Friday, 30 December 2011

Darlington FC memories

It would appear that Darlington FC are in a spot of bother at the moment. I don't know all the ins and outs of the situation (Nor does anybody else by the sounds of it) but from the outside the future doesn't look too great. As i am bored at the moment, stuck in this limbo between Christmas and the New Year i thought i would share with you a few of my memories of matches i have seen between the two clubs. Lets just hope that there will be more memories to add in years to come against Darlington fc, and not an AFC Darlington or another phoenix club. So without further ado lets get into the knackered old time machine in my tiny mind and take a trip down memory lane...

Tuesday 27th December 1994
Lincoln City 3-1 Darlington

This was only my 3rd Lincoln City game and one of the very few that i have viewed from the family stand. At the time Darlington were only a place below the Imps in the table with Lincoln sitting an unimpressive 14th themselves. It was a strange sort of atmosphere in the 1994/95 season as the Co-op stand was being rebuilt, meaning that the Imps played much of the season in a three sided stadium. Darlington took a shock lead early in the first half but it was soon cancelled out by David "Magic" Johnson. The second half belonged to the Imps and particularly Matt Carbon. Matt was an England youth centre half who, then manager, Sam Ellis played anywhere but centre half. Matt's goal which gave the Imps the lead, is one of the best i have ever seen at the Bank when he lobbed former Imp Mike Pollitt in the Darlington goal from 30 yards out. His second wasn't too bad either; a rasping shot from the edge of the box. For me, his first goal is the main reason this match sticks in the mind so much. This was at the same time Matt Le Tissier was making the Match of the Day goal of the month competition his own, but had we have been in the Premiership at the time our very own Matt "Le" Carbon would have given him a good run for his money.
Another reason to remember the match was the programme which featured Daily Sport stunner Sarah Hollet. Possibly one of the best Lincoln programme covers of all time eh gents? Did anybody remember see the other picture that went with this one in the paper with the Imps shirt off? I didn't as i was still at school, but it must have been up on a factory wall somewhere in Lincoln at the time?
In 95/96 Darlington came down to the Bank and got revenge with their own 3-1 victory. In the summer Lincoln had released Gary Bannister. The Imps loss was Darlingtons gain as he ran the show in midfield and ran Steve Wicks' Imps ragged. This was one of the best Darlington sides i have ever seen down at Sincil Bank and they went on to lose in the playoffs.

Saturday 25thApril 1998
Darlington 2-2 Lincoln City

My next Darlo memory comes from the away day in the promotion season in the 1997/98 season. Earlier on in the season Lincoln had strolled to a 3-1 win at Sincil Bank. Lee Thorpe had scored two but missed a chance to get his hatrick when he had a penalty kick saved. That was at a time when City were on a great unbeaten run which lasted 18 matches and was the bed rock of the promotion.
However, come the away day which was the penultimate match of the season, things weren't looking quite so rosy. Notts County and Maccelsfield had claimed the top two positions and Torquay had hit form at just the right time and looked odds on for the last automatic promotion place. City had to gain at least a point to keep the fight for third spot going till the last game of the season, and despite Darlington sitting in the lower third of the table they had only lost 4 matches at Feethams all season.
City had been given 600 terrace tickets for the match and they were all snapped up well over a week before the game which was unheard of at the time. The Imps fans were penned into a corner on the open terrace behind the goal and went mental when Steve Holmes gave the Imps the lead with a penalty in front of the City fans. However this being Lincoln City we were never going to do this the easy way. The hosts were level on 35min and then took the lead in the second half with a fantastic free kick which gave Vaughan in the City goal no chance. With time running out and City heading towards the playoffs, Shane Westley sent on Dennis Bailey who had signed a short term deal on transfer deadline day. Then deep into added on time Bailey turned and shot from the edge of the box and his scuffed shot ended up in the back of the net and the City faithful went wild. We all know what happened in that last game of the season against Brighton, but had it not been for Bailey at Darlington, none of it would have been possible. Dennis disappeared off the radar at the end of the season but to me and many others at Darlington that day he will always be one of City's great unsung heroes.
Mr Dennis Bailey we salute you.

Saturday 2nd November 2002 
Darlington 0-0 Lincoln City

This game doesn't stick in the memory for the match but more for the pre match drinking session. Darlo is handy for us Retford based Lincoln fans as you can catch a train straight up to Darlington which is just what myself and my worse half did, arriving just after eleven which just happened to coincide with the pubs opening. The pub nearest the station was called Hogans was quite full when we got there. It may have been full of old men playing dominoes and stuff but the beer was ridiculously cheap with two drinks coming in at just over two quid or something like that. At those prices it seemed daft to go anywhere else so we stayed in there till gone two. We managed another one in a pub en route to the ground and staggered into the ground just before kickoff.
On the pitch City gave a typical battling display on the pitch and were well worth a point. Lincoln have never really had a decent record up at Darlington so getting a point felt like a win to the Imps fans. The train back to Retford was delayed so that gave us more time to have a quick drink before we left. Happy days. This was the last time City played at the famous old Feethams ground and i for one really miss the old place even if City rarely won there.

