Football

Uwdi Krugg will be spending the 2016-17 season watching South West non league football, eating the wrong kind of food and having a bloody good moan.


Saturday, 26 December 2009

Boxing Day Fixture Postponed

I was hoping to attend Hyde United v Stalybridge Celtic this Boxing Day but the icy hell of the ungritted, untouched, un-local-authoritised North West of bankrupt (sad) England put paid to any chance of possible football action. Shame as it was quite warm on the day, 6 degrees in some parts, the problem was that nobody in charge of resources actually provided any resources to make things happen.

How the robbing local authorities get away with stealing mega amounts of council tax cash from ordinary people in this part of the world is a downright disgrace. Some of the cabbage heads in charge of council strategy should be sacked! We get next to zero return for a massive outlay of money. We really are on the road to hell.

Snow, snow and more snow has replaced rain, rain and more rain over recent weeks. How long before the roof blitzing storm force winds start again?

This really is a shyte location to live. I need to move.

Wonder how the house on top of a hill puts up with it all? Dont think it will be here in another ten years?

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Leigh Genesis

Saturday 19th December 2009
UniBond First Division North
Leigh Genesis 4 AFC Fylde 1
Attendance: 173
Admission: £8
Programme: £2
Tea hut : Over £6 for 2 cups of tea and a meat & potato pie!
Weather: Freezing cold, snow showers
Parking: Car park at the ground, easy exit
All credit to Leigh for getting this game on, only 1 other game in the entire UniBond Leagues went ahead and that was on the plastic pitch at Woodley. It must have been a cost equation nightmare to run the undersoil heating with only 173 spectators braving the elements. Leigh have the benefit of such facilities at the impressive Sports Village Stadium and the pitch played very well indeed. The stadium looks the business from the outside as it pans out next to the equally resplendent Park Inn Hotel complex.

You have to buy your ticket before going through the turnstiles and it is upon entering the ground that you get your first impression that the plus factors of having a great stadium are also negated by the trappings of over-the-top corporate policies. "Is that a bag" asked the woman in a bright orange coat, she was pointing to a black photographers case slung over my shoulder, "Err, yes, I think it is" replied me, "Whats in it" snapped orange coat, "Its not a camera is it" she continued, "No, its just some semtex and a bottle of whisky for the match" I replied with my best strained smile, "Ok, so long as its not a camera, you cannot take pictures in here" retorted orange coat. The fact that she never looked in my bag probably proved she had only gone through stage 1 of her steward degree course. Unfortunately I was now going to have to be 'undercover' when attempting to take a few snaps, such a pity that some places adopt such a ridiculous policy, especially for non-league football. Glenn was with me for this visit, he had his odd sized shoes on again. He'd already informed me he only had 8 quid on him so could I kindly buy him a cup of tea (he'd blown his budget on getting in the ground, the tight sod). He walked back over to where I'd just escaped from the orange coat. He was shaking his head and telling me about a tea hut price list he'd just seen and apparently it was straight from Harrods. A half cup of tea in a paper cup cost £1.70! As I'd not had any food for over 2 hours, I also needed a pie, that was £2.70! I could have purchased 6 of the same Hollands variety of meat and potato pie at a well known supermarket for the same price, this was an absolute rip-off, a disgrace of massive proportions and something I would imagine the football club has little say over, probably more to do with the stadium management than Leigh Genesis. I calmed down by scoffing my pie and taking stock of the fact that I was lucky to be seeing a game today, so I should try and make the best of it.

The stadium stewards keep everyone in one half of the main stand so you cannot wander around, understandable in some respects but I would still have let people stand up behind the nearest goalmouth on a welcoming looking terrace. A few people had wandered into this area before kick off but the orange coats soon had them told off and back in their seats. It was really very cold indeed (almost too cold to sit down) and steam was continually swirling up from the floodlights. Both sides played some good football during the game, Leigh had more possession in the first half with a more direct style than the 'pass around the houses' approach of Fylde. Chances came and went at both ends but Leigh clinically finished the clear cut opportunities and had a 3-0 half time lead. The second half witnessed more 'ball-time' for Fylde but they never looked like clawing back the proceedings against a very well drilled home defence. It finished 4-1 and perhaps that scoreline slightly flattered Leigh but this was another 3 points they will gladly put in the bank and their impressive unbeaten home form in the first division continues.

Towards the end of the game various parts of my body had either gone numb or were providing intense pain from the sub-zero temperatures but it was good to get back on the groundhopping again, especially after some negative events in recent weeks, my thanks to Leigh Genesis for the opportunity, nice ground, mainly friendly people, shame about the camera policy and the tea hut charges (well actually it isn't really a tea hut, more like one of those concrete bunker type jobs underneath the stand). *I didn't really have semtex and whisky in my bag either.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Something decent on TV

After months of 'absolutely-pants' music on my tv, I was amazed to catch one of the best rock concert-documentary films ever made.

