Eddie Slinn. Ms Moon and I are made to feel very welcome. We position ourselves to the far side of the ground adjacent to the visitors' dugout. Eynesbury take the lead 'early doors' with a fluke cross hitting the back stanchion before nestling in the net. The visitors owe a debt of gratitude to their 'keeper who makes two fine saves before they race into a three-goal lead just before the break.

The Eynesbury bench have constantly been getting at 'Browny.' Ms Moon thinks that every player is named 'Browny.' She asks a sub who he is? We're both disappointed to find out he's wearing salmon-pink boots - just black, polished boots in my team, son.

We're all congregated in the clubhouse at half-time. VIP's are drinking tea and coffee as well as tucking into complimentary sausage rolls. Eddie looks a trifle peeved that the boys are 3-0 down; they don't deserve to be. He soldiers on with the raffle draw. We break this season's duck with a 2nd prize win of Terry's chocolate orange segsations. Ms Moon struts the catwalk to collect the prize - I'm blowing a gasket, I bought those tickets.

ON Checknecks have bucket loads of heart, soul and team spirit. They also have the game's best player in pocket rocket 10 jacket Brandon Williams. Boy oh boy has this lad got a heart as big as a lion. The 18-year-old has terrorised Eynesbury all game. Only misfortune has cost him a goal. His just deserts arrive early in the second half with an incredible finish from wide out on the right byline. The lad is worth the gate money and raffle win. We're devastated to see him withdrawn at 1-4 with a slight hamstring pull.

ON Chenecks pull a further two goals back, with the visitors indebted to their 'keeper for blocks and saves to earn them a win that many would say they didn't deserve.


Man of the Match: Brandon Williams

Without a doubt the friendliest club we've visited this season. Thank you to Eddie and Neil for your time.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

UD Ibarra 2-2 Mensajero

It's Friday morning and I'm driving up Westdale Lane in Gedling towards Mapperley Tops. I stick the car in Sainsbury's and briskly walk across the road, dressed only in a short-sleeved shirt and light blue denim shorts. It's bitterly cold as I push open the door of Copper Cafe, where my attire is met with raised eyebrows by the Darby and Joan Club. I'm soon tucking into a full English breakfast and a steaming hot cup of coffee.

I jump back in the car and head towards the south of the river Trent; there's no work today for Sticky Palms. I turn onto Wilford Industrial Estate and park up opposite Orrsum, a clothing distributor. I notice him burst out of the front door, wheeling his case and carrying a rucksack on his shoulder. You normally hear him before you see him - he being the Big Man - the artist formally known in this parish as 'White Van Man.' He's as happy as Larry, with a smile as wide as the Trent, and so am I when I finally hand over my keys to the meet and greet chap at East Midlands Airport.

There's not a soul about at security, there's a deathly hush about the place, as we hook up with 'Bruiser' Rotton and Moyesie in Frankie and Benny's. I have the obligatory couple of stiff Bombay Sapphire gins to calm my nerves before the four-hour flight to Tenerife.

Ryanair have miraculously chanced upon an available pilot and even more ironically managed to take-off on time. I bury my head in my Kindle, only pausing occasionally to shout up a stewardess for more scoops. I grip my arm rests tightly as Captain Seamus somehow lands the chunk of metal on Tenerife South's runway.

We check-in at KN Columbus in the resort of Playa de las Americas - the Big Man and the boys have a season ticket here. There's a huge cheer poolside as the Big Man waves to 'Bungle' and the Cornish contingent - he seems to know ever bugger in the resort.

We get stuck into the all-inclusive that's on offer. There's a whistle-stop tour of pubs and clubs, that includes Leonardo's - the Big Man's favourite - girls pave the streets waiting for his autograph, such is his legend in the area of Arona.

The night becomes hazy and uncoordinated for tour veteran Sticky Palms on his debut, after half a dozen goldfish bowls of Jeff Hendricks gin. There's no recollection of the walk of shame home. The evidence is on my phone in the morning, with Google Maps still open with directions to the hotel somehow typed in.

There are other casualties to report, some are flamed on social media. One of our party has fallen in a flowerbed, with his phone not on his person when awakening from his slumber. The stereotypical performance of  Englishmen abroad is there for all to see. A quick headcount confirms that all made it back, not without scrapes and scars to show, though.

I'm as rough as a Badger's arse, but don't want to cough up to the boys, as I'm sure I was the first to bail out. I've time to kill as I gingerly wander down to the seafront. There's a few white clouds kicking about as I punish myself with a 13km round walk to Costa Adeje in the baking heat. On my return to the hotel, after gulping 2 litres of water, I hail a cab and head inland towards the town of El Fraile. All the touring party are down Leonardo's watching Soccer Saturday, getting sozzled, soaking up the sun.