On our return to the basement division in 1999/2000 we beat Darlington 1-0 at Sincil Bank not long after George Reynolds had bought the club with the aim of taking them all the way to the Premiership. After that 1-0 win, City didn't record another home win over the Quakers till the 09/10 season when the Imps recorded a 3-0 win over them under caretaker manager Simon Clarke. In between those to games we were very much second best to them. A 0-4 kicking at home to them under Peter Jackson being the low point.

My last memory is realy just an example of how football can change. I spent much of the early/mid 2000's as a steward working on the Stacey West end of the ground. After a 1-1 draw against Darlington in the 2001/02 season myself and a colleague had to escort Mr Reynolds round to the away end as he liked to shake hands and meet the Darlo fans after every away match. The fans loved this and were lining up to meet and greet the guy who was hell bent on taking Darlo upwards to compete with the likes of Newcastle and Sunderland. As we walked back up to the boardroom he told the two of us how much the previous Darlo manager had been a disaster for the club and that he knew that the club were now on the right track under the current coaching set up. Given his enthusiasm for the club and his then popularity with the fans at the time he is hard to believe that he is now seen by many as the guy who shoulders much of the blame for the current mess the club finds itself in.
It just goes to show that quite alot of takeovers by folk promising the world often go tits up, Pay heed fans of Liverpool, Villa etc.

Good luck to all connected with Darlington football club form the crew at the Mind of an Imp blog.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Yorkshire Main 5-1 Bentley Colliery

Thankfully due to our yearly Boxing Day drinking session, i missed Lincoln's defeat at the hands of Grimsby in the Lincolnshire derby. So my first football fix of the holiday period was the Central Midlands league northern division match between Doncaster rivals Yorkshire Main FC and Bentley Colliery FC. (Step 7)
This season has been a tough one for the Central Midlands league as a whole. The league went through a restructuring process in the summer, changing from having a supreme and premier division  to a geographically based northern and southern division. It is fair to say that this change didn't please quite a number of clubs. Especially those on the border line. One of the main arguments for this change in structure was to try and reduce travelling cost for the clubs and although this is true in the southern section many clubs in the northern section have had an increase in travelling costs.  On the field there has been some one sided scorelines due to the fact that teams are placed in respective divisions due to location rather than ability.
A number of sides from the southern division have folded throughout the campaign and recently Hutton Cranswick from the north also decided to call it a day. Never the less the league soldiers on. It may take a year or two for the new system to bed in so lets hope that no more clubs go to the wall and the league gets back on its feet. This is the starting point for clubs in the pyramid and an essential part of grass roots football.  I enjoy watching the game at this level. I couldn't watch it ever week but its nice to take in every once in a while.
Last season was one of the most successful in Yorkshire Main's long history as they captured the Floodlit cup, the Doncaster FA challenge cup, the League cup, and the Central midlands premier division title. With having such a fine season last time out its hardly surprising that they are once again challenging for honours this season. Before kick off they sat in third place in the Northern Division three points behind leaders Dronfield Town (although the leaders do have two games in hand) The visitors Bentley Colliery were eleventh place in the standings.
Admission was £3 which included a programme which was pretty decent and had plenty of stats and stuff in it. The clubhouse entrance is just to right of where the gate money is collected. The walls in the clubhouse are covered with old team pictures and old match reports from the clubs early days in the 30's, right the way through to the clubs record breaking season last year. Club badges are available at the bar for a very reasonable £2 along with a range of hot drinks, chocolate bars, and cold sandwiches. Over the course of the day i tried a tea and an oxtail soup and both were spot on. (50p each)
After a nice cup of tea we ventured outside for the 2.00pm kick off. The ground is a tad on the basic side but does at least have two small covered stands along each sideline. There isn't any hard standing behind each goal and there isn't a great deal of room behind the goalline and the fence. However the club has come up with a novel and cheap way of stopping the ball bursting on the spikes on the fence. If you have any spare tin cans then just let the club now. I am sure they will take them off your hands.
We stood on the far touchline to where the clubhouse/changing room and got a decent enough view of the action on the pitch. Not that there was much action in the first half to report on. The pitch was quite boggy and didn't really help either side play passing football. Of the two sides Main probably shaded it but fluffed whatever chances came their way. I had a quid on the raffle but i haven't a clue if i won or not as i didn't hear the PA announce the winning numbers.
ht 0-0
Thankfully the second half was much better than the first. Main scored with the first attack of the match and this opened the game up. There is a slight slope on the pitch and Main made the most of these by running at the Bentley defence at every opportunity. The goal just after half time seemed to take the wind out of the visitors sails, and their work rate dropped from that in the first half. Main continued to make chances as they did in the first half but the difference was this time they took them, and raced into a three goal lead. Bentley did however give themselves a glimmer of hope when they scored them from close range following a corner. This goal did seem to wake them up a tad and they went on to have their best spell of the game.
Bentley nearly got another goal from a corner but a great clearance on the line by a Main defender thwarted them. Looking back on it that was the turning point of the game. Had it gone in then it was very much game on. As so often happens in football Main went down the other end and killed the game off when they added a fourth. They added a fifth late on which was by far the best goal of the game when the Main number 9 broke free down the left and scored with a great chip from the edge of the area.
FT 5-1
I really enjoyed this day out and although the ground may be a tad run down in places its quite homely and is what grass roots football is all about. The league leaders Dronfield drew so this win for Yorkshire Main closed the gap at the top of the table. Exciting times indeed in the Central Midlands Northern division.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Retford United 4-2 Liversedge