About time BBC 4 showed something interesting.

Superb music, dramatic events and a genuine sense of a very dangerous atmosphere.

I'm not a fan of The Stones carrying on forever but back in 69 they reached standards that we'll never see again.

Shame my DVD f*cked up copying it.

Matchday transport

The fantastic Merseyside 'Soccer Bus'

Friday, 11 December 2009

AWOL

"It was the weather" said the Colonel.

"It wasn't just the weather" interrupted Hardy, "It was Ashton, Congleton and Prescot all in a row".

The General rose from the leather chair, took a sip of his brandy and whispered "It was all of those things and more".

He walked over to the tall window and stared out at the rain, a shallow mist hung low across the faraway hills, after a long silence he spoke again....... "It was the arrogance that finished it".

"What news of a return" asked Hardy reverentially???

The bird flew from the tree, glistening droplets fell from the branch, then nothing, all was still.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Prescot Cables Farce!

Saturday 28th November
UniBond Division 1 North
Prescot Cables v Salford City
MATCH POSTPONED!
Attendance: Me and quite a few other mugs who didn't have a clue
Admission: Nothing at the gate but a lot of wasted diesel
Tea hut purchase: Cheese & onion pasty from the shopping precinct £1
Programme: They cannot even put info on the club website properly?
Weather: Dry and sunny (which made this joke even more surprising)
Parking: Backstreets 15 minutes walk from ground (terrible set up)

Here is the statement I posted on Tony's Football Forum when I had calmed down after arriving back from sunny Merseyside yesterday (Saturday 28th November):

PRESCOT CABLES DISAPPOINTMENT

I'd just like to politely pass on how disappointed I am that Prescot Cables did not put information on their club website that there was a pitch inspection today, never mind the fact that the match may be in doubt?
I checked this website on 3 separate occasions before leaving for the match at 12.15. There did not appear to be anything to raise any concern about a possible inspection, never mind a possible postponement.
I have since found out from the away clubs forum (Salford City) that there was a PLANNED pitch inspection at 11am!!! If Prescot had kindly put this on their website I wouldn't have bothered with the risk and gone somewhere else instead.
It is not ideal to throw away gallons of fuel and waste over 5 hours to find nicely coloured pre printed posters on the gates saying match-off! By the time I arrived at the ground it was too late to go anywhere else. I saw quite a few other people arriving who had done the same as me and my colleagues. One lady even asked my friend "why didn't they mention an inspection on their website"?
This is not something I would normally associate with the UniBond League. Such a pity that a little notification in advance could have saved people a wasted journey (and a clubs reputation).

So there you have it. To say I am 'dished-off' with the incompetence that failed to sensibly notify spectators that this match was probably never going to happen is an under statement. In this age of compensation culture I should be able to claim fuel, vehicle wear and tear, sustenance, loss of hours and post-postponement stress. Prescot Cables failed to exercise a basic duty of care. All they had to do was put a simple one line message on their website, it would have taken half a minute. It cost me my day off, a lot of wasted time, wasted cash and my only chance to watch a football match.

The messing about I have suffered over postponed games these last few weeks makes me wonder whether it is worth continuing with this pursuit? After all, it is supposed to be about enjoyment and entertainment...... isn't it?

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Bad weather

A few weather related problems have hit the Krugg recently. Finally, these now look to be sorted out. Tea hut business will return as soon as possible. There may even be a return to action this coming Saturday (28th November). Fixtures at Prescot Cables, Farsley Celtic and Harrogate Town are currently under review.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Congleton Town

