Sunday, 31 July 2011

Lincoln City 0-1 Nottingham Forest

This was the highest profile match and the biggest challenge of Lincoln's pre season campaign. Nottingham Forest were two games from reaching the Premiership last season and have been "there or there abouts" for a number of seasons now. Lincoln had done well against Scunthorpe a week previous but Forest would be a much tougher proposition.
In midweek Lincoln had lost 1-2 at Gainsborough Trinty after fielding a much changed side from the one than took the field against Scunthorpe. Today we fielded what is at the moment our strongest side.
It was a great day for Football. Forest have quite a few fans in the Lincoln area and there were a few on the train we got from Retford in the morning, and with Nottingham not being to far from Lincoln a good away turnout was expected. Pre game we had a swift pint in the Wetherspoons on the highstreet and there was a good mixture of fans milling about. For some reason the game kicked off at 1.00pm because of what i assume was "Police advice" quite how gives this advice i am not sure. There wasn't a hint of trouble and i am sure that in these tough economic times the publicans and takeaway owners on the highstreet would have been thankfull of another couple of hours brisk trading. For fans preseason is all about watching your team in action against sides they normally wouldn't play and going to different grounds and having a few beers. Lincoln already have to wait till the 10th of September for a 3.00pm Saturday kick off and i really think this was another poor decision by Lincolnshire Police along with the Stockport County one.

As it turned out the match didn't kick off at 1.00pm anyway. Forest were delayed in traffic and we got underway at about 20 past one. Heavy traffic around Nottingham due to the test match between England and India at Trent Bridge was the reason that i overheard. This did however give me chance to neck another cool pint of Stella outside the Trust Suite in the sunshine.
Forest weren't the only club though who you could accuse of being unorganised. For some reason only known to themselves Lincoln had decided not to issue any programmes for this match. I can understand step 5, 6, and 7 clubs not issuing in pre season for games there will be about 40 people watching but not a BSP club for a game against a local Championship club who will bring over 1,000 fans with them. The crowd was 2,863 and i am sure a good few would have bought a programme. It didn't need to be a full blown league issue just a few pages listing both squads, upcoming fixtures and that kind of stuff would have been sufficient. For quite a few fans of both sides this would have been the first chance they would have had to see their new signings so a programme would have helped establish who's who so to speak.
I always like to get a memento of every game i go to (yes i can be quite a sad individual at times) So in the absence of a programme i got a ticket from the office instead of paying cash at the turnstiles. During this time the Forest team coach arrived and this gave kids (and some not-so-young kids) The chance to get their pictures taken with Former Lincoln loanee, England manager and new Forest manager Steve McClaren.

As it was a flat rate of £10 entry regardless of what stand you went in. We decided to check out the view from the CO-OP stand which is by far the largest stand at Sincil Bank. It must be at least three years since a sat in here and i must admit the view is fantastic. Another plus about it is that is a bar in the stand next to the refreshment outlets. I didn't partake in supping anymore ale but did take the opportunity to take in some of the highlights of the Cricket which was being shown on the screens in the area. The game was meant to get started at 1.15 but it kicked off at least 5 minutes later. Not that it really mattered.
Kyle Perry took his place alongside Jamie Talyor up front in what was only his second start of the season. Perry had got 45 minutes at Gainsborough on Tuesday but had looked a little rusty. Forest have some big defenders so it was essential that we had a presence upfront and for the most part we did. As you would expect Forest did have much more of the ball but Danny Hone and Josh Gowling at the back did a decent job of keeping Forest at bay. Although he had to endure plenty of chants of "You fat bastard" Andy Reid ran the midfield show for Forest his legs may not be as quick as they were but his vision is still spot on. City did win a few free kicks and corners but all were gobbled up by Lee Camp in the Nottingham Forest goal. Forest did look more likely to score using clever through balls on the ground but good defending and a bit of luck here and there kept the game goalless. Gavin McCallum was giving the Forest full backs something to think about with his pace and it was good to see that there was no showboating from him today.
Lincoln only made one change at halftime with Perry being switched for Sam Smith. The PA system was dreadful so coupled with the lack of a programme made working out who was coming on and off hard work. On about 70 minutes Lincoln started to make a few changes which changed the rhythm of the match. The Imps added three trialists hoping to impress the management team. Forest scored the only goal of the game on 79 minutes when Reid held the ball up to beat the full back and weighed a perfect pass into the path of Polish international Majewski who blasted into the top corner. Lincoln did have a late chance to level the score when the Forest substitute keeper dropped the ball following a corner but McCallum couldn't connect properly.
FT 0-1
Overall Lincoln did pretty well for much of the match. Ok, we weren't carving them open time and time again but then again you don't expect to dominate against a side three divisions above you with International players on the field. Before the game i thought we would be lucky to get within 3 goals of them so we did better than i thought we would.