Time for our monthly catch up on Retford United's progress folks. Oh joy i hear you say. In truth it was a good time to watch Retford. Funds are always tight a week or so before Christmas so it made sense to stay local. The two sides had met the previous weekend with Retford running out 4-0 winners in Yorkshire. A win that sent the Badgers two points clear at the top of the table. Liversedge themselves sat in 12 place in the division (Out of 20 teams)
Lincoln were down at Forest Green Rovers. This was off our radar due to Baz not getting the paperwork sorted for his brand new Bazmobile and Felice's recent off roading experience a week or so back. In our absence The Imps recorded a fine 2-0 win. Here's the highlights.

After going what like seems like an eternity without out a clean sheet the Imps have now only conceded a penalty in the last three games. Form and performances do seem to be picking up. As has the form of that horrible lot who we play back to back over the holiday period, our nearest and dearest rivals from North East Lincolnshire; Grimsby Town, anyhow more about this later.

I got up to Cannon park an hour or so before kick off, got settled in the bar, and had a few drinks with a couple of Frickley supporters. Over the course of the season Retford's crowds seem to have steadily risen (as has the team). Admission was the standard £5 with the programme £1.50. Also included with the admission price was a free chocolate. It doesn't get much better than that does it?
The spate of goodwill continued as Baz got the teas in; after being found guilty in the "Legogate" scandal a few weeks ago. On the pitch Retford United got in on the act by gifting Liversedge a goal in the first thirty seconds of play. A few Retford players half heartedly appealed for offside but i think they knew that had made a bit of a boo boo. Any thoughts of another easy game for the badgers went out of the window.
Retford got into their stride and equalised on 9 minutes through Adam Scott. The same player then gave the Badgers the lead in the 16th minute with a fine solo effort. This was our cue to head over to the food hut and stock up on meat and potato pie, chips and peas; all for the bargain price of £3. It was a good open game with both sides creating and missing numerous chances. It was Retford who got the next goal in the 38th minute through Warren Hatfield to give the Badgers some breathing space.

The visitors were given a chance to get back into the game on 69 minutes when they were awarded a penalty however Retford keeper Jason Fisher pulled off a fine save to keep Retford's two goal lead intact. Liversedge did get a second goal in the 78th minute when Retford's Corey Nightingale bundled the ball into his own net. Doh.
Liversedge then took the game to Retford who looked to be wobbling, however a great counter attacking move by Retford finished with Barry Payne scoring from close range to wrap up another three points for Retford in the 89th minute.
Although i will be in Grimsby for the New Years Day Lincolnshire derby i will be missing the match at Sincil Bank. This is due to our annual "Boxing day massacre" drinking session around Retford. I have no doubts that it will be as fun filled as ever and i look foward to seeing you all :-)

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Colwyn Bay 1-3 Lincoln City

FA Trophy first round proper
We had been looking forward to this game ever since the Seagulls won away at FC Halifax Town in their final qualifying round replay. I always enjoy away games that are quite a distance away and are at grounds we haven't visited. Throw in the "magic of knockout football" and the cheap admission price of £9 and you had all the ingredients for a great away day. Which is just what we got. And i haven't been able to write about many of those in the last year and a half! Even with all this fixture had going for it, only Baz and myself made the trip over to North Wales. Felice had some cock and bull very reasonable excuse for missing his second Imps away outing with the jolly boys on the trot. Tut Tut.

Unlike our last Lincoln away trip the journey down was straight forward enough. We left our north Nottinghamshire stronghold at just gone 10.20am and arrived a little after 1.15 pm. We had a quick piss stop just at a service station near Chester which sold all the normal over priced crap and a nice selection of Welsh tat such as cuddle dragons, stuff with dragons on etc. The most amusing thing in there was the sight of an old boy shuffling his way into the services just in front of us. It took the old lad quite a while to make it to the toilet so i just hope in made it in time.