Saturday 14th November 2009
FA Vase Second Round
Congleton Town 0 Shildon 2
Attendance: 237
Admission: £6
Programme: £1.20p
Tea hut purchases: Tea 60p, Steak & kidney pie £1.50p
Weather: Late sun and the odd second half shower
Parking: Roadside, five minutes walk, easy getaway I'm driving through Cheshire an hour and a half before kick-off.
Rain, torrential really heavy rain and a deep grey sky.
Car headlights and half flooded roads.
Not good, another terrible Saturday.
I reach Congleton and decide to stay put in the car.
At 2.30 the rain eases and a chink of light splits the lead-dead sky.
I hand over my 5 quid at the turnstile.
"Its 6 pounds to get in here" says the flat cap.
I'm certainly not paying extra for the facilities.
The ground is the grimmest yet.
I'd seen the 2 north east mini buses on the entrance to the gate.
The Shildon-trippers are drinking up the stock of the clubhouse bar.
This grounds only toilet is packed full of punters, all bursting on pints.Two traps and no locks and the queues out the door.
Glad to return to the fresh air near the pitch.
Sodden sparse turf is swamping with mud.
A squish-squash warm up but the pitch holds firm.
Its time for the tea hut to cheer up my frown.
Programme perusal in my place in the line,
I'd never seen one with a look like this!
A nice glossy cover but the thing has a hole.
You can't put a hole in a programme cover!
It looks more like a birthday card than a match publication.
I order my tea and I ask for a pie but the pies are all burned. Its one of those cardboard hot ones with nothing inside.
20 minutes later it can just about be eaten but I leave all the crust.
My brolly has already slipped over knocking all the tea spilling.
My walk around the ground is blocked by a big mound of rubble.
A young lad climbs, slips and gets over the pile.
Builders waste and remnants cut the path behind the far touchline.
Perhaps the extra quid gate money is for this adventure playground?Locals grumble about the Congleton form.
Still second in the NWC league but they've not won in five.
Shildon are Northern League mid-table.
Rumour has it Shildons best players are out of contention.
Out come the hordes from the booze buster bar.
All cocky and loud and full of warm ale.
It takes ten minutes to tell the difference in class. Shildon push forward and their passes find feet.
2 first half goals are presented for effort.
The visitors look home-free for keeps.
Half time resentment and Teds had enough.
Ted won't pay for losers, no matter where.
The Shildon expedition force arrive back from their beer-break
3 quick pints and a pack of cheesy crisps.
Second halfs a done-deal as the visitors rest up.
A Congleton shot threatens a nearby greenhouse.
The wind blows it back.
Teds gone before the last quarter as the home flock mumble.
The wolf will go home with the lamb to the slaughter.
The mini bus driver for County Durham is warming the engine.
Thats when they get them out of that bar?

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Some more pictures

Here are some odds and sods from recent visits:

Ashton United

Gainsborough Trinity

Clitheroe

Flixton

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Ashton United

Saturday 7th November 2009
UniBond Premier League
Ashton United 0 Stocksbridge Park Steels 1
Attendance: 152
Admission: £8
Programme: £1.50 (Poor effort)
Tea hut purchase: Tea 70p
Weather: Cold, grey and lengthy prolonged rain showers
Parking: Roadside, 5 minutes from the ground, easy getaway
The North West had put up with rain for most of the previous 6 days, those smug incompetent weather forecasters had predicted a dry afternoon, they lied again, it rained. (I'm only interested in London) Weather Forecasters are as popular with me as Fraudulent Criminal MP's and Capitalist Bankers. The excellent looking pitch at the Hurst Cross stadium played remarkably well in the atrociously wet conditions, such a pity that neither of the two sides could produce any decent football to match their lofty league positions. Ashton were top, Stocksbridge third yet you would never have guessed from this drab squalid encounter, it was absolutely awful. The slate grey sky got darker and wetter as the afternoon progressed, the kick and hope football got looser and dafter to match it. It was 15 minutes before either side had a shot, if you can call a 'bobbler' rolling towards the corner flag a shot? If 2 passes got joined up it was a highlight, this was turgid pap at its peak. At least some entertainment was put on by the travelling band of Steels supporters, their endless repertoire of blunt Northern ditties echoed across the sodden terraces as their centre half sent another ball zooming out of the ground. How nice to hear the traditional White Rose classic: Yorkshire Yorkshire Yorkshire belting out (time and time again), when its placed alongside that other family-favourite: Lancashire, wink, w*nk, wonk you can perhaps get an idea what a rewarding experience this sub-zero jolly was turning out to be. Fine football and fine company, a pleasure indeed, all that was missing was a selection from the cheeseboard. If the tea hut had done a line in ear-plugs rather than cheap packet chips and cardboard pies, they'd have made a killing! I decided to sit in the main stand in the second half as yet more icy rain fell upon the 'die-hards' propping up the stanchions on the terraces of doom. It was only a small stand but it certainly boasted a large number of pillars and side wall obstructions. These blended in perfectly with the large protruding white dug-outs that complimented the poor visual planning for the odd passing spectator. Whoever designed the 'potential' benefits of getting a decent view from this side of the ground must have had a wicked sense of humour or they were simply rubbish at realising that people would only see a restricted part of the pitch! The rain, the cold and the rank-bad football on offer was not helping my mood, perhaps a tad of this emotion has sneaked into this visit report, my apology if this is the case but this was a truly pathetic days entertainment and one I will gladly forget. Not a very good advert for the UniBond Premier League, at least Stocksbridge got a goal, which in turn proved pretty easy to protect, their spirit in seeing the game out suggests they could have better days and perhaps be in some contention later in the season. As for Ashton, I unfortunately have to report that on this showing, they wont be top of the league for long. They seemed clueless in producing any momentum when they had the ball and to rely on desperate second half 40 yard pokes at goal suggests a lack of tactical astuteness? Perhaps I caught them on an off day, perhaps they will prove me wrong? I was thankful for the final whistle.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Gainsborough Trinity