Next up for the Imps (and us) is the Lincolnshire cup final against Grimsby at Sincil Bank Tuesday night. I suspect that we will see some of the fringe players who didn't play today given a game and i would also like to see Kyle Perry given the full 90 minutes as it would seem that Tilson seems to prefer him as the starting target man.

Lincolnshire cup semi final

Lincoln City 1-1 Scunthorpe United
Lincoln win 4-3 on penalties

Until now the Imps had only faced lower league opposition in pre season. Today saw the first real test of the pre season campaign as League One Scunthorpe United rolled into town for this Lincolnshire Cup semi final. On top of this it was also the Imps open day with various attractions for the kids to do and stuff before the match. Activities included a climbing wall, various football related fun games and there were also plenty of stalls of various sorts such as hook-a-duck. Its a shame Felice wasn't here today as he is a bit of a dab hand at hook-a-duck, according to local legend. One of the high points was the release of the Imps new away shirt. We have gone back to the same design of the 1998/99 away shirt which graced what is now League One for a solitary season. We actually wore the kit in what for me was the standout game of the season a 1-0 away win at Blackpool which was the first jollyboys weekend away i had as a fresh faced 20 year old. Paul Milner didn't have many memorial moments at City but i always look back at his header from a Fleming corner at a crumbling Bloomfield Road with huge fondness. Almost as fond as a certain individual claiming to be able to drink 16 pints and then proceeding to throw up his guts all over the Counting House pub floor.
Even with all this i still hate the shirt. I didn't buy it first time round and wont be buying it this time either. Unless it is on sale at the end of its cycle. I can't bring myself to post a picture of it on here but you can check it out on the official site. For those who don't know we seem to have modelled it on one of the most successful and iconic club sides in the British isles. I just hope that TNS don't mind us paying homage to them. I can't think of any other sides that win things and wear green and white hoops can you?
As this match was played on a Sunday it meant that our normal pre match chip shop wasn't open. Fear not the all you can eat Chinese Buffet restaurant YO-YO was a more than adequate replacement. We got in there at about 12.15 and i managed to get in four courses before i was stuffed.
Before the match i had the pleasure of meeting up with fellow Pittsburgh Riverhounds fan (and Steel Army member) Graham and his family in the Trust suite. We chatted for about half an hour swapping stories and stuff and had a great time. The Riverhounds haven't had the best of years but look good to make the playoffs at the expense of FC New York.

We don't go into the Trust Suite (Formerly the Centrespot) often but it's certainly a big tick for Lincoln. Quite a few clubs have bars at their grounds but very few are open to both sets of fans in the way that the one at Lincoln is. It just goes to show that fans of different clubs can have a drink together without a full scale riot breaking out. We bid Graham and his family farewell and strolled out of the bar at just gone 2.15
The crowds for these type of games are normally poor and as such only the CO-OP Lower and the Echo stand were open. We decided to see how the other half live and went in the Echo stand. Although you always get zero atmosphere for any game in this stand you do get a great view and the legroom is by far the best in the stadium. Quite a few fans had the same idea and i would say that by kick off the stand was about half full. Rather disappointingly no programme was issued for the match but i did manage to bag a colour teamsheet from one of the Lincoln directors. As this is a competitive match only players signed to the club can be played so none of the trialists we have with us were able to feature. This meant that we could get our first clue as to what will be our be our first choice starting eleven once the season kicks off on August the 13th. Obviously things can and will change as we have a couple of injuries but we got a rough idea of where things are heading so to speak.
Before the match i didn't think we would win. I don't know the ins and outs of Scunthorpe's squad but i overheard they had a strong team out. However Lincoln totally controlled much of the contest. And its not very often i get to say that.
Last year we were lacking in pretty much all areas but the defence was a real problem. New centre-back Josh Gowling looks to be the leader we were badly lacking. It seems as if he and Danny Hone will form the first choice pairing this year with Watts (who played at full back) as the back up. Apart from a lapse of concentration from Hone late on we looked solid for most of the game with Gowling taking charge at the back. Midfield is where we have the most competition for places but early indications seem to be that Simon Russell will be the creative force going forward. Fuseini looks to be getting sharper and sharper and his passing was spot on today. Lincoln took the lead through Sam Smith after a mistake in the Scunthopre defence. Smith has bagged a couple already in pre season but it will be interesting to see who keeps the target man position alongside Jamie Talyor when Perry regains fitness. I have a feeling Tilly will go with Perry due to his 17 goals last season but we will wait and see.

Scunny's keeper was having a poor match and made a couple of goofs in the game although Lincoln failed to take advantage. Lincoln really did get some nice passing moves together and often left the Iron chasing shadows. Neither side was going for it hammer and tong but there was still a nice tempo to the Lincoln play. The Imps continued to miss the better of the chances that did come along without looking in any danger at the back. In the last ten or so minutes Scunny did improve a little, but only in the way that being chased by five lions is better that being chased by six.
Then after being outplayed for 89 minutes United scored when a through ball along the ground was neatly controlled by Chris Dagnall and slotted past Anyon in the Lincoln goal. As this was a cup game it meant only one thing. Penalties. Oh the joy.

