Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Retford United 2-2 Tadcaster Albion

We decided against a trip to Darlington on bank holiday Monday and chose to watch unbeaten Retford United take on Tadcaster Albion. This was a repeat of the League cup tie i saw a couple of weeks ago. Both sides played some decent stuff that day so i hoped they would serve up similar fare today. I was to be wrong.
Prior to today Retford had won all three league matches without conceding a goal. Tadcaster on the other hand had only a solitary point to show for their efforts so far this season. I decided to have a couple of swift jars in the clubhouse before the match and all of the usual suspects were in there although i was a tad disappointed with the crowd. After the great start to the season the Badgers have had and the fact that there were no Football League games on i would have expected a few more to flock to Cannon Park, but never mind. I am sure that if Retford can keep their early season form up then a few more will come out of the woodwork.
Baz and i stood behind the goal that Retford were attacking in the first half and after about ten minutes of play we were joined by Felice and his good lady. The rumors that he was late due to the fact that he hadn't got the washing up done on time were neither confirmed or denied. One thing we can confirm however is that he wasn't wearing his Arsenal tracksuit top, which is strange as it would have been perfect in this slightly chilly weather. Must have had something to do with Sunday's result. We are "darn saff" next weekend so maybe it will come out then.

The game didn't get off to a very exciting start so after 5 minutes i had a glance at my phone to check up on how the Imps were doing. To my dismay, if not total surprise, we had gone a goal down after a whole 13 seconds! All the optimism after the good performances versus Telford and Stockport shot down in flames in seconds. Baz and Felice tried to tune into the commentary on BBC radio Lincolnshire but struggled to get any reception. Thankfully it didn't sound as if they missed a hell of alot.
The news from Darlo was bleak!
The first half was as poor a half as i have seen all season. Neither side could string more than two passes together and the ball spent far too much time in the air. Neither keeper was really tested with gathering crosses and taking goal kicks was all they had to do. Retford were attacking the car park end and the fact that the gatemen didn't have to go out to fetch any stray balls showed how little shooting Retford did.
The "Carpark end" (not taken at today's game but its pretty much the same
HT 0-0
The half time whistle was a relief as we made or way round to the tea hut for a cuppa. It was Baz's turn to get the teas in and very nice they were too. By this time Lincoln had managed to go two down and have a player injured. The decision not to waste £18 was looking better and better.
Thankfully the second half was better. Much better in fact. Retford looked like they had got a bollocking at half time and were all over Tadcaster. It was the visitors though that took the lead on 52min when Carl Steward took full advantage of a mix up in the Retford defence to finish from the edge of the box. Retford weren't behind for long though and were level on 56min when Steve Owens hit a low drive through a crowded penalty box.
Retford were now pretty much camped in the Tadcaster half but Albion managed to somehow keep them out. At times the game got quite heated as Tadcaster's defending got ever more desperate.
Retford can be a decent footballing side but they need to learn not to get sucked into playing a physical game by the opposition. They are a young side but have no real enforcers in the side. So when they try to stand up for themselves and give it back it just doesn't work. Tadcaster were very streetwise and gave away fouls in the right places and wound down the clock.

They eventually cracked on 86 minutes when Brad Wells brought down a cross and hit it into the bottom right hand corner on the turn. Something must have then kicked off on the far side following the goal as one of the Tadcaster entourage was led away from the dug out by the steward.
There was however to be a sting in the tail. Tadcaster got the equaliser in added on time when a great first time cross was whipped in from the left and a great header from Graeme Whitehead levelled the scores up. From the other end of the ground it looked as if the keeper was slow to react but i heard from those closer to it that he had no chance with it.
FT 2-2

All in all its been a decent start with Retford collecting three wins and a draw from their first four games. However, they need to learn to stick to their game and not get dragged down into a kick fest because its not their strength.
Lincoln lost 3-1; Tossers

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Lincoln Moorland Railway 1-1 Arnold Town

This was our second visit to Lincoln in 24 hours to watch football following the Imps 1-1 draw with Stockport County the previous night (more of which later). The second trip to the fair City was our first ever visit to Lincoln's third club (behind City and United) Lincoln Moorlands FC. Although to be fair to them Moorlands are only one league below United so we could have a Lincoln derby in the not to distant future. Hopefully it wont involve City though. Unless United can get up to the BSP which is highly unlikely it has to be said.
We found Moorlands Newark Road home quite easily, basically you head down Lincoln High street and keep going, and keep going some more. When we arrived at the ground Felice bagged a car parking spot right next to the turnstiles. It was a relief to get out of the car for two reasons. Firstly, to escape Baz's arse which was on fire and unleashing toxic gas all too regularly and secondly so we didn't have to listen to BBC Lincolnshire's Scott Dalton droning on and on about Boston United's trip to Harrogate. Thankfully when City are playing he (and Boston) get a lot less airtime but as City had played the previous night Boston had got "top billing". If you have never heard him then you are very lucky. Its only a 40 minute journey or so but when two of your senses are under attack like ours were then it seems a hell of a lot longer trust me.

