Pages

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Gainsborough Trinity 4-1 Lincoln City

Cat fact of the day. A cats heart beats at almost double the rate of a human heart (typically between 110 and 140 beats per minute)


My second Imps game of 17/18 and another nice local one, this time a trip to Gainsborough Trinity  to see the Holy Blues lock horns with the Imps in the Lincolnshire Senior Cup. Sadly it was a no show from my motley crew of cat lovers and what a game they missed!  To be fair Felice had got his excuse for missing this in early as he was away on holiday. However given the fact he was in the UK meant that he could still have driven to watch this fantastic cup tie.I mean who can turn down the chance to watch cup football. Rumor Felice was practicing his dance moves just like Boss Hog in this short video clip




I realise  that the Lincolnshire cup may not be the biggest prize going but for me its still a step up from a normal bog standard friendly and i always look forward to the draw, and then the matches themselves. The competition format has chopped and changed over the years but i think the current format  is the best it has been. The competition was first played way back in the 1881/82 season when Spilsby defeated Brigg Town  in the final. The Imps won the competition for the first time in 1886/87 with Trinity's maiden win coming in 1889-90. In total Lincoln have won the cup on 38 occasions with Trinity having lifted the cup on 10 occasions,the last being in the 2002/03 season. Whoever won this tie would go on to play host to Grantham Town in the semi final. On the other half of the draw, holders Lincoln United had lost at home to Boston in midweek meaning the Pilgrims would face either Grimsby or Scunthorpe in the other semi.
Chips, peas and sausage £3
Program £2.50 

If the phrase "Traditional non league club" were to appear in the dictionary then i am sure you would find a picture of Gainsborough Trinity, and i am not meaning to be disrespectful. Gainsborough is a smashing club and have a ground that oozes tradition. At a time when grounds are slowly starting to look the same with identikit kit stands etc the Northholme still retains its charm. The club have been playing football here since the 1884 (although the ground was used for cricket as far back as the 1850's)  and up until 1912 they were in the Football League, until they were replaced by of all teams, Lincoln City.



For much of the past 50 years or so Gainsborough have always been in the second tier of non league football. Never relegated nor promoted, and also for years both on posters advertising matches  and over the PA the phrase "On the Northholme today" has been used, never "at the Northolme". Alas though, the ground has been named after a sponsor and thus this charming quirk seems to have ended. Another tradition that Trinity are famous for is the supporters club known as the Blues club. The club is another throwback with its darts, dominos, and dance evenings (which Felice has been known to attend). but it does a decent pint and it's a decent place for pre/halftime and post game drinks. I have been in the club a few times before but this was the first time i had ever visited the best room. In it lies a small cabinet full of club memorabilia with one item really catching my eye. That being a player pass for a certain B Oxby.


Gainsborough has its knockers and there are parts of the town that have seen better days but it is a place that is changing and seems to be caught between its past and future unsure as to which it prefers. The Town has a hell of a lot of history about it, a small snippit of which I learnt today; the crown on the club badge is a nod to the fact that the town was firmly on the side of the Royalists in the English civil war. Furthermore the area around Lea Road station was the scene of a Civil war battle which saw the Royalists routed. Just up the road from the station is a memorial to this battle, and the ground in the area is reputed to contain numerous bodies from the battle.
New Trinity badge £3. Note the crown on the crest.
Last season Trinity left it late before securing their Northern Conference status for the 2017/18 season. It was only a few years ago that the club were one win away from promotion to the Conference premier however they lost at home in the playoff final and things have never been the same since. Although it would be great to see the Blues get that long awaited promotion the odds are stacked against them. To put it bluntly the conference north is in my view one of the toughest leagues in England.
There was a time not to long ago that the likes of Southport, Boston and to a lesser extent Gainsborough were considered big fish in the non league world. Now though with the likes of former league clubs Stockport, York, Darlington along with sides with big budgets such as FC United of Manchester and Salford City plus clubs with decent support bases like Telford, and Kiddeminster you can start to see the challenge that Trinity face to retain their step 2 status. Of course football is an unpredictable beast and as we saw with Lincoln last season a good management team can go someway to counteracting big budget sides.