I have never seen Lincoln win a shootout, indeed the only shootout i think they have won in the last 17 years was a FA cup reply away at Bury in 2002. After totally outplaying Scunny and failing to put them away i was convinced that we had blown it. However this time Lincoln stood firm and converted four from their penalties. Josh O Keefe was the only Imp to miss when his shoot came off the bottom of the post. Scunny had their first kick well saved by Anyon and blasted one high over the south park end of the ground.

So after beating the defending Champions Lincoln now welcome Grimsby to Sincil Bank for the final on Tuesday. Lincoln played really well today. It was great to see us knocking the ball around so well. Wait a minute...Is that an outbreak of optimism i can sense?

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Lincolns pre season rumbles on

Barton Town old boys 0-2 Lincoln City

Two friendly games for the Imps this week and we attended both of them. We are at the stage in pre season when we are still running the rule over various trialists and potential new players and working on fitness levels so the results really aren't of the highest importance. The first match was a trip to Northern counties Eastern premier division side Barton Town Old boys. For those of you who read this blog (and many thanks for reading by the way) who aren't as familiar with the various levels of the English non league system Lincoln now play at "Step one" ie Blue Square Premier division and Barton are at Step 5.
Barton play in a newish ground which looks quite smart. The clubhouse contains the bar, changing rooms, and tea hut looks nice and you can tell its had quite a bit of cash spent on it. It was a mere £5 to get in and 50p for a smart enough programme. We enquired about purchasing pin badges and were directed to the boardroom where they were on sale for £3.00

Barton gave it there all but Lincoln were always on top and strolled to a 2-0 win. Sam Smith and Adam Watts with the goals. It was also nice to see a few trialists catching the eye. All in all a decent nights work and a new ground ticked off.

If you ever visit Barton you need to remember four things.

If you find yourself on "Butts lane" then you have gone hopelessly wrong and need to remind yourself to put the sat nav in the car for the next away game.

If you end up on the afore mentioned "Butts lane" Don't not under any circumstances confuses the lights on the local Tesco with floodlights and drive towards them like a crazy moth.

Do not follow the sign hold up by a couple of kids that points you in the direction of "Football parking"

You must have a cup of tea at the ground. Its poured from the pot and comes in real mugs and not the normal plastic crap you normally get.

Brigg Town 1-4 Lincoln City
The next night it was another trip to North Lincolnshire to take on Evo stick south side Brigg Town. (Step four) Baz drove this time and we arrived at the ground in good time. Brigg had been smashed 0-8 by Gainsborough Trinity at the weekend (serves them right for wearing kits like Grimsby) so you would imagine that they would be keen to put things right. We found Brigg's ground a lot easier than we did the previous night at Barton. The only real worry was the good old British summertime weather which was its normal unpredictable self. Pissing it down one minute bright sunshine the next etc.

We had the rare occurrence for this match in that we had a full car. I can't remember the last time we had such an occurrence but it must have been at least a couple of seasons ago. Tonight entrance to the game cost you 6 of your finest English pounds. Unlike Barton, Brigg hadn't produced a programme for sale but a free folded teamsheet listing the squads and Brigg's upcoming fixtures was given away free. As it turns out it was pretty useless as some of the Lincoln names and numbers were wrong but its always nice to get something from the game. I was surprised to find out that Brigg don't have a clubshop. Apparently this is due to the former shop being robbed a couple of seasons ago and the club not replacing it, so no badge tonight i am afraid. Brigg's ground is pretty basic. You get covered seating along each side and two open ends behind each goal and thats about it really. We nipped in for a pint in the clubhouse at halftime which again is pretty average stuff

I wasn't hungry but i heard reports that the pie and peas along with the sausage rolls were very nice. A good few Imps fans had made the short trip to Brigg and were rewarded with a fine display from City. Lincoln took the lead when a tame looping header from Josh O Keefe was fumbled by the Brigg Keeper and dropped into the net. Up until then Brigg had done ok but that really did take the wind out of their sails. Gavin McCallum was seeing plenty of the ball but just trying to do to much with it. and beat one man to many.
City's second goal was a stunning 25 yard free kick taken by Ali Fuseini which curled into the top corner giving the home keeper no chance at all. Lincoln added a third when O Keefe's scuffed shot hit Jamie Talyor who finished from close range.
HT 0-3
As is the norm with pre season Lincoln made plenty of changes in the second half. Midfielder Simon Russell had been signed from Cambridge United in the afternoon and he was the stand out player in the second half. It is nice to see that most of the players Lincoln have signed have a good deal of experiance at BSP level. We now have good competition for midfield places and all bar one of them know the BSP inside out which will stand us in good stead for the scraps that lie ahead. Gavin McCallum added the fourth with a close range header to round of the Lincoln scoring. City could have had more goals as efforts from Power, Smith and Russell drew great saves from the Brigg substitute goal keeper. In the last minute of the game City conceded their first goal of preseason when Brigg scored with a close range volley. All in all another good workout for City but the next few games will be alot tougher than the first three. Next up League One Scunthorpe United at home in the semi final of the Lincolnshire senior cup.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Ilkeston FC 0-4 Lincoln City