The taxi driver is a cracking lad. He's singing like a canary (get it) about how Chelsea striker Pedro was born in a village close by. He drops me outside the Campo Municipal Villa Isabel and promises to arrange a cab for my return home at 5:30pm.

I'm quite excited about my third tick-off in the Canary League, having already bagged at CD Marino and CD Buzanada. The lads will be praying it's a 0-0. I'll be crying like a baby if it is and will be on the first flight home.

It's 8 Euros on the gate. I'm sporting a Panama hat and stick out like a sore thumb. Every local knows I'm English and seem amused by this pale-coloured, pot-bellied chap and his manbag. A bottle of Rioja or Spanish sherry are the raffle prizes - if I win I'll give it to 'Bungle' or 'Moyesie' who'll down in one and make Trumpy Bolton look like a shandy drinker.

The ground is an absolute snorter. Mahon beer is on tap in the outside bar, which is doing a roaring trade. The vantage points are amazing. Three sides have deep concrete steps with a wall you can sit on. On the opposite side of the ground is a stand, perched above the changing rooms. The view out to the mountains is breathtaking, despite the filthy black clouds.

I'm stressing about 'The Lincoln' who have a stinking draw in the FA Cup away at AFC Wimbledon. It's with good reason too, as they fall behind early doors, as do UD Ibarra following a thumping volley from the visiting forward after a pinpoint left-footed cross from an overlapping full back.

The music from the PA is bloody awful. I'd settle for some Julio Inglesis or heaven forbid, Sam Smith, right now. I foolishly swap ends at the break thinking the visitors will push on, but Ibarra are a plucky bunch, and cheered on by their beer-fuelled supporters, deservedly equalize.

There's about 10 minutes remaining as I poke my head out of the exit and see a taxi with its meter running, but driverless. I see a bloke with a blue shirt on watching the game, he confirms it's his taxi. I hate leaving early but don't want ripping off with a taxi fare. I'm mortified later to find out the final score was 2-2; bloody hell I'm not telling our lot, they'll rip me to shreds.

It's carnage back at the hotel. 'Bungle' is spangled after an early session down at Leonardo's watching his beloved Leicester. The troops regroup and have a cracking night out in the resort, with the highlight being Rotton and Sticky Palms throwing some shapes on the Magic Bar dance floor before an overload of Hendricks curtails my evening once again.

I plummet to an all-time low on Sunday night. I went on my lonesome for a stroll up to Los Cristianos at lunchtime. Facebook and texts lured me up to Leonardo's at 3:30pm for 'Super Sunday.' Bruiser and I are met with utter bedlam. Rotton is sinking tin after tin of Guinness down in one, 'Bungle' is speechless again and Moyesie is drinking like a fish.

After spanking the Hendricks on the sun-drenched bar patio with Bruiser and a mate of Mark Crossley's from Barnsley, I somehow find myself back in the comfort of my hotel room. I call Ms Moon before saying goodnight. I take a look at the time on my phone, it isn't even 8:30pm. The shame of it, asleep before Wild at Heart.

It's a bit quiet around the poolside on Monday morning. One or two of the boys got battered as the post-mortems begin. The Big Man's not happy. Moyesie burst into the room at the crack of dawn after another heavy session and chanced upon one of BM's ham and cheese filled baguettes in the fridge. He pleads with BM to let him have a bite. A grumpy BM declines his request. Moyesie starts clapping his hands and singing at the top of his voice "Halves it, Halves it, Halves it." Nobody messes with the Big Man's food.

The highlight of the day on Monday is cocktails at the Papagayo Beach Club, watching the sunset, but even that ends in tears much to the amusement of Sticky Palms who called it an hour ago - let's put it this way, patience isn't a virtue for some of us.

The Big Man is sporting a pair of pink sunglasses at Leonardo's. He's approached by a 'Lucky Lucky Man' to see if he wants to buy a handbag. The bar is in uproar as the Big Man refuses to shake the guy's hand. After a chorus of boos, he finally relents.

I put a decent shift in on Monday night, but nobody can live with Moyesie, who could drink Phil Mitchell under the table, as well as talk the hind legs off a donkey (and that's coming from me
He's a lovely bloke and shares a mutual interest in Herbert Kilpin, the co-founder of A.C. Milan, as well as wearing some well cool T-Shirts that I need to get the website from him.

Lads' Lunch at Hard Rock Cafe is my final contribution to the holiday. After a three course meal, carafe after carafe of red wine and cocktails on the rooftop, it's another early night for Sticky P and his upset tummy.

Moyesie has time for a lager with his breakfast on Wednesday following a sixteen-hour bender before we jump in a cab and head home.