Saturday 31st October 2009
Blue Square Conference North
Gainsborough Trinity 1 Gloucester City 0
Attendance: 378
Admission: £10 Standing, £11 Seats
Programme: £2 (Dreadful cover)
Tea hut purchase: Tea 70p
Weather: A fair, dry afternoon with a bit of sun and light cloud
Parking: Roadside about 5 minutes around the corner, easy exit
As the smoke from the coal fires drifted across The Northolme Stadium I was busy reading the matchday programme. Wisby the Butcher was offering Hog Roasts and Curds, there was a Pensioners Special between 12 and 3pm every Tuesday at the Sands Bistro and a jolly good Simon and Garfunkel tribute act was coming to the town on November 6th. Gainsborough seemed a homely quite little place nestling between Doncaster and Lincoln, it was a town slowly realising its identity, there had even been a few new shops opening recently. However, its population of 22,000 seemed 'almost' oblivious to the football revolution being orchestrated by the new chairman Peter Swann. A range of decent quality players had been introduced alongside a much respected big name Manager in Brian Little. Could the locals see the dream? Would they throw their lot in with these success hungry entrepreneurs? One got the feeling that the population didn't go too much for sudden-change, possibly a fact reflected in todays crowd of 378 (of which quite a few had made the three and a half hour trek from Gloucester). Trinity have never won much and have apparently spoiled their image with the older supporters by failing to produce anything like an entertaining style of football. That is what Peter Swann and Brian Little want to change. It looks like it might be a long hard slog by what I witnessed today. Both of these sides resided near the foot of the table, actual results had been pretty much 'pants' but there had been talk on the grapevine that some of the performances (from both clubs) had been promising? Both Trinity and City certainly needed something from the game and it was pleasantly evident from kick-off that they both fancied the win. For 15 minutes there was a lot of huffing and puffing, probing and shuffling but sadly little reward. Unfortunately this initial period set the tone for the rest of the game. It was all a bit scrappy, disjointed and fragmented. A few chances came and went but not many, it was easy to see why the crowds hadn't been flocking in and why Peter Swann and Brian Little may have a tough job to sell the new prototype of entertaining afternoons and lofty league positions. As for Gloucester, they looked a bit inhibited at times, they seemed to give too much respect to the home side and this often witnessed them snatching at first options rather than setting the stall out and providing some quality, edge and depth. All credit to their hardy bunch of loyal supporters who had made a mega long cross-country trip for little entertaining reward. At least there was a well stocked Tea Hut on the ground for them. I saw a good many of the City fans tucking into the Pukka Pie, Chips and Pea's special all for £3 cash. As I was under strict orders to stick to my tinned-salmon sandwiches I could only watch in covetous envy. As the sun dropped the more of the coal fires seemed to start up, there was a distinct old fashioned aroma of smoky winter days from years ago swirling around the ground, I think I was the only person to notice it, perhaps its just whats normal in Gainsborough? The second half saw little change from the first, both sides fluffed a couple of nailed on chances until Trinity's Mark Hudson found himself in lots of space on the edge of the box, he took the ball forward, snatched at it but still just about got it on target, it hit the inside of the post and eventually bobbled over the line, 1-0 to Trinity! I had a feeling Gloucester would not have the know-how and creativity to mount a serious fightback and that was the case, they had a lot more possession of the ball but they simply failed to generate serious goal scoring opportunities. Ultimately, this was a game that had first goal wins written all over it. As I walked past the Tea Hut with only a few minutes left they still had a few Pukka Pies left in the warming tray, boy was I tempted but I held my nerve and carried on walking, I was having an Indian Takeaway when I got home and I didn't want to spoil my hunger, you've got to be really starving to finish off two trays of Chicken Dansak and a Karahi.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Clitheroe