Admission today was the standard NCEL Premier division £5 and kids were free. The programme was £1.20 and was a cracking effort. Full of news, views, and reviews as they say. The ground is very tidy with covered seating on both sides. The club have plenty of room around the pitch so they have room to expand should they need to. The weather today was nice which made the ground look even more scenic. As we were a tad peckish we headed over to the canteen to see what food was on offer. The programme asks "Why not savour the delights of our excellent tea bar?" and "Make a visit for a gastronomic delight!" High claims indeed but how would it fare when up against Nottinghamshire's top food critic Mr Barry Oxby?
The answer was not very well. The problem seemed to be that although the burger was cooked well enough the bread had come out straight out of the fridge thus making the burger seem cold. His verdict was short and not very sweet. "Cheap shitty burger" was his in depth analysis of the tucker. Although he did eat it, and finished his son's off as well; just to make sure both burgers were crap and not just his i assume.
Just like United, Moorlands have a former City legend on the coaching staff. In Moorland's case their assistant manager is former City full back Dean West who was a cracking player for Lincoln in the mid 90's. The swap deal that Steve Wicks did when he swapped West for Kevin Hulme must go down as the worst transfer City have ever done. After leaving City Deano went on to win promotion twice with Bury and play for years at Championship level with both Bury and Burnley. Kevin Hulme by comparison went on to make about 6 appearances for City and then went on sit on the bench at Macclesfield who at the time were in the conference. Deano did return to City for a short while in 2005 and even a time at Boston hasn't lowered his standing in City fan's eyes.
Dean West (Right)
Deano wasn't the only former Lincoln City connection today. Moorlands had former Imp Nathan Adams in the starting line up. Visitors Arnold Town are now led by former Imp Martin Carruthers as their player manager these days. Carruthers was steady enough for Lincoln but i remember him for his performances against us rather than his performances for us. The day where he and Jimmy Quin ripped us apart for Peterbrough in their 5-1 win against us in 1998 and his two goals for Southend in 1999 really do stand out. Pre game we were sat in the stand and were well within ear shot of Carruthers and his number two as they discussed tactics and the ins and outs of front play. They were certainly talking a great game. Would their troops be able to follow their instructions in the heat of battle? Carruthers started the game leaving his number two on the bench to direct things from the sideline. We decided to take in the game from the newest stand in the ground. Arnold had brought a decent number of fans with them from central Nottinghamshire although none sat in the designated "away" seats mid you it would probably be enough for somebody like Fulham given their crappy following at Newcastle today.
Before kick off Felice was babbling on about how Celtic could be let back into the Europa league due to issues with FC Sion and how they could indeed go on to win the whole thing. To which an old boy sat near us replied "Yes and pigs can fly" Well said that man i say. Felice hadn't even had a drink when he came out with this crazy ass statement! It was definitely a head in hands moment when he said they could well win the thing.
As soon as the match started in became apparent that the Moorlands keeper was carrying an injury and wasn't as mobile as he should be. I have seen him play a couple of times for Nettleham and know him to be a very competent keeper although a tad hot headed at times. He got an outfield player to take all the goal kicks and free kicks. Given that this fact was obvious and the Martin Carruthers in depth chat about the art of striking it was strange not to see Arnold adopt a shoot on sight policy. The game was pretty even with neither keeper having much to do although when the Lincoln keeper did make a save he took his time getting up. The game was heating up quite nicely in fact with the only downside being this pleb in an Arnold scarf who despite all the signs telling folk not to stand in front off the seating area decided to plonk his ass right there. There is plenty of area not in front of seating area for punters to stand yet people still chose in front of the seating area. This does seem to be a general non league problem not just an Arnold Town thing.
Half way through the first half I took a stroll to the tea bar for a cuppa. While i was in there the lady behind the counter was telling a club official (who sold me a raffle ticket) that she only had 20 burgers left and was worried as to if that would be enough for the halftime rush. I felt i needed to rush back and tell Baz in case he wanted to try another one just to make sure his burger review was correct. He didn't but the canteen did have plenty of hotdogs left. Again Baz was unimpressed by this news. The tea cost 80p, was decent enough and served in a plastic cup. During a break in the game i did the old getting the cup stuck to my face gag which impressed nobody; "Fucking stupid boy" was Baz's verdict of it.
What did impress us however was the opening goal for Lincoln Moorlands in the 40th minute. Nathan Adams picked the ball up 25 yards out and blasted right into the top of the net. It was a tad harsh on Arnold as they had made most of the running for the previous 15 minutes or so but the game needed a goal to liven it up. Arnold then went down the other end of the pitch and forced a flurry of corners. It was during this period that we heard the Arnold keeper shouting over to the Arnold bench that
"They have a keeper with one fucking leg yet we are taking ages to line up a shot tell em to just fucking blast it"

The reply from number two bench came back swiftly enough.