Attendance 12

Man of the Match: Sean Moyes. Needs a drink-off with blog legend Trumpy Bolton

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Coventry United 2-1 Shepshed Dynamo

It's Sunday morning and we're lozzing around on the sofa, in the crib, watching the lads from Heartbeat mopping up another complex investigation on ITV2. I get all misty-eyed and turn on the tears. I'm really proud of Ventriss, Phil, Blaketon and the lads, it's not easy keeping the streets of Whitby clear of crime - I saw someone drop some litter there once in the harbour. It's been etched in memory forever. The lads from Aidensfield Police Station are on a longer unbeaten run that Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest.

Ms Moon has a monster abscess on her gum and isn't on the best of form - even Sticky Palms daren't take the rise. It's probably for the best not to mention any Shane McGowan gags and just blow away the cobwebs. I put on my Sunday best, at lunchtime, and head out of the door onto Carlton Road. I wander past the shops and the woeful Wetherspoons on Carlton Hill (just for you Trumpy) before turning right opposite Central College. I meander through St Ann's, (most folk quicken their pace), past Stonebridge City Farm, before crossing over Huntingdon Street and onto Mansfield Road.

I'm puffed out readers. I gingerly walk through to the tap room of the Lincolnshire Poacher and order up a real ale. A few people begin to shuffle into the bar. One or two are sporting red and black scarves, similar to the old Manchester City kit (back in the day, when they were whack). Of course, it's no coincidence that I'm in this particular boozer today.

On the 24th January 1870, Herbert Kilpin, the son of a butcher, was born just a few blocks away from where I'm sat supping right now. Mum gave birth to 15 children. He worked in the lace industry and played football for the Garibaldi Reds on the Forest Recreation Ground (Goose Fair site). In 1891 Kilpin moved to Turin, Italy to work for a textile manufacturer. In 1898 he rocked up in Milan. A year later along with his friend Samuel Davies he founded the Milan Foot-Ball and Cricket Club. A.C.Milan was born. Today a plaque is to be unveiled outside his father's old butcher's shop.

I sink my pint and make the short walk up to 191 Mansfield Road. A small congregation is gathered. I'm bitterly disappointed that less than 50 people have bothered to turn out to celebrate the extraordinary life of 'one of our own.' There's a witty speech from a county councillor; to be fair to the chap he did make me chuckle. The author of the book, titled the Lord of Milan, declines the opportunity of a few words - preferring to save that for the premiere showing of the film tonight at Nottingham Broadway cinema, that has sold out.

I pop into the Kilpin for a swift one. Milan are drawing 0-0 with bitter rivals Genoa. Their skipper has been sent off for a stray elbow. The Milan contingent aren't too chuffed to hear the news on their arrival. I tell them that Sticky Palms doesn't do 0-0s, before sloping off to the Fox and Grapes for a swift one.

Tuesday evening is spent at one of my all-time favourites  (I sound like Bruce Forsyth, God bless him). Gainsborough Trinity are hosting AFC Telford. Northolme is a ground to die for and a must visit for any serious groundhopper. I wolf down steak pie, chips and mushy peas, before indulging in a bag of Haribos from the 'Sweet Shack.' I feel like retching up for most of the game, following a sugar rush. The match is fantastic and the win vital for Trinity. It was good to catch up with Phil, a diehard Gainsborough fan, who I talk to on twitter now and again.

Thursday and Friday are spent working in Shrewsbury and Peterborough. It's Friday teatime and I'm stood in a queue of 100 people with Ms Moon trying to gain access to 'LuvYa Babes' fancy dress shop in Nottingham's Victoria Centre. Jesus wept, I'm grumpy, I'm usually quaffing a few pints by now. We bag a couple of costumes for a party that top man Piers lays on each year in residential West Bridgford (more on that next week).

I'm toing and froing on whether to knock a few back tonight as it's Keyworth Cricket Club's presentation night. The Mayor of London has very kindly offered to put me up. The New Field of Dreams is packed to the rafters and at fever pitch as I snuck into the corner of the bar.

I get into a round with a few of the boys. After some brilliant, heart-warming speeches and raucous laughter, a sozzled Sticky Palms is called to the front, and a microphone thrust into his hand. I tell a couple of gags (someone laughed  .. I think), before presenting a trophy in memory of my Dad, to a 17-year-old lad who is the most exciting player Our Club has produced in three decades. Well done Sam Foster. I'm propping the bar up at 2:30am with 'The Mayor' - oh deary me, help me Lordy.

I haven't woken up at 11:15am for donkey's years, until today. Ms Moon is worried sick about me as I haven't returned her calls. The Red wine was a massive mistake at the fag end of the evening. I wonder how the ladies' team is this morning, as quite a few of them were in a 'two 'n eight' and '808 state.'

I land back in Carlton at 12:45pm to face the music with only a bacon cob and Costa coffee as a peace offering. Little is said by a quite cross Ms Moon. I'm literally sent to Coventry at one bells. I'm hoping Paul Gambacinni's Pick of the Pops can cheer up 'the Princess.' I pogo in the passenger seat to The Buzzcocks and Public Image to a less than impressed Ms Moon.