On to the game. Before the game i was firmly of the belief that Trinity would turn the Imps over today and that is pretty much how it panned out. Lincoln's entire first team are currently over in Portugal for some warm weather training and a couple of friendlies v Benfica B and Millwall (who they beat 1-0 today) This means that the youth side would be sent over to contest this game.  Now i fully realise that Lincoln have some decent prospects coming through the system however there is quite a step up from competing against players who are in their own level of development and battle hardened conference north players who are looking to put on a show in front of their own fans. Last weekend a young Imps side had gone down 5-1 at Rossington Main who play their football 3 leagues below Gainsborough, so today was a real test for the young Imps. Trinity have had a steady start to pre season with two away wins at Winterton and Frickly respectively each by the scoreline of 1-0.
Todays teams.

Gainsborough were quick out of the blocks and had the Imps on the back foot for much of the first half. The Holy blues were ahead on 4 mins when Alex Simmons fresh from being released by Lincoln cut in between the two Lincoln centre backs and fired into the roof of the net. I must admit I feared  for the Imps going behind early. Trinity kept on creating but not taking chances and with Lincoln unable to get out of their own half for much of the first 45 it seemed a case of when not if Gainsborough would add a second. The only surprise was that it took till the 38th minute and when it did arrive it came via the penalty spot as Ash Worsfold dispatched the spot kick after Tom Davie was adjudged to have been fouled. It was a tough call but probably just about the right one from where i was stood.

The Imps may have been second best for the first half but they competed much better in the second. As the game went on they started to take the game to Trinity and manged to force a few corners and half chances. On 72 it looked like they had got back into the game as they made it 2-1 thanks to the best piece of football they put together all match. Ellis Chapman chased down a seemingly lost cause down the left then crossed the ball in low for Kyle Watkins to fire past Trinity Keeper Richard Walton, who by the way is on a season long loan from Lincoln.


However the Imps joy was short lived. For much of the match Michael Antkowiak had a fine game in the Lincoln goal thwarting Trinity on many occasions. However on 77 he misjudged a freekick from Simmons  wide on the right, dropping the ball under no pressure. Things like this are hard on keepers and its always tough to see young keepers make errors like this but overall i think he can look back on his work this afternoon with pride. Its all character building as they say.  Trinity grabbed the final goal with virtually the last kick of the game when sub Bradley wells rounded Antkowiak to make it 4-1 and give the scoreline a one sided look.
Place all Grimsby Town and Sheffield Wednesday shirts here. 

Although they bowed out the Lincs cup there were positives for the Imps to take from this. At one point in the second half Lincoln's team consisted of  6 sixteen year olds, 4 seventeen year olds and one 18 year old on the pitch and just about managed to hold their own. These youngsters wont get to test themselves against players of Gainsborough's quality in the youth league so for them the experience is invaluable.

As for the hosts they did what they had to do. Alex Simmons looked sharp and i for one hope he has a good season. He didn't get much game time at Lincoln but never let anybody down in the games that he did play. This game may not have been the toughest challenge Trinity have ever faced but as the old saying goes you can only beat whats in front of you and they did just that. Over the next few weeks the Holy Blues host Rotherham, Mansfield, and Doncaster so we may get a better indication of where they are after those matches.


So all in all a pleasant day out. I haven't been to Gainsborough since the Imps visit in the previous pre-season but hopefully it wont be a year till i return. Trinity is always a fun day out and they are very much a club that tries to do things the right way. I can only wish them well.

The next challenge for the Imps youth team is a friendly away at Skegness Town on Friday night. As Skegness have a newish ground it will be a new stadium for us to tick off. All plans rely on Felice being allowed out however so the trip is far from confirmed. If you are desperate to know if we will be there so you can pose for selfies and ask us questions about cats etc follow you me on twitter @ferretimp for all the lowdown on our potential adventures.


Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Lincoln United 0-4 Lincoln City

Cat fact of the day. Most female cats are right pawed while most male cats are left pawed.


The Lincoln derby is always one of the main high points of the pre season. I have long been of the view that this game should always be the first game that the Imps play and this game simply backed my view up as well over 1200 supporters made their way to Ashby Avenue to watch this celebration of Lincoln football.

Lincoln United was the first venue that i watched a non league football game at way back in 1998 where they took on Whitley Bay in what was then the Unibond League. I don't remember much about that night. All that i can remember was that the ground layout was pretty much the same as it is today and that it was bloody cold (which was the total opposite of the weather today)  I think United won that night as it was a time that the club were very much on the up but i can't be sure nor can i be arsed to look it up.