Tuesday 27th October 2009
UniBond Northern Premier League Division 1 North
Clitheroe 1 Woodley Sports 0
Admission: £7
Attendance: 160
Programme: £1.50
Tea hut purchases: Tea £1, Steak pie £1.50
Weather: Very mild for this time of the year, a calm and dry evening
Parking: Roadside, just down the lane from the ground, easy exit
I'd been joined on this visit by Glenn, probably the worst tipster and football predictions failure I have ever met. Glenn is also a habitual economiser of gargantuan proportions and as we travelled towards the main route to get across to Clitheroe he was telling me of his latest cost-saver bargain. He'd bought himself a new pair of shoes and mighty proud of them he was too, in fact he had them on. Glenn mentioned that he'd spied them as soon as he entered the shoe shop but they were far too expensive for him. As he moved down the shop to the remnant-sales racks he was gob smacked to find a single pair of the shoes he'd liked now on offer for only £7. "Yep" he smugly remarked, "only 7 quid for a top dollar pair of the finest shoes in the county", I had to agree that really sounded a bargain. Glenn continued to mention that he would be mainly wearing the new shoes for night matches as they were different sizes! His reasoning was the shadows would lessen the image of him having one shoe bigger than the other! It was at this point that I missed my turning for the A58 and inadvertently went down the slip road for the M62, the tale had now caused me an extra 20 miles in fuel as I found a new route to make use of being stuck on the motorway. In addition to this I'd be looking at his new shiny shoes all night. Shawbridge is the home of Clitheroe FC and it is everything one could hope to find at a non-league ground. Tremendously charismatic stands and various covered terraces, a homely brightly lit tea hut, decent friendly people, there is even a 1 in 4 slope at one corner of the ground (well not quite 1 in 4 but the slope is significant), all excellent stuff and I found it a jolly good place to visit. I had a walk around the ground, even managing to lose Glenn and his new shoes for a while and I predictably ended up at the tea hut which had the fantastic title of 'Blues Grub Tub' emblazoned across it. There was already a good number of people tucking into some steaming pies and even though I had put away a decent sized evening meal before I left home I found myself asking the Tea Hut lady for a lightly baked steak pie. I enquired of its origins? Tea Hut lady told me it was from the famous Clayton Park Bakery and many folk reckoned these pies to be the very best in the entire UniBond League. Wow! Gosh it was a hot one, I had to stave off my greed for nearly ten minutes before I could eat it. Unfortunately I had to disagree with Tea Hut ladies glowing reference for the pie, I found the filling lacking on meat and a bit too runny with gravy. My pie of the season 'front runner' still remains the steak pie from Glossop North End. Both Clitheroe and the visitors, Woodley Sports are currently in the lower reaches of the UniBond Division 1 North, both sides had struggled to put the ball in the net and this match was already looking a six pointer. Travelling support from Woodley was minimal, it seemed to consist of just 4 lads (my apologies if others were there). The lads provided excellent support for their side throughout the whole 90 minutes by endlessly singing and shouting encouragement. The match itself was really very entertaining and I've never been to a game with so many missed chances, fluffed sitters and tremendous goal saving clearances, it had everything.... apart from goals! Clitheroe had three quarters of the chances to run up a cricket score but Woodley should have also put 4 or 5 in the net, particularly poor Gavin Salmon the respected Woodley striker who put one of the easiest tap-ins wide you could ever see outside a 'jumpers for goalposts' encounter. Poor Gavin would surely have won the match for Woodley as his mind-boggling miss came with the scores still at 0-0 and only minutes remaining. This was my 31st game of the season and not one, up to now, had ended goal-less, I was pleading for one to go in (from either side) as we entered 4 minutes of injury time. Again chances still came and went and then finally, gloriously in the 4th minute of added time Clitheroe got the all important goal to end a fantastic finale of a wonderful match, ten seconds later the referee Mr I Siddall of Bolton (the best referee I've seen this season) blew his whistle to send Clitheroe fans into dreamland. Everybody was laughing and smiling at the outcome..... apart from the 4 lads from Woodley. Spare a thought for the exhausted ball boy who collapsed in a heap as the players trooped off to the dressing rooms. This hero in an oversized Hi Visibility Vest had been fetching sky bound miss-hit shots back from the gardens, nearby ponds and side streets of Clitheroe for over an hour and a half. He just couldn't take any more.

Monday, 26 October 2009

What about my tea?

Following my unsuccessful raid on Flixton Football Club I was in urgent need of some comfort stodge..... I'd not had any dinner and my failure to find anything at the match had left me dizzy and completely disorientated. It was over 6 hours since I'd last been full up! I tried a chinese chippy but when I got in the queue all the numbered dishes on the bright yellow boards made me panic, I had to run out and get some fresh air. I managed to ring home and my wife kept saying "Whats the matter?"....."Are you alright?"......"Speak to me Krugg!"...... as I lay semi-conscious slumped behind the wheel of the car in a dark rainswept layby just off the M60 all I could whisper between my groans of hunger was........"Help meeee".