"What can i do about it? You're nearer to me to them tell them"

Hearing this kind of stuff is one of the great things about non league football. Shorty after this the whistle went for half time. We took a stroll over to the clubhouse outside the ground and I picked up smart enamel badge for £3.50 and consumed a swift pint while watching the halftime scores roll in.
What ever pearls of wisdom Carruthers/his number two/the goalkeeper told the players at halftime worked because Arnold totally dominated the game in the second half. Herrick in the Lincoln goal pulled of a couple of great saves despite looking more and more in pain the longer the game when on. As we were sat at the end of the ground that Arnold were attacking some of the bigwigs of Arnold sat near us. They felt that Lincoln were trying to slow the game down and waste time. While I can agree with this up to a point i can't say i blame Lincoln. I don't think many sides with an injured keeper and protecting a 1-0 lead in a game would be in a huge rush to speed the play up. They also seemed to pipe up whenever a Lincoln player swore but kept quite when an Arnold player did the same. It made it even more ironic when they complained about the ref not showing any consistency. Glasshouses and stones and all that gentlemen.
Arnold got a deserved equaliser in the 82nd minute when James Leggett notched one up with a great direct free kick and whats more i even got a semi decent picture of it before he took it. Looking at how Lincoln are set up it seemed hard to see how he beat the keeper at his right hand post (as the keeper looks at it) but he did.
After the goal Arnold continued to make all the running but Lincoln just about held out. I had wanted Lincoln to win because of Deano and all that but i have to say Arnold were by far the better side and should have taken all three points. Both sides had neat passages of play but i can't see either of them mounting a challenge to the likes of Retford, Scarborough and, Stavley at the top of the division.
On the whole i really enjoyed my first trip to Moorlands. Even though we had great weather and saw two great goals and had a good laugh i will always remember this game for one incident about 5 minutes just before Arnold scored.
The Arnold number two was barking out orders for his troop from the bench when one of the Moorlands players who had not long been on the pitch came out with the line as he jogged past;
"Fucking big time you aren't you?"
To which the guy in the dugout just looked stunned, as if he had no come back at all!

Shirebrook Town 2-1 Blackstones

In this crazy age of football in which a player can earn 300,000 grand a week whle playing in Russia,it costs 70 quid a ticket at QPR, and there are more Irish than Scottish teams in the group stage of the Europa league,its good to know some football traditions are still going strong. Ladies and Gentlemen, Guinea pigs and Ferrets i give you the start of the FA Cup (Sponsored by Budweiser.

Today's location was Langworth Road home of NCEL division one side Shirebrook Town. The visitors Blackstones FC hail from the Sleaford area and ply their trade in the UCL. I must admit to having a soft spot for Shirebrook. It is one of the first non league grounds i went to and it's a cracking set up. I normally like to go at least once a season but some how missed out on going last season, it must have been all those exciting Lincoln games i took in. Last year was quite eventful for Town as they had three separate management teams during the season on their way to a lower mid table finish. Lets hope the club gets a bit more consistency this time around.

My plan was to get a lift to Worksop, catch an hour or so to watch the number one cricket side in the world thrash India then hop on the train to Shirebrook.
I don't venture over to the other side of Bassettlaw very often and it must over a year since i took a stroll round Worksop. I must admit to being very disappointed to find out that the Newcastle arms was shut (our lunch time hangout in the college day release days during the "Jenkins years") and the Carlton Tavern is now a shop selling bathroom suites. What was the Kings arms is still shut and so are two cracking little chippy's. Sad times i am afraid. I did find a chippy but it was shit and served up the worst fish i have had for a while.
Then the real icing on the cake came when i tried to watch some Cricket. I decided to venture into one of the two Litten tree pubs in the town and was pleased to find out that they had the Cricket on. However after watching it for well over an hour and with Ian Bell closing in on a double century it was switched off in favour of Arsenal v Liverpool.
Happy bunny i was not.
Lets look at this. Here we have the best side in the world playing out of their skin smashing the side that were number one all over the place and they don't get prime billing? I remember that day back in 1999 when after a home defeat by New Zealand, England slumped to the very bottom of the world rankings, and after all the thrashings the Aussies gave us over the years I intend on enjoying each and every moment of this team being the number one in the world. To switch it off in favour of a football match between two sides that have as much chance of winning the Premier league as the four Retford Imps do of representing Great Britain in the 100m x4 sprint relay in London 2012 is mind boggling to me. Sure there were a few "fans" coming in as kick off approached but the money they took from them was less than than what they will have lost from the folk who left when the cricket was turned off. And with Cricket lasting till 6.00pm i am sure the bar would have taken more cash. If folk wanted to take in some football then Worksop Town were playing their first Saturday league game at Sandy lane for three seasons just a short walk away. Rant over!
After a couple of pints in the Vine I boarded the train to Shirebrook for some live football.
Some of the top clubs now look down on the FA cup, but at this level it still means a hell of a lot to the players, committee men and fans. The social club was doing a roaring trade and they even had the Cricket on in the lounge room. It was a nice day so i decided to get into the ground early and bag a programme in case they sold out(Yes i am getting sadder i know) Admission was a bargain £4 and the programme was £1.50 and was a great effort with plenty of stuff to read in it. It was a great source of information about the visitors of whom i know very little about and even less about the standard of the league they compete in.
As i strolled round to sit on the grass banking on the far side of the ground to read the programme the Shirebrook players were out early going through a pretty tough warm up routine. By contrast Blackstones emerged a good 10-15 minutes later than their opponents and seemed to be taking a much more laid back approach to it all. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail as the saying goes. I felt a comfortable home win coming on.
Shortly before the kick off I ambled round to get a cup of tea which was a very reasonable 60p. Shirebrook Town's snap hut must be the only one i have seen that sells Pot noodles. However having spent two of the last three weeks on nights (hence the late write up) and eating them more or less every night i am sick of the sight and taste of the buggers. Kudos for offering something different though. I can think of no better tonic for a horribly cold December evening match than a piping hot Bombay Bad boy! Maybe not that great for a sunny afternoon game in August though.
To my surprise Blackstones came out and played much the better football in the first half. Shirebrook got a foothold in the match after about 15 minutes or so and from then on it was end to end stuff with a combination of bad finishing and good goalkeeping combining to keep the score goalless. Blackstones missed the best chance of the game when a great ball was floated in from the right in that awkward area between the keeper and the back four but was just missed by the on rushing forwards. On the balance of play the visitors were slightly the better side having created the better chances and the lion's share of the ball.
HT 0-0 time to retreat to the clubhouse to check out the scores and such.