I almost didn't make this match at all. Unbeknownst to my good self till the evening before the game,  there was industrial action being undertaken by the staff on Northern trains (the train company that runs the service between Retford and Lincoln)  over the weekend. There was a replacement bus service was in operation which, although being a pain in the arse, would allow me to get there. Getting back would have involved getting the train to Doncaster, then the Doncaster to Retford train which was far too much messing around for myself but thankfully i grabbed a lift with a former work mate who helps out with stewarding duties at United. The staff at Northern rail were not the the only ones on strike today as there was a no show from Felice Del Colle of all people but more about that later.


Arriving quite early gave me chance to soak up the atmosphere and also appreciate the planning that United had put into this day. For those that dont know Lincoln United normally attract a crowd of between 80-150. It has been well documented the rise is interest in Lincoln City following last seasons title win with over 5,500 season tickets sold and with this in mind tickets were on sale in advance for this fixture. Ashby Avenue holds 2,200 and 1,200 tickets had already been sold before the day. Add into the mix that there was cricket match on the pitch next door and the residential area surrounding the stadium then you can see how this presented United with a huge logistical challenge that they not only met but excelled at.

The club were well prepared. The club house had been set up so that drinks were easily and quickly obtained  and another bar was also placed outside which on a hot sunny day was most welcome. Programmes were onsale as you approached the ground so nobody could complain on missing out on one. This may not have been a full United issue but many clubs dont issue at all for pre season games so another pat on the back to United for that.



Aside from being the Imps first game of 2017/18 it was also the first day in the Retford Imps Cataday crew part time twat league championship. Away from this game the Imps youth team took on Rossington Main. Mr Barry Oxby attended this game thus avoiding being given any PTTPs  Amer and Lee failed to attend either as did Felice as i believe he was spending all day looking at cat pictures on the internet and trying to count how many European cups/champions league titles Juventus are behind Inter.

It was well publicized in the media that the Imps were going to play 2 teams in this match.One in the first and one in the second and thats exactly what we got. This kind of practice is common in early pre season games and it gives all the players the chance to get minutes under their belts after over a week of training without a game. The Imps have (at the time of writing) only made 3 signings with the most eye catching being former Mansfield and Birmingham striker Matt Green, and it was Green who gave the Imps the lead when he headed home a cross from trialist Brandon Otterwill on 12 minutes. United had knocked the Imps out of the Lincolnshire cup last year but a repeat of that result was already looking very unlikely.


City doubled their lead on 15 minutes when Alex Woodyard, fresh from signing his new deal at City, sent in a cross to the back stick allowing Green to score his second and put the game beyond United.  The Imps got there 3rd on 22 minutes when trialist James Rowe fired in a low shot from just outside the box and it was beginning to look like city would be running up a cricket score. To United's credit they did buckle down and worked really hard to contain City without really looking likely to score themselves. It did feel like City could score whenever they wanted to. The Imps hit the woodwork, missed a few chances and found United keeper Jake Turner in fine form but generally looked very comfortable for all of the 1st half.


The second half followed the pattern of the first really with the Imps making (and missing) chances with United working their socks off to keep City honest. The Imps did add a 4th near the end through Nathan Arnold to round off the scoring and send the Imps fans in the crowd home happy.

Its hard to draw any conclusions from this from a City angle. From the trialist perspective i would have though that the Imps management team would need to see them up against a side a little higher up the footballing pyramid before they make a judgment on them especially the ones in defensive positions who had very little to do. Not of them made any huge blunders but likewise not will have cemented a deal on this display.


Over the next week both of these sides will be in action in the prestigious Lincolnshire County Cup. United host Boston while City travel to Gainsborough Trinity. Given that the Imps first team will be in Portugal the Lincoln team is expected to be made up of youth team players. This shouldn't deter Imps fans from making the short trip over though as its always a good away day and its a chance to see the Imps stars of the future.



Sunday, 9 July 2017

Retford United 1-1 Worksop Town

Cat fact of the day. Abraham Lincoln kept four cats as pets in the White house.


Well its finally here. 4 weeks after my personal 2016/17 season ended in Cardiff with the Women's Champions League final, the 2017/18 season commenced with the Bassetlaw Derby as Retford United hosted Worksop Town.

Although its only been a few weeks i must confess that i have missed the pleasure of live football. There has been plenty going off in the sporting world in the meantime though. I thoroughly enjoyed a trip down to Lords this weekend just to watch Nottinghamshire win the Royal London one day cup thanks to a thrilling win over Surrey, and of course Baseball season is in full flow but you just can't beat watching random non league football games with your mates.