Shortly after this we passed over the Welsh border. The Welsh seem very proud of there Heritage with dragons and Welsh flags being hung on quite a few bridges. We also passed a trout farm. This is where Felice missed out again as he is a dab hand at trout tickling if rumour is to be believed.
Colwyn bay's Red Lion Foods stadium is tucked away in a residential area on the outskirts of the town. You can park in the club car park for a couple of quid but we chanced it and parked the baz mobile on the street just outside the ground. We were greeted by a steward who gave us the great news that the bar inside the ground was open. Music to our ears indeed. We parted with our 9 quid at the turnstiles just as the programmes arrived. Good timing batman. The programme was £1.50 and was a great effort with plenty to read in it.
The clubhouse is a decent size and everybody in there seemed very welcoming. As we, well i, was going to have plenty of time to drink i opted for a few pints of Newcastle Brown Ale which is my session beer. I can't wolf it down like lager but it is perfect if you are just chilling out and chatting before the big match. We were joined by another Imps fan who had made the trip up from the south coast and got chatting about all things Imps and groundhopping. The match officials were tucking into their tea and biscuits while the snooker was on the big screen. As time passed more beer was consumed and more Imps fans made their way into the bar.
After a while one of those "Good old boy" types that you only find at non league football grounds came over with a football card and asked if we fancied a go on it. As the day was going well we all did without hesitation. We had some good banter with the guy taking the card round as he apologised for us having a wasted journey etc. When he had sold all the teams he gave Baz the honour of revealing the winning team. It goes without saying that none of us won the sodding thing. Some things never change. I picked first and went for Preston North End. I told Baz i had kindly left him Sheffield United. "Bollocks" came the reply. Charming.
And the winner is.....
Looking out at the ground it looked quite clean and well kept. To our right were two covered all seated stands. The far end was a covered terrace with the near end being open. An open terrace was on the other touch line and this is where most of the home fans stood to watch the match. All in all i thought it was a decent enough stadium with something for everybody. The stadium was also quite colourful with plenty of flags and some great artwork on walls.
Open side
Covered seating in the background
Groundhopper in the foreground
After we left the bar and Baz had sampled the chips (Decent enough was the verdict) we made our way on to the open terrace near the far end of the ground. Lincoln had travelled in decent numbers and the singers had gathered at the far end of the stadium and set up there flags and stuff and got a decent amount of noise going from under the covered stand. Well played chaps.
Colwyn Bay play their football a level below the Imps and are currently in midtable but they do have a decent enough home record while Lincoln have only win twice on the road this season.
Lincoln started well and were ahead after only ten minutes. Jamie Taylor who has been injured for much of the season finished from close range to settled any nerves that the Imps had. Things then swung even more in the Imps favour in the 20th minute when the homeside were reduced to ten men when Lee McEvilly was adjudged to have elbowed Francis Laurent. It looked a tad harsh to me but none of the home players seemed to appeal to much. City made their numerical advantage count when Connal Platt doubled there lead in the 32nd minute with a great finish from 20 yards out. As i headed round to the clubhouse to get in pole position for a halftime pint one of their officials joked to me that he didn't want to come to our place Tuesday night for a replay anyway. 'Nor did I' i said. I am on bloody nights again next week.
Clubhouse end.
The beer flowed in the clubhouse at halftime The Imps fans seemed in good heart as it looked like we had one foot in the second round. However if there is one thing i have learnt over my years of following Lincoln City it is that the job is never done until the final whistle goes and the Imps will always make it difficult for themselves no matter what.
The hosts were given a lifeline in the second half when Joe Anyon bundled over Rob Hopley in the box and Fraser McLachlan converted the spot kick. Game on and maybe we would need a replay.
As it turned out Lincoln stepped in up a gear and took the game to the Seagulls. Taylor got his second and Lincolns third of the game in the 71st minutes to kill the match off. Both sides created a couple of half chances but Lincoln always looked in control. Colwyn Bay battled well throughout the match but the sending off killed any chance they had off getting back into the game in my humble opinion. After the match David Holdsworth and the players came over and applauded the travelling Lincoln fans for the great backing they had given the side. The manager is getting the fans onside and more results like this will help even more.
All in all a cracking day out. Colwyn Bay have a great set up both on and off the pitch and you will receive a warm welcome. Nice food, great bar plenty of covering what more can you ask for? If you haven't been then get yourself there it is one not to be missed as they say.
No away day is complete without a post match Kebab so we made a trip to our old favourite the Hollingworth food stop on the way back. I went for the lamb donner with chicken tikka on a nan bread and very nice it was too. An away win, beer, and a great Kebab what more does a man need?

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Yet more top quality sporting action.

Sunday 28th November

Kansas City Chiefs 9-13 Pittsburgh Steelers

Up until Sunday night it had been a great sporting weekend for myself. Lincoln had dispatched Ebbsfleet United 3-0 at Sincil Bank. Retford United had won 4-3 away from home. Inter Milan had beaten Siena 1-0 and the Nottingham Panthers had beaten the Hull Stingrays 6-1 in Nottingham on Saturday night. They followed this up with a 5-5 draw away at Coventry Blaze in the Challenge Cup Sunday evening. The game had no meaning however as Nottingham had already won group B and Blaze couldn't make the knock out stage. Even so it was nice to see the Panthers stage a great fightback coming from 5-0 down to claim a pointless point. It would appear that the Braehead Clan will be the Panthers opponents in the semi finals unless they can beat Fife by 15 goals or more in there last group game. Should they manage this unlikely feat then League leaders Belfast will be the Panthers opponents in the semi finals. 
So after all this good news only one result stood between myself and a "full house";  The Steelers were on the road and on TV playing the Chiefs at Arrow Head stadium with a 1.30am UK time kick off.  So i booked a the Monday off work, got a load of popcorn in, and settled down with the guinea pigs to watch some football. 