Have you ever heard of a 'dropped my bacon sandwich moment?' It's when an incident or saying of such magnitude occurs that causes you to drop the said product. This happens at bang on 1:35pm when 'Gambers' plays Rose Royce's classic 1978 hit 'Love Doesn't Live Here Anymore.' "This is not a patch on Jimmy Nail's version" remarks a deadpan Ms Moon - I drop the remains of my bacon sandwich into the footwell.

We enter the concrete jungle that is Coventry. The ground is in postcode CV1. Coventry is the ninth largest city in England with a population of over 350,000. The city suffered horrifically during the Blitz in 1940 when the German Luftwaffe destroyed the 14th Century Coventry Cathedral. It was also famous for it's car industry. Notable folk from 'Cov include: Bobby Gould, Callum Wilson, Ian Bell, Terry Hall, Hazel O'Connor and Paul King.

It's £15.50 on the gate, including a programme. From what I've gathered the club was formed after the decision was taken that Coventry City would be playing football in Northampton. We chance upon one of the loveliest blokes I've met in 15 years of groundhopping. Mel Davis is part of the safety team and on the supporters' club committee. We're given a potted history of Coventry United. The guy is passionate and in love with the club, as is his wife, Marian - it whets my appetite and gets my juices flowing.

I love Shepshed, they're one of my favourites (Brucie again). They are so welcoming up the Butt Hole (not a euphemism). 'Dave the Van Man' is here - he never misses a game. Folk like Dave keep Our game alive.

We sit in the plush stand which is shared with the Rugby Club. Shepshed are slow out of the blocks and play without tempo. Dynamo's keeper's hands are warmed. The visitors inch their way into the game. Shay Brennan up top is different gravy. I just watch him, forget the ball. He runs his socks off, twists and turns and holds the ball up. Nobody can break the deadlock. The highlight of the first half half is the two choo choo trains on the far side of the ground travelling in and out of the city.

Ms Moon has a close call on the 50/50 draw as Black Betty from Ram Jam blares out the ground's PA system. The good lady reckons it's got 0-0 written all over it. I'll be having a tattoo soon saying I don't do 0-0s.

Coventry United score a beautiful free-kick and put the game to bed 15 minutes later for a well-deserved victory. Each goal is greeted with 'The Kids Are United' by Sham 69. I'm disappointed with a couple of the Shepshed backroom staff who are proper in the face of the 'linesman' - no need lads, no need at all.

Man of the Match: Cov 7 jacket

Attendance: Over 200

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Kidderminster Harriers 2-2 Spennymoor Town

Dejected and disappointed Wrexham fans are filing out of AFC Fylde's Mill Farm ground, as the Dragons tumble out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle. We head towards East Lancashire, as I've booked a night's accommodation at the Waddington Arms Hotel, just north of Clitheroe. We are greeted with a friendly, warm welcome, a blazing wood burner and an array of real ales. We tick off two more pubs in the village, before settling in for the evening.

On Sunday I catch the dying embers of D***y County v Nottingham Forest in the Gedling Pub and Kitchen, after a stroll around the estate of Brownsholme Hall in the Ribble Valley. Glum-looking locals drown their sorrows after another disappointing display - Forest continue to take one step forward and two steps back, despite one of the best youth policies in the country.

It's Monday evening and I'm staying the night at a wind-swept Crowne Plaza hotel in Solihull. I've two meetings tomorrow - one's  in West Bromwich with a Wolves season ticket holder - he'll be as happy as Larry as they've turned 'The Villa' over. I've clocked that 'The Lincoln' are on their travels on Tuesday evening at Swindon Town's County Ground. Blimey, I'm tempted, as it's only 80 miles away (from West Brom) and it will be the 82nd League ground I've visited.

I chance upon Swindon's famous 'Magic Roundabout.' I've no idea how to negotiate this, so follow the car in front, before parting with £10 to a steward on the gate and parking outside the club shop. I pay £23 for a ticket in the Arkells Stand and £3 for a programme, before pegging it up to Swindon 'Old Town' for a nosey about the place - it's nowt to write home about.

I have a spot of tea in a Miller and Carter Steakhouse, a ten-minute walk from the ground. Ms Moon takes the rise out of me, via text, because I've had fish 'n chips and not steak. The Swindon DJ is worse than the one at AFC Fylde. The average age of their support is over 50, and I'm being generous at that. Despite the Darby and Joan Club outing, the guy spins Grime and R'n'B for a full half an hour before the game.

The 'music' doesn't put 'The Lincoln' off as they start like a train, like they did at Notts County, and at home versus Barnet. We hit the underside of the bar and work the keeper'. Nathan Arnold sees an effort cannon off the post, before our talisman, Sean Raggett, the best centre-half we've had since Trevor Peake and Steve Thompson, nods home the winner ten minutes from time. The Cowleys are ecstatic, as are the 400 away following - not bad for a school night. Diana Dors, Tommy Cooper, Johnny Francome and Melissa Messenger haven taken one helluva of a 1-0 beating.