Football is a game of ups and downs and its fair to say that both clubs on display tonight have been experiencing the latter of the two emotions over the past few seasons. When i first got into this ground hopping lark Worksop were in the Conference north and knocking on the door of the playoffs to the Conference. Alas nowadays they are struggling to escape the clutches of the NCEL premier division despite being by far and away the biggest club in the league in terms of fan base and history. Unfortunately neither of these two factors win you football matches on their own.

Retford did escape the NCEL premier division last season but sadly at the wrong end as they suffered relegation after finishing rock bottom. There were few highlights for the Badgers last season but one of them was a fine win away at... Worksop Town. The lesson for all football fans from these two clubs is make sure you enjoy the good times because in this game (and sport in general)  they seldom last.

As this was the first game of the year for many Cannon Park was full of local footballing celebrities  who i haven't seen for a few months or so. Stars such as blogging legend Rob Waite, author of the marvelous 66 POW Blog was in attendance as was Ian Beech the brains behind the Retford United Supporters club; a man who has done more than anybody to keep the club together over the past few years in these tough times.

Although many of the great and good from Retford in attendance, there was one notable exception; the Godfather of Retford ground hopping and non league football, Mr Dave Wathall. The phrase legend is often bandied around way too much but it Dave's case it is truly deserved. The man has been a beacon of light to the hopping community over the years and is always ready to welcome hoppers from all over the country to  Cannon Park and share a tale or two with them about the game we all love. (As well as chatting about Spurs, Lincoln, NBA basketball or any of the other clubs he is supporting at the time) All joking aside a Retford  game isn't a Retford game without him and i look forward to catching up with the old boy at the Retford v Gainsborough game in a few weeks.

From legends to bellends and sadly it was a no show from Retford Imps' Lee Houseman, but otherwise the other Retford based Imps were all in attendance.

As with all pre season games you can never really take much from the results of them and at this level many players can turn out for 3 or 4 clubs over the course of the pre season. Quite often it feels like the players are assessing which club to play for instead of the clubs assessing the players. I must confess having not seen Retford (or Worksop) play in 2017 i didn't have a clue who any of the players were but there were a few good performances with the Retford goalkeeper probably being the pick of the bunch.

Retford took the lead with a goalmouth scramble on 25 minutes only to be pegged back some 9 minutes later thanks to a shot from close range that was deflected into the net. From then on Worksop had the better chances but a combination of poor finishing, bad decision making, and good goalkeeping kept the scores level.

All in all i think both sides will be happy with what they saw and the result. This early in pre season its mainly about fitness levels and on that score both sides looked in decent nick. Its impossible to use games like this to assess each side's chance of success for the upcoming season, but it looks like Retford  should have a much better time of it this time around. As for Worksop, they will again be the biggest club in the NCEL and have all the pressure that goes with that. If they can get their home form right then they could mount a challenge but the crowd will need to be patient. I have been at Worksop home games when things haven't been going well and the crowd tends to get on the players backs to early thus making it even harder for the Tigers to get results.

It was great to see the lads again with much of the conversation being centered around planning jolly boys trips for the coming season with the Imps. Oh and the cats. We mustn't forget about the kitties.

Admission £5
Programme 0



Monday, 26 June 2017

What is a Part time twat?


Cat fact of the day: Himmy, a cat from Australia weighted 21.3 KG at his death in 1986. (He was 10 years old)




Over the past few seasons while this blog has lain dormant, one footballing question has burned more strongly that any other. What is a Part Time Twat? In this blog I will try to address this question and proposes a system as to how we can measure the strength or weakness of ones part time twattishness. 

Firstly how did the phrase come about and when is it used? Well it normally it goes something like this. 

"Hi mate, are you up for Colwyn Bay away Saturday" 

"No mate" 

"Why? Its the biggest game of the season,1st round of the FA Trophy and all that" 

"Errr working mate, and.... My lad had a game oh and the cat is at the vets " 

"You part time twat" 




That's just one example that came to mind over the past few years. There are loads more but I dont have time to write them all down here sadly. Everything from walking dachshunds to going out on all day benders on Boxing day have been offered up as excuses for not attending mighty Imps games over the years. We are all guilty of it from time to time and there are more important things in the world that football so I am told (Yet to be confirmed though I hasten to add)  

So now that we know what it is how do we measure it? After much thought I have devised a system that should find out who is the Retford Imps Caturday crew part time twat champion of the 17/18 season. I think that a points based system would the be best, and the member with the highest amount of points takes the title. Here is a brief run down of the rules. 