The Steelers came out on top and although the scoreline looks quite close the Chiefs never looked like scoring a touchdown until the very last drive of the game. The Steelers wasted a few chances to add to their score. In the end a win is a win and it was an enjoyable night. The Steelers still need to improve before the playoffs but the team is definitely a force to be reckoned with in the AFC.

Tuesday the 29th November.

York City 2-0 Lincoln City

My good sporting form was brought back down to earth with an almighty bump on Tuesday night as Lincoln fell to a predictable defeat at playoff chasing York City. All in all it was a pretty shitty night. Bad traffic on the A1 meant that the journey took us a fraction under two and a half hours meaning we didn't have time to sample a pre match kebab and pint in York. 
In truth Lincoln were pretty much second best throughout the match. York scored early and from there on in we never really got into it. Ex Imp Scott Kerr won man of the match which shows you the standard of players in this League. He also had a bit of a dig at the Imps and our former manager in the programme. Such a classy guy isn't he? I would have hoped that after employing him for five and a half years he would have been a bit more respectable to the club, but there you go folks. I was disappointed with the second goal; after their player out muscled Thompson, Gowling was caught in two minds and backed off, allowing their guy to pick his spot and kill the game. York were on of the best sides I have seen this year and could well end up winning the playoffs at the end of the season. On the plus side we could have gone all the way to London to watch the Arsenal get stuffed by Manchester City reserves......

Wedensday 30th November

Worksop Town 5-4 Mickleover Sports

Normally one midweek game a week does me just fine. However the chance of a game at a new ground for me, just over 7 miles away, came up and, better still admission was free. Its normally a tenner to enter so it would be rude not to take advantage of it really wouldn't it? Plus we had the chance to make up for our disappointment of missing out on a kebab the night before.
Former Lincoln caretaker manager Simon Clarke has recently taken the reigns at Worksop and has brought the club an upturn in fortunes. Town's recent form has earned Clarke the manager of the month. As you would expect their form has slumped since then.
The tigers roared (boom boom) into a two goal lead early on. Sports rallied and pulled one back only for the tigers to added a third. Sports kept the game alive with a cool run and finish just before halftime.
The sports then equalised just after halftime when they took advantage of some poor Worksop marking from a free kick. Back came Worksop with an equaliser about ten minutes before the end. The hosts took all three points in injury time. Quite simply the best game i have seen for a long while and all for free as well!

This blog my be a little sparse on details as i am a bit behind at the moment. Normal service to be resumed shortly. The curse of night shifts and Christmas strikes again!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Lincoln City 3-0 Ebbsfleet United

I haven't taken in a Lincoln game for a few weeks. Its even longer since all three regular Retford Imps were at the same City match together. There are several reasons why this has been the case, with some reasons being far more credible that others. Work, Legoland, Ice Hockey etc have all been given as reasons for non attendance. On reviewing these reasons for absence, an independent panel had come to the conclusion that Baz 's trip to Legoland excuse was by far the least satisfactory and that he will need to answer to the three man Kangaroo court on the way to the next away game that we all attend.  It would also help the court if we could get a feeling from the public as to whether or not his defence stands up. So it would be a great help to us if you could take a few seconds to vote in the poll on the right hand side of this blog. Should he be found guilty then he will have to get a round of teas in at the next match. If he is found not guilty (and the chances of that aren't looking great it has to be said) Then his good name will be cleared.
Pre match Kebab and chips whilst planning his defence
There has been quite a lot of activity on the transfer front since the last time i watched the Imps. Danny Hone and Gavin McCallum have left on loan for Barrow and Barnet respectively, while Ali Fuseini and Doug Lindberg have left the club.
To counter this David Holdsworth has recruited midfielders Jake Sheridan and Tyrone Thompson from Eastwood and Halifax FC and striker Luke Medley. I didn't know a whole lot about Sheridan and Medley but  i remember Thompson for an earlier spell he had at Lincoln Under Sir Keith.
I must admit that I wasn't too thrilled at his signing. A wise old Stags fan that i know didn't seem to rate him and he does seem to have become a bit of a journey man. After today however i may have to eat humble pie as he had a decent game . However one swallow doesn't make a summer and all that. Having lost McCallum and Fuseini i was worried about the lack of firepower in the squad. So what goes and happens? Lincoln record their first 3-0 home win since we beat Darlington by the same score in September 2009. Shows what i know doesn't it? Time to have a word with myself i think.
We did our normal pre match routine with Baz opting for Kebab meat and chips whilst i went for the battered sausage and chips option and a freddo frog chocolate bar for pudding.
Lincoln could have been ahead inside of 25 seconds as we nicked the ball from the visitors kick off and sent an effort just wide of the post. Lincoln continued to make all the running in the first half while the visitors struggled to cope with the windy conditions. Upfront Perry was being used as the battering ram with Sheridan playing just behind him. Perry was taking a few knocks and his battle with Ebbsfleet centre half Paul Lorraine was turning into a decent battle with the Lincoln man having the slight edge. Lincoln had to wait till the 38th minute but the goal was well worth the wait. Connal Platt collected the ball, cut inside, then blasted the ball into the top corner. The goal gave Lincoln even more impetus and continued to push forward to try and get the 2nd goal to kill the match off.
HT 1-0
The team were given a great reception as they left the field. The normal crappy stuff went off at halftime as the scores rolled in. As fans chatted about the first half Felice amused himself with a quick game of Angry Birds, which seems to be all the rage at the moment.