It worked a treat, my wife interrupted her plans for watching Strictly Come Dancing and made me a massive gut busting Cornish Pasty. I made Krugg House in record time! (Chips were a bit pants though)

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Flixton

Saturday 24th October 2009
North West Counties League Premier Division
Flixton 0 Squires Gate 2
Attendance: 46
Admission: £5
Programme: £1
Tea hut purchase: They don't have one
Weather: Blustery grey day with the odd sunny spell and shower
Parking: Club car park (free), easy getaway Upon approaching the M60 orbital motorway the traffic news on the radio was almost as bleak as the weather. An accident just at the turn-off I was heading for meant that 8 junctions worth of traffic was stacking up. I decided to go around Manchester's M60 in the opposite direction but this meant I was doing a lot of extra miles just to make kick-off. What should have been an easy trip was turning out to be a pain in the neck. I was pleased that traffic proved to be light on the new route. After blasting past Stockport, I soon reached the signs for the massive Trafford Centre shopping complex and it was only a few more miles for Flixton FC. I pulled in the car park at 2.20pm, I'd made good time against (what first appeared) dreadful odds. As I was getting out of the car a convoy of speeding vehicles and screeching tyres witnessed the delayed arrival of the Squires Gate players, they'd doubtless been held up in the same traffic mess. (It later transpired that Bootle players travelling in cars to their game in Manchester at Maine Road FC had been involved in a nearby motorway accident which may have been the cause of the gridlock, fortunately nobody was hurt).I am aware that Flixton have had a lot of problems and walk-outs over the years and that they are trying their very best to get on an even keel and gradually make some progress in a very tough division. My apology for not knowing all the facts but this club look very much like a project in motion. Anyone (groundhopper or DIY reporter) could come along to their Valley Road stadium and fill their boots with negative waffle about the lack of a tea hut, a really poor programme, peeling paint and remnant junk waiting for a passing skip but lets put a few things into perspective. Flixton probably have no money, rely almost entirely on a small band of helpers multi-skilling against multiple hardships and are trying to put a team on the pitch without a genuine budget in the depths of a recession. The latter point means there will be no long list of fat wallet sponsors and the local population will be saving pennies for the christmas essentials from the Trafford Centre magnet. Potential growth currently equals zilch. There were 46 people at todays match, will the piggy bank extend to putting a catering operation on for greedy floaters like me? They would also have been lucky to shift 20 programmes, at a quid a copy that means somebody has to write it, print it and stand there selling it just for 20 pounds return (and no, there is not a lot of advertising revenue in it). Rather than moaning how lacking in content the programme is, perhaps we should be thankful that one of the few helpers has found time amongst everything else that needs doing to actually get one out on sale at all? I digress, on a well known non-league football forum recently there was a popular multiple page thread asking what was the most depressing ground, people responded in droves and lots of undeserving clubs got named? Rather than kick clubs struggling to survive should we not support them and take the positives out of them purely remaining in the league and being there? There is no such thing as a depressing football ground, take each stadium (or pitch) on what you find and enjoy the experience. This is what the approach should be for Flixton and I wish them every bit of luck in progressing their club on and off the pitch.
As for today, Flixton got beat and to be honest Squires Gate played the better football. They passed the ball better, seemed to have more options and despite some good saves from Flixton's new keeper Gate deserved the points. The blustery wind was playing its part to make control difficult and I dont know if the current match balls are up to standard for anything other than summer football? Remember when you was a kid and sometimes you had to rely on one of those really cheap footballs that usually came from a garage or a sea front kiosk, they always had the really thin plastic, well today was a bit like playing with a ball like that at times, the ball was swirling all over the place (apart from where the kicker wanted it), I reckon the balls should be a touch heavier. The opening goal came midway through the first half when Louis Mayers turned well inside the box and struck home an unstoppable shot, when Andy Harvey slotted the second home following a defensive slip late in the second half it was job done for the visitors. Flixton had battled hard but they just lacked a bit more edge. Squires Gate seem a well balanced side and certainly have some good players, particularly Andy Richards who was probably man of the match for me. This was a decent game in difficult conditions and it again proves what value for money is on offer in the North West Counties League.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Ilkeston Town