I do a little celebratory jig and Moonwalk on the forecourt of a nearby petrol station, and a Homer Simpson woohoo, as a convoy of Red Imps fans fill up their tanks with petrol for the long journey home. What a night out in Swindon we've had. How many folk can say that?

It's Friday evening and I've polished off a bottle of Chilean Merlot whilst watching the underrated Glenn Murray kill off the Iron of West Ham United. I receive a text from a confused Trumpy Bolton who's in South Wales for the weekend, watching his beloved Leicester City. He must be as drunk as a skunk as I can't make head nor tail of his text, unless it's written in Welsh.

I spend Saturday morning scouring and researching the Net for a game in Tenerife on Nov 4th. UD Tenerife Sur Barra FC are kicking off at 4pm at Estadio Villa Isabel - I've Thomas Cooked it. 'Bruiser', 'the Big Man' and the rest of the boys will be on the sauce at Leonardo's Bar in Playa De Las Americas watching the results coming in - I'll catch up with them Shandy drinkers when I'm back at HQ.

After lazing around we jump into the car just before 12:30pm. 'Storm Brian' is forecast to kick-in any time now. The M42, M6 and M5 best be behaving itself. There are a few dark clouds lurking about and the wind's whipping up. We listen to Five Live from Stamford Bridge (yawn) before turning over to Paul Gambaccini's Pick of the Pops on Radio 2. 1984 is the year. Ms Moon sings her heart out to 'All Cried Out' by Alison Moyet - Auto Windscreens are on standby.

Kidderminster is a town in the Wyre Forest district of Worcestershire, with a 55,000 population. The River Stour and Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal run through the town. Kidderminster is famous for its modern carpets. Well known people born in the town include: Sir Rowland Hill, the inventor of the Penny Black stamp and Alun Evans who became England's first £100,000 teenager when he signed for Liverpool from Wolves. Ex Denmark international and Liverpool midfielder Jan Molby once managed 'Kiddy.'

I was listening to the Jeremy Vine Show a few years ago (please accept my apologies for this) when a survey on football food was published. Kidderminster was the most expensive. I heard Vine bleating on about this, so I tweeted in defending the £4.50 for a portion of cottage pie. To be fair to the bloke he read it out. Nigel Clough's Burton Albion always had a pie each on the coach journey home from the Aggborough Stadium.

We arrive at the Aggborough an hour before kick off. There's no swanky pub or gorgeous blonde ale for Sticky Palms today. We're both 'Hank Marvin.' I've raved to Ms Moon all week about the notorious Kiddy cottage pie. A cheerful, rotund chap serves up two portions. The good lady and I don't speak for ten minutes. It's up there with a Michelin Star restaurant or Egon Ronay recommendation.

The Kiddy DJ is on flames compared to 'Dave Lee Travis' at AFC Fylde last week. He spins Rag'n' Bone Man, Status Quo and 'Insomnia' by Faithless - we could both do with forty winks after devouring that pie.

Crikey Moses, we've a football match to watch here. I saw Kiddy and Spennymoor a few times last season, and rate them both highly. 'Storm Brian' doesn't really materialise. Yes, it's windy and rainy, but don't believe the hype folks.

The Kiddy 'keeper is struggling to judge the swirling wind, his colleagues don't help him by constantly passing the ball backwards at differing angles. A shanked clearance falls at the feet of David Foley who from fully 45 yards out sees a shot sail over the stranded shot stopper and into the roof of the net. How it's only 0-1 at the break, Lord only knows as both sides waste chances.

Oh my God, what a wonderful second half of football we have the privilege to witness, in testing conditions too, as the rain begins to sile down.  Kiddy snap at the heels of the visitors. Emmanuel Sonupe and Elton Ngwatala dictate play. The equaliser is a beautifully crafted goal that's fired home by James McQuilkin - a player that folk around us have moaned and groaned about for most of the afternoon.

Spennymoor looked to have lost the plot and are under the cosh. Kiddy's sub, Andre Brown's first touch is a headed goal from a corner. The Moors aren't finished though. Sub Rob Ranshaw is upended in the box by James O'Connor, who receives a second yellow card. The resulting penalty is coolly put away by Tait to grab a point for the visitors, ensuring the 'Spennymoor 28' enjoy the 400-mile round trip home.

Ms Moon says she doesn't want the game to end. I remind her she'll miss 'Strictly' and X-Factor' just as the referee blows the final whistle.