Ebbsfleet did have a bit more about them in the second half. Farman in the Lincoln goal made a close range save from Pinney then tipped a long range effort onto the bar to keep the Lincoln lead intact. City killed the game off in the 74th minute when Sam Russell scored with a fierce drive from just inside the area. Game set and match as they say. It got worse for the "Fleet" when Mambo was given his marching orders when he was adjudged to have committed a professional foul when he brought down John Nutter just outside the box.
Nutter took the  free kick himself and scored via a slight deflection off of the defensive wall. Its been a while since we saw a Lincoln side dominate a match like this one and it was great to see so many happy faces at the end.
This win has given Lincoln a five point gap to the dropzone, which is very welcome what with a tricky away trip at York City coming up on Tuesday night. Yes it will be a tough game but if City put as much effort into that game as they did today, its feasible we could get a point. We have already seen some strange results in the league this season so expect the unexpected. David Holdsworth has got the side fighting and certainly putting a lot more effort into the game. Again its very early into his tenure but so far so good. At the end he took the players around the ground to applaud the fans. It will take time for the club to rebuild bridges with the fans after the past few years but DH is going about it the right way.

I couldn't finish this post without a mention for a gentleman who makes Sincil Bank tick on a matchday. After what seems like an eternity head steward Gary Radford is stepping down from his postion on the Stacey West stand. I know from experience its not an easy job being a steward but whatever Gary has had to deal with; be it pissed up fans, fans moaning about stupid shit, pitch invasions, or even blossoming romances between his staff, he has always done it with a smile on his face. If all stewards had his outlook and methods of doing the job then the football world would be a much better place. Good luck mate, and don't be a stranger to Sincil Bank.
All together now "We had the best steward in the league"
On another point as this is my 300th blog post i would just like to thank everybody out there for reading my work. I feel this blog has come along way since i started writing in 2008 and hopefully there is a long way to go yet. I would like to thank all the people who i have travelled with to matches over this time and new friends i have met along the way for being such great company and for giving me something to write about. The last few years have been some of the toughest in Lincoln City's history but i like to think we have had a few laughs along the way.
I should also thank my spell checker and editor because if it wasn't for her then there would be no blog.
The lesser spotted lady groundhopper!
Thank you one and all.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

From Staveley to Inter to England

Staveley u19 4-3 Sheffield FC
Monday 21st November

The week started off with some Monday night football in the shape of Staveley Miners Welfare under 19s taking on their counterparts from Sheffield FC in the Baris North Midlands under 19 league first division. 

Having heard some very impressive reports about the new look Inkersall Road (Staveley's home ground) I was very much looking forward to seeing progress that the club has made and seeing if the ground is as good as everybody says its is. I can now report that the stadium is every bit as impressive as i was told. Its been a good couple of years since i took in a match here and the place has totally changed.

The main thing you notice is the new clubhouse which is one of the best i have ever been in. There are three large screens that were showing the build up to the Spurs v Aston Villa match. The walls are covered with framed football memorabilia with the diamond in the crown being framed and signed shirts from most of the England 1966 world cup winning squad.  All of the tables have the club crest on them The food hut was open and was doing a roaring trade. Quite a few clubs only partly open up facilities for under 19 matches but Staveley open the full lot. And they were rewarded with a very impressive crowd which was around the 100 mark. Sheffield brought a good number with them but plenty of locals had turned out as well. It was £2 to get in with an excellent 16 page programme selling at 50p. Before kickoff Staveley were unbeaten and top of the division the visitors were sat in midtable.

Although Sheffield started the better as soon as Staveley got into their stride they simply blew them away. They were 3 up at the break and it so easily could have been more had the ref spotted a cast iron penalty claim when Staveley's number 9 was pulled back in the box. He did give the hosts a penalty for another offence but it didn't look as blatant as the one he didn't give.

To their credit Sheffield did make a game of it in the second half. They pulled a goal back just after the restart then scored a penalty of their own to set up an interesting finish. Staveley's philosophy on the game is simple. You score three goals, we will score four. They were award a second penalty which they converted to put the game to bed. Sheffield scored deep into injury time when they scrambled the ball in following a corner.

Staveley are a club on the up. Yes they have spent a fair bit of money but the are spending it in the right places and building the club up at all levels and not just the first team. I wish them all the best.

Tuesday 22nd November
It hasn't been a great season so far for Inter Milan. Defeat in the Italian Super cup (Italy's answer to the community shield) was followed by a terrible start to the season and the exit of coach Gian Piero after only three months at the club. Former Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri has been given the task of steadying the ship Although results have picked up, the club still sits in the bottom half of the league, although we do have a game in hand on the leading clubs.
So against this backdrop i was very pleased to see the club not only qualify for the last 16 of the Champions league this week but also be confirmed as group winners with a game to spare. This achievement is even more impressive when you take into the account the fact that they lost the first game of the group stage; a 0-1 home defeat to Turkeys Trabzonspor. Winning the group means that Inter will avoid the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich in the last 16. It does however mean there is a good chance that Inter could face English opposition in the last 16 as it looks very doubtful that Chelsea, Manchester United, and Manchester City will win their groups. However given the results of those three clubs in Europe this year Inter shouldn't have anything to fear if they do indeed lock horns. It also looks like AC Milan will not win their group and could well face one of the big guns. Ha.