Saturday 17th October 2009
Blue Square Conference North
Ilkeston Town 1 Northwich Victoria 1
Attendance: 547
Admission: £9
Programme: £1.80p
Tea hut purchase: Tea 80p
Weather: Light cloud on a calm afternoon
Parking: Roadside, opposite the £1 club car park
Beer junky Geordies on the M1 South! I called in at a service station on my trip down to Ilkeston, it was approximately half an hours drive from Nottingham. The M1 had been pretty quite but the services had just received 8 coaches of ale-hungry Newcastle United supporters some 4 and a half hours ahead of their tea time match at Forest. It was a 'bier-kellar' experience. Cowering old ladies and crimplene men from Debenhams left half eaten ciabatta's as the black and white stripy nylon and cheap cans of Fosters turned the complex into a fizzless slop-fest from hell. I made an excuse and left. Soon I was in Ilkeston.... and lost, well almost. Why I bother to take along 'How to Get To The Ground' directions off football sites I do not know. For the sixth time this season some wag had missed off a turning and given the wrong exit from a key roundabout, oh what a laugh! I went back to my wild west tracking skills and found the New Manor Ground hiding behind a hump backed bridge, a burned out wagon train and a dodgy canal. I was still in plenty of time to watch locals ordering plastic pots of ploppy peas from the tea hut, wow! This was either a sign that hard times really had hit home, with the poor locals unable to afford a pie or chips with their peas, or more likely, it was some weird South Derbyshire custom to improve regular bowel movements. I witnessed 3 kids and 2 old blokes buy this treat in the ten minutes I stood near the tea hut, they had even put plastic spoons out for them, as soon as they grabbed their pea pot, they'd grab a spoon and scuttle off down the side of the hut to shovel down the gloopy green mush. I like mushy peas but not in bulk and not on their own? This match certainly lived up to its billing as one of the Conference Norths games of the day. It had everything, rampant no-holds-barred attacking from the visitors, gutsy determination from the young home side, a sending off, penalties, top class goalkeeping and a deranged referee slowly going insane as he gradually lost the plot. Northwich should have won by at least a couple of goals but all credit to 10 man Ilkeston for fighting like hell to keep in the game. I would not bet against Northwich being right up there come the end of the season and that is despite their ten point deduction for going into administration. They played some top football even before the sending off. Nice to see a decent Northwich following at the game, some probably enjoying a nice stand seat next to the halfway line for £5 cheaper than at their home ground (shame on Northwich for £14 seats in the Conference North). All credit to Ilkeston, I liked the ground, it was tidy, offered good viewing, had some character and everybody seemed pretty friendly. They offer up a good quality programme as well. I reckon most people enjoyed the match today, apart from those suffering the emerging effects of those potted peas. I headed back north hearing reports on the radio that Forest were beating Newcastle United, shame all that ale had been for nothing, at least they'd get a decent headache out of it on the long slog home (amidst all the toilet stops).

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Salford City

Tuesday 13th October 2009
FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round
Salford City 2 Blyth Spartans 2
Attendance: 271
Admission: £7
Programme: £1.50p
Tea hut purchase: Tea 70p (Very nice too)
Weather: A calm, clear and fairly mild evening
Parking: Roadside just down from the main entrance
The green and white striped shirts huddled in pre match anticipation outside the neon off licence. All cheap cans and crisps or perhaps something stronger, after all this was FA Cup night and the pubs were in hiding. The ground was just through the lights and up Moor Lane to the right, soon I could see the tops of the floodlights through the trees. The first parked cars came into view, aching bodies stretching by the kerb, glad to be in the fresh air after the monotonous drag of the A1 and the M62 west, you could see the colours beneath the overcoats and the regatta anoraks from Milletts, the Spartans were on tour again and tonight they saluted the sights of salubrious Salford City. All told there must have been around 70 odd Blyth Spartans supporters at Moor Lane tonight, a fantastic turn out for a Tuesday night cup match, thats a hell of a long trip to take on and all credit to them for the loyalty and the great support for their club. It would be around 1 a.m before they saw their Mick Tait pyjamas and Croft Park bedspreads again, never mind the cat and the wife. Slowly the locals started to appear, calmly eyeing the north eastern invaders with a confident feeling that this lot would be the next bunch of Conference North playboys to get a bloody big shock. That rattling Non League big-dipper had recently witnessed humble Salford City dump the bungling big shots from Hyde United out of the cup in the last round but they'd also suffered their cosy clubhouse being burned down, if ever a club needed a shot in the arm with a bit of a cup run with some welcome cash also tagged to the glory then Salford would be the boys. The partially wrecked clubhouse provided an eerie presence at the side of the pitch, next to it there lay 4 functional portakabins provided by Seddons which allowed the club to still put on a tea hut, a bar and a club shop profile, an excellent gesture by Seddons to help out the little club in such hard times. Amidst some better-than-usual music on the tannoy, sat in a great main stand and reading a really good programme (which had been put together in very short time since Saturdays victory over Hyde) I was thinking to myself that Salford City had a decent set up going for them here, if they can get over the problems sadly resulting from the burned out clubhouse, get some improving results and generate more local interest then there could be a real opportunity for growth and progress. Good luck to them. Now for the match. Blyth looked very focused and measured early on, they discharged that body language that they were the ones in control and that this was a 90 minutes procedure they would complete to win a cup tie, away, on a Tuesday night, at lower opposition, miles from home, because they were the better side, just like Mick Tait had told them in the dressing room. Shame nobody told Salford City, the local gang aiming to hit the big time the easy way, fast and hard. Blyth went one up, Salford got one back, still in the first half Blyth got another goal, Salford got another one back. The Blyth Army didn't look so calm, cocky and collected anymore, in fact they had gone a trifle quite. In the main stand, what earlier looked like normal blokes just popping in from a day at the office or working down the site, were now jumping up and down singing songs at the top of their voices beneath big orange and black Salford City banners. That main stand can get pretty loud as well. What a great match it had turned out to be. As can be the case, the second half didn't have the same drama and thrills as the first. However, it was very much an enthralling tense and tight affair which Salford dominated for the most part with Blyth more or less happy to sit deep in midfield and rely on odd breaks and set pieces. A draw was a fair result in the end (just) and now the balance of expectation will be even greater for Blyth to do what is expected in the replay at Croft Park next Tuesday evening. Can Salford make that long trip to that north eastern stronghold and get something from the game? Many will say no, personally, having seen how they played without fear tonight I don't think they should be totally discounted, if they get a goal and keep a decent spirit, this could be very tricky for Blyth, trickier than most would expect. Who knows? I know most of the locals left happy tonight, how nice for Salford that most neutrals would agree they were (perhaps) the better team, perhaps some Blyth fans might agree as well?