I have been really looking forward to this day for a while now. Not only was it Lincoln's first pre season match but what with last seasons relegation, numerous changes of the playing personnel and the new shirt it really felt like the start of a new era for the club. I saw Ilkeston play Notts County a couple of weeks back and they gave a very good account of themselves that day and arguably should have won that game so the new look Imps were going to be in for a decent workout this afternoon.
It also gave me a chance to catch up with my cousin Richard and sink "a few" pints before the match in some of the town's pubs before the match. Due to the fact that i knew i was going to be drinking quite a bit i chose to leave my camera at home and just use the phone to take pictures which is why the shots from today's match aren't the best.

For games in and around the Nottingham area i like to get in early so i can enjoy one of Debenhams fantastic eight item breakfasts. This means getting the 7.03 train out of Retford, changing at Worksop and getting into Nottingham at about 8.45. It has been quite muggy over the past few days so i decided just to wear my jeans and Lincoln top and not bother to take a jacket. As i supped my tea at Worksop station the rain started to come down. As the train journey south continued it became clear that it wasn't just a light shower and that it really wasn't the weather to be wearing just shirt sleeves. The constant rain and grey skies made places like Mansfield even more gloomy and depressing than normal and that is saying something.
However if there is one thing that can cheer you up on a cold wet morning then it is a good old full English breakfast and it went down a treat. From here i dashed down to the Broadmarsh bus station, got on the free city link bus to the Victoria bus station and then got the bus out to Ilkeston. So two trains, two buses and 4 and a half hours after setting off i arrived in Ilkeston. And it was still pissing it down. The first thing i saw after alighting the bus was the Charter pub so i piled straight in. Well it would be rude not to wouldn't it?
After downing a couple of very nice pints of Carlsberg i headed on to meet Rich in the Observatory pub in the market place. Before leaving i couldn't help notice this sign and think of our away trip to Fleetwood and the stop over in Blackpool. Lets hope we can find some of these for the same price but somehow i doubt it. We can live in hope though!
The Observatory is a Weatherspoons pub so it is,well, pretty much like every other Weatherspoons pub in the country really. Before Rich got here i took i flick through the bimonthly magazine the pub issues. There are alot of problems facing the Pub industry at the moment; the VAT hike, the smoking ban and consumer confidence all hitting pubs hard. However one problem seems to dwarf them all. In the readers letters section i was highly disturbed to read that in a certain Weatherspoons branch one customer was shocked to find out that the pub had run out of Brown sauce! What makes this story even worse was the fact that it was in the Retford branch that this horrendous act had occurred! Stay calm and carry on folks. The management are on the case. Phew.