Attendance: 1406 (28 from Spennymoor -God bless 'em all)

Man of the Match: James O'Connor

Sunday, October 15, 2017

AFC Fylde 1-0 Wrexham

It's 93 minutes on the clock at Stocksbridge Steels' drop-dead gorgeous Bracken Moor Stadium. I suggest to Ms Moon that we shoot off a couple of minutes early, as the car park could be awkward to manoeuvre out of. The game's over as a contest - Atherton Collieries are coasting to a 3-0 victory. I'm a bit miffed, when I notice later in the evening, that further goals were scored in the 94th and 95th minute. Ms Moon is particularly cross, as she missed the third goal due to a 'comfort break.' Never leave a game early folks, or 'powder your nose.'

It's Sunday lunchtime and I'm strolling through the back streets of Netherfield, three miles east of Nottingham city centre. We got held up here a few weeks back. The place was crawling with 'the Boys in Blue.' A street was sealed off with a police helicopter hovering above. Three people were attacked at a property on Curzon Street, one was left with life-altering injuries. I walk past the Railway Hotel, formally known to locals as Jackie Bells (legendary landlord of said hostelry) - it's another pub long gone. All that's left is the pub sign swinging in the wind on some plush new apartments. I guzzle a pint of Banoffee pale ale at Castle Rock's Willowbrook in Gedling before returning to HQ.

I'm back up on Mapperley Tops on Tuesday evening for an EMCL League cup tie between Gedling MW and Kimberley MW. I make my debut at the highly-rated 'Plains Fish Bar' and polish off a small portion of cod 'n chips, saturated in salt and vinegar, before viewing proceedings adjacent to the Gedling dugout with 'The Italian Stallion.' I've a lot of time for folk at Kimberley; they have an exciting young side too. Committee members like 'Hobbo' and Danny Staley are the salt of the earth and good people, with the club's best interests at heart. This warmth cannot be extended to their technical area, where potty-mouthed 'coaches' aim a tirade of verbal abuse at the officials for most of the evening. Silence is golden when the mercurial, fleet-footed, Jack Jepson puts the game to bed, leaving Kimberley MW on the receiving end of a 3-0 thumping. Perhaps the finger of blame should be squarely pointed at the players, after a below-par performance, instead of haranguing the 'men in black.'

It's deja vu on Wednesday. A  blustery evening is spent at the 'field of dreams' (Platt Lane, Keyworth). The Green Army second string give neighbouring Ruddington a 6-0 pasting - they deserve some good fortune after struggling in recent weeks.

The old 'Barnet Fair' needs a trim. I peg it up to Wisdom Hairdressing on Mansfield Road. I love the lads from Kurdistan. I'm due next in the electric chair. It's just my luck that five lads with hipster beards all ask for a trim. It's nearly dusk when I finally leave the shop. There's always time for a quick couple of pints in the Herbert Kilpin and Fox and Grapes, before jumping on the No.25 bus home.

It's been on Sky Sports News that the 'Keyworth Georgie Best' (Sticky jnr, my eldest lad) has been drafted in from the wilderness for 'the Green Army Ressies.' His pre-match warm-up consists of planing down three doors and re-fitting them for Dad.

We can't really avoid the M6, as I've earmarked a Good Pub Guide entry close to Preston. I'm not sure what's worse: the standing traffic between junctions 18 and 20 or Graham Norton on Radio 2. We get a duff postcode for the pub and end up having a bust-up in the middle of nowhere (that's with the Sat Nav and Ms Moon). We're guided into the car park of the Plough at Eaves in Broughton by Ms Moon on Google maps.

It's a pleasant country tavern with a two-beamed bar and patterned carpet, reminiscent of an old Berni Inn. I have a cracking pint of Wainwright. We both enjoy a baguette before the short 15-minute journey to AFC Fylde's Coronation Way ground.

The Fylde is a coastal plain in Lancashire. It is a 13-mile square-shaped peninsula, bounded by Morecambe Bay to the north, the Ribble estuary to the south, the Irish Sea to the west and the Bowland hills to the east. A few well-known people from the area include The Police guitarist Andy Summers, former Blackpool, Manchester City and Spurs forward, Paul Stewart, 6 Music DJ Mary Anne Hobbs and rugby international Jason Robinson.

Jeez, we're in trouble now. Ms Moon has spotted an Aldi supermarket. We'll need to hire a forklift if Prosecco is on offer. I've already bagged a ticket, Ms Moon decides to make a weekend of it, so I've booked us into the Waddington Arms in the Forest of Bowland, up in the hills of Lancashire.

I catch the attention of a club official, smartly dressed in a blazer and trousers. "Do you work here, mate?" "Yes, I'm the Chief Executive." I blush after my faux pas, as we are pointed in the general direction of the turnstile for the West Stand.

It's £12 on the gate, £3 for a programme and £1 for a 50/50 ticket. The Mill Farm Sports Village is part of a £18 million development. After a meteoric rise up the Football Pyramid, the Coasters are toughing it out in the National Conference - the long journeys down south are taking their toll.