The second half was much better than the first. Blacksones took the lead through Nelson following a corner when Shirebrook failed to clear their lines. This seemed to finally wake up the home side as they went on to dominate the rest of the match. They drew level when a deflected shot from Haslam found its way into the net, and took the lead shortly after when the same player scored a great goal after beating a couple of players and blasting into the top corner. Cue huge celebrations from the Shirebrook players which led to the scorer being booked for taking his shirt off. The home side continued to play the better stuff and in the end could have won the game far more convincely than the 2-1 scoreline suggests.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

The week that was.

Another actioned packed sporting week for me; viewing and reacting to various football matches while looking after an army of various rodents.

Tuesday 16th July
I didn't have the pleasure of viewing the Imp's first home match of the season and it sounds as if i didn't miss a great deal as we went down 0-1 to Kidderminster Harriers. Ho hum.

Wednesday 17th July
NCEL league cup 2nd round 
Tadcaster Albion 1-3 Retford United

This is more like it. So far this season Retford have won both of their opening league matches and they carried on their good form over into the League Cup.The journey up to Tadcaster was simple enough and spent in excellent company. The only downside came in actually finding the sodding ground; it is well hidden behind the John Smiths brewery, in fact the road you go down runs pretty much through the brewery. We did get to see a fair bit of Tadcaster and it seems a nice enough place it has to be said. Inspire Park is quite a scenic ground which looks great in the summer although I wouldn't fancy a midweek trip here in December, when all the surrounding trees have shed their leaves and the brewery behind the goal resembles an 80's Soviet power plant. The stand out feature in the ground for me is the unique stand behind the goal at the brewery end of the stadium. Behold and let me know if you have ever seen a stand like this one. Its things like this which makes non league great. In an age of identikit grounds in the Premiership/Football League its refreshing to see something different.

Entrance was the standard £5 with a smart programme selling at £1. Badges were also for sale at the new turnstiles for £3 so i bagged one of those. It always handy when clubs place the badges on the turnstiles where you can easily buy them without having to go hunting for them. A good number of fans/reprobates/desperado's from Retford had made the trip. Many of which were in the clubhouse which, unsurprisingly enough, given what's next to the club served a decent enough pint.

Tadcaster's home kit is yellow shirts with dark blue sleeves and dark blue shorts. Which gave Retford a bit of a problem as the badgers are sporting an all yellow number away from home this season, and as the home kit has black shorts this would also clash with Tadcasters strip. The answer? The yellow away shorts and socks teamed with the black and white home shirt. I can't quite see the outfit making the fashion pages on the independent but it did the job. It did look dreadful though.