Rich arrived and the beer as always started to flow freely. The rain had also eased off so we took a stroll down to the next pub en-route to the ground which was called "The good ole days". This was what i call a proper pub; The other two had been chain pubs but this was was a really old school pub packed with pictures and antiques from days of yore. There was an old snooker table that was made in Nottingham, a bar skittles set, dartboard and even a piano in the corner. Its just a crying shame that apart from us there was only one other person in there (As well as the barman)
We left there at just gone 2.00 and headed down the canal to Ilkestons new manor ground. By now the sun had come out and it looked as if my decision not to wear a jacket or jumper had actually been the correct one. We paid the £5 entry fee, picked up a programme, and made haste for the bar. There was a good number of Imps in attendance and it was good to see a few old faces who i haven't seen since...well last season really. Baz and Felice had travelled up in the Bazmobile and arrived just after we did. If only they had got in about five minutes earlier, I wouldn't have hesitated to purchase them a drink, but by the time i had spotted them they had already paid for the drinks. Oh well, that's life i suppose.
We decided to get another pint in and while we were at it pre order our drinks for half time. Rich and i were the last out of the bar for the first half and thus managed to miss Lincoln's first goal. Doh. Baz and Felice did see it however and i am reliably informed that it was a close range effort from new striker Jamie Taylor. Jamie notched up 13 league goals in the BSP last season and a return like this in the upcoming season would be most welcome. As this was the first time we have seen the team play and the fact that the players weren't wearing named shirts it made recognising who was who a little tricky. Another new signing Kyle Perry sat out the game due to a knock in training so trialist Bradley Barraclough was given a chance to impress up front. The early goal did seem to have unsettled Ilkeston a tad and they didn't look as well organised as they were against Notts a couple of weeks ago. Lincoln doubled their lead on 15mins when a cross from Barraclough was smashed home by Gavin McCallum on the volley. McCallum looks like he had lost alot of weight during the summer and looked sharp all afternoon. The Imps were 3 up on 25mns when Andy Hutchinson scored following a great pass from Ali Fuseini. To their credit Ilkeston rallied and kept it tight from the rest of the half without really creating in front of the Lincoln goal. The main problem for the Imps (and ourselves) was the tremendous down pour of rain that came down halfway through the 1st half. We were undercover behind the end that Lincoln were attacking but the rain still got at us. Five minutes later we were back to bright sunshine. You really have to love the British summertime haven't you? The end of rain was the signal for my companions to sprint round to the snap counter. Rich went for the Cheeseburger while Baz and Felice grazed happily on chilli and chips. All three seemed very happy with the fare on offer and it looks like the club have sorted the food issues from the Notts County game so fair play to them as it look like they had brought in another burger van to help with the demand.
HT 0-3
We ambled round to the bar again for our halftime drinks and again we were late out for the second half. Ilkeston really do have one of the better clubhouses i have ever seen in a football ground and it was tempting to stay in there for the second half.
Lincoln as expected made quite a few changes in the second half. Keeper Jo Anyon was replaced by a trialist in goal and new signings John Nutter and Alan Power along with the returning Josh Gowling entered the fray. It was Gowling who got Lincoln's fourth with a close range header following a corner. Although no further goals were added Lincoln continued to create the better chances although Ilkeston did much better in the second half. You have to remember that Ilkeston are still very much a new club and i am sure that they are still finding their feet a little. However having seen them twice i am sure they will finish much nearer the top than the bottom of the Evo stick south. They certainly have one of the best stadiums in the league. I have enjoyed both my trips here this pre season and i wish them all the best for the up-coming campaign.
As for Lincoln, well it's tough to say. You can never really read to much into friendlies, especially the first one of pre-season. The main aims are to get the fitness levels up and get the team gelling. We did look good and put some nice stuff together but lets not get carried away. McCallum did look good and seemed more focused that he did at times last season and Andy Hutchinson also impressed. The back four didn't really have alot of work to do so its unfair to judge them as a unit. I imagine we will need to wait for the Scunthorpe United game on Sunday to get a better idea of where we are but after one game i can certainly say so far so good. And its great to see Lincoln fans with a smile on their faces, I haven't been able to say that for a while.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Badger Badger Badger Badger....

Two midweek matches for me this week with the focus being Retford United and the rebuilding job that the club is currently undergoing.
After one of the most comprehensive relegations on planet Earth last season the club was faced with a massive re-building job both on and off the pitch.

The club decided to take an extra drop on top of the relegation and joined the Northern Counties East premier division. On the pitch former Blidworth boss Brett Marshall was given the managers job and began to totally rebuild the team from scratch. Retford's new era started in earnest on Tuesday night when they took on Sheffield FC (The worlds oldest club blah blah blah)

Retford United 1-3 Sheffield FC
One reason some of the good folk of Retford gave for not going to watch Retford last season was the £9 admission price was to steep. Well that has now changed and entrance to Cannon Park will now be £5. I was one of the first into the ground on Tuesday night so there was little to do other than visit the bar. One plus point of dropping down the divisions is the fact that the ground regulations also drop. You can now enter the clubhouse from the front door and sup your pint outside as long as you stay under the covering outside the clubhouse. Told you there was some good things about dropping two leagues!
Sheffield fc had drawn with Sheffield United at the weekend so they would provide the new look badgers with a stern test. The former Retford manager had brought a squad of 22 players with him and gave most of them a run out. The crowd was over three figures, which was pleasing. The visitors didn't bring as many supporters with them as i thought they would but there you go.

Off the pitch Baz didn't seem impressed with his chicken donner wrap that he picked up on the way up (He still ate it all mind!). Even though i had already eaten i still found room to stuff in a chip buttie at the ground. football and food just seem to go together. Felice is getting on a bit these days so Lee took pity on him and walked round the ground to fetch him a cup of tea. Lee was also getting a tad worried that the club shop wouldn't be open but thankfully it was opened at halftime. A shorter version of the programme was issued for a £1.
Retford seemed to gel quickly and took the game to the visitors. The Badgers took the lead on 24mins through Jordan Pickering with a calm finish from close range. This seemed to wake Sheffield up and they started to control the match. The had created a couple of chances by the time they equalised on 42mins. It was worth the wait. The ball was half cleared but then knocked into the net by Cyrus Lewis via a great finish over his shoulder on the edge of the box.
Even though they had drawn level it wasn't enough for the Sheffield gaffer as he kept his team out on the pitch to deliver a bollocking to his troops.
Sheffield took the lead on 71mins with another cracking goal this time a fine individual effort from Shane Kelsey. Sheffield rounded off the scoring with the last kick of the game through Andy Gascoigne. Sheffield deserved their win but Retford will take a lot of heart from this display against higher league opposition and will have got a bit of an idea as to who can play at this level and who cant.