Today's visitors, Wrexham, make the relatively short 160 mile round trip from North Wales. I'm itching to visit their famous, old Racecourse Ground, but it'll be in the New Year before we finally take the plunge.

I'm not sure if the Fylde DJ has been on the prosecco from Aldi, as he plays the worst set since Dave Lee-Travis on Radio 1. 'Freed From Desire' is as good as it gets. Due to logistics, Ms Moon and I are four rows apart; she probably welcomes the break. I notice a few black clouds rolling in from the Irish Sea, as a stiff breeze blows across the ground. I've a couple of old dears sat behind me. Husband to wife: "Hasn't it turned out grand, love?" It warms the cockles of my heart.

Wrexham look the dog's doodahs in the early exchanges, as they attack the end where their raucous flock are stood. 30-year-old striker Chris Holroyd is leading the Fylde defence a merry dance. They lack the killer instinct.

I've clocked Coasters' 11 jacket, Jack Muldoon. This boy gave his all for 'The Lincoln' last season, shining like a beacon in the Cup run. His unselfish running and interplay set up strike partner Danny Rowe for the opening goal.

There's a change at the break, the DJ's morphed into 6Music legend 'Steve Lamacq.' We're treated to 'Waterfall' by the Stone Roses and a few other indie toons. I've joined Ms Moon on Row M. She's complaining about the leg room. We've a few WAGS sat behind us who never comment about the football at any given time. Wrexham offer little in the second half; I thought they'd throw the kitchen sink at Fylde. Full back, James Jennings, their best player on show, gets frustrated when a flurry of crosses, he whips in, aren't attacked by a lacklustre forward line.

We escape a few minutes early as Fylde run the clock down. There's no chance of added time goals this week.

Attendance: 1,390

Man of the Match: George Edmundson (debut on loan from Oldham)

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Stocksbridge Park Steels 1-4 Atherton Collieries

I'm not sure what the world record for sneezing and belching at the same time is, between Junction 35A and Junction 26 of the M1, but right now a bevied up Mr Trumpy Bolton is giving it a good go. We have to make an emergency stop at the Three Ponds in Watnall so he can blow his streaming, snotty nose, drink a glass of water and quaff another pint. I finally pull up on the drive at home in Carlton, exhausted from today's happenings.

God, I love Sundays; it's my favourite day of the week. We head out to Leicester for a stroll around Bradgate Park, a former Medieval Deer Park, before swinging by The Crown at Old Dalby, where we have a Sunday lunch to die for.

We canned the National Lottery many moons ago. I wanted to contribute to a more worthwhile cause. The People's Postcode Lottery seems to tick the right boxes. I'm already dreaming of the £3 million jackpot, when someone famous is sent round our crib to knock on the front door, catch us aghast, waving that big fat cheque. I'll refuse to accept the winnings if the talentless Fiona Phillips is dispatched from HQ to Sticky Towers. I'll settle for Kym Marsh or one of the weather girls off ITV.

I'm in the heart of Nottingham's inner city on Tuesday evening. Radford's On Call Arena, in Selhurst Street, would be in my all-time top 10. I'm somewhat of a Jonah to the club - they never seem to win when I rock up. Tuesday evening is no exception when they get a good hiding from noisy neighbours Dunkirk FC. Steve Chaplin scores a goal of precision and beauty, but it's 19-year-old Timmy Berridge that catches the eye - another one missed by the 'scouting fraternity.' I scarper across to Asda car park at the fag end of the game to avoid a lifetime ban and cuff around the tabhole from a seething Radford manager, Big Glenn Russell.

The groundhopping gang are at it again on Wednesday evening. I'm scared stiff of Pat Phelan on Corrie and look forward to his grisly demise. We give 'The Street' the swerve and head over to Keyworth, my old parish. Talking of Phelan, I thought I'd clocked him in the shallow end of our hotel swimming pool in Nerja, in Southern Spain, back in August, on our summer holidays. I daren't take a dip for the rest of the week and slept uneasily. It was only on the plane home that Ms Moon revealed that Phelan isn't real; he's just a character in a soap opera.

Poor old Keyworth Ressies get turned over again. They're 3-0 down after half an hour at a windswept, rain-soaked Platt Lane. There's a spirited comeback in the second half from the Green Army, but they fall short in a 7 goal thriller versus Gedling Southbank.

The weekend can't come quick enough. I have a lucrative day 'in the office' on Friday. I meet a few folk for evening drinkies, before returning home to sink a few glasses of a chocolate-flavoured Chilean Merlot.

I'm wide awake at daybreak, excited for the re-visit to the wonderful Bracken Moor, home of Stocksbridge Park Steels. I'd hoped to do a spot of gardening, but right on cue the heavens open. I best pull my 'green fingers' out before Ms Moon returns from her shopping expedition. I mop all the floors in the house and clean the bathroom, as Massive Attack's 'Unfinished Symphony' blasts out of the speakers of the Roberts DAB radio.