1) The PTTL (Part time twat league) will apply only to Lincoln City matches. 
2) Only games that at least 1 Caturday Crew member attends will count. 
3) 1 PTTL point for a home game missed
4) 2 PTTL points for a pre season game missed
5) 5 PTTL points for an away game missed. 
6) 10 PTTL points for any cup game missed home or away*
7) 25 PTTL points if you jib out of driving to an away game in the 48 hours leading up to a game. (without a valid reason) 
8) 50 PTTL points for jibbing out on a jolly boys weekend away after arrangements have been made. Trains and hotel booked etc. 

Of course everybody has the right to an appeal. However for the appeal to be successful you need to convince 50% of the membership of the group that your cause is just. And lets be honest there is more chance of getting a North Korean 15 year hard labor sentence being overturned than that. 


* Cup games include all matches in the FA, League, and Lincolnshire Cups and the Checkatrade Trophy. 

Obviously  a lot of this is tongue in cheek and a bit of fun. Football can be bloody expensive these days. I certainly don't expect much change from £20 quid when gaining admission to League Two stadiums this coming season and nobody is safe in a job in this day and age, but while we are all in employment we can have some fun with this eh chaps?  

UTI









Saturday, 10 June 2017

Pre season plans.

2017/18 season...ships log 001 


Cat fact of the day. A group of cats is called a clowder


Pre season Part one.


Ok. After a while away I am going to try and get this blog back up and running. It wont be every week but I will at least try to do all the away games we do and the odd home game. Following the Imps promotion back to League Two myself, my loyal cabin boy, and my Assistant Rear Admiral (along with nearly 5,000 others) jumped back on the bandwagon  purchased season tickets for the upcoming season at Sincil Bank. These kind of sales have been unheard of in my previous 23 seasons watching the Imps and a measure of the impact that the Cowleys have had at the Imps. How long it will last? I am not sure, but lets just enjoy it while we can. 

As I write this entry all of the Imps pre season games have yet to be announced but we do have a few games to look forward to. Of course not all involve the Imps, as we still like to indulge in a spot of Groundhopping from time to time. The Imps are no longer non-league but that doesn't mean we will cease to watch non league football, for it is like a drug that you can't just give up on. 

July 5th Retford United v Worksop Town 

United had an awful season last time around finishing rock bottom of the pile and suffered relegation. The Tigers of Worksop didn't have a great season either, finishing  in mid-table. As one of our home town clubs it would be great to see United have a better season this time around, but as ever with the badgers it all depends on stability. At the moment this is planned to be my first game of the season so it will be great to get back into the swing of things. 

8th of July Retford FC V Sheffield United XI 

As it stands this is the game I am looking forward to most this pre-season. Retford FC Have a new ground having moved to the famous Rail ground in Retford. A ground that in the good old days of British Rail I was often number 11 in the BRSA second 11 cricket side as a youngster. This is the opening game at the new ground so it will be a great event for the footballing folk of Retford. A lot of work has gone off at the ground this pre-season so I hope they get the crowd their efforts deserve. 

Their opponents are the mighty Sheffield United and whatever side the Blades send down it will be backed with quality. The Blades pissed on League One last year and will be lining up in the Championship alongside the likes of Hull, Sunderland, and Burton next year. They will of course be joined by the sides that messed up in the playoffs last season including that lot from the temple of swine across the good city of Sheffield who lost in the playoffs again last season. Proper bottle jobs eh? 

* At the time of writing this blog memberships at Sheffield United are yet to go on sale* 

July 15th  Gainsborough Trinity v Lincoln City (Lincs Senior Cup 1st round) 

A huge game. The Lincolnshire cup is the reason that the Imps exist (having been formed back in 1884 with the aim of creating a team that could compete and win the famous old competition) The Imps have won the cup on 38 occasions and each one is a cause for huge celebration in the City. Given the magnitude of this match any of my ship's company missing this game will be awarded with 5 part time twat points. (more on the part time twat league on a later blog) Trinity had a poor season last time around so here's hoping to a better time this season. (After this all important cup tie of course) 

Gainsborough is always a nice away day, Great snap and a chance to go back in time in the Blues' club before the match. Train service is always easy as well for pre-game drinks. How does the 9.25 from Retford sound chaps? 

The Imps have announced home games v Oxford and Walsall  but more on them later. More preseason trips to random games will be announced soon as soon as Rear Admiral Oxby confirms them. 