Hucknall Town 0-2 Retford United
Retfords second match of the week was a trip to Nottinghamshires crisis club Hucknall Town. Hucknall were relegated along with Retford last season but even worse news came off the pitch. Financial problems and a run in with the tax man had dictated that the playing and coaching staff have had to go completely amateur and wont even receive travelling expenses. Given this and the fact there are quite a few non league clubs nearby that can pay players it would be a miracle if Town can keep most of their better players. Tonight's game could well be the last one together for alot of these Hucknall Town players. Only time will tell.
Given what has happened it was no surprise that everybody at the club seemed to be quite down. The ground is quite run down on the outside in places which just added to the atmosphere. A second hand auction in the clubhouse was also depressing so we took our drinks out into the hallway. In the hall way the plans for a new ground are still on display. Can't see these being realised for a good few years now. If ever.
Entrance tonight was £5 and no programme was produced. You would have thought that with all Hucknall's problems the townsfolk would rally round them. Not so. The crowd was a mere 60 and i would estimate that at least half of them and travelled to watch Retford.
Hucknall's problems shouldn't take the gloss off of what was a strong performance from Retford. The Badgers took the lead on 12 minutes when a scuffed volley from Nathan Millington on the edge of the box left former Retford and Lincoln keeper James Lindley flat footed. Whether he thought that it was going wide or was just caught off guard i don't know. Either way it ended up it the back of the Hucknall net.
It wasn't a great game if truth be told. Hucknall tried to get back into it but Retford held firm. Other than the odd half chance there really wasn't much to shout about.
At half time we had a wander around the sparsely populated ground and decided to watch the second half from the seated area along the touchline.
Hucknall came back into it a bit more in the second half when they brought on an "old fashioned English centre forward type player" but he still wasn't enough to unsettle Retford. The game pretty much ended as a contest on 75mins when Brad Wells scored with a great solo effort. The match then petered out and Retford recorded their first pre season win.

Reaction to Lincoln Citys fixtures

Lincolns fixtures came out a week or two ago but were subject to change as Premiersports TV screen 30 live Blue Square Premier games per season thus meaning certain fixtures would change from their original dates should the Imps be televised.
The first batch of TV matches have been released and the Imps are to be screened three times in that period. The first one to be moved is the home match with Wrexham on match day three which will now be kicking off on Friday the 19th of August instead of the Saturday. The home game with title favourites Fleetwood Town will also be played on a Friday night as oppose to the Saturday it was originally planned for. I quite like Friday night matches as it gives you a chance to take in another match on the Saturday, and for home games you can get back in time to hit the bright lights of Retford for a few pints to either celebrate or commiserate. During the last couple of seasons it's been the latter more often that not. With the Wrexham game being moved foward it means it will be a busy start to the season for Lincoln with three games in six days.
The third TV game is the away match at Braintree Town which is still being played on Saturday 3rd of September but will now kick off at 7.00pm instead of 3.00pm so we could well take in another game before that. Plenty of planning yet to do with this one me thinks.

Overall i am quite happy with the way the fixtures have fallen for us. I always prefer us to start away from home so i am glad we have Southport away on day one. We also finish the season away from home when we visit Ebbsfleet. We face Grimsby twice over Christmas in the Lincolnshire derbys although if we have a winter like the previous two the furthest i will be going will be the Sherwood Ranger public house in town. The Blue Square fixtures come thick and fast at the start of the season and there are 8 Tuesday night games before Christmas. The most eye catching one being Barrow away on Septmeber the 27th. Although we have been given one of the longest trips of the season on a Tuesday night we have also be given localish games at York City and Alfreton Town to look foward to.

One fixure we have all been looking foward to is the away game at Fleetwood so we can have a jolly boys trip to Blackpool. Its normally our luck that a fixture like this would fall on a Tuesday night in December or January but thankfully we play them three games from the end of the season. Happy times. We should get into Blackpool for about 10.30 check into the digs and be in the Counting house pub at 11.30 at the very latest. The first round of Jagerbombs are on Baz!
After we have all bought our round of bombs we can get a tram/bus up to Fleetwood and continue our drinking.

Gateshead away could also see us have a good drinking day around Newcastle pre game (Maybe wearing red and white stripes wouldn't be the best idea though) and it being in January gives us plenty of time to plan and book train tickets. Kidderminster away gves us the chance to get some quality fodder down our necks, so that is another one to look foward to. We finish up with a nice away game at Ebbsfleet which should be fun. I always like to have a fairly long distance away game to finish the season on.