We hit the road just before midday. Traffic is heavy, Sat Nav strangely takes us onto the M1 at Junction 27 - I can still hear someone hiccuping and burping. I need to put a call into Roy Castle and Norris McWhirter.

Radio 2 are reporting a lorry has overturned near to Glossop (hope the driver is ok). I'm hoping it doesn't impact our journey. Thankfully it doesn't as we roll into the car park of the Wortley Arms, a stone-built coaching inn, just a few miles away from Stocksbridge. The red mist descends upon Ms Moon when she spots there is a Men's Club adjacent to the pub - we thought this was exclusive to golf clubs in Scotland and the White House.

Sweet lemony Lincoln, what a choice of ales they have on the bar. I go for a pale ale from the Mitchell's Hop House, a microbrewery from Sheffield. We peruse the menu and both choose a roast lamb sandwich with mint sauce and homemade 'Yorkshire chips.' Mabel the Jack Russell is sat on the next table and has had more than her fair share of her owner's fish and chips. The greedy little sod starts salivating when our tucker rocks up - she gets Jack diddly squat off the pair of us.

We're parked up at Bracken Moor an hour before kick off. Ms Moon's got the 'face on' having seen the 1 in 3 gradient the car has climbed up to the ground, so declines an invitation for a stroll into town. I make the solo descent down Bocking Hill and Nanny Hill. I walk past a gated mansion. I hear the Alsation's scampering paws before the vicious snarling and barking. I nearly drop dead on the spot.

Stocksbridge is a small town just outside Sheffield, with a population of over 13,000. It is well known for its steelworks. Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy famously plied his trade for Stocksbridge Park Steels for six seasons. Sticky Palms came here back in 2010 when FC United of Manchester were the visitors. I've still got the programme and Vardy is listed. He didn't play that day as he was either serving an eight-match suspension or wearing an electronic tag with a night-time curfew. Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder was born in the town.

There's not much-doing downtown; unless you like curries, pizzas, Chinese takeaway or kebabs. I love a haircut on matchday. I've had memorable ear-lowering moments in Heanor and Stratford-upon-Avon. The barbers in Stocksbridge is full to the brim. I make the long, hard slog back up to the ground. I've climbed Lincoln's Steep Hill, Cherry Hill in Keyworth and Gedling Country Park in Notts, but nothing could prepare me for this. I swig a bottle of water at the summit and pat myself on the back. Sir Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tenzing wouldn't have conquered that.

I prepare myself for the moment we squeeze our way through the turnstile having parted with £17.50 for entry, programme and a good old Northern meat raffle. This ground is one of the greatest on our planet. I rarely go twice to a ground on a Saturday - this is the exception. I want Ms Moon to share my love, joy and excitement The good lady isn't disappointed with the sweeping views of the Pennines, the pristine playing surface, steep-terraced views and outstanding upstairs bar.

Atherton Collieries are today's visitors for this FA Trophy tie. I have a real soft spot for them after a mad dash up there a few Mondays ago, when they swept aside Colwyn Bay after being pinned back in their own half for the first 25 minutes. A healthy contingent have made the journey across the Pennines.

As we walk out of the bar a guy put his hand out and says hello. I don't recognise him, as it's been ages. Blimey Charlie, it's Dudsey, the oracle on north Notts and South Yorkshire Non-League Football. It's great to have a catch-up.

Ms Moon is singing away to Billy Ocean's 'Love Really Hurts' which is blaring out of the Bracken Moor PA system, pre kick-off. I'm not saying that the good lady is out of tune, but I notice a few cracks appearing in the perspex of the away dugout.

The weather is coming in, so we choose to sit in the Jamie Vardy Stand. There are three generations of a family sat in front of us. They've brought enough snap, hot drinks and brandy to feed an army. 'Colls' are out of the traps quicker than my old greyhound 'Prince Red Inca.' Jordan Cover looked the business versus Colwyn Bay, today is no different. He was in a band called the Blackout Crew who had a minor hit called 'Put a Donk on it.' - ridiculed by Radcliffe and Maconie on 6Music. He's now an international DJ, but boy oh boy can he play football and his mate, the 11 jacket Mason, who runs his socks off.

The Colls are two up by the break and in cruise control. Ms Moon is spewing that we haven't won the meat raffle. She'll be hunting down the aisles in Marks and Spencer tomorrow for the £10 'Meal Deal.' The Colls survive a second-half onslaught from the Steels and are in debt to their 'keeper for some smart saves. The game's best player, Iain Howard puts the tie to bed for the visitors. His football brain, movement and wand of a left foot are too much to cope with. 'Colls will head up to Kendal Town for the next round.

Attendance: 158

Man of the Match: Iain Howard