The strip was the only dreadful thing though as this was quite a decent match. The first half was a little cagey with neither side able to create many clear cut chances. Retford began to gain the upper hand as the half wore on and drew a good save from the Tadcaster substitute goalkeeper just before the break.
As the second half wore on I got that horrible feeling you get when you are at a cup tie and realise that unless something happens soon it could well be extra time followed by kicks from the penalty spot. So we were delighted when Retford knocked it in from long range following a throw in. However Tadcaster roared back with an equally spectacular goal when a free kick from the left was volleyed in first time into the top right hand corner of the net. It was the first goal that Retford had conceded in the 2011/12 year and i doubt they will concede a better one.
Then a couple of minutes that changed the game.
Tadcaster had a great chance to take the lead but their centre forward fluffed a great one on one chance. Then from the following attack Retford grabbed their second and took charge of the tie. They added a third late on which made the 1-3 scoreline look a little harsh on Tadcaster if i am honest. The home side did build up a head of steam late on but the Badgers held firm to make it three wins from three games. Good show chaps. We also had the amusing incident of a home fan telling the linesman that he was " A bloody Biro" it must be a Yorkshire thing.

Thursday 17th July
Sat at home and watched Hearts v Spurs. After Celtic and Rangers also got poor results in Europe on the same night could we have witnessed Scottish football's darkest hour?

Friday 18th July
Lincoln City 1-2 Wrexham  
My first Lincoln home game of the season and our first live showing on Premier sports TV. Would the Imps put on a show for the hundreds of people watching on their TV sets at home? Well not quite.
With Baz still on his holidays it was just my good self and Joey Tribiani in the car for this one. It was good to see Captain Gaz and his motley crew of stewards and they were on great early season form as they dealt with a group of youths in the Stacey West who seemed more interested in acting up instead of watching the game.Well done chaps.
On the pitch it was a bright start from City. They did however go behind to yet another stunning free kick right into the top corner. The defensive wall wasn't the greatest but i doubt we would have stopped it if we had all ten outfield players in the wall. It was harsh on Lincoln as we had played well enough and in my view didn't deserve to be trailing. Just on the stroke of half time Lincoln deservedly drew level when Sam Smith notched his second goal of the season as he bumbled the ball home from close range. This was City's first home goal since the 12th of March!
City really took the game to the Dragons in the second half and created several good chances and forced a couple of good saves from the Wrexham keeper. But after all this Wrexham hit us with a classic sucker punch with a great counter attacking goal. That really took the wind out of City after playing so well. We tried to get back into the match but Wrexham were just that bit too good in defence for us.
The result took Wrexham to the top of the League and handed Lincoln a club record 6th consecutive home defeat.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Southport 2-2 Lincoln City

Well the big day had arrived. The opening day of the Blue Square Premier division 2011/12. I always prefer a away day on the opening weekend of the season and thankfully the fixture computer had obliged and handed us a trip to Southport. So at just gone 10am we were on our way to the Liverpool area all set for another season of blood thundering action thrills and spills.

The journey up to Southport was uneventful enough and took just over three hours in the trusty Bazmobile. It was good to see quite a few cars with Imps colours showing. Every other car however seemed to be full of Norwich City fans on their way to Wigan Athletic (The other Premiership in English football also started today). None of us had ever been to Southport before but the sight of the BBC Radio Lincolnshire car in front of us was a sign that we were heading in the right direction (Although we did take a slight "detour" in the Stockport area.
Southport is a kind of quiet and quaint little seaside town where well-to-do Scousers go to retire. It is the smartest part of the Liverpool area but that isn't really saying much to be honest. As we had arrived with bags of time to spare we decided to check out the seafront to see what was what. My verdict? The pier and beach could well be the dullest in England. For all i know we may have just ended up on the wrong part of the beach but on the part that we checked out there really was sod all to do. We did walk down the pier in the hope that there was something mildly interesting in the building at the end of it. There wasn't. All we found was an overpriced bar and a toilet. So after a quick stop to shake the snake as it were we trudged back down the pier to the car. We could have wasted £1.50 each and got a ride on the crappy tram up the pier but our cash stayed firmly in our pockets. Here are a couple of views from the famous Southport Pier. Enjoy folks.
View of the beach. Alas no topless sunbathing.