For the full list of Lincoln Citys 2011/12 fixtures click here to be taken to the offical website.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Buxton 1-3 Macclesfield Town

Keith Alexander Memorial Match

Well this place proved to be a right bitch to find. Firstly we had the joy of sitting in roadworks in Chesterfield for 15 minutes or so. Then we found out that we were in the wrong lane and on getting into the correct lane we had the pleasure of receiving some manic arm flailing gestures from the muppet behind the wheel of the car who wouldn't let us in. The following car let us in however so there are one or two nice people in Chesterfield or then again maybe he was like us just passing through this dump.
Derbyshire is a weird place. It is very scenic and has some nice stuff to look at but it isn't the easiest of places to drive around. We did actually have all the technology to find the ground with ease. However Felice had forgot to bring his sat nav and Lees i-phone wasn't playing ball. So it was left to me and my trusty outdated phone to find us Buxton's ground. I managed to get the directions to Buxton's ground up and after a couple of wrong turnings due to factors beyond my control we pulled up at Buxton's Silverlands ground at about 2.25pm. Some first class parking maneuvers from Mr Delcolle saw us bag a prime parking spot mere metres from the turnstiles.
The entrance fee today was a reasonable £7 with a decent programme selling for £1 which was in my view excellent value for money. Although the page reliving the League Two relegation battle from last season wasn't exactly what i wanted to read on a nice sunny day. Quite a few Macclesfield fans had made the short journey over from Cheshire for this one  and quite a few were taking advantage of the fact that you could take your beers outside to watch the match. Given this fact some of you may be shocked to learn that i only had one pint throughout the match. Well it was £3 a pint and i am never a huge fan of plastic glasses at the best of times.  The Clubhouse was a reasonable size though and smart enough.
Buxtons ground has a real old school feel to it and i quite like it. There is a large terrace area at the clubhouse end and a large seated stand to your right which is covered all the way down only leaving the far end uncovered. There is a cracking little souvenir shop from which i purchased a club badge (£3.50). Along with the club crest badge i picked up a pair of Derbyshire cup final badges; 2011 and 2009 for £2.50 and £1 respectively. Lee rummaged through the old programme boxes and ever found some bargains. Next port of call was the food hut and as ever it didnt take Felice long to get stuck into the burgers and he seemed happy enough with the food on offer.
Although Macclesfield have two former Imps on their books those being Natt Brown and Paul Morgan neither played today. I over heard a Macc fan saying they had a game Friday night (A 5-3 away win at Parkgate) so it could have well been a case of splitting the squad between the two games. Paul Morgan was at the game however and for me you can trace Lincoln's downhill spiral to the fact that we never replaced him in the heart of defence at the end of the 2006/07 season. We haven't had a leader and organiser at the back who has anywhere near his ability since then.
Before the match a minutes silence was held for Keith Alexander and Richard Butcher from Macclesfield (And Lincoln) and for Brian"jasper" Goodwin and Colin Harrison of Buxton.
There is a three division gap between the two sides on show today and for the most part it showed. Buxton did well holding their shape and closing Macc down but never really managed to get much going themselves apart from the odd attack here and there. Macc did at times knock the ball around quite nicely but it was from set plays that they looked most deadly.
Buxton will be disappointed with the first goal however which came from a corner and was headed in at the back post by Shaun Brisley. He connected well with it and sent it directly to the keeper, but somehow it got through. The defender on the line will maybe feel he should have done a tad better, but its better to get this sloppy defending out of the way in pre season before the league action starts.
The second goal arrived about ten minutes later and was again from a header. This time in open play. A cross deep on the right from Tom Fisher found Carl Tremarco all alone at the back post about 8 yards out and his header found the back of the net via the underside of the bar. Again Buxton will look at the defending and ask why Tremarco had so much time and space as the whole defence had been dragged to the right. I am pretty sure that if he had wanted to he could have brought it down and had a shot instead of heading it. No more real chances were created, Buxton did have a bit more of a go at Macc but that's how the first half ended
We decided to take in the second half from the seated stand and the view in there was decent enough with plenty of leg room.
Both sides made changes for the second half with Buxton changing about half the team. It looks like Buxton are another side who look like they haven't got enough new shirts yet as the players who came on different shirts on to the ones who started the first half. Macclesfield made it 3-0 with a hatrick of headers. This one though was by far their best goal. Again it came from a corner when Tony Diagne rose above the defence to power a bullet header into the net at the near post.
Buxton actually scored the best goal of the afternoon with about 8 minutes or so to go when Sam Johnston curled a shot in from the edge of the box which gave the Macclesfield keeper no chance at all. I am glad that the homeside got on the scoresheet as 0-3 seemed a bit harsh as the game had been one of few chances.
Former Lincoln assistant manager and now Macclesfield manager Gary Simpson will be pleased with this workout and Buxton will take heart from the second half display and be pleased with the size of the crowd.
All in all Buxton is a nice old style kind of ground and one i would thoroughly recommend visiting. As long as you can find the place.

Admission £7
Programme £1
Badges £7 (For three badges)
Beer £3.00 a pint of lager

Hey! How you doin?