Over and out 

For more news on our adventures follow me on Twitter @ferretimp 


Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Welling United 2-1 Lincoln City



Welling United 2-1 Lincoln City  

This was the first time the four of us had got together for an away game this season and although Baz and myself had been to Welling United last season (A crappy 2-0 defeat), this was Felice and Lee’s first trip to the stadium. This was because they took a trip to Italy together to watch Felice’s beloved Inter last year and although they got back into London on the day of the game at Welling, they were too tired to make the game and headed home early. Quite what they were tired from hasn’t been established.  They also missed last season’s home win over Grimsby for the same trip. A shocking state of affairs I am sure everybody reading this will agree with.

But no cock and bull excuses for missing this season’s trip though and at just gone 2.45pm the car was full and we were on our merry way to Welling. The journey was spent impressing my fellow passengers with my recently obtained knowledge of all things German. We are planning a jolly boy’s trip to Berlin next year and I have a sneaky feeling I will be saving Felice’s bacon like I have done on so many occasions in the past; Barnet, the Women’s Champions league final, and Crystal palace to name but three.
We arrived about 6.00pm then headed off to find a kebab shop. We found a pretty good one last year and decided to revisit it. It was standard fare with a large donner coming in at £6. It did the job although it wasn’t quite as nice as I remember from last year. After a quick scoff it was off to the ground.



Welling United’s Park View Road stadium is what I would call a traditional non league top flight ground.  And I say that in a good way. It’s a proper ground in the heart of the town and has a real football feel to it. Yes it may be a little run down here and there and in need of a little TLC but it really does feel like a real football ground and not a plastic out of town stadium with no soul like somewhere like Telford for example.  Sadly as the seasons go by these stadiums will become rarer so make the most of them while you still can.
Actually the stadium is shared by two teams; Welling United and Erith and Belvedere. Now it’s not uncommon in non league football for sides to share stadiums, but what is rare is for different areas of the stadium to be decorated in the colours of the respective teams that play there. This is because normally one side owns the ground and the other rents. This isn’t the case here though as the local council owns the stadium with both clubs paying rent to them (According to the steward outside the ground), He also added that Welling do pay the lions share towards the costs for the ground and this is backed up by the fact that 3 of the 4 sides and a section of terrace on the 4th are painted red.


Erith and Belvedere have recently been relegated to step 5 (The same as Retford United) and normally attract around a 100 or so fans. They play in blue and white and so the remaining side is decked out in blue and white with blue seats in the seated area with blue splashed around the stand for good measure.  I am not sure how much of the stadium is open for Erith and Belvedere games but It wouldn’t surprise me if they only opened the one side of the ground. I highly doubt that I will ever go to an Erith home game as I make it my aim to visit different stadiums and not clubs so I may well never find out. And I can live with that. 

Welling united have a smashing little supporter’s club shop inside the ground as well as the official club shop that is located outside the stadium next to the turnstiles. There is also a very good bar inside the turnstiles that we were going to visit pre game. However we were told that segregation was to be in force for tonight’s game which was a change in policy from last season.  This wasn’t a huge problems as we were told that we could use the bar on the Erith side of the ground. However Lee was disappointed with this news as he had set his heart on visiting the supporters shop to pick up some more programmes (Or junk depending on your point of view). The stewards were thoroughly good eggs though and let him and Del go through and visit the shop to buy as much crap as he could carry. In the end he ended up with a bag full of Portsmouth programmes. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure as they say. 

After Lee had got his random crap highly valuable football memorabilia, we took a gentle stroll over to the blue painted turnstiles and parted with the entrance fee of £15, which is quite reasonable for  this league. Once inside the ground to your right is the Erith and Belvedere club shop which had a selection of programmes, old shirts, and a nice collection of different mugs.  This area of London isn’t really an Arsenal hotbed of support but Felice was happy to see a few Arsenal mugs for sale. However, as he is a long time member of the Gunners (Along with Fulham, West Ham, Manchester City, Juventus amongst many others) He likes to buy his merchandise directly from the club; his (snug) Arsenal jacket being a case in point.  I was quite pleased to pick up a club badge and also tonight’s matchday programme that came in at £3 and was a steady enough issue. Nothing special but I am pretty sure I will read much worse this season. 