Its all going off on Southport Pier!!
So after a quick stop for some doughnuts we headed out to Southport's Haig Avenue stadium, getting lost on route. The ground is in a very smart area and as such most of the area around is residential parking only. We drove past the ground and got parked up a little over 5 minutes walk away. The weather was good and there were plenty of City fans milling about. The football feeling was definitely building. As we approached the ground the first thing we came across was the clubshop so i picked up the programme for £2.50 and a badge for £4, which was slightly overpriced but that's life. Apart from that the clubshop was decent enough with a decent range of old programmes for sale and the normal football stuff.
Just past the away fan's turnstiles we spied a chip shop and newsagents. On closer inspection we found the chippy was shut so we were relying on the football club for food. With the weather being decent we headed into the ground for some food and to soak up the atmosphere. We got in at about 2.15 and already there were plenty of Imps inside the ground.
The ground has a good old fashioned feel to it and i rather liked it. The away fans have an open terrace behind the goal and half of the impressive grandstand to the right of the away end. Opposite the away end you get a smart covered terrace for the home fans with the remaining stand to the left of us being uncovered. All in all its quite a decent ground. The clubhouse at the ground lets away fans in and i heard decent reports of it and the atmosphere in there pre game. The programme was a cracking effort with plenty of stuff to read and had some very interesting articles. The page stating the entry fee to each club in the division was very good, and a big help for planning upcoming away trips.
After quaffing a cheeseburger for a very reasonable £2.50 (which was decent enough) i was all ready for the big kick off.
Southport are only playing in the BSP this season due to Rushden and Diamonds going belly up. Having been given a second chance as it were the home fans seemed well up for the match with the more vocal ones going behind the far goal. Lincoln in our awful new green and white hooped away kit were to attack the end we were stood behind. The first 20 minutes or so were quite frantic with neither side being able to keep hold of the ball for very long and said ball spending more time in the air than on the floor. The 600 or so City fans (out of the total 1687 people at the game) did try to get an atmosphere going but its always tough on an open terrace. Lincoln did create a couple of half chances through Smith and McCallum with Joe Anyon in the Lincoln goal having little to do.
City took the lead on on 29 minutes when Sam Smith headed home a Ali Fuseini corner, It is quite a while since City were affective from dead ball situations which made the goal even better. With Perry and Smith upfront Lincoln had big front line and they were in a good contest with the Southport centrebacks. At the other end Hone and Gowling were doing a great job dealing with the Southport long balls and long throws which were the mainstay of the Southport attack.
Gowling was pulled up for a foul on Southport's best player John-Paul Kissok who promptly smashed the resulting freekick home from 25 yards right into the top corner of Anyons goal giving him no chance at all. I doubt we will see a better free kick all season to be honest. The goal coming just a couple of minutes before the break was a real kick in the teeth because up until then City had looked quite comfortable, but that's football isn't it?
HT 1-1
City retook the lead shortly after halftime when on 49min Perry headed in a great cross from Simon Russell. Again though Southport hit back quickly due to a good through ball and some poor defending from the Lincoln backline. Adam Watts was filling in at right back and he failed to read the through ball which Whalley latched onto and finished from close range in the 53rd minute.
The game opened up alot more in the second half with both sides creating half chances. City's defence had to deal with both Southport and the wind and on the whole coped well with most of it. Both sides tried to win it but neither had the quality to actually do it, and both seemed to be happy with the point at the end.
FT 2-2.

So how do you analyse Lincolns opening game in the BSP? One line of thought is that because Southport finished 4th bottom last year and we were in league two means that we should have won comfortably. I disagree with this. Last season is long gone and all that matters is the here and now. In my view a point away from home on the first day of the season is always a good point. Add in the fact that this is a new side and they will take time to gel and you appreciate the point even more. A certain side only a few miles away from Southport have spent 100 million plus on players and they got a fantastic 1-1 home draw with Sunderland on the opening day so what chance does our team of free signings have of hitting it off straight away? The big plus for me was the fact that we dealt with the aerial threat much better than last season. Ok, there is still plenty of work to do, and I don't expect us to be challenging for the title this season but there are at least glimpses of progress. Incidentally the Liverpool result seemed to be a source of much amusement to the Southport faithful on leaving the ground. It seems that whichever Merseyside side is away a few of their fans nip up to Southport to get their footy fix, hence a number of Everton fans in the crowd.

On the whole i totally enjoyed the day. The admission price was a very reasonable £12.50, the atmosphere was good and City did ok and its been a while since i was able to say that. The only real complaint from me has nothing to do with the game at all.

On the way back we had Radio 5 live on which is normally enjoyable. However they do need to get their priorities right. The feature game was QPR's 0-4 home spanking at the hand of Bolton Wanderers. At the same time the English Cricket team had just steamrolled India by an innings to become the number one team in the world. Now its not very often that an English team achieves anything near as impressive as this and so surely this deserves to be the main story and get the lion's share of the coverage. Did it? Did it hell. An interesting interview with Micheal Vaughan on how good this team was and how it became so good was broken off...To chat with the Bolton manager about his sides win which in the grand scheme of things doesn't even register on the sporting world's radar.
On the plus side though we did stop of for another fantastic Kebab at the Hollingworth Kebab house. A chicken tikka and lamb donner combination kebab for a mere £5? I will have some of that please good sir!

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Retford United 1-0 Barton Town Old Boys

Today was the first competitive match of the season for my good self. Friendlies are all well and good but they don't have the blood and thunder of league matches. Lincoln were playing their final pre-season match away at Boston United and seeing as Boston is a bit of a dump we decided to watch Retfords first league match of the season in the Baris NECL Premier division.
As there was a two division gap between the two clubs last season and the vast turnabout in the Retford United squad from last season it was tough to say who was favourite for this match. Some of Retford's squad hadn't played much at this level although they have gained impressive pre season victories over higher league opposition in the guise of Hucknall, Carlton, and Belper, the last of which was more of a kick fest then a football match.
Barton have had a mixed set of results in pre season. We had the pleasure of visiting them just a few weeks ago as we watched Lincoln stroll to a 2-0 win. Last season they had finished a credible sixth in the league which was owed to a long unbeaten run that stretched back all the way to January.  Given their form towards the back end of the season you would expect them to provide the badgers with a stern test. Of which they did just that. However, before the football began it was time to take in some vital pre match calories to see me through the match whilst reading the new look matchday programme.
The programme is another cracking effort although i am not sure if there was any point of printing out all the league tables when nobody has even played a match yet. Still i bet Armthorpe Welfare fans will be very happy with the table as it stood at 2.59 today. The programme actual sold out today so does it mean that this item will be worth a few quid in the future? No is the probable answer to that one.