Wednesday 23rd November
Women's European championship qualifier
England 2-0 Serbia

Not only was this my first professional women's match but it was also my first international match. The venue was the Keepmoat stadium, home of championship whipping boys Doncaster Rovers. Admission was just £5 a bargain in anybody's books i am sure you will agree.
The traffic between Retford and the hole that is Doncaster has been very heavy as of late so we set off in good time to make sure we got to the stadium in time and enough time to collect our pre booked match tickets.
The traffic had been quite kind to us and we got to Doncaster quite early. As we walked over to the ground the Serbian team bus was just pulling up next to the players entrance. After picking up the tickets we had a stroll around the ground and were disappointed to find out that all the bars were shut. Worse still no beer was to be served inside the ground due to the UEFA regulations. As we walked round to the turnstiles the England bus pulled in and we watched the players get off. All the girls had to unload and carry their own bags into the stadium. I can't see the likes of Gerrard and co doing this. With nothing else to do we entered the ground with just over an hour to go till kick off.
Programmes were on sale inside the ground for £3 and we were the first people to purchase one. The food and drink was the normal rip off prices so we didn't bother. £2 for a cup of tea is really taking the piss. Food prices is something i certainly don't miss about the football league.
England were out for there warm up a good ten minutes or so before their visitors and you didn't need to know much about football workout which side were the more professional. England went through very well thought out and testing series of drills and exercises while Serbia just seemed to do a bit of running and a few passing moves. The two sides had drawn 2-2 in Serbia earlier in the campaign when England threw away a two goal lead. So far in the group England had drawn two and won one match and were two points behind the group leaders Holland.

Lincoln Ladies Fc were very well represented tonight. Casey Stoner had the honour of captaining the England side while Jess Clarke started in midfield. Serbia came out playing one up front and looked as if they had come for a point. As you would expect England made all the running in the first half and took the lead when Clarke finished well from just inside the box in the 41st minute.

Clarke turned provider in the 51st minute when she crossed for Arsenal's Ellen White who finished from close range to double England's lead and kill the game as a contest. Although England were camped in the Serbian half for much of the game they couldn't add to their two goal lead.
All in all thoroughly enjoyed watching this game. The standard of the England players was high and thoroughly deserved the victory. All the girls played well but I thought that Jill Scott of Everton should have got the player of the match award as she did all the donkey work in midfield and was unlucky not to grab a goal. England don't play another qualifier till June but if its not too far to travel i would defiantly go and watch them again. Who said International football isn't value for money?

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Lincoln United 2-3 Shepshed Dynamo

Today's choice of games was a tad limited. City were away at league leaders Wrexham so i was on the hunt for a  localish match. Gainsborough Trinity at home to Boston was appealing but being in a stadium with a load of Boston fans was much less so. There are always a few non league games on in Nottingham but i have done a couple recently and fancied something different. In the end i picked Lincoln United's clash with Shepshed Dynamo FC.
Lincoln United led by Lincoln City legend Terry Flemming finished last season in good form and have carried it over into this season and before kickoff sat in tenth place in the Evo stick division one south (Step 4) Their form in October was enough to win Terry the manager of the month award for October. However, some what predictably they have lost the last two matches in November. A 1-2 defeat at home to New Mills and a 0-3 away defeat at Hucknall Town last weekend. Today's opponents, Shepshed Dynamo sat 4th bottom before kick off just two points off the relegation zone. An ideal chance for the "Whites" to get back on track perhaps?
I rolled up at the Lincoln United club house at about 1.45pm and the place was already quite full. Shepshed took a decent number of fans with them last season when i saw them get stuffed 7-2 at Carlton Town and had a decent following here as well. Arsenal were chalking up another victory in the Premiership this time against Norwich City on the big screen. Watching the game with a nice cool pint was a great way to relax after the long walk from the train station. I headed out to the ground at just gone 2.15 ish just after Arsenal had scored their second goal. Elsewhere a shock was going on in the world of football; Celtic were actually winning away at Inverness Caledonian Thistle although they did have the help of another dubious red card for the hosts.
Today's entrance fee was a very reasonable £6. The programme came in at £2 and was slightly disappointing with most of it being adverts and standard Evo stick fact pages. Because i quite like Lincoln United i bought a raffle ticket but as normal won bugger all. I had a stroll around the ground and took a few snaps. Quite what this scale model of Boston Uniteds new stadium was doing inside Ashby Avenue is anyones guess.
The new York Street
What with City being away quite a few fans had flocked to watch United. Also in the ground was the battle hardened head steward on the Stacey West stand Mr Gary Radford who also lends his skills to Lincoln United from time to time. We had a bit of a chat about the Imps and how David Holdsworth is rebuilding the Imps squad and the off field financial problems at Sincil Bank.
As kick off approached i ambled over to the old covered stand to take in the first part of the match. Before the game a representative of the Evo Stick league presented Terry with his manager of the month award. Terry is one of my favourite City players of all time and its great to see him having success as he cuts his teeth in management. When you take into account the fact that he is a player-manager and starts most games it makes his achievement all the more impressive. Listening to folk who watch United regularly it does seem as if there has been a feel good factor around the club since Terry took over. He had got the side playing good passing football on the deck and brought everybody at the club closer together. After every home game players have to go into the clubhouse and have at least one drink with the fans before the leave (It doesn't have to be alcoholic) John Beck did this exact same thing with the Lincoln City side when he was manager in the mid nineties when he was building the whole "Team Lincoln" mindset. Terry was John Becks midfield enforcer and he looks like he is learning from the great man.
United started the game the much better side and were causing the Shepshed back four problems with their pace. It only took Lincoln 9 minutes to get on the score sheet when Tom Garrick collected a pass halfway inside the Shepshed half, ran at the defence, easily beat the full back, and blasted home from close range. It was a fine goal and no more than United deserved. This did seem to wake Shepshed up a little and they created one or two half chances of their own.
Then just as they were looking to get back into the match the visitors conceded a clumsy and blatant penalty when one of their defenders bundled over the Lincoln striker in the box right in front of the referee who pointed straight to the spot. Scott Coupland stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way to double Uniteds advantage.