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Buxton

Saturday 10th October 2009
FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round
Buxton 2 Bradford Park Avenue 2
Attendance: 533
Admission: £8
Programme: £1.50p
Tea hut purchase: Tea 90p
Weather: Dull and cloudy with the odd sunny spell
Parking: Roadside adjacent to the ground, easy exit
Seeing as I arrived in Buxton at about 1.15pm it was inevitable that I would succumb to the fast food demon and sure enough by 1.25pm I was in the queue at the Coach House fish and chip shop just up the road from the ground. I'd told my wife I would grab a nice salad sandwich but the 'promised' sensible option was long gone when I greedily ordered a belt busting portion of cup-tie cod and chips, oh dear, how guilty I felt as I wrestled with the vinegar soaked wrappers on a bench opposite the market. It was only after I'd finished off the last of the fish bits that I realised they had just charged me £5.15p for what once was a cheap takeaway dinner, it really is becoming ridiculous what simple things cost in this day and age. I made yet another mental note to be more frugal with my ongoing matchday menus. I had expected better weather than this, it was actually spitting with rain as I slowly made my way to The Silverlands, that most noble titled location for a football club. Things bucked up a bit when I got in the ground and a shaft of weak sunshine lit up the tea hut just across from the gents toilets and the raffle ticket table. Time for a tea to wash down all that chip fat. Have to say they seemed to be doing a steady pie trade at the hut with the arriving Bradford Park Avenue supporters the main culprits, just as well they had a good stock in the warming cupboard, these Yorkshire folk were hungry people. There was a funny cooking smell at the tea hut which I struggled to identify, it wasn't a bad smell, it was a warm-food type smell but it just didn't seem the right smell, maybe it was just me or perhaps Buxton do some strange relishes and marinades for the burgers? who knows? I had my usual walk around the ground, took a few snaps and as kick off approached I noticed there was plenty of space in the main stand, I decided to give it a go. I soon realised why there were so many empty seats, especially in the far end! There is a massive communications pillar plonked to one side of the stand and it greatly obscures the views to one of the goalmouths, this means everyone huddles together in the other end of the stand just to be able to get a decent view of the match, surely they could have agreed to move the giant pillar a bit further away from the front of the stand when they drew up the plans, it just seems stupid to have it spoiling the view from so many seats. The match started at a pace and it was good to see some fast attacking football from both of the sides. Buxton fluffed at least 3 sitters in the first 15 minutes and Dorryl Proffitt was the striker most probably kicking himself for at least not netting one of them. Bradford surged forward and went 1-0 up from a penalty, again Buxton threatened but couldn't finish and one sensed that the tide was turning in the visitors favour. When Buxton failed to clear a second half raid the next inevitable Bradford goal had me thinking this was definitely game over, how wrong could I be, Buxton stormed up the other end and Kieran Lugsden got the first of two goals to dramatically level what had been a good competitive cup tie. A draw appeared a fair result in a fast paced game that seemed to have just flown by. A good following of Bradford supporters accompanied by their vociferous friendly counterparts from Buxton held their plastic glasses of watery lager aloft, many a pint had been sank from the bar, many a chance had been missed as well, this had been a credit to the spirit and quality of FA Cup football. Good luck to the side that triumphs from the replay.