Last season the pitch at Cannon Park was dreadful. Although the groundstaff did what they could a combination of it being played on by two teams, the worst winter we have had for years and the fact that the ground is built on a natural flood plain meant that they were always fighting a losing battle. It is undoubtedly in much better nick now but it is still quite uneven and has quite a bit of sand on it. We were stood by the away team dugout for the first five minutes or so and the pitch took quite a bit of stick from the management team of Barton. While i will admit the pitch isn't what it should be for the start of the season it was the same for both sides. He did sound as if he was getting his excuses in early in case they got beat. Barton do have a fantastic pitch but they don't have the ground's name written on it. Retford do!
The pitch didn't really effect anything in the early stages as the ball spent more time up in the air than it did on the ground. Barton appeared to be a strong side who liked to get the ball up front quickly. The also have some tall players in their ranks. If Retford were going to get anything from this they would have to stand up to them and take a few knocks. We hadn't really seen much of Barton as an attacking force against Lincoln but  today they showed plenty of it. Retford started the best; forcing a flurry of corners but nothing came of it. Chances were few and far between in the first half but Barton had the better of them. The nearest Retford got to breaking the deadlock was when Will Tomlinson hit an effort against the bar with the keeper well beaten. At the other end Barton had a good chance to take the lead when they were awarded a free kick inside the box following a backpass which the keeper picked up but Retford somehow managed to clear the danger. Quite a bit of injury time was added due to the amount of free kicks because of niggly fouls although neither side was able to take advantages of the set plays.
HT 0-0
Lee and myself checked out the programme shop while all round good egg Baz got the tea in and most excellent tea it was. The Football League started this weekend and there were a fair few checking out the half time scores in the clubhouse. Not that i took much interest now that we are no longer in it. Although we all let out a collective "for fucks sake" at the news that Jabba the Hut's Crawley Town were leading at Port Vale. The news that Lincoln were 2-1 to the good in Boston though was welcome news.
As always at Retford we went behind the far goal for the second half which the badgers were attacking. The second half was a much tighter affair although Barton did create quite a few chances with set plays and Retford rode their luck a little. Retford were managing to get a few crosses, free kicks and corners into the Barton box but all too often the delivery was poor and straight at the Keeper who showed safe hands through out. Later in the half Retford did get some joy from attacking down the two flanks but they were often stopped by some cynical tackles from the Barton full backs. Then just as the game looked to be ending in a 0-0 draw Retford took the lead in the 89th minute when Barry Payne bundled the ball home from close range. The goal was as scrappy as they come but it meant the world to Retford. The homeside saw out the final few minutes and held out for the win. Lincoln also held out for the win courtesy of a 4-3 scoreline at York Street.

All in all it was a great day for the new look Badgers. You really can't ask for any more than a win and a clean sheet on the opening day of the season. The fact that Barton are a decent side and dished out some meaty challenges made the win all the more impressive. Retford have a young side and they will need to become a little more streetwise but with guidance from manager Brett Marshall that will come in time. It will certainly be interesting to see them develop throughout the season. Another pleasing aspect was the crowd which i overheard was 177; which is alot better than most were last season. After last season it will take a bit to convince fans to return but if the club continues like this then i am sure the crowd will grow even more. Onwards and upwards as they say.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

The Lincolnshire cup final.

Lincoln City 3-4  Grimsby Town

Well here are, a cup final before the season even kicks off. On offer tonight was Lincolnshire's oldest football trophy; The Lincolnshire senior cup. The Imps owe a lot to the Lincs cup, since the club was formed way back in 1884 with the aim of break Spilsby's stranglehold on the cup which they had won for the first three times it was played.
The cup was first played way back in the 1881-82 season. The 2011-12 final brought together the competitions two most successful sides Lincoln City (37 wins) and Grimsby Town (36 wins) The first time these two Lincolnshire footballing "giants" met in the final was in the 1886-87 season. Surprisingly enough we haven't met in the final since the 1990-91 season. Lincoln's last win in the cup came under John Schofield in 2006/07 with Grimsby's last win back in 1999/2000. The cup has had various formats over the years but in recent times has been played between Lincoln, Grimsby and the side that have won the last three editions; Scunthorpe United. The other non league Lincs sides have competed for the Lincolnshire shield.
In the build up to the match Imps boss Steve Tilson had said that he intended to play the youth side in the match. However The Lincs FA rules state that clubs should field the strongest side available. So after the Forest match Tilson said he would put on a strong side. I took this as we would mainly use players that hadn't had much time on the pitch against Nottingham Forest and other fringe players with maybe one or two young players mixed in. In any event given the amount of finals the Lincs FA plays at Sincil Bank it was unlikely in my humble view for them to complain about this selection policy. I think that there is a fine balance between respecting the competition and all its history and preparing for the upcoming season, and in my view Lincoln just about got it right.