That was in the 32nd minute and it was the last significant action that Mr Keith Lawson our match referee  would partake in this afternoon. Shortly after this he injured himself and was unable to continue. At this level there isn't a fourth official present so the hunt was one to find somebody in the crowd willing to become a linesman and thus allowing the senior linesman to take over the refs job. In the end a volunteer was found and the game continued. I overheard somebody saying that you could continue the game with two officials. weather this is true or not i have no idea. The last time a ref was injured in a Lincoln United match the game was abandoned and the club was hit with a £1000 pound fine (even though it was the ref who called it off). So it was understandable that the club were keen to continue. All of this added a good ten minutes or so to the length of the first half which didn't finish till just before 4pm. United really upped the pace and looked to kill the game off and missed some fantastic chances to do this. Although it has to be said that this was down to some fantastic last ditch defending from Shepshed who cleared a couple off the line as well as putting in some great last ditch tackles. They certainly have a lot more fight and spirit in them than the last time i saw them. They were also given good backing from the twenty or so fans who had made the trip from Leicestershire with them.
United went in at the break with a two goal lead but it could and should have been more. The original ref sat between the two dugouts with his foot up on a chair. And was looked after by United's charming lady physio. You see there are some benefits to being injured. It was later confirmed that it was a calf injury that had forced the ref to be unable to continue.
Do not bang on the cage!
Do not put your fingers through the cage!
Do not feed the animals!
At half time I checked out the rather sparse looking clubshop and picked up a mug for a quid. It had started to turn a tad chilly so i made my way over to the clubhouse to check out the halftime scores. Unsurprisingly City were 1-0 down at Wrexham. The second half didn't get underway till about 4.15 ish so i was able to watch some of the live scores come through on Soccer Saturday.
HT 2-0
After watching the first half i am pretty sure that nobody in the ground would have predicted what was to happen in the second half. The game opened up and both keepers made fantastic saves. Shepshed really got their act together and looked a force from set pieces. United continued to miss some great chances and it would come back to haunt them big time.
Dynamo got a goal back in the game in the 75th minute when Stephen Chaplin fired in a low effort from inside the area. This gave the massed ranks of fans away fans belief that they could get something out of a game that had looked like running away from them. The visitors penned United back in the closing stages and got the equaliser in the 87th minute when united failed to deal with a corner and Iain Screaton pounced. It was a sickener for United but far worse was to come in the 90th minute.
A long range shot was tipped onto the post by the United keeper Shepshed hit the follow up against the bar only for the rebound to be bundled into the net by Stephen Chaplin for his second of the game. So from being second best for much of the game Shepshed had somehow gained three points. An outcome that i am sure even their most die hard fans would have said was highly unlikely at halftime. Football's a funny old game as they say. Although the goalscorers will get all the praise, it has to be remembered that had the defenders not pulled off some last ditch goal line clearances and tackles then the great fight back wouldn't have happened. As for United well they learnt a harsh lesson. If you don't take your chances when you are on top it will come back to bite you on the arse.
FT 2-3
There was plenty of it on display today!
It had really turned cold by now and i really felt it on the long walk back to the City centre. Even with all the added on time. I still had time to grab a quick pint in the Treaty of Commerce pub on the high street near the station before grabbing the 6.27pm train back to Retford.
Today's game had everything; 5 goals, a penalty, an injury to the ref, and a fantastic comeback. Why can't football always be this exciting?

Adams sporting world results

Wrexham 2-0 Lincoln City
Thackley 2-0 Retford United
Inter Milan 2-1 Cagliari
Sheffield Steelers3-2  Nottingham Panthers(OT)