As we still had time to kill we headed into the club bar and I must say it was the total opposite to the bar on the Welling United side of the ground. The walls were all decked out with scarves from a wide range of teams and also many half and half matchday scarves, with the standout one for me being one from the Women’s Olympic final at the London Olympics between Japan and the United States, Or the USWNT as they like to be known as.  It was a shame they didn’t have a 1993 FA Cup final half and half between Sheffield Wednesday and Arsenal so Lee and Felice could make them an offer to buy it, as the rumour is they intend to go to the league cup tie between the Oinkers and the Gunners in the next couple of weeks.  The entertainment however left a lot to be desired with the Wales v Andorra game on the radio and Eastenders on the television.
At the start of the game the Imps fans were all segregated on one side of the ground. But after about 10 minutes of the game the segregation was lifted allowing all supporters access to all areas of the stadium. Quite why we had to go through the pointless exercise of segregating for 10 minutes was a bit of a mystery.  The only reason I can think of is so that Erith and Belvedere got the bar and food takings from the Imps fans pre game because had we all gone in through the Welling turnstiles then everybody would have headed to the Welling United bar. If that was the reason then I can’t say I had a problem with it. On balance the Erith bar had a better football feel to it. 

Lincoln City are currently enjoying their best season since being relegated to the conference (Yes I know that’s not really saying much but still...), and are on the outskirts of the playoffs.  It’s far too early to say whether this form will be maintained but for now I am enjoying it while it lasts. Lincoln went into this game having won their past 3 away games and from the way they started this one it looked like they could be on for a 4th on the trot.  Lincoln knocked the ball around quickly and it looked like it was only a matter of time before the scored.  Welling to their credit got better as the game went on but were still second best to the Imps for the entire first half.

However after having so much of the ball for the first half The Imps got hit with a sucker punch just before halftime when yet again this season they failed to deal with a ball in the air allowing Welling to score from close range.  At HT we ambled around to the end of the ground that Lincoln were to attack second half.  We were in a prime position to see Liam Hearn draw City level when he turned in a close range effort and from then on City took the game to their hosts. However in typical Lincoln style they shot themselves in the foot. Bradley Wood has been one of Lincoln’s most consistent players this season but tonight wasn’t his night as he received his marching orders for two yellow cards. Fair enough these things happen in football and this was the Imps first red card of the season.  However seeing as there was about 7 minutes left to play the sensible thing to do would have been to employ an effective game managing strategy and settle for a well earned point.

Alas Alan Power had other ideas and attempted to launch a cross field pass and launch a City counter attack after Welling had lost the ball. The pass however failed to reach its intended target as it went straight to a Welling player which was a gift as the hosts had plenty of players up the field from the original attack and a few seconds later the hosts went 2-1 up and there was no way back for the Imps.  It was very harsh on City but this is what happens if you dominate a match but fail to capitalise on your dominance. 
Sometimes in sport you get patterns of results between teams that just cannot be explained. Over the years I have known Lincoln go through phases when they just couldn’t get results against certain sides. For example between 1999 and about 2009 the Imps just couldn’t beat Darlington for love nor money. In the 90’s Chester always seemed to be the side that held a jinx over City. It does of course work the other way too. Under the late, great Keith Alexander the Imps always did well against Shrewsbury, especially away from home.  In more recent times Braintree Town seem to be the side that no matter what the league positions of the two sides always seemed nice enough to lose to the Imps. However to counter that Welling seem to be the team that always have the upper edge on Lincoln as this was their 5th win on the spin.

Last season the Imps were dreadful in both games v the Wings but that most certainly wasn’t the case this time around. For most of the game City took the game to the hosts who very rarely looked like causing them any real problems at the other end.  It does have to be said though that although the Imps had plenty of the ball, they didn’t really make the Welling keeper work too hard. In fact he only really had a couple of saves to make.  
The journey back home was pretty uneventful with the highlight being a debate on which flavour McDonalds milkshake is the best. At the time I was far too tired to offer an educated opinion but on reflection I would have to say I am firmly in the strawberry camp.

Result aside though it was a decent night out with great company.  Long distance night matches are always special regardless of the result. And the good news? We get to do it all again in a full weeks time at Aldershot!

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Pinxton 3-0 Blidworth





 A few weeks ago I made a trip I should have done a long time ago. I finally made it to Pinxton to watch Pinxton FC play and had a chance to catch up with Mr Lee Cook, one of the finest footballing minds in the whole of the East Midlands region.  As I said I should have made this journey a while back and now that I have finally made it I can say I will definitely be back.
Pinxton are currently plying their trade in the Central Midlands league southern division, (Step 7 of the pyramid) and in truth you will struggle to find a better run club. The club has narrowly been pipped at the post for promotion in recent years by sides that shall we say, aren’t run the correct way. To be blunt Pinxton seem to have been shafted but with the set up they have both on and off the field it can only be a matter of time before they gain their rightful place higher up the league structure. 