Just as for the semi final only the Echo stand and CO-OP Lower stand was opened and like the semi final we opted for the Echo stand. On this occasion though I was unable to ferret out a teamsheet so i had to rely on the scrolling screen above the Stacey West for the teams. As technically this is a competitive fixture trialists are not allowed to play. To get round this Lincoln signed up trialists Doug Lindberg (GK) and fullback Sam Eckhardt on one week contracts to allow them to play. The rest of Lincoln's team was made up of players who didn't get much time on the pitch against Nottingham Forest on the previous Saturday. So it was a first team squad that was out there for Lincoln all be it not first a first eleven if you will. Of Lincoln's team tonight i would expect Danny Hone, Ali Fuseini, Kyle Perry, Simon Russell, and depending on Tony Sinclair's fitness Adam Watts to start at Southport in the league season opener. On the bench we had another couple of first choice players in Alan Power and Gavin McCallum. Never the less in my view it was a decent Lincoln team that has enough games at BSP and above level to be competitive. I can't say how strong Grimsby's side was but it did contain former Imps Antony Elding and Lee Ridley (who had a very good loan spell here under Jacko a few seasons back).
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It was another low turn out with only 1,446 hardy souls in attendance. Of which 427 had travelled down from Codland. In my view this is a decent turn out and really puts our turnout off 30 something at their place in the semi final last year to shame. Although it could be because they love visiting the fantastic City of Lincoln and the marvel that is Sincil Bank where as Cleethorpes doesn't appeal to us Imps, yes that's what it must be. Those who did turnout though were rewarded with a cracking game of football and at only £4 entry fee some fantastic value for money.
Grimsby settled into their pattern first and held the upper hand for much of the first 15 minutes or so. Lincoln forced a flurry of corners but as per normal were unable to do a great deal with them. Up top we had gone with two target men in Perry and Smith. Grimsby's defence seemed to be able to deal with the high stuff easy enough but weren't so good when we got the ball down on the deck. At the other end Gary Silk was getting in some decent crosses which brought out a few flying punches and flapping from the young Lincoln keeper. Grimsby then smacked the bar from about 25 yards out with Lincoln all over the place. They took the lead when Makofo scored with a looping header which caught out Lindbergh. I am not sure he meant to head it where he did but a goal is a goal as they say.
This seemed to wake Lincoln up and we equalised with a fantastic drive from Simmon Russell which gave the Grimsby keeper no chance. Lincoln then went one better and took the lead through Barraclough. Then a few minutes before halftime the game came alight.
Firstly Lincoln were awarded a penalty for what i can only assume was for holding in the box following a corner. Although very welcome nobody around me saw anything. Kyle Perry stepped up and knocked it in. Then from the restart former Mansfield Town, Retford united and district 5-a-side player (a league I graced myself many moons ago) Craig Disley banged in a 25 yarder into the top corner. Bugger.
HT 3-2
During the break various Lincs FA awards were handed out by the "good old boys" of the Lincs committee and a couple of MILFs. I went for a stroll and when i returned i found a couple of geeks swapping details of there latest apps. How very sad eh readers?
As the second half wore on it became obvious that we needed to score again. Silk and Makofo were causing all sorts of problems for the Lincoln back four. Lindbergh hasn't had very much experience and i felt the nerves started to get the better of him as the game went on. His keeping became more and more kamikaze like and he seemed unable to catch anything. Paul Brush said the next day that this was the biggest game Doug has ever played in so you get an idea of how raw he is.
Ironically given all his flapping i don't think he could really be blamed for any of the goals. Grimsby's third came on 85 mins following a pinball moment in the Lincoln box in which the defence had had a couple of chances to clear. Then on 90 minutes Grimsby struck the killer blow with a fierce low drive their fans went wild and the cup was theirs. Bugger.

Although its' a shitter losing like this i have to admit that it was a cracking final and a great advert for Lincolnshire football. I doubt that this will have any impact on the league games as we don't play each other till December. Tilson also got another chance to see how the triallists coped with a game against good opposition. After all the crap about what team we would field it was good to see a good open and even game and to see that the Lincolnshire Cup is still alive and well.
On the way back to Retford i wondered what the Guinea Pigs had been up to as we all know "Every night is a Friday night to a Guinea pig!!" Hope they didnt get drunk and end up somehwere they shouldnt have..
Hey man I must have drunk way to much last night, how did I end up here?