Friday, 8 July 2011

Staveley MW 4-1 Handsworth

My first midweek match of the season took me to Nottinghamshires most westerly footballing outpost to watch Staveley Miners Welfare lock horns with Handsworth fc at Teversal in the second match of the Teversal Tournament. This outing had been planned the week before and i was looking forward to ticking off another one of my Nottinghamshire grounds to do. Its always fun visiting new grounds but even better when they are Nottinghamshire ones.

The journey down to Teversal took us around the outskirts of Mansfield where it would appear that the theory part of the driving test is to watch half a dozen or so episode's of wacky races and the practical test doesn't exist. Even with this and the fact that Mansfield is the traffic light capital of the UK we still arrived at Teversals Carnarvon street ground at 7.00pm
All games in the tournament are £2 to enter and a programme had been produced covering all eight teams who will be slugging it out to get their hands on the trophy being sold for £1.
Also being sold on the gate were club badges in two different designs along with the Northern counties east league (NCEL) badges. As a keen badge collector it was great to be able to purchase one without having to ask about for them like you do at alot of clubs. I have lost count of the times i have asked if a club has any badges for sale only for the person behind the bar/on the gate or wherever to have a half hearted rummage about while chuntering to themselves that they are sure they saw them somewhere at the last home game but can't find them tonight. This invariably leads to me purchasing them off either E-Bay or from an online catalogue and the club loses out on funds. I know some clubs can be short on staff at times but you don't have to have be Sir Alan Sugar to realise that if you sell badges on the entry gate when folk have their cash out you have a much better chance of selling a badge than if they are in a box or bowl in a cupboard in the clubhouse somewhere. Clubs could learn alot from Teversal i feel.
First point of call was the "Tevie bar" for some alcoholic refreshments and to allow my travelling companion to part with some of his winnings from the previous night's raffle at the Teversal v Kirkby first round game. Two pints of lager came in at £5.10. The bar has a very good old school feel to it with Pennants from clubs as far ranging as Lincoln United to Sparta Prague in it, along with a couple of signed Teversal shirts. All good stuff as they say. The match between England ladies and Japan ladies in the women's World Cup was on the TV. England led 2-0 which is how it stayed. It also meant England topped the group. How often can we say that about an English team at anything?
As the programme covered the whole tournament, coloured team sheets were handed out and were of a very high quality. It's always helpful to be able to see who is on the pitch. Pre match the tannoy system blasted out tunes courtesy of Mansfield 103.2 and they were all dreadful. It was a relief to our ear drums when it was switched off as the teams walked out. As they did the theme tune that all the sides walked out to during the 2010 world cup was played. It sounded fantastic on the TV for the World Cup final but somehow lost a bit of magic when played in humid west Nottinghamshire at a pre season friendly.
As it is still very early in pre-season both sides had a mixture of first team players, reserves and youth teamers on duty tonight. Staveley are very much a club on the up. They pretty much walked the NCEL division one last season and are well fancied to have a good season in the NCEL premier division (Where they will face Retford United) Off the pitch the impressive improvements at their ground suggest that they intend to climb the footballing pyramid even further.
They were quickly out of the blocks and took the lead through Shaun Tuton when he poked home from inside the six yard box on 7 minutes. The same player made it 2-0 on 16 minutes when he showed great control to bring the ball down, turn the defender and slot home again from close range. We were stood at the other end of the ground so i can't say for sure how far out he was but you get the idea. At this point you got the feeling Staveley would run away with it but Handsworth steadied the ship and fought their way back into it. No' 9 Chisanga Nshindano was doing well up top but support was a bit late arriving to feed off his good work. Paul Turner got Handsworth back into the game with a cool finish from the edge of the box on 43mins and it looked like we had a game on our hands again as we headed into the break.
HT 2-1
At halftme we took a stroll around the ground. There is hard standing all around the ground and a small seated stand on the opposite side of the ground from the clubhouse and changing rooms.
The only other covering in the ground apart from the seated stand is a small covered area at the far end of the ground from where you enter. I have no idea what this part of the ground is called but lets call it the "Tesco end"
We viewed the second half from the seated area. Any hopes of a Handsworth come back took a set back on 48 minutes when Shaun Tuton completed his hat-trick. Handsworth battled on but apart from a shot that smacked the crossbar and a few good runs from Carter Mpwaya, Stavley kept them at arms length. At 3-1 the game started to wind down a little and both sides made several changes with Handsworth's Dan Williams showing some good touches. Tuton got his and Staveleys 4th late on which was harsh on Handsworth.
FT 4-1
So Staveley go on to play hosts Teversal in the semi final while Handsworth will face Kirkby Town in the consolation round.
All in all a good evening at a nice little ground and another Nottinghamshire ground ticked off.
Admission £2
Programme £1
Badge £3
Chip Buttie £1.90 7/10