The journey to Pinxton on the Nottighamshire/Derbyshire border is an interesting one from Retford. It involves two trains (Retford to Worksop then Worksop to Mansfield) and a bus from Mansfield to Pinxton.  I always thought that Pinxton was in Derbyshire given that the club are affiliated to the Derbyshire FA and play in the Derbyshire cup etc but all the adverts for local business in the programme give their address as Nottinghamshire so who knows.
After a short walk from the bus stop and walking past a couple of decent looking chip shops I arrived at the welfare club house.  I always like these sorts of clubhouses; they are from another era but a good one, and tend to be only found at clubs that had connections to the local mining community. True they may not be as modern as bars at newer stadiums like Retford and Arnold but what they lose out on it terms of decor they more than make up for in character.
Shortly after I sat down in walked the assistant gaffer Mr Lee Cook, who was kind enough to offer me a guided tour of the stadium once he had set up his tactic board and given his troops their instructions for today’s encounter.  As we toured the facilities the two things that struck me were firstly the passion and enthusiasm that the various staff members have for the club, and secondly the ground itself which is certainly one of the better grounds you will find in the CML. It’s safe to say that this set up is a lot better than many other clubs in the EMCL or NECL.  In an era of clubs springing up built on foundations of quick sand and false promises, it’s refreshing to find one that has built off the pitch as well as on it.
The ground has a small seated area to the left of the changing room end with the turnstiles on the entrance side.  The food bar can be found at the far end of the ground on top of the banking. This area offers a bird’s eye view of the game and is one of the best views I have found in non league football. 

Up until this game it had been a tough season for Pinxton.  Whenever a side finishes high in the table they are always there to be shot at to a degree which can be hard to deal with.  Pinxton were yet to win a game but as a wise man once said due to players being unavailable for holidays etc the CML really starts after the first of 4 or 5 games of the season.
That day however Pinxton were not to be denied their win and pretty much dominated the game from beginning to end. The players carried out Lee’s perfectly constructed plan to a T with the only real criticism being that they could have won by more than the 3 goals that they did.  As ever with non league football there is always a character to be found who is often either the hero or villain of the piece and today it was none other than the Blidworth goalkeeper who bore an uncanny resemblance to former Turkish international goalkeeper Rustu Recber, although the appearance was where the comparison ended.   

Pinxton had already had a number of chances before they took the lead when the keeper failed to hold a low shot which was slammed home by an on rushing striker.  One nil soon become two nill when a slick passing move gave the home side some breathing space.  After a bright start Blidworth had seemed to be more occupied with taking out their frustrations on the officials instead of trying to unpick the Pinxton master plan. The home side made the points safe on the 30 minute mark when a cross from deep on the left flew over the hapless keeper’s head into the net. 
HT 3-0
Quite often when a team has the points wrapped up so early in the game it can be hard to keep up the energy levels and high tempo play. Pinxton did play well within themselves in the second half but they were still far too good for their opponents.  The main talking points of the second half were a couple of incidents that should have lead to a red card or two as the visitor’s tempers started to flare. However, I never like to criticise referees at this level as its truly a thankless task with little reward and a shitload of abuse.  In the end though the respective sides both got what they deserved, 3 points for the hosts and none for the visitors.  

The last word however has to go to the Blidworth goalkeeper who, as the players walked off, wanted to try to take on the entire Pinxton coaching staff even “Dropping his gloves” ice hockey style trying to get it on. Naturally the coaching staff were to sensible enough not to rise to the bait. Football is obviously a passionate game but there is a fine line between being passionate and looking a fool. 
After the game I had a chance to chat about all things local football and pick the brains of Lee and Ben (first team manager) about the local footie scene and it was great to hear about the plans for Pinxton going forward. You can tell that the guys have a genuine passion for the club and this is evident from everybody connected with the club from the chairman to everybody who helps the club tick over on a matchday. I must say a huge thanks to everybody at the club for making me feel so welcome and a special shout-out to Lee for going out of his way and giving me a lift home.
Since this game Pinxton seem to have hit a bit of form; 3 league wins on the spin were obtained along with a very good 4-1 away win at Lincoln Moorlands in the FA Vase (who play at a higher level in the footballing pyramid) in the second qualifying round. The club’s reward for this is a home tie against Cradley Town which is to be played on October the 31st. If you are looking for a game to attend on that date I strongly suggest you make it this one.  You won’t be disappointed.